vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Where are you and where are you going?
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vexed87
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Re: vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Post by vexed87 » Fri Nov 20, 2015 4:31 am

Mid November Update;

There is not a lot going on in the garden any more, I lost the motivation to try grow through the winter so the patch has been manured and is covered over with mulch for the winter. I'll start again early spring, I promise! SO and I have discussed our dreams of buying our first house, and given the wedding expenses faced recently, we are contemplating staying in our current residence for another year, on the bright side, I think I'll be prepared to invest a little more in the garden next year, also the extra savings will mean smaller mortage, win win.

Food expenses have dropped markedly since earlier in the year, we are consistently spending £75 per head per month now rather than £150. Baking our own bread almost daily, eating more rice and staples and beans has helped loads, and SO hasn't even noticed the difference in 'quality' of meals. SO used to say cutting back on food was never going to happen, she should not have let me take over the shopping then should she ;).

My savings rate technically dropped through the floor this month, in fact I spent slightly more than I earned. I'm chalking this down mostly to wedding expenses:

£30 each to give notice to our respective local council of our intent to marry (day light robbery!)
£200 for a musician
£200 for my wedding shoes - although these are Goodyear Welt soles and apparently can be resoled for life just like the infamous Hanwag boots, an investment in future office/smart wear.
£796 for SOs ring
£400 for mine - both are gold, hers with diamonds.

Technically, I could add the rings to my precious metals portfolio, but SO tells me under no circumstances am I to try and time market with our bands. ;)

That pretty much cleared my savings out this month, technically the shoes and rings were investments, those purchases aside, my savings rate would have been 75%. Damn! Also in other news, I didn't mention it in my last post but I bought my first gold bullion coin. It's purdy 8-). I'm a fan of the permanent portfolio, so it was an exciting moment, although the novelty has worn off now, and I have stopped taking out of the safe to look at it.

In other news, the boredom of my day job has set back in. I don't think I can use stoic principles to melt away the boredom, I need a new challenge.

I think I mentioned it before, but I've always dreamed of a career in freelance programming, so up to now I have haphazardly worked on building up a rudimentary knowledge of my first programming language, Python. Besides some simple programmes, I haven't accomplished a lot, but I'm dedicating a lot of my free time to reading about it and developing as much as I can in my spare time. I already have a good handle on the basics of HTML5 and CSS3, so I've recently decided to take a sideways step and I started learning the Javascript language instead , which feels much more like a natural progression. I'm not much the arty type, so I'm not sure how long front end web development could hold my interest, I'll probably get back to Python eventually.

I'm working on a couple of projects at the moment to gain more practical experience, I'm updating my Dad's website which is stuck in the early 00's with flashing gifs and non-responsive layout. also I'm working on an RSVP app for my wedding invitation website. After that I'll start a portfolio website to show off my work. It's hard to get excited about my day job anymore... most quite moments in the office are now spent learning more JS or reading about freelancing. I read a blog about some guy who have made the transition from their day job to entry level jobs in web development, 6-8 months after starting learning in their spare time. If I did this, I would take a slight pay cut, but nothing major, the alternative is to go straight to freelance which is a bit more intimidating for a newbie, we'll see. Not sure I can cope that long in my current job. But hey, I have savings now, so could quit at any time!

Plans over the comming months are to learn some more basics so I know enough to get an entry level job or take on basic dev work:

PHP5
MySQL
AJAX
GIT

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Re: vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Post by Ydobon » Wed Nov 25, 2015 4:55 am

I'm curious, what sort of shiny coin did you opt for?

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vexed87
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Re: vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Post by vexed87 » Wed Nov 25, 2015 5:33 am

One of these:
https://www.bullionbypost.co.uk/gold-co ... gold-coin/

Next time I'll likely buy some smaller denominations, or silver.

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Re: vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Post by Ydobon » Wed Nov 25, 2015 10:53 am

Did you use BBP to purchase it?

I ask as Atkinsons also get a very good reputation and are a bit cheaper (£751.53 today vs. £758, a saving of 0.85%) - more money in your pocket.

