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

Monday, May 30, 2011

AMBA - 2011- Continued

Thursday night, the rain started after we headed into town for dinner at our sponsors of the day, Mike and Ed's BBQ. True to our regular calling, we missed no gastronomical opportunities on this trip.

While we dined, the storms blew through, and while limbs back at the park fell close to our humble abode, none fell ON it. Came close to Max's truck though

Friday and Saturday, we drove to a remote start location for each day's routes. On Friday, we drove to the Opelika Sportsplex and headed off to West Point Lake and dam. It was an enjoyable, mostly level and not too windy ride. The Dam itself has a roadway and we pedaled it. For a change of pace today, and because he had mentioned some saddle discomfort with his Koobie saddle, I offered to let Max try my spare Selle Anatomica. Yes, Since the SUV was along, I packed EVERYTHING in my garage "just in case." The extra tires and bike tools were not used, but you know how that works. Anyway, I welcomed Max to the land of leather. Looks pretty good, I think.

He said something about ordering himself one after we got back home... Here are some assorted pictures.

The first one is the rest stop at the entrance way to the West Point Dam. The next is the road on the dam. Then me on the road.

Lunch was at the "Irish Bred" pub in Lanett. We met two of the other touring cyclists there, Mike and Marjorie. She is the president of Alabike, a state cycling advocacy group. What caught my eye first of course, is that they were on his and hers Rivendell Romulus bikes. So we parked them all together and took a few pictures, none of which are that good.

From there we just pedaled on back to the car and made our way to "home."

Our last day was Saturday and we drove to the Lake Oliver Marina in Columbus and biked through town, along the RiverWalk and through Ft Benning. The flattest route of the 4 days, it still was a challenge, as our legs cooled off after point of interest stop. The stops today were the most interesting. The Confederate Naval Museum, The US Army Infantry Museum, and of course cruising through very bike-friendly Columbus. Although there were plenty of eateries there, we opted to stop on base at a Subway, because it was there and we were hungry. Some pictures:

It was emotional for me to revisit Ft Benning and the Infantry exhibits. I wore the OD get up in one of the pictures, and did OCS here in '73. I exchanged a few comments about how some things never change with soldiers and the military with a female OCS candidate who was also there touring, and was totally caught off guard when she said, "Thank you for your service." No one ever did that before. It's not something I ever wanted thanks for, but it was very moving. I wished her a successful OCS and ensuing career.

Today was "Armadillo" day for road signs. We tried not to confuse the yellow painted ones for these others which we quite plentiful;

On the way back, we had a bit of adventure. I noticed Max's wheel wobbling and he stopped to check it. Turns out a broken spoke was at fault and Max did a field expedient zip tie fix!

On the way through town, we found a bike shop, and they had a new spoke in there in 30 mins and under $20!

All in all, it was a good trip. Tour director Peter Wolf did a superb job on a modest budget, with ample help from his family and friends. Mama Ralphel's catering was something to look forward to every morning. The rides were all good and shorter options available for those who wanted them. The time of year was great for sleeping weather in a tent and generally for riding. Thanks to Max for asking if we should do this. Yes, Max, it was a good idea.

AMBA - 2011

A couple of months ago, Max asked if I might be interested in doing a multi day tour with him and he suggested the AMBA (Alabama's Magnificent Biking Adventure) as an option. I agreed on both accounts and we signed up for 4 of the 7 days the tour runs. Based in a static location, you set up camp once and go on daily routes to points of interest. When you get back, your vehicle is available if needed. We could have stayed at a hotel, or a park cabin (air conditioned!) but we roughed it in Max's Columbia tent.

We're at Chewacla State Park, near Auburn, Alabama. This was a large site, with a pair of plumbed bathrooms on site and a shower facility available not too far away. We parked by the tent and pedaled from here both Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, the routes required us to drive to a remote start point. We arrived Tuesday night and not knowing any of the lay of the land, we got back in the car after making camp and drove to Provencini's in Opelika, which Max knew of and which was very good.

Each day, we started out with a good breakfast provided by Mama Ralphael. This couple caters bike rides in many places, including Ragbrai. They were pleasant people and have lived on a boat, cycled all over, and obtained their mobile kitchen via Ebay. Here it is:

Coffee was always ready by 5:30, although the official serving time was 6:00. It was very stout bodied stiff too and available with real 1/2 and 1/2, and flavored syrups. Unexpected comfort out in the woods!

All the routes for the week were provided when we checked in, along with the requisite Tee shirt, local promo items and some samples of peanuts. The ditty bag they all came in was pretty useful. It saw service as a shower stuff tote all week.

