Sufferin’ Summits Hill #5–Summit South Complex

#4 Montreux-Zooma Complex <= Summit South Complex => ?

 

As we continue to work our way to the west, our next hill is the very uncreatively-named “Summit”. We will continue the theme of climbing the same damn hill three times, but there will be a nice descent when we’re finished.

Turning left out of Lewis Creek Part, we descend for about half a mile and turn right on Forest Drive. This road is a great descent, but pay attention; we need to turn right after 1 mile onto 142nd Ave SE. The road will wind around as it climbs and oscillates from steep to really damn steep. It will eventually turn right and the gradient will ease. Continue straight until the road ends, take the connector path, then turn right at your next opportunity and descend back down. At the stop sign, turn left.

Turn left into “West Summit”, and climb straight up, follow the road as it turns right and loops back down. Turn left and exit down the way we came in, and turn left at the entrance.

After a short steep section, turn left at the entrance shack into “Summit”. This road is undulating; hard/easier, harder/easier, hardest/easier. When you hit the stop sign, turn right and climb up until the road crests. There are some decent views to the north here, but they aren’t as good as Pinacles or Belvedere. Ho Hum.

Continue straight and take the first right, then look for an emergency vehicle access road on the left. This will take you to a gate that you’ll need to carry your bike around. Turn right at the next two intersections and you’ll be on a nice straight descent to the north. Before the road hooks to the right, turn left on SE 46th, and then right on 148th. At the second stoplight, you’ll be in eastgate, with a gas station (food & water) on the right. There’s also an Albertsons in the same complex. You will definitely want food and water for the next section.

Turn right onto 148th (well, 150th now), and immediately turn right on SE 37th. This will take you under the freeway, through a stop sign , and then right again onto 164th Pl SE, which takes you all the way down to the shores of Lake Sammamish, the lowest point of the ride and the perfect spot to start our next climb.

1105’, 8.6 miles.

 

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Sufferin’ Summit Hill #4 – Montreux Zooma Complex

#3 Talus <- #4 Montreux Zooma –> #5 Summit South Complex

This section presented me with a real quandry.

For a long time, “The Zoo” was the king of the climbs – and with good reason: it was the hardest/tallest/closest climb around, and it had a nice fast descent. Just down the road was little brother Montreux, also a hard climb but only about half the total elevation.

I made an attempt at melding the two of them together using a cut-through path on this route, but not really successfully; the cut through was gravel – and not rideable gravel – and it didn’t really make the climb any harder. I did it once, but never went back.

Then, something unexpected happened – the City of Bellevue paved a path that connected the developments above Montreux to the Zoo route, and Montreux-Zooma’s revenge was born.

Which returns me to the quandry. Which route should I choose? It seems wrong, just wrong, to have a hard ride and not climb the granddaddy of hard climbs…

But, in the end, I decided I had to go with the difficulty, and so we’re doing Montreux-Zooma. This is the hardest section so far, and it’s easy to miss turns, so pay attention…

We turn left into the entrance and immediately start to climb. The road flattens, kicks up to a sustained painful gradient, and we climb some more, until we top out Montreux and start to descend. After half a mile, we turn left on 173rd, which starts steep and then just gets steeper. It will flatten out and we turn left on 169th and the road will kick up again. After a short section, we take the second left which will kick us out onto SE 60th. We turn left, and then take the first right to continue the climb to the summit. When this road flattens out and starts to descend, keep going and take the first driveway to the right. This will take you all the way up to water towers at the top of the hill.

Descend back down to the main road, turn left, and start the descent. After the first straight section we turn left into “Pinacles”; unfortunately you can’t see the sign when descending. This takes us up a steep climb that flattens. Turn left into the cul-de-sac to get the last little bit of elevation. On the way down, stop to take in the best view of the day.

Once we hit the main road again, we turn left and again start looking for a left turn, this time on 166th Way. This will go straight for a while, then we will turn left to climb up through Belvedere, the last climb of the complex. This takes us to pretty much the same height as Pinacles, just a bit to the south.