I've a hunch that the savings will be better if you're looking at smaller coins as well, as there's typically a higher premium associated with these and more wiggle room for vendors to compete.

A very small quantity of gold at near 5 year lows does appeal, but I'm currently in the midst of a passing? fixed interest phase and gold has no yield! :)

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Re: vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Post by heyhey » Thu Nov 26, 2015 12:04 am

Congratulations on the wedding! Yay!

I had one of those Britannias from 1987, the first year they did them. As far as I recall, it cost over £300 at the time, so it would have only approximately doubled in price .. I don't know how that compares with the stock market, but it doesn't compare well with property prices. But I could be wrong about the original cost.

Anyway, I don't think that's the aim for most people buying gold. It's more to have something that will still hold its value if everything else goes tits up and other forms of money stop being worth anything at all. Think plague, full scale war, etc.

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vexed87
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Re: vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Post by vexed87 » Thu Nov 26, 2015 4:13 am

Thanks heyhey. looking forward to it, I like a good party ;)

@Ydobon, thanks for the suggestion, I did buy at BBP, it was the best rate I could find at the time, I think there was 6% mark up over spot price at the time. I did find it 1% less elsewhere the next day, but wasn't too concerned because I won't be selling up any time soon.
heyhey wrote:Anyway, I don't think that's the aim for most people buying gold. It's more to have something that will still hold its value if everything else goes tits up...
This was initially my line of thinking, its true that gold has no yield but at least it doesn't fall in value over time like cash, it may fall in price in today's currency, but not value, 1 ounce, forever remains one ounce and gold has a good track record of keeping up with even the most inflated currencies over the last 5,000 years or so, even if it has lagged behind from time to time. The more I think about it, keeping 100% of savings in cash seems like a crazy bet that your currency will never drop wildly in value, this could happen within a period of weeks/months in the event of a financial crisis. There are lots of signs that one is right around the corner, I'm getting twitchy :D.

Obviously, gold wouldn't be a great bet if you rely on liquidating it in the worst of markets, or measure you investment returns in dividends... although I think it has some nice perks, I recommend this piece on why we are likely to see $20,000/ounce gold in our lifetime, get your popcorn out, it's a long one:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wO2spBhcucg

Unfortunately, I'm not in long term savings mode yet as I need to put cash down on a house so the amount I can risk in PM investing is small, therefore the tiny amount of gold I own is just in case SHTF in the next year or two, though if gold hit $20,000/troy ounce before things get bad (I bought mine at £758) I would promptly trade it for a stake on some fertile land. :lol:

The video explains you should stop thinking of gold in price, but rather in its value relative to other assets. Once you get your head around that, you can see why in a failing currency, your buying power might increase dramatically. $20,000/ounce gold is great if you can sell it, but who's going to have that cash during a deflationary event, and in Weimar Republic scenario, would you risk selling out in the wildest days of currency printing? No, best bet would be to trade gold for land/property/means of production directly.

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Re: vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Post by Ydobon » Thu Nov 26, 2015 4:36 am

Anyway, I don't think that's the aim for most people buying gold. It's more to have something that will still hold its value if everything else goes tits up and other forms of money stop being worth anything at all. Think plague, full scale war, etc.
Indeed, but that's my aim at this point, so what I need my money to do and what gold does are currently at odds with each other.

Had a passing flirtation with silver philharmonics for a while, but then realised that I was a) buying shiny for shiny's sake and b) that I was being a doomer.

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Re: vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Post by vexed87 » Sat Dec 05, 2015 8:59 am

Finances:

I haven't uploaded any charts in a while because tracking expenses in excel sucks on my Macbook Air, I was regularly experiencing severe stuttering and the programme was constantly crashing, I think Microsoft have neglected their software for on OS X I wonder why :lol: However I have discovered Google Sheets operates without stuttering and doesn't crash at all, so here's an overdue update on my financials:

Edit: Thought it might be worth mentioning that SO and I don't combine finances yet, and SO is far better at saving than I am with a higher income too, so bear in mind this is only part of our household financial picture. The food budget below however is for both of us.

