Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bike Resto - Done

A few years ago, I gave up biking on my old 7-speed road bike.  I found it hard to climb hills , and the drivers and pedestrians on island were just not too safe towards cyclists.  I ached to ride though, thought that I needed a new ride, and just couldn't afford to upgrade my bike.  Well, fast forward a few years later and I got myself a new-used cyclocross bike, the riding conditions got better, and my friend Greg came back as my riding partner.  There are lots of stories to tell about our bike and riding adventures.

I learned a lot though through the internet especially a great bike forum called RoadBikeReview.  I learned more about wrenching and developed a love for vintage bikes.  I got to start thinking that I should try to restore the old 7-speed and not just let it rust away.  So I decided to do the restoration but not spend so much money while doing so.

After a few years in storage, her brake and shifter cables and chain were rusty.  Who knew what condition of the steel frame and aluminum components after maybe more than 5 years?
After becoming a fan of vintage steel bikes, I was wishing and fantasizing that she was some sort of high-end oldie.  It turned out after a few questions posted on the bike forum that this is someone's fantasy Cannondale bike, since they never made any in steel.  Someone pointed out too that certain parts were stamped steel rather than forged, a sign of a lower-end bike.  It used to have a triple crankset, but the inner, smallest gear was gone.
You can usually find out a lot about a bike's identity by the stamped number on the bottom bracket.  I had to clean this out to see what the numbers were.  Unfortunately, even after cleaning it up the best guess the forum gave me was that it was a low-end, possibly Japanese touring bike with parts salvaged from here and there.
I decided to strip and repaint.  I used instructions from MikesBikes which was informative and easy to understand. Again, to keep the cost low, I decided to use rattle can primer, paint and clear coat.  Here are some picture after applying the paint stripper.  That's some really caustic stuff.
Sanding and Cleaning the Frame:
Prepping the frame for painting took the most time.  Sanding all of the paint and getting the frame bare and smooth for the paint job was hard but you get to learn so much about the frame and materials of the bike.  I discovered that the frame is of a lower-end variety of steel and it had a lot of fillers for the imperfections.  Still, I was determined to finish the restoration and enjoy the journey.  I was really enjoying using my hands the most. 
Greg lent me a bunch of tools to get the components off of the frame.  I never knew that such a simple machine has so many specialized tools!  To get the crank off, you need a crank puller; to remove the chain , you need a chain breaker; and so on and so forth.
So this is who you are?  The bottom bracket cleaned up showed an I.D. number, but it still wasn't a lot of information to go on.  Maybe one day, we'll get to know its origins.  I am guessing that the first 2 numbers mean that it was made in 1986.
Internally routing for cables?  I thought that's an option for high-end bicycles only.  To stop any internal rusting, I even used linseed oil to coat the inside of the frame.
I heart the fork.  The fork hearts me.  I found out later that his fork is probably a salvaged part since it really is too short for the wheels. 
I decided that I liked a vintage white for the frame.  I decided against buying components or just stick to "restoring" rather than "upgrading".  After the paint job, I just decided to get a colorful Italian flag bar tape, red cables and red tires to give her a highlight color.  All the items were on sale through various online bike shops.  I was pretty happy with the cheap prices the quick service, which was nice surprise.  Being on an island really makes purchasing online an adventure in itself.
She's almost ready for a ride.  I just need to make some shifting adjustments to make her ready for the road.  I ordered a $13.00 cassette to make it easier to climb Saipan's hills but it came and was not compatible with my wheel hub.  I may just have to keep her on the flat roads (or get stronger legs). 
Well, she is finally done with a lot of help from near and far.  I wish there were more opportunities in the future to restore and to wrench.  I've gotten to really love using my hands, and being able to add an artistic flair to it all.  See you on the road!

Ti napu.

The Beachcomber

Monday, July 9, 2012

Gregory and the Torii

A few weeks ago, Greg asked if I wanted to go on a hike to get some avocados that were growing wild in a friend’s abandoned property.  The jungle had taken over the original farmland but the food crops still thrived and lucky for us, still produces in abundance and free to pick to our heart’s desire!  We ventured off in the morning- we, being myself, Greg, DJ and Greg’s dog, Griffin.  Beverly, having delivered just a few weeks ago, stayed home with their baby, Nolan. 

We first visited a torii before going into the jungle.  The torii is a Japanese entrance gate to what once was a Shinto shrine built in a natural limestone cave.  It is supposed to mark where the sacred ground of the temple begins.  The torii has two horizontal parts and two vertical columns that fell to the left or west from where it used to mark the entrance of the cave.   It most likely broke during WWII.

In the foreground of this picture, you can see the body and top cover of what looks like a lantern that stood in front of the gate.  In the middle lies one of the two columns that once stood horizontally, and the structure in the background is one of the horizontal piece of the torii.  It kind of reminds me of the symbol for pi- π .  

The gate fell to the left or west from where it used to mark the entrance of the cave.  This is one of the two-level bases.  

The topmost part of the structure is called kasagi and shimaki which you can clearly see in this picture.  The rectangular block to the right is the lower positioned horizontal piece called nuki.  It is hard to tell what style of torii it is from its condition and without more inspection.

