Mostly recaps of two wheeled rambles through the countryside, but sometimes thoughts on other things.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

1st Ride of Summer

Ah yes, summer in Alabama. "It's not the heat, it's the humidity." I don't know how often I've heard that phrase, but it has sure been a lot. Today it wasn't so hot but it WAS humid. It caused me to sweat up a storm, and deal with salty eyes all day.

Bilee put up the usual post, "Wendell has to work this weekend, so he wants to ride 25 miles at 7 AM" She of course, was riding faster and farther elsewhere. A relaxing ride with Wendell sounded pretty good to me, so I said I'd be there, with the fat tire touring bike. Good buddy Bill called the other day to say he liked the long slow ride plan too, and we agreed to accompany Wendell until he turned back to the cars, then we would add as many miles as time and energy would allow. Bill intended to bring out his Rivendell-ish Surly. Finally, other good buddy Jeff came by the other night and said he planned to come out on the vintage Gilles Berthoud touring rig. (GB is a high end, hand crafted line that's been around a while. Very old fashioned, but still popular with a certain set)

This morning, I got an email telling me that Bill's family has other ideas about his day, so he is joining Bilee in the "faster" camp, so he can be done early. Jeff came out though and we were joined by Jim and Chad, and 3 miles out by Tim, so it was a good group after all. We set out from Pintlala Baptist and headed to the country. The first picture above is of Wendell on his breakaway. Now, for those that don't know, Wendell (or "Wood" as the gal he lives with calls him, the sly devil) rides a Civil War era Cannondale R200, with a squeezable elephant head on the handlebar. The bike is "Babar" to his friends. Wendell has a nice Campy Athena or Chorus drive train, but prefers to save wear and tear, so he uses 1 and only 1 gear. He also pedals consistently at 1 and only 1 cadence. His riding is like his demeanor, very affable and laid back. Wendell is your ticket if you want to enjoy a ride, both for the conversation and the easy pace. Imagine my surprise then, when Wendell kicked in the jets and went flying up a hill far out in front of us. Chad, a sliver of soon to be 10 th grader (gosh I wish I had started riding when I was that age!) is seen in the picture trying to catch Wendell. And Chad is on the race team!. Who knew the upcoming Tour de France would inspire Wendell so?

I hung back and eventually caught up. In the meanwhile I thoroughly enjoyed being out with Jeff on his way cool bike. If only it wasn't French. Here's a picture (apologies on the lack of focus) of Jeff on the go. This bike features a stay mounted pump and a generator that you pull up on a seat tube mounted lever to engage.

We stopped to regroup at various junctures and to be sure we had every one. Today was the 1st try out of a new pair of Joneswares merino wool cycling shorts. They were by far the most comfortable shorts I have ever used on a bike. Unfortunately, the bottom center seam began to come open. With no underwear beneath it, an interesting wardrobe malfunction might have ensued. In the meantime, I was peddling merrily along, blithely unaware of the danger lurking below. A wool jersey was also very comfortable. Several amazed people asked if I was sure you can wear wool in the summer. "Sheep do it all the time," I replied. It does much better when wet with perspiration than cotton or synthetics, and does NOT smell. Alex took a picture for me with his closeup lens of the seam opening in the shorts and I'll email the maker to see what they say.

Here is a picture of the usual suspects. You can play "Where's Waldo?" There are two wool jerseys being worn; your mission is to find them. We parted company with Wendell and Jeff at about mile 18. They turned to head back to where the cars were parked. From there, the rest of us picked up the pace a little and headed to Ramer. It was a lovely ride. Partly cloudy conditions kept us from roasting in the sun. The green is lush and dense and some of the low spots in the road were still quite cool as we rolled through them. This ride has some rollers and the total climb is about 1,350'. Not much overall, but a few stretches are actually pretty steep.

We pulled on in to Ramer and the place was pretty uncrowded today. In fact, we didn't see any other riders along the route. When things are quiet like that, you don't have to stop to find "facilities." A tree will do. here is a picture of Jim "Back To Nature"
coming back onto the road. Jim is my hero, really. He will turn 70 on his next birthday and he still looks like a Greek god. I'm not saying which one though....

The thought crossed my mind of racing Chad to the finish, but as soon as I mentioned it, he took off for the cars and was there maybe 1/2 hour before the rest of us. No way I could catch him. I ribbed him about being a wheel sucker behind me and he was showing that he did not need to be pulled along. Next time, I'll just ease up next to him and say, "Race you to the cars!" Tim wanted to get more miles so he went on up the road to the next town (Snodoun) and Jim and I paced each other back to the start point.

