Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Todd's new bike

So my friend Todd just finished his thesis research/bike trip down the coast of Norway from Nordkapp and Svalbard to Egersund and then a ferry across to Denmark and ride into Copenhagen. (No, he didn't really ride all the way to Svalbard, he took a ferry) The picture at the left is of Trollstigen, a famous series of switchbacks northeast of Bergen. From Todd's blog (there is a link on the right of this page) here are some stats:

total--2141 km (1330 miles)
avg speed--16.5 kph (10.3 mph)
total ascent--72,836 feet
broken spokes--8 (+ one complete wheel rebuild)

He had quite a trip. He met some fellow nomadic travellers from around the world, and spent lots of nights frezezing and wet camped by an icy stream in which he bathed. Any time he paid for a campground or hotel (electricity and hot water) he felt really guilty about it. He went for the first month of the trip without a trailer, but realized that his bike was overloaded, so he bought one for the last two weeks of the trip to try and avoid getting any more broken spokes (although he had already made it through the most remote parts of his travels and the majority of the trip before he broke down and dropped the kroner on the trailer). I can't wait until he posts some pictures!

Anyway, he'll be in Copenhagen completing his studies thru February so he deccided to get a new carry-all bicycle for his in-town sojourns. He got a new Nihola! I'd never heard of it, but there are a lot of euro companies making bikes like this. He says that he has been riding around the city with his fiancee in the front taking pictures of the city. They even put a doggy door in the front of it for their whippets. I guess that if Todd is going to be a pedicab driver, it is a good thing he got himself in shape by pedalling the length of Norway!

Monday, August 27, 2007


I thought since I had driven the BSOS race car, I'd put in my own saablog entry! I recently vacationed in the Pacific northwest, and had two of the coolest "loaner" cars available: The BSOS 900 racer, and the Volvo V70R. I didn't get to town in time to participate in the Track Day festivities in the V70R, but I'll make sure to next year!

My week started out in the V70R Sportswagon. It is an enjoyable car to drive, with 300 HP, AWD and a 6 speed manual transmission. The down side to driving this car, is that my brother got it new, and is still very protective of it, so I am afraid to have much fun with the car, lest I somehow damage it, spill something in it, or get a door ding by parking in the wrong spot. So far I've been lucky and none of those things have happenned. We took the car to Roslyn, and we were going to have out road bikes with us, but they were somehow delayed by FedEx, so we didn't have them available to put onto the roof of the Volvo. It was a fun drive over the pass thru rain and drizzle at 80mph plus. Then in Roslyn we drove on some gravel roads and I was quite nervous about the poor off-road characteristics of the car. It has AWD, but very poor ground clearance, and I was plenty nervous driving around potholes at 5 mph! So we Hiked and mountain-biked in Eastern WA, then returned to the west side. We drove into Seattle and collected a parking ticket at the University of Washington (don't worry, we've paid it already) and then drove it up to Everett to see Nana. It is wonderful on the freeway and has plenty of power and is very confident on the road. The next day we traded it for the BSOS 900.

After five days in the V70R, the 900 was a positive joy to drive! With all the windows and the sunroof open there was a feeling of being very in-tune with my surroundings (maybe that is not the right word for it when you are cruising thru the I-90 tunnel at 60 mph--drowned out is more correct!). But there is a certain joy of driving that comes with the Saab. Some of it is related to the fact that I don't feel the need to be so uptight when driving an $800 car, and some of it is the view over the hood with the stripes and the "vintage" feel of the interior. You can feel like you are pushing a lot harder and using more driving talent when cruising around in the BSOS 900. To display the same amount of talent in the V70R, you, have to be exceeding the speed limit by a good percentage, and I am generally too risk-averse for that!

So now I'm back to the 855 T5, and it is a combination of the driving experiences in the BSOS 900 and the V70R. It is probably the least agile of the three, with power and acceleration closer to the R. It is equipped with interior features and accommodations somewhere in between the other two, and provides a joy-factor somewhere below the other two, but still holds a high-enjoyment factor for me. As much as I wish it was, it is not the BTCC wagon pictured here!

