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, July 31, 2017

Humming Along

Hummingbirds are magnificent, fascinating creatures.  Who doesn't marvel at the energy, quickness, and beauty of these tiny birds?  I keep a hummingbird feeder on my patio where I can watch them from my kitchen table as they flit about.

In my previous blog, A Year of Centuries, I had a memorable entry in which I compared a hummingbird's power output to that of a cyclist.  The inspiration came from - of all things - a Nancy Drew mystery.  I revisited these favorite books from my childhood as I highlighted a wonderful Georgia charity, the Ferst Foundation, which promotes childhood literacy by providing free books to any Georgia child from birth to five years of age.  Here's my hummingbird/cyclist analysis:

Also, I found that Nancy Drew can be educational even for adults.  One of the characters in The Double Jinx Mystery is a man with an aviary of rare birds.  He tells Nancy and her friends George and Bess lots of interesting things about the birds.  For example, he says, “When a hummingbird is hovering he has an energy output per unit of weight ten times that of a man who is running nine miles an hour.”  This reminded me of the power to weight ratio that we cyclists often use, and so I made a comparison between hummingbirds and cyclists.  A nine-minute mile is a very moderate running pace.  A 150-pound (68-kg) man running at this pace probably puts out about 125 watts.  Therefore, estimate that his power to weight ratio is about 2 watts per kg.  That means that a hummingbird’s power to weight ratio is about 20 watts per kg.  For comparison, a Tour de France racer has a threshold power to weight ratio of about 5 watts per kg.  That’s only ¼ the power to weight ratio of a hovering hummingbird!

Just imagine how fast a hummingbird's metabolism must be!  Even when I was training for RAAM a couple of years ago and the critter was always after me (i.e., I was hungry all the time because I was training so much), I wasn't burning nearly the relative number of calories that a hummingbird does.
The critter
Charles Seabrook is a naturalist who writes an excellent weekly column for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Recently, he wrote about ruby-throated hummingbirds' fall migration, which actually begins right after July 4.  The first wave includes the males.  Later, the females and fledged juveniles will begin the journey.  They will fly nonstop for up to 500 miles over the Gulf of Mexico to their winter home.  These petite birds gorge to fatten up for the arduous trek.  Many will nearly double their average weight of 3 grams in only 7 to 10 days.

Randonneuring also involves very long journeys.  It's critical to fuel properly for these rides.  I try to eat mostly healthy, "real" food on brevets, but I do enjoy the occasional treat.  For example, Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies (OCPs) are outstanding bike food.  Even on the longest brevets, however, one still should take care not to eat like a hummingbird.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Heeding My Own Advice

I've done enough riding to take seriously the name of my blog: Expect Adventure.  Even so, I was still surprised to get a double dose of adventure this past weekend, on both Saturday's and Sunday's rides.


I pre-rode the Peaches & Lakes 200K brevet.  The official brevet is next Saturday.  However, because of a time trial that I want to do that day, I arranged with Daniel, the Peaches & Lakes coordinator, to pre-ride the course a week early.  A pre-ride within about a week of a brevet is always a good idea, and so I figured my offer would help both of us.

I've done the Peaches & Lakes route a couple of times before as a permanent (see ride reports from 6/18/15 and 5/16/16), but this is the first time Daniel is running it as a brevet.  (A brevet is put on the yearly randonneuring club calendar in advance, whereas you schedule a permanent with the route owner on a mutually agreeable date.)  Daniel is running the brevet in the opposite direction of the permanent to make the control at Dickey Farms (peach ice cream!) the last one instead of the first one.  Good call!

Dick, Neil, Robert N., and I met Daniel at the Waffle House in Thomaston to start the ride.  After Daniel took care of our paperwork and wished us bonne route, we four riders headed out on a beautiful summer morning.  Neil told us off the bat that he would be riding very slowly, and so Dick, Robert, and I soon pulled ahead.  The three of us chatted about everything from historic places in Atlanta that we ought to visit to the pros and cons of living in The Netherlands during the 17th century.  I've read a couple of fascinating books about the state-of-the-art science there at the time.

