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

Friday, December 31, 2010

Take The Long Way Home

Davies & Hodgson ask the question, “Does it feel that your life’s a catastrophe when you look through the years and see what you could have been, oh what might have been, if you’d had more time?”


I won’t quarrel that the tune by Supertramp is a catchy one, but sometimes the long way home is the one that lets you see and learn lots of new things about yourself and about the world around you. Like, you can gear down and find a steady pace into a headwind, or that if you stay within yourself, the extra miles and climbing are a reward, not a punishment.

The year ended on a high note with a gathering of cycling friends for today's morning ride. The day started out warm for a 12/31. 52F when I left the house, deciding to pedal to the start to add the miles and the climb. It was still cool enough for long sleeves (the Woolistic Visconti birthday present from last month), with a short sleeve wool (Swobo Tee) base layer under it. A light wool cap (sort of hound’s-tooth check in colors that go well in AL) Fox River wool socks and Ibex knee warmers under Smartwool shorts. The Wool – Microfiber Giro long finger gloves which also came last month were prefect for the weather.

Left to right, it's Jeff, John, Pete, and Tom


Here we are heading out of Millbrook. Jeff is resplendent in a wool Rapha jersey and Steve (not in this picture, but see below) is rocking a Wooly Warm by Rivendell jersey as well. Wool, it’s spreading! There was sunshine and a light tailwind outbound. We stopped at the usual store stops and had more than the usual # of dogs come out at us. None were super serious, all were irritating. I snapped a picture of this lab barking from the safety of the roadside. He retreated after hearing Max’s bell.

We spent a little time at each stop, something that Pete’s son Zach was not thrilled by when he rode with us on Tuesday. I don’t like to stay too long, but with a bunch of 50+ year old men, it’s a good bet that someone needs a bathroom. And we all like to give that saddle region a break. I suppose I’ll never be a training racer, more a tourer. The roads have room for both. I like to get a banana at the “The Boys Store” to go along with the grain breakfast bars I eat at the other stops. And some sugar free Fuze Tropical Punch. Frank introduced me to that drink and I like it as a change up from the Propel that is usually found in my water bottles. In between, we tried to get some pictures. Tom is trying to get his to work. Steve offers assistance.


Heading north from the store, we crossed Lake Jordan and then turned west on Possum Trot before turning south into the breeze. While we were at the store, you could see the clouds coming in to herald the 100% of rain for tomorrow, and the wind both shifted and strengthened. Before we got it full on, we had to climb a 12% grade because, well you know, it was there. One rider was a little rusty having been out all of 3 times this year and he was laboring up the grade on his compact double. For the 1st time I can remember, I thought to myself, “no big deal,” I’ll just go back down and ride up again with him. I think that’s a way to measure one’s progress. Can ride what you once walked up? Does the prospect of giving back hard work in elevation gain sound like an opportunity to stretch your legs instead of a prison labor camp sentence? I’ve always preferred hills to wind, but have come to actually enjoy climbing. Can’t say the same for wind though. That’ll be another mile marker on the way, I suppose. We pulled back some 20 miles  into a very stiff wind. Mostly at 13 – 14 mph. It was tiring. We got a bit strung out in this phase and somehow John got separated from us. He was between Max and Jeff, and when Jeff showed up, there was no John. We assumed he chose to return home by the way he came, and we went on. John emailed later to say he had been dropped on a “no drop” ride. I feel bad about that but still don’t know how it happened.


Steve asked to bypass the Marion Spillway with its “Rough Riders” pavement ( so we went a different way. With 38mm tires and a steel frame, I didn’t mind it, but others might find it very abusive to bikes and bodies. My highlight of the day was finding myself in the lead on Ceasarville Road and cranking along for a brief spell at 29.7 mph on level ground. I switched the Garmin to heart rate monitor and when it started to rocket skyward, I dialed it back and got behind Steve for a spell. It was heady while it lasted though!


So, over 100 rides this year, almost 4,000 miles. 163,000’ of climbing, and lots of great memories. Here’s wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, and blessed 2011. May all your winds be tailwinds.

Friday, December 24, 2010

It's Christmas Eve

An early Christmas present arrived today. Instead of the very windy weather forecast earlier in the week, we were blessed with calm air, abundant sunshine and reasonable temperatures for this time of year. 30s at the start and about 50F at the end. 7 of us gathered at a convenient corner and shoved off a little past 9:00 AM. We didn't have to wait to connect to Tom this week. He was there before I was. JOHN was the latest arrival, but was welcome when he made it to the parking lot. Steve is now fully persuaded in the power of wool, so slowly but steadily, the movement of merino through the ranks of club riders continues. He had a baselayer and  Wooly Warm jersey on, and expected Santa to bring Wooly Warm tights to go along with them. I have them too, and love them, although I decided they were TOO warm for today and wore a lighter pair of Pearl Izumis over my Smartwool shorts.

