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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Cycling is Life

I do a lot of night riding, particularly this time of year.  I can see about 15 feet in front of me with my front light.  After today's much needed rain, it was rather foggy this evening.  This gave me an even more cloistered feeling as I rode along the quiet, rural roads near my house.

It's a unique, though not unpleasant, sensation to not be able to see very far down the road in front of me.  Whether it's pavement, dirt, or uphill, I simply have to ride what's there, accepting whatever my journey holds at the moment.  Cycling is life.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Ride

Robert, his parents, and I are at The Beechwood Inn, a bed & breakfast in Clayton, GA, for Thanksgiving.  It's a delightful place.

Robert and I came up early enough yesterday for a ride.  We rode a loop from Clayton to Highlands, NC and back.  It was a lovely day to ride, and we got plenty of climbing - over 6,000 ft in 60 miles, about twice as much elevation gain per mile as back home.

We headed out late this morning for another ride.  Some of today's route overlapped yesterday's, and it also included a portion along Lake Burton.  Interestingly, we passed a field that was serving as the staging area for helicopters being used to fight the nearby wildfires.  These are the wildfires that have spread smoke south as far as Macon.  Fortunately, wind patterns were such that we didn't notice any smoke on our rides yesterday or today.  I pray for the people and wildlife in harm's way from the fires and that we'll get rain relief soon.

I figured that today's ride would take us a little over three hours.  Our average speed probably would be slightly slower than usual because of the hills, but I didn't expect we would have quite as much climbing as yesterday.  Surprise - the total distance was less, but the rate of climbing wasn't too different: nearly 4,200 ft in 47 miles.

I had an even bigger surprise.  I thought I would be fine by not eating during the ride, particularly since we had had a substantial breakfast.  Also, although I had a Clif Bar with me, I really didn't want the calories because I was anticipating our Thanksgiving feast back at the Beechwood Inn.  That was a poor decision.  I can ride maybe two and a half hours without eating.  Three is really pushing it.  We rode three hours and 20 minutes and had significant climbing - no wonder I nearly bonked.  I should have known better.  But Thanksgiving dinner sure was good!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  (Serious holiday, that is.  I love Groundhog Day and International Talk Like a Pirate Day, too.  Arrr!)  Thanksgiving is special not because of the lavish meal, although I certainly enjoy that.  It's because being thankful helps me get through life.  Whether it's going well or badly, there is always something to be grateful for.  One of the biggest things I'm grateful for is being able to ride my bicycle, enjoying the beauty of the world around me.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thomaston Franklin 200K Permanent

Last Saturday I rode the Thomaston Franklin 200K permanent.  A couple of my good rando buddies, Dick and Ian, rode with me on a windy but bright, sunny day.  A few highlights from our ride:

One of the controls was in Greenville, GA.  Now I've seen a lot of convenience store snacks:the usual candy bars, fruit, those unidentifiable log shaped things rotating on rollers under a heat lamp, etc.  But this has got to be the most interesting:

I was particularly curious to know what fetty wap flavor tastes like.  Alas, I wasn't hungry at the time, and I didn't want them to get besquished in my jersey pocket.

Another control was in LaGrange:

They got a lot of nice girls.  A haw, haw, haw.

LaGrange is next to West Point Lake.  The leaves in our area are about at their peak.  It was an odd juxtaposition to see their splendid colors surrounding the lake, which was alarmingly low due to the ongoing exceptional drought.  Beauty and pain - life itself.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Back in the PWR

I can't believe I've lived in Jasper County for 20 years before doing what I did yesterday.  I rode to Allison Lake in the Piedmont Wildlife Refuge (PWR), hiked around for a while, and rode home.  The PWR is one of my favorite places.

The ride to Allison Lake takes about an hour.  I packed some walking shoes, a bike lock, and a simple picnic (fruit and sandwiches) for Robert and me in a Fried Green 50 backpack that I got several years ago.  Robert had a four-hour training ride on his calendar.  Therefore, he rode for three hours before meeting up with me at Allison Lake for our picnic and the one-hour ride home together.

I had checked the PWR hiking trails online ahead of time.  There are three beginning at Allison Lake.  I chose the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Trail, which is about 2.9 miles long.  I also checked the Georgia hunting guide that I had picked up at last weekend's Deer Festival.  The PWR is open to hunting only a few days a year.  It just so happens that yesterday was one of those days.  However, I figured that it would be OK to hike on designated trails.  Additionally, I wore my fluorescent yellow cycling jersey as an extra precaution.

