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, May 29, 2016

50 Miles o' Fun

The Monticello farmers market on the square, beautiful country roads on a warm day in May, a charming Mexican market, the Georgia Writers Museum - all with my sweetie accompanying me - please, not the briar patch!

Robert and I started our ride with a trip to the Monticello square.  Yesterday was the first Monticello farmers market I've been able to go to this year because I've been out of town (riding) every Saturday this season before now.  The chamber of commerce has done an excellent job of reinvigorated the market this year.  I loved everything about it yesterday.  I got some okra, a deer antler chew for my hounds, a fried peach pie, and some lovely broccoli that my friend Laverne grew.

Saturday on the square is also a great time to greet friends and neighbors.  I got to see everyone from my sister-in-law to the mayor of Monticello.

Robert and I stopped by The Vanilla Bean.  He had coffee and a scone, and I had a cup of tea and a piece of chocolate meringue pie.  I can't eat chocolate pie without thinking of the song "Swingin'" by John Anderson.  ("Her brother was on the sofa, eatin' chocolate pie...")

It was late morning by the time we began our ride in earnest, but it had been worth it to spend time in downtown Monticello.  We headed out on Highway 212 E.  As we approached the county line, Robert and I had different preferences on which way to go.  Although 212 E is generally a pretty decent state highway for riding bicycles, Robert wanted to get off it sooner rather than later by taking a left onto Old Hillsboro Road.  I wanted to ride several more miles on 212 and turn left on Rabbit Skip Road so that we could ride on Stanfordville Road, one of my favorites.  We were riding single file, right on the white line.  Just before we had to make a decision on which route to take, some a$$hat in a huge pickup truck passed us, definitely not giving us the three feet required by law.  He deliberately gunned his motor and blew black diesel smoke in our faces.  I don't like speaking badly of others or using profanity, but a$$hat cracks me up, and that truck driver certainly was one.  Robert was probably justified in wanting to take the Old Hillsboro Road option, but he deferred to me since I had planned the outing.  I was determined not to let the a$$hat ruin the day.  A few miles later on Highway 212, a couple of motorcycles passed us.  The second one gave us a vigorous "hang ten" wave.  That totally made up for the a$$hat.

Maybe it's a good thing we went to Rabbit Skip Road.  We saw a turtle just starting to cross the road, and so we moved it safely to the other side.  I always try to help turtles across the road, whether I'm in my car or on my bike.  Robert and I were surprised that this was the first turtle rescue of the year for both of us; usually by now we have made several turtle assists.

We arrived in Eatonton and went to Tienda Tarimoro, a wonderful Mexican market.  I had been wanting to do a another bicycle trip there since my first visit last September.  It has all kinds of specialty items: tropical fruits, masa harina, Mexican pastries, and interesting candies.  I'll bet you can get a good deal on the John Paul II candles since he's no longer the Pope.  Robert and I got some Mexican soft drinks.  Mine was mango flavored.  I hoped it would make me extra speedy on the ride home.

From there we rode just a few blocks to the Georgia Authors Museum on the Eatonton square.  Previously, I had seen a sign on an old hotel near the square proclaiming the future home of the Georgia Authors Museum, but I didn't know that a smaller version already exists until I visited my local Jasper County library last week (which, incidentally, is part of the Uncle Remus Regional Library System).  At the checkout desk I noticed a stack of brochures for the museum.  I was delighted to learn that the Georgia Authors Museum highlights three famous authors who lived in or near Putnam County: Joel Chandler Harris, Alice Walker, and Flannery O'Connor.  These are the same authors from the terrific Middle Georgia Authors ride that I did a couple of summers ago (see my blog entry from 8/10/14).

The museum is small but has some wonderful resources about the three authors, such as descriptions of their lives and work, autographed first editions, copies of book patents from the Library of Congress, and other memorabilia.  In addition to titles that I have already read, I saw other books by the authors, books about the authors...  It gave me a bad case of book lust.  There are so many books I want to read!  Sometimes I wish I could touch a book cover and absorb the contents instantaneously, like a Vulcan mind meld.

Although the museum focuses on Harris, Walker, and O'Connor, in the future it will feature other writers from the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame on a rotating basis.  Interestingly, of the 46 authors in the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, nine are from within 30 miles of Putnam County.

Robert and I started the journey home, taking a different yet also lovely route.  I had checked the mileage of the entire route when I mapped it, and it was exactly 50 miles.  As we were leaving downtown Eatonton, Robert led us on some side streets that I hadn't planned on.  We got to a dead end and had to turn around.  It added about a mile to my intended route.  Normally, I wouldn't mind a little extra mileage, but I had already thought of the title for my ride report, and I'm kind of anal retentive about such things.  Oh, well - it was actually 51 miles o' fun.