We did the relatively flat 1/3 of the route 1st, which was fine. I prefer to tackle hills on warmed up legs. I say "relatively flat" because that section included two 9% climbs. But it was flat in between them. Just before we started to climb for real, we grabbed a rest and regroup stop at a stop sign.

As you can see, the leaves are gone from these trees, although surprisingly, many still have their very dead and no longer pretty leaves attached to branches. At this point, we had gone up a total of about 300' in 16 miles. Since we finished with 2,100' we had a LOT more ahead of us. I have not been climbing as much as I need to since our Cheaha trip, and Joe and Michelle both said they too were not climb-ready, so it was a good workout for us. Tom, Steve and Frank are all strong, while John hurt a little going up, although he was plenty fast on the flatter sections. John in fact had a spoke break soon after this rest and had to SAG it back to the cars. A good Samaritan gave him a lift, although he had someone to call had that not happened. Steve wore our colorful tights today. It seems someone always does. I'm glad that we rode, these folks are always good to be around. Joe and I keep trying new bike tweaks. His Sam Hillborne now sports Paul Canti brakes and Maxy Fasty Tires. I tried to talk him out his now out of use Pari-Motos but no dice. He had a new handlebar bag and bar tape as well. Joe does bar tape well, including the twining of the ends. I do bar tape sloppy, but it works. I had an Ebay crankset on which I liked a LOT. An Ultegra 52/42/30 triple, it is smoother and quieter than the stock Sugino XD was, and I like that 42 a lot better than the Sugino 36 middle ring. Yes, I'm limited to about 30 mph in a 52/12 as far as pedal ration goes, but I can barely turn that, downhill! I don't see where I need a 53/11, ever.

I'm off most of next week, and will try to get a few more rides in. I'm about 140 mi shy of 4,000 for the year. It COULD happen!

Tailwinds and Merry Christmas to you all.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

BBQ at #22

This weekend was not shaping up for anything exciting in the way of a bike ride. Joe, Max, Ray, Pete and Ron all for one reason or another had to be elsewhere. I saw Frank's note on my FaceBook wall saying he would be "in available" for a ride, and B's translation services rendered that to say he would also be personna absentia for a ride. There were a couple of rides posted for eastern Montgomery County, leaving from the John Hall Store (an old country store, refurbished and reopened a year or two ago. Now cyclists can go INSIDE to use the bathroom pre-ride!) both a 30 mile light ride and a 40 mile "150 max HR" ride. I had to ask Bill T to tell me what 150 meant to him in the way of MPH. For me, 150 is what I get when climbing a 15% grade. I can't hold it all that long. 135 is more like my avg HR. But then, I'm more than a few years older than he is. In the end, I purposed to do a core exercise routine early and then catch the light ride, and maybe add another loop at whatever pace felt good. It was a pleasant surprise to hear from Frank late Friday and find out that he meant to say he was "in" town and "available" to ride. As always, he wanted "at least" a metric and whatever option had more hills. Beyond that, it was up to me to map a route. "See you at 9:00 AM Saturday."

I threw up a club email invite to the hastily conceived plan, but did not expect much response. Jean got a particular encouragement to attend, but was not heard from. When I arrived at the store, only Frank was there. It was just Bill and Sam for the 150 HR ride as well. By 9:00, the air was 44F, but humidity was high. I put on a wind jacket over double layer wool, assuming that the jacket would come off at the 1st rest stop. It did, but only to let some sweat dry out. Then it went back on and stayed that way. It never felt warm all day, and with a brisk east wind, it was downright cold when pedaling into it. An old country boy was firing up a BBQ smoker along the side of the store. I saw Boston Butts and sausage links laying out on the grill. The chef said they'd be for sale come lunch time. Since we figured to be back around 1:00 PM, that sounded like a great idea to me.

The trees were largely still holding their leaves, but are well past their color prime. Still, there was a niceness to the scenery. Recent cold weather has taken the green out of the grass, and a definite feel of winter is creeping into the landscape. We saw a number of hawks up close today, low flying, and hunting for a meal in the scrub. We rode at decent pace most of the day. Store stops were at 18, 41, and 52 miles. Total stopped time including momentary snack bar pauses at corners was less than an hour. The pavement in Bullock County was atrocious. The idea crossed my mind that I should take a fat tired bike on this ride, but I really wanted to pedal Louise today. Here she is:

Rivendell Rambouillet

She's wearing 37mm tires in this picture, but actually only has 28mm rubber on presently. They're Conti Ultra Gatorskins, and have given about 3,900 flat free miles so far, but I should have changed the tires, or ridden the Saluki or Road Standard bikes, which have much more supple tires on. So, my dental fillings felt well rattled for two sections of 6 - 8 miles each, but otherwise, it was a great ride. The Sun didn't stay out long enough to make us feel warm, but it came out often enough to make it enjoyable scenery-wise. We saw Bill and Sam out on the roads twice, heading in opposite directions as we were, and while at the 3rd store stop, a long line of club racers went zooming past us on US 80. None looked familiar to me, but they were at a speed and distance that made recognition difficult. They greeted us enthusiastically, and we returned likewise. Patty was rumored to be tearing up and down the hills in our area, but like Nessie, she's tough to actually verify a sighting of. Speaking of hills, we climbed 2,062' of them on our way to completing 64.93 miles in 4:17 for a 15.1 average. As I like to say, "Within the advertised Range." Frank was a tad faster, as usual. We met a solo cyclist back at the cars, but he had no real interest in a club ride. Nice enough, but heavily scheduled already. What was even better was that we found the BBQ ready to eat! We each got some fresh pulled pork, Frank with bread and sauce, and yours truly without, and it was excellent. Despite my posting that this ride did not include a food stop, sure enough it did have some great food!

The early morning exercise went well. My usual exercises of chin ups, sit ups and push ups. Pull ups have migrated to alternate days along with planks. So all in all, a pretty kick butt kind of day exercise-wise. It was also the 22nd ride this year of 100 KM or longer. Pretty neat!


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Getting My Legs Back Under Me

Although I rarely get sick, I was saddled with some malady making the rounds for about a week, two weeks ago. Feeling better for the 1st time last Saturday, I tried to ride but had to cut it short and only did 16 miles. Sometimes it just does take longer to get back to 100% I suppose. Our Saturday ride this week was a hilly 38 mile route that Frank and I have done a few times and enjoyed each time. I figured I could ride to the start from home and add 14 more miles and some more hills, and that's what happened. Joe emailed to say he was out of town, and no word from Frank, so his attendance was not expected either. Ray may have been away too. Ron keeps his whereabouts a secret that even Wiki-Leaks cannot expose.

Pete and Max pedaled over to our house early, and the 3 of us headed from here over to Prattville High School to meet Steve. As far as I knew, he was the only other rider coming. as it happens, that was a bad assumption. Max was wanted elsewhere, so his ride was strictly to the school and back home. Pete and I met Steve and we headed out on the 38 mile route. On our way to the school, we came upon 2 runners heading towards us on Powell Rd, a man and a woman. We were moving along smartly, and I was just about to pass them when my brain registered, "Derek & Kym!" I've never met either, but they sure looked like their pictures on! When Kym yelled, "Bruce!" that sort of solidified my thinking on the subject. One of these days, we'll actually shake hands, but in the meanwhile, we all encourage one another through postings on our workout reports.

After considering the wind, which was light, I decided to do the hills first, since we would be heading home into a slight headwind. That is the reverse direction from the way the it's marked on MapMyRide, but I knew where I was going. Always like to tackle the tougher stuff on fresher legs, so that was the plan. With most of the climbing behind us, we paused at the Old Kingston store and noticed 2 riders coming from where we were headed. We waved as they turned north on CR 21, not recognizing them. A minute later they turned around to come and say hello. "Is this the Saturday morning club ride from the High School?" they asked. Oops. It was Tom and Joe. Tom rode with us once a few weeks ago on a beginner ride, but Joe was unfamiliar to me. Not so with him however. "Hi Bruce, we rode together about 3 or 4 years ago on the Tour Autauga. You were on a Riven-dale bike or something. It was very cool looking." Wow. I pointed to the bike, 'There it is," embarrassed not have an equally good memory, but pleased Joe remembered. They had been at the high school, but at the other end of the parking lot and we did not notice them. Oh well :( Maybe we'll get another chance to try something together.

The ride from there was supposed to be relatively downhill, but a very stiff headwind came up and made it seem like a lot of work. I will say that at mile 37 (of my 54) I had a distinct awareness of everything feeling "right" again. Breathing, metabolic rate, leg muscles, cadence, were all in sync for the first time in maybe 3 weeks. It felt GOOD. I actually picked up my pace as we went and climbed stronger at the end than at the beginning. Steve was riding well steadily throughout, while Pete did well for longer than before on the hills before easing back a tad. For a guy who worked hard to get just 12 miles about a month and a half ago (returning to riding after being off a long while due to illness), Pete is really coming on strong.

The Giro long finger gloves that Alex presented me with for a BD gift work very well. Wool blend shell with light fleece lining. The 37 F temp was handled by a Joneswares base layer under a Spot brand jersey. Ibex duo wool shorts and Wooly Warm tights below. Due to damp air, I started the ride with a buff on my neck, but pulled it off at the 1st store stop. It actually warmed to 60 by ride end, and I unzipped the jersey, but left everything on, including a Rivendell wool cycling cap.