Finally, we descend down, once again turn left, and descend until we hit Lakemont. Turn right and a short climb brings us to Lewis Creek Park, which has water and bathrooms.

That section was 10.4 miles and a healthy 2030’ of elevation gain.

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Montreux-Zooma

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Pinnacles

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Belvedere

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Sufferin’ Summits Hill #3–Talus

(2) Squak     <=  (3) Talus    => (4) Montreux Zooma

Talus is a development on the east side of Cougar mountain, named after a bone in the ankle. Or maybe a rock deposit on the hill. At least it’s not “Summer Bluff”, or “Raccoon Forest” (thanks to the excellent Real Estate Subdivision Name Generator for those), or my development’s name, “Malibu Vista”.

Anyway, Talus is a climb that I’d never done until recently, because it was a one-road “up and back down” sort of climb. At least, that’s what I thought, but a bit more research and a test ride showed that I was mistaken, and there’s a nice hidden climb there.

After leaving the starting point, we turn left onto Renton-Issaquah road, and then turn right onto James Bush Rd. The sign says, “no Talus access”, but that’s just for cars, not for us. The road immediately kicks up, climbs a bit, and then kicks up some more as it narrows to a single lane climbing up through the trees. Make sure to start this climb slowly; if you hit it too hard it will be difficult to recover. Please pay attention so that you don’t slow down other cyclists on this section. After a bit, you’ll come to a cable gate that you will either need to ride around on a very thin path to the left or dismount and go over. If you dismount, clipping in will be interesting because of the thinness of the road, so be prepared.

Eventually, you’ll come to some posts, and the climb will spit you out into the development. Turn right and continue to climb, then bear right towards the park and take the 20% cut-through to keep climbing. This will spit you out again on the road, and you can continue to climb until you top out.

We then traverse to the south to grab a few more feet of climbing and make our way to the exit. The route that is shown is guaranteed; the city is doing some construction at the top right now, so the actual route may go a little farther up.The overall Talus total should be at least 550’.

The descent has a stoplight at the bottom, so watch your speed. We turn left and ride towards the park.

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The gradients here feel pretty close to me.

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Sufferin’ Summits Hill #2–Squak

(1) Grand Ridge <=      (2) Squak    => (3) Talus

This one will be of little surprise to anyone. The mountain known as “Squak” is an obvious choice, and since we are coming from the east, there isn’t even any suspense about which side we will climb. This is conveniently the harder way up.

I first climbed this back in 2006, as the last climb the Seattle Randonneur’s “Mountain Populaire”, a 100 kilometer ride that started on Zoo hill and finished on the first half of this climb up Squak. At the time, that was hardest ride that I had ever done. Little did I know that a few years later I would be putting together a ride that was worse.

Strangely, I haven’t done this route since – if I do Squak, I come from the north – so I had planned on pre-riding it to ensure a well-thought-out and insightful description. A recalcitrant Serratus posterior on my left back has quashed that plan, so you will have to settle for some vague memories instead.

After going through Issaquah on Sunset, we continue straight as the road turns into Mountain Park Blvd. And up we go, for about 450’ of climbing. There are parts that are flatter and parts that are steeper. Just as the road flattens out, we turn left on Mountainside Drive to continue the climb. After a bit, we leave the houses behind and hit a switch-backy section through the woods. Eventually, we hit a stop sign at the entrance to the Forest Rim Development. This is the end of the steep part, but to get the full 1000+ of elevation, you need to turn right and ride around the loop. Or, you could turn left.

It is your choice. Just as doing this stupid ride was your choice.

The descent of the top section is the same way we came up. When we reach the intersection, we turn left, descend 0.7 miles, and turn left again on Mt. Olympus Drive. This takes us all the way down to the base, where we come out right next to our starting point. At the light, we turn left. Bathrooms and water at the starting point, and I recommend filling up; there are two hills before the next big stop.