The tally was 41 miles at 14.5 mph. The rain which loomed early on dissipated without ever wetting us. When I got home, an eBay score was waiting in the mail. A vintage Castelli Italian wool jersey in excellent condition. Anyone want to ride tomorrow?


Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Wooly Week

Ding! The auction bell sounded and I found myself the winner on eBay of a vintage wool Castelli jersey for $22. Since a new wool cycling jersey is about $135, I am pleased. Time will tell if the seller's choice of "excellent" to describe the condition is accurate. Or even if the word "wool" actually applies. The postal carrier delivered the 1st pair of wool biking shorts I've ever had. I've been sitting on the fence about this forever, but finally ordered one, no chamois, and knee length inseam so it will be good into the cooler weather as well. I may not be riding a lot this week, but I am getting the stuff for it anyway. Yes, the Joneswares wool shorts were very comfortable on a test ride last night.

The eventful week at work continues. Our 1st shift saw operator sliced off 2 fingers yesterday morning. He said he hit the wrong switch by accident. He mean to unclamp a vise holding the cut piece, but instead started up the saw while his hand was still on the just finished part. Ouch. Our call to 911 was responded to by a hook and ladder truck, two fire dept pick up trucks and a fire dept paramedic vehicle. Later, a regular ambulance carried him away to the hospital, once the medics had seen to his immediate needs. There was a fair amount of blood and I credit our trained 1st aid people on staff who kept things from getting worse until the 911 call was answered (in about 10 mins. The response was really pretty good) A couple of important conference calls, and an influx of new work needing to be properly chewed and digested so that it can be passed on to the proper people for the next steps. We're glad to have the new work, btw. It's a bit like going from being thirsty to trying to drink from a fire hose though. Steel prices have risen over 100% since the end of last year (watch for cars, appliances, etc to all start going up, if they haven't already) and getting customers to take their buildings on schedule, so they can avoid more price hikes is tough. People are not used to thinking that the building materials might be a driving force on schedule. They always have considered site condition and erector availability issues. Steel is about 60% of the cost of a metal building (there are labor, overhead, and accessory item
costs also), so if that doubles, the building cost goes up proportionally.

Buddy Jeff is due over today to pick up the 1959 Jack Taylor tandem he has been storing in my garage. And a wheelset that I would sort of like to have a spare, but really don't need to spend the $ on right now. We'll grab some dinner and he'll be interested in all the wool stuff. I'll be interested to hear his take on politics, Floyd Landis and pharmaceutical enhancement charges, and so much more.

Time to go to work, so see ya'all soon.

Monday, June 23, 2008

It has been a Monday

It has been a very full day today, in more ways than one. In a general attempt at chronological order:

I heard from my cousin Gary in Wisconsin today. I didn't know he even existed prior to 2000. I met him through his sister Carol, who I also met at the same time. Carol and I were each doing family tree research, and we bumped into each other when we both sent inquiries to the same cousin in MI. He said to me, "there's a gal in WI who would probably like to hear from you," and so it was that I met Carol, Gary and their sister Anita. The father of them all was the youngest brother of my maternal grandfather. (For whom Alex is named) Carol and I have met several times, and we write and exchange phone calls regularly. She has an eerie physical resemblance to my own mom, but they are very different personalities. I would have liked to see how they clicked in person though. My mom passed away in '94, so that never happened. Anyway, I met the 3 "kids" (all older than me of course) and my great aunt Marie, their mother, shortly before she herself died. Our group meeting was nice enough, and I have appreciated Carol's friendship ( as well as her very affable husband Bud), but I wanted to get to know Gary better. I wrote and emailed a couple of times, but never heard back. About a week ago, Carol told me that Gary has a bad case of cancer and the outlook is not long term. Today, he sent me a great email. He didn't avoid answering me before for any reason other than something else always popped up that he wanted to get done. A creative man who loved his work, he just didn't have excess time for things like reconnecting family ties. Today he mentioned that he realizes with time short, he needed to get around to that and reading his note made me feel sad and good all at the same time. Kind of like typing this blog entry does right now. I wrote him back today, and hope that it is also answered. I prayed for him, and maybe I'll know the answer to that too.