Robert wore his Italian socks in honor of the Giro d'Italia, but, appropriately, these are also the main colors in the Mexican flag.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Peaches & Lakes 200K Permanent 2016

Originally, I didn't think I'd post a report for this ride because I can't write about all of them.  However, last Saturday's Peaches & Lakes 200K turned out to be one of the most enjoyable permanents I've done, thanks to a fantastic route with great friends during my favorite time of year.

To continue my R-12 quest, I needed to do a permanent in May because the previous weekend's brevet didn't work with my schedule.  I coordinated with Daniel, the Peaches & Lakes route owner, to do this excellent permanent.  Daniel, Ian, Robert N., and I did this route for the first time about a year ago shortly after RUSA approved it (see 6/8/15 ride report).  This is the optimal time of year for the Peaches & Lakes permanent because it's peach season - yea!  In fact, Dickey Farms, the peach stop on the route, opened for the year just a few days before our ride this past Saturday.

Andrew, Daniel, Ian, Julie, Robert N., and I left our starting control, the Waffle House in Thomaston, at 7:00 AM.  Daniel immediately turned on the juice because he thought he would be slower than the rest of us and wanted to get a head start.  The other five of us got into a comfortable rhythm on the bright, sunny morning.  It was a little cool at the start, but the sun soon began to warm us.

A couple of hours later, we arrived at our first stop, Dickey Farms.  Peach ice cream - woo hoo!

Photo by Andrew

Although I've ridden to Dickey Farms several times previously, I don't think I had ever seen their packaging process before.  I'm fascinated by any kind of processing equipment.  It's even better when it's for one of my favorite things - peaches!

Photo by Robert N.

Peaches are spread into one layer, moved single file onto a conveyor belt, and sorted by size

A piece of devil equipment - the one that puts a sticker on each peach. One of the activities in hell is peeling stickers off of fruit.

The peach ice cream was delectable, but unfortunately, Julie couldn’t partake.  However, she made quite a happy discovery: you can get a free sample of fresh peaches from the overripe ones that are culled from the packaging process.  My first peach of the season - swoon!

Next, we rode through areas very familiar to me from my group rides in Macon.  I enjoyed sharing these beautiful roads with my rando buddies, most of whom live in the Atlanta area and usually have to deal with much more traffic.

After skirting the western edge of the Piedmont Wildlife Refuge, we stopped in Juliette, made famous by the movie Fried Green Tomatoes.  As usual, the wait at the Whistle Stop CafĂ© was substantial, and so we decided to go somewhere else since it was an open control.

Unfortunately, Romeo’s in Juliette, the Italian restaurant that we visited on last year’s Peaches & Lakes 200K, has closed.  Therefore, we continued a couple of miles up the road to a convenience store.  This wasn’t nearly as exciting as the Whistle Stop, but we fueled and hydrated adequately and continued on our way.

You know it’s a good ride when you’re leaving the control at mile 80 and are sad that there are only about 45 more miles to go.  I was enjoying the day for several reasons.  First, we weren’t going at a breakneck pace.  More importantly, the training effect from so many long rides (300, 400, and 600K brevets plus some centuries) coupled with the intensity of Tuesday Worlds put me in good form for this ride.  Also, I truly love riding in Middle Georgia, and the weather was chamber-of-commerce perfect.  Then there was the excellent conversation.  We talked about all kinds of stuff, and I barely noticed as the miles simply disappeared.

Interestingly, one-third of Saturday’s riders were English (Andrew and Ian).  Andrew and I were discussing about how we occasionally have that common dream of being naked in a crowd.  Ian commented that he’s never dreamed of being naked.  Andrew and I decided that Ian must have a lot more self-confidence than we do.  Ian explained, “Of course I wouldn't take off my clothes; I’m a repressed Englishman.”  Ian cracks me up with his wonderfully dry sense of humor.

Andrew mentioned that when he first moved to Georgia some years ago, he learned that Georgia has 13 important agricultural products that start with the letter “p.”  I’ve lived in Georgia my entire life and had never heard this, but I was intrigued.  He didn’t remember the entire list, but our group came up with the easy ones – peaches, peanuts, pecans, poultry, and pork – as well as persimmons, which is less obvious but Andrew remembered being on the list.  He also remembered pimentos.  That’s seven of the 13 items.  We tossed out lots of other possibilities.  Later, I checked with the Google, but it didn’t have this elusive list of 13 items.  Therefore, I inquired in the land of Facebook.  These are the items I think are the most likely candidates for the remaining six slots: pulpwood, peas (field peas, e.g. black eyed, pinkeye, crowder, white acre, cream, lady, or zipper), peppers (i.e., bell), potatoes (sweet – Andrew said that Irish potatoes weren’t on the list), pumpkins, and pickles.  Entertaining yet less likely suggestions included pawpaws, plants, poke salad, pollen, pomegranates, poop, possums, and pot.

