Road biking, dirt road riding on Frankenbike, tandem riding, group riding, time trialing, randonneuring - I love to ride, and I love to write. As I've traveled along on two wheels, I've learned one thing: Expect Adventure. Join me on the journey!

Betty Jean Jordan

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Albany 200K Brevet

Wayne, our new Audax Atlanta Regional Brevet Administrator (RBA), has made a point to create a few new brevet routes for us.  Yesterday we got to do the inaugural Albany 200K brevet.  I thoroughly enjoyed riding in a part of the state that I don't visit very often.

Nine of us started at 7:00 AM.  It was about half an hour before sunrise, and so we had to use front and rear lights and reflective gear for the first bit of the ride.  We began at the Albany Civic Center, adjacent to a trail along the Flint River.  A portion of the trail was flooded; therefore, we took a short detour to enter the trail past the flooded area.  From there it was smooth sailing...er...riding.

We lucked out on the weather.  It was in the upper 40s at the start but quickly warmed up.  We rode in the 50s for most of the day and even hit the low 60s by mid-afternoon.  Additionally, we didn't get a drop of rain.  It doesn't get much better in January in Georgia.

A few of us grouped together toward the front: Chip, Wayne, and me.  Chip lives in Albany and found out about our ride through a Facebook post I made to the Pecan City Pedalers.  We were very glad to have him join us.

Chip was a good source of information about Albany and the surrounding area.  I asked him about all the cotton that hadn't been harvested; normally it's harvested in the fall.  He explained that between Hurricane Michael and more recent heavy rains, many of the cotton fields were too wet to be harvested.  In fact, there was still standing water in several of the unharvested cotton fields.

Chip also described what it was like during the historic flooding of 1994.  Being an Albany native and familiar with the streets, he volunteered to help the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  The DNR took boats out to assess the flooded areas, sometimes at night.  Chip rode along in one of them.  He said it was difficult to orient himself in all the black water.

The vast majority of roads on the Albany 200K route had little to no traffic.  In the grey January light, the farms and forests were quiet, meditative, and...


The giant peanut statue in Plains was a highlight of the day.
Chip had dropped back sometime before the peanut.  I rode the rest of the way with Wayne.  I hadn't ridden much with Wayne before, certainly not a whole ride.  I found him to be a quite a pleasant riding companion.  He's not terribly talkative, but when he does talk, it's interesting.  He's also a very strong rider and good to draft behind.

Until we got to Dawson at about mile 70, I didn't notice the wind very much because we had been traveling mostly north and south.  However, once we turned west at Dawson, the wind became a big factor.  It was coming from the east, the opposite direction of Georgia's predominant wind pattern.  At first this was a huge boon; we had a tailwind as we rode the busiest portion of the route, the 10-mile stretch westward from Dawson to Shellman.

Then things got tougher.  After Shellman we rode mostly eastward back toward Albany.  Therefore, we had a significant headwind for the last 50 miles.  This portion also included our longest distance between controls: 40 miles between Shellman and the final store stop about 10 miles from the end.  Normally, 40 miles between controls wouldn't be a big deal to me, but that headwind kept beating on me.  I was so glad to get some refreshment at that last store, which gave me the energy boost I needed to finish strong.

Before I headed home, I stopped at the Ray Charles statue at the riverside park near the civic center.

I first saw this statue when Robert and I did the 2007 Georgia Tandem Rally, which was held in Albany.  I had forgotten how the concrete surrounding the raised platform is made to look like piano keys.  On the other hand, I remembered that the platform rotates ever so slowly, almost imperceptibly.  I discovered this in 2007; earlier in the day, Ray was facing one direction, but later he was facing another direction.  Whoa!

The display also plays Ray Charles music continuously.  When I visited yesterday, I was thrilled to catch the tail end of him singing "Georgia on My Mind."  It was the perfect finale to a wonderful ride in my home state.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Laughter: The Best Medicine

It's been said that cycling is about pain management.  Some of the best ways to manage that pain are good nutrition, good friends,....and a good laugh.  Last Saturday I did a 200K, and today I did a century at Peach Peloton.  Both were tough.  Both had a funny moment that buoyed me the rest of the ride.

