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

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cold Weather Odds & Ends

I hope everyone had a good Hanukkah or Christmas, as is appropriate. Ours was pretty quiet. Sharon and Alex made it home on Christmas Eve from Tampa, where they disembarked off a Caribbean liner. They went with her folks and some others to Cayman and Cozumel. Having used all my vacation earlier in the year, I went to work instead. To be honest, a week surrounded by spectacular food and isolated from any bike riding did not sound good to one who has worked hard to drop 30 ish lbs since June and who lives for that next outing on 2 wheels. By all accounts, the seafarers enjoyed their trip, and were as glad to be home afterward as I was to have them back safe and sound.

I've been riding a fairly regular schedule. After work, with front and rear lights, I do laps of our block twice a week. Our block is a 1 mile loop with 59' of climb. So 15 laps takes a bit over an hour most days and yields 15 miles and 885' of climb. Boring yes, but way better in my book than the same length of time on rollers in the garage. Colder, but it is REAL. On Saturdays, one or two others will still join me for a "club" ride, even though most club members are off their bikes until Spring. Yesterday, 3 of us did approximately 40 miles in 32F temps. (I will mention here that the absence of pictures from these rides has more to do with trying to stay warm than anything else.) It was cloudy, but the air was calm, and we were generally pretty comfortable. We rode for a little over 2 hours, and after the first hour, my feet started to get cold. I have shoe covers, but always fail to bring them! Some new gloves which were an Xmas gift from Sharon's mom worked really well. They are lined with Thinsulate and have wool outer shells. That let's them stay warm, even when wet with sweat. Not cycling specific, but sold at Penney's. Here's a link:  They are extremely comfortable to wear and have a suede patch on the palm right where you grip the handlebar. Above 40F, I would wear my lighter weight Ibex wool gloves though: For the rest of the get-up: Top base layer was turtle neck long sleeve wool by Joneswares under a vintage Italian short sleeve wool jersey with a Sugoi wind proof jacket. The bottom was wool boxers (with the undershirt pulled down low enough to make a wind screen) under wool Joneswares shorts under Pearl Izumi winter tights. (No pad in the shorts or tights). Feet had Costco wool socks inside Nike Basketball High Top leather sports shoes. Needed shoe covers!

Last weekend I had the chance to try out the new crankset set up on the Rambouillet. It worked well, and will stay on a while longer. I'll try to get out this afternoon and do the loop around town which includes a short section of 20% grade. That will probably require standing to pedal with the new gear ratios. Previously, I could climb it seated while using the inner ring of a triple. I've been practicing climbs out of the saddle, which do not feel natural to me. They tire my quads quickly, so I've worked on foot position, balance, weight distribution and muscle use (using the back of my legs too) to make it more effective and less tiring. We have some surprise company coming through town today, and we'll meet by the interstate for lunch after church. An old friend of Sharon's is passing by with her family on their way home to FL from TN. It will be good to meet them and spend the time together, and there should still be opportunity following lunch to circumnavigate Prattville. It may even be above freezing by then!

My revised riding goals for the year were 3,000 miles and 100,000' of climbing. Both have been exceeded and I am happy about that. For 2010, I'd like to get back to 3,500 miles, 125,000' and ride in at least 3 new venues. One I hope will be the Reunion in Waynesboro, VA around Labor Day. Another will be next month in FL when we travel for a Suncoast Youth Ranch get together. (I'll pack a bike and slip out in the morning with the Suncoast Cycling Club in Palm Harbor or the St. Pete Club down by the Yacht Club.)  The 3rd may be "Biking Bleckley" near Cochran GA in late February. No new bikes in the forecast for 2010. None were added in '09 either. I really like the 4 that I have. Each is a pleasure in it's own way. It's a good bet though that bike parts will be shifted around and tried in different places. Bags in particular. I am always trying for the "best" bag set up. The thing is, it really doesn't matter. All of them hold what I need, and I can always make a change for a specific ride requirement. That doesn't deter me from moving them around though to see what shapes and colors work best together. It keeps me out of trouble, I suppose.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gray, gray , go away!

Another cold, damp, rainy, gray day today. I suppose I may submit to the jonesing and ride in it this afternoon, but as I enjoy some morning coffee in the early hours, it's a less than exciting prospect. I was able to get out Thursday evening after work and get in 15 miles. I tried the same thing earlier in the week, but just felt too cold and not "into" it, giving up after only 6 miles. Thursday was okay and I was glad to have gone, at least once I was warmed up, which took almost 4 miles. My legs NEED the work, more than anything else. I learned on the MS 150 ride back in October that if you are properly dressed for it, rain is not all that bothersome. It does make a mess of your bike though. I wore a summer weight rain jacket on the MS 150 ride, and since then have received a very good "Showers Pass Touring Jacket." This came at a reasonable price from Beth H up in the PNW, who is a fellow Rivendell list-er and who could not make the jacket fit her comfortably. Beth works at a bike shop and often has great stuff to pass on, as she updates her own stash. Although the jacket looks too big on me, it feels just right. It's the yellow one in the picture. Enough air circulates underneath to prevent sweat build up and there are enough zipper vents for proper temperature control. The picture is from last weekend. It was 37F at the "North Pole" or Heritage Park, as it is also called. Gray and windy too. One foot got very cold. The other one not so much. The laces may have been too tight on the one shoe, restricting air space inside.

