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

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Babe + Sage Farm Dinner

Technically, this post isn't a cycling write-up, but good, healthy food is critical to good bike performance.  It's even better when that good food comes from a local, sustainable farm.  Recently I learned of Babe + Sage Farm near Gordon, Georgia.  Tonight Robert and I got to go there for a farm dinner.

Bobby and Chelsea own Babe + Sage and have several part-time employees who assisted throughout the evening with serving and cooking.  All of them work on the farm itself, too.  We received a warm welcome on the porch of the farmhouse with a variety of wines and two types of bruschetta:

The arugula and broccoli were grown on the farm.  In fact, Bobby said that the broccoli came from the first three heads that they have harvested this season!  How special that we got to partake of them.  The bread was some of the wonderful artisan bread that they bake right there.

Next, Bobby led us eight dinner guests on a tour of the farm.  But first, he answered a common question: where does the name Babe + Sage come from?  He and Chelsea had tried and tried to come up with a name for their farm.  It finally came to them from a piece of artwork by Kim Joris (who happens to be a friend of mine, too - small world!).

The words on the artwork are from a longer quote:

“To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion, to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly, to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart, to bear all cheerfully, to all bravely await occasions, hurry never. In a word, to let the spiritual unbidden and unconscious grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony.” ~William Henry Channing

Then we set out to see the wonders of the farm in the beautiful late afternoon sunshine.  Last year they laid about 6,000 feet of PVC pipe for irrigation.  The things sticking up are the sprinklers:

I didn't expect the irrigation pipes to be as large as they are, 3" mains and 2" laterals; that's like a drinking water system!  Note the pecan trees in the background above.  Pecans are just one of the many crops they produce.

These are some plants in the greenhouse waiting to be put into the ground:

The fall crops are well underway.  Wild areas are left between every few rows of vegetables as part of the sustainable land management:

There are six planting areas.  Each year, three are cultivated and three are planted in cover crops (peas, legumes, or beans) to restore the carbon-nitrogen balance.  The next year the groupings are swapped.  This allows the fertility of the soil to be maintained.  It certainly appears to be working because we saw the most beautiful, lush vegetables!

Bok choy

I'm not sure of the names of all of the types of greens that they grow; I believe they have over two dozen varieties!

One thing I love about adventures like this is that I always learn something.  The thing that fascinated me the most tonight was learning that many cruciferous vegetables (e.g., kale, collard greens, cabbage, kohlrabi, broccoli, cauliflower) are the same species.  They are simply different cultivars; broccoli has been developed for its large flowering heads, and kohlrabi is actually an engorged stem.  It's kind of like various dog breeds are all the same species.

As an aside, I first learned of kohlrabi from the periodic table of vegetables hanging in my kitchen.  Yes, someone actually came up with a vegetable to go with every element symbol!  Is that cool, or what?

Back to the farm tour...we then moved on to the processing areas.  Here's the brick oven where they bake all of that delicious bread:

This is the root vegetable washing area.  Note how they use readily available materials from around the farm.  This screen door is simply flipped over for easy backwashing:

Another terrific piece of ingenuity: they put large quantities of greens in this washing machine to get the grit off.  It's like a giant salad spinner!

Wrapping up our walking tour, Bobby explained that he and Chelsea lease the land from the Oetter family, who have owned it since the Great Depression.  It's the perfect situation for young, sustainable farmers like them; they don't have to expend capital to purchase land, the Oetters receive income from their property, and the land is regenerated and conserved.

It was time for the main meal.  We gathered inside the farmhouse at a long table set simply yet elegantly.  The first course was a salad consisting of a number of Babe + Sage greens, the last of the tomato crop, slices of slightly pickled watermelon radish, and honey-apple vinaigrette.

Next came lamb and fall veggie pot pies served in individual ramekins.  The vegetables were from Babe + Sage, and the lamb came from a farm in Sandersville.  The pot pie was incredibly flavorful!

