The Solace of Bike Commuting

I rode my bike into work today, the first actual bike commute of the year. At least I got one in while it was still May! Rather sad though, that I have not done so before now, not even during Bike to Work Week earlier this month. That’s not to say I have not been biking, albeit insufficiently. I have done a few weekend social rides, including a 60 mile one with my friends, Sherry and Jerome, last Sunday (Verona to Ridgeway WI on the Military Ridge Trail, I believe it is called…). Sherry and I are preparing to do RAGBRAI with my Portland OR bike team, TEAM CRAZY BIRD. We are all signed up and paid up, so nothing can stop us now.*

I did the “extra long” route with my buddy, Mike. I drove from Cambridge and parked my car on the far east side of Madison, near the border with Cottage Grove, and pounded out the five miles on the Capitol City bike path to Mike’s house. I followed him on his “north route” which follows bike trails and roads north along the shore of Lake Mendota (passing Governor Scott D. Walker’s mansion…D is for Douche) and then through the Pheasant Branch nature area. It was on the limestone path of Pheasant Branch that I had the notion that the thing I love about biking on nature trails is the utopian freedom of it all. No hate or fear there, just fun. Occasionally you see people who look grumpy, but even they are out enjoying a walk or a ride on the path, so it can’t be all bad. It is like being in a neutral territory where everyone is equal and inherently good. I realize that’s an illusion, but that illusion is what I like about it, so there. We did encounter some high school kids who were obliviously sitting right in the middle of the bike path, blocking it. We scared the bejesus out of them when we rounded a corner and had to brake suddenly to avoid running them over. My brakes need a minor adjustment and so they squealed loudly, which is exactly what some of the high school girls did as they scrambled to clear off the path.

The bike path actually dumps me out right in front of work, which is cool. Mike has a couple more miles to go after that. My workplace has a decent locker room and shower facility, which was empty when I arrived a few minutes before 9 AM. I cleaned up and got to work, highly energized.

I felt pretty strong biking in this morning, thanks to doing the bike trainer pretty regularly over the winter. I have slacked off a bit on the trainer the last couple months because of getting ready to move and a bunch of music things going on.

Biking really improves my mood. I had been in a funk lately because of all the moving stress and anxiety, but biking stimulates calming endorphin production and makes me more present in the NOW, like I was during my brief illusion on the bike trail, mentioned earlier. I know the move and everything will go fine. I have a whole month to get rid of junk and pack. I can’t procrastinate at all, but I still have plenty of time to get stuff done and my time is well managed. I have the St. Vinnie’s thrift store coming on June 7 to take a computer table and a dresser away, and maybe even my hide-a-bed couch which is a cumbersome beast that I do not want to move. I am not sure about the couch yet. I may keep it. I have gotten good use out of it over the years and I can always buy another one. The foldout bed is rarely used, so my next couch might just be a good long and wide one that a person could sleep on without needing a foldout bed.

Other than that, I have some assorted electronics to get rid of, detritus from my years of music production work. I did some research on this yesterday and found out that I can dump off electronics in Watertown WI for recycling, and also perhaps in Fort Atkinson. I will do that next week. I would do it this weekend, but I am going out to Iowa for a reunion with my old college band, SINEMA. We are playing a show in Ames IA on Saturday night (5/31/14). Tonight I need to hunker down for a final cramming session on the repertoire, before I head out there butt early in the morning. It has been ages since I played some of the songs, and a few are new, with vocal harmonies I really should master if I am worth my salt as a musician. I also need to pack for the trip tonight. I am traveling light, but I have to pack my laptop and associated peripherals for doing a live stream of the SINEMA performance, if possible. On my way back from Iowa on Sunday night, I will go to the Funks’ Open Jam Stage that I have been doing most every week for the past few months. I will also live stream that, and GUPPY EFFECT will showcase a few tunes now that everyone is back from a couple weeks of hiatus from the jam.