Yesterday, I puttered around the house hoping the weather would break. A letter to a pen-pal in Israel was started. (note to self: finish letter to Eric) I cleared out all the ironing which had accumulated. (I don't like un-ironed permanent press items. they still look wrinkled to me) I went out in the garage and removed the Sugino XD triple crankset from the Rivendell Rambouillet. It's been on for 5,000 miles and it was happy to remain there, so some "persuading" was needed to extract the arms from the bottom bracket. (I had to use a hammer on the extractor handle) Some eBay prowling has yielded two nice old cranksets. One was a take off from a '90-ish Bridgestone RB-1 (B'Stone's top line road race bike of that day) a Sugino GX double. The XD has very wide crank arms and a huge Q-Factor. ("Quack" factor. How duck like the thing makes you pedal) This is excellent for a mountain bike, but not so necessary on a road machine. It's the widest Q of any of the bikes in our garage. The GX on the other hand, is race narrow. It's a classic 53/39 in gearing, so I give up a lot of bottom end to the XD which features a 26 inner ring. In effort level, (measured by "gear-inches" which is the length in inches that the bike rolls forward when you spin the cranks through one revolution) this new 39 is about the same as the 34 on the Nashbar's compact double. That's because the Nashbar is running a 650B tire while the Rambouillet has a smaller 26" tire. A "normal" 700C road wheel on the compact crank (50/34 gears) yields a gear inch range of 33" - 110" based on 700x 25 mm tires. On the Ram, the 53/39 will provide 34.7" - 106" both using the Ultegra 12-27 9 speed cassette. Since I don't haul loads with the Ram, this should make both bikes about equal in effort to ride. And I like the comfort of the Rivendell model a lot more. The former crank provided 23" - 96". More low gearing than I really need now, and not enough top end to stay with the peloton on group rides. There is an expense: I'm giving up more bottom end than I gain in top end. On the other hand, the double weighs less than the triple (duh) and is better looking. Clean and elegant and with a narrower (more efficient) pedal placement. I also re-installed the Power Grips to the pedals so that I can use the full circle for pedal stroke. Losing 30 lbs (since June) has made hills easier of course, and now I'd like to work on form and technique for better flat riding as well.

Swapping out crank sets is not just a matter of replacing the parts. The front derailleur had to be relocated higher up on the seat tube, so that meant undoing the shifter cable, moving the part, then aligning it with the new equipment and reconnecting the cable. There was JUST enough cable to make this work, phew! very close. Projects sometimes get more involved than you think they will. I didn't want to have to re cable the bike, at least not before I was able to test this new set up and decide that it was a keeper! The front derailleur is a Shimano 105 triple and it manages the double just fine. If the new crank stays though, a double Ultegra front will take over shifting duties. As it is, if I get forgetful, I can easily dump the chain off to the inside where there is no longer a small ring to catch it. While the XD is off the bike, it will get a good cleaning as well. It may go back on or it make go on eBay or the RBW Owners list in case someone wants it for their new project.

If the darn RAIN will quit, I may be able to try out the new set up!

The other crankset coming in is a way cool looking very early Shimano 600 50/40 double. This is late 70s vintage and an homage sort of to the French TA Specialties and Stronglight styles. For real racers, there is too much flex in the crank owing to the close to center location of the ring bolts, of which there are only 3. But it might be fun anyway. On the Nashbar, which currently has a Campy Veloce compact double, it would yield a gear-inch range of 36" - 106" up from it's current 31" bottom. This is my "Sunday Gentleman's Bicycle" only and I don't use it for steep hills, so looks count for more than utility here. With mustache bars, ample saddle bag and yesteryear appearance, it is a Tweed Rider's machine.

Okay, enough for now. Tailwinds to you folks NOT inside due to weather.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanks for Thanksgiving

The waning sunlight on Sunday afternoon reminds me that Thanksgiving weekend is drawing to a close. It's been a good one, and in addition to all the things I have been thankful for and which I mused upon at this time of the year, I am thankful for having this long weekend. Each of the days has brought some mixture of adventure and/or pleasure. Really, we kicked it off on Weds night with a family dinner to a) note our 33rd anniversary and b) pick up our previously ordered complete all courses included Turkey dinner to go. As Sharon noted on FaceBook, "Dinner for 3 at Mimi's, $50. Having your 21 year old son offer to pick up the tab, priceless."

Thursday morning, 4 of us braved to 30s temps and rode the hilly loop around our little town. It was a great workout and fun to be out. Friday, I got to ride a longer hillier ride further out in the country with one other rider, and yesterday, it was the relaxed club lite ride (although hillier than I recalled from prior excursions there) with a different riding partner. All started out in the 30s and ended in the 50s. Wool worked well each time. As nice as it has been today (20 deg warmer than Weds!) I just haven't been in the mood to ride, other than a spin in the neighborhood.

We dog-sat for a family we know from church for two of the days. Abby is an ancient, shaky, graying wiener dog who waddles as she bounces through the grass. Hard of hearing, and possibly of thinking, the only parts of her that I know work are her teeth (she buried 3 of them in my finger) her nose (she can find anything in a trash can) and those parts of her that require cleanup when used indoors. I was not unhappy to see her go, but understand how it is with dogs when they are in a strange place.

Alex and his pal Steven hankered for a ham (had all the turkey they could stomach?) so they went to the store and came back asking how to make it. Suffice it to say that our refrigerators are full of left overs.

