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

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Hoot Owl 200K Brevet

The Hoot Owl 200K Brevet was last July.  It was a hoot to provide ride support!  I wrote an article about it for American Randonneur magazine.  I promised the editor that I wouldn't make a blog entry until the article came out.  It just did!  Not only is it a fun article about a fun ride, it's also great to remember the summertime warmth during these cold winter days.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Peach Peloton - The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Today was my first Peach Peloton of the season.  Chad Madan, the official organizer this year, didn't want to start until December.  We got rained out the first two Saturdays of December, and then last week I did the Chops & Hops Populaire with my rando buddies.  So, I've been looking forward to finally riding Peach Peloton today.

We rode from East Macon toward kaolin country.  Some of our Macon cyclopeeps don't like to venture that far to start, and so today it was just my Georgia Neuro teammates, i.e., the hardcore riders: Allen, Bill, Cal, Cody, Robert, Stoney, Van, and me.  It promised to be a tough ride, but I was up for it.  Not only was it a great ride, it was like an early Christmas!  Check out all the cool gifts I got:

1) Van brought our new 2019 team kits, which just came in.  Robert also ordered mini jerseys for our main team sponsors.  The mini jerseys are about six inches long, and you can hang them on a window:

The spine is back this year!
2) The guys waited for me at the end of the first attack zone.  It was a long, downhill stretch on Myricks Mill Road.  I have a hard time keeping up on the downhills anyway, and so I didn't stand a chance with it being an attack zone.

3) I'm grateful for old man bladders.  A couple of guys were taking a nature break when I caught up at the end of the Myricks Mill attack zone.  I kind of had to go myself, but I didn't want to delay the others any longer than I already had.  I figured I could wait a while, stopping by myself if I had to.  Fortunately, Bill, who didn't go at the end of Myricks Mill, called for a pee break a few miles later.

4) I was able to hang on during rotations by sitting on the back.

5) The second attack zone wasn't super attack-y.  Cody and Van opted not to participate, and so I rode on their wheel until we regrouped.

6) I didn't get dropped until mile 68!  That left only 19 miles I had to ride by myself.  I was so glad to last that long.  I'll admit that it was also nice to ride at a less insane pace for the remaining miles.

7) It was encouraging to learn that I still can do a long, intense effort.  I haven't had a hard group ride since Tuesday Worlds ended for the season a few months ago, and Tuesday Worlds is less than half the distance of today's Peach Peloton.  We'll see how the other Peach Peloton rides go this winter training season.  Even if I get dropped, though, I'm glad for the challenge.

Merry Christmas!

View of a kaolin plant from the store stop in Gordon

Friday, December 21, 2018

Chops & Hops Populaire

Sometimes it's good to put aside the power data, speed, and competition and simply ride bikes with your friends.  That's exactly what I did last Saturday at the Chops & Hops Populaire.  Wayne, our new Audax Atlanta Regional Brevet Administrator (RBA), wants to offer some social rides to our group, and he's getting us off to an excellent start.

A populaire is a 100K event.  This was only my second one.  Both times the group rode it audax style, meaning that everyone purposely stays together.  Maybe I didn't ride Chops & Hops as fast as I could have, but the camaraderie more than made up for it.

The ride was scheduled to start at 8:00 AM in Watkinsville.  It had rained all day the previous day and overnight, but the clouds were supposed to clear fairly close to ride time.  We checked the radar as we gathered in the parking lot.  If we waited an hour, we just might miss the rain.  So, we headed down the road a few blocks to a coffee shop.

It was great to get caught up with everyone, especially Robert N.  This was his first ride back since a serious hand and wrist injury in a crash a couple of months ago.  I was so glad he was feeling up to the day's ride.  After coffee, tea, and muffins, we all were well fortified for the ride.

Thirteen of us rolled out:

Wayne was taking the picture; someone else was off taking a nature break
Just a few miles into the ride, we came to an intersection blocked by a sheriff's deputy.  A running race was underway, and this was the turnaround point.  Fortunately, we were allowed to proceed on our route.  It was a unique adventure to ride among the runners.

I would be on my bicycle much longer than the runners were running.  We all probably thought we were getting the better end of that deal.

Later that day, I looked up the race online and discovered that it was the 20th Annual Will Chamberlin Memorial Santa Stroll 8K.  Will helped us in Monticello for many years with the Deer Dash 5K.  It was particularly meaningful to me to learn that that's what this race was.

It turned into a beautiful day for riding.  I reveled in the sparkling December sunshine and great companionship.

Andy sporting a cool Audax Atlanta jersey
I enjoyed the opportunity to ride with Neil.  Neil might not be fast, but he's amazing.  He's nearly 75 and keeps on keeping on despite several broken bones in recent years.  Brian gave multiple pushes to Neil to help him up the climbs.  Wayne joked that it was like Neil had an e-bike.  Actually, he had a B-bike!

