Bicycle headlights

About 11 years ago when I got serious about commuting to work by bicycle year round I had to tackle the challenge of riding in the dark, as the sun sets around 4:30 in winter.  At that time there were expensive external battery systems with halogen lights for serious riders, but I opted for lights with built in batteries.  By today’s standards they were pretty dim, and I had to ride fairly slowly on streets with inadequate street lights.

It was a tremendous breakthrough when I got my first LED light with rechargeable Lithium Ion battery a few years later.  It was rated at 200 or 300 lumen brightness and could run three or four hours on a charge.  And I could charge it via USB with a wall adapter, or even on my computer at work.

A couple of years ago I upgraded to a 600 lumen light, which was amazing to me.  Today you can buy a 1000 lumen light for under $100.  LED light technology has really changed the game, with dramatically increased brightness, while using much less electric power, making them perfect for battery operated  bicycle lights.

I have two objectives for my headlight solution–bright enough to see the road well in front of me, and attention grabbing so cars will see me.  For the second objective I opt for a flashing light.  And I even use the flashing light during daylight hours, too, to increase my visibility to cars.

I add a red blinking taillight to increase my visibility to the rear.  Usually two of them, in case one malfunctions or runs out of battery, and just to increase visibility.

My new commute bike introduced me to a new light technology.  Paired with the LED front and rear lights, it uses a dynamo front hub to power the lights, instead of batteries.  I found the front light which came on the bike not bright and focussed enough to light the road as well as my battery light, so I purchased a better one.  This new dynamo powered front light is my main headlight, and I supplement it with a battery light which I run in flashing mode for visibility.  It is convenient and safer to have these front and rear lights always ready to operate, without worrying about the charging state of the battery.

Here is a great website for researching bike headlights, especially dynamo powered ones.


The ideal commuting bicycle

It is time for me to get back to more mundane blog posts.  Like bicycles and cycling.  Which I spend way too much of my attention on.

Nine years ago I bought a really nice carbon fiber road bike to use for commuting, and I’ve put a lot of miles on it.  I’ve replaced the rear wheel twice, the front once, numerous tires and brake pads, brake and derailleur cables, rear cassette, saddle, several chains, multiple lights, brake hoods.  It has been a workhorse and I always enjoyed riding it.

Except last winter.  We had a long, cold, wet/snowy winter.  Roads had lots of debris and sand on them.  It put extra wear and tear on the bike.  And I didn’t feel particularly secure and safe with the narrow tires and braking on wet rims.  And changing a flat tire in the cold, dark, and/or wet is the pits.

So for some months I’ve been exploring and shopping for a real commuter bike.  And this is the one I settled on:

It is a lot heavier and slower than my road bike, but these are the compelling features:

wider tires  (fewer flats, more grip on road surface)
upright posture
real fenders (better splash protection)
disk brakes (better stopping power, especially when wet)
carbon drive belt (less vulnerable to grit and wet)
continuous transmission
dynamo hub, which drives front and rear lights (this was a bonus, which I really like)
reflective tires and bike logos

Here is the bike pre and post assembly:

So I have the bike just in time for the upcoming winter commute season.  I’ve been riding it to work the past two weeks and it is great.  Here it is with a few additions:

I changed pedals and front light (blog post coming).  I added a saddle bag with tools, spare tube, etc.  I added a bell on the bars.  And swapped in some nicer handlebar grips.  



Daniel’s payday–and a 100% pay raise

Recently we were at an event where families of CdLS afflicted children (like Daniel) gathered informally to converse and share a meal.  When our turn came to tell about their child I related that Daniel was an entrepeneur.  Indeed, he has his own business collecting bottles and cans to return to the store for their deposit refund.

Last year there was a 5 cents deposit for most bottles and cans, and Daniel worked hard around the neighborhood to collect them, then take them to a local grocery store to feed them laboriously into the redemption machines, print a voucher, and redeem them for cash at the register.  Sometimes we would drop Daniel off with his bottles and he would spend several hours at the task before we would see him again.  He had to contest with temperamental machines which constantly malfunctioned and required store personnel to address.  He might have to wait his turn at the machine.  And some stores gave him a hard time when he had too many bottles.  He would come home with $20 or so on a good day.

On January 1st this year the depost was raised to 10 cents, so Daniel got his paycheck doubled.  Plus Oregon added more bottle types.  Some stores upgraded their machines and life was good.  But as his business grew and he got more clients feeding him bottles, he still had problems with stores limiting his take to 144 bottles per day, plus lines and machine malfunctions.

Then we learned about Oregon bottle deposit redemption centers, with one about 7 miles from our house.  We have started using that almost exclusively.  Roughly every other week we take Daniel down there with his multiple bags full of bottles and cans.  Sometimes there is a line, but it usually goes quickly enough, as there are 7 high speed machines, and they rarely malfunction.

