28 October 2010

Right hook

Well it finally happened -- I was hit a week or so ago (Sunday, Oct. 17). After 10's of thousands of miles over the last decade or so, the odds were no longer in my favor.

To set the scene, I was riding the first part of my L-L-L Permanent out to the store in Gorman and back. Heading back home on the short, sub 1-mile stretch of Hwy 98. Noon. Traffic was light and visibility was excellent. Wearing my red, white, and blue RUSA wool jersey.

Just before I made the turn onto Kemp Rd., I heard a car approaching from behind. I caught a quick glance of her front bumper for a split second then she made a right turn directly on top of me. Hit my left thigh with the front quarter panel of her car, leaving a black mark between the wheel well and front door. Sent me into the ditch, landing on my elbow and rolling off the bike.

I swear to god, the first words out of her mouth: "I didn't see you". Clearly.

Maybe she was trying to figure out a way to set her DVR to record Wheel of Fortune from her JitterBug phone. Maybe she was daydreaming about lunch -- trying to remember how long the potato salad had been in the fridge -- was it one week or two… Who knows. The end result was, she simply wasn't paying attention and hit me.

I called 911 as soon as I could dig my phone out of my bag -- the sheriff & EMT guys showed up in about 5 minutes. The EMT declared nothing was obviously broken, but I should see my doctor first thing on Monday. For a few minutes, there was enough adrenaline going through me that I didn't notice the pain, but it didn't take long for my left hip and right elbow didn't take long to start hurting.

After talking with the sheriff deputy, I decided to try riding home. Only made it about a mile or two before I had to call my wife to come get me -- my elbow was already starting to swell and I couldn't support my weight with my right arm. By Sunday evening, it looked like I had a golf ball under the skin on my elbow and I couldn't bend my arm -- had to eat left handed. Ice and ibuprofen seemed to help, but it was hurting like pure hell.

Went to my doctor on Monday -- he took one look at my elbow and asked if I'd had it x-rayed. Since I didn't go to the ER, he ordered a round of x-rays. Great. I was hoping it wasn't fractured.

Doc called the next day to let me know it wasn't fractured, but to keep going with the ice/ibuprofen/elevation for a while longer. I was sore all over for several days from the violence of being knocked to the ground. It took a little over a week for my elbow to start to feel OK.

The worst thing about my injuries was not being able to pick up my son, Finn. I've only recently been able to hold him without my elbow speaking up.

In the grand scheme of things, I was lucky. I can think of a 1000+ ways it could have been worse -- much worse. Yeah, I had to deal with some inconvenience, and there will be more to come as the insurance claim comes together, but I'll be fine -- I'll live to ride another day.

Oh, I almost forgot the most important thing, my bike survived without a scratch -- I cushioned it with my body.

Scenes from the Commute -- Sunset at Lake Crabtree

20 October 2010

Greensboro 600k - Better Times A-Coming

Ever get a song stuck in your head on a ride -- can't shake it no matter what you do?

Well, on the Greensboro 600k last month, I had Jim and Jesse McReynolds' rendition of "Better Times A-Coming" stuck in my head -- for nearly 36 hours. As frustrating as that seems, it actually turned out to be a good thing.

That's the thing about doing brevets, especially longer ones, you can sometimes reach a really dark point -- even thinking about abandoning -- but if you can just hang in there, there's always better times a-coming.

Shortly after leaving the control at Chuck's house on the way out, I started to feel less than good. I'd ridden the first 200k a little too hard and not eaten enough throughout the day, and it was starting to catch up with me. By the time I'd reached the control in Carthage, I was feeling green. I ordered some food at McDonalds, knowing I needed to eat, but feeling like I couldn't. While waiting for the food, I popped a Tums -- and within seconds knew I was going to be sick. A mad sprint for the bathroom for several minutes of dry heaves, and that was that. I still really couldn't eat, but at least I felt somewhat better -- just got to keep the pedals turning.

From Carthage to the turn around in Fayetteville, it was touch-and-go with my stomach. With the encouragement and the offer to share his room from new riding pal, Steve, I was able to make it through a pretty rough night. I knew if I could make it to the turn around and get a bit of sleep, better times would be a-coming.

And after couple hours of good sleep and a hearty breakfast at the Waffle House, Steve and I rolled out for the final 200k back to Greensboro. Better times had arrived.

