Monday, April 14, 2014

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

A won match.A couple of days ago I by pure chance discovered a new game that I ended up finding quite a bit enjoyable, through a promotional email that Blizzard tends to bomb me with. The game is called Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft and it’s a digital collecting (trading) card game.

I always felt that I missed out on the whole Magic: The Gathering thing back in the day. Because of that when Blizzard produced World of Warcraft Trading Card Game I happily jumped on it.

Playing with Priest deck.However for somebody as casual of players as my friends and I are there were several problems. First of all to keep the game somewhat fresh one has to constantly be pumping money into it. Once the initial thrill of facing your friends with your newly formed deck ends and you become familiar with their play style and their stronger moves it stops being as much fun. It also is the only way to stay competitive against other players.

Playing in clubs against other people we simply wouldn’t have time for now and after taking prolonged breaks it became hard to remember all the moves and rules. This probably sounds lame to some real trading card game fans, but that’s what it is.

Hunter.All of the above things are not a problem with a digital game. You still have the thrill of opening new packs, but you can earn them without spending any real money. You can obtain them through in-game currency which is earned by doing quests and winning games.

The game itself is free to begin with as well. You get to build your custom decks from all your cards for different classes without having to reshuffle real cards and taking them apart and putting decks back together.

Almost finished.You get to compete against the computer with pretty good AI and best of all you get to face off real players online. And all the rules are really easy to figure out since the game basically doesn’t let you do what you can’t do and it keeps score for you and when you start it guides you through an easy to understand tutorial.

At the beginning you get one class and a crash course that makes you easily get the rules. Then you unlock other characters of other classes and then you build a couple of custom decks and compete. I started out with a priest, but now I’ve gotten pretty good with my hunter deck. I like the synergy that a lot of cards in the deck have with each other.

Unlocked characters.There is also an Arena mode and a ranked game-play. I tried both and they are also equally interesting. I can say that for such a simple game that can be played in as little as 5-15 minutes at a time it is a pretty damn addictive and fun strategy game. Now I need to coerce my real friends to join it and try it out so we could face off against each other.

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

LEGO Jedi Defender-Class Cruiser

Jedi Defender-class Cruiser. Front.Arosha’s most favorite toy has been and is at this time his LEGO set. He loves building all kinds of things out of it. A year ago we ordered a much more complex LEGO set and built a Star Wars Sith ship. He was quite small and didn’t have much patience for it back then.

Arosha. Helping with the build process.Lately we have been not going anywhere on the weekends because Anna is still sick, so we sit at home. Alёna suggested that we should order another set and put it together to pass the time. So we did. We ordered 75025 Jedi Defender-class Cruiser which has 927 pieces.

Me and mini-me.Arosha is still too small to be able to build it, but he was sitting near me, helping me pick out the right pieces and kept making up all kinds of stories about bad guys, good guys, lightsabers and so on. We built it over the past three days and evenings. The ship came out well.

Building.
Ship and new characters.
Side view.
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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Sniper Glaz Zorka.On January 2nd of this year I have reactivated my SWTOR subscription since I was longing to play some MMORPG again. Sadly, by this time all of Eldar’s guildies including Eldar himself have abandoned the game and I was left to play all alone, but I ended up playing for quite a long time and having a lot of fun while doing so.

I kept meaning to write down some thoughts on the game for a while now, but couldn’t get around to doing it. Now that I’ve lost interest again — 8 months later — I decided to take the time a jot some of this down anyhow.

When I left the game the previous time the game was at 1.1 with patch 1.2 looming. At the time I rejoined the game it was at 1.6 with 1.7 on the horizon. Needless to say “Star Wars: The Old Republic” has gone through a lot of changes and I was a complete noob again. I’ve read all the missed patch notes to catch myself up.

Imperial Agent Glaz.I learned that my level 50 Mercenary (named Hahz) mechanics were ruined soon after I left the game and have never been fixed. Also I learned that if you do level any class to level 50 you will get the buff from that class on all your other characters no matter the class. I had a Marauder (named Zhah) in lower 40s that I never finished leveling and I figured I’ll start with him to finish the class story and get the buff for whoever I was going to play next which I did.

