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

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Saturday at the Suncoast

Alex & I drove down to Tampa Bay on Friday so that we could join Sharon Saturday afternoon at the reunion of the Suncoast Youth Ranch. This was a church group from the '70s and while I met some of the folks when Sharon and I were dating, there were some I knew nothing about, other than what Sharon described to me. In like manner, they had heard something about Alex and me from Sharon, now that she has reconnected with so many via Facebook, and she wanted them to meet us too. It was an interesting and enjoyable gathering. A wide range of talents and professions was represented. A common thread running through many of the stories was the twisting and turning that life's pathways held for each one, and how they have in general found their way back to a solid base. The food was delicious, the singing by Kitty and Ruth exquisite (and very accomplished piano playing by Stan) and the fun contagious.

Part of the plan was to squeeze in a morning ride before the reunion so I packed a bike. Despite dire predictions of a deluge for the day by various weather "experts," it was only breezy and overcast at 8 AM on Saturday, when the Suncoast Cycling club weekend ride was scheduled to depart of the parking lot of Chainwheel Drive on US19/Tampa Rd. I invited Irene who is just getting into cycling (a Haro Rail Trail bike) to meet me there so I could introduce her to the "C" group riders. While the parking lot filled with over 2 dozen race kit clad, skinny tired carbon bike types with top tier Giro helmets, Irene and I were the only "C" riders! While waiting for her to arrive, I told Ray, the ride leader (as I signed the club liability waiver) I would ride with the quicker group should Irene be a no-show. He looked at my bike (70's steel crit racer with 32mm tires, leather saddle, large saddlebag, mustache handlebars) and said, "on that!?!" Maybe it was the platform pedals and my Addidas Samba soccer sneakers? "If I can't hang with you, it won't be because of the bike," I replied. I rued the fact that there were no 20% grades in FL (like we have in Prattville) that I could drop his smart-*** on while he would probably be off his bike and duck walking up the hill in his "Look" cleated shoes. (I no longer even stand on those climbs. I don't race up 'em, but I stay in the saddle.)

Happily, Irene showed up, and she and I took off by ourselves on the route map. Ray mentioned to Irene that a collection of comfort bike riders met often at 8:30 in a Publix parking lot, so I hope she checks that out. We headed west on Tampa Rd towards the Pinellas Rail Trail. There were honest to goodness bike lanes to use! Turning north on the trail, we came across a gal standing with her bike. I asked if she needed help, and she replied that she was just waiting for the "C" group. "We're it!" we said, and Ann joined us on our ride. Here we all are at the park by Anclote Power Station.

We were given business cards by a fellow there who lost his regular job after a motorcycle crash, and now gave drunks and broken down cyclists rides home. He blamed aid to the Haitians for taking away from his benefits, but when Ann gently asked, "Were you wearing a helmet when you crashed?" he had to accept SOME responsibility for the head injuries (he showed us his scar) that interfered with his career as an equipment operator. We looked briefly at the water in the background to see if there were manatees about, but were told they recently had moved out into the channel.

Ann is a local and gave us a neat neighborhood streets tour through back roads Tarpon Springs, and took her leave of us as we returned to the place where she originally joined up. Irene and I stopped to see the primates who have retired to a care facility adjacent to the trail, and here is a picture she took of me with some new friends.

The wind coming back was brisk. Flags were standing out straight in the breeze, and Irene asked me if that was 20 mph of 20 kts. It made no difference. It was a brisk headwind. Not a drop of rain though fell on us and we returned to the parking lot after our 27.7 miles in the same time as the speedwagons did 41 miles. We got a close look at a bald eagle and its eaglet however, as well as ospreys and egrets. The fast crowd got a look at the lycra-butts on the bikes in front of them and not much more. You sight see in a pace line and you wreck. I hope Irene stays with it. Ruth and Nancy both said last night they might also like to start riding. If any of you people make it to Prattville.....

A lot of driving for a day in F-L-A, but it was sure worth it.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

My 1st Populaire, sort of

I rode hill repeats this week after work, 25 miles of them, but was looking forward to a real road ride this morning. Jack Frost has taken a week's vacation, and temps have been in the 60s during the afternoons. Today was forecast to start out in the 40s, but get near 70 before yielding to incoming rains. These would be followed by our regular Winter programming of cold, cold, cold. John & John from the bike club posted a Club Lite of 30 miles for today and I figured I'd show up for that. It would be good to say hello to some faces not seen since the Christmas party, and not seen on the road since before Thanksgiving.

That was all before Frank emailed to say, "Let's do at least 50, but I prefer a Metric." His email sounded like my old drill sergeant in basic training. Frank is a retired Master Sgt, so maybe that's why. Frank is also our club's sole card carrying Randonneur ( see for more on randonneuring) so I recast his club metric as a "Populaire."  Randonneurs like looooonngggg rides, with lots of rules and checkpoints, and maps and stuff. Populaires are their intro rides for the fresh blood, the uninitiated, or relaxers for when the real riders don't want to go 200KM, 300KM or more on any given ride. Yes, there are 1,200KM rides. These longer rides are called Brevets. Anyway, I consulted the rules and figured our required times to the 3 rest stops (checkpoints) we would be at today.It was kind of fun to record our arrival and departures on a card I carried for the purpose.

