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

Monday, December 29, 2008

Making the Grade

I finished last weekend 107 miles shy of the 3,500 set as my annual goal for the year. The weather here in FL has been conducive to riding, with today being best of all. Almost calm air (reflected in a 13% improvement in average speed) pleasant sunshine and blue, blue skies. Plotting a course of at least 25.4 miles would get me to the finish line.

I did part of Saturday's ride again, enjoying Buckeye Rd once more. I paid more attention to the water filled ditches this time. The round dark shapes in them were, on more careful inspection, rubber, and not reptilian. In fact, I saw no alligators this trip. That is actually a good thing. A couple of locals on knobby tired mountain bikes waved and encouraged me to go faster. They were unacquainted with my riding habits!

Today I went up to Sun City and stopped at the Race Track gas station next to I-75. It was packed with vacationers going or coming. One fellow with a hybrid on the back of his SUV stopped to talk about biking. He's heading to Naples, and I suggested he try Sanibel and Captiva Islands. The traffic in Sun City was thick but most of the way had bike lanes or shoulders to ride on. I stayed off the golf cart paths, which the seniors use. I reasoned my chances were better with the regular traffic :)

It was a nice ride, and I could have gone further, but the Sun was starting to feel a little strong on my neck and arms. 33.2 miles was the distance and the 3,500 mile mark was acheived. This may be the last ride for the year, but I'm off work on 1/1, so we'll start the New Year off right. 1/2 will be quiet at work, so a bike commute is possible, if the weather cooperates. Another good way to start the year. I always advertise my rides in club posts as 13 - 15 avg speed and for the year, it's an overall average of 14.2 mph. I climbed over 118,000' this year as well, and will continue to do hills frequently. I never like the hills, but I do need the work.

Happy 2009 one and all.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

More Cowbell

That's what my ride needed today. Anything to distract me from the wind howling in my ears. I thought it was a bear yesterday to pull back home into the gusting winds, but today it was even stronger, and steadier. Our weather is supposed to change for the colder tomorrow, and this may be a precursor to the expected front. It was delightful to cruise WITH the wind at 18 - 23 mph, but far less fun for the longer pull home into the wind at about 11 mph. I passed one other rider going the opposite way and we waved, but that was it. She was a local I'm sure, on a light blue Trek compact design frame. The area has citrus groves and cattle farms and cows have been out both days. Here are some having a late breakfast:

Fruit picking crews were out today and the trucks were loading with beautiful orange fruit.
Artificial coloring not needed.

I heard a couple of dogs but none came out to harass me. About 1/2 way through the ride, I pulled over for a little rest stop. This picture really captures how I feel about riding. It matters little how fast I go, just that forward progress continues to be made.

Yesterday, two wrong turns were made, but that did not happen today. I get so involved in watching the traffic around me, the road, the sights, that I sometimes miss the turns. As long as I have the time, it's all good.

Once I headed back to the East, the full force of the wind hit. Coming off the fields, it felt like pedaling through jello. The key is to find a gear ratio and cadence that I can stay at for a long time. There is a natural tendency to hunker down in headwinds and that causes hand pain and saddle aches. I have to force myself to relax the upper body. To that end, these longer duration headwind rides are excellent training. Not much hill work here though.

I passed this crowd having lunch. They didn't budge as I approached. Perhaps they meant to invite me to share their meal? Or looking at the slow progress I was making, maybe they thought that I was their next meal. Florida has a lot of buzzards, let me tell you.

Being in the aircraft hangar business, I saw a sign for Manatee Airport, so I headed down the side road. This is a single grass strip, and features a wide assortment of ancient and rusty recreational and aviation equipment. A number of planes were for sale, and others were tethered under this rusted shade port made of tubing and canvas. One of our competitors erects hangars made of tubes, but I doubt whether they supplied these rinky dink shades.

I'm inching ever closer to the annual goal. Maybe tomorrow or Monday, it will happen.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Yo Wimauma!

