It was four years ago today

that this site was born. It began as the chronicle of a coast-to-coast bike tour. For those who weren’t along for the ride, here is that first post.

But first, a word from our sponsor…This appeared Tuesday on the news webpage of a local TV station.

Screenshot from channel3000.com

Sorry, but I’m speechless.

What is this blog anyway?

This is going to become a blog that will chronicle my trip from Seattle to Boston by bike in the summer of 2018. Think of anything posted here before June 17 (departure day) as an appetizer. Some of it will be for bike geeks, some to explain stuff to non-geeks, some of it will be so family and friends know I am still alive (once on the road), some of it will, I hope, be of interest to anyone who stumbles across it.

The genesis for this trip came in high school. My parents’ plan for me was to go to Harvard or Yale on a full scholarship and then become a doctor. I didn’t really want to go to college (nor were Harvard and Yale offering me four free years) and instead wanted to see the USA on a BMW motorcycle. In those days, BMW was a touring bike and came in any color as long as it was black – or so I thought until I came across a 1959 white R-50 out near Cottage Grove. I decided I was going to buy that bike and laid plans for borrowing my parents’ car when they were away for a weekend so I could drive out there for a test ride. Test ride day was stormy and I never did more than look at that bike, but touring the US by bike stayed in the back of my mind. Below is a reasonable facsimile of that bike.bmw-r50-1955-motoI didn’t go to Harvard or Yale and didn’t become a doctor. I did injure my ankle quite badly when I was 20 and needed a doctor. While recuperating from surgery I watched my roommate go ice skating almost every day. I couldn’t wait to get out and do that. By the time I was back on two feet, skating season was over. I began shopping for a new bicycle, something else I could do with two feet. In spring I bought that bike and motorcycles faded into the background.

The next posts will talk about how the half-formed dream of a US tour became this actual US tour in about 50 years. Posts will be weekly at first. Once on the road I hope to post daily, though that will depend on internet access and battery life.

So you don’t have to remember when posts will come, click the “follow” button to the right (on your desktop) or below (on a tablet or phone) and we’ll send fresh posts to your inbox.

It is now 2022. With a pandemic still raging, we’re not promising anything, but… we ain’t gettin’ any younger…

Out of the frying pan…

and back to the COVID-19 unit. If it seems these COVID posts are coming closer together, you’re probably right.

We rotate therapy staff through there and the speed at which we rotate depends on how many of us are there at once. Last week there were three COVID Occupational Therapists all week, four on Monday. Once upon a time, there was one therapist for ½ days.

Instead of starting my week there, I ended it there. Saturday I saw three COVID patients. Two were incidental findings in patients admitted for traumatic injuries. All patients are tested on admission and isolated until a negative result comes back. These two were positive but asymptomatic. The third was sick enough to be admitted but breathing on their own on the third day and may be going home this afternoon (Saturday).

Saturday, January 8

Recommendations are in flux once again. When the delta variant blew through, I saw young, previously healthy, unvaccinated, and very sick people. Those who survived were here for weeks or months. Now numbers are up but severity is down. We got new recommendations last night.

PPE from “strongest” to “weakest”:
–For COVID+ patients, I wear a PAPR (Powered Air-Purifying Respirator), gown, and gloves. The PAPR sucks in room air, runs it through a filter, then delivers it to my hood. The filter is self-monitoring to let me know when it needs to be changed.
–I have the option of wearing a fit-tested N-95 respirator with a face shield instead of a PAPR. “Fit-tested” means I wore that mask, a hood was placed over my head, and a bitter-tasting substance was injected into the hood multiple times under varying conditions (standing still, moving around, shaking my head, bending over, etc). If I never tasted the bitter substance, I was now “fit-tested”. Any detection of the taste would mean starting the test over with a different mask model.
–For COVID- (negative) patients, I now wear a “well-fitting” mask. That essentially means an N-95 mask that has not been fit-tested but fits tightly and has no apparent leakage. (Why this? Because we just got a new model of N-95 that is way more comfortable than the one I was fit-tested for. No one has yet been fit-tested for this model but it looks promising. The mask I was first fit-tested for 20 years ago was not an option this time, though is now back in stock and less uncomfortable than my current fit-tested model. We are supposed to be fit-tested annually. I was fitted at the beginning of the pandemic and fitting should be available again soon. [Two years is better than 20 anyway.]) It is also “strongly recommended” that I wear an eye shield, so I do. A mask and face shield makes it hard for patients to hear me. The eye shield doesn’t have that effect. The N-95 is fluid-resistant anyway, so the shield is overkill for non-COVID patients unless you try to wear the same mask for a long time (as we did earlier in the pandemic when supplies were short).
–A standard “barrier mask” (surgical mask) is no longer considered adequate for any patient contact and some are saying only appropriate in your own office. As of today, that’s what I wear to enter the building.We’ll see how that changes on Monday.
–A cloth mask has not been acceptable for many months. We used to wear them in all parts of the hospital except patient rooms.

