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

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tailwinds, 2011

It's far from an original idea to remark on the year coming to a close each December 31, but it's something that feels right to do this year.  Despite my whining that I haven't ridden at all this Fall, the truth is that even before today's 2011 Swan Song Ride, I had logged more miles than in any prior year. The average ride length is about the same as last year, and my snail like pace of late is pretty much on average for me this time of each year. As is the extra 15 lbs I seem to have discovered around the mid section. I joined RUSA this year, #7107. If I get my legs back, I'll be doing Alabama Randonneurs events several times in 2012.

Like any year, this one has had its ups and downs. I still find myself missing cycling buddy Tom, who died in August.  I expect him to crank past me on the uphills in the big ring as he was wont to do, black leather Harley-biker streamers sailing in the air wash behind his saddle. I miss penpal and fellow pen collector-friend Mike, who passed away in March, but whose excellent biographical fiction work "Hunting With Teddy about the wilder West days of the 1st president Roosevelt was published posthumously.
Hunting With Teddy 

 Work was hard this year. The 4th consecutive year of a weak economy making it tough to sell products and even tougher to make any margin on them. Wages have stayed pretty much fixed and no bonuses the past 3 years. Too many people sitting around wanting to cut the same sliver of pie. I'll avoid politics completely here and say only that our failings as humans are at the root of it. Some of the people that I have been praying for in terms of recovery from serious illness are not doing well.

There are plenty of ups too. We continue to enjoy the garden that Sharon had installed back in July. There are still pink camellia blooms on the bush, and the scent of Tea Olives greets me every morning.   I've met some new friends in both the bicycle and fountain pen worlds, and feel closer to the several guys I ride regularly with than in years before. Other people on the prayer list are doing well and providentially good circumstances have happened to a number of those I know and care about. I'm thankful to have a job that I usually enjoy doing, and knowing that we start 2012 with a couple months of work in hand, with strong prospects for additional contracts to come in. If December ends up okay, we'll end the year in black ink for a change. A nice change. We welcomed Alisha and Kael in our family when Alex and Alisha were married in August. They have quickly won our hearts and are truly our daughter and grandson by every measure that matters. Need to get Kael (5 yrs) on the bike I bought him though!

I entered the technological era this year. First Sharon gave me her old iPod and I discovered making playlists and downloading songs from my youth that I was sure I'd never hear again. "Break Song," "Soul Sacrifice,"  and 'Travellin' Shoes" all made the playlist. (Can you tell me the artists without Google?) Then Sharon got me a Kindle Fire and I couldn't believe how much I like reading on it. Books, social sites and email, as well as mobile based versions of news sites and papers. It streams TV and movies too. Wow. What a great gadget that thing is. It prodded my interest in reading books again and I am plowing through them after doing little more than crosswords for the past few years.

Just today, I finally figured out how to put a course map on my Garmin Edge and ride the course on a bicycle.  Sharon has become very understanding, even I might say supportive of my desire to pedal a self-moving-vehicle across the highways and byways. And buddy Jeff gave me a GREAT Kanji character decal for a bike that says in Japanese, "self moving vehicle"  or in other words, "bicycle."  Way too cool for a bike, it will be framed and hung.  There are of course numerous other good things that came about for me in 2011.

Yesterday, I got my Rivendell frame set back from the painter. I used Airglow, in Washington, GA. The compliments on the paint job are already rolling in. The rebuild will be done some time in the next couple of days, with a new green saddle and bar tape to pick up the green lines in the decals. I thought about changing brake levers from Shimano to Tektro, but if it ain't broke...
Here is a frame only pic.

I went for night rides last week and this. An IXON-IQ headlight is working really well, and a deal for a used set of Dinotte 400L rear lights should work out in the next week. Night riding is pretty neat. Beats doing laps around the block which is my usual Winter routine.

This morning was clear and cool (39F) and with my usual pals busy, I hoped for some others to come out and ride. No one did, and so I ended the year with a solo ride of 44 miles. It was pretty out and I ignored the Garmin and just pedaled for enjoyment. The result was about 1,750' of climb (iirc) and a typical average pace for me. No dog issues. I peeled off the Rivendell Merino Skin tights and a long sleeve Woolistic jersey 1/2 way through, continuing on in a wool tee and shorts. I had wool socks on and Keen shoes which were fine even when it warmed up. The Giro wool blend gloves came off though. It all packed in the Kelty Hydration back pack just fine. The handlebar tube held food, cell phone, wallet. A tool wrap was under the saddle.

Wherever our rides take us in 2012, I hope that we remember that the world is much bigger than just us and what WE want (whatever that is at any point in time) that we ride safely, and get to list all the important doings of 2012 a year from now.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Boldin Dam Solo Ride

I posted a 45 mile local ride for this morning. 4 of my usual buds checked in to say that other things stirring and would not be riding. A couple of maybes from the club Face Book page were no shows, perhaps due to the 36F displayed on the thermometer. I pedaled from home to the start point and when no one else came, I decided this might actually be an okay thing. I changed the route along the way on a whim, which I couldn't have assumed possible in a group, adding a few miles, and a detour to Boldin Dam. It's at the south end of Lake Jordan and has a small hydro-electric generating station. The warm water and turbulence from the turbines is apparently good for fishing, as I saw several line casters taking advantage of the public area provided by Alabama Power.

I started out the ride with an un natural fear that I couldn't ride that far. It's mental of course. My legs still work. That was a good enough reason to go and ride, if only to prove to myself that riding is no different than it ever was. I was on my most comfortable bike, and had no faster riders that I would have to strain to stay up with. Despite being cold, it was sunny out and an inviting morning to spend time in the saddle. I wound my way out of Prattville through the old community of Rocky Mount. Not much there besides an no longer used cemetery and a bed & breakfast, which looked cute in the early light.

