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Month: July 2015

T8 Fluorescent Lamp Retrofit

The fluorescent light fixture in the laundry room had issues, with only two bulbs reliably lighting and a persistent buzzing sound. This is the telltale sign of a failing ballast, and with the bulbs being fairly old (last replaced in 2005) it was time for some work.

The fixture had been fitted with F40 / T12 bulbs and a pair of two-lamp magnetic ballasts. Since these bulbs aren’t being manufactured anymore (this was stopped in mid-2012) I had to move to T8 bulbs. This wasn’t a problem, as I’d been keen to try the Philips F32T8/TL950 high-CRI (98!!!) / 5000K bulbs. Outside of very specialized full spectrum bulbs these seem like the holy grail of daylight lamps. They aren’t readily available in shops in less than 25 packs, but some Amazon sellers have them individually for reasonable prices.

Four bulbs were ordered ($13.32/ea) via Amazon, along with an ICN-4P32-N electronic ballast ($15.60), and this evening I put it all together. Wiring was surprisingly simple, with everything being relatively color-coded and easy to fit. Two old magnetic ballasts were removed, the replacement electronic ballast was fitted / capped / taped, and it was ready to go.

These lamps look great, and the laundry room is now brighter than ever. These lamps look so good that I’m now considering them for over my workbench and trying to find a way to use them in the office. With such a high CRI and daylight-like temperature these should be good for dealing with seasonal affective disorder or just general blue feelings in winter. (Yes, getting out and riding in daylight helps, but that’s not really possible on weekdays…)

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2015 Big M XC Race Report (Fat Bike Open)

I don’t normally write up post-race reports, but this past weekend’s Fun Promotions cross country mountain bike (XC) race at Big M ski area in Udell Hills was fun and notable, so I figured I’d give it a go.

A week earlier my buddy, fellow CRAMBA board member, and Tree Farm Relay team mate Chris Westerlund expressed an interest in going to race, and with Beginner (his class) and Fat Bike Open (the class I wanted to do) starting at 2:45pm time seemed like it would work out for a single-day trip. So, we made plans to go. While the Fat Bike Open class is inexplicably the same length as Beginner (two laps) it still sounded like a fun time, especially if we padded the day with some North Country Trail riding at the end.

Meeting at about 8:30am at our place the drive was pretty easy, affording us plenty of time to stop along the way and grab lunch (Butter Burgers and onion rings at Culver’s in Cadillac), arriving with just shy of two hours to spare. This gave us breathing room to register, change clothes, get bikes ready, and warm up. I’m normally not one to warm up much before a race, but as I’ve been finding that ~20 minutes into a race I hit a small wall and feel blah for a few minutes I decided to give it a go. The random trails, two track, and paved roads around Big M allowed for an easy ~30 minutes pedaling around and playing with tire pressure (Strava data, 10 PSI front, 11 PSI rear), which left me feeling quite good. Between first check while sitting in the sun on the car and rolling around in the cool shade my tires lost 1 PSI — a non-trivial amount on a fat bike — so I’m glad I did.

While warming up and getting ready we were able to chat with a number of different folks including some friends from the west side, folks who were at the Tree Farm Relay the day prior, and Steven Terry, a friend-of-a-friend from the Traverse City area. Steve and I had ridden together last autumn during an Iceman pre-ride that I attended on the way back from my first Marquette trip, so it was great to see him again. Being a pretty regular racer and sponsored by Framed Bikes I was pretty sure that he was going to beat me, but we ended up trading places throughout the race, riding together for most of it, and having a great time.

After starting a few minutes late (the kids race which used the Corkpine loop was running over) the race was on, with Bob Kidder (472) taking off in the lead, followed by Mike Dolefin (470), Todd Rillema (473), myself (475), Steven Terry (474), Steve Balough (471), and Kevin LaRoe (476). (Start photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) This order continued until the trail turned slightly uphill near the turn from Corkpine to Bullwacker (marker 34) when Mike, Todd, myself, and Steven passed Bob. We snaked along the Bullwacker single track heading southwest until the long, two-track-ish climb up to marker 47, when Steven and I pulled by Mike and Todd. From there on out it was him and I riding alone together at the front.