A variety of seasonal vegetables also was served on the side: sweet potatoes and (I think) turnips, greens, and roasted radishes.  I had never had cooked radishes, and they were delicious!

We headed back out to the porch for a little break before dessert.  I enjoyed talking with everyone.  We had all kinds of connections, including Lori, who used to live in Monticello and go to church with Robert and me, and Christy, who works at the same company with a couple of our cycling friends.  Bobby and Chelsea said that our friend Benny often stops by when he rides his bicycle over from Milledgeville on the dirt roads.  Additionally, several of us know John Pluta, a half-crazy beekeeper in Milledgeville.

Jesse did most of the cooking for the evening, and he capped it off beautifully with a rustic bread pudding drizzled with local honey.  It wasn't too sweet - just right:

I'm glad Jesse shared with us the cookbook that he used for many of the dishes.  It came from the library at Georgia College in Milledgeville.  I checked the copyright date, which is 1952.  Isn't this terrific?

I hope Robert and I can visit Babe + Sage again soon.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Misadventures of Frankenbike

Frankenbike season is in full swing.  Starting about the first of October, there’s just not enough daylight after work for me to ride my road bike.  However, I’m fortunate to live in a rural area with an abundance of dirt roads right near my house.  Decked out with front and rear lights, Frankenbike is perfect for evening riding on these very low-traffic, unpaved roads.  Yesterday I decided to take a different route that included a couple of dirt roads that I had never ridden.  According to Google Earth, they connect to other roads that I do know.  Google Earth lied.

To get to the unfamiliar dirt roads, I had to ride on some paved roads, including a state highway.  Fortunately, it’s still early enough in Frankenbike season that I was able to ride the paved portion before the sun went down.  About four miles into my ride, I turned off the pavement onto Goldin Road, which is unpaved.  It lasted about half a mile before it dead-ended.  Bummer.  I wasn’t really surprised, though, because when I was planning the route, I had zoomed in really close on Google Earth and thought that Goldin Road might not actually exist where the line showed.

I made a fairly easy detour and went to the second unfamiliar dirt road, Hayes Road.  I had no reason to doubt Google Earth, which indicated that Hayes Road connects Felton McMichael Road and Clay Tillman Road, two dirt roads that I have ridden.  There was even a nice road sign at the Felton McMichael end.  At first Hayes Road looked like the typical dirt roads I usually ride on, even having a few houses where I started.  As I continued on, though, it became less and less maintained.  I really began to wonder about this road as it eventually turned into a giant erosion ditch with extremely deep ruts.  I kept thinking that soon it would get better as I approached the other end.  It didn’t get better.  In fact, despite my bright front light, I went down in one of the ruts.  I banged up my elbow, but I was fine to keep riding.

I checked the map on my phone, and I appeared to still be on Hayes Road or at least close to it.  I decided to keep going.  A mud hole here, a tree across the path there – this was becoming a true cyclocross ride!  Surely I was getting close to Clay Tillman Road.  Then I came to a swampy area by a creek.   I had to turn around.

It was dark now.  I put my front light on its highest setting.  I was fairly certain I was retracing my route, but I checked my phone map again.  Other than the road/path I was on, the closest road appeared to be a paved road I knew.  For a minute I considered trying to go straight through the woods to that road.  Then I realized that I was getting a little panicky and just needed to relax and think clearly.  I developed a plan: keep going back until I reached Felton McMichael Road again and call Robert to come get me.  I didn’t want to ride Frankenbike all the way home because I wouldn’t feel safe riding on the paved roads in the dark, even with my lights.

Periodically, I checked my phone map to make sure I was going in the right direction.  Still, I got disoriented a few times.  Once I even came to an intersection with a house that I didn’t remember seeing before.  Another time I stopped when I thought I had taken a wrong turn.  I rechecked my map, took a quick nature break, and got back on Frankenbike.  I don’t know exactly what I did, but somehow as I was trying to clip in, I fell over so hard that I twisted my saddle and the right side of my handlebars.  I couldn’t move either one back into place and had to keep riding cattywampus.  At least I could still ride.

