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

Saturday, June 25, 2011

To The Dog House

I think I may be in the dog house for a while with Steve & Tom. I suckered, err, invited them both on today's ramble from East Montgomery through Tuskegee, up to Notasulga, and back via some rural Macon County Podunk towns with the promise of low traffic roads and generally good scenery. "No dirt roads, right?" asked Steve. "Nope" I replied. I last rode this route in July of 2010, and FORGOT that yes, there is an awful section in the middle of CR 56 where it goes from paved to dirt and back to paved again. The road was washboard rough and wore us out just trying to maintain a grip on the bikes. I had it easier on a steel frame and with 36 mm tires at only 65 psi. They were on skinny tire Crabon racer bikes and I'm sure felt it more severely. Neither is talking to me at this point, despite my abject apology for the lapse in memory.

And that was just the first section of dirt. CR 9 runs out of pavement too. We never rode it last year because one of the riders needed to divert to a store and get cooled down and re hydrated. We cut south before we reached that point. I will say the 2d road was mostly a lot smoother than the 1st, but they still weren't talking much to me.

But there was so much more to this ride than even all that!

In addition to the afore named, Frank and Max came out for the ride. I was first there, and used the time to recon up Barganier Rd, which MapMyRide said we could use on the way back from US 80. WRONG. It's a private road for about 1/2 its length, so I knew we would have to take CR 9 back in (the paved portion of it). We pulled out on time. No signs of rain, so I left the rain gear in the car. Turns out, it was never needed, although in the heat of the later portion of the ride, a rain would have been a good thing. Tom has his Subaru running again, now WITH an oil filter. Thursday saw him carting the TREK around in the back of a Chevy and he said the OutBack had died. Glad it was only a loosely applied filter wrench by some un named mechanic. I've done that with a drain bolt before, so I know how it feels.

While we were getting our stuff together, a group of unfamiliar riders pulled in to the John Hall Store parking lot. I walked over to say hello, and Chad introduced himself, as well as Sara and John and a few others. They all ride out of Montgomery Multi Sports and I know them on but have never met them. It was a pleasure. Sleek and fast, they are largely tri-athletes and not a crowd I could hang on the pace-line with. Chad asked if food was involved in our ride today. Of course Chad :). Less speed, but lots of climbing too.

After we left the parking lot and headed up towards US 80 by CR 9, we met oncoming riders from the bike club. Dan, Bill, Frank, David Richard and some others all flew by at speed, but we shouted out greetings, and it was great to see them all.

We made it to Tuskegee in good order and at a quick pace. Despite being on the Saluki, the slowest riding off my bikes, I was able to hang on to the pace-line. Not fast enough to pull it, but I stayed with them. They were running 18 - 20 avg, which is way above my 14 - 16 flat terrain pace. (Generally a 13 - 15 overall avg for me). Max, who had not ridden all week, nonchalantly cruised along at 20 - 22.

I had a plain biscuit with Jam and OJ at the golden arches and after breakfast, we shoved off.

Leaving Tuskegee, I realized I needed to back off the pace and slow down. I continued along at about 16 and keep Frank's Dinotte tail light in sight. Max pulled over at I-85 and waited under the overpass for me and we rode more or less together for a while. It was lovely calm 71 F  when we started but warmed fairly quickly, and while a breeze came up, it was never a problem. By the time we reached our signature attraction for the ride, The Dog House, in Notasulga, the Sun was hot! We pulled in the parking lot only to find that they were not yet open. Workers were there however, and the owner said he could grill hamburgers and dispense ice cream and sodas. Everyone was able to get something and Tom pronounced the hamburgers as "good." tasting like "Friday night football game concession stand food."

We filled our water bottles/packs up and headed off through rural Macon County. It was along this stretch that we encountered the hardscrabble roads, along with an aggressive dachshund that ran out and nearly got under someone's wheel. Not too long after the awful section of CR 56, Frank's drive train locked up as he began up a steep grade. The chain was wedged in between two of his cogs. Max and I stopped with him and Max held the bike while Frank applied Herculean force to the stuck parts, eventually freeing them. His whole cassette was actually loose. The lock ring had spun off the free hub and was loose. Naturally, this allowed the cogs to migrate and open up a space for the chain to fall in. Frank put it back on hand tight and then was able to secure it using the folding electrician's pliers in his tool kit. Next time Frank, carry one of these, will ya? (or, a Stein tool works too. Franks says he has one of these, in fact).

Frank asked me if I would venture a guess as to how his cassette lock ring shook loose. "Insufficient torque when you built the wheel?" I asked, with a straight face.

