Winter Fun Day

This morning I drove up to Tible Fork Reservoir in American Fork Canyon for a quick cross country ski jaunt. I hiked up a trail along a little stream (Deer Creek?). I hiked because there is a steep, short hill that is way easier to walk up than ski and the snowshoers had packed it down good so the going was easy.

After the hill I put on the skies and did the Spike, Barracks and Tree Army Loops of Granite Flat (it's a campground in summer) before exiting out the entrance and skiing down the road and tubing hill to get back to the car. It was a nice 1 hour ski with plenty of light, fluffy snow - in fact it was snowing lightly while I skied.

After the ski, our family went ice skating with my wife's family at The Peaks Arena. (Trivia: Several hockey games for the 2002 Winter Olympics were held at this facility.) We had a fun time with Kade doing better at his run-skating, Kara didn't need to hold on to anyone as much, and Rachel went solo and didn't fall down even once. Afterward we rendezvoused at my wife's parent's house for some home-made soup and rolls, snacks and other goodies. Ya, it was a good winter Saturday.

LED Flashlight for Helmet Light

I blame Dave Harris for getting me interested in LED lights for cycling. Here are some of his LED light projects. As you can see, he's come up with some very bright, long-running lights for his endurance races. I've done plenty of tinkering in my time, so I got fired up to build my own lights. But as I searched the web, I decided to try an intermediate step first - use a LED flashlight as a helmet light.

But first, a little background on LED (Light Emitting Diode) lamps. The newest LED lamp products from Cree (XLamp X-RE Q5) and SSC (Z Power P4) put out more than 100 lumens of light at 350 mA, and over 240 lumens at 1000 mA (1 Amp)! To put this in perspective, a 4-cell Maglite flashlight with a normal incandescent bulb outputs 122 lumens and a 100 Watt incandescent light bulb outputs 1700 lumens. So these new LEDs may not seem like much compared to a 100 Watt house light, but compared to a Maglite they output around the same light but require much less electrical current (from the batteries).

So I went looking to see what flashlights used these new LEDs. I found plenty, but went with the UltraFire C2 that uses the Cree XLamp X-RE Q5 - here it is:

It may look big, but it's only 5 inches long. I bought the UltraFire C2 for $26 from Deal Extreme along with some lithium ion rechargeable batteries (protected 18650 and RCR123A) and a charger. I spent about $55 and it took 2 weeks for the items to arrive from Hong Kong.

I charged up the 18650 batteries and popped one into the flashlight - wow, it was really bright! I came across a video showing how one cyclist used a rubber LiveStrong wristband to attach a flashlight to a helmet, and I was pleased to find that it works perfect for my Specialized helmet:

The angle even appears to be about right, but I may need to shim it up a little. From my first night ride I learned that it's important to have the light shinning where I naturally look. Otherwise I'd have to tilt my head up or down to compensate and this put my head in an unnatural position which was very annoying.

The flashlight makes the helmet a bit front-heavy so I hope it doesn't tip down as I ride. If this is a problem, hopefully I'll just need to tighten the straps on the helmet, but I may need to add a counterbalance to the back of the helmet (I can hear the weight-weenies gasping).

I've been anxious to get out and try the light on a ride, but the recent cold and snow has changed my mind each time. Last night I took it out on the street and snapped this photo:

It probably doesn't look like much, but I'm pretty sure that's enough light for me to mountain bike. Some day I'll take the new flashlight out for it's first ride, and I'll be sure to blog about it.

In the mean time, I need to at least find out how long each type of battery will run. I can use one 18650, or two RCR123A batteries. The two RCR123A batteries should run longer because they produce a higher voltage that will stay above the cutoff (won't run anymore) voltage of the regulator built into the flashlight. In any case it's nice to have more than one set of batteries. When I get the testing done I'll post here in case anyone else is buying an UltraFire C2 and needs to know which battery works best.

I should also mention the two modifications I made. To the flashlight I added a mound of solder to the center of the lamp board so the the short positive terminal of the 18650 battery wouldn't touch other [bad] areas of the board. To the charger I had to add some wires to connect up the horizontal terminals so I could also charge the shorter RCR123A batteries (see the Specifications and Discussions sections for more details).