15 August 2010

Harrisonburg 300k - Foggy Mountain Ramble

Deja vu?! Did I wake up in France? Let's see, it's the middle of August - check. The sweltering heat was replaced by a cool misty morning - check. I'm about to go on a long, tough ride - check. And I have a cold - check.

After a summer of blazing hot temps, we were treated to cool misty weather for Matt's Harrisonburg, VA 300k. With temps forecast to barely make it into the mid 80's and a slight chance of showers, this was shaping up to be a great day in the saddle. Except for the cold thing.

After missing the whole brevet season this year with pneumonia, I decided work in a late season series and Matt's 300k sounded like a good challenge. On the drive up on Friday, I started getting an annoying post-nasal drip. When I woke up on Saturday morning, it was a full on runny nose and sore throat. Awesome.

Pal Bob O. had come in from the coast for the ride and we split a room at the Super 8. I wasn't the only one with morning ailments, Bob was suffering from acid reflux -- bad enough he was considering not starting. He tried breakfast at the diner, but things weren't looking settled.

So the ride, how did the ride go? Well, we had a very small turnout of only 5 riders: Matt, Bob O., Allan (sp), Aji (sp) and myself. We split up right before we ever started, rolling out while Aji was still in the bathroom. Within a couple miles, Matt had to double back and get his water bottles. Bob was suffering the stomach blues so Allan and I were in the lead and thanks to my superb leadership, we made a wrong turn and were off course within the first ten miles. Patsy had seen us go off course so she chased us down to tell us -- ended up with 5~10 bonus miles.

Back on course, we caught up with Matt about the time we saw Bob on the side of the road -- he didn't look good and would end up pulling out before his stomach got him into big trouble. Alan was putting down a good pace and we shed Matt after a couple miles then Alan started opening a big gap on me up Hankey Mtn. highway.

I managed to catch up with Alan and Aji at the first control, but we all rolled out separately. That'd basically be the theme for the day -- 4 solo riders on course. I managed to catch Alan at each control, but he was running a steady 15 minutes ahead of me. Alan and I did finally regroup in the last 25 miles and finish together at 7:40pm -- 13:40 hours on course (my computer showed 15.7mph rolling average). I'm pretty sure this is the fastest 300k I've ever done and certainly one of the most difficult -- if not THE most difficult.

Rawrrr! Rando Habanero takes a break at an Exxon near Natural Bridge.

My, what big teeth you have.

If you haven't ridden Matt's Harrisonburg 300k, I highly recommend it. It's a challenging but beautiful route -- lots of winding back roads and beautiful vistas. If you have any designs on PBP '11, I'd suggest checking out this route -- I felt the terrain was very similar to northern France. Lots of rolling hills -- nothing too tough. Ridewithgps.com confirms a little over 11,000 feet of climbing:

This brevet also marked a couple of firsts for me. I've done 50+ brevets/permanents -- gotten my card signed hundreds of times. For the first time ever, a store refused to sign my card -- sited it was "against corporate policy". So to the management at the Stop-In Exxon in Buena Vista, I'd like to cordially invite you to go fuck yourselves.

Another, slightly more positive first, I stopped at a house along the route to beg for water. The 70 mile leg from the first control to the second was very remote -- I'd only seen one open store and didn't know if I'd find another before the control. With around 25 miles to go, I was out of water and getting desperate. I'd stopped at a church but the faucet was dry -- I tried two houses but no one answered the door. The nice lady at the third house kindly obliged to fill my bottle from the sink and even brought me a cold bottle of water from the fridge. Coulda hugged her. And here's the kicker -- there was a store not even a mile down the road.

Post ride -- all things considered, I feel really darn good -- except for the cold thing. It's quickly moving into faucet-like runny nose and a hacking cough. Super Awesome!

29 July 2010

Scenes from the Commute -- Tournesol

A lone sunflower blooms next to the Black Creek Greenway in Cary. Wonder how it came to be there....
Also spotted this 'spidery' Cleome Hasslerana flower near the sunflower.

03 July 2010

A beautiful day in the saddle

Days like this don't come around all that often in July where the temp and humidity are typically racing each other to 100. We were treated to start temps around 60 degrees (almost wanted a light jacket!) eventually only warming to the mid 80's with light winds and low humidity. It was an absolutely perfect day to spin some miles with friends.

