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, December 31, 2017

Mondial Ride

Today was a prime example of one of the main aspects of randonneuring: camaraderie.  I had the privilege of riding with Cynthia Van Der Wiele as she earned the Mondial Award from Randonneurs USA (RUSA).  This award is given to people who complete 40,000 km in RUSA events.  That's about the circumference of the Earth.

Seven of us rode together to celebrate Cynthia's achievement: Andy, Cynthia, Dub, Joe, Neil, Wayne, and me.  Wayne organized the ride, the Red Caboose Populaire.  A populaire shorter than a brevet, typically 100K.  Our route today was just over that distance, 64 miles long.  It was my first populaire.  Not that I've never ridden that distance before; I just haven't done it under the auspices of RUSA.

Joe was so thoughtful to make this sign for Cynthia and bring a globe for her photo opp at the start of the ride.  Fortunately, she didn't have to ride with the globe.

All of the brevets that I've ridden have been in the allure libre style.  In allure libre riding, each rider rides as fast or slow as he/she sees fit, as long as he/she finishes within the designated time limit.  We rode today's populaire in the audax style, as randonneuring was originally done.  In the audax style, everyone stays together.  This certainly seemed appropriate as we all wanted to support Cynthia.

It was cold!  We started with temperatures in the mid to upper 30s, and it never got above the low 40s.  Everyone was dressed adequately, but it's amazing how much energy the body expends just to maintain its temperature.

The route had just two controls besides the start/finish.  The first was a convenience store at mile 31.  Wayne made special note of the sign in the window advertising batter fried shrimp.  Mmm...seafood from a convenience store...

As I rode next to Cynthia toward the second control, I asked her about her randonneuring experiences.  She joined RUSA in 1999 and is no. 608.  Today we have more than 11,000 members.  It's really cool to meet someone with such a low RUSA number!

She said that when she started, there weren't permanents and populaires like today, and so you couldn't accumulate mileage as easily.  She certainly has racked up the miles over the years, however.  She's done Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) four times, twice solo and twice on a tandem, and she's done five 1,000Ks.  And of course there have been numerous 200, 300, 400, and 600KS.  Cynthia definitely exemplifies another important randonneuring trait: dedication.

We passed a field that was strewn with deflated Christmas inflatables.  Cythia aptly noted that it looked like a Civil War battlefield with Christmas characters.  Coincidentally, we saw this while riding on Dixie Highway.

A short distance farther, we reached our second control, The Caboose in Rutledge.  An old caboose has been attached to a building to make a delightful sandwich shop.  The seven of us, along with Cynthia's husband Chet, had a light lunch.

Neil had calculated the exact spot that would mark Cythia's 40,000th km.  It was just four miles from the end.  Of course, we had to stop for another photo opp:

Eastville, GA - the perfect place to reach 40K

L-R: Wayne, Cynthia, Dub, Joe, Andy, and Neil
We pedaled to the finish, where Chet greeted us with some sparkling wine to celebrate!

If I'm going to spend a day in the cold, I can't think of a better way to do it.  Congratulations, Cynthia!

A Personal Bonus

About a week ago, I checked my Strava mileage for the year.  It was 8,817 - pretty close to 9,000, but I decided to let it go.  Then, on Wednesday Wayne posted about the Red Caboose Populaire.  Hmm...with those 64 miles and the 82 miles on Saturday's Peach Peloton, I would need only 37 more miles to get to 9,000.  I could do it!

I did my regular Thursday ride, selecting the Forest Service fire tower as my destination.  That out-and-back-route gave me 26 miles.  I needed only 11 more.  Therefore, I rode my bicycle to and from work on Thursday and Friday.  Riding my three-mile commute those four times was just enough to push me over the top.

Everything went according to plan - yea!  Chad even gave us a few bonus miles at Saturday's Peach Peloton.  I didn't mind - they were insurance.

So, I'm very happy to have met this last-minute 2017 goal, but I'm even more happy for Cynthia.  Ride on!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The 12 Days of Riding (Peach Peloton Style)

A lot of people think the 12 days of Christmas end on Christmas Day, but that’s when they start, lasting until Epiphany on January 6. In that spirit, I composed a song today as I barely hung on to the back of Peach Peloton. I’ll just give the last verse.