This flashlight may work as-is for a cycling helmet light. But if not, I could use the parts to make a more customized light - maybe add a larger battery pack for longer run time, or add a bFlex to give me more light control options, or gang two of these together on the helmet for more light, or add 1-3 of them on the bars for even more light! I bought a handlebar mount, but it is made out of weak and brittle plastic and it broke the first time I opened the clasp so, I'll either have to rebuild it, or try something else if I want to try the flashlight on the bars.

Update: I ran a fairly-recently-charged 18650 battery for 5 hours last night and it was still going strong! I finally had to go to bed so I shut it off. I was expecting it to go 2-3 hours tops. Now I'm even more excited about this light. I'll run the light again to see how much longer it will go past 5 hours. Yes, I know the battery will "bounce back" some, but even flawed it's useful data. Maybe I'll take the light with me to work and let it run - if it goes over 8 hours I'll be shocked. Next up is the pair of RCR123A batteries.

Update 2: Continuing the session with the 18650 battery it ran strong for an additional hour, then started to fade. It ran another 30-45 minutes with light that would be good enough for low speeds (i.e. climbing). After that it got pretty dim - enough to see if walking, but biking would be difficult. So, a solid 6 hours of bright light is better than I expected and more than enough for my evening rides - and since I have more batteries I could easily go all night if I did a 24 hour race. Not bad! OK, the next test will be the RCR123A batteries.

Update 3: I tried the RCR123A batteries twice, but they only ran about an hour. The first time I noticed that the flashlight was fairly warm, so for the second try I put it out in the garage with an air temperature near 20. But it shut off again. Both times the light would go back on after it went out, but putting in a 18650 battery it would light. I can only conclude the RCR123A batteries were drained or defective. I'll look into this a bit more, but with the 18650 batteries working so well, I'm not really motivated.

Curling Slo-mo

Just chillin' yesterday watching some TV, and came across a Curling match between the US and Swedish teams. A few synapses fired producing these thoughts:

- A rather large expense was incurred to televise the match: at least two cameras and cameramen (one was up high to get the birds-eye view), commentators, a sidelines reporter, score graphics, editing, then send it out (probably via satellite), and broadcast it on a major network to most of the nation. All this effort for ... Curling?

- Curling looks fun to play, but it's not that interesting to watch. It's shuffleboard on ice.

- Can you call it a sport? Curling makes bowling look athletic. I'd call curling a fun activity, but a sport? I don't think so. I could go on a long rant here about many olympic "sports" that don't seem very sporty to me, but I won't.

But what made me laugh out loud was the slow motion replay. Yes, some brainiac decided that the viewers may have missed the subtle nuances of a granite rock sliding along the ice at 5 mph and striking another granite rock producing the expected Newtonian motion that every Earthling has a lifetime of familiarity. This absurdity hit me right in the funny bone. My wife and I chuckled about it for a few minutes and then we kept reviving it throughout the day, to our amusement. And the slo-mo shot wasn't even that interesting. The shot below from the 2006 Olympics was much more involved and thrilling, and they didn't slo-mo it once; real-time speed was perfect for appreciating it.

And since I was on YouTube, I found this Manatoba (that's Canada) TV commercial promoting Curling. I really though this was one of those Saturday Night Live fake commercials, but it's all too real.

Curling even has it's own merchandise, mostly trite and tired:

OK, this one was a little funny, and the next one was amusing because it's obscure:

But I became indignant when I came across this one:

So after man evolved to stand up-right, the next evolutionary step is squatting down to slide a rock along ice? Maybe some of my fellow homosapiens are taking that evolutionary path, but I prefer to take this one:

That's more like it! We use our brains to invent a machine (the bicycle) that amplifies our relatively weak physical strength (compared to other animals) allowing travel at much higher speeds (than running) over longer distances.