Stats: 54 mi, 2,861' feet of climb, 14.6 avg. I needed this ride, and was glad to have had it.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend Rides

I have much to be thankful for this year, and that includes all the riding that weather and schedule have cooperated on to provide. This was a year of 100s. My first honest century ride of over 100 miles, believe it or not. I also did 100 pushups in a single set, the most I have ever done. (I do 3 sets of these, along with sets of chin ups, pull ups and sit ups several mornings each week). 20 rides of 100KM or more so far, and my goal this year was only 12 to start with. Of course, the things for which I am thankful extend well beyong fitness and recreation. My family, my church family, all my great freinds, job, health, the freedoms that come with living in this country and yes, the duties as well. Thanksgiving was also our 34th anniversary, and I got one year closer to collecting Social Security. Unless the age limit changes once again. In recognition of   

the event, Sharon gave me these two great woolistic jerseys. Alex provided a pair of Giro long finger gloves (permeable wool weave shell and fleece lined) while Judy sent a package of 4 Clean Bottles. These are high quality water bottles with ends that remove to allow for thorough cleaning. No black gunk will grow in these!   I wore the short sleeve one on Thanksgiving morning. A small detachment of riders charged ambitiously up one of our regular hill drill routes. It was a brisk 35 miles and a good work out. I rode the Nashbar, which now sports a Madonna del Ghisallo medallion on the seat tube. I like that location as we can see one another there. The headtube was not a good option, due to the pump peg in the way. This was a very thoughtful gift from buddy Jeff.

Saturday, we planned to do a 70 miler, but after 30 minutes of pedaling, I wasn't feeling any energy in my legs. I decided to turn back rather than fret over dragging the pace of the other riders.I ended up with just 16 miles, but did get to wear the black jersey. I tried some yard work, but felt an overwhelming sense of fatigue. Turning in early that night, I stayed in bed a few hours longer this morning and when I rode today, it was pure joy once again. Only 20 miles, but who cares.
A few noteworthy items from the weekend: Joe was struggling with his front brake. He asked me to look at it as he could not adjust it to pull properly and provide even pressure. The problem was that his wheel was off center in the dropouts. Once correctly placed, the brake problem disappeared. I encourage readers to eyeball their own wheels from time to time The rear in particular is subject to drifting in position due to chain pull. Also, Deb B got her longest ride ever today. A recent beginner rider, she did today's at just about Club Lite pace and almost the distance. She mentioned not being winded at all afterwards, so I know she can handle the slight added distance with no trouble. Max is mentioning the word "Rivendell" lately. As in, "I can see one of those in my future." That would be a good choice for sure, Max. Pete picked up  a nice condition Giant TCR for a reasonable price and looked very comfortable on it today. He sure can tell the difference between the carbon and his former aluminum framed ride. Pete's even wearing a little wool lately. :)  Speaking of wool, two of the wool jerseys I put up for sale are gone, as are all of the microfiber units. Act now, supplies are limited!
Tailwinds. And Thanks.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Red's Schoolhouse For Lunch!

Grady, Al is little more than a back country 4 corners slice of life as it once was in much of central Alabama, but it does feature fine country style home cooking at a converted one room schoolhouse which dates from a long time ago. Frank asked only that today's ride be about a metric century in length (62 miles) and left the rest up to me. I borrowed from a number of club routes and mashed them up to get a 63.3 mile jaunt with mostly rolling hills. Less climbing than last weekend, and spread over 50% more distance. The easier work out was a good idea for me, as I have been off all forms of exercise this week with an annoying malady that we'll call a "cold" although I suspect it was more some kind of bacterial thing than a virus. The weather was fine. Cloudy and cool to start (53F) but warming to about 72F and sunny by the time we were done. 4 of of us met at Pintlala Baptist Church and would have rolled out of the parking lot at 8:30. At 8:30, Ray called to say he was 5 minutes out and behind some people traveling well under the speed limit. We looked at each other and no words were necessary, just smiles. I'm glad he came, and always glad for blog material. Ray is going back to climb Cheaha again tomorrow with Ron, who actually pedaled the 100 miles there today and is camping overnight (hopefully at the BASE and not the summit). With all 5 us ready, we rode 23 miles to the Ramer store for a stop, and then another 16 to the restaurant for lunch. From there, it was 24 more miles back to the start. It was also the 1st day of gun deer season and I don't recall hearing any rifles going off. We saw a lot of folks dressed out of the Mossy Oak Catalog though.( The few that we spoke with gave positive replies to questions on their success. I've never hunted (and no fish will bite a lure that I am holding the rod to) but I know it's a big deal to many people.

