Sunday, December 30, 2012

Mutant Winter III Mutated into Mutant Winter IV!

Congratulate me, the father of a new mutant! Some might think you get used to spawning a new mutant after the first few, but let me tell you, they are so wrong! Every mutation is special in its own way. Some may recall that I put together yet another bike for this winter, Mutant Winter III.

When I wrote that post, this weird thing happened where somebody commented and I responded; it was cool:

Well, John's concerns about "the balance" proved to be more than warranted on this bike. Like I said in my reply, I thought it would be OK, but I was wrong. I don't know if it was related to frame being much lighter (alu instead of steel) or frame geometry or 700c wheels or what, but where the tub used to only lightly affect balance before, on this bike it made the ass end totally whippy and weird. Whippy and weird is not cool when you're riding on ice and snow. The 2nd best tub in town (sniff) had to go.

I got a rear rack for the bike and am using my Ortliebs with it. The rack I bought had no "deck", so I had to come up with a way to avoid the dreaded dirty stripe up the backside. Normal fenders are prone to snow and ice buildup between the tire and the fender, which I hate. The wacked out fender/rack setup I ended up with (zip ties, back duct tape and junkpile fender piece) leaves loads of room for gunk to fly or fall away:

And it shall be called the "rafender"!

I have ridden in lots of slushy snowy goop in the last little while, and the fender stays nice and clear while blocking spray very well. I was surprised that the panniers did not collect any appreciable amount of spooge either. This bike is really working out well so far.

I hope to get a little snow riding video processed soon. It'll be boring, but pretty. Like me.

Yer Pal,

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pick 3

OK everybody, the time has come to determine who has won the Third Annual Rantwick Autumn Tree Smackdown.

I really liked how it went down last year, so I'm just gonna do it that way again. For those of you who have forgotten or are new to the contest, the entrants voted for each other. Last year I allowed each entrant to vote for 2 trees other than their own. This year, since there are so many great entries, I'm increasing it to 3. I then create a stupid video about the voting, the trees and the winner. Here's last year's video:

Whether your tree kicks ass, lands in the esteemed "Hall of Zeroes" or falls somewhere in between, believe me when I say that I (and many others, I bet) really enjoyed getting a look at it. Thanks!

If you are one of the justifiably proud participants in this contest, please review all of the entries by visiting the web album they're in by clicking here. Then, Pick 3 faves and send me an email saying what they are.

When I've heard from those who actually read this blog anymore (considering my absences recently), I'll bug the other entrants directly for votes via email. At that point I'll also set a deadline for votes so things don't drag on forever.

Good luck everybody, and oh yeah, belated Merry Christmas! I'm hoping to post again before the new year about something other than trees.

Woo Hoo! It's voting time!

PS - Hey, are you wishing you could vote, but didn't enter a tree? Well, I've come up with something for you too:

Take a crappy picture with your stupid phone next year and enter my contest. You can vote then, even if your tree sucks! Sorry if you were hoping for more, that's all I got.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Xmas Time Suckage = TARATS Tardiness

Christmas is sucking up TIME! I mean, it is 11:55 PM Sunday night as I write this, and it is the first opportunity I've had to post something all weekend! I used to dislike Christmas quite a lot. I worked in shopping mall retail for a good stretch many years ago now and I swear it sucked whatever goodwill I had left from my already jaded and cynical heart. Then I had kids and Christmas was reborn as a time of joy and sharing and excitement. Whew. Way to go kids! Still, the running around is beginning to get to me.

Anyway, I must once again apologize for not being around to post the last of the TARATS entries until now. I received these days before Saturday night's entry deadline.
First up is Steve A, longtime sufferer of this web space's random whining and opining and stupefying. He already entered one tree from Seattle, but now his Texas (home state) entries are ready too. Email, with tree pics inserted at appropriate moments:

Well, it's time to throw the glove down.

Author's Note: Holy Crap!


Picture 1 was my intended Texas entry. This tree is the largest Texas Red Oak in the United States. Unfortunately, it didn't turn color evenly. Picture 2 shows the girth of this tree's trunk. This tree would TRULY be a contender, had it turned color evenly. But it didn't.

Texastree3 was another candidate. It was in a park in Forth Worth, as was Texastree5. Of the two, I think #5 is most worthy of entry,though it is the smaller of the two.

However, in the final analysis, I think "Texastree6" is the best of the lot. Conveniently, it is also a block from my house, in Colleyville Texas. I'll go with it, over the big Texas "bad boy" and the two "park spectaculars."


I hope to find out if either #5 or #6 beat the Seattle tree. Encourage your readers!

-Steve A
Seattle Tree

I will be happy to encourage my readers, Steve!

Dear Reader,

You should know that although it doesn't always feel like it, you are doing great. Remember that Christmas really can be a time to feel blissed out. You just have to dump all that feels like bullshit from your mind and fill it instead with any and all good stuff available to you right now. I bet you'll find it is a fair bit of stuff when you start thinking about it.