Snowshoe Thrashing

I'm home hobbling around after a 9.5 mile snowshoe hike today up Mill Canyon (up American Fork Canyon near Tibble Fork Reservoir) with the Utah Velo Club. My friend DJ let me use an extra pair of his snowshoes while he tried out some snowshoes he modified to add a 3-pin binding so he could wear some cross country ski boots (they worked fine). It was COLD this morning at 7 AM (Stan said it was -5). I brought some old XC ski poles, but the baskets broke off after only a hundred yards, so I left them continued on with out them - since snowshoeing is like walking, it wasn't that bad to not have poles. We broke a LOT of trail in soft, powdery snow. I broke trail 4-5 times and it was a work out! But it was a beautiful winter day. We saw a moose up on the opposite hillside. Many of the 33 that started didn't have time to go all the way to the ridge overlooking Mill Peak, but 5 of us made it that far before turning around and heading back.

I would have taken more pictures, but the batteries in my digital camera gave out due to the cold. I'll have to get some lithium batteries (non-rechargeable) as they do much better in the cold.

Stan took this photo of us at the top of Mill Canyon (I'm 2nd from the left):

Stan has some more photos and a GPS track of our route.

I'm starting feel a bit better, but I'm wondering how sore I'll be tomorrow. But it felt good to get out and enjoy some winter outdoors.

Happy (Take Your Pick) Holiday!

UTRider made a nice cycling Christmas card. He encouraged me to do the same. But I couldn't decide what card to go with so here are 3 for your consideration:

But why should I limit myself to just one? Why can't I triple dip the holidays? According to evolutionary theory, the whole human family began in Africa so that gives me my in with Kwanzaa. And I'm sure some ancestor was Jewish so Hanukkah's a go too. Happy ChrisKwanzUkkah to all!

California Quickie

I flew out to southern California and back today for work. Got up at 5 am and arrived at LAX around 9:30, picked up a rental car (a muscley-looking, blue Dodge Avenger) and drove north-west 45 miles to Ventura. With business concluded around 2 pm, I didn't have much time to sight see, but was able to squeeze in a stop at the Channel Islands Beach. I resisted the urge to take off my shoes and socks and walk barefoot on the sand, because I feared I'd linger too long and miss my return flight. So a tantalizing taste is all I got.

Back in the car I decided to take the Pacific Coast Highway back to LA. It was a nice drive and took very close to the same time as the freeway (101). The road goes along the cost with mountains to the left, ocean to the right. I don't see the ocean very often so it was nice to see it for miles along the drive. Passing through Malibu, a classic California town, I saw the many styled houses perched on the hills, the various beeches and areas of burned trees from the wildfires this year.

I saw several cyclists on the road and wished I had more time and a bike to ride. All too soon I was back at LAX and on the plane for home. It was a whirlwind trip, but at least I was able to take in a few sights.

Busy Week in Review

Sorry (to all 3 readers) for the lack of posts - I've been busy until today. So this post will be a recap of the highlights from this week.

Walking home today my wife pointed out this spectacular cloud formation over Mount Timpanogos.

Right now I'm listening to an outstanding A Capella song from Vocal Point titled "He is Born" (sample) - the mellow verses and the soaring chorus are helping put me in the Christmas spirit.

Monday work was busy as I got caught up after the Arizona trip. In the evening we started painting the family room and I packaged up some stuff I sold on eBay.

Tuesday was Kade's (our youngest) preschool program and the company dinner.

Wednesday was more painting and eBay stuff.

Thursday was Rachel's choir performance and Kade's birthday party (he got a lightsaber and was beyond happy).

Friday Jolene and I went out to dinner and Christmas shopping, then watched Amazing Grace before bed. I enjoyed Amazing Grace - it's a serious film, but also entertaining - a quality work with excellent acting, fantastic period cinematography, and a good story with engaging dialog.

Saturday I painted in the morning then we attended a family Christmas party followed by more Christmas shopping.

I've been getting to bed late every night and I'm beat. Hopefully I'll get some rest today and be ready for a quick business trip to southern California tomorrow.

