Sunday, January 15, 2017

Life - The Wheels Keep Turning

So recently there have been a lot of changes. I just started a new job, I have a new (to me) car, I've been getting stuff done around the house, and we're going to be changing our home schedule a bit to accommodate my job. I've also decided to stop promoting races and, in a related thing, I'll be backing of on the bike racing as well.


I guess the big thing is that I am no longer taking care of my dad. As much as it was the right thing to do, it affected the rest of my life by limiting what I could do, when I could do it. There are a lot of ways to describe the limitations, both negative and positive.

Negative words I think of right away are "shackled" or "trapped". This is because I really couldn't do much because I needed to take my dad with me. As he declined it was possible to sneak out while he was sleeping, which made things a bit easier. Toward the very this reversed itself and I stayed close by to keep an eye on him.

However, when I think of how I was able to care for him, other words come to mind. "Privileged" and "fortunate" come to mind right away. I was very, very lucky to be able to care for my dad. Even with all the tough stuff that happened, the stress and the like, I wouldn't have traded the experience for anything.


In the end, though, when my dad passed, it allowed me to think of myself once again. First there was sort of this numb, decompression period, maybe a week, maybe more, where I felt just pulled along by all the things that happens when your dad dies. Then there were a couple frantic weeks of doing estate stuff, with one of my siblings handling much of it.

Then, after the dust settled for me (my sibling still doing estate stuff so not totally settled), maybe a month later, my situation became pretty clear to me. I needed to find a job that paid enough, and, if possible, a job I'd enjoy.

The latter was a bit tough. I wanted to be customer facing, I wanted to work with something that interested me (bikes, cars, not sure what else), and I had to find a position that didn't require too much specialized knowledge while offering me both a reasonable starting salary as well as opportunites for growth. Bonus would be substantially subsidized health care benefits.

Of course I've been thinking of this stuff for almost ten years now so this wasn't an idle thought. I enjoyed my time at the hardware store but the reality is that the position simply didn't offer much growth. It couldn't, much like working in a bike shop has difficulty offering growth.

After about four weeks of lots of searching on Careerbuilder and the like, I realized I was coming back to a particular position over and over. It was basically a sales position (management trainee) at various Firestone Complete Auto Care centers, all of which are (I think) wholly owned by the parent company Bridgestone.

As I pointed out in my previous post, I ended up with the position. I started a few weeks ago and it's been a steep learning curve. I am relearning stuff that I learned in my previous work lives - the car dealer, the hardware store, IT, and the shop. In the process I'm feeling like, okay, I'm starting to get it.

The thing I want to do at some point in the future is build my own team. To me that'd be the ultimate, to build and maintain a cohesive, cooperative, positive group of people into a nicely honed machine. When things go smoothly it's like a big leadout going well, all sorts of diverse elements working together toward a common goal. Just at this job this kind of stuff happens all the time. I caught a glimpse of this the other day (meaning as something based on what I initiated and did, not what others did) and I have to admit that it's extremely enticing. I'm looking forward to the day where I can make such things happen all the time.

What Else?

So what else is happening?

Our Cars

Well, for one thing, we've gotten our VW TDI "dieselgate" offers from Volkswagen. In case you don't know about it, VW cheated on emission tests with their diesel cars, to the point that some senior executives are being indicted for various crimes with senior executives told not to travel to the US. VW agreed to buy back almost half a million cars and pay some fines for a record $14 billion or so. That kind of dollar amount is a bit "otherworldly" to me because I can't think of that kind of money.

The Golf in the registration tent.

However, I can think about $10,000 or $20,000, and for us, as VW diesel owners, those are real numbers. VW not only is buying back the diesels but they're paying an additional $5-10,000 for each car as punishment. To give an idea of what our cars are worth in terms of trade in, I'd priced both cars in August 2015, just before Dieselgate hit in September 2015. I wanted to trade in one or both cars to get a more versatile tow vehicle. The dealer offered $9,000 for our Jetta Sportswagen ("JSW") and $12,000 for the Golf, a total of $21,000 for both cars.

$21,000 for both cars.

In contrast, because of Dieselgate, VW paid us $21,600 for the Golf.

Just the Golf.

Golf turned in. Tag on mirror says the car is not for sale.

They will pay us about $17,000 for the JSW.

So as far as we're concerned VW has done right by us.

I used less than half the Golf money to buy a replacement, the Sentra. We've ordered a Civic sedan for the Missus. So we'll have two completely different cars in the garage by March.


There's a lot of stuff going on with the house. We live in a single family home located in a condo complex. Therefore we get to have our own house but we don't deal much with outside maintenance. In the next year the condo association will be clearing our area of dead and dying trees (pretty much every large tree near the house, I'm guessing 15 or so large trees and a slew of supporting smaller trees), they'll be re-roofing our house, fixing the wood siding, and painting. It's a lot of work for sure and we're looking forward to the renewed yard/outside in the fall of 2017.

