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

Saturday, December 29, 2012

We Wish You a Merry Christmas...

After not riding much this month, here we are on Christmas vacation in Florida. I wanted to come down to see family and friends and we have been able to do that. A highlight was to be a ride on the Withlachoochee Trail with Ruth and Stan, but the weather would not cooperate. Stan and I spent some time in his garage after our lunch, looking at and talking about bikes, but not riding them. He wants to upgrade from his entry level TREK 7100, and we kicked ideas around. Not surprisingly, steel was mentioned here and there. :)

I did get to take a few solo rides from our hotel on Sunday and Monday. First across Brandon and then looping down to Riverview and back following a local's MapMyRide route. Then, a ride up through Port Tampa and through Ybor City that I put together from memory. Both were good outings. On Thursday, I did a longer ride, up to Zephyrhills and then down Morris Bridge Road to Tampa, and back around to Brandon. 58 flat miles featuring a 26 mile pull dead into the wind. Mostly at my back on the return though. Plenty of birds to see on these outings. Storks, cranes, herons, egrets, ospreys, coots, ducks and vultures, all sizable and easily recognized not to mention all the smaller songbirds as well as more unusual sightings of shrike, kingfisher and woodpecker. This shot has an ibis, a roseate spoonbill and a wood stork for example. I paused climbing an overpass on Causeway Blvd to snap this picture.

I spent time with people really from Sharon's past this week, but who I now can call my friends too. That was really nice. We actually made preliminary plans to travel next summer with Ruth and Stan to Niagara and Toronto. It's not a "bike" trip, but I bet I can rent one up there..

Yesterday was the only day I rode with company this week. Collin (who grew up on Sharon's street years ago) and I have been Facebook pals but never met before. He rides all the time, and so we did about 30 miles of the Pinellas Trail together. We crossing a mangrove estuary here.

Someone fishing in a boat down below us caught me with a line cast. I felt it on my pants but broke the line easily. When I got back to the hotel, I saw about 10' of line wrapped around the left pedal and left side of the bottom bracket. Glad he didn't "hook" me!

Christmas was good. We went out Christmas Eve with Alisha, Alex and Kael and drove though a city light display in a park. One of those deals where they charge you by the carload. Then on Christmas day, we gathered at my in-law's and relaxed, opened packages and visited. Dinner was an early affair and very delicious. Everyone seemed pleased with Santa's work, which was also good. Sharon gave me a couple of merino jerseys and a Park MT-1 tool for the saddle bag. Wonder how she knew I'd like that stuff? :)

After yesterday's trail ride, Sharon and Kael (who were at Great-Great Aunt Betty's while Collin & I pedaled) picked me up and we stopped at Lake Seminole Park. It was overcast and cooling, but still not bad. Kael wanted to rent a pedal boat for "an adventure" but the rental booth was closed. It was also $30 to rent! He enjoyed the playground anyway and Sharon read/did Sudoku on a bench by the water. Here Kael shows a good upright riding position.

Today is our final day in FL. Alex and I are due to take kael to MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry) and then Sharon & I are meeting other friends in Lakeland for dinner tonight. Tomorrow we head back to Prattville.  I end the year with just shy of 3600 miles, about average, and with an avg pace of 13.9. I know, sounds slow. It's within 1 mph of my riding for several years so I'm not getting hung up on it. Just going to keep riding as far and at the speed that my body is comfortable going. I have enough bikes/tires/saddles/spare parts to get to the finish line I am certain. Enjoying the journey, keeping it new and fun and fresh in attitude is what my plan for 2013 and forward is. Passing this little guy at 14 mph was probably more enjoyable than it would have been at 20.  I got a better look anyway.

Tentative plans for a New Year's Day ride are already afoot.  I hope everyone enjoyed a Merry Christmas, and those who want to get back to riding (and Dove, I am especially thinking of you here) get to do so in 2013. Even if you have to start slow like me. There's room for some company here in the back!  Happy New Year to all, and as Dickens has Tiny Tim say in "Scrooge,"  "God bless us, everyone!"

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Long, Long Time Ago, I Can Still Remember...

It's official today. I'll be 60 next year.  I suppose it's always been true that I'll be 60 in 2013 but today I turn 59 so that makes it "official" for me. The time has surely melted by in so many ways. On the one hand, it truly seems like another lifetime when I would deliberately get "lost" with friends in the woods outside of Smithtown, NY just to see if we could find our way out again. On the other hand, just last week, our son was propelling his Fred Flintstone toy car down our driveway while wearing only pullups, right? Now he has a 6 year old of his own who is as charming and cute as all get out.

I keep a lot of records. Old report cards from grade school, Bar Mitzvah certificate, Baptismal record, Military Records jacket. It was 30 years ago this month that I left the Army reserve in fact. I also record all my cycling outings. I started to ride in 2001, following a scouting hike in the Green Mountains of VT that demonstrated to me how soft and flubbery I had become. While the records from the first few years were lost in a computer changeover somewhere along the way, I do have rides from 2004 to now in a spreadsheet. Starting at 1,500 mi per year, it's worked up to 3,000, - 4,000 miles as time and circumstances allow. The total for 2012 is currently 3,300 and if December is average, the final tally will be about 3,500. There are 5 bikes of mine in our garage. FIVE.  One new year resolution is to sell the mountain bike at least. (Every time I take it to the Swayback Trail, I end up on my back looking at the sky with the bike on top of me. And blood is usually involved.) I really enjoy the 4 road bikes. Only one came to me new. A Rivendell Rambouillet in 2007. This is a Brevet, or road sport bike. I've decked it out in a couple of styles and currently it has strong wheels and fat tires and is sort of an all arounder bike. It rides on old fashioned 26" wheels. After it came and I was so pleased with it, I picked up a used Rivendell Saluki touring bike. It runs on 650B wheels, which are smaller than most adult bike wheels and allow for larger tires. They're technically still in the 26" family of wheels. Next (in 2008) was a late 70s or early 80s (The serial # is a 79xxx series) Nashbar "Universal Japanese Bicycle" or UJB. Before becoming part of a larger conglomerate, Nashbar was a small outfit operated by Arnie Nashbar and he imported some very nice brazed frames from Japan back when the dollar bought a lot of yen. My bike was made by Maruishi and is butted chome moly and fully lugged with Shimano dropouts. Originally a criterium racer, a prior owner set it up for 650B and put mustache handlebars on it. I changed the crankset to a compact double and put on a Brooks leather saddle and even fatter tires. It's the bike I use for hill training drills on Tues/Thurs nights. It handles great and is fast. Finally, the last bike to arrive (in 2009) was a 1995 Rivendell prototype for their "Road" model, which preceded the more famous "Road Standard."  It came as a frame and fork only and I built it up from scratch, again using 650B size wheels. This bike got new paint a year ago and is my favorite, getting most of the annual miles. Before settling on the current stable of bikes, I've had and passed along: Trek Navigator, Fuji Touring, Univega Viva, Trek 560, Waterford 1100. KHS Flite 800. All were either too big, or just the wrong set up for me.

Regardless of which bike I'm on, I'm slowing down some. Where my average pace for the year was 15.2 back in 2006, it's 13.9 this year. I remember when I first came to Prattville and lived in an apartment, I'd go out and ride over 16 avg many times. My legs are still strong, it's my engine (cardio) that's slowing a little. I suppose I shouldn't whine for the lack of 1.3 mph in pace, right? It does mean that I often ride by myself though, even on a group ride. Most of the people who ride at my pace are not interested in going as far as I like to ride. Most of the people who like the distances I do ride them faster.  The good news is that I like to ride, whether by myself or with company! It's all good. Yesterday's ride was a great example. We did a 52 mile loop and the outbound section was mostly uphill and into a very stiff wind. I can settle in at 10-11 mph and crank away steadily. The other guys can do 13 - 14 with no problem. That leads to this:


The guys are playing the "Where is Bruce?" game, waiting for me to arrive. They sailed past the turn on CR 49 which was on the route map and went up 2 or 3 miles to CR 20.  I had made the turn as mapped and actually got ahead of them. We coordinated by cell phones and met up at a store further ahead. And yes, that is a Mountain Bike in the lead group. Neil is as quick on it as most riders are on a road bike. He hopes Santa brings him a Specialized Roubaix. Hoo boy. Can I say I knew him "when?"

We did rally up at most of the turns and of course the stores.  Here we are at one:

Sharon says that Joe, Neil and I appear to be standing in a ditch, compared to Frank, Robert and Steve. It was the 1st tryout btw for the new-to-me Ibex Breakaway jacket. Got it from another rider who bought it but didn't like it. Worked well for me, over a long sleeve merino base layer. It was 1/3 of the price of a new one and it was near new condition. Score! When we left it was 39F and I went all wool. No issues, even as it warmed to 50 by the end of the ride.