Steven and I rolled along through the twisting, flowy single track, with occasional brief bits of chatting but mostly riding along pushing a bit. I’d occasionally pull away, he’d occasionally catch me (thankfully he had a loud freehub so I could tell when he was close without looking), and then after the first lap (turn photos: 1, 2) Steven pulled past me on the long Bullwacker climb. Riding right on the edge of my ability I hung on to his wheel up the climb and was a bit surprised when he pulled over slightly at the top and let me by. We rolled through the course again, a bit faster this time, and then with about 1-2 miles left — I believe just after marker 23 where the course makes a hairpin downhill left turn — I saw Steven about 50 feet behind me on the ridge and decided to see if I could keep the lead and finish ahead of him.

I did my best to pick good lines through the remaining twisty trail, over some brake bumpy downhills, and to keep pedaling hard until the end and it worked, finishing a mere 27 seconds in front of Steven (finish photos: 1, 2). The photo above shows me at the finish area, pushing pretty hard as I was spinning away in the top gear on my fat bike (30:11). Despite the look I was pretty happy at the end, as this is only the second non-beginner race that I’ve won; the first being the Addison Oaks Fall Classic in 2014 which didn’t take nearly the same amount of effort. I don’t race much, and I’m not normally too far back in the standings of races that I do enter, but ending up on the podium, much less winning, is a very rare thing. (Podium photos: 1, 2.)

Chris ended up having a great race as well, taking first place in his category, surprising the leader with a pass not far from the end. He’s now on track to win his category for the whole MMBA Championship Point Series which’ll net him a nice custom jersey. (Chris’ finish photos: 1, 2, podium shot.)

The full race results can be found here.

After the race Chris and I headed over to the Udell Trailhead of the North Country Trail and had a fun ride south to Udell Hills Road and back (Strava data, NCT map). This area climbs over the hill in Big M and includes some great scenery, wonderful flowing downhills, and fairly decent climbs. It was a great way to end the day and got us ready for a nice meal at Clam Lake Beer Company before heading back home.

It was a good day.

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Marquette Food Recommendations

After traveling to Marquette a handful of times I began putting together a short list of restaurants and such which I think are worth eating at. This started as a list that my friend Marty sent, but I’ve built it out and added my own descriptions. This was sent to a few friends who are heading to this part of the UP for the first time and now I’m wanting to share it as a blog post.

Just because something isn’t here doesn’t mean that it’s bad; I simply haven’t tried it thus don’t have anything to say about it. Every place listed here I’d gladly eat at again:

Donckers: Candy shop, has a restaurant upstairs that’s great for breakfast. I haven’t had any other meal here.
Sweet Water Café: I like this place more than Donckers for breakfast, but it’s different. Donckers is more like a high quality greasy spoon; Sweet Water Cafe is more like an Ann Arbor restaurant with high quality ingredients. Both are good.
Lagniappe: Cajun place. The food seemed good, but prices struck me as a bit high. Tasty, though.
Vango’s: Pizza place which is outstanding, the cudighi (local style sausage) sandwich is great.
The Vierling: Little more upscale restaurant and brewery, but t-shirt/jeans is still fine. Good food, more sit down-y.
Border Grill: Tex-Mex short order stuff, really good. The fish tacos were some of the best I’ve had.
ToGo’s: Good sandwich / sub shop; great for carryout.
Jean Kay’s Pasties: Classic UP pasties, really really tasty. You can also buy them par-baked / frozen to take home.
Ore Dock Brewing Company: Good brewery, snacky food (not much). You can bring food in.
Blackrocks Brewery: Great brewery, no food at all. I think you can bring food in.
Third Street Bagel: Giant bagel sandwiches, decent coffee. Open early.
Dead River Coffee: Outstanding small coffee shop. Very, very good.
Marquette Food Co-Op: Great little grocery store, prepared food, real high quality stuff.
Tadych’s Econo Foods: Regular grocery store, great beer selection. Essentially across the street from the north end of the black trail (Harlow Farms Connector) or whatever; the easy way into the trails from town.
Jasper Ridge Brewery: This place is in Ishpeming and where a group ride meets at 6pm on Wednesdays to ride the RAMBA trails. Beer is nothing special, food is basic. The deep fried mushrooms are great.
Muldoons Pasties: This pasty shop is located in Munising, about an hour from Marquette. Pasties are tasty, but different from Jean Kay’s. I think I like Jean Kay’s more, but a pasty from Muldoons is definitely good and hits the spot.
Steinhaus / Steinhaus Market: Two locations, same people. Really good German-style food. Outstanding for breakfast or dinner. Just simply outstanding. Do not miss.

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