Steve, I know that wasn't what you were looking for, but I feel OK about being a smartass, because I've done this:

I present for your votifying amusement The First Ever Steve Needs To Know Seattle vs. Fort Worth vs. Colleyville Tree Smackdown! (FESNTKSVFWVCTS!)

Which of the above trees Rocks Autumn the Hardest?

I have entered tree5 (B) and tree6 (C) in the contest. Please note that a vote above has zero impact on the real TARATS contest, for which I have not yet determined my voting methodology. I'm leaning towards last year's method, where the entrants vote for each other. Seems kind of nice to me. Christmas-y almost. Sharing of goodwill and all that.
I've got one more entry, from JAT, last year's winner! Email:
Great entries this year. As far afield as I've been looking for trees - I have a new job with a new commute, and by the time I got around to passing last years winner it was completely bare - then one day in the car on my way for a major grocery buying trip I stumbled across this one two blocks form my house in West Seattle.

JAT in Seattle
Thanks JAT, you have ended this year's round of entries with a Bang. I never would have imagined that so many people would send so many trees... it is awesome, thank you all. I'll be back soon with more info on voting and stuff. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Trevor Traveller's Triple Tops Total TARATS Tree Tally!

Trevor, the world-famous PurpleTraveller, has submitted three trees from across the sea!

Hi....Greetings from the South Coast of the UK....

Running a bit close to the wire with my entry this year.....When I found that the security had been increased at the country estate where last years entry was photographed I knew that I would need a replacement tree for this year...

I decided to set myself the task of finding a tree in my local Bournemouth area....checking out the local streets and parks on foot....not even using my bike....I mean at the speed of light that I ride I would be travelling too fast to see any trees....

Anyway....three trees here and captured whilst on foot....


Trevor (purpletraveller)

Tree 1 / Photo taken two streets from home....

Tree 2 /  Photo taken in Lower Gardens Bournemouth and my Main Entry:-

Tree 3 / Taken in Centre Gardens Bournemouth....submitted because I like the range of colours of the leaves....going from Black through Reds and Browns and of course Greens...

Thanks, Trevor! I dig those trees, man.

Yer Pal,

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I Need Some Time, Dammit!

Still no time to be a proper blogulator, so I have to be brief, but I have more TARATS entries that I don't want to let get too stale.
First RCT is back for more...
Hello again Rantwick,

Well it seems in my opinion that I captured my best foliage freak out on my first search this year. I can no longer rest on my laurels *pun!* and I think it's time to unveil this years winner. This first pic which I believe I sent you earlier as a preview is nice because it shows my bike. We love bikes!
Following will be a close up "under the canopy" shot for your inspection and lastly my official submission which I dub "Great Ball of Fire"
Yours Most Truly,


RCT #5 - "Great Ball of Fire"
RCT sure is bringing his A game!
The deadline for tree entries approaches, 11:59 PM Eastern time, Dec 15. I've got another one to post from the Purple Traveller in the UK, but that will have to wait until next time. Did you read that? The UK! Other side of the Ocean! Yeee Haaaw!
Be Good,

Monday, December 3, 2012

El Paso

Jen from El Paso makes it 19 people (and 29 trees!) in my contest. Normally I would ramble on about how great this is because it means the contest is still growing in its third year, but I have no time, dammit!
Here's Jen's email and tree:
Howdy howdy! Here's a tree doing its autumn thing on one of the community college campuses in El Paso Texas. It's mostly cactus and other pointy plants here in the desert, so a red tree like this is quite eye-catching when you come across one.



Thank you very much, Jen! Eye-catching indeed!
With any luck I will have an opportunity to write about something else and even interesting soon. Until then I remain yer pal,

Friday, November 30, 2012

New Hampshire Weighs In

Longtime friend of this blog Cafiend has not had good luck with his best Smackdown tree again this year:
As usual, my best tree eluded me. It stands majestically on a knoll in a nearby village not along one of my regular routes. This year it wasn't ready and then was stripped by tropical storm winds.

The trees I submit are maples around the shop in Wolfe City. I got artsy with the up-trunk shots because it's hard to get a good canopy shot from a distance. Buildings, streets and power lines interfere.

I knew those big winds were gonna cause trouble, dammit. Didn't stop Cafiend though... he sent me these three

and decided on this one as his official entry:

Very nice, indeed, don't you think?
Please have excellent weekends, everyone! The first "real" snow of this winter is falling outside my window. I hope it stays. Some snowy video will make a nice counterpoint to our next TARATS entry from Jen in El Paso Texas, TARATS 19th person to enter, which means it has surpassed last year in every way! Woot!
Yer Pal,

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Texan Twins Totally Try To Take Top Tier TARATS Tally

Or, if you would rather, Doohickie entered this pair of trees in my contest:

I hope those two like each other okay; it would really suck to hate your yard mate and be rooted in the earth, I bet. No "just leaving" or stomping off for these two. I think these Twins are alright though. You can tell by the way they pop the same colour.