Assassin Sith Inquisitor Trah.In the process I realized that I’m not enjoying playing a melee class at all and that I had much more fun playing my Mercenary back in the day. I also read that sorcerers where quite underpowered and that left me with the only choice of Imperial Agent. I wasn’t quite sure which advanced class to pick — Sniper or Operative. I did a lot of reading and even though I really liked the idea of stealth on Operatives for a new type of gameplay the consensus was that Operatives excel at healing and not DPS, which I wanted to play. Also if they were to do DPS it would be in close quarters — melee in other words.

Sniper DPS chart.I did level an Imperial Agent to level 6 a long time ago, so I picked him up and started playing. By the time I hit level 10 I made up my mind on going with a Sniper and was I right or what. I completely fell in love with the class mechanics. All the things that I disliked about the class before — like cover mechanics and the actor’s voice — turned into the thing that I ended up enjoying the most. On top of that, Sniper gets an advantage of 5m on every other class in the game — 35m attack range, which makes it truly the best and the deadliest ranged DPS class in the game.

As I was leveling I decided to jump into a PvP game to gain some commendations for some nice looking moddable gear and really surprised myself. The thing is that I’ve always hated PvP. However with my Sniper I started posting top DPS numbers in pretty much every game I played. I was deadly and hard to kill. In most cases I could go 1 on 1 with an enemy and come out on top. PvP became insanely fun.

Sniper DPS chart.What also made the Sniper fun was the fact that the best companion type for any DPS class — a healer — wears exactly the same type of gear that a Sniper does — gear with a main stat of cunning. This gives you an ability to upgrade your most important companion’s gear with hand-me-down stuff every time you update your character. For solo-play that was huge. At this point my Sniper (named Glaz by the way) has mostly top-end Conqueror gear and my healer (Dr. Lokin) has the next best thing — Partisan gear. No such progression is possible with any other class.

Sniper Marksmanship Spec.So to sum up — Sniper is still my very favorite class to play at PvP and solo-PvE — as in dailies to get tons of money. My Sniper has the top end PvP gear with top-end purple augments on each peace of gear. He is a level 55 and I like playing the Marksmanship spec the most.

Jedi Sage Krem.At this point I decided that I need to run up either a Sith Inquisitor or a Jedi Consular to the top lever to get my Sniper the last class buff. After a bit of consideration and figuring out that I can actually mail myself stuff even if I’m playing a Republic side I made a Jedi Consular to experience the game from the other side. I also decided to play him as a Sage and become a healer — something I’ve never done before.

Sage healing chart.I ended up having a quite bit of fun with him as well as it’s a completely different type of gameplay. I also was able to post top healing number in PvP games on consistent basis. Of course not being able to kill anyone in PvP is a bit annoying. I got my Sage named Krem to level 55 as well after the expansion hit. I got him in mostly Partisan gear, but I didn’t play him nearly as much as I played my Sniper.

Sage healing chart.Somewhere in the process of all this I got invited to a PvP guild aptly named “PvP” on Republic side and had a blast playing PvP games with a bunch of cool guys who know what they are doing. It’s much more fun to play with a team, especially in PvP when you can coordinate your attacks over voice-chat. They had a mirror guild on the Imperial side and I played many games with a guild master of the guild — lots of fun.

Sith Assassin Trah.Somewhere along the way I also created a Sith Inquisitor character who I ended up liking a lot — story-wise and his personality-wise. Since I already had a Sage (or a Sorcerer) I turned this guy into an Assassin with stealth capabilities. I played him as a Deception tree DPSer. Even thought I didn’t enjoy the melee aspect of it I sure loved his ability to capture game objectives by surprising his enemies. I got him to level 55 as well, but didn’t get too far as far as the gear goes. He is aptly named Trah — a fitting name for an Assassin.

Jedi Guardian Trasta Tatrasta.At last I have another character named Trasta who is a light side Jedi Guardian. I was playing him as a tank, but never found any guides for this spec and this class and therefore didn’t grow to love him. For me half the fun, if not most of the fun comes from the theorycrafting part of the game — understanding the mechanics, the specs, the stats and learning to build and play the character optimally. With the lack of the guides the fun is just not there — that’s a big problem for a game that is losing popularity, unlike WoW that keeps going strong.

