Tuesday Trippin’ Jan 18

I tried to pretend I was optimistic, but it was inevitable. Covid came to our house last week. First I got the text that the pre-school was shut down for the next 10 days, then came the text that it was the other grandchild, the highschooler, who had a positive test.

It’s a no win situation.The kids need some semblance of normalcy, but put 2000 kids who have been informed badly and oppositely in a closed incubator building during a world record surge in new cases without a vaccine policy and without enforcing the mask policy… I don’t see how that ends well for anyone. His is a breakthrough case, and thankfully seems mild so far. We’re hoping for the best.

Russ and I got boosters before a small family get together for Thanksgiving. We chose the different mRNA vaccine from the one we had the first time around, just in case some level of variety gave broader protection, even in the most miniscule way. According to CDC recommendations, he and I didn’t need to isolate, but we did need to wear masks if we went anywhere. We were doing that anyway.

That next day Russ had time off to go see his Dad who had a recent hospital visit. We left it up to his Dad whether we’d still visit now that we’d been knowingly exposed and were relieved when he told us not to come.

We went out to ride instead. The weather was cold. There weren’t many riders or walkers out, but we drove out to Cedartown anyway so we could ride where we weren’t likely to see anyone at all. It was a nice ride, but we were stress exhausted and it was very short.

We’ve had snow too, just a dusting, but ever since Snowmageddon Atlanta 2014 no one wants a repeat of the storm that stranded people all over the city and halted business for 3 days. At least we didn’t lose separate days for snow and sickness. I’ve been doing much of my computer work from the stationary bike. I rarely work hard on the stationary bike. It’s purpose is to keep me from being sedentary when I do sedentary things, and more often than I’d like to admit, the bike is just a catch all. It earns its keep in times like these though. We’re expecting more snow by the end of the week. I make myself do it, and maybe even work hard enough to sweat a little when the gaps in real rides are too big, and that’s when it makes the most significant difference.

Tuesday Trippin’ January 11

We had good rides since my last post, not pushing too hard through weather that was on again off again like a Georgia winter. We took some time for the holidays with family, or at least I did. I went to south Alabama to see my mom and sister early and without Russ. He didn’t have the time off. It turned into Christmas Past, the Christmas of my childhood when I was the grandchild. Now I’m the grandparent. The celebration has morphed primarily in who is alive to attend and which house will accommodate us all. Sometimes people drift, especially in fractious times like these. I wasn’t sure I would ever see that again.

Normally Russ and I alternate which family we spend Christmas with and which family we spend New Years with. But, with the pandemic, we stayed home last year and enjoyed time within our bubble. That was nice because the bubble was bigger than normal with my kids home to roost. The down side was that by the time this past summer rolled around, it had been a year and a half since I had seen my mother. Russ had seen his Dad a couple of times for various reasons, but seeing Mom came later. I’ve always visited often. Even when I lived thousands of miles away I visited at least twice a year.

But, through the pandemic I’ve tried to behave in a low risk manner, wearing masks, getting vaxxed, not being the person who exposed my bubble to unnecessary risk. At times that seemed like a hopeless venture in a house of essential workers and school aged children with shared custody. I really felt the weight of visits not made as well as the weight of not carrying illness home to mother. Russ saw his Dad twice before I saw my Mom. That really isn’t relevant. He made a last visit to a dying relative and we went a graduation this summer before I went to see Mom, but it felt bad when Russ had seen his family twice and I hadn’t seen mine. Mom is 88 and a content homebody, but some days when we talked she mentioned how hard it was to be protected instead of hugged.

So, I made my commitments to be home this year, and then. Omicron. Potential attendees for our gathering included vaccinated people, people who had Covid on the first round, people who had it on the second, some who had it more than once, newly minted and entrenched political anti-vaxxers, and people of unknown status. It would have been the year not to go, if we hadn’t already had so much forced time apart. And, at the same time, a virus doesn’t care about all the times you were careful, it just transmits on opportunity.

We talked about having a fire pit outside. People were agreeable. Usually it’s a little cool in south Alabama in December, and the piñata would be destroyed outside anyway. (the current strategy on piñata design is to make them last through several swings of the high school sports kids while being reachable for swings from the littlest ones, without rendering the treats into powder before it was all over).

I didn’t expect many people. We’d never celebrated the whole deal with the generations of friends and family, the piñata and the roast beast on a different day. But everyone showed. Everyone. All the family, all the friends that normally come. One person left early when they learned they had been exposed to Omicron two days before, but everyone else was there. And, they all showed about the same time.

Mom keeps the house hot because she’s sedentary, so it was hot when people showed up, and then a full house made it hotter, like an Omicron oven. It was so warm outside, no one needed the forgotten fire pit and thankfully it didn’t take long for people to migrate outside to watch the kids climb the tree house and play basketball in the drive. But, I tell you, no one was carrying the virus that day because they didn’t get out the door that fast, and two weeks later no one had been sick. We were lucky, when what I try to be is smart.

For just one afternoon we were all those Whos down in Whoville, and then poof, back to the real world and that little bit of trepidation while I waited to see if anyone got sick. And, also, wondering in the back of my mind if that thing, that Christmas of my childhood that just happened once more ever will again.

Six Degrees, The Etsy Store

I’ve written more about my/our Etsy Store, Six Degrees of late. It’s relevant to this site in general because this site and our shop were both in existence long before there was a Silver Comet cycling project to dominate the last year and a half. And, it’s relevant to the project because the shop reviews are what I have in my current life show I deliver on promises and follow through to make people happy.

I’m going to go ahead and give the store, and the challenges it has presented recently, its own full post here so people who are interested in that can read it, people who just want to see that I can successfully run something can click on the links, and people who aren’t interested in either can skip to cycling. At one time I was concerned that if a lot of people who weren’t interested in finding that long lost thing that they remember their great grandma having clicked on the Six Degrees site, it would destroy my conversion rate, but I’m not really sure it matters anymore. I’ve recently found out that if a seller’s store goes viral or gets an atypical boost in traffic, Etsy throttles it, sort of. The store disappears from showing up in search until the boost is over. I’m sure there is some rationale, but none of the sellers I’ve heard who have experienced it were able to come up with positive comments on the matter.

