As Vegtam the Wanderer, Odin traveled the earth in quest of knowledge. He ventured to the Well of Urd, the fount of all knowledge. There he gouged out his eye, trading it for a drink from the well - trading his eyesight for insight.
Me too. -
Gunnar the Seeker. ;-)

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

A Ramble On Longevity and Fires

Dan Buettner has been back in Minnesota again. Mr. Buettner is an author, speaker (huckster?) who has studied various cultures around the world where people live long - places he refers to as Blue Zones. In 2009 he came to Albert Lea to remake the community into the first Blue Zone pilot project. They stressed diet, exercise and social interaction - all things that seem to contribute to long life.

The city fathers really got on board. The city expanded walking and bicycling paths. There are healthy food sections in stores. More people walk the lake. Frankly, it made the city a better place to live - for instance they finally built and connected a path all the way around Fountain Lake. It all seemed positive, mostly the exercise I suspect - at least they did not do anything bad.

Doctor: " I am sorry but it looks like you only have a year to live.
Patient: " Isn't there anything I can do?"
Doctor: "Well, I suppose you could move to Albert Lea."
Patient: "Is there a specialist there?"
Doctor: "No, but a year in Albert Lea will seem like a lifetime."

Then I read an article where someone else actually crunched the data from all of the areas where people live so long. One thing they all had in common was they have no birth certificates, no birth records of any kind, and elderly people are highly esteemed.

I thought about all that this this morning when I read:

"​I recall a Terry Pratchett reference​ ​about paying the firefighters based on the number of fires they put out per year. ​When they changed to put them to ​a ​fixed salary​,​ the number of fires mysteriously dropped​."
I think the real key to longevity and overall vigor may be staying warm ... and eating wheat toast with sharp cheese and jam every morning.

I think I may write a book about that.

Be well, stay warm, live long,

- Gunnar

Saturday, November 30, 2019

On Prized Possessions

Possessions are just 'stuff'; things that will likely be pawed and dickered over by the rag-pickers at some future estate sale. But I ain't dead yet. And there ain't no glory in regret.

Favorites tend to be fluid. I love my garden and my old Bulldog garden tools (Clarington Forge since 1780). I love the Native American tools and projectile points that the Old Man and I picked up walking fields when I was a kid.

Currently my prized possession is probably my custom built Chris Kvale bicycle, or this old bicycle, a 1948 M. Bonvicini. Earlier I documented the process of having replacement decals made. Link here.

Over 70 years the decals have melded into the paint, and part of the finish on the offside of the downtube panel has been scraped to bare metal. This really necessitates the panel being repainted. Also to match the existing front stub fender, the reproduction fenders require the outside to be painted the soft green of the frame, the center ridge left polished aluminum - with a very fine dark blue pinstripe at the color break. 

Pinstriping has become a dying art, but I reached out to Jeff Bock in Ames, Iowa who does really top-drawer paint work. Thursday evening I received his response.
"This is a VERY COOL bicycle! I'd be thrilled and honored to work on it for you. Although, achieving an exact match on that flamboyant teal will be a serious challenge. What color were the fenders? I'm thinking that the soft green won't be an easy match either. I looked at the decals. It appears that Mr. Salmon did an amazing job."
So now I have to find time to remove all the components - to disassemble the entire bicycle and get the frame and fenders down to Iowa City.

Obsessively yours,

Friday, November 29, 2019

Sax-Zim Bog

The northern Minnesota unincorporated community of Sax has 20 people scattered in the general area. Six miles down the road is Zim, population 10. The bog in between is nationally, even internationally, famous for its assorted boreal bird species, particularly owl species, which have migrated down from the sub-arctic. It is an obligatory a stop for any birder doing a 'big year', or filling out a serious 'life list'.

In mid February there is a Sax-Zim Birding Festival in nearby Meadowlands, pop 135. Last year the low temp during the festival was -59F. The coldest I have ever been was near -40F, and as I recall, that was damned cold.  -59F? Seriously? Last winter almost 3,000 birders visited Sax-Zim.

Birding down in Texas I was wore a Duluth Hawk Ridge baseball cap. Some birders asked if I go to Sax-Zim.              No, it is damned cold up there, I go to the Lower Rio Grande Valley.


- Gunnar

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Estero Llano Grande

An hour drive up river to visit with friends, Brian and Jutta. Between Tacos Pirata at Nana's and drinks at the Blue Onion, we birded a little - really damned little. Mostly we walked, sat and talked. There were a lot of birds, but most of them were Black-bellied Whistling Ducks. If you have seen one Black-bellied Whistling duck....

Vermilion Flycatcher - female

A lot of ducks, too much food, a little beer and lot of talk. After returning home we stopped over to Nancy and Mike's for another round of talk. And one last beer.

Life is hard. Sometimes there are things more important than seeing birds.  - Gunnar

Friday, November 1, 2019

South Padre Island Fall

We have never visited the Rio Grande Valley in Fall. These are from our first day on South Padre, working the Sheepshead lots and the Birding Center. Met a number of fine folks today, particularly enjoyed the company of Bob Bartelt.