We revisted "Larry's Ride," named for a buddy who came along with us while attending a class at nearby Maxwell AFB. A good guy and a good rider, he returned home to ME and this was our final route together last summer. Steve (in the red jersey) was our new guy this go round, and you can see from his slim shape that he was already fit when he started, just not a long time cyclist. We hope to fix that. Steve scored a great buy on a TREK 1420 (?) aluminum framed bike from around 1990. Down tube shifters and early Shimano 105 running gear. It sounds really good and doesn't look like the former owner rode it often. Steve is still getting the hang of it though. Coming over the tracks on CR 21, I saw the group stopped by the roadside and asked what was up. Seems Steve was getting a good look at which gear he was in instead of a good look at the road. He ran off on the shoulder and spilled. "You got a First Aid kit in that saddle bag?" they asked me. I have the kitchen sink in that saddle bag so of course I have a first aid kit.

After Dr. Frank got most of the red stuff cleaned up and bandage on, Steve did a little test ride on his bike, and promptly pedaled right off the road and onto the grass again!  Gotta work on his directional control. Also how to feel the gears if you're using a DT shifter.

It was a good ride, albeit a slow one. I'd been having some ankle and knee pains and went back to un clipped riding which cleared the pains up. I also stayed within myself and spent most of the ride looking up at the lovely fall day, instead of down at the road in front of me or worse, at the Garmin. The leaves are past prime, but there was still plenty of color in the brilliant sunshine. This week I also took off some Grand Bois Cypres tires and put Maxy Fastys back on. Liked them much better, especially on rough stuff. 50 - 55lbs of air is all you need in them. Good to see Joe again. He's keeping the weight off and riding very well. Robert and Frank are great riding companions and we all missed Max who was home putting up Christmas decorations.  Would have been nice to have Larry along too, but it was a long trip to get here from Portland! On any ride, I think in terms of "is my pace fast enough not to DQ on a Brevet?" Yes, even with my snail's pace, waiting for the wrong turners at the Old Kingston store (and talking with the owner about his failed run for county office, as well as GA vs GA Tech on TV) and waiting while Frank doctored Steve's bloody fingers, I was under the RUSA time limit for a ride of this length. There may be hope for me yet :)


Saturday, November 17, 2012

November Already?

After whining about not riding last month, I was surprised to tally up the month's saddle time and discover that it was the most miles ridden in any October, ever. Just goes to show I have no sense of how much I'm riding.

Last Saturday, a few of us met in Pintlala, south of Montgomery and did 45 miles. I put cleats on the Shimano MTB shoes and gave them a try. They're a size too large and allow ample space for thick wool socks with plenty of air insulation. To be honest, I like the Keen sandals better. They were okay, but not worth the extra weight. They are also thinner soled than the sandals and I ended up with sore backs of my knees from the saddle being too tall with them. The ride itself was fine. Very pretty and low traffic. We had a new rider, from the Netherlands. Willemin is her name and she is slim and lithe and of course really fast. She is also pleasant company, when I caught up with her at the store stops, but she doesn't like dogs running out to greet us. There were few dogs and those that appeared were defended by the other riders. It was the last weekend for really pretty foliage, and I'm happy to have had the ride.

Today we made a grand tour around Montgomery. Starting from Prattville, we went south to Hope Hull, then east to Taylor Road and north to the EastChase shops where we stopped for lunch at Panera bread. The wind was tough today and I slowed down quite a bit as we headed into it. It moved of course as the Sun shifted in the sky. So, we had tailwinds for almost none of the time and headwinds or sidewinds for almost all of the time.

I saw that the temps were going to range from 40 - 60 during the ride, so I dressed out with Rivendell MUSA riding pants, thick wool socks in Keens down below and a thin merino Tee under a Woolistic merino L/S jersey above. Long finger MTB summer gloves, a wool cap (Synaptic Cycles) and I was good to go. The other guys all had jackets and booties and stuff and had to stop and do equipment removal and rearrangement as the temps warmed. I was fine all day as it was. My motto is "If I can't be fast, at least I can be comfortable." (Think Red Green here, minus the duct tape)

We ended up with 65 miles and my average was just 13 mph. I purposed to stay "within" myself and not get exhausted into the very brisk wind. That was my undoing on the 300K last year. Since the ride was advertised at 13 - 15 avg pace range, I managed it, just barely. I was easily the slowest there, but we all seemed to enjoy the outing equally. We stopped at the MMS store in East Montgomery and said hi to the crew. The shopping center they inhabit would make a suitable start/finish for a Tweed Ride, which could wind through the Sturbridge neighborhood across Vaughn Rd. I'm thinking maybe two Saturday's from now.  Lunch was at Panera Bread and very enjoyable. They had ice coffee which I LOVE.  Max went next store to 5 Guys burgers and came back with a steer on a bun and a bag of french fries so greasy that the bag went "thud" every time we set it down. After swiping his fries of course. Here are Rick and Frank in line for lunch.

It was a fun ride and I'm glad we went.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

2012 Glassner Club Century

The Montgomery Bike Club presents it's annual century ride in the Fall. It's quite an undertaking to orchestrate and the folks who manage it usually do so for several years before being ready to hand it off to someone else. When I first joined the club in 2004, Bilee and Patty were the honchos, then it was Michelle and Gary and then it was no one. Last year no one was willing or able to step up and oversee, so there was no ride. This year, Robert and Bonnie volunteered and did a very commendable job of coordinating all the behind the scenes work as well as moving into new areas of publicity. Robert was on local TV in his club jersey, and interviewed on local radio as well.

The date had to be moved because of calendar conflicts Bonnie had so we fell on the same weekend as both the prestigious 6 Gap Century in Dahlonega GA and the Johnny Ray Century in Opelika Al. Next year, our ride will not conflict with those, or any other local outings that I am aware of. Our traditional date had been Labor Day weekend, but moving it later in the month sure made for nicer (cooler) temps. Almost 200 registered to ride and slightly less came out and did it. I think 188 was the tally. I forget.  Our former event chiefs all pitched in and lent a hand. Both with advice and actual physical labor. Many new volunteers stepped up to help as well. Our Prattville Area Cycling Enthusiasts manned a rest stop 37 miles into the course, just after the stiffest climb on the course. Naturally our theme was a red polka dot "King of The Mountains" motif.

Rae, Max, Robert and Alex helped me set up, serve, and take down. The local CB radio club also was there and pitched in.  Our shift was 9:00 - 1:00 but we got there about 7:00 to grab some breakfast with the riders, get our stuff and head out to the rest stop. By about 12:30, they told us all riders were through so we knocked it down, and went over to see if the last rest stop needed any help. Michelle and Phillip had a drug test theme going and BEER. (For workers, not riders) Maybe next year we'll do croissants... They also had this refugee from some ride in France: (The guy with the red horns)

Good ride, good day and fun to volunteer. Hopefully word will get out and bring more pedalers our way in 2013.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Bike To The Battlefield

A year or two ago, the AL and MS chapters of the National MS Society merged and we Alabamians had the annual Mississippi ride added to our list of options. I've been to both AL venues multiple times so I decided to "go west young man" and drive over to Jackson MS for this one. They call it "Bike To The Battlefield" but the only cannons I saw were gracing the front lawn of the Hampton Inn when we pedaled into Vicksburg on Saturday afternoon.  It's just 32 miles from our start at Baptist Health in Clinton (outside of Jackson) to the Hampton. If you take US 80 straight over. It's a hair shy of 80 miles if you find every washboard, rutted out and pavement gapped back road to either side. Which is what we did. :)

I left work after lunch on Friday and drove (4+ hrs) to Jackson without a problem. Who knew that your phone works like GPS? Not me, until a coworker showed me earlier in the day. Even plugged in to my dash though, it wears down the phone battery quickly. I also could not switch between a playlist, a phone call, and the GPS well. Bear in mind that I am just now getting the hang of a handsfree corded phone set. Forget Bluetooth for at least 5 years. I'd better just get a regular GPS and use it.

I went over to the early check in for the ride and picked up my packet. A little shy of the donation level for a free jersey this year, I'd kicked in the extra myself on Thursday. This would be my 10th year straight and I wanted the memento. The jersey is a nice design, and they gave me a 10th anniversary pin as well. I rode with it attached to the saddlebag over the weekend.  It was good to shake hands with some of the event staff I'd met before, and meet new ones. All of the staffers were great and this is certainly a good event to take part in. There was a Mexican place on the way back to my hotel and I stopped there for dinner. It was outstanding, with several veggie offerings.

It was cold and overcast on Saturday morning, and breezy. When I got up, I checked the local weather on my Kindle and saw 67 degrees. Bzzzzz. When you do not refresh the display.....  SO, it was like 53 and I was under dressed. I pulled a wind jacket on over the 2003 DOW team jersey from year 1 of my rides, and hoped it would get warmer. No worries, the first stiff climb got sweat going.

The ONLY guy I recognized from a prior ride ("Hey, I know you! We rode all day in the rain in Moorseville! he shouted at me) was going to ride "slow" so I offered to tootle along in the back together. That lasted a mile, and he was gone. Cyclists are notorious liars when they talk about how slow they're going to be, or how bad on the hills they are. I don't think it's intentional, but there you go. I was by myself for a while, then started to pass a number of riders on the hills. We'd leapfrog when they came by me on the flats. Maybe 10 or 15 miles out, a nice gal who was doing just that and I decided to sort of stay together. She had a brake problem and I was able to fix it, so we started to talk some. Her name is Jody and she works on an offshore oil rig. "I'm not a girlie girl" she said. I guess not in that line of work. I liked her and we yakked all the way to the end.  Here we are at a rest stop.

