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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Processes, Progress, and Pains...

...a post where I passionately ponder a potpourri of pithy points possibly pertinent to the plethora of pleasures and prickly problems provoked by processes pertaining to pedaling.

This is a long one, so get yourself a cup of coffee, get comfortable and let's start by looking at...

Process has become a fashionable business buzzword (unintended alliteration; I'm just on a roll I guess). We all use processes to accomplish tasks and many become habits imbedded in our everyday goings on. I prepare for a ride more or less the same way every time. Getting dressed, filling water bottles, checking out the bike, resetting my computer and so on. Processes are helpful in providing consistency in repeating complex repetitive procedures.

Usually created with good intentions to address real issues, they can, however, get out of hand. This is especially true when it is assumed that a process can be used to guide us through a complicated issue without requiring us to use our experience or common sense to react to events as they unfold. In business this gives rise to the idea that the solution to even the most convoluted problems can be reduced to process steps which can then be carried out by those who are at best obliquely familiar with the intricacies of the issue. To quote another Jack, "Not good."

But sometimes the result is just humorous. Consider my experience at the customer service counter when I delivered our bikes for shipment to Kalispell. As I waited my turn to talk to the agent, I did notice the computers on the counter along the wall. But they were both displaying a message indicating the system which customers were to use to start the process was down for maintenance. When it was my turn at the main counter, the agent asked if I had printed my labels already. I informed him that I had not. "OK," he says, "let me show you how." But when he saw the message on the screens, he scowled in a way that told me things were only going to go downhill from here. "You can just use your computer," I offered, helpfully. "No; I need the label that you print using our handy software. You could have done that at home or work, you know." No, I didn't know. Things were taking a nasty turn as it was not only apparent that it was going to take some effort to get the bikes on their way, it was also becoming my fault, me not being familiar with the required process and all.

But, in what appeared to be real stroke of luck (and NOT a result of the shipping process), the IT guy was in the building and knew how to resuscitate the moribund systems. I was soon (it actually took about 20 minutes) typing away and succeeded in coaxing two small labels from the tiny printer provided for only that purpose. I showed them triumphantly to the agent, who said I was to put one on each box. I dutifully followed his instructions and then helped him lift the first case up onto the scale. At this point, he proceeded to type furiously on his keyboard. After a few minutes, a really LARGE label emerged from his printer. Clearly pleased with this, he peeled the label off of the backing and proceeded to put in on the box, DIRECTLY ON TOP of the little label I had so recently (and carefully, I might add) applied. The same fate awaited the little label on the second box, of course. But the now properly-labeled cases were taken away, firmly in the hands of processes that were intended to get them safely and swiftly to Montana. The shipping agent and I high-fived and chest-bumped, recognizing the deep significance of the successful execution of our parts of the process; we are making...

Recall if you will the blow I received when Bebo announced to the world that I had 0 friends. Well, I am happy to report that the folks at reunion.com sent me an email with the proclamation (I am not making this up), "Jack, You're Popular!" Awwwwww. How nice. I feel better already.

On another upbeat note, I added more miles and more feet to my training log this last week. That plus the fact that the bikes are rolling along towards Montana (they were already at the Eagan, MN facility yesterday afternoon) represent progress towards the goal of completing the Glacier / Waterton tour. My training totals are now 2,280 miles and 112,500 feet. And that might need to be enough, because there are also some...

One royal pain was the failure of my floor pump that resulted in completely deflating a tire I was trying to "top off." I did what I could with a small frame pump and took off. It turns out Bill was working on his bike and, riding near his home as I do, I was able to fully inflate the tire in his garage. For reasons even I cannot fathom, I decided to order a new pump from an internet store. Now I buy a lot of my equipment online and am satisfied with the services offered. However, I really need to have a pump on hand (as we'll see later) and this one has not arrived, nearly a week after placing the order.

With the Trek on its way to Montana, I've been riding the Bianchi. You know what's coming, don't you? Yep. A flat after the first ride. I replace the tube and once again have to bring out the frame pump to achieve only barely acceptable inflation. But once again, I found help at the top of the hill. This time, it was a local bike shop setting up a bike demo at the head of the mountain bike trails. They kindly inflated the tire to its proper pressure and I was off.

On Saturday, I took the bike up Bliss to Bill's where we mounted mountain bikes for a 50 mile round trip to Trempealeau along the wonderful Great River (that would be the Mississippi) Trail. It was a spectacular morning and we had a great ride. However, just before starting back down from Bill's on my Bianchi, he noticed a split in the sidewall of my rear tire. It was all I could ask of it to get me the six miles back to the house, which it did. But I need to put on a new tire. I can't do that without deflating the tube. And when I do that, I'll have to re-inflate it. And I don't have a floor pump yet. What a pain.

And if that isn't enough, not long after I got home, my left knee started to hurt in a pretty significant way. My back was acting up too, and my shoulder weighed in with its usual array of post-ride twinges. All of this caused me to wonder why in the world I would take off on a 50 mile ride on a borrowed mountain bike with a completely different fit than my road bikes. Less than one week before a 400 mile road tour. "What WERE you thinking?" you ask. Or maybe it's just "WERE you thinking?"

The real problem, of course, is that there is no process in place to help me work out what to do in this situation. Clearly, I need the help.

And, at long last, we arrive at the...

"Why are you getting email from reunion.com?" I can hear you wonder. "Aren't you a little down on the whole 'social networking' thing?" And right you are. My reunion connection came a few years ago when I volunteered to help the organizers of my high school reunion fill in some blanks in their mailing list. I signed up at reunion.com and classmates.com as part of my research. Of course, I've gotten emails from them ever since. I could take my name off their mailing lists, but it is a bit of a diversion for me, watching how they're always trying new things to reel me in as a paying customer. And hey, with the kind of moral support I got from the folks at reunion -- like telling me how popular I am -- it seems to be worth it, don't you think?

The pains? I don't think the knee is going to end up being a problem. My back was acting up last year before the Rocky Mountain National Park tour, but I rode a lot and did my back exercises before the tour and, with the exception of the long descent from the top of Trail Ridge Road, I had no problems on the tour itself. That same program this year (riding and exercises) has not seemed to have gotten me as far. I don't have a pump yet and the bad tire is still on the bike. I had decided that I would not ride after this coming Tuesday. But, considering the rapidly accumulating pile of pains, perhaps I'm already done and will just participate in virtual training by watching the Tour de France on Versus TV.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Popular? P-p-p-please, pick peace not P's . . . an idea positively popular!

As to your travel, may the pressure be painless, the pedals pumping, and God's panorama pleasant and praiseworthy!