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

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving Spin

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  (Federally recognized holiday, that is.  I get pretty excited about Groundhog Day, Pi Day, and International Talk Like a Pirate Day, too.  Arrr!)  The reason Thanksgiving means so much to me is that over the years, gratitude has become more and more important to me.  It’s what makes life abundant.  The more thankful I am, the more I find to be thankful for.  Of course, I’m thankful for the big, obvious things, like Robert, our dogs and other animals, our home, our health, family, friends, and work.  But it’s so fun – and gratifying – to find subtler things to be thankful for: a cup of hot tea every evening after dinner, clouds in all their fascinating forms, clean tap water, the way sunlight looks at varying times of day and year, learning (from books and from life), a fairy ring of mushrooms, good smelling soap, the freedoms I have at this time and place in history, finding connections with such seemingly different people…  The list could go on and on.

High up on my gratitude list is cycling – no surprise there.  If you follow my blog, you know that I love all types of cycling, whether it’s road riding, gravel grinding, randonnuering, or tandem riding.  One type of riding that I haven’t written about much is my spin class, jSpin.  Robert started jSpin about five years ago because he got bored with riding his trainer in the basement all winter.  He bought about a dozen spin bikes and converted the break room at Jordan Engineering into a spin room.  Several instructors teach classes on Monday through Thursday evenings.  Also, we occasionally host a movie spin on Sunday afternoons during the winter when it’s cold and/or rainy.  Not only is the exercise part great, jSpin gives me the opportunity to spend time with friends and neighbors whom I might not see otherwise.

I go to the class that Robert teaches, which is the Monday class.  It makes a good recovery ride if I’ve put in a lot of miles over the weekend.  Usually, though, I try to keep up with Robert’s instruction, which focuses on interval training with heart rate monitors.  He also enjoys planning the music for each class as much as the workout.  Occasionally, I substitute teach for Robert if he has to go to an evening meeting.  My more frequent contribution, however, is a music spin show.  I love coming up with themes.  Therefore, I came up with a music set for tonight’s Thanksgiving spin.

We started with a classic tune associated with Thanksgiving, “Simple Gifts.”  This is a Shaker song written in 1848.   Although it’s often thought of as a hymn, it’s really a dance song.  I discovered a beautiful version with Alison Krauss singing in her lovely, ethereal voice, accompanied by Yo-Yo Ma’s exquisite cello.

Continuing our warmup, we got a little more upbeat but still stayed rather mellow with “Touch of Grey” by The Grateful Dead.  Incidentally, that’s something else to be grateful for:

Then, the feast began.  We had “Mashed Potatoes” by The Kingsmen.  Although my family always has sweet potatoes instead of mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving, I hear that mashed potatoes are a pretty common menu item for other people.

How about some gravy for your mashed potatoes?  In this case, it was “Wavy Gravy” by Kenny Burrell, an aptly jazzy segue.  I had searched for music by the counterculture icon Wavy Gravy but didn’t find anything that I thought would work for spin.  I was pleased to discover this song by the same name.

Thanksgiving dinner must have The Cranberries.  I included my favorite song of theirs, “Zombie.”  It’s quite somber, being about the ongoing war in Northern Ireland, but the music and lyrics are powerful.  The bass guitar toward the beginning is on my list of Top 10 Best Guitar Riffs.

At last it was time for the star of the feast, The Byrd(s)!  Did you know that the lyrics to “Turn!  Turn!  Turn!” come from Ecclesiastes?  (That’s my favorite book of the Bible.)  “Turn!  Turn!  Turn!” has that quintessential 1960s sound.  Although I’m proud to be a Gen Xer, I’ve got to hand it to the Boomers for giving us some great music.

What’s Thanksgiving turkey without dressing to go with it?  I don’t know of any dressing songs, but The Dave Matthews Band sings “Cornbread,” which is the main ingredient in dressing.  And it’s not stuffing.  Here in the South we eat dressing, which is cooked in a separate pan, not inside the turkey.

Time for dessert!  We had pumpkin pie thanks to Smashing Pumpkins.  The song was “1979.”  By the way, at the end of this post is the world’s best pumpkin pie recipe.  It’s from my mother.  Actually, she got it from the Eagle condensed milk can years ago.  The two biggest keys are to chill the pie thoroughly before serving and to use real whipped cream on top – no spray-can stuff.

If you follow the recipe, of course you need some Cream to go on top of your pumpkin pie.  And make it “Sweet Wine,” a nice accompaniment to dessert and another excellent, bluesy/jazzy song for the set.

Wait!  You can’t put plain cream on your pumpkin pie – you must “Whip It!”  (Whip it good!)  Devo will help you with that.

In case you’re a teetotaler, you might rather have a little coffee with your dessert.  Frank Sinatra serves it up all-American style with “The Coffee Song.”  This also reminds me of Thanksgiving morning in my kitchen.  I enjoy cooking at a leisurely pace, drinking tea (ironically, I’m not a coffee drinker), and listening to Frank Sinatra.  This little ditty is such a fun one.