Yer Pal,

Wow I'm Lucky

The world is a violent and dangerous place for so many. I count my blessings all the time, a huge one being that I live in a beautiful First World country. I mean, I live in a place where a single rusty gun found in the river has a newspaper article written about it:
How lucky can I and my family and all of my fellow citizens be? Makes you feel ashamed of complaining about anything, ever, y'know?
Yer Pal,

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Virginian, part II

Hey, no time to try to be clever today, but Mike A from Virginia sent me tree picture for TARATS. This is Part II because I already have one Viginian tree from Kenny. Brevity is Mike:
Saw your invite a while back. Here in Virginia, everything operates a bit slower. Cheers
Great tree, thanks Mike! Don't forget, you can see all of this year's entries by clicking this link.
Yer Pal,

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Texan Rebel and the Flowering Aussie

I'm gonna start writing Romance novels. I mean, look at that tag line! I hope you weren't getting all worked up for some steamy story that has nothing to do with pictures of trees, though. This is just a Third Annual Rantwick Autumn Tree Smackdown post, so cool your jets and check out some trees, you sex-crazed freaks!

Email about what I'm calling the Texan Rebel:
 None of the other trees in Texas seem to get it, but this one does.  He (I think it’s a male) resides on the golf course at River Crest Country Club here in Fort Worth.  I snapped this picture today while running errands.  If you want to see more from the ride, click here (Facebook link):
 I was really pleased to get this entry from Doohickie, a reader who's been around pretty much since I started this thing. While I'm thinking of it, thanks to everyone who takes precious time to read my nonsense, whether you're a new arrival or long-time drivel junkie. I really appreciate it.
I also appreciate Doohickie's tree; it reminds me of that old Sesame Street bit:

Now, what about our "flowering Aussie"? This is an entry from a SECOND Australian person, Vicki! It is Spring in Australia, but as I have stated before, if Aussies want to enter my contest while I'm flogging it with the Spring trees they've got at the time, I'm gonna accept those pics.


Dear Rantwick

I live in Oz and it is not Autumn here, it is Spring so did not think I would be eligible to enter your wonderful competition, but then the other day I saw this tree in flower and it looked so much like an Autumn tree that I decided to give it a go, as you seemed to be flexible in your entry requirements. I think it is a flowering gum as it was in the distance and I could not get close enough to it to check.

Vicki of Bicycles in Newcastle


Hey, if any of you are still struggling with your over-sexed imaginations thanks to my post title, just imagine this instead: The Aussie with Flowering Gums. Problem solved, yes?

Stay tuned; I have fallen behind in posting the TARATS entries, so I've got a Virginian and some Texan twins waiting in the wings, coming soon to a TARATS post near you. Or near here. Well, here, really. Come on back, OK?

Yer Pal,

Thursday, November 22, 2012

More and More TARATS Awesomeness

I love my job. I mean, wonder in print where Canadian trees are, receive one next day. Plus another Aussie. Crazy. Crazy, I say!

Let's start with Michael from Ridgeville, Ontario, Canada. For those unfamiliar, Ridgeville is near Niagara Falls. If you are unfamiliar with Niagara Falls, well, look it up, 'cause the Falls are AWESOME. Literally.

Michael confused me with his email, which had the subject line A Cajun Tarats Entry... Michael appears to try to explain how Cajun = Canadian in a PS that I didn't quite grasp. Of course, the Cajuns in the USA are descendants of the Acadians found in our Maritime regions, so it's all good anyway. For a change I didn't have to look anything up on this one, since my last name is Cormier and I am part Acadian myself, which makes me a Canadian Cajun of sorts. You follow? Don't matter none, I gare-on-tee. Let's move onta the email:

Good Morning Mr. Rantwick,

Attached is a photo of a tree that I believe is worthy of consideration for the grand prize in the 2012 Autumn Tree Smackdown.

If you look closely, you will see (you WILL) that the tree has, in fact is covered with, leaves. Now, this might not seem special to the untrained photo viewer. And, well, I suppose it is not. But it seems rather special to me for several reasons.

1. It not longer has leaves. Not even one! As far as I know this is the only documentation of this tree ever having leaves on it. Or at least having leaves that are red, orange and yellow. At least from this year... in October... and... um... on a Saturday... afternoon... while it was sunny... and... at lunch hour... while I was watching... with my son.

Yes! It is absolutely one of a kind! There is not other photo like it. In fact, with the possible exception of the other entries that are better, this is the best autumn tree photo in your contest taken by me! What more reason could there be?