We explored the cave a little bit but did not find anything real significant.  DJ thought this rock was a fossil, but it turned out it was cement from a ruined cement bag.
This is a view looking out from the small cave. 

Our party headed off into the jungle next.  Greg carried the long bamboo guaili’ (Chamorro for fruit picker) so that we could reach the avocados and coconuts.  The trail showed evidence of a once active farm with groves of avocados, bananas, coconuts, starfruit, tangerines, cassava, betel nut, taro and yams.  
The trail even had Arabica coffee trees!  DJ and Greg inspected some dried coffee beans from a tree.  Greg had to explain to him that they didn’t look like the brown coffee beans he has seen in pictures because they haven’t been roasted yet.   DJ is going to plant some at his house to see if they will grow.
We will have to come back when they flower.  Coffee flowers usually don’t last long but the flowering season is not to be missed since it promises clusters of pure white jasmine-like flowers!  
Greg cut us down some coconuts for refreshment with the guaili’.  He got pretty good at dislodging avocados and then catching them himself.  After this picture was taken, we had a pretty good downpour that lasted for most of our hiking adventure.  We got soaked!     
I was only able to get a few shots with my camera phone due to the deluge.  We probably got to pick 10-15 pieces of avocados each which are now all eaten.  We will have to schedule another visit to the jungle grove soon!  Maybe get some taro for soup?  Or some bananas will be ready?  Let's go!

Ti napu.
The Beachcomber

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

More Saipan Nudibranchs

Nudibranchs are related to marine snails.  Although they are related, they do not have shells as thy shed them before they become adults.  They are amazingly varied and colorful, and people around the world "collect" them in pictures.  The name "nudibranch" means naked branch because of their exposed gills.  People more commonly call them "sea slugs" which is not a very flattering name.  Interestingly, the Japanese call them umi ushi meaning "sea cow" because they have head tentacles that look like horns.  These are sensory organs called rhinopores.

You can find a few nudis in the shallow waters of Saipan's beaches.  You just have to look carefully since they are very small, and although quite colorful, they are camouflaged well in the marine environment.  This is the Elysia ornata I found a few weeks ago in Obyan Beach.   
I found a few more this weekend that I would like to share.  I do not have an underwater camera and couldn't get a picture of the Thuridilla gracilis that I saw in Obyan last week.  I did manage to find another one at Coral Ocean Point.
She was strikingly beautiful and only about 15 millimeters long. 
Can you tell how tiny she is from the size of the sand grains in the picture?  Tiny!
Another really common nudi is Plakobranchus ocellatus that has purple and lavender spots.  I guess that is why they named it after an ocelot.  I only had a camera phone with me, so sorry if the pictures aren't that great.
They are a lot bigger than the T. gracilis, at about 30mm long and 10mm wide.  I found a few of them in the shallow reef flat of Wing Beach.

I think they must be pretty common here since I always happen upon them at several shallow beaches.  You can check out more nudibranch information and look at beautiful pictures in Nudipixel where a few of my friends have contributed their finds from Guam and Saipan. 

I think these maybe are the more common shallow water nudibranchs around here but I will keep an eye out for others.  Thanks for talking stories again.

Ti napu.
The Beachcomber

Monday, June 18, 2012

Not So Extinct Sea Urchin

Some scientists believe that the collector sea urchin (Tripneustes gratilla) is extinct on Saipan due to over collection.  Imagine my surprise to find one after more than 7 years!  Well, it may very well be extinct now since I made this one into a yummy sea urchin sashimi or uni!  Yummy!  

Just kidding!  But all jokes aside, I was very happy to find that there is still a population of collector urchins  hanging on to existence in the CNMI. Someone told me that people used to collect them by the buckets in the 1980s through the 1990s.  These urchins have short spines and they have a habit of "collecting" bits of shells, sea grass and algae that camouflages them from predators.  I still don't have an underwater camera so I had to briefly bring this one above water for a picture.  I tasted another type of sea urchin a long time ago on Guam when my dad popped one open and squeezed some lemon in it.  I remember it tasting like lemony sand.

I also found a live tulip cone snail (Conus tulipa).  Out of all the cone snails, this one resembles the deadly geography cone (C. geographus) the most, so there is speculation that it is just as deadly.  Cone snails use a harpoon-like tooth to inject their prey with venom and handling them can prove to be deadly.  So my advice: Hands off!  Check out this link that my friend Doug wrote that has video of a geography cone snail.

Thanks for talking stories with me again.  Take care, friends.

Ti napu.
The Beachcomber

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Obyan Nudibranch

I went beachcombing at Obyan Beach with the BFF this weekend.  The day was hot and sunny and the tide was really low.  In the shallow water, I saw two nudibranchs (sea slugs) but only managed to get a picture of one (sorry, I only had my phone camera).  I think this is an Elysia ornata and it was laying down its egg mass.  The other one was probably a Thuridilla gracilis.  Nudibranchs are especially hard to identify and there are people who are really into "collecting" them in pictures.  Here is a picture of the bright yellow egg mass:
Beach time with the BFF are some of the best times.  Hopefully there will be more time in the water next weekend.
Ti napu.
The Beachcomber