Speaking of books, I loved seeing this Little Free Library at High Falls State Park, which was one of our controls:

A Little Free Library at a state park - each makes the other even better!
We stopped at the ever lovely town of Juliette, home of The Whistle Stop Cafe, the setting for the movie Fried Green Tomatoes.

Because it was an open control, we opted for a quicker stop at The Honey Comb.  The owners were so friendly and had plenty of water available.

It was only seven miles to the next control at Jarrell Plantation.  Randonneurs USA (RUSA) required Daniel to set an information control along that portion of the route to keep riders from taking a shortcut down Highway 87. Daniel had a question in mind for us at the info control, but he had asked us pre-riders to scope out other possibilities.  Later I told him that his original idea would work, or he could use a question that I suggested.  I'll be curious to hear what he uses on the actual brevet next Saturday.

Scouting out the info control at Jarrell Plantation
The day's heat was getting more pronounced.  About halfway into the ride, Robert dropped back.  Dick and I soldiered on.  We were in the longest stretch between controls, about 27 miles.  Normally, that wouldn't seem like much, but Dick and I were especially grateful to get to the convenience store in Lizella for more fluids.  I drank a bottle of Powerade.  Additionally, I bought us a gallon of water.  Between what we drank there and used to fill our bottles, we polished off the entire gallon.

The peach ice cream at Dickey Farms sounded better and better.  Although it was less than an hour's ride from Lizella to Dickey Farms, we didn't mind stopping again, especially for such deliciousness.

Dickey Farms was right at 100 miles into the route.  The cool refreshment fortified us for the remaining 29 miles.  Then, just seven miles later - adventure!

We turned right off of Hopewell Road onto US Highway 80, and a bridge was out!  I couldn't help but laugh to myself, having encountered another bridge that was out on a ride only two weeks earlier.  I didn't think twice about wading through the creek, but Dick was more hesitant.  However, I convinced him to go for it.

This is a perfect illustration of the value of a pre-ride for a brevet.  I let Daniel know about the bridge being out so that he can devise a reroute for the official brevet next Saturday.  Also, he was able to contact Robert and Neil behind us so they could determine an interim detour.

I'm rather a heat lizard, but even I could feel the effects of the day's high temperatures.  Also, I had forgotten that the final approach into Thomaston on Waymanville Road has some fairly beastly rollers.  Having already ridden 125 miles on such a hot day, I found them rather buttocks-kicking on Saturday.

One highlight of the ride happened during this stretch, which gave me both a smile and a little mental relief.  A deer was startled as I approached on my bicycle.  She ran parallel to the road for a short distance, muscles rippling and coat shining in the sunlight - just beautiful.  About 30 m after she ran into the woods, I passed a small side road called Doe Run.

At last Dick and I made it back to the Waffle House in Thomaston.  We finished in 10 hours, 5 minutes.  I usually finish a 200K in about 8.5 to 9.5 hours.  Saturday's longer time didn't surprise me, though.  We enjoyed the controls, and the heat certainly slowed us down.  And, of course, there was the bridge that was out.  We would have broken 10 hours if not for that.

Originally, I had planned to do my weekly grocery shopping after the ride and then cook dinner.  Because I didn't get home until 7:00 PM, I opted simply to take a shower and scrounge up something to eat from what we had on hand.  Fortunately, we had some leftover pesto chicken and pasta and some rosemary and olive focaccia.  With fried okra on the side for greenage, Robert (husband) and I had a delicious if unconventional dinner.

I know a lot of people don't understand why someone would voluntarily ride 129 miles, particularly in nearly 100-degree temperatures.  Some of it is being acclimated to the outdoors; although I much prefer heat to cold, I have found that the human body can adapt to all kinds of conditions.  But besides that, a ride like Saturday's gives me this all-over fatigue like nothing else does.  It's a uniquely odd but gratifying sensation.


