Retro-Grouch Shaving Dept. (Reprise)

I mentioned this in a post last week, but since it’s been so dead at work, I’ve been spending hours “binge-reading” years worth of my old blog posts. Not because I’m vain, just because it’s sometimes fun to relive one’s past and see what I was up to in 2014.

Anyways, I came across this post from 2013 where I talk about changing up my personal shaving habits. I decided to abandon the “razor wars” and dump the four-to-six bladed monstrosities and go for the simple classic safety razor of a single blade. I picked up a cheap vintage Gillette on etsy, got a shaving brush and old school shaving cream, watched a few videos, and got on my way down the road of Retro-Grouch Shaving.

And five years later? Still doing it that way! I still have that Gillette razor. I still use a brush, but a nicer one than the $5 Freddies special. And I still use traditional shaving creams and soaps vs Edge Gel or some nonsense. And I’ve been liking it. My shaves over the past half-decade have been better than my previous 23 years worth. I’ve gotten to like the process of shaving (so zen!) though I do take longer to shave. And because I like shaving, I do it more often vs. the every three days I used to do. That’s mostly because the process of shaving (and its aftermath) is not as harsh as it used to be.

I’ve tried a few different types of creams, soaps, oils, and balms. I’ve managed to stay within reason on prices; I haven’t gone down the wormhole like I initially worried about. And it’s not hard to do this old school wet shaving without breaking the bank, as double-edged blades are cheap, you can get them 10 for $3 if you aren’t worried about brands (though I spend a little bit more). And traditional creams last a long time if you use a brush.

I have expanded the kit a little bit, so I have a shaving kit at Emee’s house when I stay over there, plus a “travel” shave kit for when I tour or travel. Most of this stuff is vintage and came from scouring eBay/etsy.

Now I can’t see going back to those super modern razors. And I just don’t like having a beard, so I’ll keep on shaving…


Just like falling off a bike!

I’ll be 43 in August. I’ve used a bicycle as my primary means of transportation since moving to Portland 17 years ago. As an adult cyclist, I consider myself to be lucky: I have never gotten into a bike vs car crash. Yes, there have been close calls, but no contact. Yes, a lot of other folks I know who regularly ride have not been so lucky. I’m not bragging, or saying I’m doing something “right”, just making an observation.

But this doesn’t mean I haven’t crashed on my own. Now, I haven’t done that a lot either. There’s only been a few significant ones, like the time during the Big Tour in 2011 outside Dauphin, Manitoba where I ate it on pavement after drifting into the gravel shoulder. The most spectacular crash was in November 2011, where I ate it (figuratively and literally) on the streetcar tracks on SE MLK. This one required a trip to the ER and stitches, and I still have the scar above my upper lip.

And on Friday I added another single person bike crash to the list, albeit a minor one.

I was riding the Crested Butte from N Mississippi Ave to work on SE Hawthorne. I decided to swing by my bank, which meant I needed to ride a block of sidewalk on MLK. Getting onto sidewalk from pavement, I noticed that there was mud on the edge of the sidewalk. I tried to overcorrect to avoid the mud, but I still managed to hit the patch at an angle, making me lose control. I fell on my right side, managing to hit knee, elbow, and scrape the side of my head. Ouch.

I lie there for a second, making sure nothing was that wrong. No bleeding, no ripped clothes. I got up, muttering “nothing to see here, folks”. There was a bit of an audience, as traffic was stopped at the light, but no one asked if I was okay. Thanks, folks.

And thankfully, I’m not that injured, just a bit bruised and sore. No ER visit this time, thankfully. I mostly feel stupid in that way that you feel stupid in these situations. The bike is mostly okay, but  there is some damage, which of course is ironic because I was just picking up this bike from the shop!* The right side of the handlebars scraped pavement. The brake lever and grip has abrasion, but the right shifter took the brunt. The old Deore shifter has bent and lost its faceplate. These shifters were the replacement for the much cooler looking (though not as functional) first gen Deores that came with the bike. I don’t know how much longer this tweaked shifter can last.

But to be honest, while these shifters are more functional than what came before, I never really liked them. In fact, originally I wanted to use those Sun-Race shifters sold by Rivendell, as they could be tucked on the “inside” of the Bosco bars. But I was convinced by a bike shop to use the Deore shifters, since they oh-so-conveniently had a set available. So maybe this crash was a blessing in disguise? 😉

Anyways, I hope to not crash again anytime soon!

