Microsoft Company Picnic 2005


This weekend, it was Microsoft’s turn to rent Mountain Meadows Farm for the company picnic. As I noted last year, the picnic is put on by a company that just puts on company picnics all summer. In addition to Microsoft, they also do Alaska Air, Honeywell, T-Mobile, and Amazon.

I decided to bicycle to the picnic this year. The route was approximately 25 miles from Marymoor Park (6046 W Lake Sammamish Pkwy NW, Redmond WA) to Mountain Meadows Farm (10106 422nd Ln SE, North Bend, WA: three out of four web-based mapping services can find the farm given the address) along State Highway 202. According to the Fat Cyclist, Highway 202 from Redmond to Fall City “is the very definition of ‘rolling’.” I’d have to agree. I was able to maintain 18–20mph without too much difficulty. (That little statistic lets all you cyclists figure out how much of a patsy I am in the bicycling scheme of things.) But of course it’s the part right after Fall City that is the doozy, because that’s where you climb from the base of Snoqualmie Falls to the top.

A digression on Fat Cyclist: His web site is a riot. Read his commuting tips and his description of bicycling etiquette for starters. As a former Fat Cyclist myself, I wish him all the best. You can do it!

When I started out bicycling, I had a jersey but just wore plain shorts even though I had a pair of those stupid-looking bicycle shorts. I didn’t wear them because I didn’t want to look like a poser. In my plain shorts, I would wave to other cyclists but they would just ignore me. One day I decided to wear the stupid-looking shorts and the world changed. Other cyclists would wave to me first! I suddenly had street cred. It was all about the shorts.

Oh, right, biking to the company picnic. At Marymoor Park, I met up with a friend who had already put about fifty miles on his bicycle that morning just getting to the park. (So either he was already tired and I could look like a non-patsy, or he was all warmed up and I was toast. I couldn’t tell which way it was going to go…) We headed out together, and about 15 miles into the trip, I blew a tire just before reaching Fall City.

We pulled over and I pulled out my spare tube. Replaced the tube, put the wheel back on the bicycle, started pumping it up, and oh look the Presta valve snapped off inside the pump. Well that sucks, because I carried only one spare tube.

Plan B: My friend pulled out his patch repair kit to fix the hole in the original tube, but, alas, the glue had dried up. We had patches but no rubber cement.

Plan C: We called another friend who lives eight miles away, and he arrived with a patch kit. That patch kit had glue! Unfortunately, the glue didn’t take.

Plan D: Fortunately, he also brought a glueless patch kit. We cleaned the tube of glue and applied the glueless patch. It seemed to hold, though there was a little leakage when the tube was over-inflated. Since we didn’t really have any options left regarding patch kits, we decided to go with it and see what happens.

What happened is that the patch didn’t hold and we pulled over in Fall City just a few hundred meters later.

Plan E: We called my friend’s girlfriend who was originally going to meet us at the picnic, telling her where we were and asking her to come pick us up. She ultimately arrived, we loaded the bicycles onto the carrier, and drove the rest of the way to the company picnic.

Clearly the bicycling gods were trying to tell me something. I apologized to my friend for ruining the ride, but he pointed out that if a spare tube and three patch kits can’t fix it, you can’t really be blamed for a blown tube.

At the picnic, we met up with our mutual friend Wendy and hung out, along the way squeezing in a game of what seemed like “multi-ball four-way soccer dodgeball in an inflatable moon walk”. It made no sense, but that was probably the point. Wendy didn’t join us; she stayed outside and took several “butt pictures“, according to her description. I’m not sure I want to see those pictures…

Curiously, we didn’t experience the twenty-minute wait for water that JVert warned about… Probably because we didn’t make it to the picnic until 2pm, by which time the lunch crush was over.

Comments (14)
  1. Robert MacLean says:

    Grab yourself some OKO. It’s a white substance that goes in the tires. It’s fairly light weight compared to others out there and it doesn’t get hard after a while. When you get a puncture it sloshes over the hole and fixes it. Worst case you lose a little air, but you keep on rolling

  2. Ha! A little while ago I wrote about swimming protocols. In a post about the Microsoft company picnic, Raymond Chen makes this little note about his experience with biking protocols:When I started out bicycling, I had a jersey but just wore plain short …

  3. Robert Scoble, who I once described as Microsoft’s Blogger Laureate*, has finally earned my full,…

  4. Peter says:

    Try solid tires: they are "almost as good" in the biking department and are thousands of times better in the "never ever get a flat" department. I got mine from http://www.greentyre.com and put them on myself with no trouble (and I’ve got the minimal upper body strenth of a standard programmer).