Here are some photos from today:

Keeping warm on the coast - Gunnar

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Kvale Bars

I was never quite satisfied with the bars on my Chris Kvale. I like neat, clean, especially the cables and cable housings. Those bars had clamp-on levers with laced leather pieced around them.

Sight is getting to be an issue. I kind of feel my way and keep tools and parts organized in view under the brightest light I can. Lorna encourages me, telling me about her sight challenged friend who repaired computers. Dammit, if he could repair computers, I can put brake cables on a damned bicycle.

I bought a pair of time-trial levers which routed cable inside the bars. I stripped the anodizing off and polished them. I cut oblong holes on the underside of the bars a few inches from the stem. I dyed raw leather the same color as the saddle and laced it on the underside with a break where those obround holes are. Then I fished the cable housing and cables through from levers to brakes.

All this sounds pretty straight forward until you actually try to do it. For instance the cable feeds through same hole that has the tightening nut for the lever body, therefore the body has to be installed first - before you insert the cable through into that blind tube - there are just things that have to be thought out in the correct order.

Oh, and I cut leather scrap and glued it in the hollow on the top of the levers, which may have been a little anal.

- Gunnar

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

M.Bonvicini Transfers

Among other vintage bicycles, I own a 1948 Italian road bicycle labeled as an "M.Bonvicini - Bologna" (differentiating it from another unrelated Bonvicini bicycle company from Torino). It has an M.Bonvicini brass headbadge, M.Bonvicini labeled crankarm and seatpost collar, even a B on the stem bolt.

It came to me with a painted front stub fender, but currently has a full set of reproduction fenders which required some modification of the stay lengths to fit the Cambio Corsa rear dropouts. Eventually they will be painted and pinstriped to match the original stub fender.

By dating the spokes, which are 1952+ vintage and the rims, it would appear that the wheelset was rebuilt in about '52, replacing the tubular tire rims with clincher rims. Other than that this bicycle is pretty much original except for the consumables - tires, bar tape, brake pads and cables.

1. What I know:

Marino (aka Mario) Bonvicini was a bicycle racer specializing in one-day races. In 1927 he was on the a Giro d'Italia team with Giovanni Brunero, Tullio Campagnolo, Alfredo Binda and brother Albino Binda. Marino placed second in the first stage and eventually Alfredo Binda won the overall, as he often did.
Within three years Marino Bonvicini had given up bicycle racing to race motorcycles. After the depression and WWII intervened he launched the BM Bonvicini motorcycle company, which from 1952 to 1970 manufactured elegant lightweight motorcycles and mass market mopeds.

BM Bonvicini Jaguarino
Marino Bonvicini died in 1984. 

2. What I suspect: 

This bicycle seems to be a one-off, at least I haven't been able find another and I have seriously scoured the internet searching for one or reference to one. I believe the frame was actually  built by Francesco Galmozzi. I have owned three Ciclo Galmozzi bicycles, one of which was the same era. This has an identical seat cluster, lug style and thickness, and the distinctive Galmozzi signature cut and drilled fork crown.

Whether it was Bonvicini's personal vanity bicycle or a prototype for a line of bicycles that never came to be -  we will likely never know. The clincher tires, plus a rear reflector mounted on the brake caliper, would seem to indicate that it eventually became a daily rider for someone. Whoever owned it, Bonvicini or someone else, rode it a lot and maintained it well. And misplaced the fenders in an Italian garage or basement ;-)

3. Decals:
It all began when I went looking for a rim decal to replace the one missing from the front rim. There are few people who make vintage bicycle decals, but none for this rather obscure rim. I was connected with Mr. Gustavio Salmon who had me photograph and measure the existing rear decal. Within a few days I had two new decals.

Then things started to get really serious. There was the ghost of a missing star decal on the seat tube and the remaining decals were seriously degraded.

How does one reproduce missing or degraded decals on a one-off bicycle? There are no others out there to copy to get it right. Gus drafted iterations of the star. While he had my poor photo to work with, I could actually see the vague outline. Eventually I sent him photos of the headbadge which had the same "B" on a chain-ring which was on the star ghost.

The game was on. Those degraded silver shield blob decals were also represented on the headbadge. I made a graphite rubbing of the headbadge and sent a photograph of it with careful measurements to Mr. Salmon, who was able to reproduce it.

The down-tube lettering was easier to reproduce. I took a decent photo and measured the lettering height and length. Gus seemed to embrace concept of conjuring something from the past out of almost nothing as a challenge.

The original transfers were all silver and black, not colored. No matter, because he now had the geometry and color, Gus felt it SHOULD have a colored decal so he ordered special colored inks.

The blue background layout is a copy of Gus Salmon's work sheet. The actual decals are silk-screened on thin transparent film. The photo does not do justice to the colored shield, which was screened on mirrored "brass" film - simply stunning. 

Now - where do I mount that gorgeous piece of work? Probably on the seat-tube where the star originally was and move the new star up near the top of the seat tube.

This is a much abbreviated tale of the time and labor required on both ends. A thank you to Mr. Gustavio Salmon. Normally he could catalog a decal set for the potential next buyer. For this set he spent a lot of his time, sweat and skill on a set of decals that he will never sell again.
- Gunnar