Earlier in the week, a guy named Keith, whom I know through mutual cycling friends in Atlanta, contacted me about maybe coming down this weekend for some dirt road riding.  Although he's been a roadie for years, dirt road riding is new for him.  I told him that I couldn't ride dirt roads on Saturday because of the brevet pre-ride, but Sunday afternoon would work for me.  I figured that a mellow, hour-and-a-half dirt ride would make a good recovery ride.  Besides, it had been a while since I had ridden in the Piedmont Wildlife Refuge (PWR), and I'm always glad to show this treasure to visitors.

I set our ride time for 3:00 PM, which gave me time for church that morning, grocery shopping, and a few household chores that needed attention.  This also seemed like a good timeframe for dinner afterwards.  Keith had offered to take Robert and me to dinner, but I explained the dearth of restaurants in Monticello, particularly ones open on Sunday evening.  Besides, I was already planning to cook, and I enjoy it.

I rode my cross bike the four miles from my house to Adgateville Baptist Church, the meeting point that Keith and I had set up.  I had mapped a 20-mile route and uploaded it onto my Garmin.  Although I'm pretty familiar with the roads in the PWR and wouldn't actually get lost, having a map also gave me a certain level of comfort.  Keith uses no electronic devices while riding, and so it wouldn't have helped even if I had sent him the route ahead of time.  At least he studied the area on Google Maps ahead of time.

As always, it was a pleasant ride through the PWR.  It felt at least 15 degrees cooler than riding on asphalt.  I felt decent enough, considering the previous day's ride, but I knew I wouldn't be setting any power records.  Fortunately, the pace seemed to suit both of us.

Mid-route, I decided to change course.  I turned on Natural Bridge Crossing Road so I could show Keith a beautiful creek crossing where water flows across a fairly flat rock surface rather than in a typical creek bed.  This would shorten the original loop that I had planned, but that sounded pretty good, too.

We continued riding.  After a while, my Garmin showed me being back on course.  Then, we came back to the same turnoff to Natural Bridge Crossing Road!  I had looped back onto my original route!  I decided to continue on the original route; we would wind up not with a shorter than planned route, but a longer one.  Oh, well.  At least I had my original course map back.

A few miles later, Keith got a flat tire.  Both of us had extra tubes and supplies to change a flat, but this was a tubeless tire - not so easy to fix mid-ride.  At first we tried riding really slowly, with Keith attempting to make do with the little bit of air still in the tire.  We soon decided that it would be better for me to ride back to his vehicle parked at Adgateville Baptist Church and drive back to pick him up.  In the meantime, Keith would make as much forward progress as possible.

I rode on at tempo pace.  Less than a mile later, I passed a turnoff to the left.  My route continued straight.  Then, about a half mile later, I came to a gate with a stop sign.  I knew this section well and simply lifted my bicycle over the gate as I have done a number of times in the past.  However, I didn't want Keith to get confused.  I sent him a text, telling him to go straight at the intersection, carry his bike across the gate, and continue on.  Cell phone coverage is nonexistent in the PWR, but texts will still go through.  I trusted that between my text and his brief scan of the map on my Garmin, which showed the remainder of the route being mostly straight, that he would stay on the correct route.

The flat happened about eight miles from the church.  Therefore, it took me at least half an hour to get back.  I texted Robert to apprise him of the situation, loaded my bicycle, and started backtracking in Keith's Kia.  After a couple of miles, I saw a boy on a golf cart-type ATV.  I made a mental note but didn't stop to ask if the boy had seen a cyclist because there's no way Keith could have made it that far from where I had left him.

I expected (hoped) to see Keith somewhere on this side of the gate.  When I got to the gate without seeing him, I thought (hoped) he would be waiting at the intersection where I had texted him to go straight.  I carried my bike back across the gate and rode down to check.  No Keith.  He must have turned left at the intersection instead of going straight like he was supposed to.

Because I couldn't drive past the gate, I had to drive back toward the church yet again.  I knew how to get to the other side of the gate via another entrance to the PWR, farther south off of Highway 11.  Driving as fast as the law would allow, a la Nancy Drew - and as fast as I thought Keith's vehicle could safely withstand on the dirt/gravel roads - I drove to the infamous PWR intersection near the gate and turned left.

