Saturday, April 18, 2009

Deep Survival

I just finished reading the book Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. The book relates many extreme examples of survival that people were able to live to tell about. It also shares some examples where people did not survive. The point of his book is to try to understand what makes some people survive while others just give up and die.

In the last chapter it talks about 12 possible things that sets survivors apart from the rest. These 12 things include the ability to:

  1. Perceive and believe your circumstance
  2. Stay calm
  3. Think, analyze and plan
  4. Take correct, decisive action
  5. Celebrate your successes
  6. Count your blessings
  7. Play
  8. See the beauty
  9. Believe you will succeed
  10. Surrender
  11. Do whatever is necessary
  12. Never give up
One other component not covered in this list is that there is a degree in circumstance. Sometimes you happen to be in the right place at the right time. Conversely others may be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Overall the book is about how people react when they are put in trying circumstances.

Since reading this book, I have been thinking about the times in my life where I have been a
survivor. I was hit by a car as a kid and ended up going home with no injuries. On the day I was hit, I decided to take all of my school books home with me in my backpack - this was odd because I rarely did homework at home, I always managed to do it during school hours. I vividly remember seeing the truck as it was about to hit me. I turned to try to go back to the sidewalk. When I turned I inadvertently put my backpack full of books between me and the truck. This most likely saved me from serious injury. If I had seen the truck and froze in my tracks, there might have been a different outcome to my story.

Other times I remember are being in a cave (Alexander) and getting to a point where our group thought we were lost. My brother panicked. His panicking actually helped me to remain calm because I knew I had to be the source of calm. Obviously we got out of the cave, but there was a period of time when our group had its doubts about the outcome of our day.

Once Daniel and I headed up to Mt. Rogers in April. Looking back, we really didn't have the necessary gear for possible bad weather. We spent a night in a shelter on the trail. The next morning we woke up to cold temps, strong wind, wet conditions and fog so heavy you could barely see the trail. If it had been a few degrees colder, we could have been in more serious trouble. We hiked out.

When Daniel cut his leg open with a chain saw, I initially panicked, but after a while, I was able to pull myself together enough to be able to get the necessary things from our house and drive us to the ER. Daniel was calm through the whole event which helped me greatly. Inside I was freaking out, but outside I was able to function.

I hope that if I am ever in more dire circumstances, like those presented in the book, I will be a survivor.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

You have bike questions, my husband has answers...

There have been a couple of times people have asked me about bike stuff. While I do ride a bike for pleasure and sometimes for commuting or to buy groceries, all of what I know or do comes from the research of my overly analytical husband who loves bikes and loves researching. Anyways, here is a comprehensive list of suggestions he wrote a while back. If you are looking into getting into biking and are curious about the costs and recommendations, this is for you...

Includes info on helmets, gloves, hydration, bike shorts & seats, locks, lights, racks & panniers and general thoughts on types of bikes (in that order).


Helmets: $20-$40 ones are fine, they all protect the same, some are just cooler looking so people pay way too much $$ for them.

Padded are more comfortable and protect your hands if you fall off. Maybe $15-$30?

Water bottle is fine for rides 1 hours and less, longer than that you’ll need either multiple bottles, or a Camelbak, which can be used as a backpack as well as a water carrier. There are lots of brands of hydration packs, but the original Camelbak brand has the best water bladders (easiest to clean, least likely to leak).

Understand your butt will hurt when you first start riding, and will continue to every time your ride if you only do it once a month. Do it at least once or twice a week and after 3 or so weeks of that your body should be a little more used to it. If it still hurts at that point, consider some comfort purchases, such as padded shorts or different seat.

If you start riding more than 5-10 miles at a time, and your butt doesn’t hurt at all, great, but if it does, consider padded shorts. Do not buy them at Performance Bike, theirs are not very good IMO, do buy them at a bike shop or REI, expect to spend $30-50 each, Canari and Pearl Izumi are good brands, there are others.

Don’t wear underwear under them when you ride (but do when you try them on in the store). They have some that have outer shorts that look more normal in case you’re not in the mood to wander around wearing skin tight spandex.

Also, some people are never comfortable on the stock
seat that comes with bikes, you may have to try several different ones. As long as you don’t mess the seat up, and you keep the tags and receipt, Performance Bike and REI are good about letting you return seats you’ve ridden on for a few miles and figured out you didn’t like.

