Monday, July 31, 2006

Word Count Starts Tomorrow

Today is the last day of July. Starting tomorrow, I'll be keeping track of how may words I can pump out in a 31 day period.

My primary motivation for this is my desire to write more fiction. I was, after all, a fiction writing major in college. Why let my insanely expensive education go to waste?

I decided to post fiction that I'll be writing on this other blog. You can check here to read my progress everyday. What I've written on there so far won't count since I wrote it some time ago.

And yes, it's a science fiction story.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Starved II: The Conclusion

Here are the long promised pics from my last trip down the I&M Canal trail. I feel motivate to get off my duff and post these because I'm taking the Fox river trail this weekend and will probably write about that, too.

This is the ominous sight that greeted us when we got off the train in Joliet. It was definitely a harbinger of the trouble to come.

This is what sitting in Burger King, eating veggie burgers for two hours will do to you (For those of you that don't know her, Clare usually doesn't look this crazy)

Here's the path itself.

Clare once again laughing in the face of danger on the mysterious Stairs to Nowhere.

I wasn't going to post this because I think that outfit makes me look fat. I figured I had to since the rest stop in Seneca is one of the highlights of the trail.

Morris, a town along the trail, built a replica of a barge like the ones that used to travel down the canal. Why they did this is anyone's guess.

That's all the bike-touring fun for now kids.

Important Notice!

Next month I plan to launch a very ambitious project. I've been inspired by National Novel Writing Month(NNWM). NNWM's goal is that each participant write 50,000 words in a month. I plan to reverse engineer that and see how many words I can write in a month without a goal. I doubt I'll reach the 50,000 word goal, but I'm curious as to how many words I can write. I will track my progress here on this blog.

My question to you, dear readers is, "Do you want to race?" Anyone else care to take me on? See how many words you can write and we'll see who is the fastest keyboard in cyberspace. I will be counting my blog entries, fiction, and any material I have to write for my gaming group.

Any takers?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Leash that Dog, Jack-off!

Last night while returning from a wine social as some protestant church a couple of blocks from our house(More on this some other time), My girlfriend Clare and I walked down the alley that leads to the back of our Condo. At the other end of the alley, some guy was walking his dog - Not in the alley but crossing in on the street. His dog spotted us from a block away and started running toward us. We both froze. Clare and I are not dog people number one. Secondly, this is Chicago. There are people here that train dogs to fight. And by "train" I mean purposefully mistreat in order to make the dog extra mean.

Anyway, I had my bike with me, so I grabbed my water bottle in case I had to spray the dog in the face. When it finally got to us, it just barked. Extremely annoying, but at least we got the impression that it wasn't dangerous. We kept walking toward our house at the end of the alley with this dog yapping at us the whole way.

The owner finally strolled up to us and was apologetic. Then he gives us this lame excuse, "He's a herder, he doesn't like people in the alley." What the hell that meant I have no idea.

Then Clare said, "A leash might help that."

To which the guy turned back around and said, "Hey, don't tell me how to run my dog."

Again, what the hell does, "run my dog" mean. If "run" is a synonym for "control", then he wasn't doing much to "run" his dog.

I'm not sure what words were exchanged next, but Clare said something to the effect that dogs should be kept on leashes. He was walking away at that point and yelled, "Fuck you, you've said that twice already." How it went from "sorry about my dog" to dropping the F bomb, I'm not sure.

The woman who he was with muttered a weak apology and kept walking. The dog followed her but the dude stayed in the alley arguing with us.

We held our ground and noted that the law agrees with us. Apparently, Joe No-Leash didn't appreciate our civics lesson and just kept swearing at us.

He eventually stormed off in cloud of expletives. We just shouted "leash" at him as he ran away with his figurative tail between his legs.

Let me say at this point that I'm not against dogs or even dog owners. I know plenty of people who actually have taken the time to train their dogs. The parents of my friend Chris have a couple of incredibly well behave Irish Setters.

The problem is, that most people don't realize you need to take the time to actually train the dog to behave. It's not just going to behave on it's own. Then if you call people on it, like this prick in my alley, they get all defensive. Sorry, but I don't want your strange dog running up to me to "play." Keep your dog leashed or move out of the city.

And if you don't clean your dog's crap off my lawn, I going to break into your house and crap on your carpet.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"No Time for Blogging, Dr. Jones!"

Sorry, my lunch hour has once again been sacrificed to the IRS (Long story... Let's just say I have some tax trouble).

Still, I want to continue the saga of our adventures on the I&M Canal. Especially since it's been a while and my memory ain't what it used to be. Here's a great link about the I&M Canal with a Great Map!

Here's a picture of Clare looking at Cows: Do you see them? There are cows in the canal.

See? Black cows in the shade.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

No time for blogging today, but I wanted to check if the picture uploading capabilities of Blogger were working. I works now, great. Anyway, above is one of the afore mentioned Monoliths of Utica.

Here's another picture:
I believe that these strange structures were created by the same group of ancient peoples that built Stonehedge.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Starved Rock II: The Lost Monoliths of Utica

Topic Today: Bike touring

[DISCLAIMER: I originally wrote this blog entry to go along with a bunch of pictures I took. Unfortunately, the picture upload on isn't working for me. My apologies. I'll have pictures next time.]