Jeff came over yesterday afternoon and we covered the bases I love so much: sincere coffee, bicycles, and pens. I made a pot of French Roast, we looked at my bikes and talked wheels and tires, and he showed me his newest toy, a Bianchi Pista. He left it with me to play with. Today, I PUT ON A HELMET and tried a fixie for the first time. Then I went back and re read Sheldon on fixes. I think I'll try it again. I'm eager to get trackstanding down :) This bike is geared 42/16 which is fine for flats but a bit rugged for climbing. Maybe I just need to practice. Next Jeff played with some fountain pens. He liked a '48 Parker model 51 vac Demi. I like his taste. It's about the perfect size and balance. This particular example is in near new condition too. Most of my preferred inked writers are about the same size, whether made by Parker, Pelikan, Sheaffer, etc.

Alex and I hung lights on our house yesterday and got all the decorations down from the attic. Usually Alex (with his youth and cat like agility) does all the high work and I stay down low. Yesterday though, he was sliding more than he was comfortable with, so we exchanges places and I finished the roof work. The Keen shoes I reviewed recently give really good grip on steep pitch roof shingles.

Yesterday afternoon we also gave away our 9' tall fake tree because it is too large to a family who had a use for it. Later, we shopped at several stores for a better sized replacement but saw nothing that was satisfactory. Oh, and I watched most of the Auburn/Alabama game as well.

Sunday school (5th Commandment) and church were good today. I enjoy preparing the lessons, and our class has well read and thoughtful people who add a lot to the discussion. Alex decided that it probably was a good thing TODAY that he got up when I roused him, and came to church with us. Our guest preacher spoke on making a deliberate turn aside from our intended paths to inquire about God. His text was the story of Moses going to investigate the burning bush.

So now I need to look over some papers, make sure I've cleaned all the pens that Jeff dipped, and get mentally ready to get back to work. And in 15 more miles, I'll get 3,000 for the year (outdoor miles only counted) Very good weekend.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Off with their heads!

Or, more accurately, "let's change their heads."  My other hobby besides cycling, as some readers may recall, is the collecting and restoration of fountain pens. As with bikes, I also like to see if parts play well together when mixed and matched in ways unintended by the manufacturers. This involves different combinations of parts, mostly nibs, feeds and sections, to achieve what is to me the most satisfying combination for the writing experience. Ball pointers can't relate, I know. When you write with wet ink that glides across the page, and the width and intensity of your line changes to suit the mood of the either the author or the text being laid down, well, it just brings a whole new level to the doing of it. Here is a shot of some of the pens in my current user line up. The user line up consists of 20 +/- pens and the make up changes as some pens are cleaned and returned to display while others take their place with ink inside. Here is a picture taken tonight of the users with mixed and matched parts: (forgive the jargon which follows. Pen people will decipher it okay)

 From left to right they are...

 An early Pelikan 100 (ca 1930) with a 1920's flexible Waterman #4 nib.
 A 1995 Pelikan "Originals of Their Time" 1931LE with an actual 1931 era Pelikan 100 nib.
A 1990s Pelikan 150 (featuring a Chris Burton custom binde) and an old style M600 OM nib
A Columbus (celluloid by Yamazaki) Academia with a Sailor Magellan nib.
A 2008 Bexley Watley with a 1920s Waterman Ballpoint nib
A 2008 Dani-Trio Cum Laude with a Waterman 200 series OB nib.

  They all write really nicely.  Anyone need a snailer? I'm all caught up here.  :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Review of Torino Lace

Originally submitted at

Go out and about in style and comfort with the Torino Lace lifestyle sneaker from KEEN. The waterproof leather upper is prepared for wet conditions; a unique stitch pattern adds stylish interest. An EVA footbed offers cushioning for lasting comfort as you explore the urban landscape. Product featur...

Unusually comfortable shoes

By Fullylugged from Prattville, AL on 11/10/2009


4out of 5

Sizing: Feels true to size

Width: Feels too wide

Pros: Comfortable, Attractive

Best Uses: School/Work, Casual Wear

Describe Yourself: Athletic, Practical, Comfort-oriented

A little odd in appearance with a low narrow heel and a wide higher front. Exceptionally comfortable to wear and walk any distance in (on level ground or on slopes). The sole is extremely adaptive to the walking surface. The stitching in the sole (decorative only?) begins to wear quickly. I wear these with jeans away from work and with business casual slacks at the office. They are shoes, not sneakers as advertised, and would not do well for sports use.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

No Time to Fall Back

I am not a fan of standard time. Let me confess that up front. I hate the early end to a day's daylight. Never a night owl, I'm up with the sun, or before it, and ready to close my eyes once it sets below the horizon. All that being said, one plus to standard time is that it is light and warmer one hour earlier than before the change. I put up a list post about doing a Fall foliage ride today, out in the western part of the county. I've done this ride each of the past two years. Both times, only one other rider came along. Today, no one did. The one commitment I had bailed so that he could tuck his head down in a pace line with the speedsters. I understand of course. Bike merchants sell new bikes on the premise that they will make you "faster" so people want rides where they can go "fast." Whatever that really means. My regular like minded rider was out in Vancouver this weekend, so he was on his own to find a ride.

The route came from Mike Munk's Bamacyclist web page and it's a good mix of curving, sloping rural roads. The ride was 54 miles long and included 2,350' of climb, with a maximum grade of about 10%. Temps ranged from 44 at the start to 72 by the end. It makes setting up a bit of a challenge. I took the Rambouillet with the smaller cogset. It currently has 37 mm Panaracer Paselas on, and these are excellent over coarse back roads, and the dirt road detours I took to get a few of the pictures. Pumped to 65 psi, they are still surprisingly quick. The slowness of the overall pace (13 mph avg) was more due to my lallygagging, looking around, and generally not being in a hurry. And 2,350' of climbing. And the 15 mile pull home into a suddenly brisker breeze.