The shop is near the front of my thoughts now in part because the last quarter is always supposed to be the busy season and this year it wasn’t. That’s not just for me either. And, it’s not just about changes created by the pandemic. Shipping has become a real burden and a pressure point for many sellers. According to Etsy, 50% of buyers who choose not to buy on Etsy give high shipping cost as the reason. There was a time when some sellers on some sites padded their prices with higher than cost shipping fees and added in handling to increase their margins while making the price initially look low. It was pretty clear what they were doing and buyers learned to look out for sticker shock on the bottom line. Those times are long gone, and shipping just keeps on getting more “extra” for buyers and sellers in every way. Now Etsy pushes sellers to cover shipping, or part of it, with their item prices. Every single listing has reminders unless your shipping is “free”.

Low volume sellers (like me) are feeling the shipping pain the hardest. Sellers who offer small expensive things like fine jewelry can absorb shipping expense most easily. Their costs have increased the least, and covering that increase goes unnoticed. Those who sell bulky or heavy items at low cost are struggling to stay in business. In this case, large means packaging more than a square foot in area that weigh over 4 pounds.

Many sellers, including me, have taken large numbers of heavy or bulky listings out of their shops because shipping them is too expensive, and, I haven’t taken enough of them out. With the 4th quarter USPS price hike, I cancelled $20 and $40 orders because the shipping (on a small teapot and a medium small bowl) was going to be $70 and $80 respectively. When the losses were lower I’d eat my mistake and ship anyway. Now I offer the buyer the chance to pay additional shipping before canceling the order, and I send a screencap of the shipping cost when I do it because the cost is so incredible. Amazon is a completely different animal and customers don’t understand why Etsy sellers can’t be the best parts of everything that Etsy was in the beginning while also being the best parts of what Amazon is now. They can’t truly appreciate the effect that “custom” or “unique” has on the number of hours it takes to produce an item and get it in front of them either. Makers and sellers are having trouble coming to grips with it and doing the math, and they’re there for the whole process!

It’s not just the cost of shipping something that stays sold either. Returns cost everyone. I walked on Kennesaw Mountain today behind some ladies talking about ordering a lot of swimsuits and cover ups in several sizes. One of them said “It beats trying them on in the store, and if I don’t get to go on the trip, I can just send it all back.” As a shopper, I so get it. I don’t want to risk being stuck with something that doesn’t work for me, and companies like Amazon, they found that pain and fixed it. They take that risk away from the buyer, but, that only works for high volume companies selling mass produced goods at a high enough markup to cover losses from returns.

Small sellers can’t charge membership fees to cover part of the overhead or have a delivery fleet with the footprint of Amazon. And, on top of that, the delivery services give significant… read that HUGE, commercial shipping discounts to the big volume guys. Sellers who drop ship through sites like Amazon get all the big discounts and if it’s coming from overseas, they get international benefits from the Postal Treaty and still triple the markup to cover returns. They rely on the economy of mass production and high volume sales for their profit margin. How on earth can a buyer understand that they can get free shipping from China, but it costs $80 to go from Atlanta to Seattle? Sellers like me don’t get big discounts. We make them possible for the big guys to get them instead, and my trips to the post office take half an hour at best because the close location closed. When my turn around time is short, I’m usually going there for only one package. The same story repeats itself in every facet of the business.

The early emphasis was on small makers of original works or curated vintage and unique supplies with sellers who often work from home, the opposite of Amazon. But, Etsy now allows “production partners” and pressures sellers to become more like Amazon every day. It’s becoming increasingly hard for buyers who are not makers themselves to recognize the difference between hand made and mass produced. The entire nature of the beast is changed.

It’s not that I couldn’t find a thing to sell and make a profitable business from Etsy now. It’s that once I was able to make it support me, I wouldn’t have my heart in it. Whether I’m making it, or saving it from an obscure death, I love tiny little stitches wrought with love that make a project take an enormous amount of time to complete. I love keeping tools and furnishings that were made when resources seemed limitless out of the scrap yard. Those things take time to find, clean, research and bring to the customer. I love the rabbit hole I fall in when I discover some something that I didn’t know about. When I get a customer who found a pot her deceased aunt made it makes my day. One of my dream jobs would be to do research for History Detectives. In order to sell enough at a high enough price to support myself, or even make a profit would require me to spend my time and my mind on things I care much less about. It wouldn’t be the empowerment to home makers that Etsy was in the beginning. It would have to take advantage of economies of scale with a large proportion of passionless performance of marketing tasks and spending large amounts of advertising cash. If I was going to do that, I would rather work someplace more secure and less fickle for better pay. We each carve out freedom for the things that are most important to us in whatever way we can make most meaningful. I have happy customers and time to meet other obligations with my current Etsy store, but it isn’t supporting us, or even me, and that isn’t a sustainable way to make my life work.

So, the Etsy store, at least for the near future is on probation, a dream I don’t want to give up, but can’t really afford to keep either. If I create cycling project related items, it makes sense to have an established site from which to make those available. I have an unreasonable amount of “treasure” to sell (as well as things I can’t fathom why I ever bought). As long as I can, it makes sense to put as much on the site as possible with focus on items that have never been listed. Listings are quarterly. I’ll slowly stop renewing the listings that have been renewed the most. So, for now, we’ll still hang around between lemonade and wait and see mode. It’s been an interesting journey filled with hope and learning experiences, just like whatever we do next will be…

Tuesday Trippin’ December 8

The push to get things done has been real lately, dividing my time between physical training, other elements of the project, family, Etsy and getting ready for Holiday time with the grandkids over school break, I’ve grown to really appreciate that when my rides become limited to 2 days per week, so will my commute to the trail, or at least it will after we move away from car based Support and Gear (SAG).