I’ve seen a bunch of anti-vax memes. Today I saw a batch of pro-vax memes. I couldn’t resist.

From Reddit via The Daily Kos
From Reddit via The Daily Kos

Thursday, January 13

An interesting week so far. The hospital gods must be on my side. I have seen several trauma patients with incidental COVID+ findings, so I feel at home. I’ve also seen patients whose trauma may have been a result of their COVID confusion; there’s really no way to know for sure. Tuesday I saw a young and otherwise healthy person who was sedated due to extreme agitation due to COVID. Wednesday that person looked great, except for the need for CPAP. (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, which feels sort of like a powerful fan being blown into your mouth and nose at all times. It makes it hard to exhale.) They were up and around the room. We stood and looked out the window together. Thursday they were intubated and moved to the ICU. I’ve seen multiple people with brain bleeds – from major trauma, minor trauma, no known trauma. I saw them after a decompressive craniectomy (in which a chunk of skull is removed to allow the brain to swell, the skin is closed over it, and the bone flap is stored to put back later).

We are too busy to keep up. I have 15 patients per day. I can’t see that many. On Tuesday I had 12 newly-diagnosed patients. Most of them I passed on to a Therapy Assistant to see Wednesday, so I could see a dozen more new folks. Today I had a few that I had to leave until tomorrow. The eight hour day is not really an option; nor is seeing everyone who should be seen. Each day is a compromise. “Triage” is my middle name.

Today a bunch of suits came through the unit, led by the Director of Nursing. They stood by the nursing station to hear tales from the front. As I walked by, I heard the word “burnout” and the phrase “we can’t keep up” more than once.

Friday, January 14

One in every five patients in the hospital are now COVID+. We have the incidental finding (here for some apparently unrelated reason, asymtomatic, but COVID+), the here because of severe COVID infection, and the grey area in between. The person who fainted “for no reason” but is COVID+ may have fainted due to weakness from the infection. Do we know for sure? The person who had the ischemic stroke could be coagulopathic from COVID infection, but possibly just happened to have a stroke while COVID+. The person with bleeding on the brain after falling – did the COVID infection lead to the fall? The people with what we call “failure to thrive” (general malaise, lack of appetite, unable to care for themselves) and COVID-19 probably are failing to thrive due to COVID, or it may just be what pushed a borderline functional person over the edge.

At any rate, my COVID caseload keeps growing. It shrunk by two during the course of today. One went home, one died.

I’m not on Facebook, so count on others to read it for me and tell me of the stupidity therein. I’ve seen a lot from people posting anti-vax and COVID-denying memes that stop the day they are admitted. Then their posts are about how miserable they are. And then comes the inevitable post from someone else about the GoFundMe campaign to support all the children this person left behind.

I saw the posts from a person who refused the vaccine because its development involved a fetal stem cell line, then demanded treatment with monoclonal antibodies which were developed using that same stem cell line.

Another series involved people claiming that hospitals are paid a bonus for killing people with COVID treatments, so you should refuse to go to the hospital…then those people show up at the hospital only when at death’s door and wonder why the hospital didn’t save them – probably because they failed to use the proper doses of dewormer and bleach. There are those who seek attorneys to help them sue the hospital for failing to provide them with unproven and unapproved treatments they read about on Facebook. Yet another involved people telling their friend to refuse remdesivir because it kills people (and is one of the ways hospitals claim their bonus). Yes, some people treated with remdesivir die; but at a lower rate than those who don’t get the treatment. So if you show up at the verge of death, the hospital tries everything and you still die, was it the disease or the treatment that killed you? Why is that even a question?

I could argue with equal accuracy that you should refuse to drink water, as 100% of people who drink water die. (Not right away – that’s what makes it so insidious.) I could argue that, if you get pregnant, you should demand an abortion rather than being forced to bring a child into the world. We know that 100% of those who are born die – many only after a lifetime of suffering. Is it more humane to sentence one to a life of suffering, or to save it from birth in the first place?

Saturday, January 15

My eight day COVID week has come to an end. I’ve got nothing to say, but it’s okay (how’s your boy been?). (20)

Baby, it’s cold outside

On New Year’s Day there was no ice on the lakes. A week later, they were totally iced in. Three more days and the river is almost frozen over. The river current is swift enough that it seldom freezes and, when it does, it’s not for long. But today, this is what we have for open water:

Before the next bridge down, that narrow lead has closed. The river was dredged over 100 years ago and the channel straightened. It didn’t always look like this.