If you are going to park your bikes anywhere besides your own house, even for 5 minutes to run into a gas station, get a lock. How big/heavy/tough/expensive of a lock depends on:
  • How nice your bike is (ie how tempting it would be to a thief)
  • Where you are parking it (dark alley in the hood at night versus outside the local deli on a bright sunny day for lunch)
  • How long you are going to leave it parked there.
Don’t get the one with swing set-chain from WalMart for $6.88. U-locks are much more secure, and make it much less likely anyone would ever try to steal your bike, BUT they are heavy and a pain to carry. And it’s harder to find secure objects to lock a U-lock to than it is a cable lock. I have a U-lock that stays at work where my bike stays parked 12+ hours some days in a dark parking garage, but I keep a cable lock with me to use for quick stops at the grocery store. Maybe something similar to one of these (shown in increasing order of price, and increasing amount of security provided).

Wussy Cable Lock
Better Cable Lock

By the way, always make sure your bike
FRAME is locked to a secure object. Some people lock just the wheel and return to find that they are now the proud owners of a single bicycle wheel. If you can, lock the frame AND wheels to a secure object. More than you ever wanted to know about locking your bike up here:

If there’s any chance you’ll be out when it’s dark, including when it’s raining hard during the daytime,
blinking rear lights are a must, and front lights are recommended. Those should be $20-$25 max for the front, and $7-$20 for the rear. There are a lot of good ones, I like

If you start carrying stuff (ie commuting to work, grocery shopping) very often,
rack and panniers are way better than backpack, much more comfortable.

Specific Rack Recommendations:

I’m not a fan of the seat post mounted racks. They are easier to attach/remove, and probably work OK for light loads, I’ve even seen a couple of Charlotte bike cops using them for carrying really small bags, but I just feel like it’s too much weight to hang off a thin aluminum seat post tube that is only a couple hundredths of an inch thick.

While it’s not likely the post would break, it is possible (aluminum is a lot weaker than steel, and it does have a fatigue life), and you need to consider what it would happen if the top of the seat post tube broke off and took the rack and seat with it, and you suddenly found yourself “sitting” on what was left of the seat post, a large piece of jagged aluminum shaped like a spear pointed straight up. Get the picture?

So now that you’ve decided to get a regular rack, my recommendations assume you aren’t going on a world expedition, you’re just taking local rides to grocery store, work, run errands etc. And I’m only talking about rear racks here; not front ones. There’s not that much difference between a $130 rack and a $30 rack unless you’re hauling a LOT of weight, or venturing into the middle of nowhere.

My current rack is no longer in production, but if I bought a new one today, I would buy this guy, made by Topeak:

Two other good brands (at lower price points) are
Blackburn and Delta, especially Blackburn.

Fitting a rack to your bike:
They’re pretty generic, but a couple things to note.

If you have
disc brakes, you will probably have to get a rack designed to work with disc brakes, such as

They attach to the frame near the rear axle, and a mount on the frame just under the seat post collar. If you don’t have the proper mounts on your bike (like Cheree’s bike), you can still mount it, just requires more creativity, using stuff like this

Specific pannier recommendations:

It really depends on what you are going to do with them.

For grocery hauling or camping, you are going to want some that are large. The only pair of actual panniers we currently own are these:

They might be a bit on the large size if you have a small framed bike. If you put really big panniers on a really small bike, you may end of having your heels strike them (depends on your foot size too). Generally you would just move the panniers as far to the rear of the rack as possible, but even then there are some combination's that might now work. Nothing to obsess over, just don’t plan on putting the biggest panniers you can find on a 13 inch bike. MOST of the time most panniers will fit most people/bike/rack combos just fine.

I used those Nashbar panniers for a while, predominantly for bike commuting, and a bit of touring. I only carried one for commuting most days, except during winter when I hauled the 2nd one empty to work during the really cold mornings, and rode home in the warmer afternoons with the 2nd one stuffed full of my extra clothing from the cold morning ride.

They’re fairly cheaply constructed, but are durable, and work well for the larger hauling tasks. And at $40 for two, the value factor is great. If you just want to find out if you’ll like panniers or use them much, these are a relatively inexpensive way to explore the option. If you don’t like them after a few uses, sell them on eBay. They have one large main pocket, a small one on the side, and a small one on the top. And they’ll fit pretty much any bike rack.

Eventually though, I wanted something that was easier to carry around at the grocery store and between my desk and the parking garage. There are some nice panniers that come with backpack straps attached, like or

I wanted something more organized, easy to carry, and not so huge, and my mom got me this for Christmas a few years back
(thanks mom!):

This is (and has been for a long time) my #1 choice for general use bike bag. It’s expandable, so it’s only as big as you need it to be. It has a padded shoulder strap, so it’s easy to carry around at the office or grocery store, even when loaded. It has multiple pockets, and organization sleeves. I don’t drink beer, or much soda, especially while biking, but fellow cyclists have noted the main compartment holds a 6-pack perfectly, and keeps it cold for a while. For me, my tool kit, pump, spare tube, and other contingency gear stay in the bottom of the main compartment, and stuff that gets put in / taken out daily, like clothes, sits above it.