Athens 200K Brevet

I've done this route a number of times.  Last Saturday I rode it with some of my best rando buddies: Andrew, Chad, Dick, Graham, Ian, and Julie.  We weren't lollygagging; it was one of my faster times on this route.

At one of the controls, Andrew and I were discussing various drink mixes for endurance athletes (Infinit, Skratch Labs, etc.). He said Hammer products upset his stomach because they have too much whey.
Me: “No whey!”
Andrew: “Whey!”

Peach Peloton

We had a store stop at about mile 54.  
Jeff K. got some kind of pink, fluffy snack cake thing. I said, “That looks like something Zsa Zsa Gabor would eat.”Jake said, “You mean that character from Star Wars?” Jake’s confusion is understandable; I get Zsa Zsa Gabor and Jar Jar Binks mixed up all the time.

Later I found out that the pink, fluffy thing was a Sno Ball.  OK, so cycling isn't always about good nutrition...

But I can always count on good friends.

Riding through the Auchumpkee Covered Bridge

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Hoot Owl 200K Brevet

The Hoot Owl 200K Brevet was last July.  It was a hoot to provide ride support!  I wrote an article about it for American Randonneur magazine.  I promised the editor that I wouldn't make a blog entry until the article came out.  It just did!  Not only is it a fun article about a fun ride, it's also great to remember the summertime warmth during these cold winter days.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Peach Peloton - The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Today was my first Peach Peloton of the season.  Chad Madan, the official organizer this year, didn't want to start until December.  We got rained out the first two Saturdays of December, and then last week I did the Chops & Hops Populaire with my rando buddies.  So, I've been looking forward to finally riding Peach Peloton today.

We rode from East Macon toward kaolin country.  Some of our Macon cyclopeeps don't like to venture that far to start, and so today it was just my Georgia Neuro teammates, i.e., the hardcore riders: Allen, Bill, Cal, Cody, Robert, Stoney, Van, and me.  It promised to be a tough ride, but I was up for it.  Not only was it a great ride, it was like an early Christmas!  Check out all the cool gifts I got:

1) Van brought our new 2019 team kits, which just came in.  Robert also ordered mini jerseys for our main team sponsors.  The mini jerseys are about six inches long, and you can hang them on a window:

The spine is back this year!
2) The guys waited for me at the end of the first attack zone.  It was a long, downhill stretch on Myricks Mill Road.  I have a hard time keeping up on the downhills anyway, and so I didn't stand a chance with it being an attack zone.

3) I'm grateful for old man bladders.  A couple of guys were taking a nature break when I caught up at the end of the Myricks Mill attack zone.  I kind of had to go myself, but I didn't want to delay the others any longer than I already had.  I figured I could wait a while, stopping by myself if I had to.  Fortunately, Bill, who didn't go at the end of Myricks Mill, called for a pee break a few miles later.

4) I was able to hang on during rotations by sitting on the back.

5) The second attack zone wasn't super attack-y.  Cody and Van opted not to participate, and so I rode on their wheel until we regrouped.

6) I didn't get dropped until mile 68!  That left only 19 miles I had to ride by myself.  I was so glad to last that long.  I'll admit that it was also nice to ride at a less insane pace for the remaining miles.

7) It was encouraging to learn that I still can do a long, intense effort.  I haven't had a hard group ride since Tuesday Worlds ended for the season a few months ago, and Tuesday Worlds is less than half the distance of today's Peach Peloton.  We'll see how the other Peach Peloton rides go this winter training season.  Even if I get dropped, though, I'm glad for the challenge.

Merry Christmas!

View of a kaolin plant from the store stop in Gordon

Friday, December 21, 2018

Chops & Hops Populaire

Sometimes it's good to put aside the power data, speed, and competition and simply ride bikes with your friends.  That's exactly what I did last Saturday at the Chops & Hops Populaire.  Wayne, our new Audax Atlanta Regional Brevet Administrator (RBA), wants to offer some social rides to our group, and he's getting us off to an excellent start.