I parked at the epicenter of life in Autaugaville, the BP gas station. It features a clean restroom and pleasant staff. I was undecided on which jacket to wear, and decided on a lighter wind shell (the Comp-Velo one) over a long sleeve wool jersey, over a wool tee shirt. Wool shorts and knee warmers below and tall wool socks (a steal at Costco! Thanks to Steven D for the lead) to close out leg coverage. I took the jacket off at the 1st rest stop, 15 miles out. I could have kept going, but Louise needed a rest. Here she is at the corner of CR 40 & CR 1. 

The idea was that the leaves would be really pretty today. They were pretty green, pretty much, although touches of color showed up here and there.

The day was just lovely. These are two views of the same ridge. I went up and down over it several times, and the 1st shot is looking west while the second is looking back east.

Plenty of critters to look at. I rode with a 6 point buck for about 100 yds, while he looked for an opportunity to jump back into the woods.  Here's a 2 pointer that was not in any hurry to move.

Hawks were everywhere and other birds too. The only dogs I met were black Labradors. If you know labs, you know they were not a threat. People waved, but mostly I saw no one else, and very few cars. I ducked down to Steele Landing to use the restroom there, and the lot was full of pickup trucks with empty boat trailers. No people though.

Most of the day I kept running a Seals & Croft melody though my head, "We may never pass this way again." You know, the refrain part that goes, "and all the years will come and go, take us UP, always UP."  Here I am near the crest of yet another hill.

Up, always up!

Okay. sometimes i DID go downhill. It was fast and sweet and cold. Pretty too.

The fields were busy today. Peanuts are being worked and so is cotton. Here I rode down to a cotton processor to snap a picture of the bike and the bale, both in the same shade of blue.

This was just before the stop at the Statesville store.Statesville is in our county but is closer to Selma. Prattville was once the world leader in cotton gin manufacturing. Both cotton and cotton gins have declined here in Alabama over the years, replaced by industries like aerospace engineering and automobile manufacturing.

It was a good workout of a ride, despite the sedate approach I took. I needed the work and enjoyed the saddle time. Hope to ride tomorrow after church as well, but it will be a shorter cruise in any event.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

3 Days on the MRT

Despite the various things that popped up prior to our going up to see friends in Dyersburg TN this week, I managed to finally do a multi day self supported ride. By "various things" I refer to the staph infection / painful ping pong ball by my left sit bone, last minute stuff at work, and the circuit through our office of colds and the flu. The weather this week was forecast to be poor as well. As it turned out, the stormy weather moved off till later in the week, the doctor was able to get the swollen lump down, and I stayed healthy.

We drove up here on Sunday afternoon and on Monday morning Sharon dropped me off just inside the KY state line.

Start Point for my 3 days on the MRT

 I used the Mississippi River Trail guide book as a starting point for route selection, but altered it to make the 2 day trans-Tennessee trip into 3 days. Since this is my 1st try at a ride like this, I wanted to keep it manageable. That turned out well, as I rode into very stiff headwinds all of days 1 and 2 and for part of day 3. Route changes had to be made as well, when I discovered 2 bridges out. I had to back track and then plot an alternate course. The new Garmin 705 was invaluable for this. Its map showed every little backwoods country road. I actually ended up with fewer miles due to taking more direct roads when the originals were blocked, but I felt no lack of enjoyment or exercise. There was still plenty of riding going on.

Day 1

Although the plan was to get underway by 8:00 AM (to let the Sun at least take the frost out of the air), it was more like 9:00 when I started to turn the cranks. We packed the gear and took off from Kevin and Diana's, but had to turn around a few minutes later to retrieve Sharon's forgotten cell phone. Then after we left again and got a mile or two down the road, we had to turn around and come back for the 3 water bottles that I left on the counter. All part of the adventure, I suppose.

It was 47F when I shoved off, wearing knee warmers and a wind jacket ("Randonneurs of China" from a BikeJournal buddy who teaches in Shanghai and tours cross country)

Almost ready to pedal

The ride started out with a climb into the breeze and by the time I had pedaled 5 miles, I decided to both take the jacket off and take advantage of the restroom at a park welcome center. As an unexpected bonus, the greeter there also gave me a 2010 pictorial national parks wall calendar.

I was pleased at how the bike handled both up and down the hills. I had about 30 lbs of gear and supplies added to the basic bike which weighs 27 lbs. Once I became comfortable with the slower pace demanded by a loaded touring bike, it was a very smooth trip. The route included a lot of coarse pavement, and some detours I took included dirt fire roads and 1 gravel road. The bike handled all them just fine. The loose gravel in particular was something that a lighter, skinny tire bike could not have negotiated. For those who might be interested: The bike is a lugged steel Rivendell Saluki (equivalent to the current A. H. Hilsen model) with 37 mm Grand Bois Ourson tires pumped to 65 lbs. I used a Selle Anatomica Titanico leather saddle (it was superb) and MKS Lambda platform pedals without cleats or straps. (cleats would have been deadly on the gravel and dirt roads) A Baggins L'il Loafer up front carried tools, 2 spare tubes, lube, rag, light set, spare batteries, sunscreen, rain cover. Nashbar panniers in back carried change of clothes, toiletries, jacket, knee warmers (when not on me), food, spare tire, complete rain suit, rain covers for panniers, bike lock, quick stand, maps. I carried 3 water bottles, a camera, a cell phone, and the Garmin. For cycling shoes, Mephisto Match walking shoes worked great.