Not long after that, one of my very good friends called me. He just got back home after a trip, and experienced a very close brush with serious injury or death while out in an unfamiliar area by himself. It was warming to know that he thought enough of me to call, but less fun to know that close friends have close calls, when there is no one, including me, around to be able to help. The fact that he did NOT die or come to serious harm does lessen the level of angst of course.

Work was work. As usual, customers who demand delivery by date "x" or else find that they are not ready on date "x." and cannot accept delivery. The absolute very least favorite part of my
job is preparing monthly Job Accounting Reports which are needed to do monthly statements. These are on my desk to be done and looking at them all day did little for my mood. I don't think corporate has ever given me last month's statement. Maybe I can hold out and say, "when you guys deliver, I can get started." Yeah, that's the ticket.

Tomorrow is back on the road, cycling wise. Not sure which bike it will be, but the hills of Posey Crossing beckon and I must needs pedal up that way.

Tailwinds everybody.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Problem with Wal-Mart Parking Lots

is that they are full of Wal-Mart shoppers. These people CANNOT drive. My only irritating moments with cars tonight occurred in the parking lot pre and post ride.

Robert and I were it tonight, but we had a fine ride anyway. The air was a bit cooler than it has been, there was a light breeze. At first it was in our faces as we pulled out. Naturally, it died to dead calm when we turned and should have had it at our backs. Robert agreeably let me set the pace tonight. Which is to say that I pulled for 18 1/2 of our 20 miles. That worked out fine and he COULD have pulled out ahead if he so desired. After his Patty-training this weekend, I think the idea of a relaxing, non pace line ride had some appeal for him.

The backs of my knees were sore after the weekend rides, and I was off the bike, save the couple of around the block miles that I do every night, for three whole days. I was sure that my legs had atrophied from non use and that the slightest rise in the road would be insurmountable. When we reached the first climb, I crossed my fingers mentally and pushed on the pedals. Surprise! They turned. How is it that cyclists get such a distorted perspective of their true physical condition sometimes?

We ran the route backwards, which I've said before is my preference, and there was some initial traffic as workaday types sped home or to the store. I told Robert that it would clear up a mile or so after we turned onto CR 7. At about mile marker 10, he asked me if we had gone that mile yet. "Military Mile!" I said. "It's a special type of mile, and we're almost there." I'd rather deal with traffic when I am strong and fresh, than when I am tired and less in control.

Every battery powered (the annoying little yappy ones) dog in the county was out tonight and we yelled at a number of them. I'd seen some pictures today of trashed forks from squirrels running into a bike's front wheel while in motion, and I didn't want a dog to do that. The busted forks were all carbon, and the wheels low spoke count. I have steel forks and 32 spoke wheels, so I'm pretty safe. I'd rather not find our for sure though by having a critter ram me from the side.

We finished the ride in the advertised range of pace. (20 miles in 1:21) We climbed a lot too.

Now that I know the 3 day layoff was not cycling fatal, look for me on Saturday on a county road near you..

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day, 2008

I got in a little ride today, after church. Just 21 miles. I intended to take a leisurely stab at some hills, and threw some particularly steep climbs into the mix. When I got to the fountain downtown to wash the salt out of my eyes, and restore some sense of vision, I noticed a purple wall to the east, in the area I would normally be headed. A quick shifting of mental gears had the bike headed back the way I came, skirting the storm on the south side. At the hill top on Doster Rd, I stopped and put on a rain jacket and continued on. By now, the approaching storm was putting out some serious wind. While it was cooling, it also slowed me from 15 to 10 mph, and that in a full tuck to minimize the area taking the air. Passing the post office on Greystone Ln, the rains came and the last two miles were pretty wet, mixed with a little bit of might have been sleet. By the time I made it home, I was thoroughly exercised. No leisure about it!

While I was out, Alex mowed the yard, which was very much appreciated. As I type this, the BBQ is warming up and steaks are in my immediate future. I have to say though, that I am blessed with a son who treats me like it's Father's Day most of the days of the year. My own dad and I did not get along well (he died in 1996). I was never blameless in all that, but he was very self centered and not particularly honest with me, or anyone else. It is such a delight to have a far better relationship with my own son than I had when I was a son. I've learned to look back at my dad with more forgiving eyes, but there was still a lot lacking there.

