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

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Update

No, you didn't miss any ride reports. We drove up to my middle sister's in WV on Weds and came back yesterday, to rain. If it clears this afternoon, I'll get in some miles, just to stretch my legs. I do have a bike with fenders, after all.

It had been 4 or 5 years since my two sisters and I were last co located for a visit, and the time this week went very well. They're great gals and I am glad we got some time together. The nieces were lovely as well, and the other side of my sister's family, there for the grand buffet of Tur-Kay (or maybe the jumbo jugs of wine?) were very entertaining. Hopefully, they all feel similarly. I have been threatened with bodily harm if I upload the video of us singing Christmas carols to the tune of baby sister's guitar picking, so you'll have to imagine some bad singers who invent words for songs as memories fail. The guitar part was the only portion on key. It really was a highlight of the trip for me! AND, my brother in law is getting interested in a new bike! We verified his PBH and found that he should be on a 62 cm frame. He has a 56 now, with the seat post way up, and his hands hurt from leaning too far down to get the flat style handlebar on a Diamondback Sorrento. I see him on a tourer or cylcocross frame with semi knobbies and very low gears for those mountainsides they live on.

The drive up and back was pretty enjoyable too. After totally disdaining them, I found that an ipod can be pretty interesting. A great playlist, some loud singing, and I only had to navigate! Traffic was light, and we skirted most of the rains by heading home west first, then south. Only after catching the news last night, did I learn that Montgomery had over 3" of rain yesterday. Our rain gauge shows 1.7" here. In other news, our HS team won its semi-final football game and plays long time foe, Hoover (the school that had an MTV series going for a while) for the title. In 2005, Hoover beat us, and they beat Daphne in 2006. We won the past two years (over Hoover and Spain Park) and are heading for a threepeat. The current starter at Alabama, John Parker Wilson was the QB at Hoover who beat us. Hoover has won 1/2 a dozen state titles recently so they have a longer winning history, but we're gaining. Why HS football interests me, I do not know. My own alma mater, lost it's PSAL championship game last weekend. Their last title win was in '72. Last trip to the game was like '82. At least they made teh finals this year. Go Seahorses!!


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hooray For Woolies!

The kind you wear.

There was some talk about bike rides today. One comment by Robert suggested that since it would be 35F at 9 Am, rides should start at 10:00. Robert was off by a degree. It was 34 when I shoved off at 9:00. Remarkably, I was alone on my bike! With a birthday upcoming, I was gifted with some Joneswear wool: a turtleneck base layer and (2) two color jerseys (a long and a short sleeve), as well as Ibex wool gloves with cool, antelope pattern rubber grippies on the palm. Today, I wore a very thin Swobo base layer and then the Joneswear turtle neck, the short sleeve wool jersey and covered it all with a Comp-Velo (our local race team. The company I work for is a minor sponsor) team wind jacket. (Swobo/Jones/Jones/Velo. Reads like a Egyptian sarcophagus, doesn't it?) Wool Joneswear shorts and a pair of Hind tights kept me warm below deck. Joneswear wool socks in Nike Air hi-top BBall shoes on my feet (You never know when you'll pedal by a good pick up game of 2 on 2) and I was good to go. Oh, a wool bike cap under the helmet. A gal (Jackie Walz) up north hand makes these and sells them very reasonably on Ebay. You can email her any special request you have and she is able to stitch it up for you. You can also buy regular (somewhat fancier and pricier) stuff at their family's store. Wool keeps you warm when it gets wet. and it doesn't stink.

Despite what my guffawing critics think, thin merino wool wicks away sweat in the summer and keeps you cooler than any of the new hi tech fabrics. And once again, it doesn't stink. It is more work to wash, when you finally decide it's time. I get 4 - 6 wearings between washing, btw.

The bigger problem today was a month has elapsed since I last seriously did hills. My legs are indeed grumbling..

The route was an adaptation of our Prattville Loop Hill drill from the Summer series that the club has had the past couple of years. I chose the heaviest bike in the garage, with fatso 38.5 mm Ourson tires. On a cold day, the cush is great. For some reason, you feel the jarring of bumps more keenly when it's cold out. Average speed was down a mph or two, so what? It was sunny and lovely, and I thought about cadence and effort level management. The Holly trees are bursting with bright red berries now. I noticed several on Durden Rd. A rare freight train came through town and that meant stopping to wait and watch it go by. This crossing lacked barriers, so it is a GREAT idea to stop at tracks and look before proceeding. I stopped downtown at Heritage Park as always and took in the scenery. A deli is now open on Court St, and its location duly noted for a lunch time expedition on some work day.