Jedi Sage Krem.As far as stories go I liked them in the following order (SPOILER ALERT): Mercenary — quite boring — find and kill this guy, find and kill that guy; Sage — also boring — heal this guy, heal that guy, I’m so good I’m just going to heal everyone; Sniper — a lot of people find his story to be the best in the game, but I didn’t find it to be anything special — a couple of unexpected plot twists, but nothing exceptional; Marauder — a nice dark political power play with his master; Assassin — also a very strong and fun dark story about his spectacular ascent to the Dark Council itself.

That’s pretty much all I wanted to say. The game is fun and I wish it to keep doing well as I can definitely see myself reactivating my account sometime in the future again.

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Friday, February 8, 2013

LEGO Star Wars Sith Fury

LEGO Star Wars 9500 Sith Fury-class Interceptor.This past weekend Alena and I were walking around Manhattan and stumbled upon an official LEGO store near the Rockefeller Plaza. We went inside and I was overwhelmed by a strong urge to get something for myself and build it. Of course the prices on Amazon were better, so I ordered myself a set when we got home.

Finished version. The back wings, front and back doors open up.About a year ago I spent a bit of time playing Star Wars: The Old Republic MMORPG and I actually has reactivated my account recently. So I decided that building something from that familiar setting would be nice — Sith Fury-class Interceptor which comes with Darth Malgus and a pair of Imperial troopers. The set consists of 748 pieces.

Building process. Arosha was helping.I must say that I haven’t played with something like this in ages. I loved to build things out of Soviet LEGO imitations when I was a kid, but they kits and were nowhere as elaborate and even those were nowhere to be found. I had a few very simple sets. I was worried that I would find it too hard to put everything together, but the instructions were very exact and easy to follow.

Arosha's helping.I think I’m a LEGO fan now. Arosha was “helping” me through some parts of the process. I see a lot of LEGO sets in Arosha’s future.
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Friday, June 8, 2012

Of Diablo III

Progression.Now it’s been some time since I’ve started playing Diablo III and I have to say that it did not disappoint. I was somewhat unsure of whether I will like it or not after playing WoW and SWTOR which are very different from Diablo type of games.

For one thing I really liked the aspect of MMOs in that you gain new skills as you level and you keep using most of them till the end. I remember that being much of break for me coming from Diablo II, the break which I liked. Diablo III is very much like Diablo II in that sense, but it actually is a very nice change of pace after all MMOs.

My level 60 Barbarian.You only get 6 skills at any given time and each skills has a sub-skill which modifies a given skill in one way or another. You can change the active skills as many times as you wish. For example you can use one build for clearing the dungeons and a completely different one to bring down a boss.

The pace is completely different from the MMOs that I’ve played and is a very welcome thing. When you have to mostly pull 1 by 1 in an MMO here you just jump into the huge herd of monsters and smash away — the more the merrier. You basically never have to stop for a break — you just plow away.

Achievements.Obviously the biggest difference is the fact that Diablo, while can be played with friends, is built as a single player game. It means I can complete it on my own time fully without having to worry about finding a group. But it also does support cooperative play, which we tried with Eldar, although we didn’t have much time.

Besides leveling, gearing your character and progressing through the story the game comes with tons of achievements for players to … ehm … achieve. Getting as many of them down as possible is another very fun aspect of the game for me.

My Wizard.My favorite class to play at the moment is Barbarian — a melee DPS class. Although all classes in the game are pretty much DPS classes, since it is meant to be a single player game after all. At this point I’ve finished the story on Normal, Nightmare and Hell. However when I step my foot into the final stage — Inferno — I almost get taken apart by regular mobs and I ain’t got nothing on elites.

The problem with melee classes is that you actually have to be able to get into the thick of it and be able to sustain all the damage that is being dished out to you. Ranged classes on the other hand can avoid damage altogether if the player is proficient at kiting the mobs.

Secret level — the land of killer unicorns.Anyhow, as far as I’m concerned, I might not play much longer, but it was money well spent. It provided me with hours of great entertainment. Although I might try leveling a ranged class as well to 60 — should it be a Wizard or a Demon Hunter?
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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Diablo III

Diablo III. Collector's Edition box.Two days ago I’ve finally decided that I want to get Diablo III. Even though it will be very different game from WoW and SWTOR I think it is something that I might enjoying playing even more since it is meant to be a single player game. I have a lot of history with Diablo.