While we were roadside, admiring Frank's field expedient fix with a Leatherman, a dented and faded pick up truck of unknown vintage stopped to ask about our situation. Two guys and a gal between them. After we told them we had things under control, they said we'd probably be okay, but watch out for "the n****rs."  I could NOT believe my ears. Strains of 'Dueling Banjos" ran through my mind. I have not encountered such overt prejudice in more years than I can recall, and it was very unsettling to see it again. People like that present the greater danger, I suspect. 

Not long after the repair was completed and we got under way again, my left leg locked up from thigh cramps. Steve graciously hung back with me a minute, and I pulled off and consumed a Power Bar electrolyte gel, washing it down with some Propel. The relief was instantaneous. I was able to remount and ride normally for almost another 20 miles. As it happens, after that, cramps came back and I was out of gel. So I drank all I could and geared down to an easy spin for the final few miles of the ride. That and the dirt sections played havoc with average speed, but it was fine for me anyway, overall. And quite the riding adventure.

We used the Gamins to map out an alternate course when we ran into the 2d run of dirt roads. That worked out okay and the mileage ended up being just a little over plan. 71 instead of 68.

And, in the divine Providence department. When I got home and took the bike out of the car, the front tire was so flat it was coming off the rim. 71 rough miles today and no problems. I picked up something in the parking lot that totally flatted me. If you are going to flat, in the back of your car sure beats out with the hillbillies who pick their teeth with a case knife.

It was a good ride other than the rough dirt sections, and I believe that Tom and Steve will someday ride with me again. Maybe with fatter tires though. I had plenty of energy, and am liking how the vegetable diet works on long duration exercise. I drank my usual 1 1/2 oz per mile, but need to up that if I am going to try to ride faster as I did for a portion of today's outing. I've dropped 1/2 lb a couple days in a row now and am enjoying the new way of eating pretty well. I appreciate Sharon's help with all of this.

If you rode today, hope you enjoyed it.



Friday, June 24, 2011

The China Study Diet

Not really the name of it, but the title of a book by T. Colin Campbell which inspired Sharon to go pseudo-vegan (all unprocessed vegetables all the time, but not the politics, and avoidance of leather, etc). It's plant based eating and purports to provide better defense against cancer and heart disease than eating animal products does. It's also the 1st diet given to us in Gen 2 (before animals were killed following the "fall" in Gen 3) and the one that Daniel and his 3 pals did so well on, when they eschewed the non kosher stuff pushed at them by the Babylonians (The original "10 days to Better Health!" plan). I've done Atkins from 2002 - 2006 and again from 2009 until last Thursday. Generally speaking, I lost 42 lbs on it and maintained good blood sugar and cholesterol #s (with statin medicine help). The vegetable diet also promises good health, and weight control, but with the added benefit of better circulatory system health and anti-cancer effects from the macro and micro nutrients found in natural foods. Sharon is taking online classes via Cornell Univ on the diet and is far better read on it than I care to ever be. And she said she'd cook for me :)

Like Atkins, Campbell says processed carbs, sugary sweets and salty fatty foods are bad for you. You don't eat french fries or white bread on either plan. It's taking me some getting used to but I am starting to get a sense of what, when, and how much I need to eat. My weight jumped up 5 lbs in the 1st 3 days. This was water absorption, since Atkins which is a ketogenic diet, causes you to lose water, and my body just refilled. I'm down 1/2 lb today, the first day of a loss since eating this way. Sharon has lost close to 40 lbs so far in about 6 months herself. I find that I really like the food. Vegetarian chili on brown rice last night was wonderful. Bruschetta on toasted baguettes the day before was also yummy (3 types: mushroom, tomato, and cannelli beans.) I'm getting more confident in tweaking my orders at lunch places too. "Give me the fat free dressing and HOLD the cheese, please."

On the ride last night, I had plenty of energy, which was something I was concerned about. Would low fat plants be able to fuel my legs? Last night at least, the answer was yes. Do I miss meat? Not so far. Earth Fare has a salad bar and lost of fake meat dishes. I tried some curried soy chicken salad and it was exquisite. But the Tabouli was great too. It hit me the other day that I don't need to kill something in order to get a meal now, and I really liked that. Not that I felt any guilt before, because I absolutely did not. Nor do I now. But I like not having to.

Okay, time to go plank and lift some weights. Good ride planned for tomorrow. Bagel thins with hummus, Newman's cereal and almond milk for breakfast. Yum

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father's Day Weekend

It's been kind of a very full week on a number of fronts. On Tuesday, FedEx came and took the '95 ("pre-production!") Rivendell Road Standard frame and fork to be painted at Airglow Bicycle Painting. I've exchanged a couple of emails with THE painter (as he describes himself) Hill Clarke, and settled on the color scheme and details. It's an expensive proposition of course, but less than 1/3 of what this frame would cost new today, and it will have a better than new finish on it when it comes back. I spent a good bit of time with de-greaser and a scrubber to clean up the parts group which was taken off the bike prior to shipment. The chain was ready to be replaced, so a new one is ordered. I'll have to see if the cables can be re used. I think the bar tape will stay despite being faded and somewhat worn, but the inside ends will be properly finished. No more black electrician's tape. Tuesday evening, we had a big turn out and a hard ride on the hill training drill. Oh, in between, was work. Busy at the office. One of our projects was damaged by a microburst while it was under construction and we have been scrambling to help the buyer get his insurance claim filed and get the project back on track. I got an email last night in fact, giving the go ahead to replace the wind damaged materials (something like 75 tons of it!). And make it Fast! Right.

