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

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


I love dogs.  I have two greyhounds and a beagle that exponentially increase my enjoyment of life.  However, I get angry with irresponsible people who let their dogs pose a hazard to cyclists.

Dogs that I encounter on my bike generally fall into one of three categories:

1) They are scared and retreat and/or run away.  No problem.

2) They are simply curious, perhaps wagging their tails or even running alongside my bicycle for a ways in an exuberant manner.  Also no problem.

3) They run at me aggressively, threatening to bite me and/or make me crash.  Definitely a problem.

Fortunately, the vast majority of dogs I have encountered are in Categories 1 or 2.  I had my first real encounter with a Category 3 dog last March.  It was on a road only a few miles from my house.  I generally don't ride that way because I've been chased by this dog and several others nearby too many times.  It had been a while since I had ridden that way, and I thought maybe I wouldn't see the bad dog that day.  Mistake.  Not only did I see him, he climbed a fence and chased after me!  I couldn't escape him, and he bit me on my side.  It's a wonder I didn't crash and truly get attacked.  It was a nasty wound, but I healed fine.  I do have four fang-shaped scars left on my side.  I just pretend that Dracula was drunk and missed my neck.  By the way, Animal Control quarantined the dog for a couple of weeks.  The owners promised to contain him, but I haven't ridden past that house since then.

Because that dog prevents me from going that route, I have been left with really only one other egress/ingress for my nighttime dirt road rides.  That has been fine until last week when I encountered another Category 3 - a hellhound.

A couple of miles from my house, I was riding my usual route, when all of a sudden I heard this terrible snarling about two inches from my leg.  The only light was from my bicycle headlight, and so I couldn't get a look at the dog that time.  I just rode away as quickly as I could, praying that I could out-sprint the hellhound.  I made it, but I had to go back that way at the end of my route.  Thankfully, it didn't chase me on the way back home.  I suspected, though, that wouldn't be my last encounter with it.  I was right.

Last night I did another dirt road ride, taking my usual egress/ingress.  There was just enough light left in the sky to see the hellhound this time.  It was a medium-sized, black, furry dog.  It would have seemed cute if it weren't out for blood.  I got away.

I hated that my ride was marred by the hellhound because it was a pleasant evening for January - temperature in the 50s - and I had pretty good mojo.  Maybe I wouldn't see the hellhound on my return trip.  I was wrong.

It chased me again, seeming to drip venom as it lunged toward my legs.  All I could do was sprint.  I did note the house number as I rode by, though.

I considered my options.  I could carry pepper spray or a similar deterrent next time I ride that way.  I could call the owner.  Or I could go ahead and call animal control.  I decided that I should call the owner.  It was easy enough to find him on-line, but there was no phone number listed, which didn't surprise me telephone land lines are getting pretty scarce.  Fortunately, I know who the owner is and where he works.

Today I called the owner in a very friendly manner.  I told him that I'm his neighbor and that I hoped he could help me with something.  When I described how his dog had been chasing me on my bicycle, he was very apologetic and said he would start putting his dog in a pen in the evenings.  I thanked him, and we hung up cordially.  I have high hopes that this will solve the problem and that I won't have to take any further steps.  Here's to being a good neighbor and working out our differences peaceably.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Balaclava, Baklava, and Balalaika

Tonight was balaclava riding weather:

Now if I only had some baklava and a balalaika, I'd be set!  Since I don't, I'll just reminisce.

Growing up in DeKalb County, I had the privilege of attending the Atlanta Greek Festival a number of times.  What a spectacular way to experience Greek music, food, clothing, and culture as well as the Eastern Orthodox Church.  In more recent years, they added a Greek cooking class.  I was all over that!  From there I received recipes for Greek salad, domadakia (stuffed grape leaves), spanakopita (spinach and feta filled phyllo pastry), and of course the quintessential Greek dessert - baklava!

These days I rarely eat dessert, but when I do, I want it to be something worthwhile, like baklava.  Baklava really isn't too hard to make.  You just have to have a little patience and handle the phyllo dough carefully.  Here's the recipe from the Atlanta Greek Festival:

(recipe may be halved)

1 1/2 lb. shelled pecans and almonds
1/2 C sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 lb. phyllo pastry*
1 lb. butter, melted and clarified

Grind nuts coarsely.  Mix with sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

Line two 10" x 15" x 2" baking pans with a sheet of phyllo and brush each generously with butter.  Continue this process until you have six phyllo sheets in each pan, each generously buttered.  Sprinkle top phyllo sheet with a layer of nut mixture.

Add a pastry sheet, brush with butter, and sprinkle more nut mixture over phyllo.  Repeat, alternating buttered phyllo and nut mixture, until all nut mixture is used.  Place remaining phyllo sheets over this, each individually brushed with butter, about 8 sheets of phyllo per pan.

