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.
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 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:
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!
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.