Thanks brother!!!

Friday, August 17, 2007

The worst car care town in America

I'm pretty sure that Madison is the worst place to try to get a Volvo worked on in the USA. Or any car for that matter. I was driving home from a missed dentist appointment yesterday morning (I showed up a day late for a 7:00am appointment) and drove past a tire store. I had noticed that I have a really slow leak in one of my tires, and the place was open, so I decided to stop. They couldn't fit me in immediately, but I could come back at 10am. Fine. As I left the tire store I drove past the Jiffy Lube from a previous post where the moron there though I was driving a Saab ("Saab, Volvo--They're the same thing!") and they had a sign out front readin "Qualified Technicians Wanted." Indeed.
So anyway, after giving my friend Amy a jump-start in her P.O.S. 1990-something Isuzu Trooper/Nissan Pathfinder crappy old SUV I drove over to West Town Monona Tire. I re-affirmed my request that they find the leak and repair it, and then also rotate the tires. I've had the tires for maybe 6000 miles, and they should have been rotated already. The fronts are showing a fair bit of wear at the shoulders. They said that there would be no problem!
So I went into the cramped waiting room which smelled of old coffee and old people and started reading a two-day-old copy of the Wisconsin State Journal. Not much of a paper, but the best there is around here.
So after a little bit more than half-an-hour, they come and get me from the waiting room and tell me I'm free to go, as the guy is processing my payment, he confirms that they have patched a hole in the tire which was from a screw in the tread, and he confirmed they had rotated the tires. $48.00 or so.
So I left the West Town Monona Tire and went to see my friend the Octopus. It had been a long time since I'd had the Volvo washed (I would wash it myself, but I don't have a place to do it.) So $10 to the Octopus and I get home and look at the car, and I'll be switched if the tires with the balding shoulders aren't still on the front!! So I look closer, and yep, the good ones are on the back. Damn.
So I head back out to West Town Monona Tire and walk into the shop and ask them how they normally rotate the tires. I know how you should do it, but maybe they "rotated" them side to side or some crap like that. Nope. It should have been swapping the fronts and rears with the fronts switching sides. "Oh, well let me ask Teddy if he rotated them or not." Walks out. Walks back in. "Uh, no, he didn't rotate them. We'll, uh, rotate them right now. Do you have your keys? I'll pull it in right now. So I paced back and forth in the lobby for another 15 minutes while they actually rotated the tires.
I'm not sure if they did it on purpose, (most Camry drivers wouldn't notice probably) or if they just "forgot" to do half of the service I asked for. They certainly didn't forget to charge me for it.
Don't go to West Town Monona Tire.

New World's Tallest Man

Yes, I know that I am a little bit late on this story, but I was busy dealing with the rules and intricacies of socialist Canada and was unable to post for a while. Also, I'll admit I was a bit sad to see Bao Xishun, the Chinese superhero stripped of the title. Bao saved the dolphins, and here you can see the new World's tallest man, Ukrainian Leonid Stadnik with Ukraine's president Viktor Yushchenko. Leonid must not be too much of a superhero, because you can see he was unable to do anything about the 2004 poisoning of President Yushchenko.

While we are on the topic of Eastern European leaders, some new photos came out of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was on a fishing trip in Siberia with Prince Albert of Monaco and soon afterwards released a whole bunch of photos. Let's hope that world diplomacy doesn't come down to a battle of wits or hand-to-hand combat between world leaders. Of course, maybe that would teach GW a lesson. Putin holds a 6th-dan black belt in the Japanese martial art of Judo. I think he could slap around most world leaders even with one hand tied behind his back and without that huge knife on his hip!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

We're part of the next big thing!

Having our own tomato and pepper plant put us at the forefront of a new movement.
Now if we can only keep it alive long enough to eat a tomato...