Friday, May 25, 2018

At Dawn, We Ride!

When I was a teenager, I was a fairly avid cyclist.  I thought nothing of riding 50 miles in a day (and often did).  I spent a fair bit of time hanging out and chatting with a guy in the neighborhood who was pretty hardcore, he regularly did things like Ride the Rockies and Pedal the Peaks.  I had aspirations of doing such things - American Flyer was one of my favorite movies, in addition to the usual roster of horse films.  I pretty much rode the wheels off of every cheap WalMart bike that I got my hands on.

I still remember the first time I was in a real bike shop and saw a Cannondale with the STI shifters.  Basically it's a system that makes your brakes and shifters the same lever.  Pull back to brake, push in to shift.  It seemed like magic, but with an $800 price tag, such a steed was out of my budget as a kid.

Fast forward to last summer.  As it turned out, the BX (on base department store) had a wide range of Cannondale bikes.  Our friends John and Holly bought two new bikes and we went to check out the selection.  I found they had several Cannondale road bikes..  with STI shifters.  :-O 

My bicycle at the time was a rusty old WalMart mountain bike that wouldn't shift anymore - even after Jeff worked on it and was just pretty much worn out.

Jeff bought me a Cannondale...  with STI shifters.

I rode the heck out of it for three days, planning to launch back into cycling as a way to get back in shape.  It was going to be awesome!

Then, I did a number on myself, a Grade 3 ankle sprain.  No more cycling for me, not for a while. 

My beautiful NEW Cannondale sat parked in the living room, while I sat on the couch, elevating and icing my ankle and feeling sorry for myself.

I got back into riding a bit before winter set in and then the snow sidelined us again.

This spring, I've done a handful of rides.  I'm still far from considering myself a "cyclist" again.

Well...  tomorrow is the "Tour de Ogawara", an annual group ride that circles Lake Ogawara, just north of here.  It's a 53km (roughly 30 mile) loop.  As a teen, during my cycling days, it would have been cake.  Now, I'm not so sure. 

Nevertheless, Jeff and I are both signed up and ready (as we can be) to go.  The bike rack is on the car, our tires are topped off, our steeds are waiting in the hallway...



Jeff had bought a new Cannondale too, but he opted for the full mountain bike version.  I call it the Clydesdale.  He's ridden much less than I have and says he'll definitely be earning the miles on his big-tired beast tomorrow.


My bike is definitely a Thoroughbred or Akhal-Teke... or gazelle.  She flies.  So I've got that going for me. 

Another challenge for us will be the 0800 show time/0900 start time.  Jeff's been on swing shift for a while - generally gets home between 0200-0300 and then we sleep until 0900-1100.  I've been keeping to the same schedule - it makes things easier around here, but makes it very hard to get up in the early mornings!  We are hoping he'll be home a bit early tonight and hoping we can get some sleep before we stagger to the start tomorrow.

A few days ago, he randomly looked at me and asked, "Are we going to die on Saturday?"

To which I replied,

"Probably."

Ha!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Epic Struggle to Import Horses

(model horses, that is)


I'll put the TL;DR (too long; didn't read) right up front for anyone who doesn't feel like wading in:

I've been struggling, since February, to get several Breyer horses sent to me - from Breyer - and as of today they are FINALLY all here, after several e-mails, months of waiting and wondering, and about $80 total in postage, re-shipper fees, and more postage.

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Full story:

Late last year I ordered several Stablemates direct from Breyer, during an end of the year clearance sale they were having.  Specifically, Valegro and American Pharoah for $2 each - I bought 5 each as bodies, OF show ponies, whatever.  It was also a bit of a shipping test.  I knew that Breyer appears to only use UPS Ground for shipping, so I knew they would take a while to get here (if they would?).  They did, it took about 6 weeks.  No biggie for the "slow boat" way of coming over (or "lashed to a sea turtle" as I like to say).

At the same time, I joined the Collector's Club for the first time and also the Stablemate Club.

February rolled around and I ordered the first horse in the SM Club, Kohana, as soon as he became available - yay!

End of March, I saw they had a 20% off sale on Classic scale models.  I really wanted Mason, the new Saddlebred mold.  So I ordered two: one for OF, one to customize.

Then came the email that Aiden, the second SM Club horse was available, in early April.  I started to wonder, where was Kohana?

I went back through my emails and checked his tracking number.

He'd been returned to sender, about a week after I bought him, over a month ago at that point.

???

I checked the tracking number on the Masons.