We're down in FL for Christmas. Yesterday was a great family gathering with assorted Aunts, grandparents, etc. There was no shortage of food and good conversation, and the weather down here is, in a word, warm. While Orange County CA has frost on the roof tops, SeaTac has hip deep snow, and airline delays can be found across much of the country due to unusually harsh winter weather, it's warmer than normal down here, and mostly sunny. I puttered a little yesterday in street clothes, just waving to holiday celebrants, both the 2 and 4 footed varieties. I was up way past my bed time, having become hooked on a TV show, "House." I never watched it, but USA had an all day marathon and between 8 and 11 PM I caught several episodes. You figure eventually they will run out of obscure disorders that only House can divine, and then only after lots of drugs. For now though, it's pretty good acting and some oddball plot twists that keep it interesting. Much better than Kingdom Hospital (Steven King's series) that got silly very quickly.

This morning was not rushed. I enjoyed listening to all the critters. Nana & Papa have 7 acres across from Little Manatee River State Park and get all sorts of wildlife on the property. They have had wild hogs, bobcats, a panther, turtles and snakes. Coral snakes lately, and they are very venomous. They have also collected an assortment of strays that they refer to as "pets." The senior member of their pack is Bootsie, a psychotic cat. Bootsie shares the house with Lady, a Chiuaua who thinks she really is a lady. Talk about a pampered, spoiled dog! She adores Papa and he returns the feeling. The feral garage stray cat, Tank, has now transformed into a neck stole, frequently draping herself around Papa's neck. I'd like that in Winter. In July, not as much.
Now there is Ruby, a Rhode Island Red hen who appeared one day and decided to stay. Tank plays with her. She sleeps in an oak tree and in a bit of gender identity problems, advertises the sunrise the way males of her species are prone to do. She lays very nice eggs (free range!!) when they can be found. She also is not a tidy eater, scratching the leaves and planter mulch completely in her search for tender morsels. And she does not use a litter box, of course.

My morning coffee and animal theater time was followed by a cruise on the old Nasbar criterium bike. It's set up as a country bike with fatso 650B tires and it is geared just right. I really am surprised at how much I like it. Here it is again resting in the shade and leaning against some palmettos.

I intended to ride 16 miles to Big Bend and watch Manatees, but the distance turned out to be a lot more, by the more rural route I took. The wider shoulders and fewer cars were definately the way to go, but I knew I had to keep some energy in reserve for the ride home. I checked out Manatee Airport, Gulf City, and Ruskin, and went on down to the canals leading to Tampa Bay. No manatees there, but it's not cold enough to draw them in yet.

Here's the canal at the end of College Pt Rd. Sleepy and relaxed down there today. The gears on the small chainring are low enough that this bike handles well off road. Race bikes get pretty skittish on anything other than smooth paved roads, so I like being able to go anywhere.

These flags at Southside Baptist church will give you some idea
of the wind. It was gusting to around 20 - 22 and pretty steady in the 15 - 17 range. There is nothing to cut it down along much of the route and of course it was
blowing harder coming in than it was going out. Isn't that ALWAYS the way? Ruskin was a neat little town, with bike lanes! I passes strawberry stands, but I think that it's too early in the season for them to be ripe yet.

Plenty of wildlife today too. A hawk was by the side of the road with something that had recently been caught for his lunch. Great Blue Herons, Tri Color Herons, Egrets, Buzzards of course. A little over 40 miles today and that last pull into the wind, Oy what a good work out. Only 50 miles to make my annual goal!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ramer Mosey

After two weekends of mid 30s temps in succession, mid 60s weather today was a welcome early Christmas gift from the universe's Chief Meteorologist. Certainly, it was an opportunity to turn the cranks which was not to be missed. 4 of us were to meet for a Club Lite down at the Pintlala church but Joe couldn't make it. That left Roger (not the club president, the other one. Can we shorten that to "NTCP?" This also stands for "Na/Taurocholate cotransporting polypeptide" but we can keep them straight, can't we?) and Mike, a recent addition to the club to join me on the way.

We had a great ride today. The terrain was its usual interesting rolling self, and we enjoyed the easy pace and free flowing conversation as well. The uphill cruise to Ramer was mostly in calm air. The ride back was okay until we turned west from Hobbie Rd into what had become a stiff breeze. Especially coming off the open fields. Cedric (at the store) tried to tell us that it was all downhill, but we are not just off the boat yesterday! It did smell wonderfully in the store, as someone was making an entree for a later lunch festivity. Somehow Roger wrangled an invite to come back and join the lunch down in Ramer. I like that about him, he looks for interesting and unusual persepectives on our common condition. Roger, hope you'll tell us how it went.