June 14-15 will be a major packing and cleaning weekend. By then I want to have all but the bare essentials boxed up and ready to go. June 21-22 weekend is a weekend mini tour with my country band, DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS, so I cannot do much then. The band is going up to Minocqua Brewing Company for a show on Saturday night and then heading to Elkhart Lake, east of Oshkosh, to perform at some kind of NASCAR event there. Should be interesting. I have my dog Buddy booked in at the kennel for that weekend, and I am probably going to take Foster up to my buddy Todd’s in Oshkosh that Friday, 6/20, and then retrieve him after the Elkhart Lake shindig.

June 28 and 29, I will load the uHaul truck with everything that is left and then drive it into Madison on Monday morning, June 30, when all the closings go down. I will probably park the uHaul at a friend’s house and drive to the closing in my car, but if I cannot find someone to assist, I may end up driving the uHaul to the closing, which would suck. I will figure it out in any case. The seller of my new house might let me move some stuff in early that weekend once it looks like everything is going to happen as far as the closings and bank stuff.

Well, that’s enough writing for today.

*There is a chance I could land a new job between now and late July, but I fully plan to negotiate for the time off to do RAGBRAI because it is already locked in and my team is depending on me. I would not want to work for an employer who is not cool with that. Plus, my current contract job is open ended, pays decent, and my boss has already said I can be gone that week (albeit unpaid).


Energy, Biking, Rocking, Sleep, Fun

Nothing exhilarates quite like a 20+ mile bike ride on a beautiful sunny day on country roads with tunes pumping on the bike boom box. I got up today with fully good intentions to do house cleaning in anticipation of my move to Madison around June 30th. However, Mother Nature foiled me. You cannot pass up a beautiful day to get out and enjoy it on a bike. If you do, you will become depressed and resentful of your life, generally speaking. It does not have to be biking, if that is not what you are into, but whatever you are into, don't pass up an opportunity to do it whenever you can. You only live once and when you are on your death bed, it will be too late to regret what you failed to do and redeem yourself.

Today could not have been more perfect for a bike ride. 70 degrees. Slight breeze. Sunny, clear skies. My bike boom box and iPod were both fully charged and ready to go. Although I had to change a tube on my cruiser bike, which was not fun, I cannot count that as an imperfection, because I had the option to take my mountain bike instead, if I was too lazy to change the tire. But the mountain bike would not have allowed me to mount the bike boom box, so maybe it is sort of an indirect imperfection. But it was not a weather related one. I ramble.

I slept in this morning, much needed after a long and stressful week. What stressors you ask? Well, I had two gigs last week. Those were not the stressors, because I love to rock and it is a stress relief for me. But I had a lot of responsibilities to fit in around those music events, Tetris style. The inspections of my new house and my current house were last week. I had to be on site for the inspection of my new house, which pretty much usurped all of Thursday morning. Luckily, the new house got a clean bill of health from my inspector, who found essentially no issues. The inspection of my house revealed a couple of minor electrical issues I need to take care of, one of which I knew about already.

One of the gigs was BABY ROCKET at BratFest in Madison WI (the only time a "sausage fest" is a good thing), on Friday over the lunch hour, from 11:30 AM to 1 PM. This meant I had to leave work between 10 AM and 2 PM, to be at BratFest, cutting into my workday. My boss is cool and gave me permission to be off during that time weeks ago, but being a contractor making an hourly wage, I had to put in some long days Monday through Wednesday to get my full 40 for the week. I actually prefer working long days like that and kicking butt early in the week, so I can taper off a bit later in the week when I am less efficient due to fatigue and thinking about the weekend, when I usually catch up on sleep and work my second super fun job - ROCK-N-ROLL!

Anyway, yes. I slept in this morning, and that put me slightly behind on house stuff. But then when I got up and saw how gorgeous it was outside, I made a fateful decision to get out on my bike for some much needed exercise and basically went into time debt on house work. Oh well... I had no time for working out last week, except once on the indoor bike trainer, due to other pressing stuff. I am doing RAGBRAI in late July, if all goes well, and I need to significantly ramp up the biking to be ready for that (mainly for my taint, not so much the cardiovascular, on which I am pretty solid). I am also feeling a little overweight and biking with tunes is an easy way to burn a couple thousand calories. The time flies by. This weekend looks like a full compliment of awesome weather days for biking. So I think house work is going to take a back seat, which means some payback in the weeks to come. In addition, I have a ton of music stuff to get ready for this weekend too, and I need to practice. Where does the time go?