The 12 Days of Riding (Peach Peloton Style)

On the 12th day of riding, Chad Madan gave to me
12 oatmeal cream pies
11 double pace lines
10 power meters
9 railroad crossings
8 Stoneys grinding
7 miles of chip seal
6 degrees of wind chill
5 QOMs
4 tubeless tires
3 headwinds
2 nature breaks
And a store stop if we’re lucky

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Silk Sheets 200K Brevet

Janice, the editor of American Randonneur magazine, contacted Kevin Kaiser, the Regional Brevet Administrator (RBA) of Audax Atlanta.  Audax Atlanta is Georgia's chapter of Randonneurs USA (RUSA), and Kevin is our organizer.  Janice was soliciting articles for the spring issue of American Randonneur.  She had seen the Silk Sheets 200K brevet on the calendar, and the name intrigued her.  She asked Kevin to write a ride report or ask someone else to do it.  Guess who Kevin recruited?

Below is the article I submitted.  I'll be curious to see the edited version in the spring issue of the magazine.

Silk Sheets 200K Brevet – A Smooth Ride
By Betty Jean Jordan

Audax Atlanta hosts the Silk Sheets 200K brevet in early December.  It’s one of our group’s most popular rides because it starts in metro Atlanta, home to most of our members, and it’s a great route.

A Little Background

So where does the “Silk Sheets” name come from?  This area in South Fulton County has smooth pavement and low traffic, making for some of the best riding in metro Atlanta.  I live in Middle Georgia, a much more rural part of the state, and am used to such conditions.  However, I’m glad for Silk Sheets because when I do ride in metro Atlanta, it’s one of the few areas that doesn’t scare me out of my wits.

The Silk Sheets 200K also has personal significance for me.  It was the first brevet I ever did.

In April 2012 I was in a serious crash in a cycling road race.  Following a tedious, seven-month recovery, I decided to express my gratitude in 2013 by riding a century a month on behalf of 12 different charities.  I called it A Year of Centuries.

During my June century, I rode with a nice guy named David.  He told me about a type of cycling that I had never heard of, randonneuring.  At the time, I just mentally filed it because I was focused on A Year of Centuries.

A few months later, I was planning my December ride, the last in A Year of Centuries.  I searched online for organized rides, but there aren’t too many of those in December.  Then, I found the Silk Sheets 200K, hosted by Audax Atlanta.  Oh, yeah – that’s the group that guy was telling me about back in June.  So, I first did the Silk Sheets 200K in December 2013.  I’ve been randonneuring ever since.

The Lollipop Stick

Fourteen of us gathered last December for another Silk Sheets 200K.  I was particularly happy to see Neil, our ride organizer.  Only a few weeks earlier, a car had struck him while he was riding.  He even spent some time in ICU due to a collapsed lung.  There he was, though, tough as ever.  Neil is one of my cycling heroes.

The route is mostly out-and-back with a loop at the end.  It parallels the Chattahoochee River, Atlanta’s main water source.  We headed southwest out of Sandy Springs, a suburb on the north side of Atlanta.  Silk Sheets is the only route I know to get out of this busy area.  It’s a strange juxtaposition.  You start out going through some of Atlanta’s swankiest neighborhoods, filled with multimillion dollar houses.  After about 10 miles, the industrial side of town becomes apparent as “eau de landfill” fills the air.

We went right by the entrance to Six Flags Over Georgia, only tens of feet from a towering roller coaster.  Our amiable group obligingly stopped for a quick photo.

About 31 miles in, we finally could breathe a little easier as we got into the Silk Sheets portion of the ride.  Woods and rolling farmland make it difficult to believe you’re in the same county as downtown Atlanta.  One particular intersection in this area always makes me chuckle.

A few years ago, before I began randonneuring, I had done a time trial series in the Silk Sheets area.  The time trial course was a large rectangle that utilized some of the same roads as the brevet.  The first time I did the brevet, I saw a house right at the corner where I had made a turn on the time trial course several times before.  I’m talking about a HUGE house.  I had never noticed this house all those times I was racing, which just goes to show the difference in intensity between a time trial and a brevet!

The Lollipop

The lollipop portion of the route has very few store options.  Therefore, we had an info control.  I found this stop amusing.  First, it still had Halloween decorations up on December 2.  (I’ll take that over Christmas decorations at Halloween any day!)  Also, it had a “See Rock City” birdhouse.  Rock City, on top of Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, is about 150 miles from here.  However, it’s really not unusual to see one of these birdhouses so far away.  They can be found all over the Southeast.  It’s one of the best low-tech advertising gimmicks ever.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas - or not.