Here is the machine where we feed the bottles:

We signed up for an account which allows us to fill two bags per visit, and they will count the bottles later and credit his account.  Here is the kiosk for that:

Here is the machine for dispensing cash for vouchers:

And here is the window where we drop the green bags they will count:

Here is our side yard which Daniel’s enterprise has pretty much taken over:

This is a great thing for Daniel.  This week he collected $55, and two weeks ago $75.  Besides the benefit of the spending money for him (he buys food with it, for the most part) this project really gives Daniel purpose and satisfaction in his life.  He gets so excited about which neighborhood will have recycling the next morning, and he is on his way out the door by 5:30AM.


Life story on video

A few years ago my wife facilitated recording on video the personal histories of an elderly couple in our congregation.  Initially, the wife proceeded with the endeavor, then the husband, seeing what was going on, wanted to do the same.  What a great production it ended up being, as my wife edited the video segments and created DVDs for them and their extended family.  Both have subsequently passed away, the wife only last month.

I recall one humorous story the husband told.  While serving in England during WWII he read an announcement in the newspaper from home that his wife had just delivered a healthy new baby.  The problem was he had been in England over a year and couldn’t imagine what had happened.  Turns out it was someone else with the same name.

What a great thing stories like this from our lives are for our families.  We are encouraged to write our personal histories for the sake of our posterity, so they know us and what made us tick.  And what traits we haved passed down.  Doing so with video can be very effective, and simpler in many ways.

During my friend Mark’s final months I encouraged him to record his personal history on video, which he was glad to do.  I anticipated a sizable task recording, editing, and producing the videos, but I have to say it was a piece of cake.  I would start recording on the camera and just sit back while Mark related his story, pretty much uninterrupted and without any notes, from start to finish for the 20 to 30 minute session.  He managed to sit for four such sessions before we ran out of time as his health deteriorated.  He talked about many important things in his life, and what shaped who he was.  He expressed tender love and appreciation for his wife.  The final session was pretty much him talking directly to each of his children on a very personal and loving note.  I can only imagine what a treasure these videos will be for the family.

Military honors

Mark’s funeral service was held November 15.  His son, daughter, brother, and wife all spoke, holding up well and paying great tribute to Mark.  I related previously about our group singing Amazing Grace (at Mark’s request).  It was difficult to hold back tears as they wheeled the American flag draped casket out of the chapel, with family following, while the congregation stood.  

That afternoon, the family and a small number of close friends travelled across Portland to the Willamette National Cemetery for Mark’s graveside service with military honors.  Mark served 9 years in the United States Army, thus meriting the privilege.  As the hearse arrived at the site there were soldiers standing and saluting.  Six uniformed soldiers then carried the still flag draped casket from the hearse, placing it on a platform in the covered area where family sat and others stood.  All was done in precision marching fashion.

The flag was then ceremoniously removed from the casket and folded.  Three rifle volleys were fired and a bugler played taps.  The flag was presented to the widow and another to the daughter, the soldier saluting afterwards.  At this point I don’t know if there were any dry eyes amongst the viewers.  What an impressive, moving experience it was, and paid great tribute to Mark for his life and military service.

Here is a link to a youtube video of a similar such service at this cemetery:



Amazing Grace

After two years of battle with cancer, and knowing the inevitable was around the corner, Mark’s final demise came rather quickly.  He had been getting weaker and thinner all along, but it wasn’t until about two weeks prior to his passing that Suzanne and I had stopped by for a short visit and, while Mark seemed normal in every other way, I sensed he was in significant pain and discomfort.  A few days later upon a visit we noted a significant decline and some mental impairment.  Around this time his wife remarked that they had hoped and assumed he would make it through the Christmas holiday, but that they doubted he would last until Thanksgiving.

A few weeks ago Mark attended the funeral of another member of our church congregation, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he wasn’t viewing it as a dry run for his own.  Shortly after that he communicated his desire that Amazing Grace be sung at his funeral, and even outlined the particulars for it.  Solo violin, a specific lady to sing first verse soprano, a men’s group to sing the 2nd and 3rd verses, all to sing a repeat of the first verse, and the soprano solo repeat the final line.

We thought it would be nice for Mark to hear the rendition himself, so we felt some urgency to put it together.  We scheduled Saturday, Nov. 4 to come by and do a “live” first rehearsal for him.  But he was having a bad morning, so we rescheduled for Sunday the 5th.  We didn’t have the violin, but all the singers were there for two run throughs at his bedside.

Mark was awake and aware, if not talkative.  He seemed in reasonable comfort and peace.  He even smiled at me a time or two, his eyes showing love and recognition.  I held his hand tenderly in both of mine for a couple of minutes, giving him reassurance and teasing him about his stylish unshaven face.  I thought this might be my final goodbye, which it was.

On Wednesday, the 8th, Mark passed away, with his wife and family around his bedside.  I received a text message while at work from his wife.  I shed a few tears, and just hoped nobody would approach me at my desk and wonder.

Here is a recording of our group singing Amazing Grace at the funeral:

Amazing grace!  How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found, Was blind but now I see.
Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed!
Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares I have already come;
Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.
Amazing grace!  How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found, Was blind but now I see.
Was blind but now I see.

