Apartment Living: Parking hell

Unlike most posts, this isn't about our apartment, but instead the duplexes across the street. Last night was a 3 round doosy of a fight. All the 4 letter words were dragged out.

The situation:

Across the street are duplexes. Two unit "houses", with two garages. One garage for each unit.

All of these garages are converted into illegal apartments. No way would the city code office permit these.

Thus a duplex is really a faux quadplex. Each house has four families living there, with 4 (or 6 or 8) automobiles. And no garage parking. So all these cars cram into the concrete pad.

The start of the fight:

The quadplex across the street, the same one with the parties that happen any day ending in "Y" takes up almost all of the concrete pad. They even have a "classic" car under a cover that is permanently parked there, as well as a boat on the street.

The tenant on one of the far side units of the illegal quadplex often has his car boxed in. He has torn out his undercarriage going over the curb to get in and out. He, rightly in my opinion, believes that he shouldn't be this inconvenienced.

Last night the simmering pot boiled over. Fuck you's, motherfuckers, bitches, whores, and a lot of other colorful language started flying around 7:00 PM. Lasting until almost 8, we thought "Phew, it is done". Not so. Started again at 9:00, and I just gave up.

Yep, life never gets boring.

Getting Back in Shape

This weekend marked a milestone. I went out both days for a mountain bike ride in Santa Teresa park. Two trips up the gnarly Bernal entry road, a couple of loops of the trail, and two personal bests (as tracked by Strava).

Encouraging signs:

  1. The initial climb, while still a ball buster, is tolerable. I can climb all the way without stopping, and my speed is increasing (hence the personal records).
  2. The instincts and skills are coming back. I am rolling up and over obstacles that I was walking over. I still try to stand up to climb, and that almost always ends the momentum.
  3. Today I even took on a couple of additional climbs just to do them. Yep, feeling pretty good.
  4. On the way back, I felt fresh enough to explore some of the neighborhoods. I even found a community garden that I didn’t know about. Cool.

I still have a long way to go, but I have to admit, it feels pretty damn good. One day soon, I will bolt on the GoPro and capture a couple of trails. That should be a blast!

In the mean time, I will not feel guilty enjoying a brewed, malted beverage.


Solve California’s Financial Issues Forever

As with most states, there is always a bit of tightness in the budget. California, although our outlook has improved, still is on the precarious edge. I have the guaranteed solution to those fiscal woes.

First step, raise the fine for texting while driving. California’s is the lowest in the nation at $20 for a first offense. Make it a nuisance, say $100 or $150.

Second, have every officer of the law on full alert. They will become virtual ticket writing machines, because I see CONSTANT people texting while driving here in the bay area. Literally I SEE with my own eyes, in my slow slung S2000 no fewer than 50 offenses each direction.


Fourth PROFIT!

For the record, there are four states that do not ban texting while driving and the maximum first time fine/penalty is Alaska. $10,000 and 1 year in jail if you get caught. Source: MotherJones

Bike Review – 2015 Specialized Crave Expert

Having sold my old mountain bike in the move from Tucson to Chandler, I found that there was something missing in my life. Having caught the mountain biking bug in the late 1980’s, and having thrashed the local trails here in the south bay mercilessly, giving it up left a hole.

To fill that void, I splurged on a Specialized Crave Expert. It is a hardtail 29’er, with pretty decent components. Having ridden it a few times, with some good miles in the saddle, it is time for my first review of this steed.

Riding Impressions


California Dreaming – Automotive Edition

Living in San Jose, you see more than your fair share of Tesla’s on the road. Smug people driving their zero emission vehicles. (although, truth be told, I see probably four Nissan Leafs for each Tesla I see, there are a LOT of Leafs here) Heck, on one message board, someone talked about how they had run a special power line (high current, separate billing from their home) to their garage to charge it for a mere $4,500 and another $1,800 for the charger unit itself.

corvetteDriving next to one of these on the freeway at about 5mph (heavy traffic) I daydreamed about buying a Tesla, stripping out the batteries and all the electronic junk, and mating the chassis to a late 1960’s or early 1970’s Corvette drive train. 454 cubic inches, 4 speed manual transaxle, a 10 second quarter miler.

corvette_drivetrainImagine driving up next to a Tesla snob, blipping the throttle, then leaving them in a cloud of tire smoke. True bliss.

Yes, one day we will all drive electric vehicles, we will also have better intercity train service, and the idea of a fire-breathing muscle car will be a distant memory.

Not the author

Mountain Biking – Starting from Scratch

As I return to the fold of mountain biking, it is quite like a fresh start. I used to ride a lot, beginning in the late 1980’s on an old Diamondback Ascent, and graduating to front suspension in 1997, I got quite proficient. However after a several year layoff, it is indeed like starting from zero. I have to remember and relearn all my skills and instincts.

I thought it would be good to highlight some learnings, and hopefully help some other newbies to not get discouraged. This will likely run to several parts, so strap in and get ready for a ride:

  • Fear – Unless you only ride flat trails without any real topography or obstacles, you will have some natural fear. This is your brain telling you that you aren’t ready for the challenge you face. It is telling you to slow down and work up to it. If you do not feel any fear, you are likely a sociopath, and probably have a GoPro camera mounted to your helmet. As a beginner, don’t sweat it.
  • Condition – Even if you spend a lot of time at the gym, or riding a road bike, the odds are high that your general state of condition will be wrong for mountain biking. You use different muscles, and very few exercise machines can get you ready. Don’t rush it.
  • Shame – If fear grabs you on a trail or obstacle you are attempting to negotiate, there is no shame in getting off and walking over it. Trust me, no ace mountain biker will give you any crap for it. The alternative, a nasty crash and possibly injuring yourself is not worth the risk. There is no shame in backing down.
  • Safety Gear – While you might argue that you don’t need a helmet on the road (a crazy assertion), there is no way you can make the same case off road. If you ride dirt, if you do anything challenging at all, you WILL fall. Wear all the gear. Helmet, glasses, gloves. If you fall a lot, consider elbow or knee pads. Nothing sucks worse than being miles into the wilderness and getting hurt. Walking out dripping blood is no fun. Be smart.

