Archive | July 2017

The Tale of the Purple Bike of Sumatra

(With apologies to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

After a long winter’s idleness, I decided that the time of exercise has finally come. To be honest, that time came several months ago. But what has come was a refund check sizeable enough to buy a bicycle.

As much as I prefer to do business with locally-owned shops, there is no way I could afford the prices at the local bike shops. This isn’t so much a reflection on their prices as my own penury. So after researching local prices, I decided to look at Walmart’s offerings.

I found The Perfect Bike on Walmart’s web site. It was a price I could afford, and so I chose the option of having it delivered to my local store, thus saving shipping costs.

The Nightmare Begins

I was notified the next morning that my order had arrived. Stacey kindly drove me to the store so I could pick it up.

I signed in to the system and was quickly approached by a clerk (what Walmart so magnanimously call a “Sales Associate”), who located my order and brought it out to me…still in the shipping carton…and then left. Didn’t offer to carry it out to my car, so Stacey and I managed to wrestle it into a grocery cart, haul it out to her SUV, and load it inside.

When we arrived back at my place and opened the carton, We discovered that the bike was only partially assembled. Examining the assembly manual, we discovered that we could have taken it to a Walmart cashier and had it assembled for free.

Because of Stacey’s schedule, it was a few days before we were able to take the bike back to the store to have it assembled.

Yeah, right.

We Don’t Service What We Sell

When I took the bike to customer service, we were told that they didn’t have anyone who could assemble it. Instead, they contract with an outside company to do that—and nobody knew whether it was once a week or once a month. They did, however, make an attempt to find out which it was.

Finally, after 20 minutes of waiting and discovering that no one in the store knew the schedule, I decided to return the bike and look at the ones they had in the store.

Partial Success!

I didn’t find anything I liked, but I did get a helmet, a lighting system, and a bike lock. Oh, yeah: Stacey fell in love with a bike. Unasked, I offered to buy it for her. After checking the tire pressure, Stacey inflated the tires to the recommended PSI (206 kilo pascals for you metric fans), I paid for the bike, and we were done for the day.

Or so I thought.

Stacey reminded me that there was another Walmart that we sometimes shopped at, so off we went to see what they had in stock.

There, in the bike section, was my Perfect Bike™!

my bike

So we located a sales associate who kindly offered to adjust the seat and handlebar heights, and to inflate the tires to the proper PSI. We paid for the bike, loaded it into Stacey’s SUV, and headed home.

Stacey dropped me off, and I was ready for My First Big Adventure! I even knew what that would be: I had a doctor’s appointment in a couple of days, and my bike could get me there in just a few minutes (it was only a half-mile ride).


Okay, it was my fault. I should have double-checked everything before my first ride. Turns out the handlebars hadn’t been tightened securely, so they kept rotating down to the point the bike was unrideable. In addition, the seat hadn’t been tightened properly, either.

So after trying for 3 blocks to ride the damn thing, I finally gave up and walked it the rest of the way to the doctor’s office.

After my appointment, I texted Stacey what had happened. She kindly came and picked me and the bike up and drove us home.

Mikey To The Rescue!

As the bike and I were sitting in the back yard, my friend Mikey came by for a visit. When I told him The Tale of the Purple Bike of Sumatra, he showed me exactly how to fix all my woes, and adjust the bike properly. Thank you, Mikey!


So now the bike is sitting—locked, of course—in the shed, awaiting my test ride (it’s too rainy today). I’m going to stick to riding up and down our street until I get readjusted to bike riding. After all, it’s been nearly 20 years!

How About a Nice Cup of Tea?

tea oclock

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been a fan of tea. I must have inherited it from both sides of the family: my mother was a big tea-drinker, and my dad’s English/Irish side loved their tea as well.

Being ill as a child always meant my mother’s Famous Healing Potion©—tea and toast. At first, it was just plain toast with a little margarine (no way we could afford butter on an Air Force First Lieutenant’s salary in the 1950’s), but as we grew a little stronger, she added every sick child’s favorite: cinnamon sugar on the toast! She continued this routine until I graduated from high school. My lucky brothers still got the pampering, though.

