Press "Enter" to skip to content

Month: May 2010

Ant Hill at Bald Mountain

Bald Mountain State Recreation Area, North Unit has some slightly less morose things to see too, such as quite-large ant hills like as the one above. These are a common site along the mountain bike / hiking trail, often found in slightly sunny sandy areas. Today I took a fast turn a little wrong and almost ended up hitting one, which would have been in no way good. (They are super-soft, likely to cause a crash, and filled with likely-to-be-angry ants.) Thankfully I avoided it and did not fall, continuing on my way.

This one here is found on the east side of connector from the orange loop to Predmore Road, between numbers 16 and 17. (Map) This connector is commonly used to avoid the low laying and frequently wet trail between the old ranger’s house and the lake. As the trail was mostly dry I rode that segment, but used this section to get back to Predmore and thus back to Addison Oaks where I had parked for today’s bike ride.


Hash Browns for Dinner

After a nice bike ride I couldn’t think of what to have for dinner, and this is what resulted: hash browns, fried up in butter, with onion, roasted garlic, rosemary, spicy chicken sausage, and sweet corn, topped with mild cheddar. I’m eating this with a glass of Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout, a very nice, malty, licorice-y stout that goes wonderfully with savory food.

Leave a Comment

Loose Horst Link Pivot

Today while washing my Titus Racer X 29er I found the rear drive-side Horst link screw loose. If this had come completely apart the bike would have gone very floppy, but not failed catastrophically.

Thankfully Titus publishes the Titus Racer X Torque Specs (mirror on so I was able to reset this screw and check the rest. Everything else was spot-on already, save for the top of the rear shock which I’d previously undone (to route brake lines) and done by feel. That shock mount doesn’t matter much, though, as the bolt itself carries very little load.

Now, time to figure out a place for today’s riding…

Leave a Comment

Schwalbe Racing Ralph

Starting last week when up at Big M and the NCT I’ve had a set of Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires on my bike. Thanks to a nice (and fair to all) deal worked out with a MMBA forum member and my friend Bob I ended up with a nice, fat 2.4″ tire on the front and a quite sufficient 2.25″ on the rear for $75. This is quite a good deal, as these tires are normally $70/ea in local shops.

These are definitely different feeling from the 2.0″ Specialized The Captain Control tires that I’d fitted earlier in the year. They both seem to roll faster and grip better when the bike is leaned way over, and their extra volume makes things feel a little bit more comfortable on trails. I’ve found the point at which they let go a few times, but haven’t fallen yet. The super-fat (for me) front tire also means that it floats over sand quite nicely, which was very helpful at Big M and Bald Mountain; both trails known for having unexpected patches of the typical Michigan pine forest sandy soil.

I think I’ll keep these on the bike for a while.

For what it’s worth these tires have plenty of clearance on my bike:

· Here is a photo of the clearance when a 2.4″ Schwalbe Racing Ralph is used on a Fox F29 RLC with a 23.9mm DT Swiss X470 rim.
· Here is the clearance of the 2.25″ Schwalbe Racing Ralph as the rear tire on a medium Titus Racer X 29er.


Cabin #2 at Bald Mountain State Recreation Area, North Unit

Turn your time machine back to 1991 and I’m sure that few of you will have difficulty remembering Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the pathologist who (per his claims) helped more than 150 people to end their lives. Two of these assisted suicides took place in an area where I frequently bike, Bald Mountain State Recreation Area‘s North Unit, located just off of the Paint Creek Trail in Lake Orion.

One of the locations along this trail are two rustic cabins. The one pictured above, Cabin #2, was the place where Dr. Kevorkian helped Marjorie Wantz and Sherry Miller end their lives. Knowing their story, never having visited them, and out riding the trail alone yesterday evening I decided to detour past the cabins and take a look around. This photo was taken then, just as I was to head back out to the trail. The cabins are unremarkable, and appear to contain simple wooden bunks and a general open area with a chimney on one end, nice looking fire pits, and easy (albeit rather unmaintained) access to Tamarack Lake.