Each day, the route was marked with a different color and symbol, usually related to a food theme. Overall maps and turn by turn directions were provided. The maps were not useful, so we went by the turn by turns and markings. The mileage on the turn points was sometimes off, but the roads themselves were not, so we were able to check the Garmin maps and be more sure of our path, when questions arose, as they did several times.

Our 1st day, we looked for blue snakes and arrows. Leaving the campsite, we pedaled across a grassy field, then a dirt road, then coarse pavement and then finally a bike trail. Here I am ready to adventure!

Not knowing what I'd need, I ended up with a Kelty 70 oz hydration pack and just 1 of the water bottles. The pack alone proved sufficient and from then on, the bottles stayed home. Max and I started off together, but my Garmin kept confusing his cadence sensor and mine, so I asked him to let me drop back some (50' or so) in order to re-scan for it. While I was thus focused, Max turned left down Mill Creek Rd, while I pedaled ahead on the bike path. I came to US 29, no Max. He does get bursts of happy legs and accelerates out of view at times so I figured I'd find him at the next turn. Meanwhile, he was waiting at the bottom of a hill waiting for ME to show up. I turned on to Lee CR 10 as instructed, but no Max. It was very foggy and my glasses were near useless, so I took them off and just pedaled. I could see better without them, truthfully. Max finally took off as well, and as it turned out, I should have gone left as he did, but not before calling my phone 15 times and leaving 3 voice mails. Fact, a phone in a backpack, in traffic, is hard to hear. When I got the 1st rest stop, the fog had lifted, and when I checked my phone, I saw he had called and got a hold of him. Turns out we were only a few miles apart and I waited there for him to re connect. Nothing fancy at the rest stops, but always enough to eat and drink and always nice friendly volunteers.

This one was at a volunteer fire station in Reeltown, AL. Riders from NC and OH are in the picture. In fact, locals were in the minority here. We met riders from MI, WI, GA and MO in addition to some from Huntsville. We were the only Montgomery area folks along.

Our Weds route took us to the Lake Martin Dam, where we had a neat tour of the inner workings of the hydro-electric generation unit by Alabama Power Company staff. To get there, we had to climb some long 13% grades on a hot day! We did get to a scenic overlook though and it was nice. Here's Max, the hill climb conqueror!

Some pictures of the Lake Martin, the dam and power station.

Yes, the place is FULL of purple martins. You could almost reach out and grab one. The crane on tracks below is used to lift open the floodgates when the lake level is lowered. The lake is about 160' deep by the dam.
These generators have been in continuous service since 1926. If it ain't broke...

After the tour, we pedaled on to Niffers on lake Martin for lunch. It was a pasta casserole buffet and came with the ride. Not scrumptious, but satisfying, and the staff was very attentive. Then we climbed some more and headed to the final rest stop of the day. It was noted as mile 59, but at 59 miles, no rest stop. Another pair of riders coming towards us advised us to reverse course because we had all missed a turn. Max and I consulted the Garmin maps and decided to push on another 1 1/2 miles from where we were, and sure enough, at mile 64, we found the rest stop. The other folks gave up a little too soon. Eventually they figured it out and came up while we were still eating our snacks. The final pull back to the campsite was all dead into the wind. Just what you want after 5,000' of climb... By the end of the day, Max still looked pretty fresh, me not so much..

Dinner was a hamburger cookout at the campsite which was tasty (doesn't EVERYthing taste better when you are tired and hungry?) Following dinner, we were regaled by an excellent musical ensemble made up of current and former Auburn U faculty and staff. They did mostly folk-rock and indie tunes under the pavilion and I sat until my eyes grew heavy listening contentedly, before heading off to bed.

Thursday was an easier ride but had more to stop and see. We headed to Tuskegee and saw the George Washington Carver museum which has good displays of his work with peanuts, fabric dyes, paints, and many other indigenous materials that poor locals could make use of to improve their lives on meager budgets. He was a very creative and energetic man.

We also rode through the pleasant Tuskegee University campus and toured the Booker T Washington home. This was a class project for his industrial students and is very impressive. Before going in, I needed to do a repair to my right brake which had slid down the handlebars. Having tools at hand, it was a simple matter to find some shade, unwrap the 1/2 bar and relocate the brake, then re wrap the bar.

Here is an outside view of the house

Some interesting inside features: A very short stair rail, as his wife was under 5' tall, and an ornate desk set he received as a gift from the Chinese. The 1st black man invited by a US president for a White House dinner, Teddy Roosevelt (his host) memorabilia is also preserved the office.