When we bought our house, we bought space for 4 people with room for the occasional guest. We now have 7, and another on the way. I’m loving that I get to see my children and theirs daily, but there’s never a dull moment… It’s temporary. It will be over in a blink and I won’t know what to do with myself when there’s no one invading my space, leaving a mess for me to clean and sneaking up on me for hugs and kisses at bedtime. Getting ready for #8 we moved furniture the other day and the missing GoPro Hero 4 showed up. It can stream, and we’ll be checking to see if it streams well enough to replace the phone camera. I expect to find that we’ll want to replace the phone camera with a GoPro for streaming, but one with the motion control of the Hero 10.

We had a bit of warm weather last week. I’m kicking myself for not using it more for training, but the other things I did were equally important. I recently found out there were a couple of extra miles completed on the Greenway. I feel a little behind the curve for not realizing that happened sooner, but the extra miles are not showing as complete in Google maps or their satellite images. North of the Marconi Trailhead, the sidewalk along Marconi Dr and Windward Parkway was widened to trail width and it meets the dotted line in the image below. The dotted green line represents what is now finished trail.

That little bit of extra trail makes the Greenway more desirable for a training ride. Especially since the summer burn bans have lifted and people near the Silver Comet are burning leaves. That gives an advantage to the Greenway. It’s not that the suburbanites in the denser populated areas have gone green and decided to return the nutrients from whence they came. They just tend to sack them for pick up instead. This week choosing between the Greenway and the Silver Comet a matter of which negative you want though. The gnats and other bugs are out at the Greenway because of the warm spell and the low lying wet areas. My new helmet with the goggles is the best protection I’ve ever had from insects in the eyes. The goggles fogged for the first time on yesterday’s ride so it wasn’t complete perfection. I rode just before rain that was expected. The temperature was near the dew point and the lenses fogged a few times.

As usual, we’re making progress, and wishing we had made more. Hope all is well in your world, and until next time, have a glorious day!

The Work Week

I’ve been writing this piece (along with the budget post) for a while, editing and changing as I tweak the plan. I was prepared, but still surprised at the level of overtime when I calculated hard numbers of hours. When I showed my draft of this article to Russ. He read it. I waited. He didn’t say anything. So, after a bit I asked “Were you shocked by the time commitment?” He said “Yes”, (and that was before I added in another 5 hours each for active recovery walks the day after each ride). Russ didn’t say any more, so I asked if there was anything that he thought I overestimated. He said “No”. I asked if he was still on board. He said “yes” and asked some questions.

Actual questions in full sentences with nouns and verbs were a relief at this point. He had envisioned part time work outside the project. In his head, and probably the heads of potential supporters, the job was to ride a bike two days a week.

In fact, the most predictable part of this project is that very surprise, that the time commitment will be immense. Top search results in Google say that the Silver Comet alone takes 1-2 days for the “ambitious” to cycle. On the other end of the spectrum the 2020 record for a (drafting) century ride is 2 hours 20 minutes and 26 seconds. Those conditions are completely different from the trail, and obviously, we’re not world record class athletes drafting a minivan on a track. We’ll be somewhere in the middle with video shot at a speed that could be sped up or slowed down to suit the user. While the video is the point,

So, here it is, a big picture snapshot of what I expect our start, then our regular weeks to look like. This is based on the scenario for the super stretch goal, riding there and back while filming both the Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga Trails in each direction, each week for at least 52 weeks. We will lead up to that by training for the full ride and working out the bugs in our filming set up, and we’ll taper off afterward, and do our best to fill in any weeks that didn’t go according to plan.

The Weather, It’s Always Out There

Our weeks won’t be neat and tidy like my layout below. We have weather parameters that, while workable, will be the unpredictable part, at least on a day to day scheduling basis. Not every week will look the same in practice as it does in planning. Our weather limits are basically temperature, precipitation and lightning. Go, no go decisions will be based on keeping body temperature in the functioning range and free from charges that would power your flux capacitor. The weather can be wet, or cold, but not both. Hypothermia is not good. If the chances of rain are above 20% and the temperature is in the 50s or below, that’s not likely to be a ride day unless we’re confident conditions will pass before we get to a section.

If there’s snow, maybe we ride. It depends. I’ll ride in some sludge, but when there’s slick solid ice on the ground that’s a no no. We don’t have enough icy weather in Georgia buy cold weather tires and probably won’t even choose a bike with a fork wide enough to accept them. In fact, in Georgia, we are likely to have more unrideable days due to heat. Hyperthermia is the warm side no no. Our high temperature isn’t as firm as the cold temperature. My personal high has been rising because I’m growing more fit with the training, but Georgia summers are hot. We’ll plan one of our breaks at the expected summer heat peak, and that should take care of most heat days.

Schedule During Funding and Set Up

When the funding comes in, we’ll start coordinating the equipment and pressing the training harder. We’ll double check that the gear choices we made are still the best and still available. We’ll have some short to medium test runs with the equipment as we work up to full century rides and adjust our set up. We can start as soon as the lowest level funds because some of our expenses and equipment fund at the first level and we will be committed as soon as it funds. We’ll start front loading our workload as much as possible at that first level.