*I got brake work done.

A spring-like Sunday cruise, 28 Jan 2018

I’ve said this on ye olde blog before, but spring is my favorite season. And it’s great being a spring lover in the wet side Northwest, as spring arrives sometime in February and goes to about May, when we start getting our first tastes of summer (though summer doesn’t really lock in until July.) Once mid-February hits, it becomes harder for us to get “real” winter (snow/ice) weather, though there is always a chance for frost. And flowers and buds make their first appearance. The deciduous trees usually fill out in early April (vs mid-May in Connecticut.)

It’s been a mild January here. Our only freezing temps happened during the first three days of the month. We haven’t hit 60F/16C, though we’ve gotten up to the upper 50’s a few times. Our temperate climate is being all temperate this winter, and I’m okay with that.

But we’ve still seen our share of wet this January. We’re at about 5 inches of rain, which is spot on the “average” for January. We’ve had some dry days and spells, but they don’t always align with my days off (or my health!) For example, I had four days off last week. Most of them were wet, the one that wasn’t I had other things going on.  So no fun bike rides. Sure, I can ride in the evening if it’s dry, but sometimes it’s nice to see things, y’know?

But Sunday January 28th was promising to be a dry and mild day. And I wanted to take advantage of it and ride a bike. The big problem was I had to work. Normally I have Sundays off, but I had to work this one because The Boss was out of town. And thankfully I had the PM shift which starts at 3 PM, so I could take advantage of the morning and afternoon. Of course, I didn’t get out of the house as early as I wanted, mostly because it’s hard to wake up early after working the night before until 10 PM. And of course, once I get outside I wish I did get out earlier! It was so beautiful. So it goes.

I decided to take the Robin Hood, since it’s the newest bike and I’m still getting used to it. I enjoy riding it, but it needs a few more tweaks. And there were a few tweaks I needed to do before and during the ride, like reseating the rear wheel* and adjusting the kickstand I recently installed.

Since I didn’t have much time I decided to do something easy. I headed south from my house to the Willamette, passing the Rodney Goats on the way. The Eastbank Esplanade was surprisingly free of people on such a beautiful January Sunday. I wondered if maybe I forgot about the Superbowl going on, but realized it’s next Sunday instead. Oh well, more for me to enjoy!

I kept on going south, eventually riding on the Springwater’s Willamette section. The river on my side, trees overhead, birds singing. I felt pretty good. I arrived at the Sellwood Bridge and decided to cross it, meaning I’d be heading north along the west side of the river. A quick pause for coffee and a snack at the Five Points Coffee on SW Dakota, one of the shops owned by my former roommate. It was getting late, so I hustled a bit more, which is hard since the Willamette path here meanders around various condiminium complexes, and the pedestrians picked up. So I didn’t linger over the not-crowded Tillikum Crossing Bridge to get back to the east side.

I got to work right at 3 PM. The ride was fifteen miles, not bad. And it put me in a good mental space. But now I want more. The next few days don’t look good, but it looks like Wednesday may be dry though not as mild as Sunday. (Sunday’s high was 57F/14C, Wednesday promises 47F/8C.) And I have Wednesday off. Let’s hope the stars align. And let’s hope more spring weather is not far away!

*The biggest thing I hate about three speeds is removing and installing the rear wheel. I needed to take it off to change the rear fender light (I just got a Spanninga Vena), and I never seem to get it positioned right and/or fully tightened n the first take.

Do what you love (Reprise)

There must be something in the air. I talked with a few folks at the Palm Tree Ride on Sunday, and the whole “What am I going to do when I grow up?” came up. I guess it’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one to be thinking about this. But it still doesn’t answer the question of what I want to do with the rest of my life.


Work has been dreadfully, drearily, direly slow the past couple months, slow in a way I haven’t seen in maybe ten years. There’s only so much of the “real work” that can be done in a shift. So I’ve been trying to occupy myself in other ways, namely by reading old blog posts. I’ve been doing this blog for nearly thirteen years, a lot of my past is up here. It’s been good, since it’s always helpful to see where you’ve come from if you’re wondering where you’ll be going.