Here’s the map. Click to view online.

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And here’s the color-coded map for the climb. Gradients are estimated; your gradient experience will vary. See a doctor for climbs lasting longer than 4 hours.

Click to go to the BicycleClimbs.com source page.

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Sufferin’ Summits Hill #1–Grand Ridge

(1) Grand Ridge => (2) Squak

With Sufferin’ Summits only a few short months away, I thought it would be fun to do a climb-by-climb reveal of the route.

But first, a little philosophy about the route.

I’ve tried to make the route as hard as possible, which means lots of elevation gain and as much steepness as I can find, but I’ve also worked hard to keep it as short as possible. Those two are obviously in tension; I could easily add a very painful 2000’ more of climbing, but I’m happy with the overall distance as it is.

I have also tried to make the route flow. That means limiting the number of “up and down the same road” sections, and not climbing up the same section of road more than once.

And finally, I’ve tried to make it worthwhile. That means climbing to places where there’s a nice view.

If you are purely interesting in elevation, I recommend the Zoo Hill Century instead.

****

I’ve done the Highlands climb up from Issaquah a number of times, first on the Eastside Tours Ride that Per Sunde used to lead (and now I lead), and then on my own. I never really liked the climb very much; the bike path is fine but not really very pretty, but it is a decent way to get up onto the plateau.

Then, a couple of years ago, I decided to climb up into Grand Ridge. My first ascent was up the main street – Park Drive – and was a bit of a slog, though if you go all the way to the top, it’s worth it.

Then I found a nice way to skip the busy part of the development, with a no-cars section off of Black Nugget road and the seriously steep College Drive, and now I like the trip much better. It does not have the pure challenge of some of the later climbs, but it has some cool houses near the top (watch for the castle on the right side near the top), a very nice view, and a couple of fast descents.

I give it a 4, it’s got a pretty good beat, and it’s easy to dance to.

Here’s a picture of the route, click on it to see it in RideWithGPS.com. Clocks in at 1061’ of up.

 

This is not, in fact, the hardest route up this particular hill; the bottom part climbs up Issaquah – Fall City road, when there is a steeper route up Black Nugget road nearby. Alas, Black Nugget road is a single lane without a good shoulder, so while it might be okay for a solo climb, it’s not good for a group. If you *really* want to make sure everything is as hard as possible, you can do Black Nugget from the bottom.

At the top of Grand Ridge there is a short bit of driveway that you can climb if you’d like an extra 30’ of elevation gain.

The descent through the development is nice, and then the descent down Highlands is a bit of a screamer and the pavement isn’t perfect, so I recommend paying some extra attention.

We end up back in Issaquah heading west on Sunset.

I will leave you in suspense, eagerly awaiting the next hill, assuming that you haven’t followed Sunset drive to the west and seen the exceedingly obvious climb #2.

Here’s the gradient view. Due to road grading, some slopes may not be accurate. Actual steepness may be lower.

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Maker Faire 2015 Bay Area Trip Report

This last Friday I got on a plane at Sea Tac to head down to Maker Faire 2015. I’ve been to a couple of mini Maker Faires in Seattle, and thought it would be a fun way to spend a weekend.

Just a bit of level-setting to start. I’ve been building and working on stuff since I was very young. Doing building stuff with my father, changing a clutch in my car, building a set of bunk beds for my college dorm, a couple of decks on my current house, all the finish work on a ski cabin with my wife, a custom cabinet for my AV gear. Most of this stuff is custom; I or we come up with a design and build it from scratch. Plus, I have a long history of building custom animated holiday light displays. So… my comments are from the perspective of somebody who has been a Maker since long before the term was invented.

Because I didn’t decide early, I couldn’t get into any of the Faire hotels, so I decided to stay north at the Hampton Inn about a mile from the Colma bart station. As long as you can fit what you need into a backpack, this works okay; Bart runs right to the airport and is easy to deal with.