 I also met Al and Regina and one or two other folks. We had trouble staying together though. These folks are like 3-5 mph uphills and 17 on the flats while I am 8-10 uphill and 14 on the flats. Particularly THESE flats. The roads were VERY rough. Had I known this, I would have put 37mm tires on the bike instead of the 28s I came with. The bike was fine though. Everything worked despite being bounced around a lot. A steel frame and leather saddle absorbs much road buzz.

Rest stops were spaced pretty well and lunch came at about noon. The volunteers were super, and SAG was always around for those who needed it. I  saw several bikes drop out from broken spokes and other maladies along the way. It got a little warmer during the day and the jacket finally came off for the last 20 miles or so. I had a wool base tee on and it was enough. The back roads between Jackson and Vicksburg were not too pretty, and there was plenty of climb. The hardest was a mile section at about 10% grade. Over rough roads. Vicksburg was much prettier with large antebellum homes and pretty fields. We ended the day on a looongggg 4% climb and were happy to see the hotel when we pulled in at 3:30. Great room,  HOT SHOWERS!!, nice place and we were fed a filling pasta dinner. OUTSIDE in the cold. Brrrrrrr. Obviously planned before the weather turned, and shortened so we didn't need to stay out overlong.  Going to sleep was not difficult.

I was up early Sunday and enjoyed the usual coffee ritual. CAREFULLY eyeballing the actual weather conditions, I wore a long sleeve wool baselayer and tights along with thick wool socks and full finger wool  gloves. None of it came off while riding. Not a stitch. It was colder and windier on Sunday than the day prior. Good news: delightful roads. Bad news: tougher headwinds most of the day. I looked for Jody at breakfast and didn't see her. Obviously she had enough of dragging along in the back with me. Some tall skinny whippet looking dude shared a toaster with me, and later they told me, "Hey, he's from Montgomery too."  We never did actually meet, but his name is Craig. I sat alone with my bagel and apple butter, when a gal asked if the next seat was taken. Her name is Lenise and she's a full time nursing student from Hattiesburg. She has a lovely Trek Madone, but is a newish rider. The hills on Saturday were tough for her, but she finished. We rode together from the start and I noticed that she never used her small chainring (compact double) so following that suggestion and getting her cadence up from about 46 to 72, she seemed happier on the hills. Lenise was afraid she was slowing me down, but the social part of riding is what I love. Also, since I wasn't having to work hard, I was sitting up IN A HEADWIND and really enjoying looking around at deer, hawks, cows, whatever. Much prettier scenery on day 2 and more than 1/2 the day was spent on the Natchez Trace. I definitely would like to do more of that. Eventually, Lenice was walking up 2% grades and we parted company, as a SAG vehicle stayed with her and followed her all the way in. I would have waited at the end for her, had I not been facing the 4 1/2hr drive home. She was determined to finish and I am sure she did. She has gotten serious about diet and exercise and is enjoying the feeling of being able to do a lot more than before.

At the last rest stop, Robin Rae, ( our fearless leader, mentioned that SAG service was very popular. Many folks had enough of the headwinds on the Trace, or had mechanicals, or just had pedaled as many miles as they cared to. I pulled in to the finish at the same time as the day before, and was fresh and ready for more. No problem!

The MS Society will post pictures eventually and I'll link them here. (Jody & Lenise:  I didn't ride with a camera this trip.Since Sharon's June surgery (and then August 2d surgery) my riding has been a little less, so I was unsure how back to back long rides would go. They went fine and I'm pumped about doing more. Just at my relaxed pace, that's all. It's hard to believe that 10 years ago a very kind rider in Midland MI invited me on my 1st MS 150. "Ride 150 miles? You're nuts!" was my reply, or close to it. I emailed Ed this week to express my appreciation for that invite and to wish him and his family well. Ed sent back a note that he was excited that I'm still plugging away at it. There are many good causes out there, and none of us can work for all of them. But all of us can do something, and raise our children to understand that doing for others is a GOOD thing that also makes us feel good. Sharon and I have worked on Relay For Life and I do the MSBike. I thought 10 years might be all for me, time to find something new. But, ahhh, maybe not :)


 And finally this great shot of Jody expressing our common feeling about finishing the ride and working to finish the fight against MS.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Losing Time

Although I've caught up on a few pen and ink letters which needed answering in the past week, this blog has been unattended for over a month now. Rain is falling outside my window, and it looks like I may have a little time to work on a post, so here goes.

I used to wonder if anyone reads these, and then I got this unexpected email last November from a good, strong local rider:

"Thanks, Bruce. I'm riding vicariously through your posts these days, so keep 'em up. And thanks for the prayers.   Darryl"

I'd heard that he was battling cancer and dropped him a note and this was his answer. We lost Darryl a couple of weeks ago, about a year after we lost Tom to an as yet unknown to me respiratory ailment.

I told someone just last week, "I'll be 60 next year," and boy that sounds old. Most people guess my age a few years younger than I am, but as my face gets older looking, that will stop too. I'm coming to a part of my life's route where I'm more aware of losing my "riding buddies" (both those who pedal and those who don't) and sensing that my own pace on the bike is slowing down as well. Both of these are the normal ways of a man, and no different than what everyone else runs up against at some time in life. But right now, it's me running up against it in my own life. The men in my family have not been long lived. My dad died at 67, (Mon at 64.) his brothers at 45 and 54 if I recall correctly. Mom's brother passed away at about 62.  None of these people ate or exercised in a healthy way. My hope is that a return to exercise 10 years ago and decently healthy eating, never smoking or use of excess alcohol will allow me to ride the roads fairly strong until just up to the end. That's my hope anyway.

When I'm called, I am 100% ready to go. The anti-God crowd can try and quibble all around the edges of faith. Did God really create the universe? What about dinosaurs?  Why believe in magic when you can trust science instead? Did God really say you'll die if you eat that fruit? Liberals in general and atheists in particular sneer down their noses at the low brow lack of intellect they assume pervades believers. They're also too lazy to read history. While God treats all persons equally as His creation and shows no partiality based on individual merit (Romans 2:11), there have been plenty of astonishingly brilliant people of faith including many who were great scientists and mathematicians. The high brow and the low brow are all saved from the baggage that appertains to sin the same way I am. By grace through faith. It is a gift and not by working for it. (Genesis 15:6, Ephesians 2:8,9) There is such comfort in knowing that a good place for my soul is prepared. I'm very much excited about that destination, despite apprehension over the dying process necessary to leave this imperfect body behind. Seeing people you know dying brings it into sharp focus for sure.

Segue to rides!  Despite all that has been going on, I've logged about 400 miles since the last post. The local after work week night rides have been a lot of fun and there have some enjoyable Saturday rides too. Most Sundays have had an afternoon social outing as well.

Last Saturday, we planned a 78 miler to end with lunch at a local burger place, Joe Mama's. I went out a little fast and started to gush sweat like a faucet. Just like in Rick Smith's Yehuda Moon comic strip (I am a paid subscriber).
I was clicking along fast until mile 38 when I started to feel weaker. By mile 48 I decided to ask my son who lives a block off the route at that point to give me a lift to the cars. :)  It worked out fine as he needed my help and large cargo ability to carry home a bed frame and headboard purchase. Despite crawling up the last hills and cramped legs, I was at my usual overall average, which means I went out to fast. There were opportunities for breaks though. Like here in Slapout where Chris spent some time changing a flat tube, which went flat so he used a 3rd tube. A stop at the bike shop for resupply was added to the route plan as a result.

Most of the time we enjoyed the lovely rolling roads that surround us. New riders Rae and Neil had a good time and will be back. Neil is a terror on his mountain bike. No trouble at all staying with or passing the roadies. Yikes. You can see it at left in the picture above. Here we are rolling right along.

Anyway, despite my shortcomings on this ride, I felt fine the next day and realized that if I would just ignore everyone else when they speed off and plod along at MY pace, long rides would be no problem. If only! Just need to stop worrying about losing time. Maybe just enjoy it more?

No rides scheduled for me this week, as Sharon is recovering from knee replacement #2. She's out of knees to exchange so this should be it for a little while. Looking forward to hitting the roads again soon though.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Back to Fat Girls BBQ

About once each summer, we ride over to Billingsly AL which is known mostly as a pit stop on the way to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Across the street from a Texaco convenience store is a small squarish building with a sign telling you that proprietors are not Vogue model slim. The owners are friendly and the food is good, so repeat visits are fine. It's a 70 mile round trip from Spinners Park downtown, but Robert asked to start at Baptist Health so that pushed it to 80. We left later than a normal Saturday ride, 8:30, so that we would arrive at lunch time. As it happened, we got there at 11:30 so lunch was timed right. It got us back later than we would like though.