About halfway through, we had a control at a convenience store in Newnan.  This yielded one of the more entertaining moments of the brevet.  As we stood in line to make our purchases and get our cards signed, another customer asked, “How far are y’all riding today?”  Someone answered, “About 130 miles.”  The guy said, “Day-um!” as his knees began to buckle.  One of the great things about the South is that the cuss words have two syllables.

Back on the Stick

Seven of us stayed together the whole way, making for a particularly enjoyable ride.  We went back by Six Flags.  It had been quiet that morning, but it was open in the afternoon.  A roller coaster car zoomed past just as we rode by.  You could feel the excitement in the air!  Still, riding bicycles is even more fun than riding a roller coaster.

Several of the multimillion dollar houses were adorned in Christmas finery and were quite striking in the lengthening afternoon shadows.  We looked forward to finishing before sunset.  But first we had one last hill to climb – a mile-long, 11% grade, to be exact.  It had been easy (and chilly!) to ride down Northside Drive that morning.  Now, it was rather rude to have to go back up it, especially with more than 120 miles in our legs!

It was a joy to complete the Silk Sheets 200K safely and successfully.
We pedaled the final few miles, glimpsing the downtown Atlanta skyline along the way.  It was another smooth Silk Sheets 200K.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Baby, It's Cold Outside

The forecast for yesterday's Peach Peloton included temperatures in the 30s throughout the ride with rain the first few hours.  We started on the east side of Macon, a slightly farther drive for a lot of our Peach Peloton regulars.  Given these two disincentives, we expected a smaller group than usual.  Robert asked me what the over-under would be.  I said 6; he guessed 8.  It was 6.

The weather was exactly as predicted.  I was dressed as well as I could be, but my fingers and toes still had bouts of numbness during the ride.  I've ridden in some pretty bad conditions, but yesterday was among the toughest.  We all suffered.  I had forgotten how much difficult weather will take out you.  The body uses a lot of energy to maintain its temperature when it's cold and wet.  On the bright side, the guys were only interested in completing the ride - no rotations or attack zones yesterday.  Woo hoo.

A few random notes from the day:
  • When I eat a Cool Mint Clif Bar, I get the sensation of...riding on a rural road in Wilkinson County in December in the rain.  Hmm...not quite the same as a York Peppermint Pattie.
  • The guys were laughing at me because they couldn't understand what I was saying during the ride.  My jaw was half frozen, and I couldn't help slobbering.  I felt like the Tasmanian Devil.

  • I try to avoid bib shorts when I ride with the Macon guys because it takes me longer at nature breaks as I have to remove outer layers to get the bib straps down.  Yesterday, I didn't care.  I wore my warmest insulated tights, which are bib-style.  The guys had to wait an extra minute for me during our nature break.  They were very nice about it, though.  Incidentally, Chad M., our ride leader, opted not to have a store stop even though the route was 70 miles.  He reasoned that that was preferable to getting even colder following a store stop.  To my surprise, I decided that was a good call.
  • After the ride, Robert and I stopped to get some sandwiches.  Even after that, both of us were still pretty chilled, and so we also went to Dunkin Donuts for coffee for him and hot chocolate for me.  As he drove us home, I started feeling pretty cozy from the seat heat and the warmth of the cup on my hands.  It was definitely nap time.  When I woke up at home, it was an hour and a half after the ride.  I got out of the car and started walking inside.  I felt something biting the bottom of my foot at the heel.  Immediately, I took off my shoe and sock, but there was no insect.  I took a few more steps, and the sensation started again.  Weird!  I had never had such a reaction, but I'm sure it had to do with the cold.  Fortunately, it went away quickly.  I mentioned it to Robert, and he said he had had a similar experience!  Even stranger, when went to a Christmas party later that evening, I found out that Chad M. and Van had the same reaction.
I did question my sanity for riding in such conditions when I'm not even training for anything specific.  I guess I did it to make sure I still could.  I'm afraid that if I avoid weather extremes, I'll get to the point where I can't handle them.  Besides, it's like making a deposit in the ol' mental toughness bank.  In the future, if I'm in a difficult spot - in a cycling event or in life in general - I can remember that I made it through yesterday's Peach Peloton.