Saturday, June 2nd, 2007
9:40 am - Four Days Off  
Vacation is ended; now it's just the weekend. As usual, I got very little accomplished. My original plan was to finally build myself a shed. BJ's has a lovely vinyl shed for $1K that I've had my eye on for years, so I took the lid off the back of the truck so the two huge boxes it comes in would fit, and got ready to head up to Coventry. But first... I decided to read the assembly instructions (they're online), just to make sure I'd not be getting too far in over my head.

The instructions say that it takes two people to build one of these things, preferably with a third standing around reading the instructions aloud (and no doubt holding a clipboard). They probably don't really mean that. I should be able to build the sucker without having anyone else about, right? I don't really have much choice in that.

What did stop me dead was the need for a foundation. Now, the shed comes with a perfectly nice floor. Why does it need a foundation on top of, or rather, below that? Apparently, if that floor isn't perfectly level, the shed will be impossible to construct. Now my yard is pretty flat, but perfectly level? Okay, not really. They gave some examples of suitable foundations. A poured concrete slab? Ummm, no. The framework of treated 2x4's with a plywood subfloor looked promising until I checked on prices at the Depot. The frame itself would cost $40, perfectly reasonable, but the ½" plywood would be another $75 on top of that. I'd then also have to build a ramp to get from ground level up to floor level. I think not. The last option was to build a rectangle of treated 2x4's, and fill that with pea gravel, about 10 cubic feet of the stuff according to the instructions. That looked promising. The wood would be cheap, $18, and how much could pea gravel cost? I didn't know, so I went back to the Depot to find out.

It turns out you can find pea gravel in two different departments. In the garden department it comes in 0.5 ft³ bags @ $3.49/bag. That seemed pricey, so I went to the other side of the store to where the concrete fixings are kept. Over there pea gravel is $2.77/bag for 50 lbs. Damn, I hate it when they mix units like that. How many pounds of pea gravel are in 1 ft³? They had some charts about how much gravel was needed for how deep an application, so it looks like the concrete gravel is more economical. No surprise there. I suspect the garden shop is much more of a profit center than the concrete aisle. While I was there, I also discovered that they carried 50 lb bags of asphalt cold patch, which should be just the thing for filling in the holes in my driveway left behind by the amazing sinking Subaru.

Anyway, after a couple of days of running around, looking at sheds and potential foundations, I decided that I'd had enough overthinking for the week, and will revisit the whole project in the future.

---
I did accomplish one thing. Awhile back I tried to stem the leakage of water trough the upstairs window sill plates by fitting them with vinyl covers that I then stapled into place. That worked for a little while, but eventually a good strong wind blew them off. The wood was just too rotted to hold the staples. While wandering around the Depot, I came up with plan B. If silicone caulk is good enough to keep water from getting through crevises and cracks, why not just apply a thin layer over the entire sill plate? Turns out it takes about half a tube per window, but the stuff is only a couple of bucks a tube, and it appears to work splendidly. I just applied a few long beads of the stuff along the obvious cracks in the wood, and then used a spackling knife to spread it out over the entire surface. It turned out to be a hell of a lot easier than cutting and fitting the pieces of vinyl was. Eventually, I will buy new windows.

---
I ordered a new bike yesterday. Thursday, I drove to Wyoming (which is a village in southwestern Rhody, not a state as everyone supposes) intending to visit the sole remaining Fuji bike dealer in my vicinity. It took me a while to find it, being located towards the rear of an aging strip mall, but when I did it turned out to be closed on Thursdays. Now I had never heard of a bike shop being closed on Thursdays before, so with tears in my eyes, I proceeded back home. I went back yesterday, and this time they were open. As I walked in the door, the owner gave me a quick glance, and asked me a question about my bike. Then he realized that I wasn't the guy he thought I was, who apparently looks very much like me (poor fellow). Anyway, the guy is a bit of a flake, but he's friendly and doesn't appear to look down on those of us who are, say, more casual in their biking habits. Unlike the places I usually go, like Casters or Steadmans, it's a one-man operation. We talked about the problems I had with the Widowmaker, and he suggested ways I might address them without buying a new bike, which turned out to be the things I'd already tried. Before doing anything else, he suggested I bring in my bikes so he could measure them so we'd make sure to order the correct size bike.

Went home, had lunch, and then threw the bikes in the back of the truck (and was thankful I'd taken off the lid). Upon measuring, I discovered a couple of things. First, I was totally correct that the 17" frame on the Widowmaker was way too small. I need a 21" frame. Second, the Univega is technically a tad too big for me. There's a measurement called "stand over height" which is the height of the crossbar over the ground. One should be able to stand over a bike with their feet on the ground, and not touch the crossbar, i.e., the stand over height of the bike shouldn't be greater than the person's inseam. The Univega is about an inch too high, and the crossbar does touch, although not so much that it's ever caused a problem in the 14 years I've been riding it, so there ya go.

Despite the psychological draw, in the end I did not order the Fuji Absolute DX, but went up to the Absolute LX. He didn't have any of either in stock, so it had to be ordered, and should arrive by next weekend. The thing that I thought might be the deal breaker on the Absolute bikes was the twist shifters, but we talked about them. He showed me some bikes with similar shifters, and they weren't as bad as I thought they'd be. (I'd assumed the entire grip rotated, but it's just the inner third or so.) Even then I still prefer quick shifts, and he said we could swap in a set of those instead once the bike arrived. I didn't even have to leave a deposit. I really enjoy doing business with this guy. The shop is about the same distance from my house as Casters (if not from work), and is less annoying to get to. He also offered to help me sell the Widowmaker, either by advertising it at the shop, or even taking it on consignment. He's says that since it's still in almost new condition, and since I never sent in the warranty card, I should be able to get most of what I paid for it. That'd be nifty. Meanwhile, this time next week I should have not one, not two, but three bikes residing in my living room. I really do need to build a shed.

---
Supposed to go riding on Block Island tomorrow with the VB crew. There is a chance of rain, but it looks like not enough of one to cancel.