I wasn't sure how the day would go. It's cloudy, windy, and damp. The temp was 47F at the start and 52F when we were done. But, it went just fine. We headed out generally into the wind and came back with it generally behind us. The day tallied at 63.4 miles at an avg of 14.2. For Randonneurs, rest times count too. We had 6:15 hr to complete the course, and we did it in 5:10. Our only mechanical was when Frank's finger rested idly on his handlebar and accidentally unfastened his Garmin Edge GPS. THAT he had to turn around and go find.

Our longest stop was at the Ramer Store. We didn't stay long becuase it was colder standing around off the bikes than riding on them. Just long enough to re fill our bottles, eat a banana, and much some granola bars.  Here we are parked out front, while Frank puts water in his CamelBack.

The sharp eyed among you will notice the OYB saddle bag with ACW pin on it. The saddle bag worked great. If it looks like Army surplus, that's because it IS Army surplus. We just don't know exactly WHICH army though. Frank suggested the Swiss, as they have a bicycle corps.

The ride itself was over generally familiar terrain. One portion was not quite so fresh in mind. Ridden only once before, about 6 years ago, we had to check the Garmin map to get our bearings and stay on the 100KM route and not the 200KM.  The regular club riders were out too, leaving shortly after we did. I relaized that I must have picked up some speed since last year, as they were content to paceline behind ME on the headwind leg south to Union Academy- Ada Rd. I didn't mind it at all, it just made me smile. They rode a different route today, and were earger to be done and out of the weather. I told Bilee (one of the regular club riders)  that was a different way to look it than Frank and my attitude. We looked for ways to add to our ride. Of course, we had warmer gear on too. Wool baselayers top and bottom for me, a Spot (Canadian brand) L/S jersey, mid weight tights, a Gore Wind proof jacket (that still breathes) and MUSA shorts over the tights. Bigger shoes to allow for thick wool socks with air space too. Frank was similarly suited up. As you can see in the picture.

The Bike was great. 650B Maxy Fasty tires (33mm) floated over rough chip seal and RR crossings. I spent just about all the way out in the middle ring and all the way back in the big one. Amazing what a tailwind will do for you! I knew when climbing hills at 18 mph, it was NOT my gearing making that difference. The shifters were adjusted following my bike mechanics class refresher and they were smooth as silk.

Rain tomorrow, so time for maintenance in the garage.  If you ride, ride safe...

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy MMX

Thanks to Ward for the really GOOD name for the new year. So much better than twenty-ten or two-oh-one-oh or two thousand ten. And what better way to spend it than seeing some of the countryside from the seat of a 2 wheeler? The rains of this morning moved on out in time for the noon advertised start of this ride. I wondered how many holiday revelers might stagger into their bike clothes and get a start on all those resolutions. A glance at this picture of the assembly point parking lot yields our answer:
Yes. The only vehicle there is my GMC.  Frank pedaled here from the next town over. He ran late due to headwinds. I asked him again, "are you SURE you want to do 50 today?" To be honest, I would have been happy with less at that point in time. Frank was still up for the full monte of miles so off we went. Uphill and into the wind. For 20 miles. I kept telling myself, "Just think how great it will be when you get a tailwind!" It was a while before that happened, because after 20 miles dead into it, we ran another 5 with it quartering us. Finally, we turned south and had a spanker breeze for the 6 mile run to Old Kingston.  We made only two rest stops and here is a pic from the 1st one.

Frank looks like he's just ridden out of a Terminator movie, doesn't he? He pushes that decked out Surly LHT (generator hub, spoke lights and counterweights, Dinotte lights and batteries! Wild trekking bars) at around 30 mph on the flats when the spirit moves him. No way I can keep up. Thankfully, I can catch him on the uphills. When he lets me. We did a bit over 2,800' today with grades ranging from 2 to 12 percent. The wind was tiring, but once we had it at the tail, we were cruising at 20 - 25 mph pretty easily. We ran at only 11 - 13 into it. Slower than that up some of the hills!
   It was a steady 47 all day, but with the wind chill, it felt like, oh Absolute Zero. My feet were warmer today, as I remembered the shoe covers. It was still good to linger inside at our store stop (the second stop was the only open store we hit) and feel my limbs come back to life. Once the Sun started to set, I definitely felt more a chill. Triple wool layering did a good job at keeping things bearable even when sweat soaked.
 So, I'm in the top 100 on, if only for 30 seconds. If I was a faster thinker, I'd have grabbed a screen shot. Oh well, maybe I'll remember next year.
  I hope everyone gets all the miles they want this year, that each one is safe, and next New Year's finds us thankful for what we will have enjoyed in MMX. You too, Ward.


Blog Archive

The Pace Line