Here's my latest monthly budget, this is a best case scenario with my after tax/student loan deducted income of £1616.16, it doesn't account for none budget items, which means I will never reach 81% savings rate, if I hit 60% I'm happy.
Image

Net worth dropped slightly last month due to wedding expenses plus stocking up on more emergency supplies/deep pantry goods, more on that below. Note my sole gold bullion coin is currently about 15% of liquid assets! The more I read about the economy, the more I feel like making that at least 25% :oops:
Image

I haven't had a chance to implement my pivot tables in Google Sheets to update my Expenses vs. Savings charts, so here's what I have to date. I hope my savings rate increases significantly this month as there should be no more major expenses for a few months. Honeymoon purchase is on the horizon, that won't be cheap... but maybe my last Holiday abroad for a long time. On the bright side, I'm heading to the USA! :D
Image

On resiliency:

I have been reflecting a lot books I've read recently, The Crash Course, Prosper!, Overshoot, Survival+ to name a few. I realise I experienced a lot of anxiety after reading The Crash Course, or rather, I realised my present situation was actually particularly precarious. Since then, I've got the finances sorted, all my debt is gone, I have a stable income, high savings rates etc, but all the money is worthless in time of crisis. I've taken the deliberate act of investing in highly useful/tangible assets that might not be available at any price in crisis.

Here's my deep pantry as of this weekend:

Image Image Image Image

In the two lower pictures you can see:
125 Litres of drinking water
40kg Rice
30kg Flour
5 x 12 tins Chopped Tomatoes
Canned meats, assorted pastas, jarred veggies.

This may look extreme to some, but actually, SO and I get through this quantity of food every 3-4 months, and without a car it means shopping for perishables is much more feasibile on bike. I'm considering upping my storage to a years worth of goods to compliment my vegetable growing next spring. The UK don't experience natural disasters that you see in the US, but I don't think we are a special case, we are just as likely to see disruption to energy markets/just in time delivery mechanisms which I think is high likely within the next 3-5 years.

This is how SO and I get through 15kg sacks of flour, we don't buy bread products any more, its all baked freshly at home, including wraps, speciality loafs, pita, naan etc, its surprising how little time and effort it actually takes, and obviously tastes loads better, nothing better than a house smelling of freshly baked breads. :D :
Image

Aside from the occasional trip to Costco to stock up on food, my mileage in cars has dropped from 6,000 to <50 miles/year thanks to my favourite possession, that's a huge reduction in dependence on oil. I've put in a request to Santa to bring me a winter bike with panniers/full fenders so I can do even more shopping by bike. I now do my 6,000 commuting miles by bicycle. Commuting expenses have dropped from 20% of annual income to <1%:
Image

I have taken other measures to reduce my reliance on consumer electronics, while they may be token gestures, I take great pleasure in simplifying. For instance, I retired my old electric grinder in favour for this high quality manual ceramic burr grinder, I find it even results in a better brew as I am now able to control the size of coffee grinds and reduce bitterness caused by the imprecision of the blender blades. Yes I have about 3kg off coffee in the pantry, just in case SHTF :D . I can't imagine a world without coffee, without cheap oil for quick/cheap transportation, I know it will be a very expensive commodity and access will be restricted, a world like that would make me truly sad, so precautions had to be taken. As a plus, if the lights go out, I can still grind coffee!
Image

My net worth hasn't grown as quickly as I had hoped in recent months due to spending to increase resilience, in recent weeks I have bought a wood splitting axe for chopping firewood, first aid kit - just in case, a knife sharpening stone very useful in the kitchen! Plus other gimmicky purchases like a hand crank radio, a large supply of batteries (all acquired sensibly of course, used, quality, in bulk/steep discount etc). I can sense some doom scenario approaching, while I'm trying avoid the social stigma of 'prepping', I think these preps are all ERE compatible and make life somewhat simpler. I haven't spent any more than £30 on the gimmicky stuff, I can honestly say a lot of anxiety about economic uncertainty faded quickly after establishing the deep pantry.