There is some talk about a trip up to WV for Thanksgiving. My middle sister, who is the prospective hostess, left me a wall comment on Facebook this week. She said she'd "call in a couple of days" to discuss details. So far no word. Should I take the hint? There is a ham in our fridge to bring, but I suppose we could eat it here ourselves :) The youngest of us 3 sibs is in NJ and puportedly driving to WV as well. Probably 4 or 5 years have slipped by since we spent the holiday together. Certainly not since the move to Heart of Dixie.

A word about Ginger in Plant City. She's all grown up now, but when she was younger, we attended the same church. Her older sister was one of the JHS/HS kids I had for Sunday School maybe one or two terms. She's been fighting and doing well against lymphoma for some time. Recently, it flared up and she's had a marrow transplant. Lots of details but the short of it is that for about the 2d time in my life, I heard a calling to pray on her behalf specifically for a step she was going through at that time. She reported later in her blog that she felt better (at the time I was praying, natch) and thanked everyone that prayed for her. I haven't talked much about the "calling" thing, and who knows which prayer it was that was efficacious? Okay, I sort of think I know. I pray for lots of people and things all the time, as so many of us do. It's a very special feeling though to have a distinct sense of calling, step out and do it (you are foolish to trust God right? What if it doesn't work out? That's how we feel mostly.) and see a result. I know it does a lot for MY faith. We're doing a Sunday study in John, and in numerous instances, we read that the purpose of the miracles performed was so that people would come to faith, or come to better faith. So, Ginger is still in a lot of prayers, mine included. Just the regular ones today though. :)


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Where did iBob go?

That Frappr map of lugged steel bike types was getting annoying, so with the magic of the "del" key, POOF! and it's gone. An "iBob" is someone on the internet (the "i" part) who likes lugged steel bikes. The name comes from an old email list called the Bridgestone Owners Bunch (The "Bob" part) Bridgestone makes tires which is what they are known for in the US these days, but they make, and used to sell in the states, steel framed bicycles. They pulled out of the market at about the time that Trek and Cannondale, followed by Specialized were really taking things over but they still sell in Japan and other places. A lot of people who had them started writing about them and the list came about. Bridgestone type bikes are still sold in the US by several companies, notably Rivendell (Walnut Creek CA) which is staffed by the folks let go when Bridgestone left the scene. Bridgestones and Rivendells are like older style English bikes (intended to carry most of the load in the rear) as opposed to French bikes (which are set up to carry most of the load, "porteur" style, up front) Too much information?

I've set Mark III up with a big Acorn brand saddle bag in the back, chock full of the usual goodies. If for no other reason, I am usually welcome on club rides as my saddle bag is likely to carry anything anyone might need along the way. Tubes, tools, TP, band aids, SPF 50, lip balm, rain wear, Golf Digest, practice balls and a folding club (handy while someone is changing a flat),
you name it. At the moment though, Mark III isn't going anywhere. His rear wheel is removed and a home built trainer wheel mounted in its place. Last night, I began my winter struggle with trainer stand sessions. I hate, hate, hate, the trainer stand. I did find that doing it on a bike you like, and to Led Zeppelin, makes it very liveable. The new Brooks saddle is a bit hard still, but the shorter intervals now are good for taking care of that without damaging ME.

Even on Fridays, when I get home an hour earlier, there is not sufficient day light for a decent ride. I guess this is it, the regimen till Spring. So it's weights twice and trainer stand twice and Weds night off to teach the kidlets. We'll see if I have legs in March..

No miles at all this past weekend. I went around the neighborhood, less than 10 miles, but the wind was rough and it wasn't any fun. Catching up on letters and fixing a pen was a better way to spend the time. I caught some football on TV too.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Not beneath my wings

The wind that is. Today's relaxer ride was anything but! A brisk swirly breeze that was surely a headwind in 3 of 4 compass directions was quite the cardio work out!! After 10 miles, the wind was pushing me backwards, so Therese said, "You want me to pull for a while?" Was THAT a lifesaver! I caught my breath and tried to stay near her for the next 6 miles or so. I did a little more after that, but my legs were worn out. Coming back and cleaning up, I finally got a relaxer in.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Leaves are Falling

The temperature was a good 20 degrees warmer this morning when we set out riding, than it was last Saturday. That’s partially due to warmer weather this week, but also to Alice’s good sense to start riding at 9 AM (which would have been 10 last Saturday) . This gave the sun a shot at taking the chill off things. The shady areas were still certainly cool enough and I felt very comfy all day with a thin wool long sleeve base layer and a short sleeve jersey over it. Wind jackets build up too much sweat inside, which soaks the clothes and makes me colder. Wool breathes and wicks away moisture. Just as it is cooling in the summer, it’s plenty warm in the winter.