It might also be the entry that is closest to the place of residence of the submitter. I can see this tree from my front window (living around the corner). Well, sure, I would have to cut down several of the other not-so-smakdowniness trees that are in the way. I would also have to bulldose a few neighbors' houses. But I can see it!

Surely this makes it deserving of the Maple Syrup prize. mmm... Maple Syrup... and not the "crumby" kind either!



P.S. some of us cajuns have difficulty with words longer than two syllables, so we are cajun, but not Cajun.
Well, Michael has certainly put me on the spot. In a sticky situation, if you will. You see, I had determined that I was not going to give out a maple syrup prize this year. Michael's somewhat odd and enthusiastic email, however, has made me reconsider. The winner of my contest will receive:
1) The right to crown their tree King of Autumn 2012 (uncontested by me).
2) A used trophy modified to somehow illustrate that fact. The winner will undoubtedly display it with great pride in their home or workplace.
3) A tiny bottle (unlike last year, which was a bigger bottle) of the best maple syrup ever, Jakeman's Canada #1 Extra Light. This magic substance should not be wasted. Keep it cold in the fridge and savour it by the teaspoon. In my opinion, putting it on or in things is a waste. More here.
Since I'm going back to tiny bottles, I'm considering runner-up syrup prizes as well. Considering. It all depends how you people behave over the next month or so (hehe, take that, my little ones).
Hey, wait, I forgot to show Michael's tree!

Thanks, Michael! Powerful little tree you got there!

Hey, this post has kind of run on, so I'm going to bail now and do a separate post about Vicki's tree from Newcastle, NSW, Australia next! I love the Internet! People from about as far away from me as you can get on this planet are sending me tree pictures! It's just so cool!

Yer Pal,

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Missing Movember

First, does everybody know what Movember is? Let's check:
Do you know what "Movember" is?
If you don't know what it is, follow this link to get the scoop:

I'm guessing most of my readers know what it is (although the poll will tell), either through me or Fat Cyclist or the ever-increasing exposure and general popularity of it. I haven't done it since 2009. Well, not really. I grew a moustache in 2011 I think, but did not register or raise any money. The high numbers of men I see doing it this year are making me wonder if Movember is missing out on a lot of fundraising thanks to people who jump on the bandwagon but don't do the work, like I did in 2011.
Back in 2009 when I did it, I had to explain to nearly everyone I knew what I was up to, raising money for prostate cancer research, etc, etc. These days everybody seems to know that Movember is about growing a moustache in November to raise money, but I wonder how many are really doing it (raising money)?
This November, please humour me by answering the poll below. It is anonymous. I'm just curious and I'm as "guilty" as anyone, so thanks for your honesty.
This November / Movember I Am:

I will be doing the full registration and money-raise next year, I think. That will feel good.
Yer Pal, R A N T W I C K

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

More TARATS Action!

Recumbent Conspiracy Theorist (best name ever, by the way) has sent me two more trees! The email:

Hi Rantwick,
This attractive tree resides on city property here in north central Ohio. I snapped the shot in the morning on the way to work. This tree has a brother that lives not far to the side. I didn't want him to feel left out so he got his picture taken too. That one to follow.

The trees:

I'm beginning to wonder where all the Canucks are at... it's just me and Skyers so far and Autumn leaves are pretty much done in most of the country... that's cool though. The International angle is lots of fun for me.  R A N T W I C K

Monday, November 19, 2012


I have received another TARATS entry, making it 20 pictures so far. The email:
I took this in Ann Arbor, MI on 10/21/12. This is one of the first pics I took with my new Iphone 5. I think it turned out pretty great. This is an unedited picture too - straight from my phone.
Thanks for the fun contest!

 Woah. Stunner. Thanks Josh!
Yer Pal,

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Tarats Entry #19 - Seattle

Longtime reader of these pages Steve A has had two trees in mind for my contest this year. One of them is (or was) ready. If you are at all familiar with Steve or his blog DFW Point-to-Point, you will already know that Steve sometimes has something of a historical bent, one that I quite enjoy.

Leave it to Steve to make his first tree entry one with a documented back-story! Take it away, Steve...

Entry #1 - from North Seattle (well, it became part of North Seattle about 100 years after this tree sprouted). The day after this photo was shot, heavy rain set in as often happens in Seattle and when it cleared, the tree looked like the bottom photo. In truth, the brown pickup is in both photos. Note how the Maple rivals the Douglas firs in height, and how the trunk is nearly the same diameter as the silver car is wide. There is more on this tree at: 

Steve, thank you for that serious big-ass tree.

I got 18 entries last year, but they were from 18 individual people. This entry makes it 19 trees from 12 people so far. Thanks all! Anybody else? C'mon, you know you wanna... if you're showing up late and have no tree to photograph, well, um, too bad, I guess. Maybe next year?

Yer Pal,