It’s been said that the only certainty is change. The last couple of weeks have really driven this home for me. It started with a short-notice decision to head to Sedona, AZ, for a weekend of early-season mountain biking. In pulling stuff together I was reminded that I’ve been riding for the last year or so on Jess’s rear wheel due to a mechanical failure in my own wheel that cannot be fixed due to the lack of replacement parts. I’ve been wanting to return Jess’s wheel for several reasons, but after searching around somewhat extensively I’ve discovered that the growing popularity of 29er and 27.5er wheels, 26″ mountain bike wheels are becoming scarce. This is especially true in the middle ground between the ultra-expensive Cadillac parts and the el-cheapo.
Luckily, on this occasion, we’re a family of pack rats and a desperate scavenger hunt through the garage turned up not only a “new” rear hub, but also a matching rim. I had purchased some spares when they were being discontinued, but never used most of them. So, for the cost of 3 dozen spokes and nipples (and a couple of hours of time) I could build a nearly identical replacement and re-live the glory of the early 2000s.
This week Phoebe is a bit hobbled with not 1, but 2 sprained ankles, so I thought I’d offer her the opportunity to help with the wheel build. Now, with a 5-11/12 year old you never know how they’ll respond, but she was super excited to build a wheel. So yesterday after dinner we set to work with the rim, hub, spokes (2-sizes), nipples, and guidebook (The Bicycle Wheel, by Jobst Brandt) spread out before us.
I’ll spare you all of the technical details (a quick search back through old blog posts will turn up an extended description of wheel building) and simply relay that Phoebe had a blast. Her pattern skills were invaluable in aligning the spokes to the holes, and you’d have been amazed to hear her read the instructions as we went. It was chock full of the usual kindergarten sight words like incremental and lateral stress. Jess captured a couple of pictures and this cool interview with Phoebe midway through the assembly. BTW, Phoebe now says that wheel building is easy. Maybe she has another vocation to add to doctor, banker, and delicatessen worker.
Some amazing reading:
After Phoebe went to bed, I finished off the build by tensioning, centering, and truing the wheel. Now all I need to do is find some elusive 26″ tires. . . Bike industry, I’ve a bone to pick with you!
Well, it’s been a couple months since Christmas, and finally we’re all getting healthy again and settling back into normalcy (thanks Nixon). At the moment [Dave wrote this several weeks ago] I’m sitting at the coffee shop wonderfully sans kiddos (I’ll be meeting them for swim lessons shortly), so I have some time to relay some of the joy from our recent travels. So grab your coffee, ’cause we’re off.
We started our Christmas vacation with a long drive across much of the country on the Saturday before the holiday. We piled into the car in the early afternoon and pointed Luna east. The drive out to Uncle Matt and Aunt Erin’s house in Ohio was a long 28-hour affair that featured a mini blizzard across much of Kansas. Trust us, snow doesn’t improve Kansas in the slightest (though it does wonders for the traffic). I honestly think we saw more cars off the road (in some cases way, way off the road) than we did on the road. Really, things weren’t that bad with proper tires, but that always seems to be a rarity. Eventually we did arrive in time for a late supper and some glorious sleep. We were glad to be staying put the next day!
We had a great time visiting the Hazelton farm. Phoebe got to see the chickens, pig, and cows, and eventually she came to like the massive porker. Unfortunately she did develop something of a cold and spent most of the evening on her frequently and rapidly deflating air mattress. This mattress would become the standard against which several others would be judged.
While we were sad to go (not just because it meant more driving), we nevertheless piled back into the car early on Christmas Eve for the drive into Pittsburgh, where we were planning to spend the evening with Grandma and Grandpa Gribble. Our plan was to go to First Lutheran in downtown Pittsburgh for Christmas Eve, but by the time we got into Clairton, Phoebe really wasn’t feeling well. Instead we took her to an urgent care and discovered she had a cold and maybe a small ear infection. Then we got Chinese takeout. Oddly, we bumped into a familiar face behind the counter (Grandma Gribble’s son Aaron). He was covering a shift for his wife so that she could spend the evening cooking for a surprise visit from her mom.