I expect the first ride or two that cover both trails in both directions to be backed up by car. One of us will ride in one direction, the other on return, or at this point we might each do half days instead. We’ll have designated spots to meet. After we ditch the car and move to backing each other up by bicycle, hydration will require a little more planning. During the pandemic and in the winter trailhead drinking fountains are turned off. Before the pandemic, they were turned off well before the first freeze and stayed off long after the last. Leaving the trail while filming is not optimal. We’ll be carrying water for some segments and making sure we buy any necessary water at the places close by the trail as we pass them

We will stay in a hotel the first time we do a full ride. After sleeping the ride off, we’ll be looking to see if we can find an efficiency apartment that could be had for the same price as the hotel and storage budget. If we can do that, logistics becomes much easier. It would eliminate the time, stress, expense and hassle of switching accommodations when the weather forecast changes. It will also make leaving supplies, gear and battery chargers for use on the next visit possible. A whole host of other things will become markedly less trouble while making actual expenses more predictable. Smooth, manageable and predictable are the features that will make the project sing. Renting an efficiency apartment, room or even a camper also gives us the option of staying additional nights without additional cost if have a small injury, unexpected changes in weather or other conditions. Every piece of the project is its own little cost benefit analysis and being open minded about changes, as long as they remain inside the budget, will always be worth a look.

Hopefully car backup will only be needed once or twice, 4 times at most. After that we should have accomodation and other questions answered, and any gear that we should leave on the other end transported. We’ll be settling into a procedure and a schedule.

Where Will the Hours Go in a Typical Week of Video Riding and Reward Making?

We have two kinds of time commitment once we’re up and running on a “regular” schedule. One is time away from home (which matters because we are away from family and family obligations), the other is the amount of time spent actively working.

I expect time away from home (excluding still photography day trips or other work accomplished in a single day away) to be 3 days a week. A day out, a day of both active and passive recovery, a day back.

There could be additional time away as well. If the Landscapes and Covered Bridges Screen Wallpaper reward gets 2000+ supporters, we will be away from home an additional 2+ weeks photographing all 16 of the covered bridges in Georgia. If that reward gets more than 4000 backers, we’ll be doing all of the covered bridges in Alabama too.

Project Hours of Work Per Week

Starting with the hours that are identical for both of us, we will each be on the trail 20+ hours per person per week. That’s figuring 15 miles per hour. That’s a low end speed for distance riders, but the recumbents won’t be fast and we want to be fairly consistent with travel speed while filming. We may get faster over the course of the project, but we won’t get a lot faster. The 20 hours, or 10 hours per ride day, allows stops for tasks like changing or checking battery packs, memory cards and other equipment as well as things like rest/water, restroom and lunch breaks.That’s 40 project hours

We will both write for rewards categories 2 and 3. Those are estimated at 5 hours 45 minutes each for 11.5 project hours, that’s if all of those rewards find supporters. We’ll start that as soon as we’re funded at the lowest level (while we’re acquiring equipment) to front load the work and free up time on the back end if possible. Obligations met also free up brain space.

Commuting to and from the trail on each end, 3.5 hours x 2 people. That’s calculated from home on the front end, and on staying at the lodge on Ft McCLellan and commuting by bicycle on the Anniston end. 7 Project Hours.

Strength Training at the Y (not at the pre-pandemic levels when I’d skip for months sometimes, or the pandemic levels- nothing) this would be on a serious, keep us healthy and riding, go twice a week level. 7 hours each. Sadly, that’s just over 50% commuting time. We may have to change to a different gym to reduce travel time. I’ve avoided changing because the Y offers free or reduced memberships to those in need, and because I’ve been a member for 30 years. I joined when I lived closer to one location that I do to any location now. All gym related decisions are on hold until we Omicron settles though, and whatever wave arrives on its heels. Gyms are among higher transmission locations and new weekly Covid cases are at an all time high in Georgia. The National Guard is on call at testing sites and in hospitals. We could reduce this time block some by doing what we can for strength training at home. Proper equipment is clearly better for strength training though, so for now the time block stays at this level in hope that we can return to the gym for the better strength and preparedness. 14 project hours.

Et cetera (I always hear that in the voice of Yul Brynner as the King of Siam BTW). We need to do things like wash and dry our bike clothing, check weather, and check it again, fill, clean or store drink bottles, make sure streaming is ready, organize everything, move things to where you need them next, make and use checklists, pack lunches, gear and kit, repair, replace and organize or store the little things and the side things, make any appointments, plans and reservations necessary, all those things that suck up the time you don’t know where went and would hire an assistant to do if you could. I’m optimistically allowing 2 hours each per week for that. 4 project hours

Total 76.5 project hours of project work done by two people, or 38.25 hours of joint project time each.

Work for Russ Only

The work that Russ will do exclusively is:

He’ll maintain bikes, recumbents and… by doing things like adjust, store, repair (or take in to be repaired), air the tires, clean and lubricate after every ride, check brakes, check video, safety, communication and other equipment. He’ll also do things like update software. 4 hours a week.

Upload video. We won’t edit heavily, or even much, but we won’t just throw it up either. We expect to upload 1 ride (around 7 hours of trail video) per week, plus anything else we shoot for fun or for sharing the project. I’m only allowing 4 hours for this activity, so obviously we’re not carefully editing video, just clipping the start and end points, quickly assessing quality and editing out any of those things we said we’d edit out if we noticed them while recording.

The 38.25 hours each of us works plus his individual hours gives Russ 46.25 hours of project related tasks and activities per week.

Work for Karen Only

One day a week, I’ll have a still photography day when I shoot and edit the photos that will make the wallpaper screensaver rewards. My goal is to fit that in a single day each week and to spend more time taking them than editing them. My reality check for this is that people who do just photos as “youtubers” have said they get only 5 or 6 photos a year that they’d consider hanging on a wall and it is their full time job. I’ll be pushing myself for great photos while trying to keep my eyes on the prize (the video) and manage my own self expectations. 8 (I hope) Project Hours

One day a week I’ll write for the website to keep backers up to date and share the project. It will likely be chopped up across the week though. I’ll have to get faster, but let’s say 8 (I hope) Project Hours. I’m not a fast or organized writer. If you read something I’ve written and it looks like I’m an organized writer, then I’ve edited it repeatedly, and then again. If you’ve seen something and don’t think that, I tried to get it up quicker, or for some reason left it alone once published. Maybe I’ll get over myself and drift toward video/vlog rather than writing for updates. I’d like to have a 40 hour work week. But, the 38.25 hours that each of us works, plus the 16 hours that only I work gives me 54.25 hours per week. I’m going to have to improve on that. Trimming by 14+ hours won’t be easy. My other obligations and he rest of my life aren’t going to stop, and if I’m going to ride 2 centuries per week, I have to get some sleep too.