Robert, Rick, Ray, Frank and Max started out with me, and we followed a slightly less demanding than usual climb to Posey Crossroads, our 1st store stop. It was demanding enough to change Rick's mind about doing the ride though. He told us to continue on but was reversing field and heading back home. The day started with overcast and humid weather but the Sun came out while we were enjoying the delightful gentle up grade on CR 21. Not to far out from Billingsly, Max had a rear flat and we pulled over to change it. Max carries at least two if not more CO2 units. "Does anyone have a frame pump?" was how he addressed the situation however. My pump turned out to have a sticking lock lever, but it worked after a while. At Frank's urging, a CO2 cannister was used and my pump topped it off, to replace the gas Max sprayed everywhere but in the tube. Ray held the bike while Max worked. At some point in the day, we finished and moved on.  We climbed a stiff hill up CR 37 and earned our reward!

Frank has his KOM jersey on and he earned it too. I debated on what and how much to eat, choosing a baked potato topped with chili. I salted it well too. Lunch took about an hour and then we went to the C-store and refilled our backpack reservoirs and bottles. Finally, we hit the road and wondered if any of the wandering rain cells we could see would come our way. At our return leg store stop in Old Kingston, Robert was starting to feel some cramps and he called to see about a lift back. No answer, so he saddled up and rode some more. It was then that our rain questions were answered as we ran up on a purple wall of water, blowing at us horizontally. It felt good temperature wise, but we were glad to be through it when we came out of it about 4 miles later. At a store under renovation but not yet open, we regrouped to wipe off our glasses, etc. Robert tried the phone again and found success this time. From there it was very familiar territory and we just pedaled on in. About 4,500' of climb in total, some of it in the 14% range, but most in the 4% - 9% bracket.

The weather forecast had been for 70% chance of showers and the early radar showed some red stuff to the north. I texted Max and Frank and they voted to go for it and I'm glad we did. I gave up on the ride a few weeks ago about 6 miles shy of the finish, and that cast doubt in my mind about whether I could ride anymore. I know, silly. I was never very tired at any time yesterday on the ride and did not need a nap when I got home. My only issue was leg cramps starting just after the Old Kingston store stop, but I pedaled trough them, slowing down some when I needed to, and they never locked up on me. I hydrated okay, but forgot to add some salt. Will do that next time.

I thought about an online acquaintance who passed away this week. A randonneur from Seattle who lost a battle with cancer. Would have enjoyed meeting and riding with him. He liked steel bikes and leather saddles.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

With apology to Johnathan Sebastian...

A lyric from "What a day for a daydream" goes, "and fall on my face on somebody's new mowed lawn." Which is kind of how today's ride shaped up. But first, a recap of the week!

Sharon has up and down days, but the march is generally forward with the new knee. The most problematic items left are not knee related. Something in her medications seems to be making it very hard for her to sleep. After a day or two of little or no rest, she is not a happy camper. The other issues is that serious deep tissue bruise caused by the hospital bed (specifically the metal position adjusting mechanism which the worn out mattress pad did not properly cover). It seems to be shrinking very slowly. She brought it up when they called to get her satisfaction survey, but I wonder if the info will get the weight it deserves. Her needs are not always regular and predictable so I don't always assume I can make a ride. Of course, weather chimes in too. Tuesday, we had an inch of the wet stuff. Between the two, I didn't make either afternoon ride this week. That was more than made up for though by being off Wednesday and getting in a holiday ride in the morning.

We rode some easy hills, arrived downtown in time, and took a place in the city parade as part of the Dept of Leisure Services. We chatted up the local BMX track owner, various other local worthies and one guy wearing a old time style sandwich board who hoped to be voted in as a worthy (mayor). Tough to read the BIC pen on the signs, so I asked him what his platform consisted of. "Sunday liquor sales!" Well alrighty then.

 Here we all (riders. no sign wearing mayoral candidates) are in a picture taken by a city employee.

Prattville Area Cycling Enthusiasts

I know. That is not a wool jersey, but in keeping with the theme of the day, I had to pull out an old US Postal team shirt. Funny, it was so "Fred" when Lance was winning on that squad, but it was just fine on July 4th this year. The shorts and socks are wool. And while we're at it, yes that is a British Rapha hat. Fortunately, the Union Jack and Old Glory share colorways.

After the parade, we kept on trucking and rode some more miles. It was a really good day.

The plan for today was to get a 6:30 start and do a 1/2 century. Max and I would ride to/from home and make it a metric. I wanted to get back to a pretty piece of road in NW Elmore county that we haven't ridden in a while, Tram Rd. So, of course, it was raining this morning. Not being in Seattle or Portland, Gump riders (The Gump is a local nickname for Montgomery) do not willingly start out in rain. Ever. Sooo, I just posted a   "let's wait a bit and ride between 8:00 and 8:30" note. The storm moved through and Max, new rider Kim (visiting parents from Atlanta), Lola, and I took off in a light sprinkle and heavy overcast. I was in all wool so I didn't mind being a little wet. I texted Marcia, who rode from her place to the 1st store stop in Elmore and met us there. Lola decided that her engine was in low gear today and decided to about face and head back. So net gain of zero on that one.

We enjoyed a low traffic, if cloudy and sprinkly ride up to store # 2 in Slapout. Just about 1/2 a mile prior, a dog trotted out from his yard and ran along side us. Still chomping on his breakfast while running. He ran all the way to the store. We parked our bikes and ignored him. We went in and bought stuff, used the facilities and took our usual break. One elderly lady opened the front door and in trotted the dog.  Somehow they tossed him back out. Some kind of lab-ish, pit bull - ish mix and not very young looking. We left the store and headed north to Jordan lake. You guessed it, our 4 legged peloton member was still running alongside us. Someone yelled at him from a roadside business, "Hey Duke!, Go home!!"  Apparently, Duke is not unknown in Slapout, AL. Duke not only did not go home, Duke kept pace with us. a couple of miles up teh road, another dog appeared, and Duke started to criss cross the road a little. On one of these the moron dog  STOPPED right on front of me. That's when I picked the wet grass to right over the coarse chip seal under me as a landing spot. (fell on my face in somebody's new mowed lawn. Not literally of course.) I did the tuck and roll correctly, and nothing on me or the bike was damaged. I dropped the chain and had some wet dirt stuck to me, but that was it. I YELLED at Duke and told him to go home. We all know how effective that was. Anyway, with a good downhill ahead, we finally lost Duke when we got to the lake. I bet he was sad to see us go. We may have been the most interesting thing to cross his radar in a while.

We made the turn on to Tram and it was peaceful as I remembered from our last visit. Mostly downhill, there was just one good up. That was all Marcia needed to know her motor was out of gas. She walked up the hill and asked me exactly where were we, so she could get her husband to meet us and give her a lift back. She remounted and kept pedaling and we waited for the ride at a C-store reached in just a couple of miles. Everyone enjoyed chit chat and it was not big deal. Max had a dry rag and we were able to wipe off our water spotted glasses. After seeing Marcia off, Kim, Max and I set back out on the return leg. Kim is young, fit, and fast. You know, runs marathons and stuff. I'm old and slow. But she seemed to enjoy turning the pedals and we hope to hear from her again someday. Max made sure he could see me even when he was ahead. My average for the day was my usual range, and for most of it I felt really strong. We made it back to the start in good order and without mishap. I had an avg of 14 mph and we climbed 1,948' Almost all in the last 10 - 12 miles. I never did use my granny either. I took a triple just to be sure I had one if needed, but the compact double would have worked fine too. 34 instead of a 36 for the climbing ring too.

So, a good ride in wet stuff, and I have a new furry acquaintance to boot.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Things You Learn..

Sharon is having a knee replaced on Monday. We're #2 in the line up, but the doctor wants her there at 5:30 AM anyway. In case #1 is a no go, she's "batter up." In her typical anti-authoritarian way, she announced that we need leave the house no earlier than 5:15 AM, which gets us to the hospital at about 5:45. :) Sharon has two bad shoulders, one bad elbow and two bad knees. At other times, other joints chime in too. It seems to relate to juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and her knees which have been swollen and gimpy for years but have gone up and down in pain and disability took a very fast plunge in the last few months. While both need repair, the doctor only does one at a time. Obviously, she wants the second one done soon, but how her body handles this first one will influence the course of other treatment.

I took her to the pre-op appointment on Friday morning. We were within a minute or two of the time but we sat for about 30 mins in the waiting room and then another 30 or 45 in the exam room. A nurse came in and apologized for the delay, but we were irritated. As she reviewed the details of the case and what to expect procedure wise, she went over Sharon's chart. "You have A+ blood, your numbers are all okay." Let's see now; you're 53 years old, 5' 7" and you weigh____." Hah! For 35+ years, Sharon has successfully kept me in the dark about her weight. I must say that it's not something I'm even remotely curious about, but I had to smile that the secret was out. Actually, she's been losing weight lately so I still don't know the real #. I already knew her height and age though. The doctor was very attentive, serious and when asked by Sharon, he confirmed he is good with power tools. At least the kind needed to saw bones and insert new knees. He prayed with us for the sugery and the recovery. We liked that.