Plans for increasing resilience in future months include, constructing a DIY water filter, something like below, this will require learning how to producing my own charcoal and ceramic. My initiali reaction was to think, lets go to the local hardware store and buy some, but then I remembered, IN-SOURCING IS AWESOME. :D

Image

I'll also be building a cob oven, increasing my farming skills and I'm also really keen to develop more woodworking skills, something I have been putting off as I don't have the tools, now I have a few months FU money, I'm happy to try buy some. The renaissance lifestyle is finally coming together, can't wait to see what 2016 brings :D

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Re: vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Post by Quadalupe » Sun Dec 06, 2015 7:35 am

Dude, you're doing really good! I'm impressed by your food stash and by how you are reducing your dependency on externalities. I get the feeling that we were both panicking a while ago about that the world might go to shit, but you managed to turn these feelings into concrete actions (and I hope the anxiety levels have dropped somewhat by now). Thanks for the inspiration boost. :)

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Re: vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Post by cmonkey » Sun Dec 06, 2015 9:24 am

I'm liking the photos, and I really like your graphs. Its nice to visualize financials. I am including a new graph in my next update and changed my colors a bit.

That's a nice store of food. If anything, it would be handy in the event of a power grid failure or in the face of rising food prices. I have about 2-3 dozen 5 gallon buckets with mylar bag sealed rice/beans/wheat etc.. in my garage. Mostly for the thought of being snowed in for a month or more. Never know in the midwest!

Along the lines of coffee, I agree, a world without coffee is a horrible thought. I enjoy it so much I have pondered building a small conservatory after FIRE and growing a coffee bean tree. :D Just for the fun of course.

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Re: vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Post by ffj » Sun Dec 06, 2015 11:56 am

That's some good-looking bread. I like your thought-process too. Even if the calamity never occurs, you can still use your stock-piles as a hedge against price fluctuations and disruptions in your life.

I watched the video on charcoal, aaand two hours later I'm back. :D That video led me to Japanese charcoal culture which led me to Japanese castles which led me to Japanese rice culture and I had to force myself to stop. So thanks. :)

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Re: vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Post by jennypenny » Sun Dec 06, 2015 7:34 pm

Did you like Prosper!? It's on my reading list. Did you see that Kunstler did a podcast recently with Martenson and Taggart?

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Re: vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Post by BananaMangoSmoothie » Sun Dec 06, 2015 8:04 pm

I'm really enjoying your journal. Still haven't read all of it though. Keep up the good work!

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Re: vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Post by Ydobon » Mon Dec 07, 2015 5:22 am

Are your figures a month out of date, or have I missed that explanation?

I agree that your bread looks lovely and was also very impressed by your reduction in miles driven. As a new Dad living slightly further out from the city now, my mileage has shot up.

While I don't agree with your gloomy outlook, I'm also trying to reduce our dependence on others at present. We had solar panels fitted at the weekend and the feeling of knowing that the panels were generating more power than I was using as I sat with a coffee in hand watching TV and drying some clothes was pretty amazing. Would you consider some microgeneration when you end up buying somewhere?

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Re: vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Post by vexed87 » Mon Dec 07, 2015 8:02 am

Thanks all for the kind words and encouragement.

@ydobon, only savings vs expenses is a month behind, because I haven't got pivot tables working in sheets yet. With regards to energy self-sufficiency, that's definitely my plan long term, it's a bit of a dream of mine to build myself a DIY water or wind mill for home milling flour etc, energy prices are about to sky-rocket in the UK, we've had too little investment into energy industry and we will see the fall out soon as more of the plants start shutting down. Ideally, I'd like a house with backup wood burners in every room and use solar for things like the lights & electronics. Have you worked out how long until you see a return on your investment? Do you have a means for energy storage at the moment, or are you feeding all surplus back into the grid? Most of my preps are relatively small investments (particularly the food, it's stuff in regular rotation) but have the potential to make a big difference in those unexpected events.

