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

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.

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