I packed 72 oz of Propel Zero and a couple of grain/nut/fruit bars so no store stops were needed. I did pause a few minutes when I was hungry, but since I wasn't pushing the pace, I had more fluid than I would need. I got serious about low fat vegan eating this past week, and I have to say I do feel better, innards wise. Sharon keeps track of timing on these things, but I seem to recall that a significant cholesterol drop should be measurable in a couple of weeks.

I wound my way through Elmore, and the huge swath cut through the farms and woods for a new gas pipeline is now rich green with winter rye grass. Here is my Saluki with some organic methane gas producers visible in the field behind. As it happens, neither the piped gas or the puffed gas is suitable to power the hound dog.

The wind was in my face most of the way out, coming from the NE at about 8 - 12, with gusts of maybe 15 coming off the open fields. This was okay as it would make a nice tail wind coming home. Right. Wishful thinking. Anyway, I made my way up towards the Slap out store along the original route posted and saw a sign for the Boldin Dam. I'd never been to it, so I took the road.
The dam parking lot provided the 1st rest stop where a Clif bar fueled me up and a tree in the adjacent woods (this is out in the middle of nowhere) was also useful.

I mentally calculated that if I returned by the normal Sunday relaxer route, I'd finish at about 50 miles, and so I went back that way. Lots of dogs today on Hogan Rd. I yelled at 3 sets of two as I made my way. No real problems, but annoying, and would have been trouble had I been daydreaming instead of paying attention. It was disappointing to turn South on Hogan from 111 and discover the wind shifting so  that it was now blowing from the SE to S and harder than before. Good practice for staying in a manageable cadence and gear though. No one to draft behind so I settled in and just pulled steadily. It felt good. The Garmin says I ended up with 81 rpm avg (I've been working on getting my avg up for most of this year, instead of pumping in the low 70s) but I looked down and saw 85 - 95 a LOT. I was noticeably less tired than when I've tried higher RPMs before too.

I ran into some friends in a church parking lot, as they were getting ready to watch a local parade and we stopped to chat for a few minutes. Donna told me that her son Daniel loves to ride and at nearly 8 yrs old will soon be ready to come out on one of our kids rides. His little sister Emma Grace told me all about her bike too, which she said is green like mine. :)

The second snack stop was in beautiful downtown Elmore at the city park. You can just about see all of it in this picture. Really.

While my moving average was only 13.2 (1 to 1.5 mph might have been lost to the headwinds) my total avg (for rando calcs) was a decent enough 12 mph as I needed only very brief stops to eat and stretch.  I'll keep that in mind when I plan my next RUSA effort.

All in all, a good day. The bike worked well. I cruised along Rucker Rd and chatted with God about the things on my mind and the folks whose situations are concern for me. That was time very well spent. All wool all the time was the order of the day. Swobo tee under an Ibex L/S jersey above, wool boxers, Jonesware shorts and wooly warm tights below. Fox River sox and a Riv cap, along with Giro wool blend gloves. Addidas Samba leather soccer shoes kept the feet cozy.

Proof I was out there today:

And a Saluki level view of the typical scenery we went by.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

12th Month already?

December 1 has made its sneaky way onto the calendar. Where did the days go? In like manner, where did my enthusiasm for riding and exercise go? I'm not sure if this is just a stouter dose of my frequent November blues (I felt it coming on stronger this year than in several recent ones) or the effects of a persistent infection I now know is related to a tooth which is soon to be extracted, or if I'm just too close to 60 years old to be as sprightly as I once was, or if that "plant-strong" diet that Rip Esselstyn extols ( ) lacks what my body needs to run on. In other words, MEAT and MILK :).

I'm still riding some, but no longer have any hope of being able to keep pace with my friends. I like to be on a bike though and that's good. I rode Last week both on Thursday and Friday. Thursday was a solo run with some measured pace but steep hill climbing. I enjoyed it very much. Even when my rear derailler started jumping into taller gears as I was straining up a 12% grade!  I pulled off and whipped out a tool kit to restore some "gription" to the friction shifter, and all was well. I did a 40 ish mile ride with the pals in Friday and while they loafed along, I was really straining. No core engine power there right now. A pretty day to be out, but less enjoyable from the sense of trying to stay afloat, if you know what I mean.

I was blessed with the opportunity to preach a sermon last Sunday. (email me if you want the video link) I got as much or more from the prep as the congregation did, I'm pretty sure. I was emotionally spent afterwards, and the weather was wet, so no ride. It was good to force myself to remember who is in control of events and that things happen either by His active will or by His consent. It can be very sobering to consider all the needs in teh world today, or even just some of the ones closer by. I've been praying for some friends of late and some people I don't really even know well, but whose lives have become important to me. Praying for others has a way of making them and what they face important. We shouldn't be afraid to feel hurt for the pain of others. It's better by far than nameless, faceless statistics. My current prayer partners include a woman recovering from breast cancer chemo/surgery, a woman striving to get well two full years after a leukemia diagnosis, a wonderful penpal who has just written me to say his wife has stage 4 cancer, a couple from back home in FL who are trying to adopt children, a CO cyclist friend who spilled on a mountain side downhill ride and nearly died, and still faces lots of recovery work, a local cycling friend I've just learned has cancer, and there are several others. I'm missing my friend Tom who died the same weekend that my son was married, from a lung infection that I still don't know the details of. I hadn't thought of him for a few weeks and then bam. There he was again.

Work has been stressful. 3 years of lean times will do that. Hopefully, that will improve, and we'll all dig into new challenges and feel reinvigorated. For now, some folks there are really getting under my skin. The reverse is probably true as well.

Hope to enjoy some rides this weekend. Will bring the camera and at least post some new pictures. 


Blog Archive

The Pace Line