For clothing in a daily temperature range of 47 - 71: thin wool socks, padded shorts liner, Joneswares wool shorts, a wool base layer shirt, wool jersey (one or the other was long sleeved) and a wool cap under the helmet. I wore nylon mountain bike shorts over the wool ones to look a bit more civilized when going in to stores and restaurants. I think it helped a little in cold mornings with wind proofing. The wool kept me warm early but was not too hot later.

I rode about 12 miles through Samburg and to ReelFoot Lake State Park. The lake was formed by the New Madrid earthquake, when the Mississippi River flowed backwards for a brief spell. There was a museum with local history and artifacts

Reelfoot Lake State Park

 and a raptor center. I snapped a shot of a pair of bald eagles.


Across the road from the museum was Boyette's Restaurant. The trip guide recommended it and so I stopped in for a slightly early lunch. The catfish was excellent! The servers and I also had a lively discussion of Meryl Streep.

After lunch, I saddled back up and faced a stiffening breeze. The trail is generally very well marked.


By the time I passed through Ridgely and got on Great River Road, it was a steady 15 - 20 mph dead into my face. In addition to slowing the pace to 10.6, I got a bit of wind burn on my face. the road runs along the levee, so there is no good view of the river. To the east, vast expanses of fields (already harvested or dead for the winter) allowed the wind to blow unimpeded.
1/2 the View

The sunshine was brilliant and traffic light, and I was blessed to be spending the day on a bike. The ride was really in 2 parts. I was either going up and down hills on and off the bluff overlooking the river side, or I was down on the flat lands along the river. The hills blocked the wind, but hauling 60 lbs of bike and gear up a 10% or more grade is plenty of work, so is pulling into the wind. I'm a winner either way, I suppose :)

The other 1/2 of the time

After an hour or two along the river, I realized that I was learning to be patient. I found a cadence and a level of energy output that I could maintain all day. That was a nice feeling. With no one pedaling ahead of me, I never thought about wanting to draft off another rider, and I never felt like I was being dropped. Solo riding does have advantages. I stopped about every 8 - 10 miles where handy traffic signs propped up the bike while I gave my bottom a break from sitting, and munched on a granola bar. I also made sure I drank plenty.

Typical Rest Stop

 In a wind, you can sweat without realizing it because it dries so quickly. I did duck down a dirt road to the water's edge for a picture or two. Here are the ride and the rider.

Down by the RiverQuiet eddy

Sadly, locals here use every opening in the trees for a garbage dump and it was some work to clear away a space large enough to photograph the bike in. The big excitement in this section though was when I came upon some trucks down in the gully alongside the road. I saw then from afar, and as I got closer I also saw a "cloud" swirling around them. Finally I was near enough to see more clearly, and realized they were bee keepers and the "cloud" was a huge swarm of bees! Talk about rocket assisted take off! You should have seen me accelerate! It was my Tour de France moment I am sure! When I was sure that none of the buzzing bugs were hitching a ride on me, I took a deep breath and slowed back down.

The final turn off Great River Rd was on to a gravel road

Rough Gravel Rd

that the maps were of divided opinion on. Map My ride showed it going through to my evening's lodging while Google showed it coming to two banks of a river with no bridge in between. Our host Kevin consulted his tax assessor's map on Sunday night and confirmed that the bridge was there. After 4 miles of gravel road, I can confidently report that the bridge is NOT there.

Yeah, there's a bridge!

 I did find many 45 cal shell casings and thought this would be a great place for mob hits though. After 4 miles of gravel road back to the highway, and a circuitous loop needed for another way over the stream, I called for a pick up. Sharon and Diana obliged and I was pleased with the 1st day's riding.

Day 2

Tuesday morning, Diana and I dropped her son Andrew off at school in downtown Dyersburg. It's a picturesque little place and I was pleased to see it. The weather was similar to Monday, except perhaps a tad warmer. We drove to where I would have picked up my ride again and I saddled up and moved along. Heading west for the first 6 miles, back to Great River Rd, I had a bit of a tailwind to warm up with. The winds were from the SE most of the 3 days of riding.

It was a delightful morning to be riding and I enjoyed the time to think. You hear the bike, the road, and sounds lost to your ears when driving a car. Time to sing to yourself, or pray, or work out some of the questions you face at work or in life. Diana asked me if I get bored, and the answer is no. There is a lot to take in from the world around you, when that is what you are focused on. Hawks hunting overhead, all sorts of other birds, cattle, occasional deer in the distance, farmers at work, the architecture of fields and forests you go by, and the features of the road itself all have more to see than you might imagine. Touring is slow enough that you get to savor the sights instead of just looking at the road or bike tire immediately in front of you.

