Monday, October 15, 2012

Vegas Baby!

After departing Phoenix we arrived in Las Vegas. We had been to Vegas several years ago and had not been that impressed with the strip. At that time we did enjoy a day trip to search for aliens near Area 51, and visited the The Hoover Dam.

However this time we enjoyed the city more and stayed a week. We started out at the Vdara Hotel, after booking a deal via Priceline. After a few days we decided to switch to the Wynn Encore, after learning that they offer vegan menus at all their restaurants! (Check out an article on it here; Las Vegas: Vegans, get ready for a feast.) We were not disappointed with the food. Awesome entrees, appetizers, deserts and even bread baskets with vegan spread. It is wonderful to see companies being inclusive of vegans and recognizing that we are also a worthwhile market.

We gambled a little bit, walked up and down the strip, spent time in the pool and checked out Cirque De Soleil's Zumanity. The show was hilarious, and rather naughty, with all of the usual amazing cirque acrobatics. My favorite is when some poor sap in the front row gets pulled into the act (as long as it is of course not me!) J did get a face full when a busty performer squeezed through the aisles. I laughed so hard I cried.

We also spent some time off the strip checking out the great antique shops and picked up two amazing paintings from the terrific Patina Decor. We also enjoyed vegan donuts from Ronald's Donuts and vegan brunch from Pura Vida.

Now we are continuing our trek north with our next stopover in Salt Lake City.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Awesome Arizona

On our way to Tucson, We spent a few days in Phoenix staying at the super fun and great value Clarendon Hotel. We spent time checking out the abundant antique shops and viewing the marvelous midcentury modern architecture. We also found awesome vegan dining. Our favorite for lunch and dinner is Green Restaurant, full of amazing vegan comfort food. Next door is the awesome Nami, with vegan soft serve, bakery items, breakfast bagels and weekend brunch. From the Nami website; "The idea for Nami was born from our infamous organic ice cream treat- The tSoynami. A tSoynami starts with our homemade tsoft tserve, then we stir in all sorts of goodies like cakes, cookies, chocolate, peanut butter and just about anything you can think of, we’ve dozens to choose from. Then we thought, why not bake all of our favorite vegan treats here too. Then, yet another light bulb pops up – who doesn’t enjoy an organic, shade grown cup of coffee with their sweet treat- so voila. NAMI was born, your one stop shop for the good stuff in life." Delightful!

Next we headed down to Tucson for our four week bicycle frame buying course via Bohemian Bicycles. We had great accommodations which included a sweet menagerie of nearby critters. Two kitties, two doggies and a sweet tortoise added extra joy to our trip. I can't wait to adopt a cat when we return! When we weren't building bicycles we had a bit of time to check out the local sites. We ate regularly at the vegan Lovin Spoonfuls Restaurant, which has a great menu of vegan comfort foods and bakery items. We had our weekend breakfast at the vegetarian Sparkroot Cafe. Terrific coffee! We also had great vegan sushi from Yoshimatsuaz.

Besides great food we checked out the many antique stores and our favorite was Copper Country Antique Mall. We also took a trip to Biosphere2. "Biosphere 2 is an Earth systems science research facility currently owned by the University of Arizona since 2011. Its mission is to serve as a center for research, outreach, teaching and lifelong learning about Earth, its living systems, and its place in the universe. It is a 3.14-acre (12,700 m2)[1] structure originally built to be an artificial, materially closed ecological system in Oracle, Arizona (US) by Space Biosphere Ventures, a joint venture whose principal officers were John P. Allen, inventor and Executive Director, and Margret Augustine, CEO. Constructed between 1987 and 1991, it was used to explore the complex web of interactions within life systems in a structure that included five areas based on biomes and an agricultural area and human living/working space to study the interactions between humans, farming and technology with the rest of nature.[2] It also explored the possible use of closed biospheres in space colonization, and allowed the study and manipulation of a biosphere without harming Earth's." (source; It was vey interesting to see and to contemplate 8 scientists living inside for two years! If these glass walls could talk...

We took a trip out to the Titan Missile Museum. From their website; "The Titan Missile Museum is the only remaining Titan II site open to the public, allowing you to relive a time when the threat of nuclear war between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union was a reality. The Titan II was capable of launching from its underground silo in 58 seconds and could deliver a nine megaton thermonuclear warhead to its target more than 5,500 miles away in less than thirty minutes. For more than two decades, 54 Titan II missile complexes across the United States stood "on alert" 24 hours a day, seven days a week, heightening the threat of nuclear war or preventing Armageddon, depending upon your point of view." It was surreal experience to be so close to something that could have wiped out part of the planet. We learned that the missile was a tool for MAD: Mutual Assured Destruction. The premise of MAD is to act as a deterrent via a catastrophic counter attack should the enemy attack. The vintage machines were very interesting. Peering down on the 110 foot Titan from the viewing area was eerie.