With afternoon temperatures in the high 50s and partly cloudy skies, it was a beautiful fall day.  I purposely walked at a leisurely pace, trying to be more than to do.

Tasseled fall grass

Tassel closeup

Hidey hole

Sure enough, there's something inside! A letterbox is similar to a geocache.

Unidentifiied wildflowers that have gone to seed

Allison Lake

The Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Trail has several informational signs along the route.  I learned several cool wildlife facts:

  • Flying squirrels are nocturnal.  No wonder I've never seen one.
  • Raccoons usually eat next to creeks or streams.  They often dunk their food in the water before eating it.
  • Beavers are the largest rodent in North America, and they have orange teeth!

Robert was waiting by my bicycle when I finished my walk.  He said that a ranger told him we had to leave right away because the entire refuge is closed on hunting days.  D'oh!  I had no idea, but at least I know for the future.  Too bad Robert and I didn't get to stay long enough to eat our apple slices and besquished pb&j sandwiches.

I'm not sure when I'll be able to get back to the PWR for more hiking, but I guarantee that it won't be another 20 years.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A Weekend in the Piedmont

I live in the southern piedmont region of Georgia.  This past weekend was full of reasons why I love living here: the Deer Festival and the Fried Green 50.

Deer Festival

The Deer Festival is sponsored by the Monticello-Jasper County Chamber of Commerce.  Originally begun by the Jaycees, it celebrates our whitetail deer population (we're the Deer Capital of Georgia!) and the hunters who support our local economy.  This past Saturday was the 50th Deer Festival!

Deer Dash - In 1998 I was part of a group that began the Deer Dash 5K and 1-Mile Fun Run.  We wanted to attract more people to the Deer Festival.  Although I'm not involved in the organizing of the Deer Dash anymore, I've participated enthusiastically every year.  I joke about running being barbaric (which it is), but I train enough to do the Deer Dash 5K each year.  Besides, it's healthy for me to do a little cross-training with cycling.

The Deer Dash course is challenging.  Four state highways come into our little town, and they were constructed largely along ridges.  Because we obviously want the racecourse to stay off of the state highways as much as possible, we have to cross them several times.  That makes for quite a hilly course.  Additionally, I did minimal training in preparation for this year's Deer Dash, running once a week for the last few months.  Therefore, I didn't expect to have a particularly good Deer Dash, but of course I set out to do my best.

Everyone lined up at the corner of the Monticello square.  We were off!  Every year I get tickled by the young kids who start the race at practically a sprint. They usually end up walking within half a mile. There was a new variation this year. One boy started out so exuberantly that about 100 meters into the race, his shoe went flying off.

Particularly earlier in the race before I got too tired, I entertained myself by taking in all the people running.  What a wonderful menagerie they were!   There were runners in camouflage, an older woman wearing socks with rhinestone sandals, a Mennonite girl in a long skirt and head covering, and a man with a prosthetic leg who greets everyone with "Jesus loves you!"  How Southern gothic - the race could as easily be called the Flannery O'Connor 5K.

I got into my groove and felt peppier than I expected.  In fact, that's about the best I ever felt during a running race.  I didn't feel like I was going to die.  I think all the endurance training I've done is finally paying off, even though it's been in cycling.  I gave it my all and finished in 24:02.  That was enough to win female masters!  I'm grateful that I'm as fast or faster now than when I ran cross country in high school.

As I was getting into my car to go home, I decided that I wanted to take a picture of my trophy:

That turned out to be quite a fortuitous decision.  Because I got back out of my car to take the picture, I saw a man walking away from the door of Jordan Engineering.  He was checking to see if Robert was there.  It turned out to be Brooke Bittinger, one of Robert's coworkers from 20 years ago at Black & Veatch in Atlanta.  How great to see Brooke!  He had come down to run the Deer Dash.  I knew that Robert would be sorry to have missed him.

After taking a shower at home, I rode my bicycle back to the festival.  It's a lot easier to park a bicycle than a car on Deer Festival day.

Venison Cook-Off - My first order of business when I got back to the square was to go to the Venison-Cook Off, hosted each year by the Monticello Kiwanis Club.  As I walked to the cook-off area, I had to stop for a picture with the Snap'n Turtle:

One of my life rules is always to take advantage of photo ops with costumed critters.