We finished up at the knee guy's and I took her home, warmed up some left overs and headed into work. After work, I prepped the Rivendell Road Standard for a Saturday morning ride. The weekend forecast was for a pretty day to go for a pedal, if warm and humid. Frank, Max, and Ray joined me for a return to Champs BBQ in Wetumpka, a couple of towns over. It's about 70 miles all told, including the scenic loop north of the restaurant. Our pace was lively and we had a great ride over while it was still bearable in temperature. A nice surprise was finishing Weoka Loop and running into Bill and Chris at the Deli/Store. Bill has a Rivendell Carbonomas steel fork in place of the original carbon Salsa model his bike came with. It looks great. Lunch was tasty and while I don't know if they really did, the folks there said they remembered us from past visits.

By the time we finished eating and refilling our water supplies, the Sun was high and hot and there was a heck of a headwind from the south to southeast. It finally helped us some when we turned toward Millbrook, but by then I was getting a little warm with effort. Max stopped for a minor mechanical and I took advantage to catch some shady rest.  I had to do the same thing a few miles out from downtown Millbrook, and finally I decided at the park that calling for a ride home was my best bet. My core temp was too high and I could not get it down. If the rest of the way were flat, I'd have pedaled, but there was no steam left in the engine for the climb, so I cut my ride 6 miles short, and enjoyed it a lot more than if I had really gotten sick. My voice was gone, I was light headed and copious fluids were not helping. It was a great ride until it wasn't anymore though. As Max said, "At least you got a metric." Despite the slower last few miles, I still was decent average pace wise, and time spent with these guys is always good stuff. I learned that you don't always have to ride the full published distance to enjoy your time on a bike.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

I was really pleased to stumble across this picture in a bag of photos that my mom had. Like many of us, she had stashes of pictures that were in bags or boxes and when she died in 1994 I got them because no one else really wanted them. I was looking for a particular picture of my mom for Mother's Day use on FaceBook and the group of photos it was found in also contained this one.
Henry and Howard Herbitter - 1938

This is my grandfather Henry and his youngest son Howard, my dad. It was taken a little ways upstate from NYC in Clinton Corners NY. They summered there in the few years that Henry's hat making business was successful. He was declaring bankruptcy far more often than he was celebrating success over the course of his career. My dad is about 10 in this picture, which would make it circa 1938. Henry died when I was very young, and I only know about him through the recollections of others. I am told he was a severe man, although he looks warm in demeanor here. Dad looks very uncomfortable though, as if he is not accustomed to this side of his father. Dad did not learn much about paternal parenting growing up at home, and I distinctly remember that I wanted to avoid growing up and being like him. And yet, too many times, I have caught myself doing something or saying something just as he would have and regretting it. We were not close when he died in 1996, and I don't know if we could have grown closer given more time. I very much appreciate that my own son loves me and while we will not always agree on issues (he loves to debate, like my dad did, and I do not) we don't let that get in the way of our relationship.
Alex and Alisha and (grandson) Kael surprised me at church today. I was happy to have them sitting next to me. We all came back home afterward and I got to hang around with them before heading out for a Sunday relaxer ride. Alisha needed a nap (as I so often enjoyed at my Mother-in-law's over the years too) and Alex had some pizza. Kael snacked on cheese and then enjoyed the toys his loving Nana keeps handy for him here.
I got in a shorter early ride yesterday, meeting the MMS "C" riders for a 6:00 shove off. Nice people, no big climbs and 31 quick miles. Advertised as a 13 - 15 avg pace group, I will say that I swept the route in back at an avg of 16.3. :)  Then it was back home to mow, dead head hydrangeas, clean up, and meet Ulice at church to head out and distribute some VBS flyers.
Today's bike ride was really nice. Temps in the 80s, and a little breeze. Very sunny. I wore a dri-fit polo shirt and boosucker shorts (bamboo seersucker), and Keen sandals. It doesn't get much more relaxed on a bike. Cindi came with her brand new Felt Z85. Richard got his not long ago and he brought it too. Both of these riders have been coming out on Tuesday and Thursday rides on mountain bikes. They will enjoy their road bikes I am sure. Max and Debbie came and Robert rounded out our group.
Here are the 2 Felts from MMS :
Felt Z 85s

I really stress bike fit and Richard is realizing that his handlebars need to come up. Max and Ray have had success in that area with this gadget:
Delta Cycle Threadless Stem Riser
You put it on your stem and get another 3 1/4" of height available. Cindi's position looks good. It will take some saddle time for her to know what other tweaks she might want.
We pedaled to the Elmore store and had a rest break. We also adjusted Cindi's rear derailler which was clicking audibly. They did not make sure at the shop that the idler pulleys were lined up properly on the cogs. I showed her how to do this and in a minute, it was smooth like a sewing machine. We also talked a little about trimming gearshifts on brifters when you don't get a clean shift (why don't bike shops teach customers to do this? ) Cindi wanted to push on, but Richard and Robert had other things they had to get back for and Max & Debbie were locked in on the shorter ride. Cindi asked my preference, but was willing to go shorter as well. With the kids back home, a shorter ride was better for me and so we all turned back. Good thing that we did because on Rucker Rd, one of her pedals un threaded and came out, taking some of the crankarm threads with it! Max, Robert and I all tried to get it back in, to no avail. So Robert swapped bikes with her and pedaled with one leg, slowly. Max raced on ahead to get a car and come back to get Robert along the way.I asked Cindi for her impression of Robert's Surly Long Haul Trucker, and all she could say was "It's HUGE!"
So, it was an "interesting" ride at any rate. Max and Debbie were steady all the way. And they have their boy/girl colors coordinated too.
Max and Debbie

When I got back home, the kids were still here and I got to do a lap around the block with Kael. He was on the "Kael car" ( ) and I rode my MTB.  It was a good to remember my dad, his dad, and spend time with my son and his son. And pedal some too.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

You can't Escape Politics

Rainy this weekend, and we're not as gung ho here about riding in the wet as they are in say, the Pacific Northwest. We shortened yesterday's planned 75 miles to 30 and got back an hour before any real rain fell, although I was getting spritzed with some droplets just as I reached our subdivision.  13" of it in total fell a few hours south of here in the FL panhandle but we don't expect that much locally.  It's raining right now and a Sunday relaxer ride is not happening. It seemed like a good time to write a little on observations in the news of late and in local doings.

When I was a small boy, our family still attended what they called "Cousins Meetings." Many members were recent arrivals in the USA, refugees from Europe following WW II. Earlier, these informal associations helped new arrivals learn English, find jobs, and generally get plugged in to the new country and new way of living. Prior to these cousins meetings, my ancestors banded together to form groups to handle their funeral arrangements, called burial societies (or "benevolent" associations). New York City at the end of the 19th century had dozens of them. My great-grandfather was a president of one, the Shrentzkers. As near as I can tell, they named themselves after a town in the east central portion of achsen-Anhalt in Germany. This agrees with a genealogy search showing my first ancestor in the US being a Sylvester Herbitter (a mis spelling of the word arbiter - workman) who was a stone mason and listed his country of origin as Germany. The reason for the burial association was that Jews were often excluded from Christian cemeteries. Even in death, they couldn't escape discrimination. This group bought some land in Richmond County NY and in a cemetery named for a hero to Jews of the period, Moritz von Hirsch - a successful businessman who purchased the title "Baron" and was an actual German noble - they were able to provide closure with dignity to our family members who had passed on.

But back to the family meetings of the cousins. They featured lots of good food, and plenty of opportunity to play with cousins my own age. (I saw one of these childhood playmates again after an absence of at least 50 years when Sharon & I visited Washington DC in the Fall of 2010.) They also featured a lot of arguments. My father told me that "where you have two Jews in a room, you have three opinions." That is to say that we are a highly opinionated and very verbal race of people. (And I use race in the sense that Jews are descended from Shem - where the word "Semite" comes form - and more particularly call themselves the people of Eber. "Eberim" the plural translates as "Hebrews" in English. The word "Jew" came much later. Judah was a son of Jacob and his tribe's territory eventually became the southern kingdom of ancient Israel. Judah means "praise God." His mother, Leah, was happy to have him come along.) So, you can imagine that in addition to arguing about everything else, I heard lots of debate on politics. An oft heard refrain, was "but is it good for the Jews?" I suppose that with the impact of the Holocaust in Europe still fresh and unfolding in greater detail, a narrower focus was employed than big picture thinking about what might be best for the melting pot country as a whole. We had a lot of people who came in with little and had very liberal, even openly communist leanings, but others who had been here longer, had some success and wanted to protect what they had earned from the hand of the gov't reaching deep in their pockets to give away to others. A good example of this was my Uncle David. David was a card carrying communist in the 50's (Marx and Trotsky were disaffected Jews. Their success in Russia attracted other Jews looking for a voice on the world stage, but who didn't think enough about the implications of what they were getting involved with)