Following our time around the college, we went over to Moton field for a rest stop and a tour 0f the Tuskegee Airmen Museum. While stopping for an unscheduled gas station break, I noticed this novel approach to outreach ministry:

The Airman Museum was small, but well done. An old wooden hangar with a smattering of all the aspects of the training that went on there as well as some history of the unit's performance in battle (which was valorous).

We headed back towards Auburn via Notasulga and were delighted to see that the ice cream stand which was under construction when we last passed by this way in the late summer was now open for business! A couple of riders were already there, and we pulled in at the "Dog House" for some ice cream. It was just the thing on a hot day to give a rider a good break. The afternoon wore increasingly windier and cloudier and we knew there was a rain chance in the forecast but we made it all the way back to camp again, dry except for our own sweat. To be continued

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Riding back to Red's

With a biking vacation coming up in just two weeks, I'm wanting to be confident in my legs. A century ride sounded good to me for this weekend's outing, and so I mapped a ride to Red's Schoolhouse Restaurant from home. Almost exactly 100 miles round trip. Not everyone was as eager to spend that much time in the saddle yesterday, so we moved the start location down to Pintlala and made a 70 miler out it instead. I toyed with the idea of pedaling to Pintlala from home, and then doing the ride, and would have if Max had made the trip down with his truck. That way, if I was too tired after the main ride to pedal another 32 miles home (134 total +/-) I could have just tossed my bike in his truck. He was otherwise engaged however, so 70 miles it was to be. After spending most of the way back from Red's into a stiff headwind, 70 worked out for the best anyway.

There were two rides leaving at the same time from Pintlala. In addition to our food finding excursion, the skinny people on carbon bikes were doing the same distance, over a flatter route, at higher speed and with only 1 store stop. Most are old friends, and it was good to shake hands and say hi in the parking lot. Ron rode down from Prattville to greet everyone, but then turned around and headed back, having a morning commitment to get back to. Walter and daughter(?) took off just as I was pulling into the parking lot. We passed them coming from the opposite direction out on the road later, so I am guessing those two did about 20 miles. Joel ("King Tut") came by and I hooked him up with the other group. I haven't heard from him yet, but I'm sure that was a good fit for his riding style.

So, the Red's ride turned out to be just 3: Frank, Tom and I. The rains moved on through before dawn, leaving damp roads, cool calm air and some partial overcast. Pretty good riding conditions actually. The ride out was uneventful. Lots of vultures and a loud chorus of cicadas everywhere we rode. There must have been a successful mating season 17 years ago, because there is quite a buggy bounty now!

Our pace heading to Red's was reasonably quick, maybe 16.5 - 17.5 average, although we paused once or twice at a stop sign for saddle area relief. I stopped at the high point of the trip, Mt. Pisgah Baptist church to snap a few pictures. Here is the church with its old stone fence and the view out over the valley we just came up out of.

Mt Pisgah Church





















Scenic View






















I had just put everything back in my backpack and started to pedal again, when my cell phone rang. The ring was the unique one assigned to my son Alex, so I stopped, tore off the hydro-pack and grabbed the phone out of the pocket. He had gone into work to get ahead on a project and set the alarm off. His memory of the alarm code was faulty, and could I help?  We got that taken care of, and I started off again!

Next stop was Red's. My last visit there was in the Fall, and I remembered the place as opening at 10:30. We got there at 10:50 and it was still closed. There were others waiting too, so I didn't fret much over it. They opened at 11:00 and we enjoyed our buffet lunch. I didn't think the food was as good as on prior visits, but it was still good. While we were there, we refilled our water as well. A highlight of the meal was when Tom noticed that a table condiment label read "Bruce's Hot Peppers".  The picture is fuzzy, but you get the idea.

I'm a Chilli Pepper














I was pleased to find that my jersey was completely dry by the time lunch was done (30 minutes). Can't say enough good stuff about wool. I was comfortable early when it was in the 60s and overcast, and again later when the Sun came out and it was in the 70s. This jersey is a Joneswares and a favorite. The shorts were Smartwool Rambition, and I think they are the best for fit and comfort of any I have tried. (Joneswares, Ibex, Kucharik, Swobo are others I have tried). The cap is NOT wool, but the socks were!

After lunch we set out for home, and found that the wind had kicked up. It was either in our faces, or quartering into us just about the whole 31 miles back. Good work out! It slowed us down some however. There's nothing like cresting a hill and meeting a 20 mph gust face to face, I'll tell you.