We revised our plans and went instead to Zion Lutheran church in Brentwood (much closer). After a few changes of mind, Phoebe decided to come to church with us and grandpa, so that meant Grandma could come too! It was a mad dash to get everyone dressed and off to church, only to discover that the church’s website had the wrong time. We had a good hour to kill, so we went looking for a place to sit while we waited for the service to start, but finding nowhere open, we ended up driving around and looking at lights.
The service was a bit contemporary, but nice. We got home and put up our stockings (brought all the way from Colorado) and some cookies for Santa. After getting the kids to bed, we were able to stay up a bit and chat with my dad and Sandy. It was nice and relaxing.
Luckily Phoebe rebounded on Christmas, and although she continued to cough a bit, was greatly improved. We got up at a fairly reasonable time (our kids aren’t that old yet), and opened our stockings/Santa gifts before the big brunch. That’s a tradition we’ve adapted from the Hazeltons. Sadly, after lunch we had to pack up again and move on to the next place—Jess’s other brother Nathaniel and his wife Laura’s. Thankfully it’s a much shorter drive (it took longer to re-pack the car) from Clairton to Allison Park. Sadly, we had to leave a few of the kids’ presents in grandma and grandpa’s basement, but that meant we had to make plans to get together again and retrieve them, so it wasn’t all bad.
Despite the harrowing drive into their house, we had a lovely time visiting with aunt Laura and Uncle N. We discovered that Phoebe really likes to play with dice, and N really likes his dice well organized! We also got to play some fun grownup games after the kiddos went to bed. I don’t remember what this year’s new game was called, but it was a pretty fun tile-laying game where you develop resources. The winner is the one with the most resources at the end of the game. I’m not sure I really got the hang of all of the rules until pretty near the end, but that didn’t stop me from winning the game. Even Jess, who never fully got the rules and finished last, had a good time, but that could have been equally the result of ample wine.
The next morning we had some breakfast, packed up the car (again!) and once more hit the road for a delightfully short trip. This time we were headed from Allison Park to my sister’s place in Carrick where we’d get to see Erika, Heidi, Genevieve, and Cordelia. We’d also see Grammie and Pappy. This would be our first visit with Erika and Heidi since they got married last fall, so we were definitely excited to see them and congratulate them in person. Jess was also jonesing for a run with Pappy.
At Erika and Heidi’s we gorged ourselves on Christmas cookies and embraced the chaos of cousins tearing into a seemingly endless supply of presents. For us it was the 2nd Christmas of four that we expected during the trip. Of course, the medical saga continued and Benjamin developed what was obviously a case of pink eye. Luckily that’s the one condition where the pediatrician doesn’t want an office visit, so they called in a prescription for some drops to the pharmacy across the street. As per usual, a day of meds really made a difference. Rather than bore you all with a lot of cumbersome prose, I’ll let the pictures tell the story.
The following morning, we tried to get out pretty early, as we were heading to Ohio, and Erika, Heidi, Genevieve, and Cordelia were also heading out. We knew that hanging around would make things even harder for them. Of course, Grammie and Pappy would have liked a longer visit, but hopefully we’ll get time to head out again later in the year when the weather’s a bit nicer.
In route to Ohio, we met up with Grandma and Grandpa Gribble again for a tour of the new and improved dino exhibit at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. I must say they did a splendid job with the renovations. I hardly recognize the place! The kiddos did get tired after a bit, and we had some extra exercise running out to feed the parking meter, but I think everyone had a great time. Phoebe was amazed at how big the dinosaurs really are. And without their skin too.
Finally we arrived in Ohio for our last stop. It was great to see the rest of Jess’s family (we even got to see Matt, Erin, Nathaniel, and Laura for a second time). The aunts (Nancy and Shirley) made an appearance and Jess’s Aunt Linda and her boys Evers and Ashe also showed up. Evers was very excited for Phoebe to open their present, which turned out to be an awesome pillow that Evers made. Phoebe has been using it every night (for her stuffed animals to sleep on).