The thrill is still there, and the reflexes are (slowly) returning. I have gone back to being a total newbie, riding trails that I know, and it is a joy to learn the basics again.

As my condition returns, and as I gain confidence/skills, I will again glide over obstacles that are giving me pause today. And that is OK.

I will never be a GoPro Hero, and that is OK too.


Apartment Living – The Edge of Poverty

One thing that living in an “affordable” apartment complex is that you live among people who are near the poverty line. No desperate poor, but people who are close. There are many signs, but one sure sign is the ubiquitous “Swisher Sweets” wrappers.

Not being a smoker, I wasn’t very aware of the small flavored cigarillos that are sold at convenience stores. Small, dark paper (like a cigar, not a cigarette) and often with wild flavors. Orange, Chocolate, Cherry, and others, they are popular with kids (those near 18) as they were inexpensive, and sold in singles or three at a time.

These wrappers are all over the apartment grounds

These wrappers are all over the apartment grounds

When the cost of a package of cigarettes approaching $9.00, the less taxed flavored cigarillos is a popular option. That and the fact that they can be bought in singles or in small packages. A couple bucks will buy a 3 pack, or about 70 cents each. Popular when you live dollar by dollar.

I know that they are popular here, as you can’t walk without seeing the empty wrappers everywhere. On dog walks, or even cycling in the neighborhood, you see them all over.

It is sobering to be reminded on such small items of how close to poverty many people live today.

Update: A friend who shall be nameless mentioned that there is possibly another explanation for all the Swisher Sweets wrappers, than people who could only afford a couple of smokes at a time. Apparently they are opened up, the tobacco stripped out, and then stuffed with marijuana. We might have a pot-head problem instead of a poverty problem.  Not sure that is better though.

On Rocky Ridge trail

Review – Santa Teresa County Park

As I mentioned in my last post, I have once again slung a leg over a mountain bike, in the quest to get back in shape, and to reduce my stress. One of the impetuses of this is living really close to Santa Teresa park, a place with some amazing riding.

While the bike is new, and fun, I am not quite ready to write a full review of the bike, but I can write about Santa Teresa park.

The main entrance is off of Bernal Road. It is a tough climb that is paved into the park. However once you get to the top, there are picnic areas and parking lots. You can rest a bit if you need to before taking to the trails. There is also a parking area, and a pen for the equestrian crowd. Although I have never seen a horse and rider in the park, I am sure they do use the park (you can see the road apples.)

Last week I rode the north side of the park. Mines trail, from the top of the road (near the IBM entrance). over Joice trail, and finally down Norred trail and out. That was a pretty easy ride, some moderate climbs, and smooth downhill and single track.


Wow, am I out of shape – Mountain Biking

On moving back to the San Jose area, I started fantasizing about getting back into mountain biking. When we moved to south San Jose, close to Santa Teresa Park, the urge grew.

My last mountain bike was a Specialized Stumpjumper Comp M2. I think I bought it in 1997, when I lived here before. A really nice bike when I bought, I rode the hell out of it, all over the bay area. Unfortunately, living in Arizona, I got out of the habit. Not that there wasn’t great riding, but I just didn’t get with it there.

When we moved from Tucson to Chandler, I hadn’t ridden the mountain bike in a few years, so it was sold at our moving sale. In Chandler, I got back into road riding, racking up lots of miles on my Lemond Buenos Aires.

I ended up buying a new bike. A Specialized “Crave” Expert model. A hardtail, 29’er bike. Not top of the line, but a high quality ride nonetheless.

Today I took it for a first ride. Santa Teresa park. The climb up Bernal road was brutal, but getting to the top, and veering onto the trails was bliss. The reflexes, and the skills are still there, a little dormant, but they come back.

I am embarrassed with how many times I had to stop to rest. I will get back into shape, but, it is going to be brutal.

A future post will give a review of the bike.


Apartment Living – irresponsible dog owners

We are lucky to have found an apartment complex that welcomes our greyhounds. Especially after a brief survey of the houses (that rent for more than $1200 a month more) are mostly no pets, or cats only, this is quite a find. However, I wish that all the dog owners here would just clean up after their dogs.

Part of the problem I believe is that until recently, they had a 25# limit on dogs. That means that there are lots of small dogs. Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, Boston Terriers are common. These diminutive canines produce stools that are roughly the size of Tootsie Rolls, so their owners probably think that is “too small” to have to pick up. Sigh.

Alas, walking on any of the grassy areas is navigating a minefield of little poop-bombs.

Convenient receptacles for pet waste with baggies

Convenient receptacles for pet waste with baggies

It is not like there aren’t trash cans all over with “poopie” bag dispensers. I count 4 of them, all conveniently located near the large grassy areas.

Or, there are three parking lots with multiple trash dumpsters. Yes, that means you need to carry your own bags. We do. Having larger dogs (Greyhounds), we appreciate the heavier duty “Mutt Mitts“, as they are better suited for the larger stools.

Of course, the rules are clear that you must clean up after your animals. But that is about as effective as the “No Smoking” signs in the common areas.

Heavy sigh.