A populaire is a 100K event.  This was only my second one.  Both times the group rode it audax style, meaning that everyone purposely stays together.  Maybe I didn't ride Chops & Hops as fast as I could have, but the camaraderie more than made up for it.

The ride was scheduled to start at 8:00 AM in Watkinsville.  It had rained all day the previous day and overnight, but the clouds were supposed to clear fairly close to ride time.  We checked the radar as we gathered in the parking lot.  If we waited an hour, we just might miss the rain.  So, we headed down the road a few blocks to a coffee shop.

It was great to get caught up with everyone, especially Robert N.  This was his first ride back since a serious hand and wrist injury in a crash a couple of months ago.  I was so glad he was feeling up to the day's ride.  After coffee, tea, and muffins, we all were well fortified for the ride.

Thirteen of us rolled out:

Wayne was taking the picture; someone else was off taking a nature break
Just a few miles into the ride, we came to an intersection blocked by a sheriff's deputy.  A running race was underway, and this was the turnaround point.  Fortunately, we were allowed to proceed on our route.  It was a unique adventure to ride among the runners.

I would be on my bicycle much longer than the runners were running.  We all probably thought we were getting the better end of that deal.

Later that day, I looked up the race online and discovered that it was the 20th Annual Will Chamberlin Memorial Santa Stroll 8K.  Will helped us in Monticello for many years with the Deer Dash 5K.  It was particularly meaningful to me to learn that that's what this race was.

It turned into a beautiful day for riding.  I reveled in the sparkling December sunshine and great companionship.

Andy sporting a cool Audax Atlanta jersey
I enjoyed the opportunity to ride with Neil.  Neil might not be fast, but he's amazing.  He's nearly 75 and keeps on keeping on despite several broken bones in recent years.  Brian gave multiple pushes to Neil to help him up the climbs.  Wayne joked that it was like Neil had an e-bike.  Actually, he had a B-bike!

I get by with a little help from my friends.
When I was mapping the route ahead of time to upload to my Garmin, I was pleased to see that we would be going down the steep hill at Hard Labor Creek state park, opposite of the direction I usually ride.  As I continued mapping, however, I realized that the route was out and back to Rutledge.  We got to make the big climb after all.

We cruised the remaining 18 miles or so back to our starting point.  Afterwards, everyone gathered at Chops & Hops.  Good food, good beer, and good friends - a high point of my holiday season!

Me, Andy, and Neil
Jim, Tim, Brad, and David B.

Beer connoisseurs Brian and Robert N. enjoy a flight

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Bike Church (and Other Sources of Spiritual Nourishment)

Yesterday was December 1, the first legal day to put up Christmas decorations at Polyhound Farm.  Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the Sunday of hope.  It's been a wonderful weekend to start the Advent/Christmas season.  I feel much less Grinch-like this year than usual, maybe because I intentionally focused on gratitude each day during November.

Even so, in recent months I've somewhat disconnected from my church.  I haven't been getting a whole lot out of it.  I want to go to church to learn about God, to talk about ways we see God at work in the world, and to share that good news with the world.  Maybe my attitude is the problem.  It's about God first and foremost, not about me.  Also, I've come to value the church because it's the only organization I know of that intentionally calls different people - sometimes radically different people - to live, love, and work together as one.  Therefore, I keep trying.

In the meantime, my soul is hungry.  It's been getting nourishment from some alternate sources.

Bike Church

Yesterday (Saturday) it rained all...day...long.  The first Peach Peloton of the season was cancelled.  At least I was able to plan around it.  I made Saturday my off day for this week, which is highly unusual, and rode Friday afternoon instead.  Then, I spent all day Saturday getting caught up on laundry and decorating for Christmas.  I can't remember the last time I spent a whole Saturday at home!  It was a gift.

Because I had Sunday afternoon plans (see below), I figured out a way to have a longish ride on Sunday morning.  Regular Sunday school was cancelled because of an alternate program.  I decided to skip that and just go to the worship service - enough time for a ride.