On Saturday, I rode BART to the end of the line (Millebreu?), and took a school bus shuttle to the faire where we waited to open. The fair is divided into a bunch of different zones, indoors and outdoors, so it’s pretty easy to wander around. Hard to find stuff, however, and hard to track what you’ve seen, especially in the mostly dark LED building.

Cool stuff I saw

Some nice wood clocks (website seems to be a work in progress)

Ply 90, an aluminum corner that you use to build boxes and cabinets out of flat plywood panels. Great if you don’t want to do wood joints.

 

Some 3D printed rings

Contraptor, an open source hardware (in the “metal” sense).

 

Cubicity filament

CNC Router parts. These guys had two CNCs plus a plasma cutter running.

The palette, a multi-filament joiner to print in multiple colors with a single extruder.

Steamy Tech Cool geared thingys:

Electromagnetic ball drawing (not sure who the artist is):

Kristen Hoard’s LED-lit art. Plasma cut aluminum, some of it with enamel on it, lit by color-changing LEDs on the inside. Really nice.

The Unnecessarily High 5. A huge crowd favorite.

Full gallery with some videos here.

Thoughts

It was really nice to see so much Maker stuff packed into one space, and I thought Make – the business entity – did a decent job of putting their commercial stuff – Maker Shed – in one building, and a lot of people were happy to be able to buy stuff there. I liked wandering around and looking at the different stuff going on; the power wheels racing, the cycle-cyde (lots of bikes modified in ways that make them hard to ride), and the bike movable things that look like they were from Burning Man.

I also think they did a good job at trying to get people trying new things – learn to solder, learn to do a bunch of others stuff – and there were kids all over the place.

But – as an experienced maker – I didn’t get a ton out of it from an idea or technical perspective. A lack of ideas has never been one of my problems, and I am probably an outlier in this perspective.

Complaints/Suggestions

I’ll should preface this list by saying that, as a Windows Phone owner, I could run the IOS/Android app, and maybe that would help. But there are still a lot of people out there without smart phones.

  1. Trying to figure out what talks there were that I might want to see was an exercise in frustration. The website lists each of the stages separately, and the only thing you can do is read each of them and write the time and topics down and then try to get back to them. This is a solved problem; just do what the big tech conferences do.
  2. No guide where presenters were located, so that I could go try to find a specific company or figure out who was at a booth by location.
  3. Talks were very uneven. *Very* uneven. I am not trying to pick on specific people, but here are a few issues I saw:
    1. I went to the “Maker pro” talk, which was a very interesting topic for me – what do you need to do to quit your day job, and how do you decide to jump? We had two people who had done it, but didn’t really get the chance to tell their stories.
    2. Yobie Benjamin had a talk that looked really interesting to me, but was mostly targetted for people who want to do a kickstarter at the $1M level. Many people really want to do something much smaller, and a lot of his advice didn’t make sense for the rest of us.
    3. “Epic Fails” was billed as an interesting talk, but wasn’t about the real topic at all. The three presenters were fine, though their perspective was mostly about woodworking and youtube. Call the talk something different, and get more diversity in the group.
  4. It would be great to have “birds of a feather” sessions if space could be found.

A pretty good twilight zone topper

Twilight Zone, being one of the top pinball machines with collectors and having a very good theme, has led to it being heavily customized, some of them being functional, but most just being ornamental, to make the machine more fun.

One of the cooler ones was done by a guy who took a small hallmark ornament that looked like a TV, put a small LCD display in it, and then used it to display pictures from the TV series while you played. It’s tiny (maybe 1.5”), and it fits inside of the game. And then somebody else did one that showed video.

I was thinking that it would be cool to do something that was game controlled, which is the whole reason I built the WPC pinball lamp decoder. And, instead of making it a small one that would go on the playfield, I decided to make it slightly larger and make it as a topper.

A topper is simply something ornamental that goes on top of your pinball machine. They are almost always lighted in some way, and, with a few exceptions, not controlled by the machine.