A half century later, not much has changed. The country is still full of opinions. While my parents and their cousins argued Kennedy vs. Nixon (and in those days it was probably Kennedy who was relatively conservative and Nixon liberal compared to each party's modern day nominees, despite the party tags each wore to the dance) as being better for the Jews or for the country (we were a Kennedy family) today we hear about how to fix the economy, who should pay taxes and how much, are there absolute values in life or does might make right, and so on. The immediacy of information - much of it incorrect or least biased - is not necessarily conducive to high level consideration and response. When anyone who disagrees with you is a "terrorist" or a "vicious racist extremist," meaningful dialogue is difficult. Shouting down your debate opponent is a tactic from human pre-history, but not one that would pass in a high school debate class and not one that helps in real life. I don't know why it is so hard for people to have open and honest discussions about our shared lives on this planet, and any prospects for what might or might not await us at our next stop. I have friends in two areas of interest, pen collecting and bicycle riding. (The third area, church, consists of spiritual family, but no real friends. Not by choice, just the way it turns out) Some of these friends are liberals and some are conservatives and some are of unknown politics to me. I don't find that any of their ideas on politics makes our inky or cycling friendships impossible to maintain. Certainly there are those with which no friendship has or currently can exist.  One cyclist, a PhD chemist is so angry with religion (I suspect this is rooted in her own history, but has mushroomed to application everywhere else) that she closed off all communication because I stupidly (she pointed out that I do not have a PhD) still believe in God. Okay, but I'm not the one who got mad and took her toys home. For the most part, all my friends have been respectful when they disagree and hopefully they will find the same true of me. The chemist is far from the only person in my circle of friends with a doctorate. Most of the doctors I know will readily tell you that some very smart people and some very wise people are found that lack advanced degrees. Lincoln comes to mind to name just one example. You can have an advanced degree or none at all and equally lack common sense. Common Sense  the pamphlet ( T. Paine 1776) made tough concepts clear to an American colonial public by putting ideas on a shelf where readers could grasp them and then letting people of all persuasions apply their own reasoning powers. It was a best seller. And effective.

In the course of my hobbies and interests I find that I am on about a dozen email lists as well as being on several enthusiast pages of FaceBook. I suppose it should surprise me that almost all of the correspondence in all of those lists is pretty conversational and respectful. It caught me by surprise though when someone on one of the above wrote something negative about me this past week. No names were used, but I got the message and in a private email, the author confirmed that it evened us up for a past perceived wrong. Which is too bad actually, because we are both on the same side of the particular question that was under discussion in that email. It's also too bad as it shows how hard it is for all of us to let go of things, even the things we tell people we are over and done with, and to find solutions in living together and move on. Turn the other cheek, walk another mile stuff.

So with local elections coming up, Elaine Wilkes knocked on our door yesterday to hand me a flyer. She's running for city council, district 4 in place of the retiring incumbent. I invited her to sit in a porch chair and tell me what her plans would be on council. She stayed about 10 minutes and shared her views which dealt with changes to trash collection expenses and bond debt structure, then listened to mine, which to your great surprise I am sure, included a need for a more cycling aware and friendly community, with bike lanes and "share the roads" marking. I think we each listened to one another.  I'd like to see other people listen to one another too. Then vote. And if you lose, you lose. That's democracy. It's not the "end of democracy as we know it" if the other candidate/referendum/whatever wins. Roll your sleeves up, get your own Tom Paine and do a better job of persuading others instead of trying so hard to hate them and shout them down. And seriously, if you say you're over something, don't dredge it back up two years later to excuse bad behavior.



Saturday, June 2, 2012

Larry's Ride

Cycling groups, like any other collection of people, experience changes in focus and make up as individuals come and go, or find that their situations have changed or interests have moved on to other areas. Change comes to our little local cycling cadre too. Our proximity to the Air Force education center at Maxwell AFB means that we gain riders from the student body, but lose them when they graduate and move on to the next duty station. My experience with the military types has been that they are almost without exception polite, well mannered and considerate, but they don't ever get close to you. A defense mechanism I am sure, adopted to deal with the inevitable moves and changes of surroundings. There are just two former military members of our riding group that I stay in touch with since they have relocated, and only one of those in a meaningful way. No gripes of course, that's just how it is.

For the past year, Larry, a naval Lt Cmdr, has been riding with us while he completes an advanced course of study in the mostly USAF student body. A good rider when he arrived with a steel framed bike, he has only gotten better and stronger, and 30 lbs leaner. He's also an all around good guy. Larry discovered that Alabama is not the red-neck hillbilly armpit of America that people who have never been here assume it is, and we discovered that not everyone from "down East" is cold like their frosty winters and aloof. Ahh, yep.

Max came up with the suggestion to send him off to ME with a ride and asked me to put together a suitable route. We would start and finish at Max's and follow the ride with a swim in the pool and a pool side BBQ. A triathlon of sorts! We had a delightful day to pedal 50 miles. We rode hills because that is what we always do, but threw in some flat too for some fast, high spirited fun.  Here we are at the start. Our guest of honor is on the right.

Riders at the start














We headed off into the wind and uphill. While I started out leading the pack, it didn't take long for this to be my view:


The Caboose















The riders moved up and back as flats and hills came by so we got the chance to chat with everyone at various times. We heard about Frank and Sandra's Italian vacation, Chris's car purchase plans, and other assorted topics. Ray's bike threw its chain a couple of times, and despite Frank's working on its travel adjustments at store stop #2, Ray continued to de-ring it. Could be wear, or some other adjustment issue. Speaking of store stop # 2, there was a local fish fry going on which was very tempting to my non plant only pals.

The day was lovely. No other word for it. The Rambouillet was perfect to ride on. This week I put in a Velo-Orange bottom bracket that was bought a couple of years ago but never tried. It's very smooth. The stock Sugino crankset (was 48/36/26) now has a 50 tooth large ring and the rear hub sports a SRAM 11-30 cassette which together yields a very wide range of gearing. Here's the man of the hour about to pass me on a high speed flat section:

Larry on his ride














I was pedaling "above my pay grade" and making great time, until my stomach started to hurt and I felt light headed. I slowed down the last 10 -15 miles and needed a break between the last store and the end. I told the others to go on, as I knew the way, but they said, "No, we'll wait too." and just chatted away with one another until I recovered enough to continue. I REALLY like these guys. :) Even with the lagging finish, my moving average was a respectable (for me) 14.2. We climbed some too, of course, but the culprit is that I probably failed to drink enough in the middle of the ride.

When we got to Max's it was poolside party time! Dogs who love to dive in the pool after tossed balls, darling grand daughters, great eats off the grill and good conversation! Max & Debbie even had plenty of veggies I could eat! And vegan kielbasa too! Max is manning the grill, and Debbie had set up the kitchen with all sorts of other good eating items. Their backyard is very pleasant. It was like being on vacation at a resort!

Veggie kabobs






























We didn't set any records today as far as riding goes, but this was one of the best outings we've had. Godspeed to Larry as he heads home soon. He's one group member I do hope we stay in touch with. And best wishes for success at his promotion board next March.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Ride of Silence - 2012

Always the 3rd Wednesday in May, this was the 10th year of the Ride of Silence ( ) a tribute/memorial to cyclists killed while riding the roads the world over. When Roger, our club president asked me for info on how to get permission from the police dept for the ride, I passed along the name and number of our contact, and shared with him the magic words to use when he called, "same as last year" that would grease the slow wheels of gov't. Roger confirmed last night that once he uttered that powerful phrase, all details fell into place without mishap. They love precedent down at City Hall.

Max suggested that we RIDE our bikes over and back, and posted Chain Reaction Cycles as a rally point. I thought it might be just him and me, but then Ray said he was in, followed by the two Roberts. A new guy, Michael, and Jonathan who has been doing the Tuesday/Thursday rides with us also came. Then Chad from the shop came over as well, leaving us a man short of a genuine "Fellowship of The Ring." Also, no one had an axe, or a bow, or a big horn to sound when orcs appeared.

The ride over was fine and we had a bit of a spanker breeze for most of it. About half way there, Legolas, err I mean Chad, got tired of lallygagging along at 17 - 19 and took off in the 20s. Followed by Robert B, Jonathan, Ray, in fact everyone but Max, Robert A and me. We were okay with standing tall (or sitting as the case may be) for the "slow bicycle movement." Everyone arrived on location in downtown Montgomery on time and exchanged greetings with the rest of the 2 dozen who turned out. Michael Briddell from the mayor's office spoke briefly and encouraged us to continue to invite new riders, as part of the city's overall effort to improve health and lower obesity rates. Here's a picture of Michael and bike club president Roger Burnett.

Michael Briddell and club prez Roger Burnett 











The biggest drawback with the ride is ALWAYS the police escorts that the city requires us to have. Two motorcycle cops closing the intersections so we don't have to stop with their sirens on loudly at all times. Not very silent.  Of course, the riders are quiet and somber, wearing black armbands. Roger sent us off with a brief non denominational prayer. It was good to see a few people not encountered on the roads lately. David O, Jeff F (now rocking a bottom bracket generator on his Berthoud. His rando bag is visible in the picture above), John and Kathy R, Therese C and her friend-whose-name-I-forget, Bilee and Patty and some others. There were regulars as well who pedaled over from home, like Tim H and Robert and Bonnie T. Chad asked me if my wheels were 26" or 650. 650B, and I was pleased that he noticed. Chad also did not look at me all googly eyed when I talked about running 38mm tires at 60 psi. He said he understood low pressure and saw a real use for it. Ride on!