"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." - Mother Teresa

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Biolite Camping Stove Review

We recently received our Biolite Camp Stove, and took it camping to Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and a few stops in between.We used the stove to boil water, make espresso, roast vegan marshmallows, and cook up other vegan camping delights.

We were extremely impressed with the compact, but hot, fire output if this unit. It only uses small sticks, which we easily collected or splintered off of a log. The design is ingenious, using a small fire powered fan to keep the flames full of oxygen and burning steady. But wait there's more! The stove actually does charge small electrical devices. I charged my iPhone whenever a good fire was going.

Biolite is a great camp stove and a great addition to our Emergency Preparedness Kit.

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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Evolution of Valerie

I can't believe it but four weeks have passed already and we have successfully built our bicycle frames! Before the course I didn't know my down tube from my bottom bracket and now I can braze them together! Alex (Flashdance) has nothing on me.

But before you think it's all fire and glory there is a lot of math and strenuous metal filing involved. I've never considered the amount of calculations and angle considerations that go into a bike to ensure a safe and comfortable ride. The process starts with making a life size drawing of your frame. With all the use of protractors and rulers, I had flashbacks to high school geometry but at least I finally found a use for it. Then the bicycle measurements are inputted into a computer bicycle CAD program to make a diagram. This becomes the bicycle bible to refer back to repeatedly during the building process. As they say measure twice and cut once!

I learned extensively about types of metal, what makes metal stronger and weaker, different tubes and so on. I had no idea there was so much to consider. I also had no idea there was a market for the Tube and Pipe Journal. Filled with this new found knowledge, and due to the uniqueness of my bicycle frame style, I chose a beefy down tube and used a manual machine to bend my top tube.

Then there are the lugs/sleeves. "Lugged steel construction uses standard cylindrical steel tubes which are connected with lugs, external fittings made of pieces of steel (sometimes stainless steel) which fit over the ends of the tubing. Before assembly, the builder cuts the tubes to the desired length and precisely mitres[1] their ends, providing a tight fit. The end of the tubes are inserted into the lugs and subsequently brazed with a silver or brass filler metal. The lug greatly increases the strength of the joint by distributing the molten filler metal over a larger surface area via capillary action.[2]" source: Cast lugs can be purchased but due to the complexity of my frame I had to design and hand cut four bi-laminate sleeves to make the joints.

Next we moved onto brazing, "a metal-joining process whereby a filler metal is heated above melting point and distributed between two or more close-fitting parts by capillary action. The filler metal is brought slightly above its melting (liquidus) temperature while protected by a suitable atmosphere, usually a flux." Prior to brazing, the tubes and lugs must be carefully cleaned to ensure they will braze together properly. You don't want to fight with your flux because you left a bit of sharpie marker on your lug/sleeve! Then depending on the type of brazing you clean and prepare either a silver or bronze rod (filler metal). Each joint is joined with a lug/sleeve, or fillet and items like cable guides must also be brazed on. I really love brazing and I am getting a better feel for the size and type of flame, distance and metal response rates.

After your tubes and lugs/sleeves are brazed it's on to the glamorous work of sanding and filing, and then more sanding and filing. Each bit of filler metal that spills out of the lug and each lump in the fillet braze must be filed and sanded smooth. It makes it highly motivating to become a better brazer! I have never had to take ibuprofen for cramped up hands before I built a bicycle.

After this experience no matter what a quality custom frame costs I bet it's a bargain compared to the labour involved. Now the frames await custom paint and will be shipped to us when complete. I am excited to see Valerie when she is all dolled up and matching Myrtle. (If you are just joining me on this blog, Myrtle is my vintage 1964 Dodge Travco motorhome). I chose the name Valerie as it reminds me of Valmobile, the scooter that was an option with a Travco motorhome.

We were able to accomplish this awesome project due to the very well equipped shop, full of every tool imaginable, the comfy onsite accommodations and the amazing skills, knowledge and magic of the instructor; Dave Bohm. That and copious amounts of sanding.

Check out the magic yourself at Bohemian Bicycles.

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