As usual, I wore multiple woolen layers today. An Ibex l/s baselayer under a Joneswares s/s jersey and Joneswares shorts as well. Wool socks too. It all worked well. I was never too hot or too cold. A wool cap that Jackie Walz made to try and match the blue of my Rambouillet kept my noggin in good order. As it warmed up, we removed what we didn't need. Here, Bill has taken off his jacket and stands in stark black & white contrast to that colorful tree behind him.

Most of the roads today were coarse pavement or worse. Here is a shot I took while pedaling as steadily as I could on a logging road we traveled on. It was very cool, and 36 mm semi-knobby tires at 50 psi made it very secure feeling, but you get the idea:

About 10 miles after this shot, we pulled up to Red's. Never one to miss a meal, Max was there in his Mossy Oak outfit and pick up truck. Frank, Joe, Bill, Ray and I decided he could join us, if he was paying. I don't think that plan worked out, but it was still good company and great food.

There's a large blackboard in the picture because Red's really was a schoolhouse. Maybe in the late 1800s to early 1900s, I'm guessing. Presidential portraits ring the main dining area - the kind they have in schools - and a signed picture taken in the restaurant with George H.W.  Bush (#41) sits behind the register. He has been in the area to fish with Ray Scott (who may be familiar to any bass catching readers). We've run into Ray at Pintlala Baptist Church which is where (I believe) he attends, and where we park our cars for bike rides.  Our menu today included BBQ, fried chicken, various cold salads, corn cakes (I had two of these, they were wonderful), various veggies, beans, and home made pies. I went for some pecan pie myself. Ray ordered pie too, and then was too full to eat it. Agonized to learn that it was NOT included with the buffet price, he handed it to Frank who pronounced it "good." Max had chocolate pie, and I don't know what the others chose.

The ride from the restaurant was perhaps my second favorite part, after the "Roughriders Adventure Corps" logging roads ( as it featured some long winding climbs and descents. More descents than climbs and some tailwinds as well. Ray looked pretty comfortable today, trying out un clipped shoes on platform pedals. I'm not sure about those tights though.

I am a loss with any newfangled equipment. I know, I have become my grand mother. But anyway, just as I cannot operate a VCR or DVD player or work the channel guide on our cable box, I have yet to successfully download a GPX file to my Garmin. So, I go by memory. I've been on all these roads before, but in today's case, it was maybe 4 years ago. Hopefully the gang will forgive me for leading us down ONE wrong fork in the road, especially since Frank who CAN figure the Garmin magic out, quickly informed us that we needed to circle back and take the other tine.

So stats:  63.33 miles, 2,758' climbed, 14.8 moving average, and 1 1/2 hrs of off bike time including all breaks and a sit down lunch. Lots of calories eaten but lots expended too.  Joe says his Rivendell Hillborne is a keeper, Bill has a Carbonamas fork on order and maybe we'll get him to trade his Surly Pacer in on something from Walnut Creek yet. It was a good time, and good to share it with friends.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Emerald Mountain Toll Bridge Ride

Frank suggested that we depart from the retail parking lot by the north end of this toll bridge. I think I last rode over that way 4 years ago, so it sounded like a nice change of pace. The weather forecast was good, and there is more color in the leaves. Four of us shoved off at 8:00 AM, in 43F degrees, but ready to peel off layers as the mercury climbed during the day. I looked at the elevation profile on MapMyRide and thought our worst climb was in the first 5 miles. I was wrong. That climb was tough, but the toughest climb was at about mile 35. What made the 1st climb tougher was following Frank as he bolted from the parking lot at 18 - 20 mph. That's fast for me anytime, but tough on cold legs. He pulled off the lead at 2 1/2 miles and let me pull the next section, which I did at a more normal-to-me 16 - 17 mph. I was tired though and when that 1st hill came, I got off the front and let the speed wagons go by. Pete asked me at the top if I was doing okay, and I replied I just needed a moment to catch my breath. The engines did finally fire up and there were no further problems during the day. We stopped in Tallassee for water bottle refills and then looped on back. Steve and Frank both did well today and Pete is getting his legs back under him after some years off the bike. He does have some new gearing on order to handle the hills better. The route was almost all bucolic countryside. All the cotton is now harvested and the hay for winter silage is baled up.

Some of the lovely foliage we pedaled past:

I waited for Pete at a horse farm. Here I'm wearing an Ebay score; Jonewares Eddy jersey. Very comfortable!

