Thursday, February 19, 2009

Its been a while since i´ve had to hide my nose ring

Bienvenidos al parte final,
This is the last segment of my epic mini-series on our run up to Rainbow Cafe.
I hope you´ve enjoyed the ride, thank you for choosing bike blender blog, and please remain seated until the aircraft comes to a complete and full stop.

By mid afternoon, day of the presentation, this is what my bike looked like. Allllllmost there... just a few finishing touches.

I made the mistake of attaching the donut to the table before i put the base of the blender on it. Allow me to explain.

The blender needed to sit perfectly above the hub (the part that spins from contact with the bike´s wheel). So by attaching the red circular part first, without the base of the blender, i got it slightly off. Thus when the base and blender sat exactly where they needed to they hung off to one side of the red piece ever-so-noticably. Carlos assured me it was fine, but my perfectionism contended that, in fact, it was not. I insisted on fixing it and Carlos had a good suggestion.

The silver-painted plastic base of the blender has four holes in which to screw. He said that i could cut four screw tips off, place them facing down in the holes and then imprint the necessary predill points into the circle. Good call.

I did this then pre drilled. But after trying to get the second screw in, and it didn´t go, i knew that i had to widen the holes so tht i could see them lining up. I re-drilled the holes to be just slightly smaller than the head of the screw, this way the screw would pass through the wood, catch in the plastic and act as a clamp. It worked perfectly.

The next challenge was to get the red/silver apparatus perfectly alligned with the hub so that all would allign as it needed to. To do this i placed the augmented base on the blender, locked it in place, flipped it upside down and then put the hub and table on top. This way the puzzle pieces were all together and i could screw, from underneath, the whole thing together.

It came out just right, everything lined up nice and neat.

I set the table on the bike and got to fastening it down. Carlos had said we would use rivets, like the other liquadoras have, but in the time crunch he said just use normal screws. Not nearly as pretty, but faster yes.

One thing that i wish i had forseen was that the table had to be put on before the handle bars could be welded on. At first i didn´t think it was a big deal, but when molten bits of metal scarred my careful paint job i was a little displeased. It still looks really nice, just not up close.

And here it is all finished up. (If i were to do it again, i think i´d paint the table candy stripes)

While i was working away on the bike, Carlos was putting the finishing touches on a little project he´s been working on for a while- a yarn spinner, that could be bike powered but isn´t, its motorized and just happens to utilize a lot of bike parts. (When he was working on it i asked him why not a bike, he said they wanted a motor, i said bikes were better, he agreed, i said we cant count on electricity and fuel into the future, he said i know, that´s why this- maya pedal- is so important)

With the bike machines all finished up it was time to pack up and go. I was down at the internet cafe checking a few things out before we left. The ladies loaded the truck and came down to claim me.

Carlos, Ana Maria, and Johana looking like superstars.

Me running out of the internet cafe with my nice pants on my head, and we were off! (Except for a pit stop at the lavenderia to pick up a fresh shirt and socks for me).

After getting changed and flipping my nose ring up I was ready to present. We waited for a little bit to give people time to come in. Not very many people to start with, in large part because the literature said both 5:00 and 5:30, depending on which flier you saw. But at about 5:15 we started up.

In hindsight i wish that i had taken some shots of our venue, Rainbow Cafe. Its a charming little restaurant with an open air inner courtyard, brick walls and ceramic tiled roof. All of antigua is really beautiful and charming, its easy to see why the tourists flock there.

I spoke for a few minutes about the history of Maya Pedal, how it was started up inconjunction with a Canadian group- PEDAL. How it was incorporated in 2001, its relationships with other internationl NGO´s. I talked about the variety of bike machines that they make, what a magician Carlos is, the importance of this kind of work, and how one can help out with the mission and vision of MP. During the presentation i passed out photocopies of all of the bike machines, with their names and descriptions.

To highlight one of Maya Pedal´s specific projects, Anneliese talked some about las Mujeres en Accion. She passed around an aloe blade, chamomile and, ah, umm, another herb (sorry Anneliese) that the women use in their shampoo making process. There to represent the Mujeres was Ana Maria, who sold 90 quetzal worth of shampoo that night! (We also did pretty well in donations, over 300 Q)

Next, i invited Erin to come up and demonstrate the machines to the crowd. She seemed a little surprised at first, apparently when she offered to play Vanna White she was joking. But she got up all the same and did a terrific job, she´s a natural presenter. Good projection.

First was the desgranadora- the corn de-kerneler. It was a huge hit, the crowd cheered when the corn popped down and back up. Its a funny process to watch, it amuses local kids for hours at a time. I´ll have to post a video of it sometime.