I found myself with a "bachelor's" weekend so decided I'd ride my L-L-L route and squeak my July Permanent in early. Mike D., Lynn, Alan and Branson signed on to join me.

Well, I should have taken a group shot before we took off -- within a couple miles, Mike D. and Lynn had broken off the front. We saw them briefly at the first control and again as they passed us on the way back in.
I spent the rest of the day riding with Branson and our local RBA, Alan -- a fella couldn't ask for better riding companions. Branson and I have both been busy with our new families and hadn't ridden together since last fall -- we spent the day catching up on how our little boys are doing.

Branson attacks on the Moore's Mill "wall".

The "Hard Man" of the day award goes to Branson who showed up for this rather hilly ride on a fixed gear. And here I was waffling between riding my bike with the compact double or triple crank -- silly me.

We had a great ride out to the turn-aroud control, arriving right at noon. I'm a big fan of olde-time country stores and the Leasburg Grocery is one of those places. Despite being a rather small store, they seem to do a brisk business (they're really the only thing out there) -- a steady stream of people hauling boats made their way through the store while we were there.
Alan and Branson relax and refuel at Leasburg.

The iconic Leasburg store.

We only had one mechanical mishap for the day. While descending Moore's Mill road on the return, my right pedal fell off! Fortunately, I was just starting to pedal again after coasting down the hill, or the outcome could have been much worse.

The seal or bearing in my right pedal was starting to seize up -- I was barely able to turn the pedal by hand -- it must have developed enough friction to back out of the crank arm. The crank threads were a little monkeyed up, but I was able to get the pedal threaded back in and continue on, though I was obsessively watching the pedal for the rest of the ride.

Overall, it was a great day in the saddle with some great company!

14 June 2010

A Sunday in L-L-L

Martin put out the shout for riding my L-L-L Permanent this Sunday so I decided to sign on along with Sridhar, John O., and Tim (see Martin's ride report). We all stayed together through the first two controls, but as the heat and hills piled on, we split into two groups. Tim, John O. and I spent the rest of the ride together, finishing in a little over 11 and a half hours.

You know what they say about the weather in North Carolina -- if you don't like it, stick around a bit, it'll change. And boy did it change. The day started off warm and humid and steadily got warmer throughout the day, topping out in the mid to upper 90's. By late afternoon, pop-up thunderstorms were unleashing their fury on us.

Overall, it was a tough day in the saddle with some weather extremes, but I sure enjoyed the company and the ride. Here's a few snap shots I took along the way:
Keeping it real in Red Mill.

I have a bit of a soft spot for turtles and helped several of them across the road on Sunday. I found this little fella -- barely bigger than a quarter -- on Stagville Rd. Undoubtedly the smallest turtle I've ever seen.

Go west, young man.

Martin spins a yarn while Sridhar relaxes at Hollow Ridge Grocery. This has to be one of my favorite control stores -- a nice shady area at the front as well as a big porch out back -- not to mention a good selection of munchies and sodas.

Ummmm, the bridge is still out on Charlie Long Rd. -- time to change the cue sheet, this one is going to be out for a while.

A sampling of the local fare at the turn-around control in Leasburg. This one is for you, Adrian.

The freshly re-paved section on Hester Store Rd. turned the heat up a couple of notches.

Tim and John O. relax at Hollow Ridge Grocery. By the time we got there in the afternoon, the heat and humidity were stifling -- no sign of rain in sight.

And while we were cooling down, up rolls this contraption.

Something tells me, this might be their "daily driver".

About 3~4 miles outside of Bahama, John noticed some thunder clouds starting to form behind us -- by the time we reached Bahama, the sky was angry-purple and the wind was really starting to whip up. We ended up taking refuge in a store until we though the worst of the storm had blown over. As we rolled down Stagville, Rd., the light mist turned into a torrential downpour -- it felt wonderful after baking in the sun all day. The rain followed us all the way in to the finish.

25 May 2010

How I Roll -- The Dinglehoffer

I was inspired to do this write up by a feature in the Bicycle Times magazine (great bike mag, btw) called "How we roll" where a reader and their bike are profiled.

I love to tinker, and for years, I've run Sturmey Archer hub gears for commuting. I've always wanted to try one of the vintage Cyclo conversion kits that allowed you to run two or three cogs on a S/A hub. The Cyclo cogs pop up on ebay from time to time, but they tend to go for a pretty good chunk of change.