    My story: I commute most days across Redmond through the same Marymoor park mentioned by Raymond — BTW, Microsoft, thanks for putting in a free wireless hot spot; I’ve never used it but it’s just a nice thing to have done. After the first couple of flats I knew that flats were just a PITA: you want to go and ride, but there’s a flat, so you’re delayed. PITA, PITA, PITA. Worse are slow leaks: never fast enough to make it worthwhile to fix, but fast enough that you have to be pumping up your tires instead of riding.

    Then I got tires from GreenTyre. Put one on the back tire (which had a leak) and threatened the front tire with instant replacement if it ever got a leak. The threat even worked for about a year :-)

    They aren’t quite the "same" a regular tires — but then, I’ve also done a switch from off-road tires to road tires, and that switch was much bigger than the road-tires to solid-tires.

  5. Robert Scoble, who I once described as Microsoft’s Blogger Laureate*, has finally earned my full,…

  6. Rune Moberg says:

    For a moment there I thought you referred to "Fat City Cycles" (aka "Fat Chance") when you said you were once a "Fat Cyclist". :/

    I dunno if it is good for Presta valves, but as you’re probably aware of there are some neat CO2-based pumping solutions. It sure beats a micropump! :) (although it won’t inflate more than 30 psi, but it gets me home)

  7. fat cyclist says:

    Thanks for the kind wishes, Raymond. If you’re ever in the mood for a ride, just let me know — I’ll do what I can to keep up.

    You’ve got lots of good suggestions for fixing flats. Here’s one for avoiding them altogether: Specialized Armadillo tires. I ride through glass, rocks, and all kinds of other crud with them and have never flatted once since I started riding with them about 1.5 years ago. They’re heavy and they don’t have good road feel, but they do seem to be bulletproof.

  8. Sean Greer says:

    I can sympathize with you Raymond, as I’ve had mountain bike rides on which I’ve collected 4+ flats (not to mention taco’d wheels and a broken frame:). However, on my road bike I think I have had at most 4 flats that involved on-the-road patching. I would recommend that you <b>not</b> use any of the self-sealing solutions or move to the Armadillo tires (yet). Why? Because one of the great joys of riding on the road is the quick acceleration and handling that a lightweight road bike affords and adding several ounces at the tire will make your bike feel more sluggish. The best defense against flats is to actively scan the road ahead of you.

    Just my $.02.

  9. Fred says:

    "The route was approximately 25 miles from Marymoor Park […] What happened is that the patch didn’t hold and we pulled over in Fall City just a few hundred meters later."

    So what will it be? Imperial or metric? ;-)

  10. oldnewthing says:

    For some reason my brain uses metric for short distances and imperial for long distances.

  11. Arlie Davis says:

    I do quite a lot of road riding, on high-PSI tires. The vast majority of flats that I get are from valve stem damage, especially from using pumps that do not have a flexible hose to the pump head. Since my tires are fairly high PSI, they always leak at a very slow rate, so I have to add air frequently. If I’m careful with the pumping, and don’t use somebody’s little emergency hand-pump without a flexible hose, then I have one, maybe two flats in a riding season.

    The other main cause is simply pinch flats, from installing a new tube incorrectly — but the frequency of that has declined with time, and my increased ability not to screw things up.

  12. Miles Archer says:

    Tire slime is good. Hard tires, never used them, sounds really odd for a road bike.

    I’ve used slime for several years on my mountain bike with success. Previously I used some thick plastic shield that didn’t work well. It lead to pinch flats and didnt stop the puncture vines either.

    I’ve got a slime tube as a spare in my road bike pack, but thankfully haven’t had to use it yet.

    I wish I could ride to work, but it’s not practical given the bridges and the distance. Even a combination of public transit and biking is damn near impossible.

  13. bramster says:

    Flats always seem to come in groups. I usually carry three spare tubes, of which at least are Brand New. (no "damn, the patch didn’t hold scenarios). Ride on patched tubes, but do it from home.

    I ride on wired-on clinchers, but have a folding spare tire attached behind the seat, for emergencies. . . mine or other people’s.

    I use a full-length Zefal HP frame-fit pump. Mini pumps aren’t worth the powder to blow them to hell. The Zefal can crank the tire up to 140 psi.

    Valve stem failure is usually the result of the hole in the rim for the stem being oversize.

    We don’t get a lot of thorns around here in Eastern Ontario, but keeping the tires inflated above 100 psi helps prevent "snake-bite" punctures.

    And, oh, yes, the shorts. . .

    Your contact points are your feet, your hands, and your butt. Therefore, good shoes, good shorts and good gloves are highly recommended.

  14. People speak other languages; get over it.

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