For $10 at the Venison Cook-Off, you can sample all the entries.  I love venison but never get to cook it myself because Robert doesn’t like it.  Therefore, I especially look forward to the Venison Cook-Off.  As always, it didn’t disappoint this year:
Clockwise from top: BBQ, bacon-wrapped tenderloin, kabob (got the last one, and I went early!), another BBQ on a bun. Plus, venison stew in the cup. All of it was excellent.
Hanging Out with My Deerly Beloved – After I finished my lunch, Robert tracked me down.  I sat with him while he had some regular (pork) BBQ from one of the Deer Festival vendors.

Then, Robert and I checked out the rest of the festival together.  That was a real treat because usually we’re on different schedules on Deer Festival day.

I probably could have drunk that much tea.

We got a copy of our friend Linda's newly published book.  I can't wait to read it!
Charlie Brown the turtle, visiting from nearby Dauset Trails. He's 60 or 70 years old!
At the Georgia Department of Natural Resources booth

Locked up at the Old West demonstration booth

Jasper the Deer – As much fun as I had already had, it got even better.  Jasper the Deer was a new addition to this year’s Deer Festival.  I volunteered to work an afternoon shift as Jasper!  Pam, the Executive Director of the Monticello-Jasper County Chamber of Commerce, led me around because it’s a little hard to see out of the Jasper costume.  First, she took me to the area in front of the stage, where a band was rocking out.  I danced with some little kids and a disabled man:

One of the songs was “Hard to Handle,” sung in the style of the Black Crowes.  (Otis Redding originally sang it.)  Jasper had the moves – Cuz from the old 96Rock commercials in Atlanta ain’t got nothing on Jasper.  Even though my vision was mostly obscured, I could feel the shared humanity with my dance partners, people who are probably mostly pushed aside in society.  I rejoiced with them in the chance simply to be.

Next, Pam led me around the square, where I got to hug kids, coax smiles out of grouchy adults, and “shop” with various vendors.

These women kind of backed away, then sat on this bench as Jasper approached them. Naturally, I had to sit next to them.
With the 2015-2016 Deer Festival Queen
This one wasn't too sure what to think about Jasper.

Getting a Mary Kay makeover

Earlier in the day, I had told Robert that I wanted to ride the train, which I had never done at the Deer Festival.  Even better, I got to do it as Jasper!

It was wonderful to share a little fun and love as I joked around with so many festival goers.  Corny as it may sound, I thought about the unique beauty of each person I encountered.  I’m still pondering the irony that I felt more like my authentic self while wearing the Jasper costume.

Fried Green 50

Sunday was one of my favorite cycling events of the year – the Fried Green 50!

The FG50 is a ride on gravel roads in the Piedmont Wildlife Refuge (PWR).  Did I say ride?  Some of us kind of race it.  I kind of raced it every year until now.  This year I really raced it.

The start was neutral for the first few miles.  Soon thereafter, the front group of guys shot ahead, as expected.  I settled in for my usual scenario, mostly riding by myself.  Then, I caught my teammate Bill.  I was so glad simply to see him out there because he’s recovering from some recent medical issues.  He told me that the woman who was a short distance behind me couldn’t climb.  How great to have teammates to pass along intelligence!  I thanked him and continued on, putting forth a little extra effort on the hills, my strong suit.  Sure enough, I never saw the woman again.

Monte, Ray, and everyone else with the Ocmulgee Mountain Bike Association (OMBA) do such a fantastic job putting on the FG50.  They mark the course very well and have excellent SAG stops.  At least they look like good stops.  As one of those wacky racers, I carry enough food and water with me to last three hours.  I definitely miss out by not stopping, though.  As I passed the first SAG, I saw Ray in a ghillie suit.  He looked like Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.

The SAGs are “covered dish.”  Riders are encouraged to contribute old bike food and the like.  I brought a few leftovers from the Mad Doctor’s laboratory at Haunticello: gummy eyeballs, feet, fingers, small intestines, etc.  They joined such novelties as smoked sausage (sans wrapper) and Bacon Bourbon Rice Krispie Treats:

Not pictured: a half-full bottle of Wild Turkey.

But of course I didn’t get to sample any of these goodies.  Instead, I prepared for a three-hour time trial on gravel roads.  That was not to be, however.

