Wednesday, July 23, 2014


I decided, now that I have my lovely new crate, that it was high time I bothered raising the handlebars on my bicycle. See, on a cruiser sort of bike, your handlebars should actually be higher than your seat. You should be able to sit on your bike and hold the handlebars with your elbows slightly bent. This is how cruisers work. But I am lazy, so when I got my bike last year, I raised the seat to the proper height and left the handlebars because I couldn't find the special sort of tool I needed to undo the bolt (a wrench).

This was not really a problem, until this summer, because in last fall I was brutally destroyed in that car accident that gave me whiplash. In addition to the whiplash, I jarred my right hand. Righty, I call it. Righty had "soft tissue damage" which is medical-speak for, "hurt but there's nothing we can do about it, so suck it up."

Having low handlebars and a high seat makes you tilt your body forward, making you lock your arms and put weight on your arms. Also you absorb shock with your arms. And that hurts wrists with "soft tissue damage."

So I broke down and raised the handlebars. It's pretty easy. But do you know what's not easy? Tightening bolts.

I went for a ride with Mum because that's what we do. And we went along a very bumpy gravel road, bouncing up and down hills. After about a mile, we stopped at a derelict country bridge, and I parked my bike. And then the front wheel went left while the handlebars turned right. That is not supposed to happen. They are supposed to turn together.

"You can't ride home like that!" Mum said.

I wiggled the handlebar assembly, which was very loose for something that had been very tight mere minutes before.

"It's going to just fall off!"

"No, it won't," I told Mum confidently. And to prove my point, I jerked the handlebars up. And they came right off.

You cannot ride a contraption with two wheels and no handlebars. One wheel and a seat, sure. Some people can do that. But two wheels and no handlebars? No. Not possible.

So Mum set off home for tools while I walked (with Darcy) back toward home. When Mum came back with the tools (in her car so she'd be speedy), I tightened everything. It still was not enough, because I tightened both things way more when I got home. And Dad got home and tightened them even more.

Here's hoping I don't lose my handlebars and die on my next ride.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Bike Crate Reveal!

I finished my bike crate.

It turned out exactly as I wanted it to, which is so rare, it made me think I could accomplish a great many things. So I made a lemon meringue pie from scratch. That turned out as well, so I'm probably going to be struck by lightning or break several bones just by walking.

This was the tutorial I used to waterproof my crate and attach it to my bicycle. If you want to know more about how I customized the blank crate, check out this earlier post.

Still have questions? Leave them in the comments, and I'll help!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Waiting for Mod Podge to Dry

I am making a crate for my bicycle. I spent many months (since I first bought my bicycle...last year?) trying to think of what sort of crate I wanted, if I wanted to order one, if I wanted to buy a vintage one, or if I wanted to design my own. As with many of my projects,* I thought about the bicycle crate without actually doing anything.

I was in T.J. Maxx a few days ago, and I saw a perfectly shaped wooden crate. It had no giant spaces between slats, it had no logo from some defunct liquor or ammunition company (as many crates sold online feature), it had no Coca Cola logo (as are found in every local antique store). It was totally plain, with a bit of metal around the edges to keep you from denting the wood. It was perfect, so I bought it.

I spent the next few days trying to figure out what my bike crate should say. It had to have something, so I thought I'd make it into a British flag, or maybe I'd reproduce a book cover. I finally settled on making it look like a Flourish and Blotts' delivery bike. If you're unfamiliar, Flourish and Blotts was where Harry Potter bought his schoolbooks every year.

I used a fancy sort of paper called Craft Attitude to print the sign I'd made up. Craft Attitude allows you to print anything you like, then peel off the backing of the paper, leaving you with a fancy clear film that you can decoupage onto any surface. If you're working with lettering (as I was), you have to flip the writing 180 degrees, but other than that, you just print your image normally. It's brilliant, and I love using it.