We got a little strung out along the route, but everyone made it fine. Thanks to Robert B for the pictures.

Riders get a briefing











Riders along the route












And here is a group shot with most of the riders at the end. As you can see, Jeff is trying to go incognito by eschewing biking clothes. I am wearing my club (not wool!) jersey for the one time I do it each year.


Jeff rides in a zoot suit












We chitchatted very briefly afterwards and then saddled up to head back. We all had lighting, but daylight rides are generally safer and we wanted to avail ourselves of the limited amount remaining in the day. Of course we had a headwind now, but I expected that to diminish as the sun dropped lower in the sky, which is what happened. As we were leaving downtown, we saw Joe M and Ellen heading to dinner and exchanged shouted greetings. At least I hope that was Ellen he was with. :)

Once again, a few people jumped out in front as we went north towards the river, but we regrouped at the Northern Blvd traffic light. We were along the right curb waiting for the signal and a decrepit small pickup truck pulled next to us, just ideal to trigger the magnetic road sensor. Its windows were down and the sweet smell of a Havatampa Jewel cigar wafted our way. I used to smoke those things in my Army days. Yuck. The driver did not look our way once. When the light changed, he hit the gas and took off across the intersection. Not all of his load made it however:

Junk in the road












He realized this half way through the very busy intersection and pulled to a stop on the other side. Max or Robert yelled to him from the front of our group, "You need some help?". The driver now acknowledged our presence and was pleased to have some assistance with 4 x 4 lumber, metal siding sheets and a spare tire. We put our bikes on the traffic signal island and carefully made our way out to help. Well, 5 of us did. You can see 2 "guarding" the bikes in the background below and Chad hung around back at the ride. I don't know that he came back our way.












In a few minutes, he was able to CAREFULLY drive off. Once the air calmed, we made really good time back to the cars. The temps were perfect and the company grand.  I pray that all of us are here next year to ride (as in still healthy and uninjured) and are joined by a larger crowd.



Saturday, May 12, 2012

Looking For Some Lunch

Earlier this week, Joe reminded us that it is high time to start our ride n' dine season. This is where we pedal somewhere and find food that is not what we can get on any street corner locally. After kicking around some options and making some phone calls to see who would be open and who would not for a Saturday lunch, I posted a ride to Clanton for Smokey T's BBQ. They have baked potatoes and veggies on the menu, so a plant strong eater like me can find something to chow down on while the carnivores consume various animal proteins and cholesterol to their heart's content.

I went to our church men's group (are we demonstrating love in our relationships? Do we need a pat on the back for doing good, or do we do good, because it's the right thing to do? ) breakfast early and then came home, changed and pedaled to the rally point a short way from my home. A quick radar check showed a growing bloom of yellow south of us and flags were standing stiff on the poles in winds also out of the south. Joe, Frank, Max, and Robert were all there waiting for me. They had been doing the loop around Prattville so they had 20 miles in the tank before I arrived. They had no breakfast bar however :)  We talked about the weather and decided we would curtail our plans and go to Deatsville instead of Clanton, a route about 18 miles shorter. It was gray and gloomy all day, but we looked forward to getting in a ride. With a minute and a half to spare, Ray rolled up in his vehicle and got ready in a jiffy. He drove with his bike helmet on, even.

No issues bike wise for anyone today. As usual, I pitched wool clothes and leather saddles. Fearing a deluge, I packed a large saddle bag with complete rain kit, as well as a cable lock for restaurant use. While we rode through some rain, none of it was worth stopping to put the suit on and we never left the bikes long enough to need a lock.

Here we are somewhere in Elmore County. Robert took the picture and has some gunk on the lens.

Joe is on a Sam Hillborne, I've got a Rambouillet, Frank is on a Bilenky. In back are Ray on a Felt and Max on a Trek. Joe is wearing a RedSox jersey. I thought of the Police tune, "Don't stand so close to me." You see, I was born about a mile and a half from Yankee Stadium. Auburn and Alabama fans are bosom buddies compared to Yankee and RedSox patrons.

When we got to the Boy's Store in Slapout, Max Frank and Joe started going on about a banana. I didn't catch it all, but I'm not sure they were all talking about the same thing.

Here we are with Robert  on the right, and Frank taking the picture. No sign of a banana anywhere.

Across the street, the locals were having a spring festival with BBQ, country music, rides for the kids and motorcycle clubs. We went over to check it out and Frank got some BBQ. No veggies for me so I munched on a fruit/nut bar and checked it all out. One the Harley bikes had a sidecar  and the rider was wearing googles that looked a lot like mine. I asked him to take a picture with me.

We did ride in the rain for a brief section of the way back and we had some big head winds. Despite all that, we maintained a decent average and the lack of mechanicals for anyone meant we were home in good order.

I ended up just shy of 50 for the day, while the others had more like 70. But I had breakfast! :)

Happy mother's day to all the mom's


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Just Checking In

To the great relief of my faithful reader, and the one or two others in the world who occasionally eyeball this corner of the blogosphere, I have been pretty quiet on the writing front this April. That doesn't mean that it's been "All Quiet on the Western Front" however. There have been a few rides following the excellent outing in Dothan on the first weekend of the month. There were some rain cancellations and also some schedule conflicts too. A nice metric in Eastern Montgomery and some pleasant local rides too including last Sunday's relaxer ride to Riverfront park.

Relaxer Riders at Riverfront Park


This month is the 2nd anniversary of our deeper involvement with cancer advocacy. It was in April 2010 that a friend of ours (of our son originally, but she became dear to all of us) passed away. That Spring, as part of our show of support, Sharon volunteered to captain our church Relay For Life ( team. As a handy source of physical labor, I was drafted on that team as well. I caught the fever too though and we have co-captained since, although her name leads our masthead. There are some organizing meetings, some fundraising, and the logistics of the actual event. This year it was on Friday the 27th. Sharon's ability to participate is severely restricted now due to degenerated knees (rheumatoid arthritis - a knee replacement is on her event horizon) and a pre-op physical therapy mishap which has left her back in heavy pain. Our son Alex met me after work and helped haul tables and chairs to the park venue, and I handled the provender of snacks and bottled water. By the time we knocked off and packed it all back up, it was well past my bedtime.I had carefully arranged for our site (#7!) to be 180 degrees away from the band-shell with its DeeJay and blaring speakers. Unfortunately, a new wrinkle this year was an inflatable projection screen right next to us. It had some kind of dance video game. And THOUSANDS of gyrating pre teens and teens grooving to awful music. Maybe it was only hundreds. I don't know.

Life is hard because we live in a fallen world. I understand this through my faith in God and reading of scripture, but this observation is not limited to those of a theological inclination. While some ask if we all just can't get along, human nature is not disposed in that way. Just look at war and rumors of wars, tolerance of poverty and injustice and etc. Neil Degrasse Tyson writes this positive thinking, "I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you." The problem is, very few people actually DO this, although lots of people pay lip service to the idea. His motivation is 100% temporal, but doing good is always commendable.

Diseases are part and parcel elements of our human estate. This is what makes the idea of a Heaven so pleasant as an alternative. A favorite shape note hymn of mine is 'This World is Not My Home" and that is how I really feel. My citizenship is in heaven because of what God has done for me. While I am a visitor here, however, it is incumbent on me to "do justice, love mercy and walk humbly." Part of that is developing a sense of shared burden for my sick friends. Both those who are my brothers and sisters through our shared faith, and those in the world at large. There are many ways to be involved, more than any of us can fully do, but we can each pick something and do it. Sharon leads our cancer support effort and I still campaign for multiple sclerosis. (This year will be my 10th)  I continue to hold up my dear sisters in Christ LaNiece, Allison and Dove up in prayer as each fights a different battle with her own illness. We were sad to bid goodbye to Pat who went to be with the Lord last week but we know she is delighted with her new surroundings and no longer struggling and in pain.

I missed the Tour Autaugua yesterday. It's a Lance Armstrong - Livestrong fund raiser type event. I hear turnout was good, but a church workday from last week was rescheduled for yesterday. It was good to spend a couple of hours with some great guys, even if the work was hot and hard. I learned from an old country boy how to use a 20 lb chopping/digging bar to take low growth off trees and shrubs. I got back home before lunch and picked up some Mellow Mushroom for Sharon (pizza) and I (tempeh hoagie). We enjoyed it out on the porch looking at our garden which still brings us much pleasure.  Highlight of the day: She agreed that I could box up some stuff which had piled up in the living room, but which we would not need for some time to come! Less mess = less stress for me as a rule. Then I did our yard and assembled our new pressure washer to give it a trial run on the porch and driveway. It was handy to be around the house so that if my help was needed, I was available for "gimpy" who was camped out on the couch watching the Yankees lose to Detroit. I did get a couple of lazy loops through the neighborhood late in the day. It was just as great as a longer ride would have been. I just love to ride.