Finally, the road along the levee was done and the MRT heads east towards Porter's Gap. Up the bluff and then up and down twisty turny roads with nice views of the fields and lots of DOGs. It was on this portion when after going all the way on Hobe Webb road, I came across the county road crew who had just torn up the highway and cut off my access to Chisholm Lake rd. I smiled at them and called out, "at least there's a tailwind on the backtrack!" And I get to visit the same stupid DOGs again. I did a map reconnoiter and selected a route to Edith, TN on highway 208. It was a very small town and the town's only store was a grocery place where the locals sit and chew the fat with the proprietor. I went in and ordered a ham & cheese sandwich ($1.95) and sat at the one and only table to eat it. The regulars all went out front to look at the bike. It was the big news in Edith on Tuesday, let me tell you. "I could get a used car for what that bike must of cost." Yes, you probably could. "You don't get a bike like that at Wal-Mart, do you?" No, you probably don't. "Where do you find bikes like that?" I can give you the website for Rivendell. "Website? Now what would I need with a computer?' You get a sense of life in Edith. Very, very, laid back. They liked the bike, and when I pointed out that it cost less than people spend on a bass boat, or hunting dogs, they agreed it was a great thing to have for the enjoyment it provided. They were more likely to buy the boat or the dogs than a bike though.

I continued on down to Ripley and caught Highway 51 there. Nice wide shoulders and more level topography, but more wind now that I was out of the shelter of the trees and hills. Hwy 51 was a nice enough way to Covington, which I made by 3:30 in the afternoon. I did detour into Henning, based on a highway sign for an antiques store. It was not worth the side trip. The Quality Inn in Covington was ready for me, and I unpacked and showered before heading out to find some dinner. I noticed after showering that my legs were different. Nothing major, but I could see changes in the muscles under the skin. Hauling weight around and into the wind must have an effect, and it made me smile. A fine meal was had (Pollo Barracho) at a Mexican place, and I ate ALL of it. A little TV and then it was lights out for this camper.

Day 3

I knew that Kevin was flying in today from Boston and we wanted to meet in Memphis so Sharon and Diana would not need to pick me up when I finished the ride. For that reason, I changed routes from the MRT all the way down to Hwy 51

TN has bike routes

 to just outside of Memphis, where I would get back on the trail for the scenic last 10 miles or so. This section of 51 was probably the most enjoyable of the trip. The winds were calm when I left extra early and I made good time for the first hour. The road was excellent with shoulders most of the way that allowed plenty of room between me and traffic. My second rest break was at a STARBUCK'S where I sat down for a venti coffee and vanilla scones! Yum.

The winning rest stop

 the trees were pretty and when the wind did pick up, it was mostly a quartering headwind rather than full on. As a result, avg speed was 13 instead of 10.6 as on Monday, or 11.5 as on Tuesday. The ride finished with a turn though a state park and a run along the riverfront past some grand homes and fancy condos. I got there a bit early and had time to pedal up the levee to downtown and find a great little deli (an O'Henry sandwich)

Walking in Memphis

 on Front St for lunch. Resting in Tom Lee park and watching the walkers and river traffic while waiting to be picked up as as relaxing a way to conclude the trip as could be.

Tom Lee

All in all it was a great time. The bike worked great. No flats, no cramps, no muscle strains, no saddle sores, no serious dog issues. I found that I can get up everyday and pedal. The legs work. I found my rhythm on the bike. It was a good ride.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Getting Ready to Ride the MRT

Well, we leave Sunday for points north. Tennessee in particular, where a visit with good friends Kevin and Diana will be combined with a solo 3 day bike tour by yours truly. Every year, something seems to pop up to get in the way, but so far this year is different. There's still time before Sunday of course :) Anyway, I got the trail guide and have mapped out 200 odd miles from KY to MS through TN, along the river trail route. It's 2 days in the guide book, but as this is my 1st try at solo touring, I've made it a 3 day excursion. I won't be pressed for time, so I can stop anywhere I feel like or need to. I'll go to Dyersburg the 1st night, Covington the 2d, and end up in Memphis along the river at days end on the 3rd, where I'll be picked up. Some museum and restaurant stops are already penciled in, along with wildlife preserves, but I am open to just seeing what is along the way. The trail runs from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Itasca and makes a nice long trip for those with time enough to do it.

I've test packed the panniers and they total only 10 lbs including clothes, rain gear, toiletries and spare tire. There is some more to add for food and of course 3 bottles of water. A front rack and small bag have tools and other needed things. The bike (Rivendell Saluki) handles quite well with the baggage (it is designed for this sort of thing) and there is less weight added to the bike than I have lost since starting to diet in mid June of this year. If I could ride then, I can ride now. The river side portions are flat, but the side trips and hauls to the nightly lodging are quite steeply hilled.

The weather outlook has improved somewhat as of today, with cold but sunny weather for days 1 and 2 and possibly dry weather on day 3, but that too is subject to change. I'll have a cell phone, so if it gets to be too much like work and not enough like fun, I'll call for an early extraction.

In the mean time, last weekend's Sunday ride was very good, and a shakedown for this bike set up as it is. (most comfortable saddle and saddle adjustments, tires pumped up, etc.) No issues needing to be fixed.

For the club ride this weekend, I'll probably use a different bike and just ride it like any regular weekend outing.