Finally, I got back to Felton McMichael Road.  Robert picked me up and laughed with me sympathetically; he had had a similar entanglement with Hayes Road about a month earlier.  At least it had happened to him during the day!

When we got home, Robert started cleaning up Frankenbike for me while I doctored my elbow.  As you might imagine, Frankenbike was terribly caked in mud.  Robert started with a hand shovel(!), but he had to switch to the garden hose.  Also, he was able to straighten the saddle and handle bars.  Frankenbike and I are both ready for our next outing.

Last night’s ride taught me a lot:

·         A phone and a front light are invaluable.

·         Google Earth isn’t always correct.

·         Explore new roads during daylight hours only.

·         Don’t panic.

·         Even if you expect adventure, sometimes you get a little more than you bargain for!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

West Georgia Fall Line 200K Permanent

Yesterday I rode the West Georgia Fall Line 200K permanent.  I was fully prepared to ride it alone, but I was so happy that a couple of rando buddies, Ian Flitcroft and Robert Newcomer, joined me.  I hope they enjoyed the day as much as I did.

Waffle House
The ride started at Waffle House in Thomaston.  Thus, I forwent my usual pre-ride oatmeal at home and fueled up there instead.  Because Waffle House is not known for its vegetable matter, I ate some fresh grapes on the drive over.  Then, with a pecan waffle, a couple of scrambled eggs (with Tabasco), and hot tea with lemon, I was rarin’ to go.

Waffle House is the stuff of Southern lore.  Many a college student has gone there in the wee hours after a night of merrymaking.  I also have fond memories of Waffle House being the only available food source after being snowed in for several days during the blizzard of 1993 in Atlanta.  More recently, with it being open 24 hours a day, I’m rediscovering it as a valuable resource during my long bicycle rides.  Ah, Waffle House: haven for rapscallions, raconteurs, and randonneurs.

After I finished my breakfast, I went out to the parking lot and met up with Ian and Robert.  We set out on a beautiful morning.  Oftentimes, my ride will take on a particular theme.  Yesterday was an environmental ride.  Our conversation and several things we saw along the way inspired me to do a little post-ride research.

Wolves at Yellowstone
Robert described something interesting that he learned recently.  When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995, it led to rivers changing course.  I was fascinated.  It makes perfect sense ecologically.  The increased wolf population has led to a decrease in elk and other herbivores.  This has allowed more abundant growth of plants.  In turn, the denser plant root growth has held the soil better.  Therefore, rivers have rerouted themselves around these less erodible areas.

Everything is interconnected, but too often we humans are blind to this truth.  I was reminded of some lines from one of my favorite Rush songs, “Natural Science”:

Wheels within wheels in a spiral array
A pattern so grand and complex
Time after time we lose sight of the way
Our causes can’t see their effects

Wiregrass Region
The route was aptly named because we clearly saw both the piedmont and the coastal plain as we crossed the fall line several times.  As we rode in the coastal plain, I was delighted to see the needles of the longleaf pines waving in the breeze.  They are quite distinguishable from the needles of the loblolly pines that predominate in the lower piedmont region where I live.

We were in wiregrass country.  This is a rich ecosystem that used to stretch across much of the Southeast.   The primary vegetation includes open longleaf pine forests with abundant wiregrass growing on the ground below.  Today, only a few pockets remain from the millions of acres that used to comprise the wiregrass region.  During our ride it was easy to see what has caused the transformation.  Most of this land has been converted to agriculture or sand mining. 

