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

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hey, Hey, Goodbye to Pete.

Just like the "Steam" song from 1969, Pete is saying "na na na na, etc" as he and Ann pack it up and go home to Tennessee. Pete started to ride with us last year and when asked what ride he might want for his swan song, he asked that we re visit the Emerald Mountain Toll Bridge Ride from last November. Back then, he had to walk up one of the last hills, but today he was dancing on his pedals. " I didn't remember it being that easy a climb," he said. Well no, Pete, back then it wasn't. Proof again that the improvement curve for cyclists is rapid. You can get quite a bit more proficient in a brief span of time. To get really good, takes longer of course.

I, on the other hand, was draggy today. My pace was a mph off that November ride, but it felt far more sluggish while I was doing it. A cylcometer is useful at these times, providing just the facts. You climbed this much, it took this long, etc. The weather was not great. It smelled of pending rain in the early morning air, and was overcast. We began the ride in calm air, but came back into an awful headwind. I packed a rain jacket though. This virtually insured that we would not get wet. The reverse is also usually true. I dressed for comfort in wet conditions, and so had on a little too much for non rain. It wasn't unmanageable though. As always, Frank, Steve and Pete were good company. Joe was missing, due to work schedules. Tom is nursing a wrist from his Billingsly ride. We hope they both come back soon.

The route has scenic roads, and plenty of fragrant wisteria, but much of the paving is coarse and climbs range from 9% - 16% with regularity. Topped 40 mph going down, slowed to a crawl going up. I did lean over to Frank at one point and confess that I was happy to have brought a triple today instead of the compact double (what I ride on Tues & Thurs on the hill drills) No dog or rude driver issues today and not much traffic.

I can say I enjoyed the ride today, but I did it, and I did enjoy giving Pete a proper pedaling send off.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Back to Billingsly for Barbeque

One of the TGC (Tri-County Gastronomical Cyclists) rides last year was to Fat Girls Cafe in Billingsly, AL. We left at 6:30 back then, so we got there in time for a hearty breakfast. Today's ride departed at 8:00 AM and so we had our lunch meal there instead. They make a great BBQ. The route to the cafe is the same this year as last, but based on our experience with US 82 traffic on our initial journey, the return portion was re routed onto far quieter country roads. Far hiller too, I might add. 6 of us gathered at the high school: Frank, Joe, Steve, Pete, Tom, and me. 3 steel bikes and 3 carbon. 3 riders okay with some dirt road routing, 3 riders not at all ready to leave the tarmac. I'll leave it to you, dear Reader, to discern which is which.

The ride out had just a little excitment. Some young whippersnapper with a cheek full of snuff and a diesel dually pick-em-up truck got way too close to us in the lane on CR 40. Frank took a swing at the truck, and the driver told him that he was Franks #1 fan. Or, Frank gesterured for him to get over and give us space, and the little s+*% flipped our man the bird. I hoped we might meet up with him at the store, but no such luck. Without 5,000 lbs of Ford Truck under them, these guys are not very brave. (I speculate on snuff and  toughness)

The INTENDED 1st store stop was Coach's in Old Kingston. When you have 6 older men though, it's a sure bet someone needs a bathroom just about any time one is at hand, so we pulled in at Poseys for two of our crew to tap kidneys. We did stop at Coach's and make sure we had water in our bottles for the long pull to Billingsly. I ate my breakfast bar on schedule and felt pretty good, energy level wise. It was all uphill from the school, and the stretch between the store and CR 24 would be as flat as this ride would get. At that, it was 1% to 2% average up grade for 8 miles. Pretty day and I snapped a few pics. Trying to use Picasa today and we'll see how I do.

Here is my typical view of the other riders for most of the day:

Proof that I participated and enjoyed it!

A special treat when we turned West on to CR 24 towards Billingsly:  Fresh Asphalt!!!!

The shoulders are still dirt and that's all Steve could see as he neared the turn off. I am sure he muttered something under his breath about me and my attraction of difficult road conditions. He was far happier when he got there and saw no dirt on the trafic lanes.