To help us keep up this schedule and give our bodies time for repair, we’ll be taking quarterly 2-week breaks. Weather permitting, we’ll ride immediately before and after these breaks so that only 1 make up ride per break will be required the following year to complete the set of 52 videos. They will likely be 1.) December/January winter break 2.) Spring Break 3.) The peak of Summer Heat, and 4.) Fall Break. 1,2 and 4 will be guided by the Fulton County Georgia School Schedule. 3 will be guided by historic data.

Tuesday Trippin November 16

I had a week with a lot of prep and grunt work and not as much riding as I would have liked. We’ve done test runs for live streaming and concluded that we can’t do anything about the poor cell coverage in many areas, but we’d still like to offer it to supporters. There will be big gaps, and some of the quality will be low, but it will be extra footage and it will help keep supporters who like live streaming up to date. Real time updates are cool. We won’t be conversational on this streaming. Talking may be cool while streaming, but it would be on the videos too, and it does not matter how good it sounded when you said it, most people get tired of the talk when they play something repeatedly, especially if they like the nature and other ambient sounds.

We don’t have a good mounting system yet, for the streaming.The phone vibrated enough in the Otterbox frame to shut the camera off. Then the GoPro Jaws clamp was what I was using when the phone bounced of the bike and under my rear tire. The jaws mount itself did a decent job, but the multipack of accessories we bought didn’t have enough of the right attachments to connect to the phone to the Jaws.

We’ll start going through some of the other offerings online. The mounts that look promising are $80-$300. It seems like a lot of money, but at the same time cheap insurance if we get something that actually works well and won’t let go. I’m just hoping that I can find a good solution in the front end of choices. Having to test several could be a lot more expensive than the just most expensive choice alone. So, I’d just start with that if I thought “You get what you pay for” was a complete theory on quality and utility. But I don’t. Sometimes the low end product works perfectly well, some times better than the one with confident pricing. Spending just enough money to reduce the chances that spending less will cost us more with repairs, replacements and failures is the story of my budget for this project. In some ways it’s the story of any project, but especially so for this one.

Temps are cooler more often. I’ve added exothermic hand warmers to my kit. We’ll see if the riding vibration sets them off. Some people would find the weight/utility trade off a fail, especially when we’re well above freezing for rides. But I have Raynaud’s, Syndrome and if the gloves ever fail to be warm enough, those hand warmers will be worth all the carries when I didn’t use them. It looks like I have just a mild primary case, but after that one time in South Dakota when I left my hands get way too cold… Well, I do learn.

I’m still wondering how much time to invest in “the busy season that wasn’t” for our Etsy store. I tend to think of the season as pretty much done by December 15th due to shipping realities for small home based businesses, and with all the DeJoy based delay expectation, really, I’m thinking that prepared customers will be done with online shopping from sites like Etsy by the end of November. Yesterday the Etsy platform was down for a while, and now shop items have been turned off for people who have ad blocker. There is no pop up window to deny access to the site or tell visitors why they don’t see items in anyone’s shop though. They just don’t show, and since the rest of the site does, it is doubly confusing. With no outside onsite ads, it’s a curious thing to do and the “busy season” is a curious time to do it. I’m sure that at least some aspect of that will change fairly quickly. I expect that this is a way of doing things that will affect their bottom line as well as sellers’. I was hanging on to hope that I’d be heading in to this video cycling project on the heels of having been wildly busy with the shop. But so far, I’ve had to cancel half of my few orders due to shipping costs. It wasn’t so big or so heavy, but just enough to be over a square foot and headed to Reno. Shipping was $76 for a $28 item. At one time I was slightly worried that when I ran this project with my Etsy link, people would check out the site to confirm that I was a person who worked for happy customers and, since they weren’t likely interested in vintage items, my conversion rate would tank. I’m shifting toward wondering if I should just let all my listings expire. I know a young person who’s about to buy a house, and he loves vintage. I’ve already put aside the things he would love to list later if he doesn’t take them. He might just get a windfall level wedding gift.

I’ll leave you with a quickie cell phone photo. It’s down here at the bottom because it was a gorgeous day when I took this, but it’s not a great photo. I usually think that I have a good eye but there were only these two trees to frame this with and there was an orange plastic construction/silt fence I was avoiding. I wasn’t supposed to step over it, and I didn’t want it in the picture either. I cropped this about 5 different ways and none of them made me any happier. It’s not the photo I’d like to have taken. I’m sure I could have found a good angle of some sort if I’d put time into it, but I was in a rush, and this does show what a truly beautiful fall day it was out at Coot’s Lake on the Silver Comet.

Coot’s Lake from the trail head parking lot.

Tuesday Trippin’ November 2

Did you know that there’s a natural lull in the average conversation at twenty minutes? I think it’s related to the average attention span being about that. I had a little bit of a lull recently. It was time, partly because I got this respiratory infection…not that respiratory infection. I’m slow to get well from those, really, really slow. Part of it is because I needed a break. I had a dip in my cycling mileage that was significant enough to miss the cardio endorphins and get a little depressed. It’s strange to me when I get depressed and there’s no emotional cause, feeling it in my body and being aware in my mind, but not having a situational cause out in the real world for the desire to cry. My depression was just a reduction in the normal flow of endorphins produced by exercise.

I’m a little back on track this week, but still not fully recovered. The trail is beautiful with the fall colors and the crackle of leaves has me running sound recording options around in my head while I try to plan the best option for recording fall sounds without ground noise. I may have to put calling the crews and finding out when they will clean the trails into my weekly mix of factors that determine ride days.