If you overdid it on our Thanksgiving feast, perhaps you need a “Remedy.”  The Black Crowes not only have your prescription, they fit in with the autumn decor.

As delicious and enjoyable as Thanksgiving dinner is, in the end this holiday is really about being grateful.  That’s why I ended our Thanksgiving spin show with “Thank You.”.  I love hard rockin’ with Led Zeppelin, but this beautifully melodic song is my favorite of theirs.

Happy Thanksgiving!

“Simple Gifts” – Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krauss
“Touch of Grey” – The Grateful Dead
“Mashed Potatoes” – The Kingsmen
“Wavy Gravy” – Kenny Burrell
“Zombie” – The Cranberries
“Turn!  Turn!  Turn!” – The Byrds
“Cornbread” – The Dave Matthews Band
“1979” – Smashing Pumpkins
“Sweet Wine” – Cream
“Whip It” – Devo
“The Coffee Song” – Frank Sinatra
“Remedy” – The Black Crowes
“Thank You” – Led Zeppelin

Pumpkin Pie

2 C canned pumpkin (1 can)
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 unbeaten egg
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
1 9-inch unbaked pie crust (use homemade if possible)
1/2 pint whipping cream
1 tsp. sugar
1 capful vanilla extract

Mix pumpkin, condensed milk, egg, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger on low speed of an electric mixer.  Pour into pie crust.  Bake at 375 degrees for 50-55 minutes or until knife inserted near middle comes out clean.  Cool.

On high speed of electric mixer, beat whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form.  Spread whipped cream on top of cooled pie.  Sprinkle with nutmeg.  Thoroughly chill pie in refrigerator before serving.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

FDR Little White House 200K Brevet

The FDR Little White House 200K route is a great one.  I enjoyed doing it as a permanent last year (see my 8/3/14 blog entry), but it also made for a memorable brevet.

Because it was a brevet, many more people rode it yesterday than when I did it as a permanent.  Yesterday, Daniel the speed demon flew off the front.  I'm not sure I could have kept up with him even if I tried.  I was happy to keep up a much more sustainable pace with Julie, Josh, and Ed.  We talked about everything from biscuits to civil rights.  Actually, Julie and I did most of the talking.  It was a lot more than I'm used to; at the end of the day, my throat was sore!

At the control in Manchester, Ed got a frozen treat that was shaped like an old fashioned Push-Up:

Ed's purchase was a multicolored all-fruit frozen concoction, but the plastic push-up part was the same.  It reminded me of something I hadn't thought of in years.  When I was little, I collected four of the plastic push-up parts to make axles and wheels, taping them together in pairs.  I attached them to a shoebox, cut a portion of the shoebox lid off, and made a car for my stuffed animal rabbit.  Let the good times roll.

Midway through the brevet was a control at FDR State Park.  Because food options are limited in the area, Ian arranged a wonderful picnic lunch for all of us riders.  He and his wife Chris prepared much of the food, including chili, vegetable soup, delectable homemade pimento cheese with horseradish, and hearty muffins that were kind of like morning glory muffins.  Additionally, Wayne made some flapjacks, a bar-like-cookie creation with a unique ingredient: golden syrup.  They make excellent bike food.  Josh - and possibly others - provided chips and other sides to complete the picnic:

Iron Chef Ian
I asked Ian, "Don't cows have four stomachs?"  He replied, "They have at least three, but I'm not sure if they have four."  I said, "Well, they have more than one anyway.  I wish I were a cow so that I had enough room to sample everything."  FYI, this morning I saw my friend Phil, who is a cattle farmer.  He confirmed that cows have four stomach.  Udderly fascinating!

There were several beverages available at the picnic.  This one must have been referring to me because it certainly wasn't Ian, Chris, or Wayne:

Pine Mountain is one of my favorite areas of Georgia.  I don't think I had ever visited in the fall before.  The view from atop Pine Mountain is beautiful in any season:

Julie and I headed out from lunch and rode the rest of the way together.  I had been so excited to see her name on the list of registered riders because I hadn't had the chance to ride with her in a while.  Yesterday was actually her first brevet since she was seriously ill back in the spring.  I knew that she had been ill back then, but I had no idea it was a life-and-death situation.  It is truly a miracle that she has recovered so well and could ride 133 miles with me yesterday.  That was after she rode 90+ miles the day before that for her birthday!  I'm sure that the fact that she takes such good care of herself is the reason she is still with us today.  Getting to ride with Julie yesterday was the highlight of the day.  She and I will both do some extra celebrating this Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Besquished BeWednesday

Tonight I did my first after-work dirt road ride of this season that was completely in the dark, thanks to Daylight Saving Time ending last weekend.  I was a little hesitant to get started, but once I was out there, I remembered that getting going is the hardest part.  The ride was fun, as usual.

