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

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Closing Season 6

Last night was the final ride of this year's Prattville ride series. This is the 6th year (iirc) that I've been posting these, but I did them solo for a couple of years before that. Hard to believe that I've worked here in Alabama for over 9 years total now. Been in Prattville for 8 of those, and spent a year and some up in the Gadsden area working for the same guy. We had a very nice turn out. Russ, Joel, Frank, Chris, Steve, Chuck, (new guy) Larry, Jeff, and Joe all motored up and down the hills at about 18 mph. I was just under 15, which is quick for me on this course. I felt good and was steady on the climbs and that was what I came out to accomplish. I know the Bike Club had its Summer party last night too, but I'd rather ride. I do attend the Christmas party to stay in touch with people I never see on the roads up here, but wasting a perfectly good ride opportunity? Nah.

It was a great season overall. Lots of new riding friends came along, while others dropped out of the group. Mostly that was due to class changeovers at Maxwell, but sometimes people just moved away, and in one case, we lost a friend who passed away. Very few rain outs, no crashes, and lots of good training. I can't wait for April to come around again. In the meanwhile, my bike needs a good cleaning and some new cables along with bar tape. Probably time to try a different saddle on it, just because. I may go from brown back to black. Or stay with brown but change the bar tape to match. Oh, the possibilities!

I'm a little anxious about this Saturday's Populaire. It's a moderately hilly 90 miles over roads
that I have never ridden. I'll take the Saluki. It is a French (650B) rando style bike, but tweaked to the Rivendell (English influence) design philosophy. It's comfy and has a 26/34 combo avail if my legs get too tired going up those hills! I'm sure it will be fun though, and if I survive, there is a 200K next month and a 300K the month after. I might become a real Randonneur. For now all I have is an RUSA member # and a 108K Populaire to show for it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

An Up & Down Week

By "up & down" I don't refer to the rolling hills we so often ride here in central Alabama. The reference is to the emotional highs and lows that have been coming along, and as I write this continue to do so. It's been just over a week since I last rode, which seems like forever to me. Silly of course, to sit here wondering if i can even make it through the usual Thursday route planned for tonight after work. I skipped the ride last Thursday to lend a hand with Alex's wedding preparations. Sharon had been pulling hardest on the oars and was getting frazzled. Staying home and helping her was the obvious best thing to do. Friday, I took a day off from work and drove to Birmingham to pick up 2 out of town wedding guests, then came back to see what else could be done. Saturday started early. I met the wedding planner and her helper at the reception venue at 6:30 AM and we started to set that place up. I hauled a lot of supplies and materials around, making numerous trips to get and relocate needed items. Wedding pictures started at 2PM and the wedding itself at 5:00. The reception followed, and at 11:00 PM, Sharon and I loaded the last of the stuff to be put away into my car and took it home. Alex and Alisha and some friends had left to continue their celebration in a cozier venue. Somewhere in all that, there was time to jump out and mow the yard too.

Sunday morning, I picked up 3 guests at 6:00 AM to drive them back up to the Birmingham airport. I also collected various tuxedos to return that afternoon back in Montgomery, and I stopped at the state prison for a ministry visit with someone I have been going to see for about a year now. While the focus was on getting everything done that needed doing to make the wedding a happy time for the bride, groom and guests, I was keenly aware of the sense of loss I felt. My little boy was a man now, with his own wife and a little boy (hers) that he took in his heart as his own. My job as a dad had passed a milestone. Now, I am "Poppy," and I recede as a parent, while Alex steps into his new and larger role. It is how the world works, and I have always pointed towards this day, but I am saddened none the less, while at the very same time joyful that my child has found the love of his life and has nothing but potential in front of him.

It was Sunday morning while I was on the road that I received a message from Frank that our good friend Tom Wright passed away at 6:00 AM. Tom thought he had the flu a few weeks earlier and saw a doctor. A few days later he felt much worse and went to the hospital where he was admitted. Originally diagnosed with bilateral viral pneumonia, he seems to have succumbed to acute respiratory distress, cause unknown. Needing an oxygen mask at first to get his blood oxygen levels up, he moved to sedation and a ventilator for, I guess, about 2 weeks before giving up his grip on earthly life. Joe & I saw him about a week after his 1st admittance and he was alert, wearing a mask, and happy to see us. That was the last time I saw Tom. Tom first started riding with us (with his pal John) last winter. He became a regular on our rides (2 or 3 times a week) and progressed as a rider very quickly. The bike bug bit him hard and he loved our time in the saddle. He was a guy you just liked right away. Genuine to the core, and his loss is really affecting me. Here he is in colorful tattoos and jersey, with Frank and Pete at Fat Girl's BBQ:

The visitation is tomorrow evening and I'll be there. There is a memorial service as well on Saturday, but I may ride instead. I had already comitted to a volunteer cycling event in conjunction with the DOT and I know that Tom would say "Go and ride!" if I could ask him.

Tom wasn't the only loss in my sphere of connections last week. A dear little girl who I learned of through a cycling friend passed away from a childhood brain cancer after a batlle of more than a year. i had been praying for her and following her ups and downs through the regular updates her mom left on the Caringbridge web site. In like manner, an acquaintence from our Plant City Fl days also succumbed to cancer. I still get prayer list emails from our former church back there and I followed and prayed for this gal as well.