The temps have dropped lately. They’re in that range where it would feel warm if it were spring, but since I’ve spent months trying to adjust to the heat, it feels cold instead.

I’ve been using a Buff and other brands of neck gaiters in headband style to cushion the deep red marks left on my skin from my now properly fitted helmet. It’s working well enough that I don’t think I’ll seek a different option for several months. Well, when it gets really cold I’ll want fleece on my ears. Right now, I’m pulling the gaiters down over my ears at temps where I wouldn’t normally bother to cover them and it feels cozy and comfortable. I like it. When the temps rise again, I’ll want something breezier. I’m expecting my warm weather solution to be a sewing project.

We’ll get high resolution focus back on our goals soon, likely this weekend.

My Experience Buying and Using the Giro Vanquish Helmet

The helmet I’ve had my eye on for a while is a Giro Vanquish. Skip down to the features if what you’re interested in is how those features are working for me. And here is one of the reviews I used when considering the purchase. FYI, Amazon didn’t have the price quoted/linked in that review at anytime during the months I was looking, (with the exception of a small size in and undesirable color, which isn’t what the link directs to).

Delays in buying the Vanquish sooner were… well, cost slowed me by about 6 months. I’m price sensitive. Moving to the point of purchase is an easier decision in the lower end price range, but there were other things that slowed the decision too. 1. Stores. 2. The search for other options with a visor/goggles. Was there a helmet with eye protection and additional features? 3. Reluctance to be seen as a poser. And, 4. Venting slits over the eyes.

Stores

No stores had the Vanquish when it first caught my eye, so I couldn’t check fit, and once they did, none of them were marketing to me. The sales rep at one store said “I don’t remember the name, but the only thing we have with goggles is for racers”. The name is actually on the box, which was just a few steps away. Another store told me the Vanquish and a commuter helmet with goggles that they also offered were both primarily for velodrome riding (wrong on both counts according to their respective manufacturers).

I’ve benefited from some articles that say “X product is for X rider”, especially in trying to make sense of group set levels as a less knowledgeable rider in the market for a bike that suits the demands of a high mileage project well, and at the same time isn’t more expensive than necessary. It seems to me though, that there’s little reason to keep the marketing or the perceived market for the Vanquish as narrow as it appears to be. People do have to make tough price quality trade-offs, but I think that a lot of people who are not racers and not terribly price sensitive would also find the appeal in this helmet, especially in a market that sells to Silver Comet riders.

The Search

The rider I first saw wearing a bike helmet with goggles was wearing a teardrop helmet (which put the idea of not wanting to look like a poser in my mind). Nothing would look more like a poser than to have a less aerodynamic body while sporting the most conspicuously aerodynamic helmet available, the one that few people have seen outside Olympic level training and competition.

I did find other options with visor/goggles. The commuter version had a much lower level of cooling airflow. The MTB version had friction fit goggles and I like the magnetic option better. It seems more durable. I didn’t look at any of the teardrop “coneheads”.

As far as other features in addition to the goggles go, I didn’t find helmets with any. Features I have seen in other helmets that would also be desirable are fall detection and imbedded earbuds. If I ever start to ride on roads, the turn signals and lighting that Lumos developed would be nice too. The Vanquish is very light though, and those things would add some weight, so it’s not a surprise they don’t add it.

Vanquish Features

Weight

It’s super lightweight, and I will likely notice just how light weight it is if I ever go back to something heavier.

The Aerodynamics

It’s cool and breezy. It is supposed to be comparable to a teardrop helmet for reducing drag. Giro is pretty proud of it. I understand why. Some reviews do say that there are other helmets with more airflow. With my tendency toward overheating and the importance of temperature regulation through the head, I may look at some of the others if it seems like I need to when the Georgia heat season meets my century rides. This one is better than the last one though, so I’m expecting the goggles to still be the deciding feature.

The Goggles: The reason I bought it.

They’re everything I expected and I am happy. They do not rest on any part of my face and the lack of ear pieces feels pretty free, just like what I hoped for. The Zeiss logo is in my peripheral vision, just like reviews say. It would be nice not to see that, but I don’t always notice. The goggles do pop off fairly easily, but not so much in actual use, more as it is sitting it the car (unless I forget and try to scratch my nose). 

It would be nice if the helmet came with a helmet bag, mostly mesh for evaporation and airflow, but a padded pocket for the goggles (or at least a goggles bag). It’s not something I usually care about, but after my second ride with it, I placed the helmet carefully in the back seat of the car. Later, a back seat passenger later put it in the floor where it got jammed into the seat adjustment rails. My new helmet that I finally bought had gouged lenses in the first week. Replacement lenses are $80. I could take it in between rides, but rides are quite frequent, and the more things that go inside, the more opportunities I have to forget to bring it back out.

I’d like to see the helmet come with more lenses. The darker ones are a bit too dark for the speckled lighting on a treed trail, especially near sunset or sunrise. They have made a lense that is mostly clear, and those new gouges would be less noticable if the clear one had been an option rather than an additional purchase. Polarized options would be nice too.

The eye protection of the visor/goggles is good enough that I open my eyes wider and relax my face much more than with sunglasses. The wider area coverage of the UV protection is a bonus too.

Photo of the helmet from underneath. The two light colored areas are the air slits in the goggles that bring airflow inside over the eyes.

Air Flow Slits

The slits at the top of the goggles could prove to be an issue for me. The slits are there to wash your face in air. I’ve seen some reviews where the reviewer didn’t think the flow was enough. So far, I’ve just been using mine as the temperatures cool moving toward fall, but they do work pretty well for me. In fact, I have dry eye, so my concern is that they might work too well. My problem could be age related, or it could be the amount of riding that I’m doing. It may be manageable, but it’s something to pay attention to. The first time I built up to a century ride, we started in cold months. It caused some seriously dry lips and peeling skin that seemed way too serious to be caused by the riding. But, the dermatologist simply told me to use Aquaphor on my lips and skin. It took a while. I was doubting her, but it worked finally. I still use it.