This road dead-ended into...Natural Bridge Crossing Road!  Hmmm.  Which way might Keith have gone?  The creek flowing over the rock was to the left.  If Keith had turned that way, maybe he would recognize the crossing and stay put until I got to him.  I decided to try that direction.  If he weren't at the creek crossing, I would go back in the other direction on Natural Bridge Crossing Road.  If I didn't find him that way...I'd cross that metaphorical bridge when I came to it.  We had about an hour of daylight left.  I started having visions of sheriff's deputies...

Hallelujah!  Keith, in fact, was at the creek crossing!  Most importantly, he was safe.  He had started to worry that something had happened to me, but when I explained all the backtracking and sleuthing I had had to do, he understood why it had taken me so long to find him.  Maybe that unintended extra route mileage was a blessing in disguise.  Keith likely would have gotten the flat regardless.  If we had stayed on the original route and not gone to the natural bridge crossing, we wouldn't have had this unique rallying point.

As we drove back to my house, I was flabbergasted to learn that Keith never carries his cell phone with him on the bike.  Even if my text had gone through (I don't know whether it did or not), he wouldn't have gotten it.  I hope he changes this habit immediately.

Keith said that his main protection on the bike is carrying a lot of cash and credit cards.  If he sees a passing car or a kid on a golf cart, he can pay them to take him wherever he wants.  Wha??  I was dumbfounded.  First of all, most people would be glad to help out someone in distress and wouldn't/shouldn't have to be bribed.  Also, as I told Keith, the deer don't take Visa.

Lessons learned: 1) Don't assume non-natives to my area will be prepared for fairly remote areas like the PWR.  2) Continue to be smart myself when I go in such areas.  Don't be afraid, but maintain a healthy respect for the wild; carry enough supplies and gear, and most definitely let someone know where you are going and what your schedule is.  3) Staying calm and thinking logically, step-by-step really works.

So my intended hour-and-a-half recovery ride turned into a five-hour outing.  But I guess all's well that ends well.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Slow Food, Fast Bike

Today was my favorite type of day.  I didn't have a particular agenda.  I had a general plan for a bicycle outing, but I let myself be open to whatever might happen.

Robert headed out uber early for the Georgia Games road race.  He would be gone most of the day, and so I planned my own fun.  It's blueberry picking season; therefore, I decided to ride to Hard Labor Creek Blueberry Farm, which I like to visit every year.

First on the schedule, however, was a visit to the Saturday morning farmers market on the Monticello square.  What beautiful bounty!

I got multicolored bell peppers and eggplant for Poulet a la Basquaise, a.k.a. Euskaltel Chicken, my French teacher sister's wonderful, rustic French chicken dish that I cook every year during the Tour.  I also got some tomatoes, homemade pesto, and okra.  The latter items became tonight's dinner:  tomato-pesto pizza and roasted okra.  I love planning my weekly menus around what I find at the farmers market.

After that, it was time to head toward Rutledge for blueberry picking.  It was a picture-perfect summer morning, warm but not scorching.  I realized that I have four P's on this type of ride: prayer, planning, pondering, and perceiving.  On my better days - like today - my prayer includes gratitude for fresh air, healthy lungs to breathe it, and muscles that let me pedal my bicycle freely.  I also remember those who desperately wish they had these things.  Additionally, I'm always planning something, whether it's menus for the farmers market stuff I bought or setting future goals.  I ponder things all the time, too - situations I'm facing, the meaning of life, etc.  As for perceiving, cycling is perfect for that.  It helps me live in the moment.  How thrilling to see a rabbit, a red-tailed hawk in flight, or a fawn that still has its spots.  A particular delight today was smelling kudzu blossoms.  I smelled them before I saw them, and it was rather a surprise.  I didn't expect kudzu to bloom for another couple of weeks.