I did have a bit of an extra challenge tonight.  It’s rained over four inches in the last few days, turning the dirt roads into peanut butter.  It slowed me down noticeably, and of course my bike and I were both quite sloppy when we got home.

About 20 years ago, Nick at Nite showed back-to-back episodes of classic TV shows on weeknights, focusing on a different show each night.  One of my favorites was “Bewitched,” which was played on Wednesdays.  Thus, they called it Bewitched BeWednesday.  In one hilariously memorable scene, Endora casts a spell on Darrin, causing a storm cloud to rain right over his head.  Outraged, a drenched Darrin confronts Endora.  Endora coos, “Oh, Darrin, don’t you look all fresh and dewy?”  I could have used one of Endora’s storm clouds after my ride tonight. For me, it was Besquished BeWednesday.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Fried Green 50

Today was the annual Fried Green 50, a most excellent gravel grinder in the Piedmont Wildlife Refuge.  As always, Monte Marshall and the Ocmulgee Mountain Biking Association (OMBA) did an outstanding job of hosting the ride.  I had been looking forward to it so much, even with the LTO (less than optimal) forecast: 100% chance of rain.  It really wasn't bad - misty rain until the very end of the ride, when it did start falling more significantly.  These definitely weren't the worst conditions I had ever ridden in.  Besides, it was fun to experience the Fried Green 50 in a different way.  Those who stayed away today missed out on a great time.

The Fried Green 50 is always held on the first Sunday in November.  A few years ago Monte added a Saturday ride called the Sac o' Suds 50, held the day before the Fried Green 50.  Both rides start in Juliette and have connections to locally filmed movies.  The movie "Fried Green Tomatoes" was filmed in Juliette, and the Sac o' Suds in neighboring Jasper County was the scene of the tuna theft and murder in "My Cousin Vinny."  I recommend both movies.  Anyway, I didn't do the Sac o' Suds ride yesterday because it has significant sections of single-track, and I'm not a very good technical rider.  More importantly, with yesterday being Halloween, I had to continue my 18-year tradition of being The Mad Doctor at Haunticello (trick-or-treating on the square in my hometown, Monticello):

We were encouraged to bring almost outdated bike food for the Fried Green 50 rest stops (covered dish SAGs, as Monte called them - love it!).  I was happy to share some gummy fingers, bags of blood, eyeball gumballs, etc. leftover from The Mad Doctor.

We rolled out right at 10:00 AM and had an actual neutral start this year, unlike last year when the fastest guys disregarded it and took off like a rocket.  Today I rode a few miles with the front group but knew that wasn't sustainable.  Instead, I settled in with a group of four guys who seemed to be riding at about my pace.  We mostly stayed together until about halfway through when we hit a butt-kicking 12% grade.  Being smaller than the others, I have a climbing advantage.  Also, I had just eaten a Clif Bar, and I got a good stream of energy right about the same time.  A guy named Alan (hope I'm spelling it the correct way!) and I pulled slightly ahead and wound up riding the rest of the route together.  It was nice to have a riding companion; often at these types of events, I ride mostly by myself.

There were six creek crossings, and I'm pleased to say that I didn't bust my arse on any of them.  They were really kind of fun, not to mention picturesque.  Here's my friend Benny stylin' and profilin' at one of them (photo purloined from Facebook):

I had forgotten my bike computer, and so I collected ride data with the Strava app on my phone.  Because my phone was in my pocket, I couldn't track my mileage or how fast I was going.  Everything was by feel - kind of a small bonus challenge for the ride.

I fueled better this year than I did last year, and so the last few miles weren't as hard this time.  Also, Alan and I chatted a good bit, making for a much more enjoyable ride.  We didn't even mind the extra muddy conditions toward the end.  There was also one tricky little section where we had to dismount and walk up a brushy, steep grade.  I suppose some of the really serious mountain bikers might have been able to ride up that part, but I'd like to see them do it.

Little kids love playing in the dirt; why do adults forget how fun it is?  Back at the parking area, I asked Benny to take a photo of me to document my grime:

Then he insisted on getting a picture from behind, which really shows the dirt:

I was thrilled to be the first female finisher!  Monte always comes up with wonderfully unique awards, and this year was no exception.  I received a green tomato-esque icosahedron (20-sided polyhedron):

After some post-ride vittles, I said goodbye to everyone and headed home.  The first thing I did when I got there was recheck my Strava data.  I wasn't able to see it on my phone app, and so I thought I had somehow accidentally deleted the file.  The best solution I could think of was to get a file from one of my friends.  It wouldn't be exactly my data, but it would be close enough on mileage and elapsed time.

In the meantime, my friend Cal gave me kudos on my ride - huh?  I don't know what happened or how he found my file, but somehow Strava had the ride date as 7/27/15 instead of 11/1/15.  With a little Internet research, I figured out how to correct the file and re-upload it.  (The Google knows all...)  I'm glad I get to use my real data.

A big thank you again to Monte, Trudy, and everyone with OMBA for today's Fried Green 50 - see you next year!