They had been returned too and were en route back to Breyer at that time.

I filled out a help request on the Breyer website, laying out what had happened so far and saying I was hesitant to buy Aiden, since I hadn't received the others yet.

They said that UPS had not given a reason for the returns.  Then they confirmed my address and told me they would resend everything.  However, Mason was out of stock and would be back in stock the 16th or 17th of April.  That's when they would resend.

So I went ahead and ordered Aiden, with a regular run SM too.

I received a tracking number for Aiden and friend.

They were returned to sender.

No word, shipment notification or anything, on what was supposed to be resent.

Then it was announced that Starlet was available, a beautiful appaloosa on the Croi Connemara mold.

Again, I e-mailed Breyer.  Again, I laid out that I hadn't received anything since the end of the year box - which apparently was the anomaly, the only one to make it over here.  Again, I said there was something I'd like to purchase, but couldn't, because it appeared the only way I was going to be able to receive my orders was to use a re-shipper - which will triple the cost of postage.  (postage x2, plus a service fee, which is as much or more than the actual postage).

I was told to go ahead and order Starlet and they would refund the shipping cost for her.

Suddenly, in the middle of all of this, a Breyer box arrived at the post office.  Postmarked April 20th, just about 10 days before - record time!  (??)

Inside?  Two Masons.


I set up an account with the re-shipper, and - skeptically - ordered Starlet.  I told the person I'd been speaking with at Breyer that the two Masons had arrived.  Then I asked if everything else (Starlet, 2 SM Club horses, regular SM) could be sent in one box, to save on postage and fees.  They told me that they'd spoken to the warehouse and everything would be sent in one box.

(postage was refunded for Starlet)

Yay!  The end was in sight....?

Yeah, about that...

I received notifications from the re-shipper that they had a box for me.  Then that it was on the way.  It got here and I went to the post office, full of excitement - they're here!

....

I was handed a single horse box - the white ones with blue horses running design.  I'd seen them before, with special models in them.  My thoughts at the post office: "So, this is Starlet, where are the rest?  Maybe they are tucked in there with her?  Must be."

I was still hopeful so when I got home, so much so that I set up to film and did an unboxing video.  Except, it WAS only Starlet in there.

(side note: she is ABSOLUTELY gorgeous!!)


Today, I got an alert that there was a package waiting at the base post office.  I checked the tracking and see that it came from the re-shipper.  I asked Jeff if he was expecting anything?  (we both have accounts there now).  He didn't think so.

At the counter I was handed..  another Breyer box.  The same size one that the two Masons came in.

The whole drive home I kept thinking, what if I just got two more Masons?  Well, I'll pay for them and have more to paint, that's fine I guess, but that means I'll be paying for a THIRD delivery through the reshipper??

Is this ever going to end?

(haha #firstworldproblems, I know...)

Happily, I was wrong in thinking it was MOAR Masons.  It was:

Kohana, Aiden, and their regular run SM friend.


So now, months after the first Club release, I finally have the first two.

(another side note: the tiny boxes for the SM Club horses are AWWW-dorable!!)


Confusion though: I thought I'd only been charged once from the re-shipper.  Nope, they did get me twice - so that's $43 total shipping (and fees) for 1 Trad and 3 SMs, through the re-shipper, because they were in two boxes, sent the same day.

While not happy at what all of this ended up costing me (in money and frustration), I am glad the whole ordeal is finally over.  Sadly, I think I'm done ordering through Breyer, except for the rest of the SM Club, and they will each now cost me $30 in shipping and fees.  At least until we are back Stateside I suppose.

Of course, I did see that Breyer is having a free shipping sale for May - which I couldn't take advantage of with an APO address, but now I can...  That might be the only way I can justify ordering from them.  Sadly, the free shipping sales don't seem to apply to any of the Club horses when there is an overlap.


Thus ends the Epic saga of my attempts (and eventual success) in importing six plastic horses, direct from Breyer, to a U.S. military base with an APO address in Japan.



Friday, April 27, 2018

I Made Something

Behold eeeet!


Followers of my vlog will know that I was given a model of Black Caviar while on our Australia trip (I don't think I've blogged about her yet...) and that I've been wanting to make a set of portrait tack for her for National Model Tack Month (April).

Tonight I finished assembling her bridle.  That just leaves the saddle.  I've got a couple of days left, should be fine!  Right...?

If I were a racehorse, my style would totally be that of a closer - cruising along in the early going, maybe even trailing the field, until that final turn.  It's about time to start the stretch drive!  I suppose I just did.

