Simple Coffee

We got rid of three coffee makers, including a Keruig, and we now have two. A Melitta black plastic pour over, and a French press.

In the past I have broken at least three glass presses, and they have a tendency to cool the coffee too quickly anyway. I started thinking that since those are known issues somebody has come up with a solution. They have.  Double-walled stainless steal French presses.

Picture of Insulated Stainless Steel French Press
Double-walled Stainless Steel French Press

For now I am keeping the Melitta since it takes up practically no room, but we have been using the French press exclusively. We gained a lot of counter space in our small kitchen, and it saves on electricity.

After I turn off the burner, I put the press down where I boiled the water to keep it hot as it seeps. I wonder if I could just boil the water in the press itself with the filter/plunger out? I don’t see why not unless it would not hold up to the heat for some reason.

These come in various sizes, from different manufacturers.

I am very satisfied with this, and do not miss the Keruig at all.  We had long ago gone to the reusable basket anyway because the cups were so expensive.

I really enjoy finding ways to simplify my life.  So far, every single step of the way has not only made things simpler, it has also made them better.

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Get Simple

I am really trying to get rid of all the unnecessary, excessive, and obscuring things in my life. Make it simple. Minamalism.

I thought I would share two simple changes I made.

The first was taking every toilet paper hanger down. Nobody used them. There was always an empty roll in the hangers with just the tube and a shred of paper. And then you had to figure out where you might find more. Problem solved:

Toilet Paper Holder
Toilet Paper Holder

How about socks? Are you tired of sorting and trying to match up socks? Do you have a clothes basket someplace that’s filled a quarter way up with single socks for which there is no known match? I threw all my socks out,  and purchased 12 pair of socks for $10. I use them for everything including running. There are some blend – not cotton. After about 3 years or more they started to get holes in them, so I went out and purchased a new package of the very same style.

I don’t even have to fold them up. I just stick them in my drawer and grab two when I need them. Problem solved:

Pair of black socks
Plain Black Socks

First Hike of 2018 and Three Lost in the Woods

Great weather for a change inspired me to get out and hike. The low fifties on a sunny day was perfect.

Picture of author
Looking like a dufus

Every year I forget how hiking uses muscles that you don’t use otherwise. Especially the glutamous maximus. I need to train for this spring.  By the way, after seeing this picture I want straight home and trimmed the beard.

Hiking trail in Missouri
Trail close to the trailhead

Missouri has lots of parks and lots of small trails including those at Rockbridge State Park which is about a seven minute drive from my house.  I wanted to do the eight mile loop on the Gans Creek trail but opted out because they are evidently redoing the routes and it is a chaotic mess.  The blazes are being changed and the main route that was fairly well marked last year is, I think, incomplete.  I couldn’t make heads nor tails out of it.

I started at the South end and wanted to loop back around through the Northern trailhead and come back,  but cut my hike short by at least an hour because the trail markings were so confusing.  It was not so much about getting lost, but the uncertainty of where I was on a trail, and hiking on a trial where the blazes from last year were either missing or changed. It is that chaotic.

To get back all I would have had to have done is follow the creek which runs downstream from North to South back where my car was parked at the trailhead where I started.  Worse case scenario was bushwacking (hiking off the designated trail) my way back following the creek downstream to the trailhead.   That would have been wet and muddy.  A compass would have made it a bit easier, but I could have done it without the compass because of the creek. I had foolishly not brought my compass and will NOT make that mistake again.  Also, the sun was to my West and that was visible. So I wasn’t going to get lost.

On the way out I passed a group of three teenagers and we greeted one another.  On the way back,  about fifteen minutes after  I decided to turn around, I passed the group of teenagers again.  They asked me if they were on  the route back to the Northern trailhead.  Actually that is the same question I had asked myself, and was unable to answer because of the confused trail markings.  Essentially why I had decided to turn around.  They had a map which was useless to them because it was just squiggly lines, and I don’t even think it was updated with the new changes.

I told them I had no idea. That is not what they had wanted to hear.  They had started on the Northern end and were trying to make it back there where their car was parked.  They had asked other people for directions and the people they asked had  either not known or had given them directions that turned out not to be helpful.  They were not panicking but they were concerned. They had been over  three hours in the woods, they had no water, and the one cell phone they had between them was about to die.