I get by with a little help from my friends.
When I was mapping the route ahead of time to upload to my Garmin, I was pleased to see that we would be going down the steep hill at Hard Labor Creek state park, opposite of the direction I usually ride.  As I continued mapping, however, I realized that the route was out and back to Rutledge.  We got to make the big climb after all.

We cruised the remaining 18 miles or so back to our starting point.  Afterwards, everyone gathered at Chops & Hops.  Good food, good beer, and good friends - a high point of my holiday season!

Me, Andy, and Neil
Jim, Tim, Brad, and David B.

Beer connoisseurs Brian and Robert N. enjoy a flight

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Bike Church (and Other Sources of Spiritual Nourishment)

Yesterday was December 1, the first legal day to put up Christmas decorations at Polyhound Farm.  Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the Sunday of hope.  It's been a wonderful weekend to start the Advent/Christmas season.  I feel much less Grinch-like this year than usual, maybe because I intentionally focused on gratitude each day during November.

Even so, in recent months I've somewhat disconnected from my church.  I haven't been getting a whole lot out of it.  I want to go to church to learn about God, to talk about ways we see God at work in the world, and to share that good news with the world.  Maybe my attitude is the problem.  It's about God first and foremost, not about me.  Also, I've come to value the church because it's the only organization I know of that intentionally calls different people - sometimes radically different people - to live, love, and work together as one.  Therefore, I keep trying.

In the meantime, my soul is hungry.  It's been getting nourishment from some alternate sources.

Bike Church

Yesterday (Saturday) it rained all...day...long.  The first Peach Peloton of the season was cancelled.  At least I was able to plan around it.  I made Saturday my off day for this week, which is highly unusual, and rode Friday afternoon instead.  Then, I spent all day Saturday getting caught up on laundry and decorating for Christmas.  I can't remember the last time I spent a whole Saturday at home!  It was a gift.

Because I had Sunday afternoon plans (see below), I figured out a way to have a longish ride on Sunday morning.  Regular Sunday school was cancelled because of an alternate program.  I decided to skip that and just go to the worship service - enough time for a ride.

Soon after sunrise and breakfast I headed for Allison Lake in the Piedmont Wildlife Refuge (PWR).  The rain had stopped sometime during the night.  It was about 67 degrees.  If you had told me I would ride in shorts and a short-sleeved jersey on a December morning, I wouldn't have believed you.  But that's just what I did, and I was quite comfortable.

The sky was mostly overcast, but the light was intriguing nonetheless.  As I headed farther south and into the PWR, the sun even peeked out from the clouds from time to time.  The remaining raindrops on the trees sparkled in the sunlight.

Every morning is unique in its lighting, vegetation, and other delights if we simply take the time to notice.  It's as if the great Artist starts with a blank canvas and says, "Hmm...what will I paint today?"

I felt better on the bike than I had in a month.  For most of November I had a stomach ailment.  I was still able to ride, but I never felt like I had my usual energy.  This morning I finally felt like my muscles were getting power again.  It felt great!

This morning I rode in gratitude for the strength and health to ride; time and schedule flexibility to ride; a good, reliable bicycle and equipment; a good night's sleep and nutritious breakfast; a wonderful day to ride; and quiet roads in one of the most beautiful places I know.

Coffee with Jesus

Church was pretty good this morning, but I have to admit that these days I'm getting a lot of my theology from the comic strip Coffee with Jesus.  It's published on the Facebook page of Radio Free Babylon on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  It has about eight characters, all drawn in a 1950s style.  Each character is always shown in the same pose.  One of them typically has a conversation with Jesus over coffee.  The strips can be funny or though-provoking, and sometimes they hit uncomfortably close to home.  It amazes me how much the authors can convey in just a few panels.  Here's one of my favorites from the last several months:

Maybe there will be another sustaining installment of Coffee with Jesus tomorrow morning...

Macon Christmas Parade

My friend Kathleen, owner of Ocmulgee Outdoor Expeditions, had invited me to ride on her bus in the Macon Christmas parade this afternoon.  I was interested from the moment I learned about it, but did I want to go to Macon on a Sunday afternoon?  Perhaps more importantly, could I convince Robert to go with me?

Toward the end of last week, I thought about my weekend activities.  I already knew my ride schedule would be out of whack because of Saturday's rain.  We could go out Sunday night instead of the usual Friday night.  Plan, plan, plan...  Oh, what the heck - the things that make life most fun are simple but out-of-the-ordinary things like riding a garish turquoise bus in a Christmas parade!

Magic bus!

My organic chemistry (OH-OH-OH) TOMS are also perfect for the Christmas season (HO-HO-HO).

"There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." - Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows

Note Kathleen in the rear view mirror!
Robert and I had paddles festooned with ribbons that we stuck out the windows of the bus to help "row" it.

It's kind of funny when you think about parades.  People are in the parade, and people stand on the side of the road watching.  They smile and wave at each other.  There's really not much to it, but everyone loves it.  