And of course, the farm:

We were surprisingly spunky at the end of the ride. A line of Club riders zipped on past while we took a rest at a corner, and I'm proud to say that Frank, Steve, and I ran them down. Frank in fact passed them all and led most of them all the way back in. They on crabon frames, and he on his Bilenky steel ride, loaded down with auxillary battery packs for the Dinotte rear flasher. My steel bike could only catch up and pass the last 2 riders. Maybe I need some battery packs and a Dinotte? Nah, more leg would help though! In the name of full disclosure, Steve rides a carbon frame too and speaks well of it. This ride put me over my original annual mileage goal, so everything else is just gravy!  Stats: 41.2 mi at 14.2 mph, climbed 2,395'. Steepest grade was 16%. About 2,100 cals burned. (I notice a little paunch returning. Gotta get on that pronto...)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Max's Mt. Cheaha Ride

It seems so long ago now, that Max started riding with our Tues/Thurs hill ride group. I say that because we have already been on so many rides together. In fact, it has only been since this past Spring that Max showed up on a knobby tire mountain bike and did a fairly good job at keeping pace with us roadies up and down the Autauga and Elmore hills. Now he rides a trek road bike and has several centuries under his belt. Pretty great progress! Starting a couple of weeks ago, Max began to plan for an away ride to see if all our hill drills would be helpful on some bigger heights. He mapped out a route up Mt Cheaha, our highest elevation here in Alabama, and organized his dad to ride SAG for us, planned the drive and the breakfast stop. Great job! 7 of us gathered here in Prattville at o'dark-thirty to organize a carpool for the two hour drive north to Oxford. Ray and Ron are out of the frame, but here, L_R are Michael (apparently still in his PJs), Jean, Max and Frank.

We packed all the gear, left the surplus vehicles in the parking lot, and headed north to Alabaster for breakfast at Cracker Barrel.

I had the low carb breakfast, but did put 1/2 a jam packet on the toast (It's low carb bread).

I was supposed to call Joe when we left the restaurant. He was coming from Birmingham to meet us. I remembered after we were already 30 mins on the road, but as it happened, his timing and ours worked very close together. We met at the Wal-Mart in Oxford and used their facilities, getting ready for the ride. Some of us older people took more time, but it wasn't long before everyone was suited up with what they wanted to wear and ready to go. I packed a jacket for the downhill return and wind proof gloves, but wore open weave wool gloves and no jacket on the way up. It was all wool, of course. Max's SAG driving dad took the picture.

The initial approach was about 6 smooth and fairly level miles. We pulled over to get a shot of our goal. It's the one with the tower on top. The middle one if you don't have Super-Vision.

Soon we left the level lands and were climbing. The grades on the way up seemed to max out at about 14%, but they were fairly lengthy. Ray regretted not having a triple crank. Michael wasn't keen about the 39 small ring, but it didn't slow him much. He was just out for an enjoyable scenic ride. He has good company, but not tested the way the rest of us were by the conditions. Here Joe & I are working up one of those grades. Max was ahead of us and took the shot.

We paused a few times on the way up as a group, and I paused a few times when my chest felt like it would explode if I didn't. Just a minute or two pause to let my heart rate percolate back down did wonders for enhancing the climbing experience. We had an official stop at the scenic overlook.

From here it was a tough slog uphill, but everyone made it and we sat down to lunch in the state park's scenic restaurant.
Floor to ceiling windows offer a great view

 and the food was okay, if not spectacular. We look pretty tame after our meal.

This is the view out of the windows. I went outside to take the picture, as shooting through the glass was not working well.

After lunch we climbed some more to get to the actual TOP of the mountain. There is an observation tower there you can CLIMB up into, but I passed on that opportunity to rest while others used up the last few ergs of energy they had. We did pose by the sign tho..

It was colder now, and I put my jacket on and switched to wind proof gloves. Ray & Ron wanted to explore some more park roads, but I was ready to head down. Joe, Jean, and Frank were quick to cast in with me, and Max decided to as well. Since Ray & Ron were carpoolers, that worked out neatly. There were some uphills on the down trip as well. In fact, they were steeper than the uphills coming up! A couple of LONG 17% ers!  Here is Jean, who by the way was only on her 1st BEGINNER ride last Sunday, and today climbed Mt Cheaha on an ancient and stone dead heavy Mongoose mountain bike, smiling as she uses ALL the gears to climb. Ray and Ron are at the bottom, catching a breather and adjusting clothes.

The final "insult" was the common cyclists woe. The wind stiffened in our faces at the end, when we were already most tired, and the last 6 miles in was quite the slog. We made it though, all of us, and while our pace was somewhat beginner-ish at 11 mph avg, we had somewhat more climb at a total of 4,472' (most of it at 9% and greater as well) in just 39 miles. we had just one injury today, and Ron has no idea of how or when he got it. Chain ring probably.

We were happy to get back to the cars and finish the trip. Max is already working on a drive to Anniston to ride the Chief Ladiga-Silver Comet combo for the Spring. I think I have Joe interested in doing an S240, or longer. That's where we pedal to somewhere, pitch tents and camp, and then pedal home the next day. Something to work on for the spring.