Next weekend, I am going out to Ames IA for a reunion gig with my college rock-n-roll band SINEMA. We do that every once in a while. We have a repertoire of songs we want to do, and I have done almost no preparation up until now. These kinds of bi-annual reunion gigs don't warrant a whole helluva lot of investment of time and energy, but I can usually cram enough musical information into my head when the chips are down, as they are now, to get through the gig. So that means tomorrow and Monday (Memorial Day holiday), I will also be setting aside a large chunk of time to master rock songs for the gig.

Tomorrow, I am doing an organized bike ride in Verona with my friends Sherry and Jerome. It starts at a butt early 8 AM and will be something between 37 and 60 miles most likely. There are different mileage options. Sherry and I are both going on RAGBRAI and we need to get a few longer rides in before then. The 60 mile option tomorrow might be premature and overly optimistic, since it is still kind of early in our training, but I think we can do it, since it is a social ride, not a race, and we can set our own pace. We have the whole day to do it, just like on RAGBRAI. The main issue is that 60 miles will eat up about five hours of the day (assuming an average, leisurely 12 mph pace), not even including rest stops and the pancake breakfast at Riley Tavern in Riley WI, around which this particular social bike ride is focused. If I am home by 3 PM, I will be surprised.

Sunday night is also the open jam stage at Funk's Pub at 8 PM, which I regularly attend. So in a best case scenario, I may have 2 or 3 hours of time for rocking practice on Sunday ahead of the SINEMA reunion gig next weekend. That's almost certainly going to necessitate carving out some more practice time on holiday Monday, for which I am grateful.

Hard work this rocking business, but a labor of love and I can still get some good sleep in this weekend. Tonight, one of my favorite local bands, SUNSPOT, is playing at BratFest. They are performing at 6 PM, so it won't be a horribly late night, essential if I am to make the 8 AM start time for tomorrow's bike ride. I need to get up about 6:30 AM tomorrow, at the latest, to load bike gear and drive to Verona. SUNSPOT shows are also a workout in and of themselves. A lot of flailing happens there. Come flail with me tonight!



Downsizing and Decluttering

Chet here. As of this writing, the mechanisms are well oiled and gearing smoothly toward a transition for my brother, Biff, to move to Madison WI. His old house is sold and his new house is bought. The banking and real estate charlatans are gleefully looking forward to taking a fat slice of his proverbial pie, which offsets Biff's own mild anxiety about the future. In fact, Biff is pretty excited for the change. And so am I. His new house has a large finished basement, considerably more spacious than his current one, and a perfect amphitheater for live house concert performances, hosted by my band, of course.

I am encouraging Biff to eliminate a large amount of the clutter he has accumulated over the past 8 years at his current residence. So much ex-band and ex-girlfriend detritus. Although, I have to say, the dark wood computer desk and bookshelf abandoned at his house by a prior girlfriend is pretty slick. Cumbersome, and heavy as a bitch, but elegant and classy looking. It's in his garage right now, a probable donation to the thrift store, which is scheduled to come and pick it up on the morning of June 7. I may try to convince him to hang onto that, even though it's an albatross. It could be functional. Tonight, when I got home from a gig with one of my bands, I was checking it out. It has a slide-out keyboard and mouse drawer that for all the years Biff has had the thing would only come out about half way, and then lock up, so you'd have to type on the keyboard with your hands kind of tucked under the desktop. Awkward. On a whimsy, I applied some brute force to the sliders on either side of the drawer and was able to get the drawer to come all the way out for the first time in years, and stay out...apparently fixed. I stoved a finger in the process, but not too badly. Now that the drawer works on the computer desk, I am a bit more attracted to it. Thus, my idea to convince Biff to retain it.