A year or so ago, I ran across the Surly Dingle which is basically a two-speed fixed cog and I thought this is something I can use. I also happened to have a rare, threaded driver for the AW hub -- the Dingle threaded on perfectly! A bit of tinkering and sourcing for odd parts and my 3-speed commuter was now a 6-speed -- thus was born the Dinglehoffer.

The cockpit. S/A trigger on moustache bars to control the hub and a stem shifter for the derailleur. The stem is a no-name brand adjustable angle suspension stem. I didn't have great expectations for it, but the stem actually does a nice job smoothing out the rougher bits in the park and takes the edge off the spots on the greenway where tree roots have heaved the pavement.

The wiring. A Sachs double cable guide collects the housings at the front of the downtube.

Both cables run through the cable guide at the bottom bracket.

Outback, the cable for the rear derailleur utilizes the normal housing stop and the S/A cable runs straight to the hub. I used a zip-tie to hold the S/A cable in a little closer to the chain stay so my heel doesn't snag it.

The business end. I ended up using an old low-endish Shimano rear derailleur mainly because it's tough to get the limit screws far enough in on most derailleurs to limit them to just two cogs. The Shimano was no exception, but it uses standard 3mm bolts that you can get from the hardware store -- note the really long limit screw kinda hanging off the bottom of the image. I also needed to swap out the floating upper pulley in the derailleur for a non-floating pulley.

The Gear Chart. So far I really haven't been shifting the dingle too much -- I've basically been riding it as a 4-speed. I mainly stay on the 17-tooth cog and just shift the hub -- occasionally reaching for the 21-tooth cog on really steep little climbs.

I'm kinda impressed with how the whole thing turned out. There are still a couple of small kinks to work out, but the bike is a blast to ride and just about as much fun to cobble together!

18 May 2010

Scenes from the Commute -- Baby Snake

Well, kinda. I rolled into the driveway the other night to find this tiny juvenile Northern Water Snake next to my car. From tip to tail, the little fella was only about 6~7 inches long.

Seeing as how he's pretty harmless and was in a patient mood, I decided to get some close-up shots. This shot was taken in super macro mode with my little Olympus camera from about 2" away.

Zoom in a bit and... Yikes! I think I can see my reflection in his eye!

This make for the 6th species of snake that I've spotted in my yard (Northern Water Snake; Eastern Garter Snake; Brown Snake; Redbelly Snake; Black Racer; Copperhead). I've never been a big fan of snakes and used to be deathly afraid of them, but the more I encounter them and study them, the more facinating I find them. Sure, I still hold tons of respect -- and fear -- of venomous snakes, but they are beautiful creatures (in their own way) and a very important part of our world.

13 May 2010

Build your own

This spring I was fortunate to be able to attend NAHBS (North American Handmade Bicycle Show) in Richmond VA. Amongst the hordes of beautiful steel bikes I lusted over, there were a number of interesting wooden bikes. Most notably, bamboo creations from Calfee and Boo Bicycles.

The intricately laminated Sylvan frames also caught my attention. Their attention to detail in the laminated and octagon mitered tubes was really quite beautiful.

I've always been appreciative of the labor that goes into a fine piece of woodwork. My dad is a self-taught woodworker and is quite talented. As for myself, I've just never been good at it -- I guess it skips a generation.

All these wooden bikes triggered something in my memory -- somewhere around the house, I have an old magazine article from the 1940's that details how to build your own bike from wood. Apparently, steel tubing was tough to get during World War II and many bicycle companies ceased production.

The picture above is the cover page for the 4 page article. I'll applaud the plans for their simplicity. You'll have to scavenge some parts (wheels, cranks, handlebars, seat), but the rest of the materials are something any farmer or competent tinkerer would have around the shop.

You can view and download high resolution copies of the 4 page article here.

Itching to build your own wooden bike but afraid to build and ride the death-trap in the plans above (I sure am)? The current issue of Urban Velo Magazine has an interesting article on the Bamboo Bike Studio in Brooklyn -- you can read the full article on Urban Velo's site.

18 March 2010

Scenes from the commute -- The Embrace

In tough times, we could all use a little support. I ride past these two daily, locked in their slow embrace.