Monday, November 1, 2010

No Tricks, Just Treats

It's the last weekend of October and the "official" door-to-door candy collection was Saturday evening from 5:30 to 8:00 PM. Didn't anyone realize that the #1 BCS team, AUBURN, was playing Ole Miss then? Fortunately, I could occasionally hear score updates shouted by various driveway tenders and door openers up and down the street. Alex kept me company on our porch and texted an information service called, I think, "Cha Cha" and got some score info that way as well. Sharon left us with enough bagged candy to keep the juvenile population of Prattville on a sugar high for months. We dispensed the sweets from a 5 gal pail and were able to get rid of 75% of it, but no more. It was much nicer out this year than last, so sitting outside to wait for the wanderers was really not a bad gig. No football though.

My usual riding friends were downstate doing a charity century in Fairhope, so I posted a Club Lite ride in Pintlala. These are 13 - 15 mph avg pace affairs, over easy to medium courses, and with frequent rests to catch breath and re group. 6 riders in all came out and after some discussion in the parking lot of our options, the 33 mile seemed most popular. All the routes leaving from Pintlala Baptist Church are low traffic and rural. Mostly farms and woods to pass by. A new rider to the area, Pete, joined us today and provided the only real excitement to the ride. 6 miles from the start, his bike started to make all sorts of noise. Turns out that his rear spokes were coming loose. He had to stop. After not seeing him and Phil we called and Phil reported on the situation. As it happened, I had a spoke wrench in my tool wrap, so we pedaled back to where they were and Phil (who was the proprietor of Cycle Escape Bike Shop prior to retirement) did a field expedient true and tension job on the wheel. The repair took about 10 minutes and lasted the entire rest of the way. Here are Phil and Pete, back on the roll.


My down the street neighbor Bill came out for the ride, but left after 7 miles. His legs started to give him some cramp trouble. He thinks he under dressed and the cold (41F) was the problem. Fortunately, he was at a good point to shortcut back to his car.

The other Bill and Tommy came out for the ride and as you can see from all their get ups, it was a chilly early morning. Here they are:

To his credit, Bill is wearing a WOOL jersey under that jacket, and wool leg warmers too. I did not need a jacket. A thin wool base layer under a Pearl Izumi jersey (both long sleeve) worked just fine. I used knee warmers today. I use 1 size larger than normal and pull them all the way up, and they stay on very well. They act like a knicker really. Speaking of wool, Bob made my day Sunday evening when he messaged me on Facebook to ask about wool items for the winter :)

We turned in 33 ish miles at 15.2 mph and climbed about 1,300'  It was 70F at the end and just delightful.

Sunday's ride (which is always envisioned as a relaxer, but oftentimes turns out not to be) was dedicated to help Sarah from church work on an activity merit badge for her scouting. (American Heritage Girls). She needed a 20 miler and I invited the club at large to attend if interested. Max and Kathy were maybes, but did not show. Robert and Bonnie did show. It was Bonnie's 40th BD, and she rode 1/2 mile/year = her longest outing ever.

Here is Sarah, along with Pete. She's on a heavy tire Rail Trail bike and we adjusted her saddle upwards twice on the ride. It still may be a tad low.

And Bonnie:

It was a lovely day to be out, and we went at Sara's pace, about 9 mph. The adults all enjoyed chit chat, and were reminded that all rides do not have to be training ones. Just taking in the scenery from a saddle is great once in a while. With the pedal to and from my house to the start (which I rode at my usual pace), I had 33 total miles again, and 1,017' of climb. The relaxers did 20 miles and about 300'. Regardless, the Garmin still said I used up over 1,500 cals, which was great.

Well, the end of the year approaches, but hopefully not the end of rides for the year. November and December offer fewer opportunities to get out, but there should be some. Next weekend, we are carpooling to Oxford, to climb Mt. Cheaha. Should be a good time!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Getting ready for Mt. Cheaha

In two weeks, the "usual suspects" (to quote Claude Rains) will try their pedals at climbing the tallest point in the state. Our goal is the burger shop at the top. Our longer weekend rides haven't been as hilly lately, so we rode a route with some elevation this afternoon. Trying to get our minds used to climbs again, as much as our quads and leg biceps. Today's route was a mashup of roads we've been on before, some not frequently or recently, but all in a new configuration. I think it went pretty well, all in all. A stiff steady wind was blowing out of the SSW in advance of a frontal system due to bring rain this way by tomorrow. We got plenty of work trying to maintain our pace in the face of 15 - 20 mph blows. I hoped for some fall foliage to admire as well. I think the most colorful tree seen all day was on our front lawn. Here's the Autumn blaze that Alex and I planted 3 years ago. (Click on a picture to see a larger version)

Posing with the tree is the Saluki, in CX (Cyclocross) mode. the racks and fenders are off to enable some serious cleaning action. 2 summers of salty sweat have left their mark. So far, some automobile wheel cleaner is helping, but it's not perfect.