Work is less fun these days but harder if you don't get there to do it, so I'll sign off for now.


Monday, August 15, 2011

A Week To Go

Our (only child) son Alex will marry the love of his life next Saturday, and immediately make us grandparents, as bride Alisha comes with 4 yr old Kael. We are delighted and excited to have them joining our family, but it will be a BUSY week in the run up to the big day. Even so, Sharon posted on FB that she will try to let me get out for the Tues/Thurs rides. Only 2 more weeks of those before we end them for the season, so that will be nice, if it happens.

Saturday was a shorter (41 miles) but hilly route that one of the frequent riders requested. I last was on this one in March, so it was a good choice for a change of pace. Speaking of pace, mine was pretty slow. Just under 14 mph, but even that was 1/2 mph faster than back in March. Did I say there were some hills? AND a broiling hot Sun and drenching humidity. 160 oz of fluid sweated out, as soon as I drank it, or so it seemed. One the other guys along said he needed a 3 hr nap afterwards. That would have been nice, I tell you. I did some quiet things for a bit when I got home, but then took hedge clippers out and gave the profusion of Star Jasmine along our entire back fence line a haircut. I think picking up all the trimmings was hotter work than the cutting. Good thing I waited till after that was done before getting a shower. I would have needed another one as I sweated almost as much as on the ride.

Here are 3 fully lugged steel bikes on the ride. My Rambouillet ("Louise") with her pals Peter Mooney and Serotta. This was a mid ride rest stop in Tallassee, AL. Who'd a thunk you'd see this trio in the boonies of the deep South?














Here are Gabe (on the Mooney) and I cruising after coming up over the 1st big climb on Rifle Range Rd. Yes, that's merino wool you see. :)













Sunday was a version of the no stress relaxer ride that we often do. Ten showed up for the ride (Max, Deb, Amanda - fashionably late, Jeff, Rick, Joan, Rob, Jim, Holly, and Rob) plus Phil who came by looking just as he did in his 1960's college days on a Schwinn Varsity, but who opted to go pick up some items at the store instead of coming along on our outing. Most of us did 20 miles, although 2 cut it shorter. Not as hot as Saturday, and a lot more sociable. I passed out some MS Bike Ride flyers and a couple of folks showed some interest. Hopefully, they'll have fun if they go down to the beach ride next month. As you may recall, I did the north Alabama version this year, but I have been to the beach edition several times before.

I'm not planning on riding next weekend, but you may see some ruminations on how having your only child leave the nest makes you think about lots of things in life. I pray that God blesses Alex, Alisha and Kael richly and that they learn to lean on Him. It would be nice if 1 or more them decided to ride a bike too.



Tuesday, August 9, 2011

In Between

I'm in between rides at the moment. After all those July road miles, Max and I hit the rocky, rooty, gnarly ribbons of dirt running through the woods at the Swayback trail in Wetumpka last Saturday. I have never been so thoroughly sweat soaked in all my life. Yes, it was hot and humid, but what a workout it was hauling that old B-stone MTB (no shocks, but triple butted fully lugged steel frame) up and down the steeps. We only did 7 miles +/-, but we sure felt well exercised. Max tried out his new "Stealth" bike and I tried out some aerial acrobatics. Well, not intentionally anyway. Going up a steep slope, I was silently congratulating myself on how much leg I was getting into the pedals when the front tire bounced up off a root. As the rear wheel continued on its path, the front circled up overhead and I found myself with a clear view of the open sky. Then THUD, on my back and the bike fell too of course.

Max asked if I was okay, and I had to take inventory 1st, before I could answer. Both wrists were sore, but didn't seem broken. A thumb tip was bruised up pretty good. Yeah, I was okay. After a minute of rest, I decided it was time to end my day on the trail. My wrists would not stand more hammering from the profusion of bumps these paths offered. We made it back and I nursed my hurt right hand in my lap on the way home. There was some swelling, but by the next day, both wrists were fine and my thumb, while still not better, is improving each day.

Max was correct in his parking lot observation, "You know, we're not spring chickens anymore." He meant, I am sure, that we take longer to heal and that we need to be more careful in the 1st place. Yeah, yeah. This was my 2d outing on an MTB, ever and it was way better for me than the 1st was. I'll be back :)

So, no road miles on Saturday, but there was a good relaxer ride on Sunday afternoon. 34 miles. With no beginners aboard, we moved at a Club Lite pace, and I really enjoyed it. I pulled almost the whole way, but it was good exercise without straining. Good cadence the whole time.

Last night I mapped out a route idea for a 300K brevet in November, which will start here in Prattville. The Alabama Randonneurs have a 145 populaire in Sept , a 200k in October and then this one. I won't believe in my legs to do it until I do it. Than, I'll know I can do it. Do 20 hrs (or less. That's the time limit including food/rest stops) all told on a bike ride. You know? I'm already telling myself to slow down on this ride!

With our son's wedding coming up on the 20th, my riding will fall off over the week leading up to it, as I tend to other duties, but will pick back up again afterwards. August is sort of teh in between month. In between how I have been riding lately, and how it looks like I may be riding in the months ahead.

I'm also about 2 months into eating only veggies. So far, pretty good.


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