One final service

Mark’s family asked that I, with three other men, clothe him in his burial garments at the mortuary.  I accepted with a sense of duty and honor.

There are a number of cultures and religions that bury their dead in ceremonial and/or ritual clothing, including members of our church who have attended our temple.  I think it unfortunate that this seems less common in Christian religions, as this can provide some comfort to those left behind, and it can remind us of the eternal nature of our beings and faith.  It is a way of further honoring and respecting those who pass on, and can be a precious and tender experience for close family and friends to do this service.

Mark’s wife had carefully and lovingly cleaned, pressed, and folded his burial clothing in a small suitcase for me to take.  I almost felt like I was intruding into sacred space when I opened it to confirm everything was included.

I did feel some trepidation at the prospect of viewing and handling the body of a deceased, especially of someone I knew and loved.  The discomfort and sadness at viewing the lifeless body of someone who only days before was so warm and alive were overshadowed by the tender feelings of doing one final service for someone so deserving.

While we treat with respect the mortal remains of our loved ones, we can rejoice and find solace in our faith in the afterlife, and knowing that Mark’s eternal spirit and very being live on, freed from the body’s sufferings and limitations.

We miss you, Mark.  But we also rejoice for you.

A man acquainted with grief

My good friend Mark was not unaccustomed to serious illness.  As if suffering through terminal stomach cancer wasn’t enough of a cross to bear, he had survived a previous bout with cancer, as well as life threatening heart attacks.

Mark related how he “died” from one heart attack in a public area at the Denver airport some years ago.  While laying on the ground in terrific pain he wondered what all the gathering people were experiencing as they watched someone die right before their eyes.

From his previous cancer he had a good idea what was in store with the proposed chemo treatments for his latest diagnosis.  He considered whether just to forgo such treatments and maximize quality of life.  To his great credit, his overwhelming consideration was to do what was best for his wife.  He said he had a high tolerance for pain and could, once again, deal with the treatment.  But he didn’t want to drain the family savings to disadvantage his wife.  Fortunately, his medical insurance covered him sufficiently.

Mark didn’t fear death.  His faith gave him confidence in the hereafter.  He did fear leaving his wife a widow, and burdening her with his care in his decline.  He also confessed he was apprehensive about the difficult journey leading to death, not what would happen after.

A few months ago I asked him if he had regrets about his decision to have chemo and other treatments, if the added months of life were worth the suffering.  He said he would do the same again.  (I have heard others say, after having gone through chemo, etc., that if they had another diagnosis they would not go through it again.)

I never heard Mark curse his misfortune with ill health and premature demise.  I only heard words of faith and testimony in his God, his Savior, and the plan of salvation.  And gratitude for his wife and family, the wonderful life he had enjoyed, and many who surrounded him with service, as well as his opportunities to serve others through his life.

Mark, your difficult journey is over.  Well done, my friend.  May you rest in peace.

The passing of a friend

This post, and I think several to follow, will be heavier and more emotional than many that I write.

Last week a dear friend, Mark Carver, passed away after a two year battle with stomach cancer.  Suzanne and I were close to Mark and his wife.  I’ve known Mark about ten years, and worked closely with him in various callings and service opportunites in our church congregation (LDS ward).  I had the good fortune of being assigned as his home teacher for most of those years.

There were a number of ups and downs over his two year battle.  I remember the day he called me in October 2015 with the news of his diagnosis, and its likely terminal prognosis.  I shed a tear or two.  

He decided to proceed with conventional treatment of chemo and radiation, and endured its side effects.  Life was prolonged, but that treatment exhausted its benefit late last year.  His insurance declined coverage for a very expensive medicine that held some promise for his case, so we were all very heartened when the drug company offered to proceed with no cost.  Could this be the miracle we all hoped and prayed for so fervently?

Alas, it was not to be, and a few months ago Mark was resigned to his fate, and elected to maximize quality of life for his remaining time.

There is much more I want to relate to fill the many gaps from this abbreviated summary, but I will close this post with a link to Mark’s obituary:

Mark Carver


More frugality

We have an Oroweat bread outlet store in town, and when I come home from making my purchase there every few weeks I often remark that I’m surprised the police didn’t follow me home and arrest me for robbery.

I eat 100% whole wheat bread every day in my lunch sandwiches, and I prefer Oroweat brand, so I stock up with several loaves and store them in our freezer.  This past week I picked out 4 loaves for 5 dollars, and felt pretty good about the bargain, as it sells for $2.50 to $4 per loaf retail.  Then I discovered a coupon in my Oroweat app on my phone that gave me $3 off with $10 purchase, so I grabbed 4 more loaves.  Then I used my senior discout of 10%, plus got a free package of English muffins for filling my frequent buyer card, and paid $6.30 for the whole deal.  I was surprised the shoplifter alarm didn’t sound when I left the store.


My mom would be proud, as I’m sure my frugality stems from her genes and example.