As we made a particular turn, I remembered a sign that I once saw at that intersection:

Party time!  Excellent!
When I told the others about the sign, Ian made some comment about the Rhapsody.  Of course, he meant the Rapture.  I teased him about not being up-to-date on his fundamentalism.  Then I described to him the Rapture Hatch.  I think that’s the hardest I’ve ever heard Ian laugh.

We stopped at a store near High Falls Lake.  We had been kind of leapfrogging Daniel, but we all got to the store at about the same time.  As we continued on, he and Robert took it a little easier while the other four of us stayed together the rest of the way.  Our last stop was in Barnesville.  Julie wanted something salty, and so she got a big bag of pretzels at a convenience store.  She, Andrew, and Ian looked quintessentially rando as they sat outside on the curb sharing the bag.

For much of the last part of the ride, Andrew and I talked about work.  I don’t know when I’ve talked about work so much, but it was refreshing to get a perspective from someone besides my husband or coworkers.  Andrew and I discovered that even though our lines of work are quite different, we face many of the same challenges: how much to focus on production vs. management, work/life balance, etc.  At one point I described to Andrew and Ian the difficulty of being unemployed for six months in 2009 during the Great Recession.  One of the biggest things I learned from that experience is that too much of my identity was tied up in my profession.  Sure, that’s an important part of my life, but in the past I let it define me too much.  Andrew and Ian knew exactly what I meant.  They commented on the typically American phenomenon of asking someone what they do for a living immediately upon meeting for the first time.  Particularly since being unemployed, I have intentionally not asked this question of new acquaintances.  In fact, even among my regular cycling companions in Macon, I still don’t know some of their occupations.  Also, I told Andrew and Ian that just a few weeks ago at the 600K I learned that our randonneuring friend Jim is an emergency room doctor!  Isn’t that a handy friend to have along for the ride?  (although I hope we never need his services…)

When I got around to checking my Garmin, we had only about three miles to go.  Wow!  We pretty much breezed to the finish.  Maybe it was Andrew and Ian’s British influence, but it was such a civilized ride.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

How to Ride in a Group

Yesterday I did the Journey for Autism, a ride in Macon to benefit children in Middle Georgia who have autism.  Not only is it for a great cause, but also this has become one of my favorite group rides each year.  That's because my friend Jake does such a fantastic job as the ride leader.  He controls the pace so that we all stay together, and the weaker riders like me don't have to kill ourselves to hang on.  There were about two dozen of us who rode together, averaging almost 21 mph for 102 miles!

Recently I read a cycling article that gave a good explanation of riding effectively in a group.  Don't ride like you're on cruise control in your car; ride just the opposite.  The purpose of a car's cruise control is to maintain a constant speed.  Therefore, the accelerator pushes down for increased power going uphill, and it eases off downhill so that the car doesn't go too fast.   I've seen so many cyclists erroneously take the same approach at the front of the peloton, hammering up the hills and coasting(!) downhill.  It might seem counterintuitive, but the key is that you're not trying to maintain constant speed in a group ride.  You want to maintain constant power.  Too many cyclists have no concept of this, but Jake was valedictorian of his graduating class in the Chad Madan School of Group Riding.

By the way, a true group ride like this is different from a ride like Tuesday Worlds, which is really a practice race.  All's fair in love, war, and Tuesday Worlds: surges, attacks, etc.

One of the rest stops on the Journey Ride had a photo op that I simply couldn't resist.

Don't have a cow, man.
Also at this rest stop, Jake drank some Gatorade that didn't sit well with him.  Therefore, he let a couple of other guys pull for about the last hour.  One of those was Stony.  Stony is an excellent cyclist, but I think he graduated from some Elbonian school of group riding.  He has only one setting when he rides: Stony Grinder.  It was definitely a harder effort for the last part of the ride, and I was happy to stay with the group to the end.

We had a delicious spaghetti meal after the ride.  I sat with my buddies Monte and Nate.  Nate built a backwards bike for Monte, who had it set up as a fundraiser for the Ocmulgee Mountain Bike Association (OMBA).

For $5 you got three tries at riding the backwards bike a mere 10 feet.  The prize was $50.  The trick is that it really is backwards; when you steer right, the bike turns left, and vice versa.  I didn't try it, but apparently almost no one can ride it even such a short distance because it messes with your head so much.

Check out Nate's signature on the front of the backwards bike
It's kind of appropriate that the backwards bike was at the Journey Ride because of the seemingly backwards way a truly good group ride works: easier on the uphills, harder on the downhills.