The road is icy enough to skate on, but it’s cold enough that I don’t want to. I did shoot a video selfie of skating on the road a few years ago. If you look fast, you can see the skates at about 17 seconds. It was early morning and I didn’t want to wake anyone to shoot the video for me.

It is cold enough to revisit winter biking clothes. The important things for extreme cold: keep hands and feet warm, and exposed flesh freezes so cover all skin.

For hands I use mittens from Empire Wool and Canvas. If it’s really cold I add liners. (Silk, neoprene, or even nitrile exam gloves can help. If you wear nitrile, your hands will be wet from sweat. That will feel weird. Wet is okay only if you stay warm. Wet and cold is not a good thing.) Most “winter” bike mitts are not made for real cold. Pogies or bar mitts are also popular, and you can wear gloves or mittens inside them. If your fingers get cold, you can make fists (occasionally tuck your thumb inside) to let your palm warm your fingers. Sometimes just holding one hand behind your back (out of the wind) will warm it up. If you get cold and then stop feeling cold (without having done something to warm up), that is a bad sign. Get out of the cold. Numb is not better than cold. The boots I use are from Bontrager but there are others. They’re not cheap, but neither is treatment for frostbite. (We could talk about treating frostbite, but that would make this even longer.) I just wear regular (wool) dress socks down to about zero, then add silk liners. The neoprene socks shown above are only for extreme cold.

Frost nip to the eyes. This was the morning that convinced me to buy goggles.

Dress for the weather and for your tolerance. Usually I just wear rain pants (for wind resistance) over my work pants. The combo of tights above are for bitter cold. Down to about 25-30 degrees (-4 to 0 C) I wear just the yellow jacket shown over my regular shirt. Down to about zero (-18 C) I would add the down vest. When it gets really cold, the windfront membrane stiffens and makes crackling noises, like cellophane, but doesn’t seem to be damaged. The hat by itself is good to about 15 degrees (-10 C). After that I add a silk balaclava that lets me cover or uncover my mouth and nose. Below zero I switch to a wool balaclava that covers my nose and has a small breathing hole for my mouth (the black one above with goggles). At about -20 (-29 C) I trade that for a fleece balaclava (the blue one above with frozen eyes).

Remember also that windchill or “feels like” temperature refers to the flesh-freezing properties. The numbers noted above are temperature. You results may vary. If the wind is strong enough, I would alter the ranges a bit. The -30 referred to above was a day with actual temperature of -26 F (-32 C) and windchill about -55 F (-48 C), with the worst about -60 F (-51 C) from the wind tunnel effect between buildings. Since I couldn’t measure the wind velocity in that area where I was nearly blown backward, that’s an estimate.

The handy thing about the Fahrenheit scale is that each 10 degrees makes a difference in comfort. Bike clothes or regular clothes? Your choice. Ranges will vary person-to-person and with the wind. On a 40 degrees day, I may see one person in shorts and another in a face mask and goggles.
30s: Snug hat (cover ears) under helmet. Warm gloves. Shoe covers. Winter bike jacket over long sleeved jersey or regular shirt. Winter tights or regular pants for work.
20s: Same hat. Consider mittens (even ordinary winter lobster mitts should be okay at this temperature) or Pogies. Maybe switch to boots if you don’t have lined shoe covers. Same jacket. Wool or fleece long sleeve jersey, or consider adding down vest over work shirt. Warmer pants (moleskin, corduroy, wool – not jeans or chinos) or windfront tights.
10s: Thin balaclava under hat (one that covers cheeks). Be sure your forehead is covered. Mittens. Boots. Add the down vest. Rain pants over regular pants, or windfront fleece tights.