We made it to the restaurant and ordered our meals. The food and the service were both great as before. We had the sisters of the 2 gals that waited on us last year, in the "It's a Small World" dept.

Here we are in the close quarters of the small cafe. Restrooms are outide on the side of the building, and the doors are not exactly solid.

Steve and Joe:

Frank, Pete and Tom:

Leaving the Cafe, we started climbing in earnest. 3 cat 5 climbs, according to MapMyRide, and the Sun was now quite warm. Fortunately, no cramps at all today, though that was becuase I backed off anytime one seemed just around the corner. I had no dog issues, but apparantly Tom did. He was out far in front and  somehow he spilled. I am not sure of the details, but a dog was involved. Here is his knee with the red badge of courage proudly displayed.


As smooth as CR 24 was, the 1st Cat 5 climb was rough, and at 15% grade, it wore on us as we climbed. From the top, I shot a picture back over my shoulder.

We often re grouped and I did ride WITH the others once in a while. Here we are in a tighter bunch, yes, going up a grade.

Most of the hills are due to the ride going back and forth up and down some ridge lines. Here I am near the top of one, looking back at another we were topping an hour before.

These are great guys and I truly appreciate riding with them, depsite the whines about hills and heat, dogs and dirt. No one has threatened to un-friend me on FaceBook yet. At least not in this group. :)


Oh, and here is a panda of the Patagonia shoes. What do you think, were they made for this bike?


70.15 miles (per Frank's Garmin). 4,320' of climb (per mine). Avg moving speed was 13.4. No flats, but Joe and I both dumped chains on the big hill. We probably just needed the excuse to rest a minute.







Saturday, March 12, 2011

It's Unanimous

My muscles have voted, and it's official: I'm not in riding shape yet. Since a century in Dothan is a few weeks away, I'd better get it in gear! DST begins tonight so look for me to be prowling the hills Tuesday and Thursday nights after work!. It's a few weeks before sundown will be 7:15 or later and we can start the official Prattville series, but I can slip out and get in some good work before then. The ride today actually started out pretty well. I had plenty of pep and felt good for the entire 1st half of the planned 62 miler. As it happens, it takes 2 halves to make a whole. Even with the "New Math." It was 40F when I left the house, and the clothes layers were just about perfect. Knee warmers today under wool shorts, and a wool Tee under a long sleeve jersey. Wool cap and light wool Giro gloves. Some new shoes that Sharon found for me on some site called "Rue LaLa" (Sounds Mardi Gras, oui?). These are a last year's color of Patagonia Boaris shoes. (They are pigskin based. "Boar-is" How much do they pay those marketing types anyway?). The shoes had a good roomy toe box, narrow heel (avoids crank arm strike)  and firm Vibram sole. Very excellent choice for non clip-in cycling.I think my pair was about 70% off retail.

We were running about 17 - 18 mph for most of the first half of the ride. No winds, mostly flat, and good roads. Roger B joined us and was a welcome addition. He peeled off in Millbrook to visit a grandchild, but looked like he was not having any trouble after the long time off the bike. He roller blades, so the legs are fine, I am sure. Frank motored like the diesel he is on that Bilenky, and Steve cut a dashing, Rapha-clad figure on his Orbea. (another one who has discovered Competitive Cyclist's after season sales. My hat came the same way)  Pete had the looker of the day though. His NOS 1988 Trek 520 is a gorgeous Imron blue, and he has set it up very nicely. Here is the gang at a store stop:

Along the way, we did find a few discouraging notes. The nice shoulders on Hwy 143 have been "rumble-ized" which renders them useless for cyclists. Marion Spillway Rd behind the prisons is AWFUL. It was less an issue for Pete, Frank & I (steel bikes, 30mm and up tires) but Steve was dying on his crabon bike with 15mm tires. Here is Steve letting out some steam on my route planning today:

As it turned out, the section I recalled as awful was actually a little better. Plenty of dogs today too. None were vicious but Frank scored the 2 best encounters. The first was in Elmore with a great Dane who loped over to check us out. Frank could have gotten off the bike and ridden than dog. He went back home immediately when his owner called, and also apologized to us. Very courteous. The second was a Millbrook mixed-breed pooch who just wanted to race. He ran alongside Frank for a long way. I was sure the dog was a loser when Frank reached a down hill, but the dog found another gear and stayed with him, until he ran out of room on the roadside at a bridge crossing.

