Sunday, March 29, 2009

Introducing Hank Dirkins

I got a great email from my friend Hank Dirkins last night. After conferring with him, we agreed the email should be preserved for posterity on the everlasting etherwebs. So here is the first guest entry on A Full Pannier.

From: Hank Dirkins
To: Lanny Hoff
Sat, Mar 28, 2009 at 11:59 PM
Subject: First 100 Mile Week

Hi, Lanny -

I just got drunk at your house.

I am now drunk back at my house.

Ya see, I finished my ride from the university this afternoon at almost exactly 94 miles for the week. After dinner, bath-time, my wife's workout at the gym, a bong hit, and an hour and a half of graduate school homework, I decided I wanted to go get those last 6 miles.

Then, I remembered that you and a friend had talked about spending this evening at your house. Being 9:45, I made my way via bicycle forthright to the liquor store. I bought approximately two quarts of beer, and pedaled like the dickens to your house.

I arrived to find the houselights dimmed, and your golden retriever, Kenai, crashed out in front of the back door. Your house is almost exactly two miles from my house. I had less than five miles to do for my first 100 mile week of 2009. I took this opportunity to open one of the beers I had brought you, as a gift. It was good. It was 6.7% alcohol.

I let the dog out. He peed. I scratched him behind his ear.

After finishing your beer, I got on my bike and pedaled down to Golden Valley Road, and back to your house. I had hoped to find you home. Instead, I open the second bottle of beer. It, too, was good. It was 9.2% alcohol.

Kenai did as little as perk up his head as I drank that beer. I was listening to my iPod. I danced on your back porch.

I hope your spring biking season is kicking off at least as well.

For the record: the beers Hank enjoyed at my house, with my dog and without me were Sierra Nevada Wet Hop Harvest Ale and Full Sail Barleywine.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Gotta Retape These Bars

My new Rawland Sögn is a nice looking bike, but jesus those are some ugly handlebars. Turns out that Cinelli Celeste cork tape with amber shellac looks like pea soup vomit, complete with tiny flecks of semi-digested ham.

I think I may try to tape cloth over the top of the cork to retain some of the cushion. But I gotta do it soon as everytime I look at the bars I have trouble with my gag reflex.
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Saturday Rides Are Firkin Awesome

Last Saturday I had the good fortune to combine wonderful weather (see photo above for proof) + hanging out on a bike with a good friend + great beer. Truly a remarkable day and a warm memory as we struggle through another bout of freezing weather.

I set out from my place in the northernmost reaches of Minneapolis to Jake's house in East St. Paul to meet up with him for a ride. It's a good distance and pretty hilly. My route took me on the East River Road and then to downtown St. Paul and them up, up, up Robert to Jake's. Nice workout and good training for an anticipated hilly ride later this spring. 

I arrived at his house just in time to snag the last of Annabelle's mac and cheese (thanks, Annabelle!) and Jake and I went straight back down the hill to the river and rode along Lilydale road, a section of bike-friendliness that I only recently discovered on a ride with Jim. It was warm, a little messy and beautiful. Jake is an enthusiastic and willing cycling companion and even though he had not ridden all winter, was more than up to the task. I look forward to many more rides with him this summer.

We stopped in at Hiawatha to part ways with a few of our disposable dollars and chew over the topics of the day, but they were very busy so our discourse was limited to the usual pleasantries and not the normal deep philosophical dialog to which I am accustomed when I darken their door. I should hope that "business" does not get in the way of our future mental meanderings.

Jake set a blistering pace up the River Road and threw the Devil Horns of Thirst as he passed by. You see, we were Happy Gnome Firkin Fest bound and the both of us were feeling the throat-itch that only good beer can scratch.
Moments later I was able to outpace the thirsty, motivated Jake, but this guy started sneaking up on me having passed Jake. He tried to shield his face from the seeking lens of my camera, but to no avail. As you can see, Summit Avenue was filled with cyclists that day and Jake and I had to weave our way around all of them in our quest for malty goodness. 

Finally we made the scene at the Gnome, had many good beers and much lively conversation with a plentitude of good beer folk. I have to commend Nick and his minions for putting on the premiere beer event in Minnesota. I wish I had beer to sell them but since I don't have any cask beers in my book I was relegated to the role of enthusiastic consumer. For me the standouts were the Ola Dubh, Surly 16 Grit and Dark Horse Crooked Tree. Lovely beers, all.
Thanks to Jake for being such a good companion for a wonderful day of biking and beer.