Now I have drops from the ophthalmologist that I use before and after my rides along with some other treatments. Time will tell how well the drops work and whether or not the slits cause any more drying than I had with sunglasses. As a general rule, in the past, my vision has been better when I ride (with or without glasses). That’s probably the cardio benefit I’m experiencing. And, logically, it seems that if I’m relaxing my face and opening my eyes more, the air circulation isn’t causing a bigger problem than riding without the upper half my face covered. I looked for aerodynamic articles or video to see what the actual air flow of different configurations was, but everything I found was about reducing helmet drag for a competitive advantage and didn’t seem like information that illuminated my questions specific to air flow around the eyes. I do suspect that three slightly smaller slits, one over the nose and two over the temples might be better for me, maybe better for other people too.

The attached goggles, slits and all, provide another benefit that is, maybe, unique to me. I don’t personally like anything on my forehead, probably due in part to the sensitive skin. Since I was old enough to decide for myself, I haven’t even had bangs on my forehead. So, I tend to wear my helmet incorrectly. I’m not trying to be difficult, I’m just uncomfortable and I keep inching it up, then it seems to fit there in that wrong place. People give me grief about it, from strangers, yes, strangers, to my grandson. When they do, I fix it, a little, temporarily. Now that I’m wearing a helmet with attached goggles in a fixed location, it’s easy for me to know how far down on my forehead the helmet should actually go. My eyes go in the middle between the slits above and the bottom of the lens. If I wear it wrong, it doesn’t cover my eyes and now that feels as stupid as it looks. So, this highly advanced helmet does have an unexpected advantage for this challenged rider with user errors.

Why would I be willing to share this embarrassing fact with people I hope will support my project? Well, partly because I hope you’re laughing with me, partly because someone might benefit or learn from my mistakes, and partly because I’m just a 60 year old grandma who’s not trying to be anything except who she is. I started riding a bike before riders were expected to wear helmets (and survived the resulting concussion) and now I’m a little better at meeting safety norma than I was before I got this new helmet. I don’t so much think there are many people out there making the same exact mistake as me, but I do hope that someone looking at me doing this will say “You know, if she can do that, I can do this thing that I want to do.” and that’s more likely if I don’t pretend to be something I’m not.

This is after about a 40 minute ride. The helmet was not tight, perhaps even on the loose side.

Now that I’m wearing the helmet properly and lower on my forehead, I’ll need to revisit the headbands I’ve been using. I had a variety for experimentation with my other helmet to relieve the pressure and related acne I was getting along the hairline. I don’t really want to wait to see if that also happens lower down where everyone can see it.

My goal is to choose a single best option to use always, so that the only times I will need to change the helmet fit adjustments will be in the winter when I need heavier fleece cold ear protection. I bought a huge supply of Buffs and Smartwool neck gaiters for riding masked early in the pandemic (before they were found to be the least effective mask to wear, and before masks outdoors were deemed unnecessary). Worn as headbands they are helping to reduce that after ride red spot on my forehead, and they are very easy to move forward of where a normal headband would go. Yesterday, the weather was cool and breezy. It was easy to move the buff down over my ears because I don’t have earpieces anymore. I wouldn’t normally have been looking for ear protection at this temperature, but I was more comfortable having it. The neck gaiters are so versatile, but I expect I’ll be hoping to find something breezier when the summer heat rolls back around.

Tuesday Trippin’ October 1-11

I was still going to write up last week a day late, but this week came along and blew it right out of me. Russ and I had a commitment to each other to complete the project video this weekend. Then my tech guy came along and suggested that I live stream for engagement. I think I like the word “engagement” in my life now about as much as I liked the words “on task” (as in “needs to be”) when my kids were in school. I said “But my budget is complete. What will it cost?”

I didn’t feel great in the first place. There was a week of rain expected, so we decided to get our second shingles shots while the weather was wet in case it was as bad as the first. The first was draining and caused the biggest reaction I’ve ever had to a vaccine. I hoped the second would be better. DENIED!

So, with bad weather, a miserable body and the holiday shopping season on the way, I was going to work on the Etsy store hard and strong. It’s the small side hustle that I dreamed would become a business one day. My conversion rate is usually good when I’m active in the store and I have a five star review average, but that alone isn’t an indicator of profit. My number of listings vary, depending on whether or not sales are coming in fast enough cover listing fees. If you carry 500 listings, it takes $100 net per quarter to cover the listing fees alone. Usually listing a bunch of items will trigger a sale or two, but during the low seasons it may not be a net gain after fees and expenses. Not being a fan of net losses, I let many listings expire in the off season and build back up for the holiday shopping frenzy. The problem is that the sales aren’t coming this time. I’m a “star seller” with 100 percent scores across all the metrics they use to decide the designation. But, there is a minimum dollar amount and number of sales needed to get/keep the designation and I currently have no sales for October. It is the first time I’ve built the shop up for the holiday season and not triggered sales while building. I’m at a loss, to understanding how I can make a future with Etsy. I’ve had to raise prices because shipping and other costs keep going up. I’ve been on the edge of closing for at least 4 years. I need to keep the store open while I promote this video project so that anyone can see that I’m able and willing to please customers, but I’m less certain than I’ve ever been that can justify being on Etsy next year at this time. Like too many other people, I’m there because I love the idea of what Etsy was and the dream of what it might mean for me if I could make it profitable.

It was while I was contemplating the potential death of my Etsy store that my tech guy brought up streaming. Some time back I was riding alone a lot and I wanted to stream my rides to a single person who’d show the video to the police if anything ever happened to me. It wasn’t feasible then, so it wasn’t on my mind for this, and I felt like it was a little late to be changing things. In truth this project will change constantly, even after it’s funded, but this was a change that interfered with my plan to get the project officially out there very quickly. He is probably right though. Engagement. If we can stream, it should help.