Store stop #2 was Frank's house!  Sandra (Mrs. Frank) was icing the second tier of a large chocolate cake and applying strawberries to strategic locations. She loves to bake, it turns out, and a coworker had a wedding in the family. What more reason did she need? We said "Hi," refilled our water bottles and hit the road. About the time we turned on to Old Prattville Highway, I started cramping. 1st it was the sartorious muscle that wraps the inside of your thighs. Then it was the leg biceps (hamstrings). I wasn't thirsty, but drank anyway. It was manageable just by slowing down a little. Most of the climbing was ahead of us, the wind had picked up a lot and was in our faces (of course). The wind and the hills and the cramps made it harder to enjoy the gorgeous day, but I managed.

By the time we had traveled 40 miles, I begged the others, who were waiting for me a stop sign, to continue on, while I detoured. It only shaved 6 miles off, and none of the climbing, but I wouldn't feel like I was slowing them (which bothers me a lot). I also could stop any time I needed to and rest/drink/stretch. I picked the most direct route home, but all roads led UP. Mine had a long pull with a couple of 9% and 10% sections, but that's why there's a granny gear on my crank. My moving average fell from 16.3 to 13.8, but hey, I was "in the advertised range." :)

Cramps and wind did nothing to hamper enjoyment of a lovely day. The recent rain is greening the countryside right up.

Tomorrow's Beginner Ride is shaping up nicely. Max is coming back of Rouge Croix, and bringing his wife AND daughter. Frank's wife may come, and Pete's too. Should be fun times!!


Monday, March 7, 2011

A New Class

Last Sunday, we graduated some beginners and this week, we had some brand spanking new road riders. Not a skinny tire among them yet, but maybe someday soon. Nathan is one of the 3rd and 4th graders I teach on Wednesday nights at church. (We're doing a program called "Heart's Desire" from John Piper's group, about becoming wise in the choices we make through life. The old testament book of Proverbs provides most of our jumping off points for discussion). Last week, he leaned over while we were all listening to Sharon's riveting account of Joseph choosing wisely when presented with some bad ideas by Mrs. Potiphar. "How old to I have to be to go for a bike ride with you, Mr. Bruce?" he asked. "You're old enough now, Nathan. It;s just a question of how far your legs can take you." Checking with his folks, we set up a 3:00 PM meet-up time at the usual Veterans Park venue. At church Sunday, I was peppered with questions from other excited would be adventurers, and later with phone calls from concerned parents of said adventurers. Where would we be going? (on roads) Would there be cars? (Yes, but not many and not going very fast). Who would be supervising? (Me, unless they wanted in on the fun). After all was debated and decided, 4 new riders assembled at the appointed time and place. Mary Frances, Ainslie, Nathan, and Andrew. Here they all are. Braving the frosty 40s in various states of embundlement.

Kids in the parking lot
















I pumped up tires, made sure at least one brake was working and held a pre ride safety briefing. We reviewed hand and arm signals, road hazards, lane position, and communication along the line of riders. When it appeared everyone had it down pat, we headed off to the great unknown.

I used 5 miles of the club beginner layout with just one hill. One of the kids really labored going uphill, and said he wished he'd remembered his inhaler. One thought our pace was perfect, one thought it was too slow and one too fast. One said next to nothing at any time, but smiled a lot. This was very new for them and they all seemed to really enjoy it. Here is our "pace" line out on the open road. 1st time ever for any of them as far as I know.

Kids on the roll


We made it back in good order taking in views of streams, farms, dogs and goats. Even the one who worked the hardest asked when could we do this again? Hmm, what's the weather supposed to be like next weekend?

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