On the other hand, let the bids begin:


Bathroom Whistlers

Sometimes when I am in the men's bathroom at work, someone will be whistling a random tune in there. It just happened a little bit ago. Why do some men feel compelled to whistle in the bathroom? I don't really care. I have a staunch no whistling policy myself, but I don't mind if other people whistle. I just find it amusing and wonder why some are compelled to do it. Is it a nervous tick?

Do women whistle tunes in the women's bathroom? I would love to know if it is just a male thing. Are women aware of this bizarre phenomenon that takes place in the men's bathroom?



I went to Barriques for lunch today. I saw a woman drinking white wine and working on her laptop. I feel glad for her if  this is her day job. But even if it's not, I am glad she is enjoying herself on this pleasant spring day.

I ate a tuna sandwich and I am sipping coffee so I can power through the rest of the day before meeting a special lady friend for early dinner after work.


Glory Days

The glory days of summer are coming. I am looking forward to the challenges and thrills. The first of these that comes to mind is doing RAGBRAI the last full week in July with my bike team, TEAM CRAZY BIRD, from Portland, OR. I do RAGBRAI about every other year and it provides a goal to strive for as far as biking and staying in good physical shape.

Last Sunday, my music buddy Brian was in town for a HIATVS band rehearsal and short performance in anticipation of the June 7 "garden party" we are playing in Mt. Horeb, WI. On Sunday morning, we went on an organized bike ride from Dousman to Waukesha, WI, along with my friend Sherry. It was super fun and we had the bike boom box with us to listen to music whilst we rode. It was about 25 miles. Next Saturday morning, Sherry and I are going to do another social ride in Lagrange, WI near Whitewater.

I think Bike to Work Week is happening soon. I need to get organized for that. My current job has primo locker room and shower facilities.

Another big challenge is getting my house sold and migrating closer to Madison. I need to get a decent price and also find some new digs. I am trying to downsize. I would rather own than rent but I might rent for a while so I don't have to rush to find a new house to buy. Then I can shop at a leisurely pace. Having two dogs makes finding rentals a bit difficult. I need to rent a house and many landlords only allow one dog or limit the size to under 20 pounds. Foster would probably be OK at 22 pounds (what are they going to do...weigh him?). But 55 pound Buddy would be a tough sell even though he is old, house trained, and very mellow.

But I have other options. Better options in fact, thanks to good friends with dog friendly real estate to lend out. I always say it is best to rent to and from friends that you know and trust.

I also hope to spend more time with family this summer, especially my parents. They will be going up north to the Shell Lake cottage in early July and I may have a month or two of respite from THE MAN around that time. I have not been able to spend more than a long weekend up at the cottage since before I can remember...maybe college, when I had some summers off from school. In 2009 and 2010, I was self employed doing a lot of music stuff, but even then I had lots of gigs and demands on my time that foreshortened my visits to the cottage.

If I have a decent block of time with the folks, maybe I can restart gathering more research for their biographical memoirs. Those firsthand historical tales intrigue me. In retrospective 20/20 hindsight, I probably should have had a career as a biographer and travel writer. There's still time. Baby steps. First I need to finish my short motivational ebook about corporate America, another of this summer's fun challenges. Being my own boss is hard sometimes, because I am not a harsh whipmaster. But I can be very focused, motivated, and productive when I put my mind to it, especially if I manage time and don't procrastinate or overbook myself.

I also have a bunch of gigs this summer, though not all with the same band. I am more musically diversified than ever and have gigs with several current and past bands, including:

BABY ROCKET (May 21 and 23)
DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS (June 21 and 22...more to come)
GUPPY EFFECT (every Sunday night and Bubble Music Fest in September)
HIATVS (June 7)
SINEMA (May 31)

So let's get this summer party started!