Mirroring the lettering was harder than it should have been because 1. I have no word processing program on my laptop (I use Google Docs because I am cheap), so I had to borrow Dad's new laptop to have access to Word and 2. Word has no option for flipping text 180 degrees, and 3. HP does not offer that option in any of its settings. So I spent several hours designing the sign, several more trying to flip the design, and even more time driving to work to use Publisher and then back home again. It was obnoxious.

Once I'd printed my picture, I cut around each word or object I was using and mapped out my crate so I could position things properly. Then the Mod Podge came out.

When the Craft Attitude was in place, I started with the Tung Oil, which I hear is like varnish but cheaper. Whatever, my tutorial insisted I use it, so I did, even though it can spontaneously ignite whenever it likes. I have to do several more coats of that and then drill holes to put the crate on my bike, but I'm pretty pleased at how well it's turning out. What do you think?

Ignore the oddly-shaped picture, I had to crop out the garage because it is a disaster zone at the moment. Actually always. Anyway. Yeah.

If you want to try out making your own bike crate, here's the tutorial I'm using. And, of course, ask me any questions you like about making this project down in the comments. I am so here for you.

* The headboard, for one. Also the great computer data transfer, the basement organization crusade, the new curtains...

Monday, June 23, 2014

"The thing in my nose has a face!"

I know I did a race report yesterday and this is not a fitness blog, not really. So you get a consolation prize, a present for putting up with me.

Are you watching Top Gear UK? You should be. I have watched this clip 14 times in the last hour. It made me cry from laughing. I scared the dog.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Dash in the 'Bash Race Report

Yes, I am enough of a runner now that I get to do a race report. This makes me feel rather special.

My left shin is made of shards of
broken glass.
I crippled myself. Yes, my shin splint (only the left leg is destroyed, making "shin splints" singular) is far worse and I have spent last night and today hobbling about, icing my leg, wearing my pressure sleeves, and vowing not to run anywhere until after Rachael's wedding so that people don't ask her why her bridesmaid is walking like she has a peg leg.

I ran the race mostly by myself. This is because I wasn't the slowest person, but I also was not the fastest. I ran about the first quarter mile with my friend Erin, who I begged to run the race with me, until she had to slow down. She hadn't been tortured training for as long as I have. If we'd had a few more weeks before the race, we'd have finished together.

I cannot run and swallow at the same time, leading to some amusement at the water stop. I took a sip of water out of the paper cup they gave me, then I tried to swallow but nothing happened. Kind of like when I eat sushi. Instead, I held the water in my mouth while simultaneously trying to throw up the water and choke on it. I had to stop and walk to swallow, then continue at a walking pace until the water was gone.

The Beutler-Strange Trio. So much skill and
talent, it's like a third person.
I couldn't throw the cup on the ground like the other runners. I held it while I ran until I saw a race volunteer, then asked her if she could take it away. She thanked me, but was rather surprised. Hey, it saved them clean-up after the race.

Some freaky dude ran the race in 16 minutes. I think he was a robot. Or an alien. He was ginger, so maybe there's some truth to all that.

I ran the race in 33 minutes, 14 seconds. That is about 10 minutes less than the time I thought I'd end up with--i.e. the time I'd had each other time I ran that distance. The difference? I wasn't running alone. That makes a big difference for me. Apparently I try when I'm with other runners and slack off when I'm by myself.

They gave me water at the end of the race and also a banana. The water was the best thing I have ever tasted in my life. The banana seemed sort of pointless, but I ate it anyway.

Erin, despite fighting a cold and abject misery, ended up placing in her age group! She was 3rd in the 20-25 year old group. (I can't remember how the split up the ages, so I think I got that divide right, but it could have been 19-26, who knows?)

With our victory bananas. They should have been made
of solid gold.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Goals for Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the day of my 5K. I'll wake up early, head to town, pick up my timing chip, and generally freak out.