Environmental Justice
Our route was a big, counterclockwise loop.  Most of the sand mining was in the southwest corner of the loop.  Leaving this mining area, we traveled east on the Fall Line Freeway, enjoying an excellent tailwind.  After a while, Ian pointed out a particularly large sand mine protruding above the tree line.  However, within the next mile or so as we rode into a low spot, we detected a rather pungent odor.  I suspected that that large sand mine was actually a landfill.  Sure enough, we had a clear view of the landfill a short time later.

This was in Taylor County, and I was reminded of a big news item from about 25 years ago.  A hazardous waste landfill was proposed for Taylor County, and it was so controversial that it made national news.  I was in college at the time, and I remember one of my professors referring to the case in a discussion of environmental justice.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines environmental justice as "the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, sex, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies."  Taylor County has a higher percentage of both African-Americans and people below the poverty level than the rest of Georgia.  Opponents of the hazardous waste landfill asserted that local citizens were not included in the discussions of locating it there.  Supporters touted the badly needed economic development that it would bring.  I didn’t remember the outcome of all of this, and so I tried to find more information online.  I suppose that the hazardous waste landfill never was built because I didn’t see one listed in Taylor County on the website of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.  Additionally, the two landfills that I did find for Taylor County included a municipal solid waste landfill (for regular household garbage) and an inert waste landfill (for waste that doesn’t react or decompose, e.g. sand, gravel, and concrete).

One interesting side note: during our ride yesterday we noticed numerous campaign signs for Debbie Buckner for state representative.  As I was doing research for this ride report, I read that she was one of the most active opponents of the hazardous waste landfill.

Highlight of the Day
Lest you think it was a total nerd-fest, we did have some lighter moments during the day.  For me, the highlight came after our lunch stop in Reynolds.  As we pedaled on, I remarked to Ian and Robert that I have one connection to Reynolds.  My local Monticello-Jasper County Chamber of Commerce has an annual dinner that always includes a keynote speaker, e.g. a politician or someone entertaining.  (Those are usually mutually exclusive.)  One year we had – of all things – a mortician from Reynolds who was absolutely hilarious.  He talked about small-town Southern life and his work, but he did it in such a way that it wasn’t morbid or disrespectful.

Ian, Robert, and I went on to discuss the funeral business.  Ian observed, “Embalming is taxidermy for humans.”  Brilliant!

Photo Opps
Because I had riding companions, I didn’t stop to take as many photos as I might have otherwise.  I did get a couple, though.  The first was at a railroad crossing.  It was on a rural road with very little traffic and probably only a few trains each day.  Murphy’s Law dictated that we arrived just in time to get caught by a train:

Later in the ride we stopped at this picturesque covered bridge, which also served as an information control:

Welcome Wagon
About 10 miles from the end, we were climbing a pretty steep hill.  I looked back and saw that a car had slowed down to talk to Ian and Robert.  I immediately suspected that it was Daniel, the organizer for this permanent.  I was right!  How thoughtful of him to come check on us!  He even drove on to the Waffle House to greet us at the end.  It was also convenient to be able to hand our cards to him then instead of mailing them later.

Thank you, Daniel, for organizing a great permanent, and thank you, Ian and Robert, for riding with me!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Team Camp

My cycling team, the Georgia Neurosurgical Institute, had our team camp this weekend.  We traveled to North Carolina and South Carolina for a fun weekend of riding and simply enjoying each other's company.

A few of us were able to take time off from work to get an early start on Friday.  Tyler, Robert, and I met in Greenville, SC, on Friday afternoon for a chill ride.  We rode on the Swamp Rabbit Trail.  We picked up the trail near Falls Park in downtown Greenville, rode through the Furman University campus, and went to the end of the trail in Travelers Rest.