The first Diablo was actually the very first RPG game that I have ever played. RPG is the only type of game that I would play these days — and that’s been the case for a long time now. I’ve just never been interested as much in any other genre of games. Diablo II1 was actually the first game that I have bought — first one was given to me by an old friend. I played it all through to the end, later on bought an expansion and finished that too.

Diablo II and Diablo II Expansion.So I figured that I’d like to get a Collector’s Edition of the game. But as often is the case — procrastination (putting off the decision to the last moment) resulted in CE version being sold out everywhere — Amazon, Best Buy, etc. I decided to just stop by a Best Buy store in the morning on my way to work, ask if they have CE available and just get a normal version if not.

My Best Buy of choice for today’s morning was a store located near the Pennsylvania Avenue in Brooklyn. I pulled into the parking lot, got out of my car and the door to Best Buy got unlocked right in front of me. I walked in and proceeded to the gaming section. Asked about the CE version and was told to wait while a lady would check for me. She came back with 2 boxes and said that it’s all that they have.

Contents of Collector's Edition box and in-game items.Right at that moment another sales guy run up and said that she can’t sell any to me since these were pre-ordered. She said that she checked and no pre-orders showed up. The guy told her to not ring it up since he wanted to go and check himself. She decided not to listen to him. I swiped my credit card and the transaction went through.

At that moment this guy returned — yelling: “Stop! You can’t sell these! They ARE pre-ordered!” Her only reply at that point was — “Oops!” I wasn’t letting this game out of my hands. Yet another sales guys showed up with a receipt showing that he had pre-ordered both of the copies. I took that as my queue to get lost and left.

Artworks book.I actually didn’t expect it to be rare, but right after I bought mine I phoned our local store at Caesar’s Bay and another one near my office in Connecticut and neither one had any in stock. So I’m pretty happy with how that turned out. However the moral of the story is this — never pre-order anything at Best Buy.

I haven’t played the game itself yet, but just wanted to share this little moment of joy with you all.

P.S. I have a couple of guest invite codes — allows a friend to play through Act I of the game that I can share with you if you want it. I gave one of them out to Andrey already.

Zhah the Barbarian. My first character.

  1. Released on June 29, 2000. []

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Bounty Hunter Hahz and his wife Mako.I just want to make a short post and offer a small explanation for the lack of posting lately. Blame BioWare, the studio that made Star Wars: The Old Republic — a massively multiplayer online role playing game. RPG is the only type of game that I enjoy playing and I haven’t touched anything way back since the time when we left World of Warcraft several years ago.

Sith Marauder Zhah and his companion Jaesa.We tried playing different RPGs, but nothing really stuck as they tried to invent their own formula and always fell short of WoW, no pun intended. This one however takes exactly what WoW was and improves several annoying parts of it. Everyone has a companion, normal groups are limited to 4 people and companions count. They are not as good as real players, but we’ve been able to do pretty much all content together with Eldar to this point.

Hahz and Mako.Anyhow, it’s been eating up all of my free time and a lot of my sleep time. I have two characters that I enjoy very much. One is a Sith Warrior Marauder named Zhah — a character that specializes in dual-wielding lightsabers. He is a melee DPS guy who I’ve been leveling together with one of Eldar’s characters. Another one is a Bounty Hunter Mercenary that is a ranged DPS dealer.

Game UI. Running.Both play very differently and have a different story that spans through all 50 levels. Role playing gets to the point of characters being able to romance and marry their companions — that’s what Hahz (my bounty hunter) did. It’s been a lot of fun to this point, but I think it won’t be as much fun once we reach level 50. Same thing as with WoW, only I’m not raiding this time around.
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Friday, December 31, 2010

Cycling 2010

Cycling clothing.The cycling year is over and since I’m not planning to cycle in the last 8 hours of this year I decided to calculate and post the final stats. There are many valid excuses I can come up with for such unimpressive results, but it’s better than nothing.