With the roof work we're looking into any roof modification so that we can sort of piggyback the work already scheduled. We'll be adding a sky tube (it's sort of like a skylight that ends in a light fixture lens in the ceiling) to brighten up a dark section of hallway. We're also contemplating having a chimney installed for a pellet stove. With some of the recent single digit temperatures a helper heating source would be a welcome addition to the home heating environment.

There are a lot of projects for inside the house as well. I've had a number of them planned or thought out and finally got around to doing them. Inertia/momentum works in two ways. When things are static it's hard to get going. However when things are in motion it's hard to stop. And now, with things in motion, I've found myself doing little things here and there all the time.

Family - The Missus and Junior

I put this down a bit lower because it's something we handle every day. It's not something like the car where we don't think about it for a bit, or it's a once in a while thing like a new roof on the house. For sure Junior occupies virtually all my free time outside of work. The Missus and I both schedule life around Junior, meaning we tend to work around his schedule. With work that's an added variable, making the intersection between the three schedules even more rare and special.

Things are going great with the Missus and her work so that's not a huge stressor, at least to me. I think for her there are both good and bad days, with seemingly very few of the latter. As a former small business owner I can relate to some things common to owning a small business, although hers is successful and mine was less so.

Once tax season is over her schedule lightens up which means my job will be the limiting factor to our family time.

Junior is doing well too. I'm constantly amazed by the things he does. He remembers stuff so well he's been keeping me on my toes. He's great around people, inquisitive, talkative, energetic, and will even admit defeat if he's tired and go upstairs for nap or bedtime.

Junior enjoys unscrewing the quick release skewer from the wheel.
August 2016.
Note lower profile front wheel, the Stinger 4. It must have been windy that day.

We had to pull Junior out of Pre-K because of my job. He's returned to what is officially a daycare center. The reality is that it's a super effective educational place based on how well prepared he was for Pre-K. A lot of it is him, of course, he learned a lot of stuff sort of on his own, and it's not like we sit down and do vocabulary drills or whatnot. He seems to pick stuff up on his own, with the help of some YouTube clips, Einstein DVDs, Cat in the Hat, and some other educational entertainment. Lately he's gotten into Star Wars stuff so of course he's learning and memorizing all sorts of stuff that doesn't necessarily translate to "education".

Part of our play at Pre-K pick up.
Here we're taking shelter in the doorway to a different part of the school.

Running the Yellow Line.
I told him to stay on the line so he wouldn't veer toward the curb.

Saying hi to the daycare bus driver (a teacher also) and telling her all about his day.

My job will mean a few late nights a week so I'll miss his bedtimes regularly. I think, honestly, that this will be harder for me than him. I knew underneath that eventually it would happen at some point. It's just that it's happening now.

Other Things

One thing I've wanted to do since late 2015 is to get back in some gasoline powered karts. Connecticut has two locations which run gas karts on tracks which suit gas engine characteristics. Gas karts have very little low end torque, requiring a bit of time to build power. Such karts reward smooth driving, good lines, and longer "full throttle" sections of track. On Track Karting (OTK) has two locations with well laid out courses for gas karts.

Back in 2015 I went to each track one time, Wallingford in November, Brookfield in December.

I was hooked.

I bought a helmet (it was a $100 Bell helmet) and an inexpensive action camera. Then life intruded and I could only dream about karting. I watched clips people made of their OTK outings, watching the better drivers over and over again. I memorized the layouts, I knew when to get on the gas, when to ease, leaving just a few areas of doubt ("do I brake here or just coast?" or "how does he initiate turn in here?"). I'd have to get to the track to figure that out.

Recently I went back to Brookfield. I wanted to catch a full evening of driving ("all you can drive from 6 pm until 11 pm"). I got there a bit late but drove for about 4 hours straight, missing only a few heats during that time. Significantly for me I qualified for Pro Karts, based on dropping below a certain minimum lap time for multiple heats. This was my holy grail goal and I managed to hit my marks in the first four or so heats.

43.062 seconds.
I needed to break 43.75 seconds I think.

On seeing my reports on karting a (bike) racing friend reached out to me and offered me a ride in his karts. I have yet to take him up on it (it was 1 deg F outside the next morning) but I hope that I'll be able to experience karts outside later in 2017. Indoors I don't think we go much faster than 30-35 mph in the 6.5 hp regular karts, but outside he says his slow kart (similar to an indoor 9 hp Pro Kart) will hit 50+ mph. His fast kart will apparently hit the 70+ mph range.