Not much dog activity and traffic was light. I pointed out the club ride landmarks to Mike: The Day Lily House (no flowers now of course) the Blue house, the German Shepherd house. Also, someone's favorite tree, off the corner of Smiley Ferrry & East Hickory Grove. You never know when that sort of info comes in handy.

I got to know Mike better on the trip too. He's good people. Sadly, when his wife the Major finishes the class they are here for, who knows where Uncle Sam will dispatch them next? That's been the biggest adjustment for me, coming to the Montgomery area. Many of the people that I have really come to enjoy riding with, and wanted to spend more time with end up getting transferred out of the area. The military people are used to it and deal with it pretty well.

When it got pretty windy, I said to Roger, "don't you think the young guy should get out front and pull?" Mike looked around, "which one of us is the young guy?" he asked. It's you Mike, by a LOT :) Of course, when he got out front, those peppy YOUNG legs dropped us old foggies in a heartbeat.

And lest you worry dear reader, that the weather threw me a wardrobe curve, be assured that it did not. Wool everywhere: jersey, shorts, and socks, and I was very comfy all the way through.

We ended up with approx 35 miles in 2:25. It was just about perfect for not quite in shape riders with a free morning to go out and ride. When the bad weather moves through here tomorrow, we'll be glad that we got this ride in.

Just a few more days left in the year and I am 107 miles shy of my annual goal. CAN I DO IT? I'll let you know :)


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ho Ho Ho, Bike Club Christmas Party!

Yes, ho, ho, ho to you Roger for hosting this year's club holiday gathering. Great turn out and I even recognized a couple of people there! You get to where you know people by their bikes, so when they are in street clothes with a plate of appetizers in hand, your mind goes blank. "Lance, uh, uh, what-was-it-again?" The food was tasty and the conversation filling. I met a few spouses and significant others who do not come out and ride. I was asked by several folks at the party if I had on a wool shirt tonight. One of those who asked was even still sober at the time. Could you smell me? Wool doesn't have an odor people!!Get with the program here.

I caught up on who had done what to their rides to make them even more tricked out than before. That of course is easier than making the engine stronger by, say, riding. I know, I know, the Alice Doctrine states that you cannot ride at any temperature less than your age. Louise finally took the compact crankset plunge (I also put one on the MArk III). She loves it. It was dear in cost, but less expensive than fixing a flat tire for her. (The last two times she brought flats into the shop to be patched, they sold her a new bicycle). Bill has built his Salsa into the 2 wheeled version of a Shelby AC Cobra. He has to have a visiting mechanic come with a torque wrench and tensionometer to micro adjust after each ride. "It's like tuning a Ferrari" he said. NO joke, he REALLY said that. I am not innocent either, I must confess. I have been getting wool stuff to wear left and right. I may be the only one around who is unhappy at our current 65F temps.

I was tickled to learn that someone DOES read this blog! Never met him before, but he and his main squeeze have me 1/2 talked into riding the Erie Canal (you need VERY wide tires to stay up on canal water, I think) or maybe Key Biscayne to Portland ME. Depends on whether they have a regular length or a long weekend free, they said. I'm not sure, but I will probably need more than even a long weekend. My bikes don't go fast enough for whirlwind touring. Something about the engine seems lacking.

Bill showed no quarter as he spilled the beans about my various fauxs pas (Irina, our recent returnee from studying in France will have to advise me on the plural of that) to anyone in ear shot. Then Jack chimed in, "Remember the time he left me for dead by the side of the road..." I knew it was time to vamoose. After hearing ALL the reasons why people are not riding these days, it looks like after the holidays before the good old Club Lite days fire back up. In the meantime, it was good to see you all, have a safe and Merry Christmas and a happy and mile filled new year.