I pedaled to the meeting point and then the three of us took off into the wind, on the mostly flat and rolling 1st half of the ride.

As you can see, everything here is pretty green still.

We paused just shy of 28 miles at Heritage Park downtown, and refilled our water containers from the always-on artesian fountain. I mixed some Nuun electrolyte tablets into mine and had a Quaker Oats grain bar for some energy (I eat one of these an hour on average during a ride). Frank caught me in the middle of all that.

Joe is looking much more in the Rivendell riding style philosophy now. Here he is by the still new Sam Hillborne.

And Frank too at the same rest stop. Looks fresh and hardly exercised at all.

We finally come across some more colorful trees out on Golson Rd.

But still nothing to write home about.

Between the wind and the hills, we got plenty of work out. Mr. Garmin says we climbed 2,200', spent the same # of calories (or at least I did) and our moving average was 14.2, right about center of the posted range (13 - 15) for this outing. I think that with less headwind, we might have been 1 0r 1.5 mph faster, but the climbing would still be there to slow us down.

I was glad to get out, and and re determined to get out and do hill laps during the week after work. We'll see how that goes.

Tailwinds for now

Saturday, October 16, 2010

It's Been a Very Nice Riding Season

Today was my 20th ride of 100KM (a "metric century" for you non-riders. About 62 miles and a bicyclist's benchmark.) this year. I hoped for 12 which is more than I did last year. 20 is more than I have ever done. Max, Doug and I also all got Century rides in as well (100 miles or more), with Max doing about 3 of them so far this year. In a couple of weeks, we're driving up to Mt. Cheaha, the highest spot in Alabama, to climb it on our bikes and eat lunch (of course!) at the top. Our cycling horizons have certainly expanded. I reflect on those rides, and the out of state trips as well, VA and D.C. and the new cycling friends made this year, and am overtaken with thankfulness for being able to have experienced all of it. Not every mile has been effortless, but every mile has helped me be a better cyclist. To put it in the context of the Apostle James, headwinds and hills, and rough pavement and unexpected detours all work to perfect me (in the quaint King James style of speech, for I am not perfect in anything, especially cycling) as a rider, and as a person too. I've learned to listen better to my body, and to the conversation and mannerisms of others. I'm more patient and I enjoy the good stuff and savor it.

In that last vein, I did not want this morning to end. The sky was so blue, the light so golden, the trees so vivid green with just a touch of Autumn color it took my sense of time away. The winds were light and the pedaling easy, and I could have stayed in that moment along CR 21 heading to Marbury for far longer than it actually took to get there. My skill with a camera is poor, but here is a picture to give some idea of the day.

Frank is looking natty in his Rivendell MUSA knickers. The day was cold to start (44F according to Accuweather) and we shed some clothes by the time we got to our 1st rest stop at Poseys. For me that meant only removing my arm warmers. Later, I opened my jersey zipper, but that's all I could do. Fortunately, the wool base layer and jersey combo handled the increase in temperature during the day with aplomb. I came home to 80F, and was sweating more, but nothing serious.

We went to visit the Confederate war dead at the memorial park in Chilton County. Lots of picnics setting up as we rode in. The soldiers there died years later in in old age homes, and from the headstone dates, looks like many fell during the flu epidemics of the early 20th century.

We paused enough to get a pic of the BIKES of course;

My Rivendell Road Standard is on the left, Frank's custom Bilenky is on the right. My saddle was overstretched by the previous owner (It came from the RBW owners list) so I did a hack-fix that seems to be working out well. I bought a longer bolt at Home Depot and it has so far worked. The saddle is 1" longer than it should be now.

And here I am in a Brooks jersey. Overpriced of course, but not when on closeout at Ben's Cyclery. This is a model from a few years ago, but it was new in the bag. I like it! Now if I could keep my helmet on straight, that would be nice...

It's all wool today. Baselayer, jersey, Kucharik (lightly padded) shorts and defeet wooleater socks. All good stuff. Those are 38mm tires on the blue bike as well. At 65 psi, fast and very smooth over rough roads. We hit plenty of coarse pavement today too.

Frank and I split up in Millbrook, as he turned toward home and I took a quick break under the drive through canopy at Millbrook Presbyterian. A friend, Kathleen drove up and she had a key to get in, which was good since I needed to find a rest room pretty soon anyway. From there it was just 6 more miles back to the house. All in all, 70.1 miles at 14.7 avg with 3,047' of climb. About 1 mph faster than when I rode the shorter version of this rout back in May. Which is to say, about 8%. I'm happy about that and not feeling dead to the world as well.

Until next time, tailwinds!

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