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, September 21, 2014

Pie Ride

Thanks to my cycling friends in Milledgeville, yesterday's ride was made even more fun.  As I checked Facebook while I had breakfast before my ride, I saw a post from the Bicycling Club of Milledgeville explaining that yesterday was International Pie Ride Day.  We were instructed to stop for a piece of pie during or after whatever ride we did yesterday, post a picture, and use the hashtag #PieRide.  I have no idea what this was all about (perhaps related to one of my favorite holidays - International Talk Like a Pirate Day - which was the day before?), but I was game.  Besides, it fit perfectly into my existing ride plans.

Yesterday was one of those rare Saturdays when I didn't have an out-of-town ride or race.  I didn't even have to get up to an alarm clock.  Therefore, I planned a nice, longish ride from home, beginning whenever I felt like it.  After breakfast, I headed to the Monticello square.  When I'm home on Saturday morning during the spring or summer, I always go to my local farmers market.  Yesterday we even had live music - Les Steele and the Yellow River Band.  For years Mr. Steele was a music teacher and band director in the Jasper County schools.  Additionally, he participates in any local musical endeavor, like the Monticello Community Band.  On many a Saturday morning at the farmers market, he has entertained the crowd with his singing and keyboard playing.  Mr. Steele is a Monticello institution.  I was thrilled to see him yesterday because it was probably the first time he's played in the community since a terrible accident he had in recent months.  Because of the accident, he ultimately lost both of his legs.  He's been living at The Retreat, our local nursing home.  Here he and the band are (Mr. Steele is kind of hidden, wearing a purple shirt and playing the keyboard in the middle of this photo):

I saw my friend Ed at the farmers market, and I loved the way he described the scene: Music Midtown in Monticello.

I always like to buy something at the farmers market.  Yesterday's purchase was a wonderful, homemade tamale prepared by a local family.  I discovered these tamales several weeks ago.  They come filled with pork or chicken and are wrapped in banana leaves.  Corn husks are usually used to wrap tamales, but these are so huge that I guess banana leaves work better for them.  They come with two salsas, red and green.  Both are fiery (and delicious!).  One tamale is plenty big for Robert and me to split.  I looked forward to doing just that for lunch after my ride.

Then it was time to fulfill my Pie Ride obligations.  Besides going to the farmers market, the other thing I like to do to kick of a Saturday morning ride in Monticello is to go to The Vanilla Bean on the square.  It's a wonderful coffee shop run by a local Mennonite family.  They also serve high quality sandwiches, salads, soups, and pastries.  Since I don't like coffee, I get tea.  Additionally, it's one of the few times I splurge and get a sweet treat, usually a muffin.  But of course, today I was looking for pie!  Michelle, a cute teenage girl who works behind the counter, took my order.  I told her that I was instructed to get a piece of pie during my ride today.  I'm sure that sounded quite bizarre to her, but she simply smiled and went with the flow.  Scanning the display case of pastries, at first I didn't see any pies.  (There are usually a couple of types available.)  Fortunately, Michelle directed me to the Key lime pie in the lower corner, which I had overlooked.  Perfect!  Especially with a cup of Earl Grey tea:

Now well-fueled, I was ready to begin my ride in earnest.  Robert (sweet husband) accompanied me for about the first 10 miles.  He was on his cyclocross bike and, therefore, planned to do a paved/dirt mix.  I did an all-paved, 51-mile route on my road bike.

I love my rural home.  Where else would you find a sign that reads simply, "MULCH WANTED" - no phone number or other contact information.  I said to Robert, "How does that work?  Someone's driving down the road, knocks on their door, and says, 'I got your mulch right here?'"

Robert turned off on a dirt road, and I continued on my route.  What a glorious day!  I was grateful for so much: the strength and health to ride my bicycle, blue sky, green trees, sunshine, warm air, fields, cows, hay bales, crickets, excellent roads to ride on, Robert, friends and neighbors I had seen at the farmers market, delicious oatmeal for breakfast, and a good night's sleep - just to name a few things.

It's only a couple of days until the first day of fall, Tuesday, September 23rd (a little later than usual this year).  I try to appreciate every season, but I have to admit that I love spring and summer best.  I get a little melancholy as fall arrives.  None of that on yesterday's ride, though.  The day was like a luscious lemon, and I was determined to squeeze out every last drop of summer juice.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fried Green Tomato 200K Permanent

Yesterday I completed another permanent in my quest to earn the Randonneurs USA (RUSA) R-12 award (only two months to go!).  The Audax Atlanta chapter of RUSA has a brevet scheduled for the last Saturday of this month, but I was a little nervous to wait that long into September.  So, I did the Fried Green Tomato 200K Permanent.  It was a terrific route anyway, and it passed about 1/4 mile from my house!

It was rather uneventful, but that's not a bad thing on a ride.  I did the whole thing by myself, which I didn't mind a bit.  There were several big things I planned to ponder during my ride.  I got some good pondering done during the first two or three hours when I felt fresh.  After that, I don't really remember what I thought about specifically.  I just let my mind wander and enjoyed the day.

One of the highlights was riding through the Piedmont Wildlife Refuge (PWR).  It's one of the most beautiful places I know, and spending any time there - whether riding through on my bicycle, kayaking, or hiking - always makes my spirit soar.