I'll be the one on the lugged steel bike. Wearing wool.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cool Runnings

The thermometer said 28F when the sun rose today. By ride time, it had skyrocketed to 36F. At least the winds were calm. I met Joe at the Village Green park for an 8:30 start. Two new faces came by as well, Monty and Ken. And new as in new to cycling. Not just new to Club Lite. They had bikes. Still on the "need to get" list were things like: Gloves (Brrr!), spare tube, patch kit, pump, tool kit. Stuff like that. Actually, Ken had most of it. He had a CO2 kit, but he hadn't tried it out yet. Michelle can surely give him lessons. I'm a pump type myself. If you freeze the grass blades but miss the valve stem with your ONLY CO2 cartridge, you still have a flat. With a pump, you run out of arm before you run out of air. When you're cute like Michelle, guys fight for the chance to pump your tires up. Ken, you don't have that going for you buddy. Sorry. Since no one had a flat, it all was good.

Monty was spending some extra time in the parking lot after the rest of us had cleared the vicinity so we doubled back to check it out. Seems his spd cleats would not go into the pedals. After watching for a little while, it appeared that the tension in the pedals was way too tight. Ken's pocket tool had the right hex key, so Monty was able to loosen it and away we went. For a couple of new guys, they handled themselves pretty well. We had the abbreviated version of the Beginner ride safety talk before mounting up, and no problems came out during the ride. Monty wanders too close to the center line for my taste (Many careless vehicles come across into our lane, even just a little) but how could I complain since JOE does the same thing! No close calls today, just some irate drivers. One old guy laid on his horn and he had NO reason to. We were behaving then.

Ken did the 16 mile version: He turned around at the Holly Mart in Elmore. The rest of us headed up Cesarville Rd to The Boys Store in Slapout. On the way, we passed a solo rider going south and exchanged greetings. A few minutes later, he was behind me in the paceline. "Who's back there?" I asked. "Scott Angus" came back the reply. Hmm, doesn't SOUND like Chief Break-A-Sweat, I thought. Turns out we have TWO guys with the same name in the area. This new one hauls pretty quickly, so the two Scotts would probably have a good ride together. Sweat might even happen. New Scott was very congenial and says that people refer to drafting him as being like "riding behind a UPS truck." I could really enjoy riding with him :) Another shining moment was when he was behind me in the line and asked if my bike was running White Industries hubs (Yes it is) . He didn't get the Paul Neo Retro brakes, but he did good.

Scott went all the way around to Millbrook with us before heading back to his home base. Monty was hanging in with us in good shape all the way. I think that once he dials in his new ride and figures out what works best for him in the way of gear and clothes, he'll really enjoy himself. "How often do you guys ride centuries?" was what he asked me today about mile 23. He's thinking in the right direction anyway. We didn't harass him too much. He thought his front derailer was out of adjustment becuase he couldn't get the large chainring. At a break, I looked at it, pushed the lever and went right on it. "It's the rider, not the shifter" I reported. :) His STIs had indicators in the hoods which were new to me. When you have friction bar ends like I do, you miss all the latest techno stuff. The gear position thingies he had looked pretty cool.

The way back was quicker than the way out, despite the headwind which kicked up. Plenty of dogs today, but all were friendly. The bell worked 100% of the time. The ride finished for us at 13.7 avg, in the advertised (phatt tire bike) range of 13 - 15. I may kid about the riders and the gear, but I keep it straight when giving route, grade and speed info. It matters to me to know what I'll be facing, so it may matter to others too. Joe had to make it somewhere on time so he and Scott left us in a cloud of dust the last 8 miles. Hope he enjoyed his day regardless.

Rides seem a little tougher in the cold, but I am glad when they are over that I've done the work. Learning from last week, I went baselayer: LS SWOBO wool, jersey: LS Nike wool, Livestrong DriFit jacket over it all . Wool Jonesware shorts under medium weight Hind tights. Defeet wool socks in swoosh hi tops, with toe covers on. Ibex wool gloves. Wool Walz cap under the helmet. Worked very well. I've been fighting off whatever is making the rounds in our part of the world this week, so it wa a little harder than I'd like to pedal. After about 10 miles though, I felt warmed and loose, and didn't think about it again. How great it is that we can just get on a bike and ride. THAT never gets old.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Ready for Spring to come, already.

It's been about a month (Since 11/8) since my last Club Lite ride. A month ago it was in the 60s. Today it was in the 30s. Guess which temperature bears the Bruce seal of approval? There were 4 of us today at John Hall for an 8:30 roll out, and we all made comments about "out of shape" or some such. Some faster riders came out as well: Richard, Patty, Dan, and Vanessa cooked along smartly. They left after we did, rode further than we did, and returned to the cars before we did. 'Nuff said?