For now though, my supervisor seems to be making it clear that it is bedtime. 


Tomorrow Jeff and I are planning to take a bit of a road trip over to Hirosaki for their 100th Anniversary Sakura Festival.  I'm really looking forward to it and hoping the sakura are still blooming there.

For the rest of the weekend, I have a huge, complicated laser order to finish up...  and a racing saddle to build.  ;-)

Happy Friday/weekend, everyone!


Monday, April 16, 2018

Super Informal Catchup Vlog

Yeah, I think all of my vlogs are "informal" - haha!  Anyhow, I decided to finally stop prepping stuff and do a nighttime video.  I'm hoping to do another one (in the daytime) in the next few days.

Also, this weekend is the Sakura (cherry blossom) Yabusame (traditional Japanese horseback archery) competition!  I will be taking a ton of video and pictures as usual and am hoping to do an actual vlog from there - if I can remember...  This whole video thing is still really new to me!

Without further ado, here's the latest video!  (the thumbnail is funny to me:  Look at Van Gogh!  Look at him!!)


I hope everyone is having a good start to the week!  :)

Friday, April 6, 2018

Prep ALL The Things!!

Hang on, a quick note here: I'm sure you've seen an "ALL the things!" reference before.  What you might not know is the origin of it, or in particular the "crazed" artwork that often goes with it.  The source would be the hilarious blog, Hyperbole and a Half.  In particular:  "This is Why I'll Never be an Adult".  Many, MANY people have made their own "____ ALL the things!!" memes, with her artwork from that panel or an edited version, but often I don't see credit given, so I had to be sure and do it here. 

Okay, moving on...

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Prepping is not something I enjoy.  To use a drastic custom horse for an example: I absolutely love the repositioning part, most of the sculpting, and the finish work.  But not so much the tedious (and oh so very necessary) prepping part in between. 

I think my dislike of it is two fold.  One: I'm often impatient to get to the painting part, and two: I'm a perfectionist (ugh), so it feels like a job that is never really done.  I just have to find that elusive "good enough" stopping point.  (which is why deadlines are helpful - I can't pick away at a horse for years if I've only got a week...  or a day...  to paint it!)  ;-)

For some reason, since the Australia trip, I've been on a massive prepping spree.  I've been scraping, sanding, and primering (priming?  eh, you know what I mean) a big heard of OF SMs, skiving enough leather lace to outfit a whole herd in all sorts of strap goods, and finally sorting and prepping my collection of tack making hardware.  I pulled all of the Rio Rondo stuff off of the parts trees, sorted it into some GREAT new container boxes that I've found, and have been working my way through it all, filing off the burs. 


I'm trying to make the most of the odd desire to prep things, even though I think it might stem from a bit of anxiety that I'm having about my National Tack Month Project.  That is to make a set of racing tack for Black Caviar.  It's something I've never done before, but hey, that's the point of a challenge, right? 

I may also have a PILE of other tack by the time the month is up. 

After all, once I switch out of prep mode, I'll have a bunch of prepped stuff to make things with!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Happy Easter, Happy April, Happy Spring!

Spring is my favorite time of year.  I love watching the trees and flowers wake up after winter and color the world around me once more.  In Japan, it also means the season of Sakura (cherry blossoms).  Right now there are buds on the trees and I'm so eager to see the Sakura again.  We have been here for almost three years already and, without a doubt, Sakura season is my favorite.

Things have been... complicated since I last posted.  We are still dealing with a big Max-sized hole in, everything.  I had underestimated how hard it would be after he was gone.  I thought that since we knew - for a few months - his time was running out, it would make his absence easier to handle.  I was so very wrong.

In happier news: A week ago, we returned from a two week trip to Australia - a lifelong dream for me.  My feelings since the trip have been all over the place.  We had an absolutely AMAZING time, it ended up being so much more than just a "vacation".  In a lot of ways I felt like I was catapulted out of the rut I've been in for years.  I'm striving to make the most of that and hopefully not slide back down into it.  I have plenty to share about that trip and hopefully I will soon.

I guess the point of this post is just to say "hello", I'm still here, still working, still pushing forward, still hopeful, and very much looking forward to the Sakura!




I hope everyone has had a wonderful Easter Sunday!

Monday, February 26, 2018

"And now, his watch is ended"

Today we said goodbye to Max.


I intended to say more, but I don't have it in me right now.

Maybe later.