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

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!

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