Buddy's Butt Pebbles

Last Thursday, my 16 year old dog, Buddy, had surgery to remove a growth on his eyelid (and also my arm and leg, in vet bills). When he was under anesthesia, the vet found another growth on Buddy's anal gland and called me to advise removing it at the same time, because these anal gland tumors are often cancerous. It had apparently appeared and grown fast, because I had not noticed it before. I agreed that it made sense to hack it out at the same time, saving me another trip to the vet and more vet bills. The vet said that the nature of the ass cancer surgery was such that Buddy might have an agitated anus for a few days, resulting in some "accidents" around the house.

The first 48 hours after I got him back home were fine. However, this morning I discovered a few small dark "butt pebbles" around the house - small bits of dark doggie poop. Nothing major. I am not sure if these are just going to keep "dribbling" out, or if it was a one time kind of thing. I will have to keep an eye on him. At least these butt pebbles were small and contained and manageable, far better in my opinion than uncontrolled projectile doggie diarrhea, which is a bear to clean up. I don't need atrocious fecal messes in my house right now, because I am trying to sell it. I have some potential buyers lined up already, but if that deal falls through, I will have to start showing it again.

Buddy is doing pretty well for an old dog. I think he has gone deaf, because he seems to completely ignore me when I talk to him. He always kind of ignored me before, but then he used to just turn and walk away. Now he doesn't even respond to my commands. I'll sometimes put him in an upstairs bedroom when I don't want him underfoot. Then when I go up to let him out again, I find him barking at the wall and even when I call him to indicate he is free to leave the room, he does not hear me. Sometimes at the dog park, he will wander off and lose sight of me, then can't find me again, even when I am within sight and earshot. I can sometimes wave my arms and if he manages to see me do that, he will sometimes run toward me. I think he has started to learn to run toward whoever is waving their arms, even though he clearly can't hear my calls. At home, Buddy just chills out. He has a plastic cone on his head now to prevent him from getting at the stitches on his butt. That @#$%ing cone bangs into everything when Buddy is moving about the house, opening up cupboard doors, knocking books off the shelf, and making a heinous racket. The cone is getting dinged and dented. I have already had to tape it back together a couple times. I'd like to leave the cone off Buddy for a couple hours, but he is notorious for pulling out stitches when no one is watching. He had a growth removed from his front leg a couple years ago and I made the mistake of leaving the cone off. It was only for like 15 minutes, but he managed to totally tear open the wound. It was nasty and I had to take him back to the vet for more stitches. I won't make that mistake again. I can't afford another trip to the vet.

This afternoon will be crazy doggie fun house. My buddy Brian is coming to town, with his dog Chuck. Mayhem will no doubt ensue. We are going to take all the dogs to the dog park to get acquainted. Then perhaps things will settle down.


It's Saturday morning and I am about to take my car in for a brake job. At least, I think it needs a brake job. The sound it is making when I hit the brakes is atrocious. Sounds like metal on metal. Conversely, it has made that sound before on rainy days, and this past week has been quite rainy, but when I have taken it in previously, my mechanic says I do not need a brake job. Maybe that will be the case this time. It could just be that when it is rainy, the brake disks get covered in dirty water, full of road grit, and when the brake pads grab them, the grit is ground out. That is very much the sound of it. However, this time it is a little bit different. There is also a squeal now, and when I come to a complete stop, the brakes seem to suddenly grab hold and the car comes to a jerky stop. Maybe all that grit has finally worn the pads down to metal. I have an old 2001 Prius, that still runs great, and the way the brakes work on a Prius is by running the electric motor in reverse, recharging the electric battery as the car slows. The brake pads engage only to bring the car to a complete stop. This could explain why I have not had to do the brakes on my Prius in over 165,000 miles of driving, since I bought it from my mom in 2009. That and the fact that I do a lot of highway driving that involves less brake usage.

This past week was fun. I did quite a bit of music. There was GUPPY EFFECT practice on Tuesday night and BABY ROCKET practice on Thursday night. Both these bands will be at the Funk's Open Jam tomorrow (Sunday) night, as well as HIATVS, my old theatrical power trio. Guitarist AquaMunkee (stage name) is theoretically going to be in town for the weekend, so we are going to hash out a few numbers to play at the jam.

More to come, but right now I have to get my car over to my mechanic.