The panniers that zip out on the side are a bit smaller than a set of dedicated panniers, but they still hold probably 80% as much as the others, and it’s a lot easier to carry everything when it is all attached into one package with a shoulder strap, compared to 2 separate panniers with thin nylon handles that cut into your hands if they’re heavy.

The best part about it is if you have a Topeak MTX rack (recommended above), it slides right into the rails, and clicks into place. Takes <5 seconds to attach, and about 2 seconds to detach, and it is rock solid, and mounts in the same place every time.

My panniers have landed in the road once or twice when I failed to secure them properly. Fortunately most Charlotte area motorists have an aversion to running over a large black bag in the road out of fear it would hurt their high end luxury cars with 3" of ground clearance, so no harm done, just a couple scuffs on the bag. YMMV, especially if you live somewhere where more people drive big trucks and are less picky about what they drive over (Texas comes to mind). So if you stick with the panniers, make sure they're well attached if you're riding in/near/on the roadway.

Back to the Topeak bag, do note it will take a bit of practice to line up with the rails to attach it when it’s fully loaded, but once you learn, you don’t even notice anymore. My panniers only get used on really long rides in the mountains, or for groceries now. The other 95% of the time, it’s the Topeak MTX Trunk Bag EXP with Zip-Down Panniers. I sound like a stinking commercial, but really, I do like the bag a lot.

On upgrading bikes (if you ever think you want to): I wouldn’t buy a pure
road bike unless you really want to either look cool (or think you do), go extra fast, or put a lot of miles on it keeping up with other people in group road rides. I had one, liked it OK, but didn’t ride it that much, so I sold it. They’re a lot less forgiving than a hybrid or mountain bike, a little less comfortable (you’re trading better aerodynamics/more speed for comfort), and they get flat tires a little easier. Most every ride I take ends up being on my hybrid-ish bike.

If you decide you like mountain bike trails, it can be worth it to buy a
mountain bike. You can generally rent them first, or check out to see if they will be offering free rides in your area.

Hope that helps!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Sleep Paralysis

So a couple of nights ago, our interior infrared motion detector went off in the middle of the night. This was proceeded by me having what I thought was a panic attack - I woke up thinking I had heard something and was unable to move. When the alarm sounded, we both immediately sat up in bed and tried to decide what to do. After waiting for some time, and not hearing any noise, we agreed that Daniel should investigate.

I hid in the bathroom and Daniel went to clear the house. After being gone for a while, he came back to say that no one was in the house, but the sliding glass door in the basement was unlocked. We had most likely left it unlocked on Sunday after we ate lunch on our deck. So was someone in our house? We don't know.

This was the first time that I had ever told Daniel that I occasionally have what I thought to be panic attacks in the middle of the night. Generally they are close to when I fall asleep, sometimes I wake up with them. When this happens, I wake up unable to move any part of my body. I want to get Daniel's attention but I can't even talk. It is a very bizarre experience. Eventually my mind will overcome the fear and I will somehow persuade myself that I am ok and I will be able to move again.

After talking to Daniel about this and thinking about it some more, I tried googling to see if there was a name besides panic that describes what I go through. Well evidently it is called
sleep paralysis. After reading more about this, I am pretty sure this is what I experience several times a year.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Weekend Stuff

Old pic of Daniel and I playing DDR.

This weekend has been gorgeous . Thankfully we were able to take advantage of the sunshine and get some much needed yard work done. We are trying not to be the neighbors that everyone hates. Anyways, branches from spring storms have been picked up and the grass has been mowed. One of these days we will hopefully have time to start thinking about landscaping.

Today we were also able to get the master bathroom tiling wrapped up. All that is left is grouting and then installation of baseboard, plumbing, toilet and vanity.

I had really wanted to go mountain biking this weekend, but unfortunately we ran out of time. I did manage to spend some time being lazy in my hammock in the sunshine. I am definitely looking forward to more time in the hammock.

Saturday night we went to a cook out with friends. An evening of Dance Dance Revolution, Wii and other video games ensued. The highlight for me was watching uncoordinated engineers trying to do DDR. I can't make fun too much since my Wii bowling skills are as bad as ever (I can't throw the ball straight for the life of me).

Family Hike at Fiery Gizzard

On Saturday we had originally planned to go on a group hike on the Fiery Gizzard Trail , but it was cancelled at the last minutes. So...