On Wednesday, I joined a few coworkers and tried the race route. Shockingly, I ran the whole way. It wasn't as awful as I thought it would be.

I don't know what that means for tomorrow, but I have a few goals. And because I am me, I have written them down.

1. Finish the 5K. This is pretty straightforward. I don't care how long it takes. What matters is that I cross both the starting line and the finish line. I can cross the latter on a stretcher for all I care.

2. Run the whole thing. This is harder, and I might not accomplish this goal. It's going to be HOT, and there will be big hills. I have trouble with my asthma in heat. Hills are just hard. We'll see if I manage to make it from the start to finish without having to walk to keep from passing out.

The third goal is bizarre and more related to irrational paranoia than valid concern. But still.

3. No stress fractures. This is a worst-case scenario and nothing I can really control. Running on shin splints can cause stress fractures. Here's hoping I've had enough milk through my lifetime to keep it from happening to me.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

In Which the Air Conditioning Stops Working

Some of you know that a few weeks ago, I tried to change the fan in my car from the defrost position and discovered that it would not move. Then I tried again and something let go, and now the knob that adjusts the direction of airflow turns a lot, but the air only comes out on the windscreen. My air conditioner only works as defrost, and because I live in Indiana, it causes condensation on the outside of the car and means I am driving around with my windscreen wipers going on a day without rain.

It's hot in my car, most all the time.

Yesterday, after a thunderstorm, I arrived home and got out of the hot car. I walked through the humidity, and I walked into the house.

It was hotter inside the house than outside the house. This was a problem.

We investigated. It turned out that the thermostat was working. the fan on the furnace that moves air around the house worked. Except the box outside wasn't moving. I flipped many switches throughout the house. Nothing happened.

I called the AC Man. He said, "Turn off the power. Turn it all off. And wait 15 minutes. Then turn it back on."

I did this. I did not electrocute myself. I was proud.

Nothing happened.

I called the AC Man back. I said, "Please help us. Come as soon as possible. I have asthma and might die. No worries, though."

He agreed to come today. He said he'd come over in the afternoon. I got home at 12:30 PM and ate, then I waited. And waited.

The man finally arrived. He stayed for about five minutes, just long enough to rip the side off the air conditioning and flee, because inside the air conditioning unit, there was a NEST.

Now, last year we had a giant snake living a few feet away, but it was not a snake nest. The AC Man did not even know about the snakes, which is good, because they moved out ages ago and that story might have freaked him out a bit.

He told us he'd seen WASPS. And that there was a nest. And also that there was buzzing. And he said, "I don't know who you should call. But you should call someone. Also I cannot put the machine back together until they are gone. Also when you clean out the nest, it will still not work."

Then he drove away in his minivan, leaving us to heat and eventual death by hornets.

I called Dad. "Bring home as much deadly poison as the store will sell you," I said. "Also bring home some that sprays from far away, because you will have a head start."

A few hours later, Dad came home. He had a bottle of unimpressive-looking wasp spray that didn't even come with any safety gear.

I showed him the nest. I turned off the power to the AC so he didn't accidentally electrocute himself through the stream of deadly poison leaving the can. He said, "Oh, that's not wasps, I don't think."

And then he took a paint-scraper. And he stabbed the nest with the scraper and waited for the wasps to come out and attack him.

Nothing happened.

"It smells like mice," he announced. I did not ask him how he knew the smell of mice. He proceeded to use a garden trowel, a mini-crowbar, and the paint-scraper to dig all of the nest out of the air conditioner.

I made him spray for wasps anyway, just so they wouldn't get any ideas. Then I called the AC Man back again. He could not come, but he is coming tomorrow, so that's something. Just one more day of sticking to furniture and gasping for air as my lungs swell closed, then the air conditioner will be fixed.

Unless he needs a part.

Unless the whole unit is ruined.

Unless there are basilisks living under the paving stones around the air conditioner.

Wish us luck.