I looked at  them and wondered what to do. Just giving them directions were not going to get it done.  At least two people had done that. I was familiar with the trail, but the new configuration, which I suspect is not yet complete anyway, had confused me. I could try to lead them back to where they started, and would have eventually made it, but it was late in the afternoon, and I didn’t know the distances.  Then I would have had to hike back to where I had begun.  Also I could see their feet were wet and muddy, and they probably had on cotton socks. I am also sure they were hungry and thirsty although they declined my offer of water.  The other option was to lead them out and drive them back to their car on the highway.

They were in a bit of a dilemma.  They meet a stranger in the woods who offers to take them back to the trailhead and then drive them to their car. If they were my kids, or if it was me lost in the woods, I certainly hope somebody would have helped out.  I could tell they were hesitant.  As I would have been.  As a matter of fact I had the same concerns about them but had sized them up as good kids, with no gear, out on a walk that went bad.  They decided to take me up on my offer.

They thanked me profusely. And they were grateful, but I am not sure if it was because I didn’t bludgeon them to death with my hiking pole, or they were just glad they were finally going to be able to get home.

 


Update on the Bicycle Wrist Mirror

See the post just before this for background. Bike mirrors, even the best of them, take getting used to. It took me several months to get used to this one. I did not wear it religiously, but I did continue to use it from time to time. So… I got used to it. I also learned a few tricks. So this is a followup after it was thoroughly tested.

Glare. Given the angle of the mirror on your wrist glare is an issue, and a few reviewers mentioned that on Amazon. I learned you can simply close the mirror, placing the mirror face down, and the problem goes away. It is designed so that there is velcro to keep it from flapping around. If I am not in traffic I fold it down hiding the mirror. I use it mostly for high traffic areas, but don’t need it on the extensive trail system here in Columbia, MO., where there is no motor vehicle traffic.

Angle. The effective angle is a bit odd, and probably changes depending on the geometry of your body (length of arms, etc.), and that of the bike. For me I have to hold my hand out to the left angled up, and cock my wrist to the side. If I do that I have a great view of what is behind me.

Blind Spots. Learned where to place the mirror. Problem solved.

Magnification. Still an issue. Would a bigger mirror with different optical properties help? Probably.

Practice. Practice helps you learn how to judge the distance and look into the mirror. I have found that most things with a bike take practice. How many of you have feel over in the process of learning to use toe clips, or step in pedals. Over the years I have abandoned both, and after a long while taken them up again and I either fell over once or had a real close moment. When I purchased my new touring bike I had two keel overs due to learning the geometry and fit of the bike.

Perfection. Ain’t gonna happen. I have tried many of them over the years and all have flaws.

I bike commute and tour. I want every reasonable, and practical, safety feature I can get. I know many still go with the turn the head and look approach. Which is fine. I just want to augment it.

Hand Held Bicycle Mirror

I am actively looking for a bike mirror to use on my commute.  I saw this one on Amazon and was intrigued.  In the picture below the flap is closed concealing the mirror.

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Here is is with the mirror opened. This is the standard way to wear it with the mirror sitting on your wrist.

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This is the way that worked for me.  I have it on riding over the backside of my palm and canted at an angle.

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It works but it does have issues.  I have a huge blind spot no matter how I angle or wave my arm around in an effort to try to see what is close behind me.  I had one big delivery truck thirty feet in back of me and couldn’t see it.  I could hear it though.  I could only see it using the old school method of simply turning my head.  The mirror definitely needs to be a little bigger, and it also needs to magnify the image more.  Stuff looks pretty far away back there.

Tomorrow I am riding my hybrid.  I am anxious to see what happens without the drop bars.  Will the straight bars, and the geometry of that bike make a difference?  Useful, but not the solution I was looking for.

I have one intersection that is very busy when I come home, and cars drive fast.  There is a bike lane, but I to make a left turn in front of whatever is behind me, and whoever is oncoming as well as deal with people merging one direction or the other from the street I am trying to turn onto.  Often I just pull to the side and look.  Turning the head doesn’t work so well in this situation.

The other area where I would like a good mirror, which  has lots more traffic than the aforementioned intersection, is downtown.  Other than that, except for a detour while there is some bridge construction, is the trail.  Most of my ride is on a trail that is free of traffic except for other bikes, and people on foot.