14 March 2010

L-L-L -- first run

This Saturday, four of us (Bryan, Maria, Mike and myself) set off for the first run of my new L-L-L RUSA Permanent. After a tough winter, we were treated to perfect weather with start temps in the 50's and high temps in the upper 60's with bright blue skies.

I wasn't certain I'd be able to do the ride this weekend -- I've been struggling with a gnarly cold for the last couple weeks. I finally got confirmation from my doctor this Friday that I have a sinus/throat infection. Armed with antibiotics, I decided to do the ride -- I hope my sporadic coughing fits didn't irritate my riding companions too much.

When I announced the route, I did have one well meaning local rider question my sanity for including so many hills in the route ;-)Well, it was my goal to create a route that was challenging. Despite being light, I'm not a great climber -- I want to work on that and what better way to do that than to spend time climbing.

Bryan's GPS showed a total of about 6800 feet of climbing which is in line with what ridewithgps.com calculated. Yeah, sure, there were some tough spots, but overall, it really didn't seem that bad.

At the first control, Mike and I decided to sample some of the local gastronomical delights -- that's the chicken biscuit in the photo album. Um, let's just say, that wasn't the greatest of choices -- it went down like a lead balloon -- at least it stayed down, though we were both worried about a possible digestive revolt.

Overall, we all had a great ride yesterday -- couldn't have asked for better weather. The cue sheet was dead on and nobody got lost. Everybody road strong and mostly stayed together through out the day -- if we got separated on the road, it was never more than a couple minutes and we regrouped at the controls.

I'm already looking forward to the next ride!

09 March 2010

New RUSA Permanent route for North Carolina!

Well, I finally got off my butt and decided to put together my own RUSA Permanent route. We have quite an active randonneuring community in North Carolina, and I've been inspired by Mike D., the "Godfather of NC Permanents" to build my own.

The new Leesville - Leasburg - Leesville (L-L-L) route is an out-and-back route leaving out of the north Raleigh community of Leesville and turning around in the rural community of Leasburg. I've tried to take the route out of Raleigh as quickly as possible, leaving the suburbs behind and sticking mainly to very rural back roads.

Let's ride!

25 February 2010

Scenes from the Commute -- Winter Wonderland

For the first time in years, we finally had ourselves a "real" winter in North Carolina -- complete with snow and everything! The Raleigh/Durham metro area awoke to a lovely dusting of snow this morning -- not enough to cause problems -- just enough to make the world a bit more beautiful.

12 January 2010

Lake Loop Permanent -- Frozen edition: Hardening our Character

Last week as I was mulling over trying to squeeze in my R-12 ride for January, I found inspiration in the words of Stijn Devolder in a recent CyclingNews.com article. Stijn seem puzzled as to why his teammates were flocking to warmer weather in Spain -- he certainly felt there was nothing wrong with the current weather in Belgium. My favorite quote is:
"It is not so cold that you freeze on to your bike," he said. “You go from a temperature of zero (Celsius) to minus one and you're not dead; It hardens your character.”
Yeah, nobody should be surprised when Stijn kicks a little ass in the spring classics this year.

The forecast for Sunday was calling for lows in the upper teens and highs in the mid 30's (F). Honestly, I wasn't really looking forward to spending all day on the bike in these conditions. Regardless, I put a shout out on our local rando list and pals, Geof, Rob & Mary signed on.

As we prepared to roll out from start, Geof's thermometer was reading 19 degrees (F) -- I suspect we reached the mid 30's by the afternoon, though it seemed a bit cooler up in Virginia.

Unfortunately, we didn't take too many photos throughout the day -- working a tiny digital camera with 3 pair of gloves on is an exercise in frustration.

The cold weather, clothing and frozen bottles were the talk of the day. We had some good laughs over trying to squeeze water out of frozen bottles -- Mary resorted to microwaving her bottles at the controls to soften them up!

Overall, it turned out to be a great day on the bike, sure it was cold, but the sunny blue skies helped make things feel better. I was wearing more wool than a sheep and there was only one instance where I was truly freezing and very uncomfortable. As we rolled out of the first control, I experienced extremely cold hands -- can't move the fingers kind of cold. I stopped and added a pair of nylon lobster-mitt shells. That did the trick -- only thing I can figure was my gloves were wet with perspiration and just sucked the heat away from my hands -- the shells stopped the wind and slowed the thermal transfer.