I was physically miserable from the “jab” and still not excited about the disruption in our existing plan when I went west to test stream through areas with low and no signal strength. The weather was questionable and I hadn’t really looked at my tech. I’m a Luddite, until I’m motivated not to be. Once I wanted to be part of a team attempting a world record length balloon flight. I got my HAM license and learned to send packet location data so that I could (we got the record BTW). I’d have to learn it all over again to do it now. I use my phone to call, text and photograph. It doesn’t have games, and until this week, didn’t have social media.

I felt pressure to get on with it though. I was grumbling about putting Facebook on my phone and asking if there wasn’t another way to live stream. I didn’t have good prep or mounting hardware for anything. It started raining at my first choice location just before I pulled up at the Tara Drummond trailhead and the scrape of my worn windshield wipers was grating.

I didn’t want to get the phone soaked and I’d driven too far to give up, so I drove out further where the rain was lighter. At Coot’s Lake the weather was misting and the trail was littered with slippery wet leaves. I had that brain fog that comes with trying to rise to the occasion when you just want to curl up in bed and sleep it off, but I didn’t drive for an hour just to emit greenhouse gases and fight falling asleep on the way home. I needed to accomplish something, so I took the bike off the rack.

I forgot my brand new shiny helmet with the goggles. I forgot to change shoes. I realized that near the car. I was wary of slipping on the wet leaves, but if I went back for them I wasn’t sure I’d actually ride. I left my cheap drug store readers trailside to pick them back up on returning. My bike bags were full. I was taking video of the inside of one bike bags so the phone would stay clean and dry. The plan was to compare any streaming gaps to the network signal strength tester I thought I was running in the background

I went to and through Brushy Mountain Tunnel describing where there were high rocks or open spaces on either side along the way, then just barely into the edge of the Paulding Forest. I stopped to turn around and check to see if I was still streaming. I was. I was streaming black screen with terrible audio to my personal profile instead of the private group we set up for the test. I was trying to fix it all without the glasses I left back near the car. This is when and where I decided it’s time for multifocal contacts. I need to just get over it and learn to stick my fingers in my eyes. I turned everything off and started back to the car. I resolved to pick up my glasses, take a deep breath and start again.

I was still riding very carefully because of the slippery leaves and lack of helmet. I passed a group of people with a Doberman. The person who was supposed to be holding the leash wasn’t. I sped up as much as I was comfortable in the wet leaves while the dog’s leash bounced on the pavement. I don’t know whether I was more afraid of the dog or a fall, but I was aware that it could be a double header. The dog got tired of chasing me while I was still upright and I learned first hand that adrenaline will completely wipe out the feeling of side effects from a vaccine.

I picked up my glasses as I neared the car. I rethought my second attempt. I didn’t want to go back toward the Doberman for a second try any more. After the Doberman, I didn’t want to go in the other direction where the St. Bernard that chased me that one time lives. I loaded up told my peeps I was in the car safe. I thought about going on out to Cedartown and riding even further west, but that’s a long way for someone to drive to rescue me if the day kept on getting worse. The adrenaline had charged me up, but my brain was spent. I just needed to get a handle on dealing with a delay that’s worthwhile. As I drove home, wide awake, the clouds cleared and the blue sky was glorious. I told myself to just enjoy the view and remember that the leaves on the trail still weren’t dry.

Next Try

I haven’t been happy with the sensitivity level of the glass screen protector my tech guy recommended. Pushing on the glass sometimes makes enough movement to ruin photos. I’ve been really tempted to try a flexible one instead.

Screen cap from the end of my feed for Sunday. Russ is watching me check my phone for damage. You can see him through the reflection in my goggles and the haze of my crumpled glass screen protector.

Russ and I went back out on Sunday together. We drove to Cedartown and rode west because it’s an iffy signal section of trail that’s really too far out for me to be riding alone. We confirmed that the signal is low in most places and the video quality is poor, but at least we were streaming to the private group this time. While we were out there I ran over a big green walnut with my front tire. The bounce caused my expensive new Galaxy 21 Ultra to dismount and I ran over it with my back tire. I may not like the sensitivity of that hard glass screen protector, but the phone still appears to be fine. I came home and ordered another one.

The broken screen saver left a fine powder of dust that I thought was the same kind of micro cracks that accumulated on my old old phone. Russ told me to wipe and the undamaged screen was a relief.

Tuesday Trippin’ September 27

A lot happened this week. My leg is healing well and only occasionally reminding me that I parted company with my bike while riding. I got in some decent rides and the injury was not my limiting factor for any of them, in fact I find myself going further than I expect. I start off thinking it will be a short ride because I don’t feel that good, and before I know it I’m wondering why I didn’t turn around sooner. I tend not to take breaks when I ride without Russ. That will change, not just because Russ will be with me, but also because we will need to check and maintain camera equipment often.

I ordered the helmet I’ve been considering for a while. I’m pretty happy and going to discuss that in a separate post, just so it’s easy to search. While writing something different this week, I wasn’t able to find out if I had talked about it before. I’ve been having technical difficulties with the page. It seems like I was previously able to search on text, but for now, I’ll make doubly certain it’s searchable.

I did some research on the new Hero Black 10.  I’m so glad this camera will be available for the project. I’ll take it as a sign that things are happening in the best way possible. A lot of the reviews seemed a little underwhelmed and looked at them from the perspective of “most users”. I can’t really speak for most users, but for myself, the new differences should matter to me quite a lot. I had hoped this model would allow access for auxiliary power with the battery door closed. It won’t. Hopefully it’s the same size door and I won’t have to wait for after market sources to make a door that allows this and fits the new model. The reason they don’t do that is that more people are interested in the waterproof quality than are interested in access to that port while in use. I do plan to ride in wet conditions if I can and still take good video, but getting the whole ride is the primary goal, and an auxiliary battery will make more sense than carrying enough batteries to change every hour, give or take.

I’m looking forward to a beautiful fall and October has come of the best riding of the year.