The economic non-recovery means that each project has lots of bidders and getting them is tough. Margins remain thin, but somehow we've had enough to get by on. I worked with our sales team this week on proposals for FL, TX, and GA. Maybe we'll hit one or more of them.

We rode again on Thursday, and while my average was a little under 15 mph (on the quick side for me for a hilly course) I was a good mile behind the pack. I'm delighted that enough greyhounds come out that they can challenge each other to a good workout. My own effort level was not lacking and suited me just fine.

I posted today's ride and pedaled from the house to the 7:00 AM rendezvous point where Tom, Joe (got in from Ft. Worth at midnight the night before. Very impressed to see him show up today. And ride well) and Chris "Fish Hook" (the name he got due to the method of flatting he ran into TWICE on group rides with us. He just attracts them.) Fish Hook assured us that Ray was out of town, and I knew Frank was not coming. Someone else spoke up for Steve's plans, and so with all known heads accounted for we shoved off at 5 mins till. As we left the parking lot, I picked up Ron in my rear view mirror. I was going slow enough for him to catch up if he wanted to, and we wended our way. I was leading at 13 - 15 (the advertised range) when they all sailed past me. That's pretty much how it went all day (they sailed past me) but that was okay. We picked up Jeff as we closed in on the second store stop, coming from his house. For the 1st 20 miles, I hung on to the line and we moved along smartly. After the 2d store stop though, I decided to ride my own ride. Jeff asked me a NUMBER of times if I wanted to get on his wheel and catch the others. No thanks. I told him that I ride 4,000 mi a year, have done multi state solo self supported rides into unending headwinds, and just know how to listen to my body and take what the road gives me. And NO Jeff, I don't want a push in the back climbing the hills. We're not Coppi and Bartali or Gaul and Bahamontes. Well, I'm not, anyway. I see nothing wrong with climbing a steady 5% grade at 10 mph. Go faster all you like. Once Jeff and the rest pulled on ahead to really test their wings, I relaxed and just rode my ride.

The Rambouillet was just perfect today. I couldn't order a custom frame that would fit me any better than this bike does. Last night I adjusted the seat a hair, and serviced the front hub. It was as smooth as glass today. I ran the factory recommended 32 mm Pasela TGs tires and at only 75 psi. Very sure footed and smooth over rough stuff. The weather was less perfect. It was overcast, calm and humid early, and blazing sun, hot and head windy late. Neither was optimal, but both were ride-able. Jeff had an explosive flat when a spoke came loose and punctured his tube, but other than that, no one seemed to have any mechanical issues. He was able to ride on the wheel so no bail out phone call was needed.

Today was the first try riding on my new diet. I'm following Sharon's lead on this, and am a babe in the woods on the details, but I went from Atkins to vegetarian. Not a small shift in menu, to be sure. I had no idea how energy levels would work, etc. All, in all, I think it went okay. I still avoid sugary sweets, but just about everything else is different. I'll have to home in on when and how much of what I need to eat pre, during, and post rides.

The metrics for the day: 66.2 mi at 14.8 avg. (1 mph slower than the last outing over this course in April, but certainly right on my average for the 12 metric or longer rides this year) 2,402' of climb. HR was only 129 avg so I wasn't working too hard (plan was to stay in fat burn zone) by design.

Looking forward to Father's Day tomorrow. It's usually the ONE day a year, my son says, "hey Dad, let's get the ball and gloves out and play catch." Maybe this year, he and I and his stepson-to-be can all pedal instead.

From a FaceBook friend's wall : "Remember your son will follow your example, not your advice."
Great observation.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Off the bike this weekend

Despite perfectly good riding weather, my schedule was completely booked Saturday and Sunday, so no riding. That doesn't mean no calories were expended, or that I missed out on the chance to broil in the Sun. Our son Alex wanted very badly to put a storage shed in his back yard, and we found a kit for one 10' x 12' that suits the slab prior owners put down. The thing has a slew of pieces and a zillion screws, as well as less than perfectly clear instructions, so the going was at times slow. Day one had the sub-assemblies done and the base and mid-wall frames together with wall sheets in at the corners. I went home after a long sweaty day, while he continued on. It wasn't long before he called to tell me that the sheets on the back wall would not overlap correctly at the middle. I gave him what ideas I had, but finally said, "I'll look at it tomorrow after church."