(Please note that I’m not completely certain this is Cabin #2 as they are not numbered, but since it’s the second one on the road I’ve made that presumption.)

1 Comment

More Unauthorized Transactions

Here we go again: more unauthorized transactions on my HSBC credit card. This time the unrecognized charges include:

· ClickBank
· ccnow
· Amazon Payments

These are all telltale signs of people using a stolen CC to get money. I suspect iTunes is used to check if the card is active (by signing up for an account with it) and then the others are used to actually bill the card.

I guess it’s time to get a new credit card and number. Again. (I do wonder if this has something to do with the unexpected preauth-that-never-billed from Black Singles two and a half months ago.

UPDATE: New card issued. Yay. Time to change all my autobilling transactions.

Leave a Comment

Lumberjack Route at Big M and North Country Trail

This weekend Danielle and I headed up north to the Manistee area to meet a bunch of Trail’s Edge folks at Big M to ride this year’s route for the Lumberjack 100 Mountain Bike Race. After doing one lap of this 33 mile course I’m quite certain that there’s no way I’d be able to complete the three required for the race. It’s a hard trail, almost all tight, winding single track with unexpected sand at the bottom of hills.

At one point I was coming down a hill, only to see Nick and Erik standing at the bottom of the hill. It turns out that Bill (pictured on the right) had slid a bit in some sand and hit a tree hard with the side of his head, leaving him sitting dazed on the ground. As I tried to assess where I should go and slow down I too slid in the sand, but instead spun my front wheel around and stopped against the tree, hugging it and holding on to stay upright. Just as I came to a stop I watched my front wheel roll up towards Bill, only to stop an inch from his helmet and face.

Thankfully I didn’t hit him, as that would have made an already bad situation even worse. Even more thankfully, after sitting for a while Bill was able to get up and ride out, feeling only a bit shaken and showing no obvious signs of what I knew to look for indicating serious brain injury.

After the ride we headed over a nice, but older campground a few miles from the Big M ski area where we’d reserved a number of campsites, and a cabin for the less hearty of the bunch. Tents were set up, a fire was made, food was cooked, and beer was drank while sitting around. We ended up eating a spectrum of food, from locally made beef jerky and kielbasa to spanish tortilla, a mini-keg of Oberon to Trader Joe’s house-brand Pilsener, from Annie’s Cheesey Lasagna made with high quality turkey in a dutch oven to sandwich cookies and M&M’s.

The following morning, after eating breakfast at a local diner and breaking down camp, some of us headed over to the Marilla trailhead of the North Country Trail to do some riding there. Erik, Kristi, and I took off together, but with the terrain there being almost all bench cut trail leading up and down the sort of hills that I normally don’t ride, I soon turned back. If I was in better shape, or maybe if it was a bit cooler or less sunny, or maybe if hadn’t ridden one of the hardest long rides of my life the day prior I would have ridden more, but I’m glad that I headed back when I did. Once back at the trail head I couldn’t stop sweating, and only felt better 20 minutes into the drive home in a car with the air conditioning on high.

Here’s some of the photos I took this weekend:

· Joe, Jon, Marty, Nick, Kristi, and Bill as we are about to leave the Big M parking lot to ride the Lumberjack race route.
· Bathroom break. There were an equal number of people using trees along the right side of the trail, but the lens wasn’t wide enough.
· Consulting on the route while standing in some CCC pines.
· Sandy downhill where Bill crashed and I almost ran into Bill due to my inability to stop safely in the sand. I ended up stopping against / gently hitting the tree on the left.
· Kristi, collapsed on the ground, after riding up a hill that everyone else walked. Erik then helped her get unclipped.
· Typical Big M Ski Area signage.
· Bratwurst boiling in a cast iron skillet before being grilled.
· Bratwurst on the grill as a paper plate burns and Tak and Nick sit in comfy chairs.
· Kristi and Bill along the North Country Trail right near a bench overlooking a wonderful hill.
· Sign pointing back to the Marilla Trail Head from the North Country Trail. Much of the riding was sandy like this.
· Riding back to the Marilla trail head on the NCT alone, as I turned back before Erik and Kristi.
· This bridge was not far from the trail head, at the bottom of a ravine.
· Some inconsiderate person tucked a dirty diaper under the bridge on the North Country Trail.
· Looking over the handlebars down from the spur of the North Country Trail leading back to the Marilla trailhead.