After my solo outing to Brookfield I got in touch with my friend that first introduced me to OTK with a bunch of car nuts. We made plans for a repeat night out at the Wallingford track. It was sort of like a "group kart" experience, versus a group ride, with a 7 of us meeting up to kart. Five of us were Pro Kart qualified so for two heats we blitzed the course in the fast karts. It was my first time in them and it was eye opening. They were so much faster in certain sections that I had to relearn how to approach them.

2nd heat in the Pro Karts, top of the leaderboard.
"Frank", a regular, said that "mid-37s are respectable".
The best time in December at that time was in the range. That's fast!

I look forward to doing Brookfield in the Pro Karts. I hope one day to do the actual racing. It won't happen soon I think but there are some pretty long races. In a 10 minute heat I got in 15 laps at Wallingford. I did 16 minutes in Brookfield, two 8 minute heats back to back, and that was a bit fatiguing. In contrast the long kart races are 100 laps long!


One conspicuous absence in all of this is anything bike related. The reason for this blog is cycling, of course, and my main interest for 35 years has been cycling. With an almost off year in 2016, with just several Tuesday Night races checked off, 2017 doesn't seem to offer much more. For me, as a promoter, racing has always had two sides: promoting and racing. There's a third bit, maintenance, and I'll kick off with that.


For the last two years I put literally zero dollars into my bike. I rewrapped the same tape around my bars a few times. I think I glued one tire on, a tire I had "in stock". I still have maybe 10 or 12 new tubular tires, ready to be mounted. I even have a few rolls of tape but I was jealously hoarding them for when I really needed new tape.

With the new job (as well as an economical car purchase) I've gotten to the point where I can think about spending some money on the bike. I need to overhaul my two SRMs, both of which are not working. I want to get a second stem so the black bike can be fitted like my red bike. I bought two new training clinchers for if I start training outside again. It's maybe six or seven hundred dollars but that's more than I felt comfortable spending in the last two years. Now, though, I feel like I can do it. Not just yet, but in the near future.

As a last bit I may try and get a second set of new-style 10 speed levers, Centaur I think, so the cockpits on both bikes match.

I did go and get one new cassette and a slew of used ones, from a good friend of mine. I hope that this gets me through the next year or three in terms of drivetrain maintenance.

Promoting or Lack Thereof

A big bike thing for me is promoting. With my new job I need to work Sundays from February through mid-April.

This means no Spring Series.

That's 100%. No giving it a shot, no trying, for me I'm done.

I've been on the fence about ending my promotion work, promising myself not to promote "next year". I've thought about my exit strategy, if you will. There are two significant investments in Carpe Diem Racing that I have - the trailer (legally it's Carpe Diem Racing property) and the tow vehicle (legally just a personal vehicle), both of which I wouldn't own except that I promoted races. Selling the trailer first, then the Expedition tow vehicle second, would seal the "no more promoting" decision. Even though I promoted races before I had them, if I sold them then mentally I'd be done.

I was telling someone about this stuff the other day and the one thing I'd want to get is a pick up, van, or minivan large enough to haul around a snowblower or a couch or something. With just two compact cars we can't carry much of anything if we didn't have the Expedition or the trailer.

Trailer at the 2016 Aetna Silk City Cross race.
To be clear I didn't promote the race, I only helped with registration.
Credit for the race goes to Jon, David, and the rest of the Expo crew.

So... If you're a promoter looking for a trailer and tow vehicle, let me know. Heh.

(For reference I spent $23k to buy them and I'd sell them for significantly less. Emphasis on the word "significantly". Trailer is a 8.5'x20' car hauler, 3500 lbs axles so 7000 lbs gross weight, about 3600 lbs load capacity as it's about 3400 lbs empty. Expedition is rated at 8900 lbs towing, give or take. I was thinking the trailer could act as a portable garage if it came down to it. Or a portable, heatable, miniature garage where I could work on my car. Waitaminute. Hm.)


For the actual racing bit I don't foresee much improvement in my schedule from 2016. I hope I'll make some races, but with my work schedule in flux typically week by week, I have absolutely no idea if I can race a week in the future, even a Tuesday night (there are some nights I'm at work until 8 or 9 PM or even later). This makes planning on doing any races sort of pointless. Pre-reg is no longer a thought. Targeting a peak or "A Race" is simply impossible. I'm okay with that, although with no real goals in mind it's hard to motivate to get on the bike.

June 2016.
Bike as I have it set up now.

I did make a "racer gambit" at the beginning of my current job. When they asked me pants size I gave them my 160 lbs waist size. I was already pushing about 168 lbs, and now I'm over 170 lbs. I literally cannot gain much more weight else I won't fit my pants.

Since they've given me eleven pairs of pants I'm sort of committed to that waist size. This means losing some weight and keeping it off. I managed to get down a few pounds in the last three weeks. If nothing else this will help with my racing.

So that's what's going on so far. Hopefully I'll have more updates a bit quicker in the future.