Soon after sunrise and breakfast I headed for Allison Lake in the Piedmont Wildlife Refuge (PWR).  The rain had stopped sometime during the night.  It was about 67 degrees.  If you had told me I would ride in shorts and a short-sleeved jersey on a December morning, I wouldn't have believed you.  But that's just what I did, and I was quite comfortable.

The sky was mostly overcast, but the light was intriguing nonetheless.  As I headed farther south and into the PWR, the sun even peeked out from the clouds from time to time.  The remaining raindrops on the trees sparkled in the sunlight.

Every morning is unique in its lighting, vegetation, and other delights if we simply take the time to notice.  It's as if the great Artist starts with a blank canvas and says, "Hmm...what will I paint today?"

I felt better on the bike than I had in a month.  For most of November I had a stomach ailment.  I was still able to ride, but I never felt like I had my usual energy.  This morning I finally felt like my muscles were getting power again.  It felt great!

This morning I rode in gratitude for the strength and health to ride; time and schedule flexibility to ride; a good, reliable bicycle and equipment; a good night's sleep and nutritious breakfast; a wonderful day to ride; and quiet roads in one of the most beautiful places I know.

Coffee with Jesus

Church was pretty good this morning, but I have to admit that these days I'm getting a lot of my theology from the comic strip Coffee with Jesus.  It's published on the Facebook page of Radio Free Babylon on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  It has about eight characters, all drawn in a 1950s style.  Each character is always shown in the same pose.  One of them typically has a conversation with Jesus over coffee.  The strips can be funny or though-provoking, and sometimes they hit uncomfortably close to home.  It amazes me how much the authors can convey in just a few panels.  Here's one of my favorites from the last several months:

Maybe there will be another sustaining installment of Coffee with Jesus tomorrow morning...

Macon Christmas Parade

My friend Kathleen, owner of Ocmulgee Outdoor Expeditions, had invited me to ride on her bus in the Macon Christmas parade this afternoon.  I was interested from the moment I learned about it, but did I want to go to Macon on a Sunday afternoon?  Perhaps more importantly, could I convince Robert to go with me?

Toward the end of last week, I thought about my weekend activities.  I already knew my ride schedule would be out of whack because of Saturday's rain.  We could go out Sunday night instead of the usual Friday night.  Plan, plan, plan...  Oh, what the heck - the things that make life most fun are simple but out-of-the-ordinary things like riding a garish turquoise bus in a Christmas parade!

Magic bus!

My organic chemistry (OH-OH-OH) TOMS are also perfect for the Christmas season (HO-HO-HO).

"There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." - Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows

Note Kathleen in the rear view mirror!
Robert and I had paddles festooned with ribbons that we stuck out the windows of the bus to help "row" it.

It's kind of funny when you think about parades.  People are in the parade, and people stand on the side of the road watching.  They smile and wave at each other.  There's really not much to it, but everyone loves it.  

It was a joy to see the marvelous, varied people in the crowd.  To think that God loves each person, and each is a one-of-a-kind reflection of the Creator.  This is also one of my favorite aspects of serving communion as an elder, which I got to do last Sunday.

After the parade Robert and I ate, drank, and made merry a little while longer in Maconga.

I certainly don't have all the answers, but these verses are some of the wisest and most comforting words I know:

Seize life! Eat bread with gusto,
Drink wine with a robust heart.
Oh yes—God takes pleasure in your pleasure!
Dress festively every morning.
Don’t skimp on colors and scarves.
Relish life with the spouse you love
Each and every day of your precarious life.
Each day is God’s gift. It’s all you get in exchange
For the hard work of staying alive.
Make the most of each one!
Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily!
This is your last and only chance at it,
For there’s neither work to do nor thoughts to think
In the company of the dead, where you’re most certainly headed.

- Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 (The Message)

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Sasquatch Ride

What a fun time at the Sasquatch Ride!  And I didn't even feel very good.  I've been battling gastroenteritis (some kind of stomach bug) for nearly two weeks.  If I had had my usual vim and vigor, I would have derived untold amounts of enjoyment from last weekend.