Mine would be. Twilight Zone has a bunch of different modes, and my plan is to detect those modes (and other events) by decoding the light state, and use that to play *appropriate* clips on the topper.

I needed a good enclosure. And, thanks to Ebay, it was simple to procure:

This is an early Sony 5” TV, and it was a bit of a design coup for Sony; nobody was doing TVs this small at the time. I toyed with the idea of just using it as a display, but then I took a look inside:

That is one of 3 circuit boards. These TVs have a reputation for being very hard to work on, and I don’t what that sort of project, so we are going to use it as an attractive case instead…

I plan on using as many of the controls as possible; at least the on/off switch and the volume knob.

For a display, I need a small LCD. I found one that is designed for a rear-view camera. Here’s a test-fitting in the case:

Fits but barely on width, but the height is less than I would like (the display isn’t really 4:3). Hmm. If I put it behind the original CRT protector…

That will likely work better. Assuming I stay with this display (and I think it’s the biggest one that will fit without hacking out the control section on the right), I will laser-cut an oval trim plate out of black acrylic that will cover the gaps. I’ll also modify the lens to get the display more forward.

and one more photo of the display working…


A bit about pinball

You may or may not know that I’m a pinball afficianado. Yes, yes, “ever since I was a young boy, I played the silver ball…”

During the arcade boom of the early 1980s, arcades were everywhere, and while they generally focused on video games, there were always a few pins. I spent lots of time and money on both, but pinball had more of a fascination, for three very important reasons:

  1. If you are decent on one pinball machine, you are decent on all of them. This is very much not the case on arcade machines; your skills on Defender help you when you play Tron, but you aren’t automatically decent.
  2. The physicality is much better. You get to shake the machine. No, you are *required* to subtly nudge and shake the machine while you play if you are going to be a good player. You work on your advanced moves. And you enter a society of players who know how to play the right way. It’s a bit of a craft.
  3. You can win free games. Plus, the difficulty level on a pin is mostly linear; yes, it becomes a *little* harder on most games as your points go up, but it’s not a lot harder. What that means is that once you are good, it becomes easier to get high scores. And, every once in a while, probability and skill will align, you will walk into an arcade, put one quarter into the pin, and play for half an hour, with the game knocking to announce your skill when you win a free game. And then, after that time, you will turn to the 12-year-old kid who has been watching you play and say, “I have to leave. Do you want my games?”

So, anyway, I played a bunch of pinball in my young days, but it tapered off when I got older because pins and vids became much harder to find. You could find them in bars, but I don’t do well with cigarette smoke, so I didn’t play as much as I used to.

Then, sometime in my 30s, I realized that a) it was possible to own a pinball machine, and b) I could afford to do so. So, I craftily bought a Williams Bad Cats:

The reason it was crafty is that I bought it because a) it was a relatively inexpensive machine (I think I paid $800 + shipping), and b) it was my wife’s favorite machine.

I reconditioned it, played it for a while, but there was still a problem.

I wanted a Twilight Zone…

Twilight zone is complex machine. A really complex machine, with ramps, ramp diverters, a working pinball machine, a magnetic mini-playfield, and a impressively complex ruleset. Oh, and it has a lightweight ceramic “powerball” that moves really fast, two different 3-ball multiballs, and – if you are worthy – “Lost in the Zone”, a 6-ball timed multiball mode.

In fact, it was so complex that it didn’t really do well commercially; novice players found it too challenging and confusing.

But skilled players loved it, and made it a hot commodity in the resale market. I was lucky/smart enough to buy mine around 10 years ago, when machines are a bit more plentiful, and paid around $3500 + shipping to get it. These days you will probably play twice that.


Pinball Lamp Matrix Decoding–Completed board

I got the boards back from OSHPark a while back, and got around to populating them. Though I have access to a real reflow oven, I’ve done boards like this with the heat gun method in the past, so I got out the solder paste, put it on the solder pads, put on the shift registers, and then went out to the garage.