I used a helmet mounted mirror years ago and I was not a fan.  I am going to try it again, and just work with it until I get used to it.  That is the plan anyway.

 

Bike Commute Redux

I had tried my hand at bike commuting but never committed to it.  Just the occasional attempt now and then. When we got down to just one car an opportunity presented itself.  Something that could have been a setback turned into an opportunity.

Two years ago we had an old Toyota Corolla which was a fantastic car, and what was then a new Toyota Rav.  The Corolla burned oil, and had certainly seen better days.  My wife used it for her job which requires her to spend most of her day driving from one home to another, from one appointment to another, as part of her work as a parent educator.  All city driving.  But, it was a beater car with dints and dings, and the kind of car that you didn’t care if somebody dented it some more.  Which did happen.  And it certainly was not the kind of care that somebody would break into.  It was also reliable until it just wasn’t anymore.  When our mechanic informed us that it was time for a new engine we knew it was time to put it down.  What to do?

She asked me if we should go car shopping and I suggested that we try car pooling instead.  So she inherited the Rav. On Tuesday and Thursday when I went in late I would ride my bike.  Or I would have her drop me off sometimes and I would hike home.  However, this last May I decided to try my hand at bike commuting, and with one week to go I only caught a ride with her for one and a half trips to work. One day both ways, and one day I walked home.

I had ridden my bike to work a time or two before, but could never gather the courage to be regular about it.  It is pretty hard to roll out of bed in the morning, especially when it is cold, and ride 5 or 6 miles to work.  I decided to post pictures from my ride the day before yesterday.

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The pictures are looped but in order. The first picture in the series is my bike in the garage as I prepare to leave, then outside on the drive next to the Rav, and ends with a picture of my closet at work.  Two things that make this whole project possible is that about two thirds of the ride is on the Katy Trail so I don’t have to deal with cars, and I have that closet at work. It is a small closet and kind of rough but it gives me a place to keep clothes to change into.  I have about six pairs of paints, and as many shirts.  Two pairs of shoes .

My normal ride is 33 minutes there and 33 minutes back.  Just this week a main section of the trail was closed off for several months while four old bridges are replaced. So I have to make a detour.  Most of it riding next to traffic.  It makes it 6 instead of 5 miles and includes a pretty big hill.

In some future posts I want to review my evolving gear closet, and discuss what I have learned.  I love using the bike. I hardly drive anymore which is fine with me.  Driving has lost its allure with the demise of REAL super cars.  Like the 40 Dodge Magnum, GTO, GTX, the Shelby Mustangs!  It saves money, and it is free exercise.  So now I don’t have to worry about finding time to exercise.  I have to in order to get to work and then get back home.  I miss running but this is a fun, and practical, replacement.

I would love to hear from anybody who commutes, and how they handle things.  Gear, dealing with weather, and dealing with traffic.  I will be sharing what I am learning.

 

Katy Trail Trip Revisited & Knee Problems

Bent but not broken I ventured back out onto the Katy Trail this past June, and lived to tell the tail.  Here is some photographic proof:

On this solo trip I spent the night in Hartsburg Missouri and then came back the next day.

I do not think I am sticking with the trailer, but I need to try it on my new touring bike to make sure.

Knee Woes

Well, running ugly got ugly.  At least for my left knee  I could probably count on my fingers, maybe without having to use the toes, how many times I ran last year.  I tried it again the week before last and I made two miles with no problems.  I could have ran a lot faster.  I laid off for a day or so and thought I would try it again.  My left knee kept bothering me a bit but I decided to give it a try.  Maybe it was the weather (that would be the denial kicking in).  I did not make it fifty yards.  My knee is now much better.  Biking, walking, and stairs don’t seem to bother me.  I did some boxing bag work last night and that was fine.  Weight lifting is fine. For being 60 I think that is good enough but I sure miss running.

Did running cause that knee problem? No.  I think not.  I did martial arts for  years and my kicking leg was my left leg, and it has “nagged” me for  years.  Little tweaks hear and there.  Hyperextending it with kicking, and maybe aggressive stretching, did it.  That I am sure of.

If, and until, I have to get a knee replacement I am most likely done with running and maybe a new knee wouldn’t even help.  The pain is very tolerable.  I just want to retain mobility.