Cut into desired shapes (e.g., diamonds or triangles).  Bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 30 minutes.  Reduce heat to 250 degrees and continue baking for one hour.

Spoon cooled syrup (see below) over hot pastry.


4 C sugar
2 C water
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 stick cinnamon
1 jigger brandy
1/2 C honey

In medium saucepan, bring all ingredients except honey to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer for about 20 minutes.  Stir in honey and cool.

Yield: 30-36 servings per pan

*Phyllo dough can be found in the freezer section of the grocery store.  Thaw according to package directions.  Keep thawed pastry covered with a damp cloth while preparing the baklava, re-covering the unused phyllo sheets as you go.

The balalaika is a distinctive Russian stringed instrument with a triangular body:

I was first introduced to the balalaika as a teenager when my mother took me to a balalaika concert at the Fox Theater in Atlanta.  The concert featured not only wonderful music but also marvelous Russian dancing, the traditional kind where the men kick their legs out in all kinds of impossibly aerobic ways.  Balalaikas and Russian dancers in the Egyptian Room of the fabulous Fox Theater - such aa vividly memorable night!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Cycling out the Old, Cycling in the New

Happy New Year!  Bicycle riding - what more appropriate way to say goodbye to 2015 and hello to 2016?

Thursday, December 31, 2015
I get New Year's Day as a holiday at work, and so I took New Year's Eve as a vacation day to extend the long weekend a little more.  This allowed me to join the Gravel Grinders of Middle Georgia for a dirt road jaunt.  It was called the Fried Red Clay Ride, combining portions of two fantastic local gravel grinders, the Fried Green 50 (see 11/1/15 post) and the Red Clay Ramble (see 8/23/15 post).

The organized ride began at the edge of the Piedmont Wildlife Refuge (PWR) south of Hillsboro.  I rode my cyclocross bike to the start to make the logistics easier.  It was good to see some of my off-road cycling buddies that I don't get to see as often, including Benny, Karl, Monte, and Tom.  Monte was particularly stylin' with his handmade fenders, constructed from Hudson & Marshall signs:

About a dozen of us headed out, starting on some of the Red Clay Ramble Roads.  The group mostly stayed together, stopping every so often to regroup.  It was a nice, social ride.  I particularly enjoyed Monte regaling us with tales from Trans North Georgia, which is a 350-mile mountain bike race, and other epic off-road races.  He told us about having to pee on his frozen derailleur to be able to start a midwinter race, making an instant coffee brewer out of an empty Bush's bean can, and some fellow racers sharing their summer sausage and cheese in the middle of a race.  I thought to myself, "This is all kind of extreme."  Then, I thought, "Well, isn't that the pot calling the kettle black!"

I didn't get to ride on any of the PWR roads because after about 15 miles with the group, I turned back north to head home.  Time at home is a rare commodity, and I had plenty of stuff to do.  I still got in 36 miles, about the same length as the longest option on the Fried Red Clay.

I couldn't stay up until midnight to ring in the new year because I had to get up early for the next day's brevet, but Robert and I celebrated early.  I made us some cheese fondue, served in this groovy relic from the 1970s (I think it belonged to my my aunt):

In addition to the bread cubes, I usually serve broccoli (not pictured) with cheese fondue because greenage at meals is important.  Although Robert eats broccoli, it's not one of his favorites.  I figure that having the option of dipping it in cheese makes it more palatable.  It was no trouble, however, getting Robert to drink the sparkling wine that accompanied our meal.

Friday, January 1, 2016
A New Year's Day ride is almost obligatory for us serious cyclists.  I went for the gusto with the Athens 200K brevet.  About two dozen people rode - a great turnout!  I love how I've been riding with the Audax Atlanta chapter of Randonneurs USA (RUSA) long enough that I've gotten to know so many friends.  A couple of new riders joined us, too: Jason from West Georgia and his friend Chad, who was just visiting for a few weeks.  Chad had to fly out early the next morning to his current home: Kosovo!

Roughly half the group rode together until the third control in Madison, about half way through the ride.  As we left town, I noticed that we were veering from the course that I had uploaded to my Garmin.  Several others agreed that were were going the wrong way.  I called out to the guys that were starting to pull away, but they called back that they were on the right route.  Someone pointed out that Jim was in that group, and since he originally created the route, I decided that that was the best bet.  We figured out where the confusion came from.  The portion of the route between Madison and Buckhead was changed a few years ago.  The map that had been posted for the ride was correct, but the cue sheet was for the old route.  I had built my Garmin route from the cue sheet.  Julie, Andrew, and maybe a few others backtracked to go on the cue sheet route while about 10 of us continued on the newer route.  We thought we might see the others again shortly after our routes reconverged, but we never did.  Although the newer route is about a mile longer, I think we stayed ahead because the guys I was with just hammered it!