Last weekend, Alex (who has no love of any sport) came out to the backyard with 2 softball gloves and a ball, and offered to play catch with me. He's going on 21, and he knows that I enjoy throwing a ball. He did it for all the best reasons. That was probably the best Father's day gift I've ever had. And it was a week early. The two of us sat in the garage last night and watched the rains for a while while we chewed on the world's problems. That was good times as well. He also replaced the cracked hose reel in the back yard and added 2 sprinklers. I dink around in the yard after work most nights. He notices things like that. Back when it looked like I was doing a May bike tour in PA, he and Sharon collaborated on a small digital camera for me as an early Father's Day gift. That is where all the pictures for this blog have come from, btw. So I am well taken care of for Father's Day.

Happy Father's Day to all of you to whom it applies. May you each find joy in the love of sons and fathers.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Where's The Lite?

Ann posted a Club Lite ride for today leaving from the John Hall store in rural eastern Montgomery County at 7:30 AM. I'd been off the bike for a week for one reason or another (well, not exactly. I managed to putter about 18 miles around the neighborhood in street clothes, but nothing heroic, exertion-level wise.) and a "Lite" ride seemed a safe bet to knock the rust off my leg muscles. They planned on 35ish miles and I felt that I would want to ride a few more than that.

After arriving on time, and finding another rider or two before me, I thought it might be a low turn out. But in a short while, several others either came up on bikes, or drove in and parked. Parking was at a premium as there was a "garage sale" at the store today. No garage in sight anywhere, but they did have the sale for it. Angela, to no one's surprise, called at 7:30 to say she was "on the way." That element of our rides has been missing since Laura "PowerCranks" moved on up to competitive riding. (Laura: If you read this, I hope you're having a great riding year) When we pulled out, Scott led us (GREAT to see you Scott, you're riding very strong, stronger than last Summer before the titanium was added - and now removed) and Joe, Ann, Trevor, Angela, Kathy, and I followed. At 18 mph! Apparently, that's the new "lite" speed. Expecting rain today and a "lite" ride, I was on the touring bike with a "duffel" bag hanging off a Nitto Bag lifter (works great btw) behind the saddle, fenders, and 650B 75 psi max fatso tires. Try pushing THAT at 18 for a while. Oh, dopey me.

The bag had a rain kit in it along with my usual list of sundries. Folks, if you're with me on a ride and need something, ask me. It may be in there. Britt, you'd still have your gloves if you know what I mean. Need tools? a rag? rubber glove? check, check, check. And room to spare.

Scott was an Angus bull out in front leading us, but he peeled off after less than 10 miles to pedal back home, leaving us at the mercy of the breezes. Our pace varied somewhat over the day, but I ended up with 16 mph avg. I don't know how long I could have held on to 18, especially hauling up the hills. The ride itself was pretty nice even if it was over very familiar terrain. Clouds cut the sun factor down, but there was some humidity. Ann called out "car back" in the manner of Foghorn Leghorn. You hear her with perfect clarity, that's for sure. I say, I say, I say, good job there Ann. There was the usual mix of lovely fields, rolling hills and horses and cattle to look at as well as nicely done homes set back well off the road ways. At one point, a whole herd of deer shot out of the woods and sped across a field parallel to us. I pulled out the camera and got a picture, but they wouldn't stop and pose for me. I also got a picture of Patty's group as they shot parallel to us. The pictures look so much alike, I can't tell them apart. They're both above for you to decide. It seems everyone is fast except me.

Joe and I were originally going to depart from the main group and head south for a longer ride, but at our store stop the clouds looked like rain was moving in. I changed my mind about the longer ride and opted to stay with the pack and he agreed to join me. As it was, the rain hit us in Matthews and we pedaled the last 7 miles in the wet. Nothing severe, but it was wet. I pulled out the Comp-Velo rain jacket and proudly pointed out our company sponsor logo to everyone else. (they can always use more sponsors, so don't be shy. Email Dave Hiott for info) The biggest concern was keeping the camera dry, to be honest. The cool rain was refreshing. Fenders were nice too. No skunk stripe or wet feet as some others dealt with.

Angela is riding longer distances now, and is finding that the saddle which was comfy in the showroom or for a shorter ride is not very good for longer rides. I think we ALL deal with that. Saddles are SO individual in terms of what is comfortable. Generally, the more you ride, the less padding you want. Saddle position is also adjustable, and don't be afraid to try a shift of the tilt, height, or fore/aft settings to discover what works best for you. My saddle is great for riding on the top of drops, but not for extended periods down on the hooks. Its nose would have to come down.