0s: Balaclava that covers nose (maybe mouth) under hat. Warm mittens (maybe liner gloves – having your fingers touch each other helps conserve warmth, but sometime extra insulation is needed. If they made lobster liner mitts, that would be ideal) or warm gloves inside Pogies. Jacket, vest, wool or fleece jersey vs jacket, vest, work shirt – you can also add arm warmers to work clothes. Multiple layers on legs (rain pants over windfront tights or over pants and maybe long underwear – silk, fleece, or wool, not cotton). If you don’t want to take long underwear off, you can wear leg warmers under work pants and slide them off without removing pants. (You will have to remove shoes and socks.) You can also slide arm warmers out from under a shirt. If you have old, stretched-out arm warmers, you can wear them over shirt sleeves.
-10s: Add goggles. Liners under warm mitts or warm mitts in Pogies. Warm socks. Silk long underwear under jersey or shirt. Long underwear bottoms (or leg warmers) vs two layers of tights.
-20s: What ever you’ve got! Your warmest balaclava under hat, or silk balaclava under warmer one. Covering your mouth will prewarm air to prevent chilling your lungs. Your exhalations will warm your chest as the balaclava guides air downward. Definitely wear goggles. Some people will breathe through a snorkel to provide some warming to the air and avoid fogging goggles. (I’ve never tried it.) Two (or three if you have very thin liners, regular gloves and warm mitts or Pogies) layers on hands and never remove the under-layer. Consider chemical handwarmers between layers. Silk liner socks under heavy wool or neoprene socks. Consider chemical foot warmers. Silk longjohns under fleece ones. Flannel-lined pants, maybe even over tights. Your knees and fronts of thighs will get coldest.

If it gets much colder than that, maybe stay home and read “To Build a Fire” by Jack London; or test this:
He knew that at 50 below zero water from the mouth made a noise when it hit the snow. But this had done that in the air. Undoubtedly it was colder than 50
below
.” (From “To Build a Fire” by Jack London)

In short, there’s no such thing as bad weather to ride; just bad clothes. If you have the right clothes and the right bike, you can ride in almost any weather. I’d probably stay out of hurricanes and tornadoes. When I find weather that is unrideable, I’ll let you know. (Okay, there have been a few days when it was snowing hard enough that I skied to work, but that could have been overcome with a fat bike.)

P.S. This is not an endorsement of the song in the title.
P.P.S. I’ve written on winter bike clothes a few times before – this post combines them all into one.
P.P.P.S. Between writing and posting, the temperature has gone up 40 degrees.

Torque

Back in the day, we tightened bike parts until they felt right. Torque was measured by the sensitivity of your hand. My brother used a torque wrench to put together sports car engines, but I never used one on a bike.

Then along came carbon fiber. Tighten too much and it could crack. Tighten too little and things could slip or maybe cause a pressure point that would lead to a crack. Suddenly, bike parts came with torque ratings and ¼ inch drive torque wrenches became necessary.

My first torque wrench was adjustable. When you reached a pre-set torque you would feel and hear a click. It didn’t stop you from tightening more (unlike my plumbing torque wrench, with a clutch that slips when you hit the preset torque). At higher torques, the click is definitive. At low torque, it is sometimes too subtle to notice, or maybe it is inconsistent. At any rate, I bought a deflecting-beam torque wrench. That sort relies on your eyes to watch a scale. A little more foolproof, but also a large tool.

Along came Silca (purveyors of the greatest tire pump ever made. My Silca Pista is 47 years old. I have replaced the rubber chuck a few times. I have lubricated the leather washer multiple times and may have replaced it once. The hose finally leaked and I replaced it after maybe 30 years. After 40+ years the gauge broke. I replaced it. While virtually indestructible, it is also eminently repairable – kinda like components from that other Italian company.)

Filling my tires since 1974

The Silca T-Rachet and Ti-Torque kit is a pocket sized ratcheting torque wrench with multiple bits (hex bits: 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6mm; Torx bits: t10, t20, t25; 2mm Phillips head bit). The whole thing weighs 220 grams (including case) and measures 120x70x30mm. It fits easily into a jersey pocket or an under-saddle bag.

T-Ratchet and Ti-Torque kit in case (tape measure for scale)
Case open to see parts
From bottom: ratchet mechanism, attachment to make ratchet handle a T, main body, extension
Handle and body assembled – the attachment goes on the left
Torque scale – there are markings for 0-2-4, 0-3-5, 0-4-8 on different sides

Need to make a repair on the go and don’t want to guess at proper torque? This tool has you covered. Retail price is $120, which might make you squirm. Shipping is free, it is sometimes on sale, and (if it is anything like the pump) you might be able to will it to your children.

The warranty isn’t bad, either (though it only covers your lifetime, not that of your children):

SILCA LIFETIME WARRANTY

‘Parts covered by the SILCA Limited Lifetime Warranty are guaranteed to be free of defects in materials or manufacturing for the lifetime of the user. In addition this coverage, SILCA Limited Lifetime guarantees all hard parts to remain functional for a period of 7 years beyond the original date of purchase. This coverage includes wear and fatigue related failures or damage to these parts, but does not cover damage related to abuse, modification, or non-use related failures such as dents, impacts, running over with car, etc..’

And no, for the old friends out there, this is not about our late friend, known only to his parents as Tiberius.