I read a bunch of blog posts from 2012. This was the year following the big tour, when April and I landed back in Portland, back at her old apartment (with her old roommates), and wondering What We Were Going To Do With The Rest Of Our Lives. It wasn’t the easiest time, as both of us were unemployed and broke and not knowing what comes next. This was after such a great experience of being on the road for four months, though the ending of the Big Tour was a bit of a let-down. I had hoped that my life would be drastically altered for the better when we got home, and was disappointed that it wasn’t. Things were a bit stressful, to say the least.

But looking back from the critical distance of six years, I now know that things weren’t that bad. In fact, it was a pretty decent year, at least up until September or so. I just couldn’t see it at the time. I was so hung up on things like getting a job that I couldn’t enjoy the moment.

Now, I’m not trying to be revisionist nor nostalgic. I’m not saying that these were the best years of my life nor am I trying to live in the past. There’s no way that I want to relive 2012, nope.

But I do want to look at the past years and eras of my life to see what made me happy then. Because this will help me realize what will make me happy now and into the future. Looking back at 2012, I can see some trends towards happiness:

  • While my touring and camping time in 2012 pales in comparison to the four months on the road in 2011, I still got a lot done. I did a bunch of overnights, and managed three tours varying in length from five days to over a week. None of these three tours were “mind blowing” in the way of the Big Tour, but I still got to see some lovely and remote destinations in the Cascades, Mt. Rainier to be specific.
  • Because I had the time to do it, I got really involved with the local bike touring non-profit Cycle Wild. I led a bunch of trips in 2012, something I couldn’t do before or after. I like being able to volunteer! I also did a bunch of volunteering for the IPRC, my last year helping out this non-profit.
  • I did quite a bit of comics and illustration work. I had the time to do all this, plus the lack of a job meant I was hustling. I managed to line up just enough creative work to get by. (Thankfully I was on food stamps and rent was minimal to nonexistent.) Because it was basically my only real source of income until I started working regularly again, I needed to keep the jobs rolling in. Plus, I started working on the comics that became New Old Stock, so I was on a creative streak!

So I was doing what I loved to do because I had the time and desire to, and managed to eke out an existence. Plus, I was my own boss. I could do the things I wanted to do. I didn’t have to ask permission to have fun. Compare that to now when I need to put in time off requests months in advance if I want to do something, and it’s still no guarantee I can get the time off.

Of course, at the time I didn’t see it that way. The lack of a regular job loomed over my head and I was constantly stressing about it. I really wanted to “do something with bikes” so I applied for a couple Portlandesque bike delivery jobs. I got neither. I filled in shifts at my old job at the hostel when I could. When a regular position opened up at the end of summer, I took it. Nevermind I had already worked there for five years before I quit for The Big Tour. Nevermind that there were other reasons for quitting the hostel besides The Big Tour. I needed the regular paycheck, so I buried all that stuff.

That’s when things started to go south between me and April. Rifts formed, we grew further apart, money issues became heightened. Plus, I couldn’t stand living in that apartment with her old roommates anymore. It was not my place, and I felt like an outsider. Within a year, we had split up.

But I still kept that job at the hostel. I still have that job at the hostel. February will mark twelve years there, minus the year or so I didn’t regularly work there. That’s a long time. It’s been steady work with okay pay and decent benefits. But it’s been unfulfilling for a long, long time. And I can’t keep on going on like this.


So what’s next? I don’t know exactly, but looking back at 2012, I realize that I was happy not just being my own boss, but being creative. I haven’t done much with illustration since then, a fact I lament occasionally here. I realize that being a freelancer is not always easy. I see how it can be a struggle to Do What You Love as a living, especially when it comes to bikes. (See this recent post from Path Less Pedaled for a good example.)

But goddammit, I have to at least give it a try. Because I don’t want to keep on working a job that’s unsatisfying to me just for a paycheck. I’ve seen what happens when you do that; I need to look no further than members of my family. I don’t want to die bitter and wonder What If…

What’s next? I don’t exactly know. But I have some ideas. The first thing I need to do is stay positive!

The Palm Tree Ride Report (21 Jan 2018)

Hello folks! I had a pretty darn successful Palm Tree Ride on Sunday. Despite an unpromising forecast, seventeen people showed up! And thankfully, the weather wasn’t as bad as it could have been. There was light rain at the beginning that tapered off. Eventually we even saw the sun! Compare that to the last time I did the ride in 2015: We got a whopping 1.8 inches of rain that day. That ride was not a fun ride to be on, unless you like being soaked to the bone within five minutes.