To this day, tea has always been my drink of choice. No matter the weather, it’s my go-to way of starting my day. And if anybody tells you, “Oh, it’s just too hot out to drink tea,” they just don’t understand the nature of tea. You should remove them immediately from your friend list—you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

How to Brew a Perfect Cup of Tea

There are many web pages purporting to tell you how to brew and drink the perfect cup of tea. George Orwell, for example, says that adding milk and sugar to your tea is tantamount to blasphemy. His reasoning? You don’t put them in your pint of stout. And this, from an Irishman! He obviously lived in England for far too long.

My Robyn Jane’s Famous Tea Recipe© is quite simple: start with a good brand of REAL tea. I hate to burst you bubble, but if you live in the United States, chances are you’re not buying decent tea, but rather tea bags filled with what are called fannings:

“Fannings are small pieces of tea that are left over after higher grades of teas are gathered to be sold. Traditionally these were treated as the rejects of the manufacturing process in making high-quality leaf tea like the orange pekoe. Fannings with extremely small particles are sometimes called dusts. Fannings and dusts are considered the lowest grades of tea, separated from broken-leaf teas which have larger pieces of the leaves. However, the fannings of expensive teas can still be more expensive and more flavourful than whole leaves of cheaper teas.” Wikipedia

Doesn’t that sound absolutely delicious? And if you order tea in a restaurant, fannings are probably what you’re getting. Even in high-end outlets, you’re likely to be consuming pesticides as well as artificial flavorings. Chemical “additives such as: Castoreum (a chemical taken out of glands from a beaver that are located near the anus,) Carmine aka Natural Red #4 (made from dried and ground up Cochina beetles” can be considered “natural flavors.”

Not sure what’s in your tea? Check out this article at Collective Evolution’s website.

Oh…and as far as “herbal teas” are concerned, they are not real tea, but rather tisanes. True tea only comes from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis.

So What Do I Drink?


My all-time favorite is PG Tips Black Tea. It’s a robust tea with lots of flavor and aroma. What’s so special about this brand? “Arthur Brooke launched in the UK under the name ‘Pre-Gest-Tea’, which grocers abbreviated to PG. Mr. Brooke then added ‘tips’ to highlight the fact that PG tips only uses the top two leaves and bud of each plant(PG Tips History).

In addition, since April 2012 all of the tea used in PG Tips has been Rainforest Alliance certified.

PG Tips can be found in most of the finest grocery stores such as Walmart and Target.

I start with a FRESH pot of COLD water. You can cheat and start with hot tap water to get the pot to boil faster, but most hot water contains minerals that have leached out of the pipes over the years. Cold water also has a higher oxygen content, thus making the tea taste better. I never re-heat to boiled water; I use fresh cold water every time I make tea.

One bag per (6-oz.) cup is the rule. I have a 14-oz. mug, so I use 2 bags, which leaves room for the milk. And it has to be milk: cream tends to curdle; although part of coming to terms with my diabetes included learning to enjoy fat-free, sugar-free artificial creamer. As the folks at Dow Chemical used to tout, “Better Living Through Chemistry.”

So I boil my water and pour it over the PG Tips bags. It’s best to steep the bags for a minimum of 3 minutes, although I generally go with between 4 and 5 minutes. Anything over 5 minutes will make the tea bitter, so if you want a stronger tea, either switch to Black Assam or add an extra tea bag.

A Note About Loose Tea

There are those who insist on using loose-leaf teas, but I’m not one of them. While it is indeed true that this is the best way to make the most of your tea, I prefer the convenience and simplicity of tea bags.

So no matter what your preference, it’s always pleasant to slow down with a good book and a nice hot cuppa!

(NOTE: No animals were harmed during the writing of this post, although several cups of tea were sacrificed to the goddess of wisdom.)