6 other Club Lite riders came in answer to Alice’s clarion call. 3 other cyclists exchanged greetings with us, but they had further and faster plans than we did. I hadn’t seen a couple of the Club Lite people for quite a while, so it was good to be together on a ride once again. Michelle is back at it after her bout with an as yet cause undefined abdominal infection. After her many protestations that she was “just easing back in to riding” she was so far out ahead of us, it was ridiculous. She lopes along at 20 mph. Imagine if she TRAINED. Another one off medical leave is Mary. She too was happy to be aboard the bike again. I think that had she not decided to toss her chain off, she might have raced away with Michelle. Mary is one of those “sneaky fast” riders. Talks to you all nice and sweet, and then woosh! see ya, sucka! I truly enjoyed conversing with each rider as we shifted around and ended up together for long enough to chat. It was surprising to hear that people who were surely on the other side of the political spectrum from me chose the same or most of the same candidates that I did. The big topic on everyone's minds is the economy. It affects everyone, but not all in the same way.

The day was absolutely gorgeous. Blue skies, just like Skynard sang of, and nice colors (courtesy of more rainfall this year). Winds were calm when we started, but picked up to a steady 15ish with gusts to 20 (headwinds of course!) at the end. I snapped some pictures along the way, and rather than comment on them, some are just below. All these and more can be found on Flickr as well.

This was the first run on the NXO-B (the red bike) with a changed out crankset and rear gears. It came set up like a criterium racer and the gearing was too tall for me anyway, let alone dragging up hills. The front has a Campy Veloce compact now and the rear has larger gears. Hills were much

better today and I really liked the bike.

There were a number of highlights and I would be remiss to omit mention of them.

Michelle treated everyone to bananas at the Ramer Store.

I learned that Mosely’s store in Pintlala has a WINE TASTING. I shudder to think where they grow the grapes for that.

Phillip went to get a bottle of wine for Alice to note her birthday today, but came back with a beer instead. Happy BD no matter what, Alice!!

And the highest highlight….. Tommy was wearing wool socks

Final tally was about 35 miles at 14.2 mph for me. I’m already looking forward to the relaxer ride tomorrow.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

leaves turning, pedals churning

(As always, you can click on any picture to see a larger size version)

The little hybrid maple tree that Alex and I struggled to plant almost 3 years ago (the red clay does not easily yield to a shovel) has grown and is finally showing some nice color! You can see in the picture that my neighbor's grass has obligingly gone dormant for the winter, but mine is still green. I suppose one more mowing is in my near future. Not today though as Bill R and I decided to check out Fall colors in and around Autauga County.

I posted the ride to the club, but it was just the two of us who showed up. Robert said he never saw the post and Joe was at a homecoming game of some school in Tuscaloosa. At least they had a chance of winning this weekend. The boys across the state in Auburn fared not so well. I think the only team with a lock was our local, rated #1 in the state, high school team. The Prattville Lions did indeed win handily over another good team on Friday.

The route we chose was the Autauga Loop, as posted by local cycling legend Mike Munk. I've only ridden it once before, but have done parts of it on the Tour Autauga, a cancer care fund raiser ride. In fact, Bill Duke, who is the man behind Tour Autauga, buzzed by Bill & I as we were getting ready this morning in the BP parking lot. Bill was going out to help oversee an Eagle Scout project and couldn't ride, but did share that he has a new Trek Madone incoming, and he is quite excited about it. Let's see, excited about a new bike, hmmm. A show of hands for anyone who can relate, please!

It was 38 F here in Prattville but only 32F out in the country when we started. Thanks God, for providing merino sheep, that's all I can say! We bundled up, hit the store where we were parked for last minute supplies and headed out on the road. To help us get warm, the first 6 miles of the ride was a constant 2% to 3% upgrade. It was good work and it warmed our leg muscles nicely. We were prepped for the bigger climbs to come, that's for sure. The route as we ended up doing it is 55 miles +/-, and I think Bill's GPS registered about 2,400' of climb. My legs registered at least 2,300', and they are fairly accurate. They were sore and tired so I know we went up, frequently. There was a range of grades, with 10% or 11% being the max. The toughest one to me was about 36 miles out, probably because it was when my legs were already noticeably tired.