Our big fun was just after I went to bed last night. Sharon called to me from the living room. She could not get up from the couch due to her back. The 3 Stooges could not have been more inept than we were trying to get her upright without causing more pain. It was also hard to not laugh, which also hurt her, but she laughed anyway. She went from the couch to the floor, to several kneeling and sitting positions. I brought ice, tried to lift (Ouch! stop that!), brought a pain pill, moved furniture, etc. Finally after about 45 minutes, she just did it, using a chair arm to pull on. I'm taking her to the doctor on Monday if she is not much better by the end of today! I've had a pulled back muscle before and it CAN be debilitating, but this is awful.

If I can trust her to NOT reach for things she should leave alone, and NOT over extend the limits she has right now, then I'll enjoy a Sunday relaxer ride this afternoon. We'll see. 








Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter Weekend

Before a recap of the week's activities, I should amend last week's Tri-State report a little. I under emphasized both the great cause supported and the value riders receive. Riders get to help kids with cancer, get a tee shirt, a water bottle, a discount breakfast, a free lunch, great routes, well stocked rest stops, SAG vehicles and friendly faces everywhere.  It's a ride you should try if you live close enough to get there. They'll start planning the 2013 edition soon.

Friday was Erev Passover (1st night of Passover. Jewish days begin the preceding sundown because in Genesis, there was evening and there was morning, the first day) this year, so it was providential that Sharon & I were able to put on a demonstration Seder at our church. We were told to plan for maybe 50 to attend, and I think about 65 came. We made up 7 Seder plates with the traditional foods and went through the highlights (but not the entirety) of my parent's 1965 issue Maxwell House Coffee Haggadah. Some appropriate aged readers in the audience posed the famous "4 questions," and where I could, I connected the dots to the mentions in the New Testament at the "Last Supper" which occurred on Maundy Thursday. Sharon spoke on preparing for Passover from the woman's point of view and some of the traditions. Although she's a shiksa, my dad used to say she was the "best Jew in the family."  One side note of interest, the left over charoset goes great on matzoh with almond butter.

This morning was a running race in East Montgomery, called "The Resurrection Run," held at Vaughn Forest Church. There was a call for some volunteer cyclists to ride ahead of the runners and I threw my name in the hat. Originally the thought was to drive over, do the escort duty and then continue on to the John Hall store and either hook up with a ride there, or get some additional miles on my own.  Max suggested that we pedal over instead and that of course made perfect sense. We met just after 5:30 AM to allow enough time to cover the 24 miles and be there by the requested 7:30. Max was delayed slightly by a mechanical. His front wheel was not in all the way, and then his cadence sensor had moved and was clicking when hit by the spoke magnet.

It was in the 50s and foggy, but the roads were nearly clear of traffic.  I wore a long sleeve wool base layer under a short sleeve wool jersey, and a pair of wool shorts under MUSA riding pants. The shorts are Ibex Duo, and after last week's success sans a chamois, I had taken the pads out of the two pairs of Ibex that I own. Today was the first ride in them so altered and it was a comfortable setup. My feet were just a bit cold but they warmed up once the Sun came out. Max had on his regular spandex bib and jersey kit, and added a jacket and a helmet cover. With a wool cap, my head was fine, temp wise.

I met a couple of the Montgomery Multisports crowd for the first time including Meagan, Allison, Chad, and Cason. They had a great set up with an equipment trailer, sound system, music, Starbucks, bagels and bananas. Saw old pals like Wes, Roxy and Lawanna, and Greg too. From a photo I see that Kym was there, but did not see here while I was pedaling around. 

Max and I did our duty of leading the runners on the 5K course and were done pretty early. Too early for lunch anyway, so a stop at the mall was not in order. We decided to head home because there was enough time left to get in some other projects. I thought it best to hit the bathroom at the church before we departed so I went in. Max came in behind me, finished before me and on his way out in the outer vestibule, turned off the lights. P.I.T.C.H  B.L.A.C.K.
I couldn't see the nose on my face. So, gingerly, I felt along the walls to find a door, then in the inky blackness of the vestibule, groped the walls until I found a light switch. Coming outside, Max of course is wondering, "What took you so long?"  With a straight face and everything...
"Blog material," was my only reply.

The ride home was good. A swirling wind was at our back for about 1/2 the way, at least. Pretty sunny day and not too hot. Max wanted to stop again at a gas station and use the facility, so we pulled in at Chevron about 1/2 way up the climb out of Millbrook to Prattville. We pulled in just BEHIND a high school team bus. Max was abut 40th in line for the bathroom.. Payback my friend, payback.  :)

Anyway, home in plenty of time to mow the yard, visit the son and grandson, take Sharon to Whole Foods, sit in the back yard for a while and watch some golf. Great day. 

Happy Easter!  

Monday, April 2, 2012

Dothan Tri-States Recap

Yesterday saw the 10th edition of this fund raiser which supports Children's Hospital. I think that I've only missed doing it once since 2004, my 1st full year in Alabama. The ride organizers have become friends, and most years I reconnect with folks only seen at the various organized rides around the state. This year, I shouted hellos to Karen and Debbie (organizers of the Greenville Tour For Wishes ride of a few weeks back) and the Pecan City Pedalers (Organizers of the Albany GA Nut Roll).

Some 200 riders pre registered and there are always day-of sign ups. Here's our view at the back of the starting pack.


 Our plan was to do a reasonably paced ride and we did not want to be buffeted by the race horses and wannabes sprinting at the start. The Montgomery area contingent included Robert and Bonnie doing the 25 mile loop and Curtis doing a quick pace century. Frank, Max, Rob and I did a slower century.

Max and I drove down together the night before. Our biggest hurdle was deciding where to stop for dinner. Max loves steak, I'm a plants-only kind of guy. I assured him I could find a meal anywhere he wanted to stop, except for some fast food places. We opted for a Mexican place in Troy, called "Rodeo."  We were the only two male customers in there. The place was packed with co-eds from nearby Troy University. Where was Rob (young and single) when we needed him? They had several veggie offerings and it was good.

We stayed in a Hampton Inn using Max's frequent traveler points, but left in the morning before breakfast was severed. At least they had coffee. I got up before Max and went down to drink a cup in the lobby while using my Kindle Fire to check email and news. We figured that we would eat at the ride sign in since we thought they would have biscuits etc there. Nope. Just rider packets. We each ended up chewing on one of our own bars. Fruit and Nut for me. Not sure what he had.  (Worked out okay. I just ate some food at each  rest  stop and never felt hungry.) We met the others in the parking lot and assembled under cloudy, humid skies for the ride.

We got going on time and the route was always well marked. There was a slight breeze behind us and it was generally down hill to Florida.

Rob was taking his 1st crack at a century ride. Last Saturday was his 1st metric. He's moving right along! We never could figure out what made a clanking noise on his bike. At one stop, we removed and ditched his kick stand, because we though he might be hitting it as he pedaled. Nope. It held together all the way, and he can figure it out at his leisure now.  Speaking of rest stops, they were all staffed by pleasant volunteers and had plenty of supplies. I ate apples, bananas, oat grain bars and some Honey Stingers energy gels, which I rate as superior to Gu.brand products. As the date was April 1, there were humorous touches everywhere. Port-a-Johns labeled, "Please use other door", or "Welcome to Tennessee", etc.

The route was generally very pretty. Florida was flat, Georgia had rollers and Alabama a combination of flat and rollers. Total climb was under 2,000'. Some coarse roads in Georgia were made more liveable by 650B tires running 60 PSI. I was on the Road Standard and it was fine. No padding needed in the shorts on the now broken in Brooks leather saddle. No chamois means no chamois butter needed either. I did wear a wicking pair of boxers under the Joneswares shorts.

Around 11:00, the Sun came out and it became hotter and less humid. Good thing the Coppertone was on! By 80 miles, some riders were starting to suffer from the heat. Here are two bikes (a carbon Merckx and a carbon Softride) in the back of a SAG truck that dropped out, and a steel one using a click-stand that did not :)

Rob started to have some leg issues around this same time but was determined to soldier on. I flagged down a SAG wagon for him but instead of a ride, he just wanted some water and Advils. Letting Max and Frank go on ahead, I slowed down and pulled for him, as we had a brisk headwind in addition to the rollers. Finally, at mile 88, his hamstrings wound tight and he couldn't pedal, so we pulled off and called for help. I left Rob for the SAG driver to pick up and tried to pick up my pace again. As it happened, the other two were waiting for me at last rest stop so we reconnected. Rob came in with the driver and after a rest and recharge, wanted to get back on his bike and finish the ride. "Just stubborn," he said of himself. He made it, so if he didn't quite get 100 miles, it was awfully close.  My own legs were fatiguing the last few miles, so I babied them up the hills. That worked and no cramps ever actually happened. I did drink plenty today and that was a major reason why I never felt exhausted or at the end of endurance.

We still had a decent time, my moving time was 6:45 for 102 miles, or about 15.1 avg. The post ride showers at the Civic Center felt GREAT, and the free lunch coupon at Moe's translated into a tofu, mushroom and black bean burrito, also great. They were OUT of rice!  We watched a criterium race right outside the store as we ate too. All part of the CityFest activities.

Finally, we got back in the car and drove home. It was a good day on a bike

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