Anyways, I designed this ride to be a replay of the “greatest hits” of previous rides, especially the first couple I did starting in 2005. So nothing was unfamiliar to those who had done it before, but since I had new folks, it doesn’t matter. Plus, these stops were always great destinations!

What did matter is two driving reasons I decided to bring the ride back from the dead. The first is the media. There’s a documentary crew I’ve been talking with for the past couple months, who are documenting palm trees in Portland. So I decided to do another ride so they could film it. (So vain, yes! 😉  )

But there’s also a bigger reason: The last stop features Sean Hogan’s house on NE 11th at Knott. Sean is the owner of Cistus Nursery on Sauvie Island. His house is an oasis of palms and other exotic evergreens. It was featured on the very first Palm Tree Ride back in 2005, and I’ve stopped here one or two times since then. But Sean has decided to put his house on the market. So this could very well be the last time I could take a Palm Tree Ride here, because the new owners may not be cool with people wandering around their back yard, or…they may even do the unimaginable! So now or never.

The ride was just about seven miles, winding through inner SE and NE. After the ride, half the folks went their own ways, while the other half retired for food and drinks at the nearby Hophouse.

Will I do another Palm Tree Ride again? Maybe. I don’t think I’d bring it back as a regular, annual thing. I did that for ten years, and got burnt out. But I may bring it back sporadically, when the need or desire arises…

20% off sale on store EXTENDED until Thursday January 25!

Hey! If you somehow haven’t had a chance to get in on my 20% off sale on my store, well, you have a little more time! I have extended it until 11:45 PM Pacific Time on Thursday June 25! Please use code JAN18SALE and use the code in check out over at my store.

Here are the details:

  • Use the code JAN18SALE in the check-out to get the discount
  • Discount is only on the items, not on shipping
  • Order will need to be at least $5 before shipping for discount to work
  • The only thing not on sale is Postcard Club 2018. HOWEVER, if your NET (after discount, before shipping) order is $20 or over in the US, $25 rest of world, you get the Postcard Club for FREE! (DO NOT add Postcard Club to your order, I will do it automatically)
  • If you want your Postcard Club subscription to go to somewhere else, please include their name and address in the notes of the order
  • Oh yeah, if for some reason I have anything on “pre-order” during the time of the sale, it won’t be included, sorry.

Questions? Please get in touch. Once again, thank you for your support!

The Robin Hood path racer project, or, yet another new-to-me bike

So maybe you thought I could get through all of 2017 without acquiring another bike? Ha! I’ve acquired a new bike (or two) every year since 2006. While I wasn’t on the lookout for another bike, sometimes bikes find me!

Sometime in 2016, a local gent got in touch with me. Because I was a “three speed guy” he asked if I know anyone that would want some old three speeds he’s had since the 70’s? I told him I didn’t know anyone at the moment, but if he just wanted to get rid of them, I’d take them off his hands and find them good homes. So he brought over two complete bikes: One a black 23″ Robin Hood, the other a root beer brown ladies Raleigh Sports (looks to be early 70’s.) Both of them required work, to say the least. I eventually found a taker for the Robin Hood frame, a guy who wanted a three speed project. And I gave the Sports to Emee for future projecting.

But he also dropped off a black 23″ Robin Hood frame:

Now what was I going to do with basically a bare frame? I still had the Wayfarer stripped to ist frame, so I had no discernable need. Would anyone want this frame?

The frame sat in the basement for a better part of a year. I thought maybe the best way to “do something” with this bike was get a set of wheels, do a few other things, and sell for cheap. I had an extra front wheel lying around, I knew I could buy a rear coaster wheel, get a cheap set of tires, etc.

But then I started thinking: What if I kept this bike for myself?


I’m not a person to own lots of bikes “just because”. I already had one three speed, would I really need another? But I got thinking about what I would like “my other three speed” to look like. The Raleigh Superbe has been set up as a modernized and personalized tourer, what could I do to make another three speed different? I thought a little bit about making it into a porteur style bike. That would be cool, yes, and I wouldn’t weigh it out for a future project. But something excited me more.