Tyler and me
Here's a rather amusing sign we saw along the trail.  Fortunately, nothing like this happened to any of our teammates this weekend:

That evening, most of the rest of the team joined us for dinner in downtown Greenville.  While we waited for everyone to arrive, we checked out the food festival that was going on all along Main Street.  I even saw this lovely praying mantis among the big city goings on:

At last we all were there, and we went to a terrific Belgian restaurant that Robert and I had discovered on a trip to Greenville earlier this year.  It's called the Trappe Door, and it serves an excellent selection of craft beers (many from Belgium or other European countries) and authentic Belgian food.  Here's Van, enjoying a lambic called Vichtenaar.

After dinner we drove to Tryon, NC, where we had rented a house for the weekend.  Along with a couple of spouses and Tyler's baby, there were 11 of us.  The house was just big enough for us and worked quite nicely (at least after we went to the grocery store and bought some soap!).

We divvied up the cooking duties for the rest of the weekend.  Robert and I cooked breakfast Saturday morning.  Then, we hit the road for our first day of riding as a team.

Our first climb was rather deceptive.  It was about a 4% grade for several miles around the reservoir that serves Greenville.  Several teammates thought this might be the first of our two big climbs for the day.  Oh, no.  The real fun was still to come.  In the meantime, we had a most pleasant stop in Saluda, NC at the Wildflour Bake Shop.  As you can see, this is a popular stop for local cyclists!

We fueled up with various pastries, e.g. a pumpkin ginger scone for me.  I also enjoyed taking in the decor.  I'm still trying to teach my chickens to do this:

Before we left, we asked another cyclist in the parking lot to take a team photo of us:

Chad, me, Robert, Tina, Tony, Jeff (a.k.a. Stony), Van, and Tyler
Then, it was time for the real festivities: Skyuka Mountain.  Robert and I had done this climb back in May, and so we knew what to expect.  It's about 7 miles at a 9% grade.  You just have to put your head down and grind it up.  The hardest part is that it's unrelenting.  After a little more than 30 minutes, we all made it to the top.  Wow.  That was quite a climb for us Middle Georgians who usually ride on rolling hills.

The view from the top was stunning.  I don't know what this plant is, but I love the feathery, red tops.

Also, you can see a few clouds; however, even in the short time that we rested at the summit, the cloud cover increased noticeably.  We decided to descend and head back to the rental house pronto.

As tough as the climb was, the descent was perhaps even tougher.  I'm not a very aggressive descender.  Most of the guys finished before me.  Van was riding carbon wheels, which melted from the friction of his brake pads!

We correctly predicted that Van wouldn't be able to ride all the way back to the house.  More on that in a moment...

The group continued on, but somehow we got split up.  Chad, Robert, and I made a turn onto a particular road just as the rain caught up to us.  Robert commented that all we needed now was for the paved road to run out.  Wouldn't you know it - about two seconds later (literally), the pavement ended!  Fortunately, the dirt road wasn't too bad.   It lasted only about a mile before dead-ending into a paved road.  We lingered there for a few minutes.

Robert and me.  I always say that with my very round, full face, I have enough cheeks for three people.  The angle of this picture makes me look like I have enough cheeks for five people.
We kind of figured that the others wouldn't continue on the unpaved road.   Even so, we tried to help them out by making an arrow out of sticks to point them in the right direction.

Between the first monster climb and the rain, I don't think anyone was too disappointed to forgo the second big climb that was originally planned.  We headed back to the house, which was less than 10 miles away.  Before Chad, Robert, and I made the final ascent up the driveway, Chad had to stop for a little swinging:

The others got back to the house pretty soon...except for Van.  Tyler had called his wife Ginny, who had come with us on the trip, to pick Van up.  The only trouble was that Van had forgotten to take his cell phone with him, and he didn't stay put!  Tony also went out in search of Van.  They eventually found him, and we were glad to have him safe and sound back with the group.  By the way, Robert had fortuitously brought an extra set of wheels on the trip, which Van was able to use on today's ride.

We all took showers and enjoyed relaxing for the next few hours.  Chad, our Beer Czar, brought an excellent selection of brews, including several flavorful seasonal ones.  Stony must have had pre-dinner (lunch + supper = lupper?), fixing himself this delicious looking salad:

Maybe this is what allows him to put the rest of us through the Stony Grinder.