In the last months the weather got really cold and I had no proper clothing. However a week ago I finally bought a couple of items that allowed me to put some miles in without freezing to death. I had the long pants from the last year and my helmet came with a winter insert which I installed.

I bought a thermal layer that goes under a jersey (basically a t-shirt with long sleves that soaks up sweat) and a really nice cycling jacket. I’m thinking that I should’ve gotten it one size smaller since the rubber strip on the bottom doesn’t prevent it from sliding up. Otherwise it’s water and wind proof, has a lot of convient pockets and a long back.

I think what I need to get is a long sleeved jersey to replace my summer one, get some thermal layer on the head to cover the ears, get a pair of booties that go over the cycling shoes, some real gloves and it should make cycling comfortable during winter.

Here are the final numbers:
MonthRidesTotal DistanceOverall Time
8 months34707.0453:54:54
April10160.2412:21:29
May596.8207:17:42
June6116.9908:12:32
July115.5001:10:50
August131.1102:40:17
September366.7306:11:19
October6185.6713:24:11
December233.9802:36:34

So there you have it. Total of 707 miles and almost 54 hours on a bike. The fastest speed was 32.8 MPH and the biggest single time distance is 51.16 miles. By my standards (they are pretty low ones) that’s not too shabby. Hopefully next year will be better and even more hopefully Alena will join in. Arosha will probably have to wait a year or two.
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Monday, October 11, 2010

Queens Loop

Here’s a map1 of what we’ve been doing with Mike on weekends from the time when he got his new bike.

Our overall ride length varies from 25 to 32 miles per run and it takes us from hour and a half to 2 hours depending on the detours and stops that we choose to make.

Hopefully Alena will join us as soon as possible. And maybe even Alex will remember to bring his biking clothes back to Brooklyn and not have a hang over one day, but we’re not really counting on that. When Lenchik gets back to living in Brooklyn (if ever) we’ll just have him run with us. Anybody else wants to join? )

  1. Large map. Recorded with Cyclemeter for iPhone. []
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Sunday, July 18, 2010

StarCraft II Beta

Starcraft IISomehow a beta key from StarCraft II landed in my mailbox. I tried a couple of game and it feels pretty much like an old StarCraft with updated graphics. I’m not really a fan of this genre of games. Actually I’m not a fan of games at all.

StarCraft IIAnyhow, it’s been fun to play a couple of rounds for free. Too bad the beta is for multi-player only. I would’ve enjoyed a solo campaign more probably. Plus I tend to build a nice base and arrange my stuff and meantime a huge army invades and destroys everything — as I said, not my thing.
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Monday, May 31, 2010

May Cycling

HelmetHere is my May cycling report summed up in one word — pathetic. First we were on vacation, then I was sick, then we were shopping for furniture, then we were putting furniture together. You get the picture. Overall I managed to get out only 5 times during the whole month of May. Goes and hides in shame now.

Sasha and I did a pretty long loop throughout parts of Brooklyn, Rockaways and Queens though this time around — over 30 miles long, which makes it my longest ride yet.

DateTotal DistanceAverage SpeedOverall Time
5 days96.82max 15.807:18
5/08/201012.8012.801:14
5/14/201020.5415.801:19
5/15/201030.5614.102:23
5/29/201012.5015.200:50
5/31/201020.4214.601:30

However the weather wasn’t really cooperating this month — it was extremely windy very often. It’s not my favorite feeling when you’re going 20 MPH and then you’re standing still and feeling like you’re about to roll backwards. Today though was an exception. Even though the winds were pretty strong it felt really nice going against it — the day was very hot and wind would cool you down so quickly that I was almost feeling goose bumps and that seemed to give me more strength to go through it. I really enjoyed that for a change today.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

April Cycling

CyclingIf all goes as planned and we do go on our vacation this Saturday I’m not going to do any more cycling this month. Hence my mini report for this month. It certainly feels good to be riding again.

I use CatEye V3 to collect the following data — distance, average speed, average heart-rate, average cadence and maximum speed reached through out the ride.