I’m hoping to get up there to ride the NCT once more, this time a bit better prepared both mentally and physically. With all the bench cutting the trail is a little more intimidating than I’d expected, and with all the climbing it’s a bit more grueling than I’d hoped for.


Danielle’s Baby Robin

Last week Danielle found a baby robin in the grass at her house; so young that it was mostly skin and without feathers. As the parents had apparently abandoned it, she decided to feed it until it flies away. This has been going well thus far, with it enjoying a steady diet of watered down canned dog food, berries, and insects.

Because it needs regular feedings the robin accompanied us on this weekend’s trip to the Manistee area for mountain biking, to Danielle’s work last week, and to my house this weekend. It’s doing fairly well living in its sock-lined cardboard box, but starting today it’s been trying to get out, stretch its now-feathered wings, and fly up on few inch high objects. I can’t imagine that it’ll be more than a few more days before it’s able to fly away.

If you compare the photo above (link) with this one you can see just how much its changed in a few days. Most noticeably it can stand up for long periods of time, climb things, and has many more feathers.

The rest of the Baby Robin Rescue photos can be found here.

Leave a Comment

“100% New Compatible Toner Cartridge” for Xerox Phaser 6130 (Black)

After roughly 1.5 years of use the black toner cartridge in my Xerox Phaser 6130 finally ran out. Since the Xerox-branded cartridges cost somewhere around US$80 I decided to try this “compatible” cartridge from the venerable While I’ve only used it for a few pages, it seems great so far. It fit nicely in the printer, the printer immediately recognized that K (black) was full, and the couple jobs sent to it have all processed smoothly.

Leave a Comment

PC Engines alix2d13 and Netgate Enclosure

This week I received a PC Engines alix2d13 board and Netgate NET-CASE1C2REDU-ANT enclosure which will replace the venerable Trashwall. While Trashwall served its purpose for a while, I was getting tired of its noise (a slight but present hard disk whine) and power consumption and the need to manually set up utilization graphs and such.

After giving pfSense, a FreeBSD / pf-based firewall distribution which works nicely on embedded devices, a try I decided to move to it. I’ve now got pfSense v1.2.3 embedded (current stable release) installed on a 4GB SanDisk Ultra II compact flash card which the ALIX board boots to run the OS. Console output (when needed) is via serial port, but after the initial configuration, practically everything can be done via the web.

I’m running into a couple quirky problems with port forwards, but it’s otherwise doing a fine job of running my home network. DHCP with reservations, DNS, DynamicDNS (for DHCP clients to be resolvable), and NTP are all working as they should. Once I get the port forward issue sorted I’ll likely backup the config and give one of the pfSense v2.0 beta snapshots a go. If whatever beta snapshot happens to fail or doesn’t work out I can then just reimage the CF card back to v1.2.3 and reload the exported config. pfSense configs are simply XML files that can be backed up and restored at will, which is particularly convenient.

If you’d like to see more photos of my PC Engines alix2d13 setup, click here.

If you’d like to buy one, check out Netgate. The specific items I purchased for this are as follows, for a total of US$183.85:

· ALIX.2D3+B System Board: (3/1/256/LX800) with battery [ALIX.2D3+Battery]: US$140
· LIX.2D3 3 LAN Indoor Enclosure Red with USB & ANT [case1c2redu-ant]: US$24
· AC/DC 15V 1.25A 18W Switching Adapter only [PS-15V-1.25A-18W]: US$9.95
· SMA Dust Cap / Rubber Antenna Hole Plug [SMA Dust Cap Plug]: US$0.14/ea (2x)
· Postage via FedEx: US$9.62

Leave a Comment