Soon after the first SAG, I passed my teammates Robert (who is also my husband) and Van.  Van had gotten a flat.  As I rode by, Robert told me that there was a woman about a minute ahead of me, and I could catch her.  Whoa!  I thought I was out front in the women’s field, but again I was grateful for more intelligence.  I kept up as fast a pace as I thought I could maintain for the next few hours.  I crossed Round Oak-Juliette Road to the first dirt section on the south side.  I made good time through this beautiful area.  (I really need to go back to this section on my own and not wait until the next FG50.)  Next, the route continued for a couple of miles on Round Oak-Juliette Road, the main paved road through the PWR.  At about mile 18, I saw the woman!

She was drafting her husband.  I climbed passed them just as we turned right onto Caney Creek Road, the second dirt section south of Round Oak-Juliette Road.  She actually gave me some encouraging words as I passed her, which we laughed about together after the race.  I barreled down the dirt road and saw that she was on my tail.  I swerved to the left, and she stayed right there.  I swerved back to the right, and still she stayed.  So that’s your game?  OK, if you’re going to draft me, I’m going to ride at a mellow pace.  No reason to burn all my matches.  I figured that if she jumped ahead, I’d just start drafting her.

My friend Donny and her husband caught up to us.  The four of us stayed together for a few more miles.  I heard her husband tell her to be patient.  I could be patient, too – heh heh.  Eventually, the woman and I pulled ahead.  We maintained a tempo pace, not too crazy.  I found myself actually thinking about strategy!  Wow!  This was turning into a real race!  Time trials don’t require strategy (it’s just you against the clock), and the few road races that I did in the past weren’t nearly this tough.  52 miles of racing on gravel is an effort equivalent to at least 75 miles on pavement, and I never did a road race that long.  Also, women’s races can be funny.  Sometimes they blow apart, and other times they’re like tea parties.  In any case, there’s usually a significant amount of chitchat.  In contrast, this woman and I didn’t talk the entire race!

We continued on, head to head.  There were several more creek crossings, which were rock gardens this year due to the exceptional drought in our area.  Surprisingly, I found them more treacherous without water.  I'm not a very good technical rider, and the other woman managed the crossings much more smoothly than I did.  I hoped she wouldn’t be able to take too much advantage of my weakness.

To my surprise, I got the advantage at the fifth creek crossing.  Immediately afterwards was a particularly steep climb.  We both had to get off our bikes and push them up the hill.  She started to get back on hers while it was still pretty steep.  I knew that wouldn’t work for me, so I trotted as fast as I could toward the crest.  I got back on my bike and saw that she was still a good distance behind.  Now was my chance – I made the break!

I went back into time trial mode, increasing my speed to what I thought I could maintain for the remaining 15 or so miles.  I kept looking back.  No sign of her.  The road had a couple of curves where I could see behind me a pretty good distance.  I still didn’t see her.  Wait!  There she was in the closest bend – dang it!  All I could do was keep pedaling.  A few minutes later – eek! – there she was right behind me again!  I audibly gasped in surprise.  Later, she told me that it took all she had to catch back up to me.

How was it going to play out?  Could I put on the gas a few miles out?  Not likely.  She was sticking to me like glue, and I didn’t think I could shake her.  We came back out on Round Oak-Juliette Road.  I did a little test.  I was on a cyclocross bike, but she was on a mountain bike.  I’m primarily a roadie, and since a cross bike is generally faster on pavement than a mountain bike, I thought I might be able to get a gap on her.  No dice.

She pulled in front of me.  There was a fairly steep climb before the next turn.  She revved it up!  I don't know when my quads have burned like that, but I was determined to stay right on her wheel.  Just a few miles to go.

I was hoping that she wasn't familiar with the course like I was.  I knew that a tricky little technical part was coming up right before the end - a hairpin turn and a steep climb that pretty much requires you to walk your bike up.  If I could just get in front of her right before the climb, I could scramble up the hill ahead of her and maybe get a gap.  My plan might have worked, but the road right before the climb turned out to be technical itself.  It had monstrous ruts all over it.  They slowed me down, but she zoomed right through.  She got to the climb before me, pushed her bike up, and got the gap on me!

I did my best to catch up, but she was about 50 m ahead of me.  The finish line was approaching.  We sprinted across the bridge, and she got it!

What a great race!  I finally got to meet my competition afterwards.  Her name is Beth, she's 58, and she's from Brevard, NC.  Most importantly, she's super nice :)  Wow, did she make me work!  We both agreed that we were very well matched, and we both thoroughly enjoyed the competition.  The only thing that would have made it more fun is if I had won - ha ha!

L-R: me and Beth

Maybe someday Beth and I can do a regular ride together without trying to kill each other.