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