At this point my average cadence has stayed pretty consistent which is 65-69 since the day I started recording it. My average heart-rate is at 150-164. The maximum speed that I was able to reach was 29.2 MPH, which I’m sure is pretty laughable by any standards, but it is what it is. And the more detailed break down follows:

DateTotal DistanceAverage SpeedOverall Time
10 days160.24max 15.213:21
04/02/201010.699.701:06
04/03/201011.630.001:00
04/04/201021.3912.402:10
04/05/201011.6313.300:57
04/07/201016.8214.101:23
04/09/201011.6813.900:52
04/10/201024.1313.501:56
04/14/201015.7914.801:05
04/16/201013.6115.200:55
04/17/201022.8712.801:56

I did put about 10 more miles on my parent’s fitness bike, but I’m not including those stats since it’s really hard to compare the machine to a real bike. I’m not really sure what’s harder to do.
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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Cannondale Synapse Carbon 5

Cannondale Synapse Carbon 5.After 4 weeks of waiting and almost a year long break I’m back on a bicycle. However everything worked out in an unexpected way as it often does.

Shimano 105 shifters.This time around I place an order for Cannondale CAAD9-4. Same bike as I had before, only instead of getting Shimano 105 components I decided to go with SRAM Rival. The problem was that our LBS didn’t have this particular bike in stock. They placed an order to Cannondale and Cannondale folks were dragging their feet.

Shimano 105 derailleurs, FSA Gossamer BB30 Compact crank.This past Wednesday Sasha asked if I wanted to stop by the store, see if he’ll pick anything out. The owner wasn’t supposed to be there on Wednesday, but there he was. He explained to me that Cannondale was expecting to ship the bikes next week and that he would’ve called me if anything changed, but I told him that I’m here with a friend to show him around.

Cannondale logo on the frame, Control Tech handlebar.We went to look at bikes and I suggested Alex test drives a CAAD9 bike and a Synapse. CAAD9 is a great crit bike and is great for racing, or anything else for that matter, but since we’re not really planning to race an endurance bike could be a better choice, and Synapse is exactly that. Synapse comes in alloy and carbon.

Prologo Kappa Pas saddle.Sasha ended up liking Synapse more. We were told that it was a 2009 (last year) carbon model with Shimano 105 stuff. The price tag was $1400, which is a bit crazy, knowing that 2010 model goes for $2150. When Alex agreed to buy it, the owner started checking books and discovered that they, as he eloquently put it, fucked up. The bike was aluminum alloy, not carbon.

Shimano RS10 wheels and hubs.Allan (the owner) apologized for the screw up and said to correct the situation he’s going to give him a very good price — $1100 for aluminum and if he still wants carbon he’ll give him 2010 model for $1550, which is off the hook. I started feeling that my $1500 for $1800 wasn’t as great of a deal compared to this one — although it still was a hell of a deal, judging by the info on the forums.

Carbon frame, carbon fork. BPA-Free Camelbak Podium bottle.Alex took a bike for a test drive and Allan said to me that since I was his customer it would not be right if he wouldn’t offer me the same deal. After a short test drive it didn’t take long for me to change my mind. Although CAAD9 is an awesome bike I figured that for me endurance bike probably makes more sense than a crit bike, since I’m not really all that great of a cyclist at this point. Plus this way I could pick up my new bike right away, instead of waiting. Alex did the same.

Shimano A520 SPD pedals.We picked them up on Friday. I put a little bit over 40 miles up to this point on my bike and I like it a lot. First day I wasn’t sure about my switch, but now I’m just happy to be riding again. We picked up a bunch of other gear which was given to us at a great price as well. I said this before, and I will say this again — THE BEST customer service and shopping experience, only at Sheepshead Cycle Shop. Allan is great to do business with, and I’m one of many very satisfied customers.
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cycling in Colorado

One and only photo of me on my bike.A bit of exciting news for us with regards to cycling — yesterday, with Eldar’s help, I made a reservation for a pair of road bikes at a local to Eldar store.

If we can’t have our cycling in this city at least we’ll enjoy some of it during our trip next month. And not only we’ll do some cycling, but we’ll do it in the heart of cycling country. I think everyone in Boulder owns a road bike.

We’ll be renting a pair of Specialized Roubaix road bikes for $50 a day.

P.S. This is the only photo of me on my bike in existence.
In: Games & Sport   Tags: ,
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