After a while, Tony, Tina, and Chad cooked dinner.  Tony and Tina prepared penne pasta with a choice of sauces: bolognese and Cajun chicken cream sauce.  I wish I had had enough room for both, but I opted for the Cajun chicken.  It was outstanding!

Tina stylin' in her compression socks as she prepares the cream sauce for the Cajun chicken
Chad made a yummy salad to go with the pasta.  Good food with good friends after a good ride.  Life is good.

After we ate, we enjoyed modern technology, checking out various songs on Pandora and iTunes.  We started with a tribute to the 80s, the highlight of which was Safety Dance by Men Without Hats.  We watched the totally cool video, which has kind of a Renaissance flair.  This is one of the happiest songs I know.  When I hear it, I have to perform the Safety Dance.


Then, Chad the music maestro played us an assortment of remakes.

After a good night's sleep, it was time for Day 2 of team camp.  Van and Stony cooked breakfast on Sunday morning.

Those are cranberry and walnut pancakes that Stony is cooking - yummage!

Not to be outdone was Van with his eggs and sausage:

After having breakfast, packing, and cleaning up, we departed in our vehicles for a remote start from Hotel Domestique, George Hincapie's resort near Travelers Rest, SC.  When we got there, it was about 60 degrees and rainy.  Our intended route, to include a seven-mile climb at 6% up Caesars Head, sounded a little more daunting after our tough climb up Skyuka Mountain the previous day.  Thus, we came to a consensus.  We would drive back to Robert's and my house in Monticello and ride from there.  Everyone else had to go through Monticello on their way back to Macon anyway.  Not to mention, it was 85 degrees and sunny in Monticello...

Robert and I planned a 41-mile route as we drove home.  It was a good bicycle ride, but I could tell that most of us were feeling the effects of the previous day's ride.  Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that we didn't do the Caesar's Head climb.  Even so, it was tough enough to get back in regular group ride mode, averaging nearly 21 mph.  I hadn't had a good group ride like that in over a month.  Commenting on how a ride like that is such valuable training and you just have to work through the pain, Chad said, "It's better to get your ass kicked today than get it kicked tomorrow."

Monday, October 6, 2014

Frankenbike Goes to Atlanta

I have three homes, and I love all of them: Monticello (where I live), Macon (where I work and do a good bit of my cycling), and Atlanta (where I grew up).  This past Saturday I had the best time spending the whole day in the Atlanta area, and Frankenbike made a great companion.

The day started early.  I left my house in Monticello at 6:15 A.M. to go to Kennesaw for the Athletes Helping Athletes 5K, the biggest fundraiser held each year by Southeastern Greyhound Adoption (SEGA).  I have had greyhounds for the past 19 years, and I love volunteering with SEGA to help other greyhounds find permanent, loving homes.

Running is barbaric.  Just kidding!  (sort of)  Even though I prefer cycling to running, I’m glad to do a little cross training, especially to help greyhounds.  I’ve been running once a week for about the past six weeks to get ready for the SEGA 5K.  My aerobic base is great; the main thing I have had to do is wake up my running muscles.  Saturday I had a good run, placing first in my age group!  There were a couple of other women in my age group that were faster, but they received awards for being the 2nd and 3rd overall winners.

The best part of the SEGA 5K is getting to see all of the greyhounds cheering on the human runners.  Each runner is paired with a greyhound, kind of like how a young greyhound at the track is paired with a running mate, i.e., an older greyhound, to learn the ropes.  It’s fun to find your running mate in the crowd.  My running mate was Copper.  Isn’t he sweet and handsome?