Ray and Tina Egan organized the Sasquatch Ride.  I had heard of it the last year or two, but it wasn't really on my radar screen.  Then, my friend Graham told me about it, saying that this year it was moving to Indian Springs.  That's only about 15 miles from my house.  I read more about the event and found that it would be two days of riding on mostly dirt roads, including many that I regularly ride.  It was like stringing together some of my favorite local routes.  I was in!

The facilities at Indian Springs were ideal for the weekend; an amphitheater with outdoor heat lamps worked great for the Friday and Saturday night dinners as well as socializing.  Riders could stay in nearby cottages, camp at Indian Springs state park, or tent camp for free outside the park.  I opted to drive from home for the rides since I live so close.

Day 1 - Sasquatch Ride

Although there was a spaghetti dinner on Friday night, I didn't arrive until Saturday morning for the first ride.  It was a chilly start, in the upper 30s, but the day warmed quickly, reaching a high in the 60s by afternoon.

There were two distance options, 100 miles or 60 miles.  About a dozen of us opted for the 100-mile route.  We rolled out at 8:00 AM, an hour before the 60-milers.  I rode with several guys for a few miles, but I quickly discerned that they would be too fast for me for the long haul.  I dropped back and thought I might be doing a lot of solo riding.

Then, here came Calista!  I had seen her briefly before the start.  She's a fellow randonneuse who lives in Maryland.  How great that she came to join us on the Sasquatch Ride!  I had met her once before on a 400K brevet a few years ago but didn't ride with her or talk with her much then because she did a longer 1000K option.  So, it was quite enjoyable to ride with her this past weekend and get to know her.  She's a super strong rider and a very nice and interesting person.

I drafted a good bit behind Calista.  I probably would have had to anyway because she's a stronger rider than I am, but I definitely had to this weekend because my energy level wasn't as high as usual because of my stomach woes.  Nevertheless, I was determined to ride the 100 miles and have a good time on Saturday.

We headed east into Jasper County, home turf.  The route took us past woods and farms.  The northernmost portion went through the Clybel Wildlife Management Area, a hidden gem.  Next, we headed back south, through downtown Monticello and toward the Oconee National Forest and the Ocmulgee River.

After a rest stop right near the river, we continued toward Juliette on additional excellent dirt roads.  I had been trying to eat at regular intervals, but my stomach started acting up again on that stretch.  We made it to the lunch stop by the Ocmulgee River in Juliette.  Tina cooked and coordinated all the meals for the weekend, and she did an outstanding job.  Saturday's lunch was a taco bar.  I was able to eat only one, but I wish I could have managed more.  Even that bit was delicious.

They also had some fireball flavor Jack Daniels (like a red hot) available there for the riders.  I just love the chill attitude of the off-roadie community!  I didn't think it would be wise to partake of the Jack Daniels given my iffy stomach, but Calista didn't hesitate.

We made our way west and north through Monroe County.  I was familiar with some roads, but others were new to me.  One of the roads that was unfamiliar to me, Torbet Road, crossed from Monroe County into Butts County.  Soon I learned why I had never ridden on Torbet Road before; the bridge was out!

It didn't look like any construction was underway to rebuild it, either.  This was a little surprise that Ray built into the route for us.  I didn't mind a bit, but I was glad we came to this creek crossing toward the end of the ride during the warmer part of the day.

By the way, I don't know what it is about my rando buddies having to ford creeks when they ride with me!

Rando buddy Dick fording a creek on the Peaches & Lakes 200K Brevet, July 2017

Rando buddy Robert N fording a creek on the Little White House 200K Permanent, July 2014

Husband Robert isn't immune from having to hoof it across creeks with me, either:

Middle Georgia Author Ride (that I designed) in August 2014
Anyway, back to the Sasquatch Ride...

We had another rest stop soon after the creek crossing.