I guess I'll have to bring a faster bike next time. Or maybe just faster legs. There must be a sale on those somewhere....

The picture titles are descriptive, but to recap bottom to top:

The other riders on CR 36
Me on the same road
One of the fast groups
The other fast group
Showing off my rain gear to the huddled shivering masses under the canopy at the Matthews PO
The rain shower

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I've been a slug this week

This has been an off-bike week. It's either rained (Yay! We needed it badly) looked like rain (I hate when it teases but doesn't deliver) or I've felt too tired to want to ride. So, I've done about 15 miles around the neighborhood, and seen to some inside chores that had piled up. I saw the story in the link below today, and I thought a couple of htings. For one, the fellow in the story has a similar outlook on riding to me, and for another, I hope I can rack up his kind of mileage when I get older. Heck, I hope I make to the age he has! It's a nice story, for the most part.

Weather permitting, I will be riding tomorrow and over the weekend.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

It's really hot!

Yesterday was our annual Club Lite Triathlon. Ride, swim and eat. Sadly, I had to pass on this arduous event for an excellent adventure in my attic. A few weeks ago, the outlets in the garage went dead and I had no luck in finding the cause. Merrill from church is an electrical engineer and has all the probes and meters to test and trace wires, and he offered to come by early yesterday to help. The "help" amounted to doing the work. All I could do was provide wiring info, get cold water, feed slack extension cord, etc. Merrill was on his knee pads in the attic, following wires to see which outlets they serviced. Our attic exhaust vent fan is thermostat controlled. It comes on at about 120 F. It came on about an hour into our efforts. In the end, we did find the fault and fixed it. All our exterior outlets had also gone dead, and it may have been something plugged in outside that did the damage. We sweated off several pounds in the 3 hours we worked on it.

Since I was already as grungy and yucky as all get out, I decided to do the lawn. Xander did it last week, and he takes the Carl Edwards approach. The mower leans on two wheels as he speeds around the corners, leaving curved Mohawks of grass everywhere. He also does not use the edger or string trimmer. This week, the lawn looks GOOD. I've been watering the lawn on a rotating schedule in the 3 weeks that no rain has fallen. It's not lush, but it looks okay. We don't have a sprinkler system, so it's me and hoses with various sprinklers to fit the spaces needed. I hate how the automated systems spray so much into the street or on concrete. At least my water gets on the grass.

Thursday was a hot day as well, but Frank and I again enjoyed a good ride. We did the Prattville Loop and the legs felt strong. I made up for not riding yesterday by puttering with my bikes after I had cleaned up, and the movement of the Sun provided a shaded area to set up the bike work stand. Saddles were tensioned (Leather saddles stretch at first, and they have a tensioning bolt to turn and keep the shape properly molded to your bottom) and I changed saddle bags and adjusted the Kool Stop pads on the Saluki. I also took off the black and yellow Vittoria tires from the KHS and put the drabber Continental Ultra 2000s back on. The black and yellow water bottle cages came off in favor of some gray Nashbar units left over from another project. The bike was a little too wild looking, I think, and it's toned down. The Brooks Challenge seat bag (small: holds only a tube and tire levers) will go on ebay and an older Cannondale bag with more room is on. It rides nice and looks good now. I couldn't get the Look pedals off, they were on so tight. Mark at the shop will have to help me. I want to put some Spds I have on, so the bike can be ridden with cycle sandals.

There is a guest speaker at church today, and Xander, his main squeeze and I are invited to lunch with the pastor, his wife and the speaker. Hopefully a bike ride will ensue!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Just a Quick note

Regular campadre Frank, new guy Tim, and I did 23 ish miles and 1,200'+ of climb in mid 90s temps tonight after work. It was a super ride. Great work out. Started out slow and warmed up the legs before cranking hard. That always pays a dividend. It felt easier tonight than the route has before. Maybe just compared with Saturday's effort? Didn't ride faster than usual, just felt better. Not hurting is nice :)
Cecil at work has been riding a Trek 7300 Hybrid ever since I passed along my old Trek Navigator 200 to his wife Ara Jo. That was my 1st real bike, and they started out taking evening rides together. Cecil is now ready for a sloped design road bike, thinking of a Pilot 5.2. I feel like an evangelist whose witness is bearing fruit!

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