@bms, thanks for dropping by and putting up with my rambling ;)

@JP, actually I got the audiobook free on audible, I did enjoy listening to it, Chris is a great speaker. On reflection most of the content was simply a rehash of what is freely available here, but I particularly enjoyed his chapter about building social capital etc, something I really need to work on personally: http://www.peakprosperity.com/page/what-should-i-do
Thanks for the heads up on the pod cast, I'll check it out.

@ffj, Thanks, it doesn't last long here. My family have put their orders in for Christmas day. I'm getting to the point where I could start to sell it/trade it. Pitty the masses prefer this awful stuff...
Image

@cmonkey, thanks, I have some oxygen absorbers on the way courtesy of ebay, haven't got any buckets yet, but loads of 1 gallon ziplock backs which hopefully work just as well as mylar bags. Sourcing free buckets is on my long list of stuff to do! I realised yesterday by pairing my food stash with with my FU money and ability to grow my own veggies, I could be comfortably out of work for over a year and half and I only started seriously pursuing ERE last March!

@quadalupe, as soon as I had a few weeks of food stored, the anxiety started to fade away. I still freak about losing my job from time to time, as I am still really dependant on money to put a reasonable roof over my head in the future, but secretly hope SHTF so I don't need to go to work any more (half kidding ;)) Alas, the government hasn't fallen and taxes are still due. :D

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Re: vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Post by Ydobon » Mon Dec 07, 2015 8:45 am

Have you worked out how long until you see a return on your investment? Do you have a means for energy storage at the moment, or are you feeding all surplus back into the grid?
It's a little too early to tell re. ROI. I think the official figures are something like 10 years, but there are quite a few variables to consider and the official figures tend to lowball. Positives: excellent orientation, no shading, good quality panels, installation cost was stoozed (so we're being paid to have them for the first couple of years). Negatives: Scotland doesn't get as much sunlight as down sarf!

We don't have any means of storage yet. Home battery technology isn't cost effective yet and we don't have an immersion tank to store excess energy because we have a super-efficient combi boiler instead. You pays your money...

We are reducing the amount of energy exported back to the grid by using our appliances during the day when the sun is at its brightest (laundry, slow cooker, charging appliances etc.)

We're coupling this with a concerted effort to slash our energy usage in general (by going for more efficient, not going without). I think this will bear fruit quite quickly. One example would be reducing the wattage of our kitchen lighting from 320W to 56W by changing the fittings etc. We inherited a full set of white goods, so hopefully our energy use profile will dip over time as these need to be replaced.

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Re: vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Post by heyhey » Mon Dec 07, 2015 6:59 pm

Your pantry is inspiring! I built up a store of food about 18 months ago during the Ebola crisis, but I went a little extreme and planned for food that could be eaten without cooking, in case of no electricity. So I ended up with things I wouldn't normally buy, mostly in cans, and some quite expensive like packets of cooked rice, and some of them are approaching their dates now so I've got to eat all this stuff I don't particularly like. (Powdered egg! Ugh!) I still want to do it but I need to rethink it so I'm cycling through things I normally eat, more like yours.

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Re: vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Post by vexed87 » Tue Dec 08, 2015 2:11 am

Heyhey, have you considered giving the stuff you don't like away to food banks? Precooked foods tend to have nasty additives, but the bright side is that they can last longer than the best before date suggests.

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Re: vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Post by heyhey » Tue Dec 08, 2015 2:24 pm

Yes, I did some of that. But other things I have opened. I will cut myself some slack on the dates though, thanks :)

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Re: vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Post by George the original one » Wed Dec 09, 2015 10:17 pm

> Ideally, I'd like a house with backup wood burners in every room

I know the UK has smaller woodstoves than we do in North America, but I seriously doubt you need them in each room unless the house is poorly laid out for air circulation.