The couple volunteering there had generously made all kinds of delicious looking homemade treats.  One type was an "acorn," made with a mini peanut butter sandwich cookie and a Hershey's kiss.  Unfortunately, I didn't feel up to sampling any of the goodies.  Calista partook for me, however.  In addition to an acorn, she had some beef jerky and some moonshine.  She's my heroine.

Maybe some moonshine would have fortified me for the last 10 miles of the ride: a bunch of single track at Dauset Trails.  I last rode at Dauset Trails at least 10 years ago.  Riding there last Saturday confirmed my status as a roadie.  Granted, I was on a cyclocross bike, which was harder than if I had had a mountain bike, but it was still a beast!

My main saving grace was that Calista wasn't any faster than I was on the single track.  It was roots galore.  We both kept getting off and on our bikes.  Nevertheless, we persisted.  I had thought we would finish the ride earlier in the afternoon, but because the single track slowed us down so much, we finished right at dark.

There was a good looking BBQ dinner following the ride.  I had already planned to go home to eat dinner with Robert.  If it weren't for my stomach, I would have been sorely tempted to stay for BBQ instead.

Day 2 - Halfsquatch Ride

The Sunday routes were the reverse of the Saturday routes.  Was I going to ride 100 miles again?  No.  Was I going to ride the Dauset Trails single track again?  *&$# no!  Perhaps not surprisingly, no one opted for the 100-mile ride on Sunday.

Doing the 60-mile option on Sunday meant that I got an extra hour of sleep before the 9:00 AM start.  Also, I drove back to Indian Springs early enough for breakfast that morning.  That was mainly because I hadn't had time to go grocery shopping, but it turned out to be an excellent decision regardless.  Breakfast was delicious!  I was able to eat a decent amount, and it seemed to sit OK with me.  At least at first...

Calista and I learned that the single track at the beginning of that day's ride was intended to slow everyone down before the lunch stop in Juliette.  Because she and I weren't doing Dauset that day, we delayed our start time until 9:30 AM.  In the meantime, Calista did some extra miles because she wanted about 70 total for the day.

It was another beautiful day, and by the time we rolled out, it was significantly warmer than when I had first arrived that morning.  I had been looking forward to a good ride, but the stomach ick factor kicked in pretty soon.  Calista was riding at a pace that normally would have been just right for me, but I quickly wondered if I would be able to keep up the entire ride.

Only six miles into the ride, we approached the turn that would take us back to the creek crossing.  I had planned ahead, however!  I had checked the route and found an easy detour.  I called out to Calista to turn right instead of left.  A couple of guys heard me say that we were avoiding the creek crossing, and so they followed us.

The lunch stop at Juliette was only 20 miles into the route, but we had delayed our start long enough for it to be a reasonable lunchtime.  Calista and I were the first to arrive.  Tina had made chicken and sausage gumbo.  I simply had to try some:

I couldn't eat much, but I still could tell how outstanding it was.  If I had been my usual self, I would have devoured it!

Calista and I continued on.  We headed north on River Road.  A couple of miles later, there was Robert!  He was parked on the side of the road collecting some survey data.  We stopped briefly to say hi.

As Calista and I rode on again, I started feeling pretty badly.  I had to slow down significantly.  I would have to slog through the remaining miles...or...I could ride back to Robert and have him take me to my car.  As much as I hated to do so, I told Calista I was heading back.

I've ridden in the dark.  I've ridden through terrible weather conditions.  I've continued riding with a sprained shoulder.  I've continued riding after I likely had a mild concussion after a minor crash.  So, maybe that gives you an idea about how poorly I was doing for me to bail.  As I retraced the couple of miles back to Robert, I sang some modified Depeche Mode to myself:

Your own personal SAG wagon

Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who cares

My timing was good because Robert was just finishing his surveying work.  Maybe that was another indication that I had made the right decision.  He graciously took me back to my car at Indian Springs.  When I got home, I slept for nearly three hours.  My stomach has been getting better.  Hopefully, I'm close to beating this gastroenteritis!

I'm already looking forward to next year's Sasquatch Ride: great riding, super people, and good eats!

Me with Sasquatch and THE Sasquatch - thanks for everything, Ray!