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

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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