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

It's Springtime in My Heart

This has been a great weekend for cycling. Maybe the best since last summer.

Jim and I did an epic after-dark ramble that clocked in at 45 super entertaining miles on Thursday night. My very good friend Bert diverted us just long enough to inhale some steamed (which is the new word for fried) potatoes, club soda and beer at the Bulldog NE. The conversation never lagged, many laughs were laughed and once out the door our game, as the kids say, was ON.
Bert retired to the relative safety of his house to get some work done. You see, he's a graduate student and also works at the U. He's a genuinely busy guy with a lovely little girl and a beautiful wife and, for better or worse, an office in the attic. Dude works a lot and when he's not working he's fathering a spectacular example of the toddler ilk.
Jim and I headed back through downtown, having crossed the Stone Arch Bridge. This landmark is one of the best things about Minneapolis and I am struck by how beautiful and wonderful it is everytime I cross it, which is often. We accessed the Cedar Lake Trail near the new Home of the Twins and rolled out Hopkins way. The trail was mostly OK, but quite wet in spots and only a trace of submerged ice slowed us down. Our pace was postively Armstrong-esque.
We tagged the terminus of the Cedar Lake Trail and whipped back toward town and the Greenway. To thwart nocturnal thugs we increased our already impressive speed and Jim begain swinging nunchucks while pedaling no-handed and I shouted at random intervals that "we are packing serious fucking HEAT and we are NOT AFRAID to use it and that we, in fact, really well TRAINED to MAIM and/or KILL any assholes who might try to slow us down and steal our CELL PHONES or CASH CARDS or BIKES". It worked very well as we were not attacked. So if you ride the Greenway after dark, try it. It has worked 100% of the time.

Saturday was the Inimitable Hiawatha Cyclery Ride and it was a classic for the books. Jim made several mid-ride decisions, defended his position effectively against his detractors and those who sought to debate him, and we found ourselves sharing a long table at Kramarczuks, wolfing down sausage, eggs and potato pancakes and washing it all down with coffee and vigorous conversation. Our postprandial cycling took us to the mostly abandoned but conveniently plowed State Fair Grounds via the Inter Campus Transitway. Our group was merry, the wind was at our backs and the ride was eventful in only the best possible ways, except for Monte, who is on my list.

To cap off a perfectly wonderful weekend of riding I was the delighted recipient of a question by my son Jasper. 
"Dad, do you want to go for a bike ride?"
Why, yes. Yes I do. I cannot explain to anyone, especially him, how that question makes my crusty, jaded heart skip a beat with joy. There is nothing— I repeat NOTHING—that brings me greater happiness than a bike ride with my family. We pedaled off toward the local park, played a bit on the gear therein, and returned home, triumphant. I snapped the photo at the top of the page at the end of our ride, the newly Daylight Saved Sun low in the sky. You, gentle readers, are reading the words of a deeply happy and completely satisfied man.
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Monday, March 2, 2009

The New Rig

Despite attempts at holding myself back to get closer to spring and snow, ice and salt-free roads, a new bike has taken form as if by it's own volition.

Jim, Mark and Kevin at Hiawatha Cyclery worked together like a small pack of hyper-intelligent saleswolves to tempt me into finishing this bike ahead of schedule. Putting the final nail in the coffin of my restraint, Kevin opined that "it's easier to beg forgiveness a single time, so you may as well finish the damn thing." He was, of course, referring to the story or stories I would have to tell my wife. She is a kind, generous and understanding woman who knows that despite my girth and lack of hair, I am nothing more than a 6 year-old when it comes to bike stuff. So she is cool with it. I think.
I had explained to the Hiawatheans that I was going to get the frame now (an excellent deal on "blems" from Rawland) and finish it later. Well, one thing led to another. Jim just happened to have a freshly built 650b wheelset on hand, just happened to have the right size compact double crank, an installed-once Thomson stem for a song, etc. etc. You get the idea.

I wanted a bike that would be well-mannered on the road, comfortable and capable of handling fire roads, gravel and mild off-road duty. I think I've got it!

The bike is a Rawland Sogn with disc brakes, On-One Midge Bars, a sweet looking Shimano R600 crank, 650b wheels with Schwalbe HS315 2" tires and all the other bits to make it work. I finished the shellac this morning and am about to get it messy with a long and winding ride somewhere out there.