Whoa!  I didn't know that a bridge on the road between Newborn and Rutledge was out.  I figured I still could manage with my bicycle, but it turned out to be a little trickier than I anticipated.  The bridge construction wasn't quite far enough along for me to get across.  So I had to ford the fairly large creek.  No problem, though.  I had put my randonneuring rack and bag on my bike and packed my river shoes to make it easier to walk around at the farmers market and the blueberry farm.  Those off-bike shoes were perfect for schlepping my bicycle on my back across the creek.  Not that it was easy - the embankment was steep - but I calmly assessed the situation and figured out a way to get across safely.

My favorite shoes
A few miles later, I passed a farm with this sign:

It reminded me of all the delicious, local food that was filling my day.  Juxtaposed with my cycling, it set the day's theme: Slow food, fast bike.  Good nutrition and plenty of exercise go a long way toward a healthy life.

I got to the blueberry farm at about 11:45.  They close at 1:00 PM, and so I figured I had plenty of time to pick a bucket of blueberries.  I guess I forgot that it's really not that quick of a process.  After a while, I checked the time, and an hour had already elapsed!  I picked about 2/3 of a bucket before the farm closed.  That was enough, really.  Robert and I will eat fresh blueberries for a few days, and I'll freeze the rest for oatmeal, pancakes, smoothies, and other favorites.

Shortly after I left the blueberry farm, I made a quick stop to take this picture:

It reminded me never to sit around waiting for death.  Life has more opportunities than we can ever take advantage of.

My plan included a lunch stop at The Caboose in Rutledge, just a few miles from the blueberry farm.  They have great sandwiches.  I ordered pimento cheese.  It was extra good on rye bread, slightly toasted, and served with lettuce, tomato, and alfalfa sprouts.  I was tempted to get the day's special, a turkey sandwich with cranberries.  However, because I had already planned to cook a pizza that night with the tomatoes and pesto from the farmers market, I decided to stay totally meatless for the day.  I try to do that at least once a week for health and environmental reasons.

I took a different route home because I didn't feel like fooling with the bridge that was out again.  My route home was only about three miles longer.  Just after I got back to the Monticello city limits, a brief shower fell.  It wasn't enough to interfere with my ride, but it did provide a nice bit of cooling.

It was definitely a slow food evening.  Because I hadn't decided to cook pizza until I went to the farmers market, I hadn't taken out a loaf of bread dough to thaw.  That's what I usually use for pizza crust.  It works great, but I have to take it out early in the morning for it to be ready by dinnertime.  Instead, I made my own pizza crust, which I hadn't done in years, in an attempt to do justice to the beautiful, fresh ingredients I had to top it.  There was a slight delay, however, because I had to do my weekly grocery shopping after my ride.  The one crust ingredient I was missing was yeast.  I got rapid rise yeast to speed the process.

My homemade pizza crusts aren't spectacular, which is why I usually rely on frozen bread dough, but it came out adequately tonight.  In fact, it was quite a tasty finish to an overall delectable day.  Expect adventure.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Nancy Drew Ride

Summer showers are common, but the chance of rain wasn't very high today.  Therefore, I was surprised when it rained pretty hard for several hours this afternoon.  When it finally cleared, I checked the Weather Channel.  Radar indicated a patch of rain north of Monticello, but it looked pretty clear to the south.  Therefore, I sleuthed out a route down Highway 11.

Robert said he would ride with me - yea!  As we headed out, he suggested doing Marathon Loop, a 26-mile loop that goes more to the west.  The sky was darker in that direction, but I agreed.  A few raindrops started falling.  Robert stopped to check the radar again.  He said that we were going to get wet no matter which direction we went.  He wanted to go back to the house.  I wasn't convinced; I still thought my original southerly route was a good bet.  When I headed down Highway 11 S instead of heading home, Robert said I was stubborn as a mule.  As if I didn't already know...  But he followed me.