I usually bring my greyhound Lily to be a running mate.  I have two other greyhounds, but one is too old (Cosmo), and the other is too freaky (Mr. Spock) for such events.  This is the first year I haven’t brought Lily.  She’s 12 and recently was diagnosed with cancer.  Although, thankfully, her energy level is still fine, she does have swollen lymph nodes in her neck.  I didn’t want to answer a thousand questions about that, but additionally, the logistics of taking care of her all day would have been difficult with all of the other things on my Atlanta agenda.

After the 5K I drove to Decatur.  Although my Decatur activities weren’t scheduled until later in the day, it made a good base camp.  Also, it gave me a great excuse to ride Frankenbike on some of the PATH trails in the metro area.  Frankenbike is my cyclocross bike, which I ride primarily on rural dirt roads near my house, but it is also very well suited to urban riding.  Besides, with a name like Frankenbike, how could I not bring it along on my adventure?

I rode the Stone Mountain trail toward downtown Atlanta and then picked up the Beltline trail heading north.  I’ve heard so much about the Beltline, but this was my first chance to experience it.  The brainchild of a Georgia Tech master’s student in urban planning, the Beltline builds community and promotes good health.  I saw people walking, running, skating, and riding bicycles ranging from road bikes to recumbents to hand cycles.  I had correctly presumed that this would be strictly a ride for transportation, not a real workout, but I had fun just being part of the city vibe.  The artwork along the Beltline trail really caught my eye, but I decided to wait until my return trip to check it out more thoroughly when I had more time.
Although the Beltline trail ends at Piedmont Park, it was easy to wend my way through a few side neighborhood streets to get to the Georgia Tech bookstore.  From there I went a few blocks down Spring Street to an Atlanta institution: The Varsity!  On the rare occasion that I do go to The Varsity, I usually go inside.  However, Frankenbike wanted to go to the drive-in, which is the world’s largest!  The carhops said that they would be glad to provide me with curbside service.  Really, I think they enjoyed seeing Frankenbike at the drive-in as much as I did.

I got the same thing I always get at The Varsity: a chili dog, onion rings, a Frosted Orange, and a peach pie.  Also, as you can see above, I requested a paper Varsity hat.

From there I headed over just a few blocks to my alma mater, Georgia Tech.  I had a special reason for going to Georgia Tech on Saturday.  Jasper County, where I live, has a mentor program for at-risk youth.  Jehan, a friend of mine who is the director of the mentor program, had planned a day in Atlanta filled with educational activities for about 50 young people (plus their chaperones).  One of those activities was a tour of the Tech campus.  Because it was a weekend, regular tours were not available.  Therefore, knowing that I’m a Georgia Tech alumna, Jehan asked me if I would lead a tour for the students.  Of course!  I boned up on my Tech facts and studied a campus map.  There’s a lot of new stuff since I finished 20 years ago!
I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner, but early last week it occurred to me that the tour would be even better if I could find a current student to help lead it.   To make a long story short, I discovered the Georgia Tech Ambassadors Program, which leads tours for alumni.  We wound up having not one, but two excellent student tour leaders, Connor and Joe.  They were so gracious and knowledgeable.  After seeing how adeptly they managed our tour, I laughed at the one I had planned.  Mine was a little overly ambitious, to say the least.  I forget that a large group moves pretty slowly.  Not to mention, keeping track of this high-energy group was like herding cats.  It didn’t faze Connor and Joe a bit, though.  Maybe we’ll never know what effect the campus tour had on the kids, but I’m sure that simply being exposed to a college campus was a good thing.

Connor talking with half of the group
Campanile and fountain constructed for the 1996 Olympics, a couple of years after I finished at Tech
I particularly enjoyed getting to see the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons, a new building since my time at Tech.  It adjoins the library and has LEED platinum certification, the highest level possible.  Some of its features include a very open floor plan that maximizes sunlight for lighting and a cistern that collects rainwater used in toilets throughout the building and in the rooftop garden.  The rooftop garden provides cooling for the building and a lovely oasis for study breaks.  Not only that, the views from there are spectacular:
View toward the Student Center and campanile.  Note the festive tent set up for tailgating before Saturday evening's football game.
View of the Atlanta skyline
We headed back to the Tech Tower, the beginning and ending point of our tour.  By the way, I parked Frankenbike next to Buzz Bike while I was on campus:

What a beautiful day on the Tech campus!