I still missed by 1953 Rudge Sports. It was such a cool little bike, done up as my bastardized version of a path racer. But…it had issues. There were no mudguards and the wheels were steel, so I only rode it in nice weather. I may have upgraded those things, but the bike was just too small for me. The 21 inch frame was not optimal. So I sold that bike.

But…what if I made the Robin Hood to be the new version of the Rudge path racer? It wouldn’t exactly be the same thing per se, but the larger frame would fit me better, and I’d also have a brace of some better parts.

Over the course of 2017, I collected parts appropriate to the build. Towards the end of the year (twice in October, once in December), Steve M came over to the house and we got dirty. And a week before Christmas, I had my gift to myself:

Okay, so what went into this bike?

  • Front wheel: During the parts search, a 650A (26″ x 1 3/8″) wheel came up on Craigslist for a reasonable price. Not only did it feature a modern aluminum rim (CR18), but it was built around a dynohub! The Sanyo dynohub in this wheel is the definition of basic, but it works. Yes, the modern 100 mm axle spacing doesn’t exactly match the 90 mm spacing of Raleigh forks, but with a bit of brute force (read: cold spacing), it works
  • Front fork: When Steve removed the extant fork from the frame in order to overhaul the headset, a prominent bulge was in the steering tube. Since there were no other signs of damage to frame or fork, the likely culprit is an overtightened stem. Still, the safe thing was to replace fork, so the old fork from the Wayfarer came in handy. Yeah, it doesn’t match, so what?
  • Front light: I’ve had a basic B+M Lumotec lying in the parts bin for a while. Nothing fancy, but gets the job done.
  • Cockpit: I scored a set of Soma Lauterwasser bars in chromoly off of eBay for a reasonable price. I had been intrigued by these bars, a reproduction of a popular British drop bar style from “between the wars” (Jack Lauterwasser was a British racer of that era) that feature a shallow drop, good for a not-so-aggressive hand position while keeping the overall aesthetic of path racer. So far, I like ’em! The stem is a basic Kalloy, the grips the Rivendell cork grips I had lying around (don’t know if I’ll keep), and the brake levers the Velo Orange city levers. I also have two VO Retro cages mounted to the bars via the VO mounts.
  • Oh yeah, I got a 50’s era Sturmey-Archer “3 or 4” speed shifter off of eBay. It’s designed for drop bars. I really like the performance and look of these old shifters!
  • Pedals: I’m a big fan of MKS pedals. I got a set of Sylvan rat-trap style, the same that I have on the Raleigh Superbe. They do the part.
  • Saddle: Of course, yet another Brooks! A B-17 that I had lying around. A more modern (read: longer) steel seatpost I had lying around.
  • Rear wheel: This is the original wheel off of the Superbe. It will do for now, but I would like to get the AW hub rebuilt into an aluminum rim for lightness and braking performance.
  • Tires: While Panaracer Col De La Vies would be more “performancey”, I had these Schwalbe Delta Cruisers lying around. They do the trick. Plus, the cream tires go well with the black frame!
  • Brakes: The modern Tektro 559s do the part. They work fine, and don’t look out of place on the bike.
  • Mudguards: I found these chromed fenders in a free pile on the side of the road! I’m guessing they are Wald and were more designed for an American bike, but we made them work, if not perfectly. We also threw on a VO mudflap to the front for added protection. And on the rear, a Spanninga Pixeo rear battery powered light that I had in the parts bin!

So, how does it ride? Lovely! It definitely feels sprightly, even if it probably isn’t. I know, the perfect route for a path racer would be to find a 70’s Raleigh frame made in the Carlton workshop of Reynolds 531 tubing or better. And I can still dream. But this still feels good. It seems to be a responsive machine.

I have to give credit to Raleigh’s engineers back in the mid-20th century for designing such a versatile frame that they pumped out by the millions. While the headbadges and model names vary, for the most part, it’s the same bones. And what other frameset from this era seemed to be right at home with either upright North Road bars or drops? And many during this era would do just that: ride a fendered upright machine during the week, then on the weekend strip the fenders, flip the bars, and go on long rides…or races!

I’ve spent the past few weeks riding it as much as I can, to get used to it and iron out the kinks. The only issues that have presented itself were shifting issues with the rear hub (remedied with adding more oil), and the non-drive crank loosened, necessitating a new cotter pin. (I got the bottom bracket overhauled while that was done, figured I might as well!)

Here’s to many years of fun use!