I use an old license plate as a board holder, so the board goes on that.

Real reflow ovens use a time/temperature calibrated curve.

Basically, there’s a long soaking stage to gradually bring all the parts up to temp, a ramp up until the solder melts, and then a cooling-down period. I attempt to duplicate this with the heat gun, though it’s really not very precise.

The hard part with the heat gun is keeping it at a distance where it does not blow the parts around on the board; as the board heats up the flux will start to flow and the chips want to move. A little repositioning with a toothpick fixes that. You keep heating until you see the solder reflow, make sure it’s reflowed around all the parts, and then remove the heat.

And you get this:

The 34-pin connector and the two test point connections were hand soldered. I do need to test the board itself and then hook it up to the pin and see if it works.


Pinball Lamp Matrix Decoding–Board design

Since I got the prototype working, I now need to convert it to something real. In the past, I’ve typically done this by hand on perfboard. This takes a lot of time to do, and the results are functional but not that great.

This time I’ve decided to go direct to a PC board, so I fired up Eagle. I think this is my third design with it, so I’m reasonably decent at it, but I’ve forgotten how strange CAD user interfaces always are; they were developed before much was known about how to build good graphical user interfaces, they are all different, and they don’t follow UI guidelines. Oh, and they tend to have some weird metaphors as well, and there is no equivalent of github or stackexchange for them.

I installed the Adafruit library by downloading it, unzipping it, copying it to a directory and then adding that directory to the library path (nuget, anybody?) so that I could start with their arduino shield outline. It has all the pins on it. I then searched for the 74HC589 shift registers. No luck, so I stated to design my own, went back, did some more browsing, and found the 74xx589 SOIC-16 design, so I could use that. I need a 34-pix (2×17) connector header; I found a 2×20 and modified it. Then, I built a new version with named pins to make it easier to wire things up.

At that point, I started the wiring. A bunch of work, an “invoke” to get the Vcc and Gnd to show on the shift registers (once again, CAD weirdness), and I ended up with the following schematic.

Basically, we have the 8 data lines and two strobe lines going from the connector to the shift registers, the two strobes heading to Arduino (pins 2 and 3 because they are the ones that support interrupts), and then a bunch of lines between the Arduino and the shift registers. Prettiness isn’t important here, though it needs to be neat enough to know whether it’s correct or not.

I also threw on two test point headers; one for ground and one connected to pin 4. I often use a pin to write debug information for an oscilliscope, so the headers give me an easy way to hook that up. I run the schematic rules engine, fix a few things, and the schematic is done.

Once you have the schematic in good shape, you can create a board to implement it. I should have taken a snapshot at the beginning because it was quite the mess; there are 8 data lines that need to make it to both shift registers, 3 shared lines from the arduino to teach shift register, plus Vcc & Gnd. Lots of overlap potential.

I like doing board layout; it starts out looking pretty hopeless, and you play a little, it gets better, and then finally it sort of jells and then you are doing cleanup. Here’s the board layout I ended up with:

Lots of left-right rights to route all the signals that go to both chips. I’m pretty happy with this layout; it’s reasonably ordered, and you can tell where things go. I run one line right under the pins of the shift registers; something that I couldn’t do if they were through-hole chips.

Two things I could have done; I could have switched pins 2 and 3, and I could have pulled one of the signals off of pin 11 and used pin 7 instead. I didn’t because I would need to redo the software; a small thing, but the current layout works fine.

Once the layout is done, I run through the design rules. It’s really easy to end up with weird stuff; multiple vias slightly overlapping, traces that don’t quite go to pins, that sort of thing. I’m planning on fabbing the board at OSHPark.com, and I remember that they have their own design rules, so I download them and run them.

Then the last task is to shrink the design down from full shield size to something smaller to save a bit of money. Oh, and I add a label or two. Upload it to OSHPark, and they tell me $20 for 3 boards. Pretty good.


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