On December 2nd I took some photos of new fallen snow that I've been meaning to post, so here's a selection.

And finally, here's a photo from Novemeber 29th of a colorful sunset.

Arizona Day 3 – Usery Mountain

It’s Sunday and Mark and I are driving home. We’re in Arizona between Kingman and Las Vegas and I’m writing this on Mark’s laptop. And while the Wasatch Front has been getting pounded with snow, we’re driving through sunny desert with blue skies and white, puffy clouds.

The plan for Saturday was a ride with Paul’s dental school buddies who had flown in for his 30th birthday surprise party. We talked with Tim, Mark and Tom during the party Friday night and learned that each of them had done a fair amount of mountain biking. It had rained most of the night and the weather forecast looked dicey. We kicked around several ride ideas and Saturday morning we settled on Usery Mountain Regional Park with Pass Mountain being the main trail of interest.

After picking up the rental bikes, we drove out to Usery. A hiker and park volunteer gave us some info about the trail. It sounded pretty technical, but we at least wanted to check it out. The desert scenery was fantastic with rocky soil sprinkled with scrubby brush and cacti with Pass Mountain and the stormy sky backdrop. The trail was good but “featured” waterbars every 20-50 feet and the many wash crossings were usually technical both down and up. I wasn’t getting into any kind of flow and Mark was getting frustrated too. So after 2 miles we turned back while Paul and his buddies pressed on around Pass Mountain. I have a little regret that I didn’t see the whole trail, but it was the right call as I had a blast on the trails south of Pass Mountain. The technical level went down a notch and we got into longer stretches of uninterrupted riding. We went south on the Pass Mountain trail which was some fun riding with a few semi-tricky wash crossings. Then we turned off (south) onto the Cat Peaks (east) trail for some fun downhill cruising on mostly smooth trail. Next was the Meridian and Blevins trails straight west which rolled along for a few miles to twisty Moon Rock trail with its bermed curves that I really liked. We ended up at Merkle Hills where I entertained myself with a mellow jump. Here's a trail map (PDF).

We hadn’t heard from the Paul’s group (we had cell service the whole time) so we took the Pass Mountain trail again hoping to meet them coming the other way. Sure enough we met them just after the Cat Peaks turnoff. They had a good ride and were game for more so we went down Cat Peaks (west) trail and did the short but steep climb over Cat Peak Pass then took Blevins west and did Moon Rock again but the other direction which was slightly downhill and faster. Then we back tracked to the Cat Peaks junction to complete the Pass Mountain trail for Paul’s group.

I really enjoyed the riding diversity of Usery. I was in the mood to go fast and I got plenty of that on the southern trails. Paul’s group had a good time on the Pass Mountain trail. All but one of them went over the bars, and it was some rough riding, but they all said they had a great time. It was a good ending to my Arizona mountain biking trip.

Arizona Day 2 - McDowell

Today we went to McDowell Mountain Regional Park with Mark's brother, Paul. We hit the Sport, Technical, Long, and Sport (again) trails (map PDF). It was really nice desert cruising. The weather looked threatening all day, but we only got significant rain once, and it didn't last long. At the end of the Sport trail I took a nice jump that I believe is the biggest air I've ever caught (it wasn't huge, but gave me a rush). This was the kind of riding you just don't want to end.

The weather was still holding so we drove a few more miles and Mark and I blitzed the Scenic trail. It was a good 3 mile ride, but I didn't stop to snap any photos - sorry.

Arizona Day 1 - South Mountain

I'm going to keep this short because I'm using Mark's (UTRider) laptop and he needs to do his blog entry too.

I flew into Phoenix today, Mark picked me up and we headed straight to South Mountain to try our hand at the National trail on South Mountain. I knew from the web that it was burly, and indeed it was. I walked a bunch but rode some techie stuff that pleased me. Hard to ask for better weather, low 70s and overcast. I'll write more later, or just let the photos do the talking - beginning with the obligatory tourist cactus shot:

After a quick run to In-n-Out for fuel, we hit the Deseret Classic trail - a nice rolling single-track along the east side of South Mountain: