26 December 2008
I recently received my first (of many more, hopefully) R-12 medal. I didn't start out with the goal in mind to achieve an R12. I started the 2007 brevet season as I always had -- which means starting cold with the Morrisville, NC 200k and riding myself into shape from there.
After completing the full series, I still felt like I needed many more miles under my belt before PBP. Mike D. Had put together several nice Permanent routes in the area so I began working some of these rides in on a regular basis. Something just clicked for me -- brevets shouldn't just be a "spring-only" thing -- I should be doing this all year 'round. Mike D. and several other riders were working on their R-12 and really encouraged me to pursue my own.
PBP was a bust for me and a major let down. I felt like I needed to achieve some goal for 2007 and... well... I was already a good 6-months into a R-12... And well, the rest is history.
I'm very happy with my R-12. I've really enjoyed doing the Permanents all year around. I've always commuted year-round, but longer, 200k+ rides haven't factored in before. Coming into the first brevets of the season was so much easier this year -- I didn't have to suffer and claw my way through the first 200k.
However I think the best benefit of the regular monthly permanents is being able to connect with all your great cycling pals all year 'round.
19 December 2008
I blew out my Michelin
Ran over a candy cane
Now I'm gonna have to stop and fix this flat tire
But I'm well prepared
I have my spare tool kit
And I'll be back on the road in a few
Wasting away again in Mayodan
Searching for my spare inner tube
Some people say there's a candy cane to blame
But I know it's my own damn fault
I hope this horrible little tune gets stuck in your head today too. It's about to drive me crazy!!
17 December 2008
It was about time to start thinking about the December permanent when Mike D. posted a message to the NC Randon list about riding John B's new Danbury 205 route this weekend. I was in. As fate would have it, Mike unfortunately wasn't able to make the ride.
Several of the usual suspects rounded themselves up for the ride. Branson, Jerry and I rolled out together into a rather cool morning.... somewhere in the upper 20's. True to John's description, it seemed like only a minute or two and we were clear of the strip-mall and out on the back roads of the Piedmont.
John also went on to say, "The route is pretty hilly, but the first leg of the route eases you into it gradually with a few nice rollers to get you warmed up. Most of the climbing is concentrated between Mayodan and Danbury, starting with a nice climb right after leaving the first control in Mayodan....". Truer words could not have been spoken.
While refueling at the Mayodan control, we met a really nice fellow who was clearly an avid cyclist & regular commuter. He'd recently had some sort of heart trouble and off the bike due to doctor's orders. He's hoping to get clearance from his doctor soon to start riding again. I sincerely hope the news is good.
The climb out of Mayodan was quickly confirmed... literally as we left the control. From there out to the turn around was a suffer-fest. Beautiful, scenic suffer-fest, but a suffer-fest none the less -- at least for me. Branson seemed to be sporting the wings of an eagle as he made the climbs look effortless.
Note to self: work on getting better at climbing.
Overall, the route was wonderful. Mostly quiet roads, great scenery and challenging terrain. We did have a bit of navigational confusion, but very easily straightened everything out.
One turn in particular at Hwy 158 wasn't well marked, but it's right where you'd expect it. There's also a flashing signal light at the intersection for confirmation.
Cajun man did make a appearance near the end of the ride for a bit of comic relief! We were all in good spirits and getting just a bit punchy.
After finishing up at John's house, we adjourned to the shopping center where we'd started. The talk of the evening had been dinner and Wholly guacamole had been crowned the winner. And a winner it was! After downing 47 baskets of chips and a 2 gallons of salsa (each), we waddled out to our cars for the journey home.
My adventure was over yet, however. About 20 miles from home my car starting acting funny -- with 10 miles to go the problem became obvious as my lights dimmed to a quaint orange glow. Dead alternator. Almost made it home, but the Sammy finally ran out of juice about 2~3 miles from the house.
12 November 2008
Over the past 3 months, I've logged 2000 kilometers (1200 miles) going back and forth to work. I'm quite shocked how fast it adds up. In this time, I've also done three 200k Permanents, a 600k brevet as well as numerous MTB rides and Sunday rides with pal, Geof. Probably somewhere in the range of 3500+ kilometers total -- or about 2000 miles.
So I'm embarking on an early new years resolution: I plan to track the number of miles I ride in a year. The goal isn't to see if I can set a personal record, but just to figure out how many miles I am riding -- or better yet, how many miles I'm not driving. Stay tuned.
24 October 2008
Years ago, a cycling buddy told me to use plastic baggies on my feet to help keep my toes warm in cold weather. It actually worked pretty well, but the bags were pretty much destroyed after a ride or two, necessitating frequent replacement -- plus the bags tended to make my feet feel clammy.
While messing about with an old tyvek envelope last winter, the idea to use tyvek hit me. Tyvek seemed like a perfect fit -- it's waterproof, tough, breathable (somewhat) and basically free.
I prefer used mailing envelopes since they are already softened up, but for this demo, all I had was a new envelope.
Cut the envelope in half -- about 5~6" from the closed end, then cut the closed end in half again.
Now you have a piece of tyvek that is closed on two ends -- slip your foot in to the pouch then fold the open end down under the inside of your foot -- secure with tape.
Well, that's pretty much all there is to it. Feel free to reinforce the bottom with a bit more tape and tape down the pointy bits, though I don't find it's really necessary.
If you started with a new envelope, they'll soften up nicely and mold to the shape of your foot after only a couple of uses -- they should hold up for several months of heavy use.
So now you have some leftover tyvek lying around -- what to do with it? Cut a strip and wrap your spare innertube. The tyvek will help keep the tube puncture free as it rattles around in your tool kit and you can use the tyvek to boot a tire if you get a nasty gash!
19 October 2008
Nashville, TN was my home for about 7 years and the Trace was a regular part of my cycling life. If you're a cyclist in Nashville, there's no way to avoid it. During my time there, I rode the northern stretches of the Trace so many times, it nearly became monotonous. One of my favorite routes was to ride down to Jack's Branch and back which made for a nearly perfect 200k route from my house. I always dreamed of going further on the Trace -- something epic! Well, when I heard about the Natchez Trace 600k, it sounded like exactly what I was looking for!
After finding out about the ride, I spent a month or two waffling. Nashville is a nearly 10 hour ride from Raleigh. Common sense would dictate that driving this sort of distance for a ride is a bit out there. I mentioned the ride to a few friends and posted a message to our NC Randonneur board. No responses. No worries, the idea of the trip was wearing a bit foolish anyway. Then Branson decided to throw his hat into the ring. Damnit. After a bit of coordinating, we were loaded up in his car and heading west.
The drive went smoothly and we arrived in Nashville late in the afternoon. A trip to a couple bike shops proved an un-fruitfull attempt to find a spare tire for Branson. The stop at Gran Fondo was like a religious pilgrimage requiring us to pick up a few trinkets.
Dem' der hills
This was Branson's first trip to Nashville and I could tell he was starting to get a bit nervous. Figuring that Nashville was at a similar latitude to Raleigh and basically in the middle of the state, I don't think he was really expecting it to be as lumpy as it is. I reassured him that while the Trace wasn't flat, it really wasn't all that bad.
It's go time
4am comes early, so we checked into our hotel and prepared to get a bit of sleep. I opted for a shower and Branson tended to replacing his front inner tube. As I was finishing my shower, I heard the unmistakable report of an exploding tube. Apparently the tire decided to unseat itself. A new tube and it was bed time. We were up in the wee hours of the morning and on the way to the start.
Overnight temps were rather warm and muggy at the start. About 20 hardy souls were in attendance. It was nice to meet Jeff Bauer -- I'm in awe of his RAAM accomplishment. In minutes, we were rolling down HWY 100 heading for the trace. The start of the Trace isn't an easy one -- it basically starts with about a mile worth of climbing. Branson later remarked that if the rest of the Trace was like the start, he would have turned back right then.
In the pre-dawn hours, Branson was admiring a lovely split rail fence off to the right side of the trace when I yelled SKUNK!! The little bugger was about 10 feet to our right and about 10 feet ahead of us heading in the same direction, bounding along in the ditch with his tail at half-mast. We very quickly moved to the left and accelerated to get around him. I don't think either one of us were very keen on smelling like a skunk for the next 590km.
We reached the Gordon House site just as the sun was coming up, stopping for a quick nature break and water bottle refill. The initial climb on the Trace had pretty well split the pack and we were somewhere in the middle. At the secret control at about 50mi in, we met up with a coupe of folks and rode with them for a bit.
Omen part 2
If Branson's exploding tube the night before was omen part 1, then omen part 2 reared its' ugly head about the time we arrived at the Gordon House site. Branson's freehub suddenly decided it didn't want to freewheel! Not good. As long as he kept pedaling, fixie style, he was OK, but this would be a tough way to knock out the remaining 300+ miles. Fortunately after about another 30 miles or so, his freehub decided to quit throwing a tantrum and remained cooperative for the remainder of the ride.
Saturday was warming up nicely and honestly, it was getting rather hot. The northern end of the trace is blessed with a good number of rest areas where water is available, but once you make it south past the first control in Collinwood, TN, pickings are slim. Another stop at Colbert's Ferry was required in order to top up our bottles. The stop ended up being a bit longer than usual and I managed to catch a quick 10-minute nap on one of the park benches. Feeling better from the nap and with full bottles, we rolled out for the next 10mi leg to the Cherokee, AL control.
By this point in the ride, I'm starting to feel pretty dang rough. The temps have been in the low/mid 90's with a fierce head wind -- easily 10-15mph with 25+ gusts. Not much shade on this part of the trace either. From here to the turn around, we'd make a number of stops in the shade on the side of the road to rest and recuperate. Perhaps 40 miles from Tupelo, we ran into a group 5-riders, including one 'bent. Our merry band of 7 rolled into the Tupelo control together before bum rushing the Pizza Inn down the road.
With bellies full of pizza, we all headed back north on the Trace under the cover of darkness. The temps were still high and wind was still howling out of the southwest giving us a nice push down the road as we tried to take it easy with our full bellies. We made back to Pharr Mounds in Mississippi and stopped for a bathroom/water break. Jeff Sammons, Branson and I were all getting really sleepy so we decided to let the rest of the group go and take a quick 20-min nap.
It wasn't much, but the nap helped out immensely. The night seemed a bit surreal. The wind seemed to be getting stronger as the night went on and you could see the trees whipping around on the sides of the road. I'm very happy it's a tail wind. The skies were clear and the moon was almost full -- casting a soft glow over everything -- almost enough to read the queue sheet by.
The convenience store we stopped at in Cherokee was closed by the time we passed through, so Jeff Bauer had setup a little road-side control for us. He had tons of cold water and was making turkey sandwiches for us! It hit the spot. Jeff Sammons asked for a beer and Jeff B. fished him one out of the cooler. Before we new it, Jeff S. had managed to knock back 3 beers -- honestly, if I drank three beers at that point in the ride, I wouldn't be able to stay awake. And speaking of sleep, we grabbed another 20-min nap. Jeff B. gave us a weather forecast for Sunday of 50% chance of showers and sent us off with well wishes.
Due to construction on the Trace, we had to exit for a couple of detours. The first detour on the way back was in Alabama -- I remember it seemed like it took forever on the way down and it didn't seem to be going any faster at night. We were all nodding in the saddle so we stopped under the front porch of a church for another 20 min nap. I didn't get much sleep this time -- a muscle spasm in my right shoulder kept me awake.
I knew once we hit the next detour, we would be getting back near Collinwood, TN -- the only TN control on the way back. By the time we reached Collinwood, the sun was starting to rise and I was feeling really rough. Literally ready to pack it in. Branson asked me how I was feeling -- I think "nasty" was my answer. Leading into Collinwood, I was counting the mile markers -- I seriously couldn't fathom counting 90 more mile markers back to Nashville. I was NOT looking forward to the final leg.
Clean up on isle 3
I had a list of things to accomplish at Collinwood. Top priority -- get card signed -- done. I grabbed my drop bag and fished out a fresh change of clothes along with some baby wipes -- off to the bathroom. It's amazing what a bit of tidying up will do. After a good wipe down and some clean clothes, I was already starting to feel better.
Back at the bike, I began sorting through the gear I'd need for the rest of the ride. I was traveling with a small Carradice saddle bag (Junior) and an Ortleib handle bar bag -- both mostly empty. I decided to drop the bar bag and some of the extra gear I was carrying. Everything fit in the Carradice with plenty of room to spare. I made sure I had a bit of extra food packed for the return trip since there wouldn't be many more options available.
Time for some breakfast. Thankfully, the store at the control was open so I grabbed a greasy sausage & egg biscuit along with a V8 and other assorted sweets. Not only are greasy biscuits great for hangovers, they seem to work pretty well to refresh the randonneur's soul. With a full belly, I was starting to feel a bit better -- let get this show back on the road!
By now the sun was up, not that you could see it because of the swirling cloud cover. By this point, the wind coming out of the Southwest was absolutely howling. Must have been 30+ steady and the low clouds were streaking by.
Branson, Jeff Sammons and I all resumed our northerly course. On the ramp back to the Trace, we ran into Jeff Bauer who informed us his weather forecast from the control in Cherokee was wrong and we weren't expected to see any rain. Sounded good to me, though given the current weather conditions, I think he might have been trying to make us fell a bit better. Jeff Sammons inquired if there was any beer left and Jeff Bauer handed him a cold one for the road!
...or high water
If Saturday was hell, then Sunday was high water. Within moments of getting back on the Trace, we were greeted by a cold shower. I started to get pretty cold and contemplated stopping to don my vest. We powered on making pretty decent time -- everybody in good spirits.
The sound of one leg pedaling -- omen part 3
Maybe 50~60 miles to go, we made a quick 'nature' stop and I decided to slip on my vest. As we remounted, Branson was having trouble clicking in to his right pedal. After a bit of futzing and mild 'adult language' he was clipped in. Or so it seemed. He couldn't keep his foot in the pedal, but we couldn't quite figure out why. After a couple of frustrating stops, Branson noticed that part of the pedal body was cracked making it difficult for the cleat to lock in. He soldiered on basically pedaling with one leg for the remainder of the miles -- not that he really had much of a choice!
At Gordon House on the way back, we took a quick break and enjoyed some sandwiches and drinks provided by volunteer, Kent. We schemed about a way to keep Branson's foot on his pedal and experimented with zip tying his foot to the pedal. It actually turned out to work pretty well, but the zip tie was to tight causing his foot to go numb after a while. Well, it was worth a shot.
We three tired but happy campers rolled in to the finish in Nashville around 4:00pm. Jeff Bauer and a couple other riders were there to greet us with sub sandwiches -- the best sandwich I've ever had. Period.
Not an easy ride -- though for me, 600k is never easy. Will I go back? Maybe. The jury is still out. The Trace is a beautiful stretch of road, but is is also very isolated. You really don't pass through any towns and if you want anything, you have to exit the trace. The further south you go, the more isolated it gets. There are rumors of a 1000k or 1200k brevet on the Trace next year. We'll just have to see about that one........
Out and back
For the trip to Nashville, I packed a couple of CD's that always get me psyched up for a ride. "En Attendant Le Tour" is a musical tour de force. The title (and the music) loosely translate into "waiting for the tour" and it basically contains traditional French music from the 30's & 40's. Music you would likely have heard in some small French town while waiting for le Tour to pass by. It's incredibly infectious and upbeat -- when you hear it, you can't help to be happy! If you can find a copy of the CD, I highly recommend picking it up.
30 September 2008
A day late and a dollar short. I'm just getting this blog thing fired up so I though I'd start off with a ride report from a Permanent I'd done earlier in the year. As you may (or may not) have guessed from the name of this blog, randonneuring is my sport and what I'll primarily be rambling on about here. Enjoy.
June was shaping up to be a real scorcher. Several of us were needing to get in a permanent for the month. Mike Ross tossed the idea of a night time permanent out on the NC Randon list. The weekend of the 19th was calling for a full moon, and night time temperatures would be a nice break from the mid-90's we'd been seeing during the daytime. I signed on along with Sridhar -- the three of us rendezvoused at 7pm and rolled off into the darkening (and threatening) evening.
Well, there was a bit of trauma and drama on the Full Moon Lake Loop. I don't think we made it a mile before the first mechanical -- one of Sridhar's head lights fell off. He retrieved the light -- no damage done so we rolled on. Twice before we made the first control, Sridhar's tail light popped off. The light was clipped to his bag in a way that made it rest against his rack -- when he hit a big bump, the light bounced on the rack, popping off the cover sending bits and batteries everywhere. At the first control, Mike applied a bit of duct tape and I repositioned the light so it wouldn't hit the rack anymore.
I wanted to use the restroom at the control before we rolled out, but there appeared to be some sort of "incident" with one of the customers in the restroom. The manager was having a "discussion" with the customer and I decided not to involve myself in the matter.
As we prepared to roll out of the control, I told Mike & Sridhar I was going to roll up the road a bit for a "natural break" and they'd catch me in a bit. Well, I soft pedaled along for a couple of miles, but didn't see them, so I just decided to ride my own pace.
No matter how many times you've ridden a course in the daytime, it's a completely different beast at night. I spent a lot of time squinting at my cue sheet & computer to make sure I didn't miss a turn. I felt pretty safe on the road alone, however, in hind sight, I don't think it was the greatest idea to strike out solo.
Traffic is usually pretty scarce on the Lake Loop and was nearly non-existant at night. I did have a couple of carloads of people yelling out of their windows -- I presume it was words of encouragement.
At around mile 61 (23:15), my phone started ringing, It was Mike Ross. The connection wasn't good and there was a lot of background noise -- sounded like he'd stopped off at a party. As he was telling me that Sridhar was down with terrible cramps, it dawned on me that the background noise was Sridhar screaming in pain!
Mike and I discussed options for getting Sridhar back home and he said he'd turn back and retrieve Sridhar with his car. I rolled on. Sridhar called back while I was in Boydton and I was very happy to hear his legs were starting to unknot.
Food and water on the Lake Loop can be tough on Sundays and was no better at night. I took advantage of "Dean's Fountain" in Boydton -- It's on the right between the last two buildings just before you make the left. The water was clear and tasted fine -- and so far, no ill gastrointestinal effects.
I know it's tough to believe, but Skipwith was a virtual ghost town when I arrived. I think the spiders and I were the only ones awake in Skipwith at 00:23. The vending machines were a godsend, but make sure you have some change with you. I must have spent 10 minutes trying to get the machine to take my crumpled dollar bills. I finally got two of them in the machine so I could get a bottle of water ($1.35) and a Mtn. Dew ($.55) with the change. When I went to retrieve my change and beverages, I was shocked by the number of spiders working the vending machine -- it was almost like something out of a horror movie!
Just an FYI for the information control at Skipwith, I don't think they are selling gas there anymore. They have the old pumps that only go to $3.99, and they don't have a price posted. I wasn't in the mood for gasoline when I stopped, so I didn't try buying any.
Besides fidgeting with the vending machine, my stop was pretty short -- wasn't much reason to linger.
The Mega-Uppy's on Hwy 15/49 at the right turn into Clarksville, appears to be a 24-hr place. I was OK provision wise, so I didn't stop, but it's good to know about for future rides.
It looks like the street fair in Clarksville was this past Saturday -- there was still a bit of flotsam and jetsam in the streets and bags of trash on the curb. I could hear a band playing in some club as I passed through Clarksville.
The postcard thing worked out very well and was fun too -- hope you enjoy the postcards, Mike. All of the post offices were right on course and I was able to find the office in Clarksville after only a couple of minutes of wandering around. Here's a look at the post cards I mailed in:
The rest of the ride through Stovall and to the final control was pretty much uneventful. The Hwy 158 Exxon was closed at 3:00, but no worries, we'd stashed a gallon of water in one of the U-Haul trailers. Topped up the bottles and finished the final leg.
For the most part, the moon was mostly obscured by clouds, but every now and again, you'd get a good, clear view. When I made the left at Kerr lake, I was treated to a beautiful view of the full moon with it's reflection across the water like a golden brick road. By 3:00, the clouds were really beginning to thin out and the moon was casting a ghostly blueish shadow over everything.
I made back to the fire station at 4:32 feeling pretty good. I called Sridhar, he was doing OK and was waiting at the Amaco near the state line. I loaded up and went out to retrieve him. On the way back as Sridhar and I neared the fire station, we caught Mike, he only had a couple miles to go and was looking good!
Humid was certainly the word of the evening. Even though it wasn't hot, I probably drank the same amount as I would on a sunny day. My glasses were fogging on a pretty regular basis. We maybe had 30~ miles of rain. Nothing too intense and it actually felt pretty good. The cool rain on the hot pavement, sent steam rising from the road giving an otherworldly feel to the ride. Kinda spooky!
Overall, a beautiful course by day, became a magical ride by night. All night long I was treated to a chorus of frogs and insects that beckoned me to take a nice nap.... Which is what I spent all day Sunday doing. 6hrs of TDF coverage and a comfy couch -- it doesn't get much better than that!