On my way back to Decatur on Frankenbike, I took a little more time to see the art along the Beltline trail:

I was particularly drawn to the one below because I’ve always had a fascination with tornadoes, and this piece draws attention to the plight of unwanted animals.  By the way, Saturday (October 4th) was St. Francis Day, commemorating the patron saint of animals and the environment.

When I got back to Decatur, my husband Robert joined me for the remainder of the day’s festivities.  First, we went to Maker Faire, which I learned of thanks to Jehan.  In fact, the mentor group had gone there earlier in the day before our Georgia Tech tour.  Robert and I enjoyed the eclectic mix of creativity at Maker Faire: robots and other technological devices, crafts, and various other tinkerings.  Here’s one example from a man who creates art from miscellaneous metal parts.  (This piece moves!):

His titles and descriptions were as entertaining as the art itself.

After Maker Faire, Robert and I went to one of our favorite places in Decatur, the Brick Store Pub.  We make at least a couple of pilgrimages there every year.  The Brick Store has one of the best beer selections in the country (no exaggeration), with a dozen beers on tap and dozens – maybe hundreds – more in bottles.  No Bud Lite here.  Just good stuff.  Not only that, each beer is served in a special glass to bring out its particularly qualities.  Although this might sound beer snobbish, it’s not by any means.  Every single server is down-to-earth and a wealth of information.  They are more than happy to make suggestions, even if you have no idea what you’re doing.  All of this takes place within a cozy, European feeling space with nary a neon light or TV.  But wait, there’s more!  The food is worth the trip, too.  It’s bar food but really, really good bar food.  They serve everything from salads made with locally sourced greens to shepherd’s pie to killer fish & chips.  Saturday, however, we really lucked out.  It happened to be the Brick Store’s annual Oktoberfest!  We’ve been to their Oktoberfest before, and I was so excited to find out it would coincide with our trip Saturday.  Robert and I both ordered from their special Oktoberfest menu: a tender, savory German pot roast for Robert and the Bavarian plate (sausages, cabbage, and cheese) for me.  Wunderbar!  Our beers were fantastic, too.  We each ordered different lambics.  Mine was the Pumpkin Lambicus:

Note that because I’m wearing my pointy ears, I was really celebrating Spocktoberfest.  Live long and prosper, indeed.
Next, we walked around the corner to Java Monkey, a terrific coffee shop.  I don’t like coffee, but I love tea.  Java Monkey has especially good chai tea.  It’s more peppery than most, making it quite flavorful.

Then it was time for our last event.  We went to the Carter Center for a celebration of Heifer International’s 70th anniversary.  I’m a longtime supporter of Heifer International, which works with communities around the world to end hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth. Its approach is more than a handout. Heifer provides animals (e.g., heifers, goats, water buffalos, chickens, rabbits, fish, and bees) and training to impoverished people in over 30 countries. The animals can give milk, meat, or eggs; provide draft power; or form the basis of a small business. Communities make their own decisions about what crops, animals, and market strategies make sense for their everyday conditions and experiences.
Heifer International is based on 12 Cornerstones, such as Sustainability; Genuine Need and Justice; and Gender and Family Focus. Perhaps the best known Cornerstone is Passing on the Gift, in which Heifer recipient families pass on the offspring of their animals to others in need. In this way, whole communities can raise their standard of living.

Although I’ve been to the Carter Library before, this was my first time at the Carter Center, which is where President and Mrs. Carter do much of their peacemaking work for the world.  Just three days earlier, President Carter celebrated his 90th birthday right in this location.  I admire him greatly and am proud that we share a birthday!