All in all, it was a good ride. We generally rode together, but at times each of us was ahead or behind, as we adjusted our own pace to how we felt at the moment. I was pleased to end the ride with no cramps, good hydration and feeling like I could continue on, as long as I stayed at a maintainable pace. I was careful about what and how much I ate for lunch and had no stomach issues on the way home, while feeling sufficiently fueled. The small piece of chocolate pie was a quick sugary boost, to be sure.

No ride on tap for next weekend, as I'll be helping my son move most of his stuff into the house he expects to close on this Tuesday. Mixed feelings there for sure. Proud of him, happy to see him start off on his own life (isn't that a parent's job? to nurture him to the point that he can successfully leave the nest?) delighted to get my space back here, but already missing him. Then in a another week, he goes to get his fiancee Alisha and move her and her 4 yr old son Kael into the house. Alex will actually still live at home until their August wedding, but he'll be over there, a LOT.

There will be plenty of miles when Max & I do AMBA. More on that to come.  ( )



Saturday, May 7, 2011

Metric # 7

Knowing that there will be plenty of opportunity for the next several months, if not longer, to volunteer to do storm clean up and rebuilding work, I opted to ride today. The early morning start left time in the afternoon to finish some meeting minutes that needed doing, as well as to prepare tomorrow's lesson. Also, with a cycling vacation coming up in 2 weeks with longish rides every day, I need to keep my legs in shape. There was no mid week riding as Tuesday was a rain out, and Thursday was church. We gathered for the National Day of Prayer and did just that. It was pretty good too. A systematic listing of things and people to pray for. Prayer is one of those things that we find ourselves saying, "I don't know why I don't do that more often."  Especially when you read or hear about God's providential care, or some miraculous happening. Like this one from Tuscaloosa.( )

Anyway, one the oldest routes I have mapped on MapMyRide from 2007 is a 50 miler with some hills that starts/finishes downtown. By riding to/from my house, it becomes a metric. With a goal of 24 this year, I need these lengthened rides.Joe came by and parked at my place, and together we departed at 6:30 to find Max. Weaving through the throng of early garage sale treasure hunters on his block, we found him 1/2 way through a banana breakfast. He was concerned about the 51F air, but I assured him that he'd warm up on the 1st climb. With 85F forecast for later in the day, it had to warm up quickly.

The 3 of us took the near deserted Main St to downtown where we found the central shopping district cordoned off for CityFest day. Detouring around, we found Frank parked at the Pasta Mill. Like Max, he was thinking about the cool air and set out with his jacket on. I knew it would be off by the 1st store stop. I was cool on some of the descents, but breaking a sweat on the climbs, so I just left the house in the usual wool jersey and shorts.

We left town and headed up towards Posey Crossroad. Good roads, easy riding traffic wise and some hills. After the break we turned West towards Old Kingston. By this time, I was leading from the back.


Caboose Commander





















Basically, I was running about 2 mph slower than these guys today, but not fretting it. I just didn't like pulling the line and feeling I was holding them up. I rode much if not most of the day solo, about 1/2 to 1 mile behind the group. We'd stay together a little while upon leaving store stops, etc, which is how I got this picture.

I rode the Rivendell Rambouillet today. With 85 psi in the tires, it felt quicker, but it really wasn't. Looking back over the year to date, the Ram averages about 14 mph, the Saluki 13. The Mark III and the Riv Road both average 15. So a total spread of only 2 mph on average. I think it's the rider :) Today, I averaged 14.3 mph. No surprise there.

There were a few frisky dogs today, but no biters. One ran out at my bike, and thought better of it, skidding to a stop. These two came out to show me how fierce they were, but the gray beard on the lead dog and his belly showing frequent attendance at the chow dish said other wise.












The dog who punctured my Saluki saddle bag made an appearance today too, but his owner was out and immediately retrieved him. No harm, no foul. I think Frank and Joe who were out ahead of me had a different experience.

Autauga County has a lot of farm land. Some of the farmers have lovely large farmhouses. I like this one with the porches quite well.

Hay Bales





















Our 2d store stop of the day was Bubba's in Marbury. The customers there were very friendly and we chatted about bikes they used to have and so forth. I asked Mrs. Bubba if she was a mom, and wished her a happy Mother's Day, which made her smile. This guy was also there and we asked him what smelled so good. He was smoking butts and ribs and going to Millbrook to sell. He left before we did but we caught up with him at the RR Xing. It was tough to sit there while my mouth was watering from the aroma of BBQ! You can see a bit of smoke coming out.













The rest of the ride was fine. Just a great morning to be out with friends on bikes! The metrics: 63.01 mi, 14.3 mph. Cadence still slow at 77. Climbed 3,274'  Some talk of doing the century ride from Prattville to Red's for lunch and back. The route needs tweaking though.



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