It was nice to have a bit of relaxation time before having to get back into the car for the drive back to Colorado. In the end we debated staying a bit longer as Benjamin was starting to come down with something, but we were anxious to get back and access his normal medical providers if things got really urgent. It turns out they did, but that’s another story that Jess has already covered.
For those of you who don’t know yet, last week I was officially laid off at Eltron after nearly 12 years. It’s a sad turn of events, but I’m hoping that it leads to some wonderful new possibilities. I’ve enjoyed my time at Eltron immensely—especially due to the many fantastic people I’ve met and worked alongside over the years and the fantastic things I’ve learned in the process. I’ll be sure to let you all know when I find the right next thing.
About a week before the executioner’s axe came down, I also bought a “new” saxophone; great timing, eh? I say “new” because it’s actually a vintage horn from 1921, according to the serial number. It’s a bit of an unusual horn by modern standards in that it’s pitched in the key of C. Most modern saxes are in either Eb (think alto and bari) or Bb (like the soprano and tenor). The C-melody (pitched 1 major 2nd above the tenor or a minor 3rd below the alto) had a period of fantastic popularity in the ’20s–’30s, but the bottom in that market pretty much collapsed, and they basically haven’t been produced since. Part of the reason is that nothing is written for the C-melody from an ensemble perspective, so it’s sorta useless. Unless, like me, you play a bunch of stuff that is in very odd keys and requires extreme transposition. Think vocal stuff at church and rock bands with lots of guitarists. So that’s where I plan to make the most use of the horn.
For those who are interested, the horn was manufactured by the Buescher Co. (pronounced like Bisher) in Elkhart, Indiana, which used to be the center of musical instrument manufacturing for the country. It was a nice horn in its day with a beautiful silver-plate finish and a thin gold coating inside the bell. The finish is in pretty darn good shape, but a previous owner tried some very ill-advised restoration work—resulting in some weird yellowish gunk on a bunch of the pad cups. Oddly, the material melts/burns when you try to float pads (sax pads are typically adhered to the cups using shellack that needs to be softened for adjustments).
So, after getting a few of the pads replaced, the octave mechanism straightened (it was badly bent when I bought the horn), and the neck cork replaced (totally gone when I bought it) the horn looked a bit worse. However, I have removed a few of the keys and discovered that the gunk does come off without damaging the underlying finish.
I’ve been having a bit of fun playing it. The pads seem to seal pretty well (despite most being the originals and now over 90 years old), but they are a bit soft and have a poor feel. The sound isn’t bad either. It’s a pretty dark sound with the vintage mouthpiece that came with the horn (an eburnated—that means hard rubber—Conn eagle. I had to find a different ligature as the one that came on the mouthpiece is clearly not the original and didn’t really fit. I also need to make a decision on whether to use tenor (or bass clarinet) reeds on the mouthpiece as is, reface the piece to better fit modern reeds, or get a modern C-melody mouthpiece, but as all of the above require money, that’s a decision I can push off to tomorrow.
I’ve also decided that as soon as I get a new job, I’m going to buy a complete set of new pads, strip all of the keywork, and try my hand at an overhaul. I think a set with resonators might help to brighten up the sound a bit, and I might get a bit more benefit from adding a baffle to the large-chamber mouthpiece that came with the horn. Basically it should be a great horn to experiment on in order to customize my sound. Since it isn’t a terribly valuable horn, it makes a decent practice horn for restoration work too. I’ll add some pics as the project progresses. For now, here’s an audio file of what it sounds like. This was recorded playing the sax with an alto mouthpiece and a Hahn synthetic reed. Not a perfect match for the horn. There’s a bit of Phoebe chattering away in the background as well as a couple screams from Benjamin. Maybe not everyone is a fan of the new sax!
By the way, I recorded this pretty quickly using the little Zoom H1 Handy Recorder Jess got me for Christmas and edited it down with Audacity. Thanks for the cool gift, Honner!
Desafinado – Antonio Carlos Jobim
Dave Gribble, C-melody Sax