I had on my birthday suit. Literally. The base layer and long sleeve jersey were BD gifts of Joneswares Wool, as were Ibex wool gloves. Wool Joneswares shorts and wool socks (is there a trend here?) too. Some tights over the shorts and a wind breaker over all that. Wool cycle cap by Jackie Walz on top. I have been taking some ribbing at home for wearing basketball shoes on my bike. I got the things (on closeout) for cheap when I was coerced to come out for the church league basketball team. While Woody Harrelson may not be able to jump like Wesley Snipes, I can't even get my feet more than an inch or two off the floor. Needless to say, I did not stay on the BBall squad, but still had the sneakers. They're black with yellow piping and a yellow Nike Swoosh. UGLY. But wait! What lately unretired cycling Texan sells a line of Nike sportswear in black with yellow trim? Presto chango, these are now my LIVESTRONG cycling shoes, and are considered uber cool by my fellow riders. They all are so jealous now: hunting up another pair is a fruitless exercise. Courtesy of Ebay, I already had a pair of actual Livestrong dri-fit shorts, and today the nice Fedex ground driver brought a year end closeout from Lance: (or one of his elves. Does he have eleves too?) a Livestrong Dri-Fit jacket.

Bottom line is that the clothes took the weather out of the equation. Too bad I couldn't order up more legs though. I was breathing heavily when we started and wondered if I could even do 35 miles. It took about 7 miles for everything muscle wise and cardio wise to warm up and then it was pretty much okay. I carry a lot of weight too. A steel bike, fattish tires and typically, everything except a kitchen sink in my saddle bag. Today the 24 oz water bottle (another BD item) was on the bike so I carried 44 oz all told. Oh, and I think I carried another couple of lbs around my waistline. Yet another BD gift, and all that good T-Day week eating at middle sister's too.

Joe came today, and relaxed along with us some. Mostly he was a mile ahead. We know because his Dinotte tail light is visible that far. He said he was out of shape, but his riding didn't reveal it. Therese came out and I suckered, err, persuaded her to take a clown looking jacket off my hands. It's pink and silver and blue. Oh wait! It looks GOOD on a girl. Hmmm..... Could that Ebay seller have lied when he said, "sure it's for a guy. Paypal or check?" New guy Mike was along too. He and his wife are here for just a year to attend one of the many classes at the Air Force base that go by an acronym. MKY MSE or something like that. I could never keep that stuff straight when I worked for Uncle Sam. Life was simpler back then too. Your fatigues were just one color. My eyes hurt looking at some of the camo patterns they have these days. I notice that Air Force and Army people have different camo schemes. I guess the Air Force doesn't want their troops to be seen when they are in the air. Army people are more often on the ground, so we had to blend in with trees and grass and stuff like that. I think I could spot an Air Force person in a plane or under a parachute pretty fast though. Their camo is just not that good.

We wore whatever it was that we had and rode to the store on US 231, then back to the cars. The Sun was out only fleetingly and when it went behind the overcast, it was damp and cold. It's hard for me to remember to drink enough when I ride in the cold and today was no exception. I ran into cramps about 2 hours out and had to drink all that was in the bottles. It helped and spinning the last 7 miles back really helped. You wouldn't think a month away would do that, but it did. Everyone said they had a good time regardless of the weather, or my snailish pace. Mike said the headwind didn't bother him much, to which I suggested that he ride in FRONT for a while. I need to connect him with that other guy who says he loves the wind. Hopefully, Mike will come out and join us again, and maybe bring along his wife too. I'm glad that we got the ride in, all things considered, and now there is some good football in the offing to watch on TV. Nice Saturday on balance.

It's time to start on winter bike projects too. The handlebars on the Ram will be re wrapped, and the interrupter brake levers removed. They never see any use, why have them? Brake cables will be replenished then as well. I already did the chain on that bike (got 4,000 mi on the original one. It was nothing fancy), and the BB looks good. The wheels have serviceable bearings and we'll get that done as well.

If I wake up with legs tomorrow, I expect I'll go ride somewhere. I already know what happens when I don't ride, I guess I better keep it going.


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