Next was the liquadora, which got some calls from the crowd for margaritas. Its funny, most people over forty look at it and think, booze! But us interns look at it and think, while drooling in a homer simpson voice, ooooh, smooooothies...

And then the electricity generator. Which actually generated too much electricity and burned out the bulb. During the Q&A it was not surprising that most people were curious about generating electricity by bike, specifically, what they could power with it. I could see the train of thought barrelling through their minds- thinking of all the appliances and gizmos that they would like to run by getting their daily dose of exercise. Biking electricity is pretty inefficient, most of them were unimpressed by the many hours of biking it takes just to power three tenty watt bulbs (3 hours of biking to 9 hours of light). I´m sorry to say this is the kind of mentality we need to begin letting go off- we´re not going to be able to bike our way into energy independence, not even on a personal level. In my mind it seems more prudent to ask, not how can i keep my gizmos running, but do i really need my gizmos? But i digress.

After Erin demonstrated we asked if anyone in the crowd would like to try ou the machines, several were pretty excited to come up and check them out.

There were some really terrific people in the crowd, we got several offers of donations of bike parts and tools, someone offered to screen print us shirts that we could sell. Two women from texas took time to explain internet fundraising to Anneliese, and we enlisted some volunteers in the process. All in all it was a good night, Johana and Carlos were very pleased with how it went.

After the talk we packed up and headed home, most of us riding in the back of the truck. With a better view and less stuff, this ride was a lot more fun than my first back o´the truck excursion. Carlos was happy to make it as exciting as possible, we all screamed in terror/joy a few times.

From the truck Johana spotted a man pedaling a bike by hand, she recognized it as one of Carlos´designs and jumped up and down for us to take pictures. But doing thirty made it hard to catch. I think i´m the only one who, kind of, got him.

Earlier in the night i had suggested that we stick around in Antigua for dinner, but Johana said it would be too expensive. Instead we stopped for roaside food in Paramos. I couldn´t figure out why, but i had a real hankering for meat. So i had four hotdogs, which turned out to be eight. I called them Chuchos (which means dog) and everyone died laughing, what are they called in spanish, i asked? They´re called hotdogs.

portion numero cuatro

Four cans of yellow later, i had a glowing bici-maquina blinding me with its neon glory. Yellow was not the best color to try to paint over dark brown with, but also my techniques were wasteful according to Carlos- he showed us how to use the cans properly, i think it would have saved me a can.

Without orange spray paint i had to use the orange paint from the shop. The problem with this was that every single brush was dead, dried hard as a rock, chock full o´paint. Not wanting to repeat the look of other non-spray painted items, i thought the best way to get it looking nice would be to dip it in the paint. But without enough paint or a large enough basin to do it in, i decided it would be a brilliant idea to pour the paint on. And blow it around.

It looked pretty good when wet, nice and thick, covered all of the flaws of the wood that i couldn´t sand out. I´d just have to wait for it to dry.

Come morning, my Pollock-onian experiment proved worthless, the paint was all cracked and ugly, it absorbed heavily into the wood in some places, not at all in others. It was an ugly mess. So i did the only logical thing, i poured more paint on it.

Oh, and i found a fan to encourage its dry time.

But, by one in the afternoon- on the day of the presentation- it was clear it wouldn´t dry in time. (two days later its still not dry). So i cut another pice of wood, fitted it, drilled, reattached the hub and spray painted it to a nice mellow orange creamsicle.

When i set the table on the bike i discovered that it had somewhow ended up un-level. So in Guatemalan mode, i looked around for a piece of metal, any piece of metal, roughly the right size to prop up the drooping corner. A nut sufficed.

Not a good weld, my first attempt blew a hole right through the square tube. We were running out of time, Carlos had to be called in, quick. Three bzzzzt´s and we were back in business.

Meanwhile in the background, several others are churning away at the peanut de-sheller. Mixing concrete and getting all kinds of messy.

The concrete was pusehd into a series of molds to form the necessary series of cones for the de-shelling process.

The leftover concrete, Carlos instructed, was to be put into a bike wheel while he was at lunch. Neither Anneliese nor I felt particularly confident about this considering that we´d never done it, and really weren´t sure. But the wet concrete had a natural countdown in place and demanded action. Right then, Johana showed up, she knew that the bottom needed water sprinkled on it, and that the whole wheel could be turned back in forth in place to settle the concrete.

With these two necessary procedural steps in place i took over and finished the job. I had seen Carlos smooth out previous fly wheels with a small wooden block, i found it and patiently pushed all the concrete just as it should be. It was a slow and satisfying process.