So here is my long awaited missive about my second trip on the I&M Canal from Joliet to Utica. Clare and I took this trip about a month ago now, so I apologize for the delay.

Anyway, our story actually starts a few days before the trip itself. Clare had been having trouble with her rear wheel's freewheel. Sometimes, when she's be starting up after a stop, the freewheel would not engage and as much as she'd peddle, she'd go nowhere. Usually, it would engage after a minute of spinning her peddles furiously. This obviously caused some concern since we were about to embark on a 100+ mile bike ride. She took it in to our local bike shop and was told not to worry about it. She was told she'd have to replace it eventually, but we'd be all right for the trip.

Fine. No worries there.

Fast forward to the night before the trip. On my way back from dropping my son off at his mother's, I rode over a bump and heard an ominous *PING* come from my rear wheel. Yes, yet another broken spoke (I've been breaking spokes a lot lately, I too need a new rear wheel). At this point, all the bike stores were closed and we were planning on taking the early train to Joliet. Unfortunately, I don't have the tools to replace my spoke or any spare spokes for that matter. I basically took a spoke wrench an adjusted the adjacent spokes to compensate for the missing spoke. Not ideal, but hey, at least I could ride on it.

The morning of June 2, we rode to the Metra station to catch the early train going to Joliet. Our plan was to be on the trail by 10AM so we could take our time while on the trail. We grabbed a coffee in the Joliet train station coffee shop and took a bathroom break. That's when I witnessed an ominous sight.

[OK, more on the ominous sight later, I took a picture, which I can't upload at the moment]

So we hit the road. The I&M Canal trail starts about one mile from the train station. Most of the one mile is up steep hills. Well, not exactly steep, but we live in the mostly flat Chicago, we don't see hills much. Anyway, I was in the front huffing and puffing up a hill, and when I turned to look over at Clare, she's not there. She's about two blocks behind me spinning madly and going nowhere. That's right, the damn freewheel decided to give out for good.

After cursing our lackadaisical bike mechanic, we got on our cell phones and tracked down the only bike shop in Joliet. I called and got directions(luckily they were open early). The directions ended up being a little off and we probably walked a good mile out of our way. All told, I think we walked about three miles to this shop after asking directions from about a half dozen people.

We finally found the shop which turned out to be probably one of the most unhelpful shops ever. We walked in and explained how we were about to embark on a long ride and need an emergency replacement and the conversation went a little like this:

Bike Shop Guy:"We're really backed up on repairs, so it will be a while before our mechanic can look at it."

Me:"How long do you think?"

BSG:"I don't know. Do you guys have some errands to run?"

Me:"No, we're about to take a 60 mile ride to Starved Rock and would like to get on the road, the sooner the better. Is it possible to get an estimate?"

BSG:"I'm not sure. I'll have to ask my guy if he thinks he can fix it. Also, I don't know if I have the parts."

Me:"No, we just want to replace the whole wheel."

BSG:"I don't know if we can do that. Let me talk to the mechanic."(walks away... comes back) "Yeah, the mechanic says he doesn't think he can overhaul your freewheel today."

Me:"OK, but if we buy a NEW wheel, could he change out the gear cassette from the old wheel to the new wheel?"

BSG:"You want to buy a new wheel."

Me:"Yes, a new wheel."

BSG:"I don't think I have a matching set like that."

Me:"That's fine. We just want the rear one."

BSG:"actually, we don't have any road wheels."

I'm not sure if I doing it justice. I just know we spent a lot of time explaining that we just needed a new rear wheel, which he didn't seem to understand. He finally just kinda stood there and shrugged his shoulders at us. We asked since he didn't have any road wheels, could he tell us where we could get one? After much discussion with the other bike store guys, they let us know that in fact there was a good store with lots of road bikes nine miles away in Plainfield.

This time I called the shop (called American Bicycles if I remember) and asked specifically about road wheels. Yes, they had one left.

At this point we had to face a decision. Should we get back on the train, head back to Chicago, get a new wheel early, and cut out three day trip to a two day trip. Or, should I strap the wheel to my back and peddle off to Plainfield and just get on the road late?

Let me say at this point the last time we rode the I&M trail was back in September of 2004. On that trip, it became and has remained my favorite trail. We planned to do the trail in 2005, but we cancelled it due to obligations relating to our condo purchase.

I was not going to cancel it again, so I strapped that broken wheel to my back and got on the road. The trip was serene at some points and very scary at scary at others. About half the roads I took were through farmland and subdivisions, but others were narrow, truck filled, pot-holed, narrow, and surrounded by strip malls. The people at American Bicycle were very helpful and I was back on the road in no time. The whole trip took about 2 hours all told. Clare, unfortunately, had to sit in Burger King for those 2 hours enduring stares for the workers and customers alike. I guess it's usually old people who sit alone in Burger King for hours.

Finally, we got on the road at 2:30PM and busted ass out to Starved Rock. More on that as our story continues... [Hopefully, with pictures...]