Alex , fiancee Alisha, and her son (4) Kael joined me at church, which was very nice. Kael was very good, and as well behaved as you might expect a 4 yr old to be. Afterwards, I went home, grabbed lunch, changed, mowed our yard and then headed back over to the shed project. Kael has rapidly made himself dear to me, just by being himself. He calls me "Poppy," which is what I called my own favorite grandfather, who is also who we named Alex after. I was also able to talk more with Alisha and am happy to get to know her a little better. Kael generally entertained himself with a train set and cartoons, while Alex and I worked on getting the back wall right. We had to remove 1/2 of the screws which had been installed, and after about 30 minutes of checking dimensions, I was pretty sure the thing had gotten out of square. We adjusted a few things and then it all went back together like it was supposed to, so we proceeded from there.

By the time I left yesterday (about 6 PM), all the walls were up, the gables were on, rafter and roof beams in place and the 1st roof sheet was installed. It's starting to look like a real project, instead of a pile of parts. Alex and I worked well together, swapping off on tasks and sunshine exposure. He didn't seem to mind when my old bones needed a rest or a sip of water. He was also much better able to get down on the ground to install the floor level fasteners. My knees sure don't take to that very well anymore. From here out, Alisha can lend a hand when Alex needs it to finish up, but I can swing by if needed at some point during the week.

The week is not totally devoid of bike news though. My 1995 Rivendell Road Standard frame set is boxed up with a deposit check and will ship off today via FedEx ground to Airglow Painting ( for a freshening up. Pictures of course, when it's done. I've settled on repainting it the same minty blue it came from the Waterford factory with, but with the lugs and fork crown arrow heads and windows done in cream for contrast. Meanwhile, I've been cleaning the drive train which came off it, and will be using a new chain and cables when it goes back together. I'm keeping the scuffed up Brooks bar tape, but will replace the black electrical tape I finished the ends with. Maybe not twine, but perhaps the stuff you see on tennis racquets. The cloth that comes in a Brooks set is useless. It peels off immediately (hence the electricians vinyl tape).

Weather permitting, I'll be pedaling the hills Tuesday and Thursday. See you then!


Sunday, June 5, 2011

MS Bike - 2011

Some readers may recall that it was the 2003 MS150 from Detroit to Lansing and back that got me started cycling. That 1st effort was on a Trek Navigator 100 - a rail trail bike, and training for the ride was how I came to become a cyclist. This year was the 9th consecutive year of fund raising for this charity and I was delightedly surprised at the nice show of support from many quarters. The North Alabama ride is a one day affair, so it's not an MS 150, but rather a 75 mile ride. The course chosen this year is the NOAH trail, which is an exceptionally well marked network of roads in Limestone County. No bike lanes or shoulders to ride on, but with so much signage, the cars are LOOKING for cyclists and treat them well. A very scenic layout, it is a challenging one as well. Steep 16% drops to and from the several stream crossings as well as long grinds, err grades, and very coarse chip-seal (felt more like going downhill on a mountain bike trail) all demanded effort and attention. It was hot with a heat index of 103 and in the afternoon, windy.

The planning and ride support by the MS Bike staff was outstanding. Routes were well marked, rest stops very convenient and well stocked. I especially loved the bagels with Nutella. After the ride, showers were available across the street and a BBQ served up burgers and hotdogs or subs from Quiznos, or snack type foods.

I drove up on Friday and used frequent traveler points for a free night at a hotel. Made the 7:30 start easier, as it's a 3 hr drive from my house to Athens. I met another Rivendell for the 1st time on one of these rides. Here is Tom, from Mississippi, and his early production Atlantis. We tried to ride together but it just was a bad match. He was way faster than me downhill but the reverse uphill. I ended up quite a bit ahead and just poked along at my own pace. Tom did ride up all the hills, unlike a number of folks who just thought a long 16% uphill on a hot day was more than they cared to struggle with. I can't say I blame them either. There is no shame in walking when you need to.

I took Louise up for the ride, and let some air out of the Contis for comfort: down to 85 psi. I should have brought fatter tires. 28 mm was just too skinny on the rough stuff. Pari-Motos would have been a better choice. Here's Louise, all dressed up and ready to go!

The route was almost entirely rural. When we did go through towns, they were the tiny, charming type that made you think, "I'd like to come back here and just look around someday."

A co worker gave me another name to ride for this year, so Sarah was added to the list. Before the ride, we heard from two young men who have MS and both confirmed that recent improvements to treatment - discovered as a result of research funded in part by these rides - have given them much more normal lives, and for which they were very appreciative. As it happens, I made "top banana" this year and here is the rider #.

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