Updates as they happen!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Great day outside, less than great ride though

Sometimes it goes that way for all of us, I think. The day started very early for me. Tossing in my sleep and finally waking, I decided coffee sounded way better than fruitless attempts to get back to dream land. I got up (it was about 3:30) and made a pot. Alex was chatting away on his cell phone with some one, so he had not yet been to bed. At 5:15, I left for Wetumpka, to wrangle mountain bikes in preparation for today's Coosa River Challenge. It's a neat event, with running, rock climbing and rappelling, kayaking, mountain biking, and other stuff. 250 athletes were pre registered and more came today. Here's more on the event if you are interested:

The weather is perfect today. Temps in the 60s to 70s, light winds, and brilliant sunshine. I showed up in a long sleeve seersucker shirt, denim jeans, and a wide brim straw hat, and I wore gloves to haul bikes around. Why? Because the antibiotic pills I take make me sensitive to sunburn. You ask, "why are you taking antibiotics?" Well, because I have one heck of a saddle sore, that's why. As near as I can figure, I abraded some skin near the left sit bone some weeks back, and ever opportunistic staph bacteria took up residence there. At first it just looked like an ingrown hair so I pinched the zit and put a band aid with Neosporin over it. As the days went by, it started to get larger. I really noticed it last Saturday evening after Day 1 of the MS ride. I rode 80 miles on Sunday on what amounts to one sit bone, as I favored the sore side. After a couple of days of fruitless home care, I went in to the Dr on Wednesday. He shot me with 1000 units of rocephrin and put me on Bactrim DS tablets. The benefit was immediate. Swelling has gone steadily down all week, and I've tried each day to sit on a saddle. Through yesterday, it was still a no go, but I decided on the way home from the morning bike wrangle that I was GOING to ride today. The only issue was working out the details.

I took the Mark III because it is fun over short distances and light, and it has my most comfortable saddle on it. I just took the loop around Prattville. It's about 23 miles and 900' of climbing. There's one 20% grade, but the rest are in the 4% - 8% range. I still can't sit properly on a saddle so there was plenty of squiming around to relieve pain. My legs felt pep-less, Not sure why. Anyway, got 23 1/3 miles in ans some hills, and I am a cyclist once again.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Nycthemeron in Mooresville!

Days 1 and 2 of this year's BikeMS ride, upstate edition, could hardly have been more different. Some things though, WERE the same. The generator used in the meal tent would cut out if both the lights and coffeemaker were on at the same time. Lights we can live without. See for yourself:

Breakfast Call! by you. No lights...

About 100 were pre registered for the ride, but stormy forecasts kept some of those away. We got 30 "dry" miles in. "Dry" because the prodigious humidity provided the moisture that drenched us before the 1st raindrop fell. That 1st drop was in the form of a brief sprinkle, and then we had another, and finally it rained for real. Real as in, flash flood warnings issued. Standing water on the road in low spots, etc. At about mile 32, I pulled into a side drive and donned my rain kit. Pants on sale at Performance and a jacket from Ebay. It was a good field test: how easily can you manage a task when you're tired and wet? The yellow helmet cover went on first, then the jacket and finally the pants. I cycled in open sandals with wool socks, so no need for shoes covers, as in cooler weather. The gear was very comfortable and it worked well. Once I had it on, it really was no problem riding in the heaviest rains. The visor of my cycling cap did a good job at shielding my eyes from the rain, although visibility was certainly limited. Water filled pot holes present dangerous potential booby traps as well. It's more work to pedal through water, but not awfully so. Certainly less trouble than a headwind. The 37 mm Panaracer Pasela tires were surefooted at all times. They make the bike more an all rounder style than a road bike. Gravel, dirt roads, grass, pavement. It's all good.

The rain went on for the rest of the ride. Now I know if I can swing all day in the saddle in rain. The volunters continued to crew the rest stops, for as long as there were riders out on the course. Some sagged back in, but many stayed out there. The ride really was a good one, until the end when there were no longer any road markings to go by. Seeing the ride organizer in a vehicle along the road, I asked for guidance and was pointed. As it turns out, the wrong way. After coming to a T intersection and no signage, I took shelter under a church entrance and cell phoned for help. The organizers realized the A) the rain washed away the most recent paint marks and B) they had sent me on Sunday's route. They came and got me since I was already over the mileage and had no idea where I was.

A good meal, a solid night of sleep and I was good to go for day 2. The weather was just perfect today, perhaps to make up for yesterday. Cooler and drier air, and visible road markings! The staff had pancakes going and we got off on time after breakfast. I rode to rest stop 2 basically by myself, but met the Alabama Power team there. We had pedaled together briefly on Day 1, but they were faster then me on flats, and I was faster in the hills. we separated in the hills, and I finished the day 1 ride pretty much alone. Anyway, today everyone made an efort to keep pace with each other and it worked well all around. I pulled some and followed some. But we were together to he end. This group missed a turn yesterday and was 5 miles shy of the total so they wanted to get that 5 back today. I tagged along so I had some bonus miles too.

Once again, the volunteers were much appreciated and there was enough to eat and drink at each stop. SAG support was good on both days. We talked while we pedaled, and I count that crew (Nancy, Jim, Chuck, and Phillip) as new found friends. Chuck and Nancy are the #1 and #4 statewide "top bananas" respectively. Nancy, in addition to fund raising for MS, fights it herself. It makes her cycling more of a challenge, but she manages. Here's a pic at the 25 mile stop today:

Cycling Chic by you.

When the MS chapter uploads the event pics, I'll add some group shots of us and whatever of interest they may have.

We saw many snakes, driven up from low land by the rising waters. Most of the scenery was farmland. My cotton field pictures were blurry, but here is a typical view of a back country road we traveled today.

On the way from Greenbriar by you.

That's Phillip following me down a hill, the other three are just cresting it. They tore it up on the flats though.  We passed on the offer of a free kitten at the last rest stop today, but here's a little guy who seemed to warm right up to me:
Rest Stop Guard Dog by you.