Several miles after the PWR, there was a big rut in the road at an intersection.  I took it slowly, but I heard a clank on the ground behind me.  I looked back and saw that my CO2 cartridge had fallen out of the small supply bag attached under my saddle.  The bag, which holds what I need to change a flat, has a zipper that has been splitting.  (Time for a new bag.)  My spare inner tube had come unfolded and was hanging out like a tail.  I retrieved the CO2 cartridge, put it and the inner tube back in the bag, and zipped the bag securely.  Unfortunately, my tire tool must have fallen out somewhere.  I couldn't find it.  It's not expensive to replace, but I was a little concerned about what I would do if I had a flat later in yesterday's ride.  Fortunately, that didn't happen.

The control at Kroger in McDonough made an excellent lunch stop.  I bought a pre-made turkey sandwich, banana, and a big bottle of Powerade.  There was a bench outside the entrance, the perfect spot for my makeshift picnic.

When I left Kroger, I headed east on the route.  Big thunderclouds loomed just to my north.  I was glad that I would be turning south soon, hoping that I would be able to avoid the rain.  I think I did miss the worst of it, but I rode through a fairly short segment with a heavy downpour.  One time a big thunderclap boomed right on top of me!  I ducked, started pedaling faster, and looked for a safe place to pull off of the road.  I didn't see anywhere.  By the time I started seeing some possibilities, I had ridden out of the rain.

I should have bought a bigger bottle of Powerade back at Kroger.  I was about five miles from my next control, which was a convenience store, and I was almost out of liquid.  I could have made it to the control without a problem, but I was grateful to pass right by a fire station in Butts County.  It looked like people were around.  When I called out, however, no one answered.  Therefore, I helped myself to the spigot on the side of the building, filling both of my bottles with water.  I don't think they would have minded.  Thank you, Butts County Volunteer Fire Department!

I finished my ride in 8 hours, 39 minutes, including stops.  Not bad, particularly riding the whole thing by myself.  I celebrated and did a little post-ride refueling at Dairy Queen in Monticello.  I got a pumpkin pie Blizzard, my all-time favorite flavor!

I felt good after my ride.  In fact, at the end I thought, "I could keep going if I had to."  Nevertheless, I kind of underestimate how much these long rides wear me out.  Last night I slept 10 hours, and I took a 2-hour nap this afternoon.  How grateful I am for that restorative sleep!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

La Vuelta a España Dinner

For several years I've had the best time cooking a French dinner for Robert and me one night in July during the three weeks of the Tour de France.  I don't know why it took me this long to figure out that it would be just as fun to do the same thing for the other two Grand Tours.  We're about two-thirds through the 2014 Vuelta a España.  Therefore, tonight I began a new tradition: cooking an annual Spanish dinner in honor of the Vuelta.

I was really pulling for Nairo Quintana in this year's Vuelta.  I became a fan of his after watching his magnificent climbing in the 2013 Tour de France.  He grew up in Columbia at an elevation over 9,000 feet above sea level, making him an excellent climber.  After Quintana won the 2014 Giro d'Italia, I couldn't wait to see him in the other two Grand Tours this year.  What a disappointment when I learned that he wouldn't be racing in this year's Tour de France.  His team wanted him to focus on the Vuelta a España in August/September.  How heartbreaking that he then crashed out of the Vuelta!  I think he'll be a major contender in all of his races next year.  In the meantime, I'm now rooting for Alejandro Valverde, Quintana's teammate, who is from Spain and is currently no. 2 in the general classification (i.e., overall) in the Vuelta.

Speaking of Alejandro Valverde, doesn't he have a romantic sounding name?  The English equivalent is Alex Green.  Ha ha!  I can just picture young girls in Spain swooning, "Alex Green - isn't that a romantic name?"

Despite my disappointment about Quintana having to abandon the Vuelta, my enthusiasm for cooking some delicious Spanish dishes did not diminish.  The first part of Robert's and my Vuelta dinner was tapas, or Spanish appetizers.  I prepared several small offerings that I had purchased at Fresh Market in Macon.  I love everything at Fresh Market, but the prices limit me to only a few splurges now and then.  The olives and peppers from their antipasto bar were definitely worth it!  I had wanted to get some marcona almonds, commonly served with tapas, but surprisingly, Fresh Market didn't have any.  Thus, I substituted Wasabi Wonder, an excellent assortment of wasabi flavored peas, almonds, and cashews.  Wasabi may not be a Spanish flavor, but it was a wonderful accompaniment to our other tapas.  Finally, we had some manchego cheese, a flavorful Spanish cheese made from sheep's milk.  Of course we had to have some good wine with our tapas.  I selected an outstanding Spanish wine, Ergo Rioja.  Rioja is made primarily with tempranillo grapes, native to Spain.

Our entree was paella, the traditional Spanish dish.  My Aunt Betty gave me a simple yet delicious recipe for paella.  It contains only five ingredients: hot Italian sausage, rice, canned tomatoes, shrimp, and peas.  (I add a little fresh garlic, too.)  On the side I served a nice salad consisting of the fresh arugula that I bought at my local farmers market this morning, diced apple, dried cranberries, toasted walnuts, blue cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette.  When I went to the grocery store this afternoon, I intended to buy some fancy bread (baguette or similar) for dipping in olive oil.  I forgot; therefore, I made some garlic toast with some leftover hamburger buns, drizzling them with olive oil and sprinkling them with freshly grated Romano cheese.  Not bad!  Dining al fresco on our deck made it even better.

We don't eat many desserts, but we indulged tonight.  I picked some fresh figs this afternoon and made some fig bars.  What better way to get a taste of both late summer and the Mediterranean?  These not-too-sweet bars are perfect with tea:

I'm so glad we don't have to wait a full year to enjoy our next Grand Tour dinner.  Up next: the Giro d'Italia in May!