Once the glaring glow of my machine was dry i uncovered the pedals and attached the rest of the pieces, minus the handlebars.

If you are wondering what that small red circle is, its a prop to go underneath the base of the blender. It turns out the a miscalculation was made and the hub came up too high, forcing the base of the blender up off of the wooden table. The red donut fixed that.

I then went on to the handle bars. Since i had the yellow and orange, i thought it would be nice to have a couple hints of red, the donut and the handle bars. I bought some electrical tape and wrapped the handlebars with it. I really like the way it came out, especially when its on the bike.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

preparing - continued

Installment number three:

By this time the genders had separated, unintentionally, into teams to complete the two bici-liquadoras. Well, my team was actually just me, what with Palo being who knows where.

The starship trooper alien bugs each needed a final leg attached, both for stability and to house the seat post. And as the sole representative of my sex i declared Team Man ready to go.

First i ground out a crescent in the bottom tube of the bike frame. This was to maximize contact between the pieces of metal and encourage a better weld. It took some time to get the top crescent and bottom crescent just right, the both had to line up to create the space for a true and plumb seat post.

Then the top tube (this being the word i was so painfully struggling for two posts ago) which i had previously removed needed to have the tube of the headset (not the header) welded to it to provide enoguh height for the seat post. In my inexperienced mind i thouhgt, i`ll just tack weld the two together and then bend it into place. So i did, but it did not.

When i went to bend it, knowing nothing of how the tube was constructed, the top part stayed and the rest, to my chagrin, popped off. Grrrrr.

So i hammered it off and started again. This time I was sure to weld the little bugger to the tube. My tack weld bend strategy worked well the second time around and i got the thing looking pretty straight.

Though with an unnattractive- but still strong- weld. The learning curve isn`t the smooth parabola that Mr. Teacher`s graph would like you to believe it is. Its a bumpy oscillating general upward trend.

I then cleaned it up some on the grinder, and stuck it to the rest fo the machine. Also not the prettiest weld on the block (it was last to be asked to prom) But a fair amount of grinding got it looking a little better.

I then ran into a problem that i`m not sure Carlos factors in during construction- the floor is not level. This translated into a rear seat post/ third leg that didn`t touch the floor. I wouldn`t have known had i not sat on it and almost fallen backwards.

With this new realization in mind i took it over to the most level spot i could find- the tile floored section of the hallway- to check it out there. I needed to remove just a little teeny tiny bit from the the center post. I ground it down, but apparently too far, transfering the important job of floating from the back to center. It also was pretty unstable side to side. Unsure of how importnat or not the center post was i decided to leave it for the morrow, moving on to the rear stablization.

I found some angle iron to run perpendicular to the bike, a measure that would surely stop the rocking. The iron was too big to put in the table cutter, so i had to use the hand grinder. The one of frequent use was too small, largely due to its frequent use. I fishec out a big one from the tool box and, boy, was it big. I don`t think my picture can do it justice. It was like holding up a 20 pound large-mouthed bass. (I was tempted to pose with it like my catch, but holding it by the cord is bad for it, especially with all that weight).

I set the iron against the bike, leaving the cut end to fall off, which is something you have to do to avoid pinching the blade and a possible kick back (not good).

Once cut i made a tack weld and took it to the level spot. I could see it needed slight adjustment. Hammering helped there. When set i took it back and welded it all on.

After I decided to get the seat post set up. First i cut a small slit in the top of the tube, this allows the tube to constrict and hold the seat post steady. I then put on the hardware i had pulled from another bike, it didn`t quite fit, so i jammed it open knowing that i could squeeze it back into pladce with the screw.

What i failed to take into account was the fact that the bolt for this apparatus is specially designed to fit and not move on one end (to make taking it on and off easier by only needing one hand to do so). This made it shoot off at an angle and miss the opening on the other side. So i tried to opend the other hole with a drill, it proved to slow and i thoughti might be wrecking the drill bit, so i just notched it out with the hand held grinder. Probelm solved. Uglyily.

Having the seat on I was curious to see the rest of it together, so i cut some square tubing Carlos left for me, set the tray on and found some decent handle bars.

The rustic DIY look actually really spoke to me, i like the slick painted ones too, but this felt a little more bad ass, like, i just dumpster dived me blender machine, uhhh, what!

But the dirty home-made look isn`t fashionable here like it is in the states, where people don`t have money they`d much rather look like they do. Which makes me wonder why so many of us in the states like looking like we don`t.

I opted for yellow.

I also opted for spray paint after seeing how the brush method faired.