There were two more controls before the end.  A brief rest and some food and drink were welcome both times, but it sure was cold when we got back on the bike.  Temperatures were in the 40s and 50s all day.  That doesn't sound too bad, especially for this time of year, but it was a little bit of a shock after the crazy warm weather we had around Christmas.  Also, yesterday it actually felt cooler in the afternoon than in the morning because the air was so damp.  Ah, the joys Georgia's high humidity - it makes our summers feel hotter and our winters feel colder.

A couple of times I got dropped.  I figured that I would be riding the rest of the way by myself or possibly with someone coming up behind me, but both times the fastest guys stopped to wait for me.  That was really nice.  They said they wanted to ride like it was a brevet, not a race.  Once again, the camaraderie of randonneurs shines through!

Brandon, Chad, David, Jason, and I finished together with Dick just a few minutes behind.  On one hand I was glad we finished the 127 miles relatively quickly (8 hours, 5 minutes), but on the other hand, I knew I'd be feeling it on Peach Peloton the next day...

Saturday, January 2, 2016
Having been properly fueled the previous evening with our traditional New Year's Day feast of blackeyed peas with Rotel tomatoes, grits & greens, bacon, cornbread, and baked sweet potatoes, Robert and I headed to Macon for our regular Peach Peloton (winter training) ride.  We had a good group of 15 or so.  The route was 100 miles.  I was up for the challenge even though there was about a 99.9% chance that I would get dropped because of all the miles in my legs from the previous day.  I just didn't expect it to be only three miles into the ride!  The guys took off practically from the parking lot like it was a Pro 1/2 race.  I couldn't keep up anyway, and so I stopped briefly to address my wardrobe malfunction.  My knee warmers were falling down.  Also, my ear warmer headband was slipping down my forehead and closing my eyes so that I couldn't see.  It must have looked pretty comical.

Then I saw that Dale and Bill had also come off the back.  They are the elder statesmen of the Macon cycling community.  Even though they are about the oldest riders out there, they are super strong.  Both have had recent surgeries that kept them from riding as hard yesterday, and I was most happy to get to ride with them for a while.

Bill and Dale.  I want to be like them when I grow up.
Alas, they only wanted to ride about 40 miles total, and so we parted company about 20 miles in.  They looped back, and I continued solo.

I wasn't going terribly fast, but I settled into a comfortable rhythm.  The winter bleakness had a certain stark beauty.  I've seen hundreds of cows as I've ridden country roads, but I stopped anyway to take a picture of these simply because they made me happy.

To err is human; to moo, bovine.
As I approached Milner, I saw an old beater of a car for sale in someone's yard.  Written on a window was, "Runs grate!"  I laughed to myself, imagining that it makes all kinds of racket as the engine parts grate against each other.  Whoever buys the car will complain to the owner, who will say, "But I told you it runs grate!"

I made the wise call to stop at the store in Milner.  I bought a big bottle of Gatorade to go with my Clif Bar and stood in the warm store for a few minutes.  Although it was cold getting going on my bike again, that little bit of refueling did me a world of good.

As I continued my ride, I alternated between periods of feeling decent and having to work pretty hard, mainly mentally.  I reminded myself to simply keep going.

One time I turned the wrong way at a T intersection because my Garmin was on the main distance/speed screen, not the map screen.  Of course, it alerted me that I was off course, but before I turned around, I took another quick break at the side of the road.  I'm so glad I had had the foresight to pack an extra package of peanut butter crackers.

The miles rolled by.  The last part of the route didn't go directly back into Bolingbroke but took a jig-jag on Pea Ridge Road and Klopfer Road before going back to the church parking lot where we started.  I just couldn't face the steep climbs on Klopfer Road.  However, because I needed another mile or two to get my full century, I rode back and forth on Rivoli Road, which is flat.  I knew that Robert was waiting for me and probably watching me via the Find My Friends app on his phone.  My backtracking was probably confusing him...

It was.  But he understood when I explained later.  He had been tracking me ever since he finished the ride.  The other guys asked about me, and he told them that at that point I was on Maynard's Church Road.  They couldn't believe that I was doing the whole route by myself.  Robert wasn't surprised a bit.

After the ride Robert and I were both famished.  We headed to Ingleside Village Pizza, which we affectionately call IVP, for the best pizza in Middle Georgia.  They have an excellent beer selection, too.  I had one of my favorites, a Young's Double Chocolate Stout.

Although it wasn't easy, I knew what great training it was to do these two hard, back-to-back rides.  It was like I was getting ready for RAAM again.  In fact, Dale did ask me what I'm training for.  Life, I suppose.  Actually, these rides were good preparation for my big cycling goal this year, completing a Super Randonneur series.  This entails doing a 200K, 300K, 400K, and 600K all in the same calendar year.  Next up: the Athens 300K on February 27!