So, 155 miles, 14.63 mph avg, 2,900' of climb.  It was a fine weekend, night and day. 

Update:  Some more pictures from various sources.

Here the gang heads out on the great adventure:

The pack heads out on day 1 by you.

A closer view of the Amici Veloci jersey:

Starting off on the Bike MS! by you.

Here's a view of my rain kit:

Packing for the weather by you.

Pedaling happily before the rain:

HIghway overpass Day1 by you.

It's looking wetter

Looks like rain  day 1 by you.

Day 2 dawned nice and dry, and featured pancakes:

Pancakes Day 2 by you.

Not only were some riders competitive, some rest stops were too. This one is a 'house divided" for sure:

Rest Stop Harmony day 2 by you.

3 of my new friends, Ned (77 and rides great) Nancy and Charley. They invited my join the APSO team next year.

Ned, Nacy, Charley by you.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Nut Roll! Updated with pictures

Well, I finally made it over to Albany Ga for the Pecan City Pedalers Nut Roll. This ride benefits a local park, and that is also the start finish point. Google told me to plan on 3 hr and 39 mins door to door, and check in time was 6 AM (AL time). I decided to drive over yesterday and stay the night. That worked out well. The Best Western is right off US 82 in Albany, the park is also close to US 82, and US 82 runs through Prattville. An alternate route was suggested to me at lunch on Friday, namely taking I-85 to Columbus and then coming south on rte 280. I went for US 82 though, because I happen to like seeing what bits of Americana are still along the blue highways. This route did not disappoint. There were plenty of little places to look at and make mental notes to stop and see when I had more time. Back woods roads and all, and I was still at my destination in 3 hrs on the nose. If you've been in a car with me, you know I do not drive fast. Just like my biking!

Up early today and over to the venue. Jim Anne (the ride Grand Pooh Bah) greeted me warmly. It was good to see the Pecan City ladies again. We all rode together in Dothan in 2007. She announced that 299 riders came out today, and we got underway at the appointed hour. With a weather forecast of rain and afternoon T-Storms, I mounted the "duffel bag" (as Brooks G. refers to it) under the saddle with a newly obtained full rain kit in it. Since it is so roomy, a Swiss army knife, a bike tool set, toilet tissue, a tube of Nuun electrolyte tablets, some Propel mix,  and spare parts all went in too. With all of that preparation, you might guess that nary a drop of rain fell, and no mechanical issues arose.

The course was very nice. Pretty rolling countryside with low hills, mainly in the center portion of the route. (I did the 64 mile option) They staff had people posted at just about every turn, just to make sure you didn't miss something and find yourself in Savannah. The maps were very good and had excellent turn by turn directions. Mileages listed were accurate. Rest stops had a great selection of items. The peanut butter (fudge?) and cornflake squares were particularly excellent. Pecans and peanuts were abundant. No themes like our own rest stops, but friendly service and they were spaced out pretty well.

I found a group to ride with to start, but they were so sporadic in pace, that I pulled ahead of them to find a better match to my speed. On the way to Rest Stop 1, I probably tagged along with 3 different groups. I stayed only a few minutes there, just long enough to eat, and pulled out again. Rest Stop 2 was a 10 minute stay. Eat, drink and refill the water bottles. The cool calm day had gotten warmer and windier. I finally found a good group after leaving Rest Stop 2, but as we pedaled on, they kept going faster. My "This is great" at 16 mph became "How long can I hang in there?" at 20 mph. Finally, we made a left turn INTO a brisk headwind and it was MY turn to pull. I pulled for 2 miles but then I was whipped. I dropped completely off and just spun the cranks a while in a lower gear. It was a good 10 minutes before I could get back to my avg, and of course, it was all into the wind now. Which was very brisk.  I began to cramp too. First it was the left foot. Then the right foot. Then the right inside thigh, then the left. Then the calves. Each time, I would spin easily and focus on stretching and relaxing the muscle doing the protesting, while drinking fluids. I lingered a little longer at Rest Stop 3: 20 minutes. Stretching, drinking and eating enough fuel. The pull out from Rest Stop 3 was another 6 miles or so intothat same wind, but I was rested and handled it okay. Then we turned and had a side wind for a while and finally a tail wind. Ahhh!

Back at the pavilion, T-shirt goody bags awaited and a great post ride BBQ lunch. While I eat carbs some on the ride, it was back to Atkins at lunch. Finally, it was time to head home. With the ride in and out of the park, I clocked 65 miles +/-. Time was 4:19. That's spiffier than I usually do, AND I was hauling around luggage too. I was pleased with the result.

I met one other Montgomery area rider there. Willie Pitts. We traded names last week at the Glassner, but we have been on the same rides around the state for a couple of years.WIllie was at Marion this spring, fo example. I asked to come out for a club ride. You'll recognize him on a red Cannondale Saeco team replica bike and wearing the Saeco kit. Say hi if you see him. He's young and quick, and not about to join me on a club lite ride anytime soon.

Pictures as soon as they are available will show up here. Update: Don at Southern Light Pictures has already put the pictures up!
First up is the only example of a wool jersey and shorts on the ride. The cap logo may be somewhat familiar to certain readers.

Next up is a view of the duffel bag containing all the rain gear which turned out to be superfluous. Likewise the saddle cover.

Jim Anne, the Albany bike club president, can ride fast and far. Here she gets the rest of us underway.

I guess this just isn't a pace line kind of bike.... Great KOP though

Fellow Montgomery-ite Willie in his fancy new Saeco get up.


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