For example, as I'm typing this, our small downstairs woodstove (about the size of your large woodstoves) is keeping the 600 sq ft downstairs (one large room plus laundry & toilet) at a slightly warm 72F while it's 45F outside 2.5 hrs after sunset. The larger upstairs stove is not fired up and it is nearly 67F in the 1000 sq ft dining, kitchen, 3 bedrooms, & 2 bathrooms we have up there. We'll fire off that upstairs stove as we go to bed and let the downstairs stove die off. We'll wake up to 66F up there, even in our bedroom which is down a long hallway at the opposite end from the woodstove.

Last week, when it was very cold (26F), we needed both stoves going as long as possible and we'd wake up to a house at 63F. I'm not going to remove windows to help keep it warmer under those conditions, but I might add another layer of insulation in the attic.
***
And being on well, when the power fails, we keep 5-gallon buckets available for flushing the toilets. This time of year, they just fill with rainwater (4.5" yesterday and 1" today!), but in the summer we walk down to the glorified-creek-they-call-a-river to fill them.

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Re: vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Post by vexed87 » Mon Dec 21, 2015 7:17 pm

GTOO, I suppose that makes sense, my parents have a medium sized wood burner and it heats a 1000 sq ft room easily. I suppose one on each floor of a modestly sized house would do!

Cycling Woes

Well today has been a real day from hell. I woke up late. Arrived at my bike to find a tyre had gone flat over the weekend. Next, my chain dropped 3 times on the way to the office, something was seriously wrong with my front derailleur and the chain kept sitting on the top of the chainring teeth and then falling of the chainring completely, I just about made it into the office in one piece! On the way home, my chain snapped 5 minutes away from the office literally just as the heavens opened up (heavy rain). As I pulled over to work out what the hell was going on, the chain rolled off the cassette and into a storm drain, what are the chances!? Of all the spare bits I carry around with me in case of mechanical failure, I never thought I would need an entire spare chain!

I then had to push the bike 1 mile as I had no drivetrain (plus another mile coasting downhill) to get to a nearby Halfords (a car and bike store). Luckily it was still open so I managed to buy a replacement chain and fit it out in the dark as they were closing up.

When I finally got home, I put the bike on my mechanic stand and while trying to force the post to raise the bike, the post was seized, I snapped two of the tripod legs, the stand is now totally FUBAR'd. On close inspection of the bike, it looks like my chainring is a bit on the worn side, but its not too bad, it could be front derailleur misalignment/misadjusted... that is causing the chain to drop as the chain is forced up on the teeth of the large chain ring, without a mechanic stand it's basically impossible to assess the cause because I can't get a good look at chainring while keeping the bike suspended and simultaneously shifting.

:lol: fingers crossed tomorrow goes more smoothly. Hopefully in sharing my pain I can give some of you a laugh... I really enjoy the troubleshooting aspect of bike repair and now have an excuse to get hold of a nice new park tools repair stand (I had a cheapo plastic constructed one, hence snapping of legs). Looks like I'm riding the junker tomorrow while a new stand and chain ring get shipped.

Exasperating! :roll:

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Re: vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Post by George the original one » Mon Dec 21, 2015 7:52 pm

Reminds me of the "Rain God" in one of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books!

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Re: vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Post by vexed87 » Tue Dec 22, 2015 9:21 am

Luckily it doesn't quite rain on me wherever I go, but if you live in the UK, it can feel close to it some times :D

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Re: vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Post by George the original one » Tue Dec 22, 2015 5:43 pm

We had nearly 3" of rain yesterday here in the Oregon coast range after more than a week of 0.5"-2" per day, so I know what you mean :-)

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Re: vexed's ERE journey from the very beginning!

Post by skintstudent » Wed Dec 23, 2015 1:31 pm

George the original one wrote:We had nearly 3" of rain yesterday here in the Oregon coast range after more than a week of 0.5"-2" per day, so I know what you mean :-)
It's only a couple of weeks since parts of the UK suffered well over a foot of rainfall in 24 hours. It can be truly miserable during winter. Thankfully, the days are getting longer again :)

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