The morning was gorgeous, with still air and golden sunshine, contrasting with deep gray shade in the dells.

Here's a view showing the beginnings of some color, and the rolling hills that we were on all day. This is about 6 miles east of Evergreen. Although it was warm enough in the sun to make us perspire, any movement was still chilly. While Bill kept full arctic suit on for a while, I removed my wind breaker here and tucked it away. Nothing else came off of me the rest of the trip.

Here's Polar Bill :

He has a wool Swobo jersey under his jacket, which has zip off arms. That seems like a pretty useful feature. Bill is on his Surly Pacer today. It's set up with 28 mm tires and smooth Campy running gear. It sounds like a Swiss watch when it shifts. He is very pleased with how this particular build came out.

We took a break at Milton and then went down CR 1 (the western edge of the county) past the old church. Lady Bird Johnson grew up here, living with an aunt and her grandparents for a number of years during childhood. There is a historical marker just past the church.

Here I am standing by it. I'm riding the Rivendell Rambouillet today, hence the logo jersey. Actually a lot of the kit I have on is from Rivendell. Over Ibex wool cycling shorts and knee warmers is a pair of MUSA (Made in USA) shorts, a line that Rivendell started. The black long sleeve wool undershirt is from there too.

In case you want to READ the maker, here it is:

At the south end of CR 1, we shifted on to AL 14. It's much lighter in traffic out that way than here in town, and there is a narrow strip of smooth shoulder for us to roll on. We only had a few miles to go until the Statesville Store, our 1/2 way stop. A hand lettered sign on the door at the store read "Take your hat off immediately upon entering." Below that it said, "This is not a joke." I took mine off but replaced it after seeing other men wearing hats in the line at the cashier. Statesville carries the Selma paper, not Montgomery, and seems more old AL than new.

We headed south from the store after filling our water bottles and emptying ourselves, and wound along the Alabama River. A quick duck down to the Steele boat ramp gave us a pause to see the river closer. We put our bikes in low gear and Cyclo crossed (CX'ed) across the dirt to the edge of the fall off. Despite the trees, you can see the view here:

Not everyone had the day off to cycle. Today was a busy day in the fields and farms, and if you thought that the cotton industry in Alabama had ceased in the 1860s, it did not. This harvester was very impressive and you could see the cotton flying around inside.

Here's Bill (with the zip off sleeves zipped off now) by a field not yet harvested. Plenty of cotton visible behind him.

A few off bike breaks relieved our sit bones and life was uneventful until we crossed AL 14 again and were on CR 45. My front tire was making kind of squishy rubber noises as I grunted up the climbs. This was due to a lack of air inside it. I pumped it back up and it promptly went back down. So Bill got a 10 minute nap break while I changed the tube. I wanted Mike's 30 second tube change record to stay intact, so I was very deliberate in my motions. Despite this, I dropped a lot of things, some more than once. Cold hands and a tired body can do that to you. Sitting on the ground with the wheel in my lap, pumping the tire back up provided Bill with endless amusement. Eventually, it felt solid enough to ride on, and we departed.

I was tired and had to manage my effort level to avoid exhaustion on the climbs but never really over did it. We both felt pretty good by the end, although I have to say that Bill was never working very hard to begin with. He is still in great shape after training for the "Cheaha Challenge" some time back. Slowing down to ride at my pace was a "relaxer" ride for him. He said the hills were a good work out, and the scenery worth seeing too. We heard many deer in the woods, and saw hawks hunting the fields as they were cleared. My intent was to do this ride at 13 - 15 mph avg, and we ended up around 13. It felt like I worked a lot harder than that and it should have been a faster result, but that's what it was. The value in the ride was the enjoyment of it and the company along the way. That met and exceeded my expectations.

The week ahead will hold some work on the Mark III. A Campy 50/34 compact crank set and Suntour 14 - 28 7 speed freewheel need to go on. That will make it much better for me on the hills here. (It has a NOS SunTour 52/42 crank and a 13 - 23 freewheel now.) I'm also SERIOUS about dropping some weight. That will make the hills easier too. No special tools required either.


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