It was a beautiful afternoon in that direction.  We rode to Hillsboro Lake and turned around to retrace our route.  About five miles from home, we saw water vapor evaporating from the pavement from a storm that had passed through a short time earlier.  We had avoided the rain.  Robert should have trusted my amateur meteorological skills.  If we had been in a Nancy Drew mystery, the story would have read, "The ruse worked!"

Saturday, July 1, 2017

BBQ Bass 2017

Days like today are why I love summer.  Robert and I hosted our annual BBQ Bass Bicycle Ride.  We think it's the 22nd annual.  I wouldn't swear to it, but that's about right because that would have put our first one in 1996, the year we moved to Monticello.  No matter, it's become one of my favorite summer traditions.  We get to ride with our cycling friends on great roads in and around Jasper County and share some good BBQ and adult beverages with them.

BBQ Bass is always a blast, but this year everything came together particularly well.  Last year it was boiling hot.  I'm very heat tolerant, but even I noticed it then.  This year temperatures were significantly milder, like in May.  Maybe that enticed more of our friends to join us.  Including Robert and me, there were 19 of us.  Our soigneur was our friend Greg from New Zealand, who drove the SAG vehicle/beer truck.  As a rugby coach, he's a pretty big guy.  It was quite entertaining to see him drive around with Sadie the toy dog:

Robert mapped a new route for us this year.  It was one of the best we've had on BBQ Bass.  From the Jordan Engineering parking lot in Monticello, we headed east on Highway 212.  Then we took some local roads in Putnam County into Eatonton.  Our first stop was Tienda Tarimoro, the Mexican market I love to ride to.  It was fun to introduce our friends to it.  Although a few seemed kind of out of their comfort zone, several found it as cool as Robert and I do.  I got a Mexican soft drink as usual, grapefruit this time.  I also tried something new, one of the beautiful Mexican pastries.  There were all types.  I chose a flat pastry that was shaped kind of like a bunny head.  It wasn't terribly sweet, which was fine with me, but it was deliciously flaky.

We headed out of town on Godfrey Road, another excellent cycling road.  About 15 miles later, it was time for a beer stop.  We fueled ourselves adequately with barley and hops and got back on the road.  The Bass (and other varieties) helped keep the ride from being too much of a hammerfest, but we still relied on guys like Jake who did a great job of moderating the group when they got on the front.

Originally, Robert had planned on one beer stop.  However, part of the fun was being flexible.  About another 15 miles later, we made a second beer stop.  I didn't partake this time because I probably would have gotten dropped if I had had another mid-ride beer.

The whole ride seemed to go quickly.  We averaged a relatively fast 20 mph but also were able to talk to each other.  Sometimes it's really nice to do a ride specifically to be social.  Even so, I could feel the testosterone simmering among the guys during the last 10 to 15 miles.  They picked up the pace noticeably.  I managed to hang on, but we started dropping a few people in the last few miles.  Thanks to road markings, cue sheets, Greg in the SAG, and a straight shot back into Monticello, at least we didn't have to worry about anyone getting lost.

Back at Jordan Engineering, it was time for BBQ.  Our Mennonite friends who have prepared the BBQ the last few years weren't available this year.  So, we went with Middle Georgia's tried-and-true, Fresh Air.  It's some seriously good eats.  Our friend Louise even volunteered to drive to Jackson to pick it up.

BBQ and Bass, the titular elements of the ride.  (I said titular - hee hee)
We had some extra yummage to go with lunch this year, fried pies from my friend Laverne.  She always has them at the farmers market on the Monticello square on Saturday morning.  Because I didn't want to clean out her stash for BBQ Bass, I had called her a few days earlier and asked her to make some additional ones for me to pick up this morning before the ride. 

A = apple; P = peach
When you die, if you get a choice between going to regular heaven or pie heaven, choose pie heaven.  It might be a trick, but if it's not, mmmmmmm, boy.  (Thanks, Jack Handey.)

What a great day with Alan, Andy, Angie, Bill, Cal, Chad, Chris, Cody, Dale, Greg, Jake, Jason, Robert J., Robert N., Sidney, Tony, Trey, and Van.  Thanks for being my cyclopeeps!