It was a joy to see the marvelous, varied people in the crowd.  To think that God loves each person, and each is a one-of-a-kind reflection of the Creator.  This is also one of my favorite aspects of serving communion as an elder, which I got to do last Sunday.

After the parade Robert and I ate, drank, and made merry a little while longer in Maconga.

I certainly don't have all the answers, but these verses are some of the wisest and most comforting words I know:

Seize life! Eat bread with gusto,
Drink wine with a robust heart.
Oh yes—God takes pleasure in your pleasure!
Dress festively every morning.
Don’t skimp on colors and scarves.
Relish life with the spouse you love
Each and every day of your precarious life.
Each day is God’s gift. It’s all you get in exchange
For the hard work of staying alive.
Make the most of each one!
Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily!
This is your last and only chance at it,
For there’s neither work to do nor thoughts to think
In the company of the dead, where you’re most certainly headed.

- Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 (The Message)

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Sasquatch Ride

What a fun time at the Sasquatch Ride!  And I didn't even feel very good.  I've been battling gastroenteritis (some kind of stomach bug) for nearly two weeks.  If I had had my usual vim and vigor, I would have derived untold amounts of enjoyment from last weekend.

Ray and Tina Egan organized the Sasquatch Ride.  I had heard of it the last year or two, but it wasn't really on my radar screen.  Then, my friend Graham told me about it, saying that this year it was moving to Indian Springs.  That's only about 15 miles from my house.  I read more about the event and found that it would be two days of riding on mostly dirt roads, including many that I regularly ride.  It was like stringing together some of my favorite local routes.  I was in!

The facilities at Indian Springs were ideal for the weekend; an amphitheater with outdoor heat lamps worked great for the Friday and Saturday night dinners as well as socializing.  Riders could stay in nearby cottages, camp at Indian Springs state park, or tent camp for free outside the park.  I opted to drive from home for the rides since I live so close.

Day 1 - Sasquatch Ride

Although there was a spaghetti dinner on Friday night, I didn't arrive until Saturday morning for the first ride.  It was a chilly start, in the upper 30s, but the day warmed quickly, reaching a high in the 60s by afternoon.

There were two distance options, 100 miles or 60 miles.  About a dozen of us opted for the 100-mile route.  We rolled out at 8:00 AM, an hour before the 60-milers.  I rode with several guys for a few miles, but I quickly discerned that they would be too fast for me for the long haul.  I dropped back and thought I might be doing a lot of solo riding.

Then, here came Calista!  I had seen her briefly before the start.  She's a fellow randonneuse who lives in Maryland.  How great that she came to join us on the Sasquatch Ride!  I had met her once before on a 400K brevet a few years ago but didn't ride with her or talk with her much then because she did a longer 1000K option.  So, it was quite enjoyable to ride with her this past weekend and get to know her.  She's a super strong rider and a very nice and interesting person.

I drafted a good bit behind Calista.  I probably would have had to anyway because she's a stronger rider than I am, but I definitely had to this weekend because my energy level wasn't as high as usual because of my stomach woes.  Nevertheless, I was determined to ride the 100 miles and have a good time on Saturday.

We headed east into Jasper County, home turf.  The route took us past woods and farms.  The northernmost portion went through the Clybel Wildlife Management Area, a hidden gem.  Next, we headed back south, through downtown Monticello and toward the Oconee National Forest and the Ocmulgee River.

After a rest stop right near the river, we continued toward Juliette on additional excellent dirt roads.  I had been trying to eat at regular intervals, but my stomach started acting up again on that stretch.  We made it to the lunch stop by the Ocmulgee River in Juliette.  Tina cooked and coordinated all the meals for the weekend, and she did an outstanding job.  Saturday's lunch was a taco bar.  I was able to eat only one, but I wish I could have managed more.  Even that bit was delicious.

They also had some fireball flavor Jack Daniels (like a red hot) available there for the riders.  I just love the chill attitude of the off-roadie community!  I didn't think it would be wise to partake of the Jack Daniels given my iffy stomach, but Calista didn't hesitate.

We made our way west and north through Monroe County.  I was familiar with some roads, but others were new to me.  One of the roads that was unfamiliar to me, Torbet Road, crossed from Monroe County into Butts County.  Soon I learned why I had never ridden on Torbet Road before; the bridge was out!

It didn't look like any construction was underway to rebuild it, either.  This was a little surprise that Ray built into the route for us.  I didn't mind a bit, but I was glad we came to this creek crossing toward the end of the ride during the warmer part of the day.

By the way, I don't know what it is about my rando buddies having to ford creeks when they ride with me!

Rando buddy Dick fording a creek on the Peaches & Lakes 200K Brevet, July 2017

Rando buddy Robert N fording a creek on the Little White House 200K Permanent, July 2014

Husband Robert isn't immune from having to hoof it across creeks with me, either:

Middle Georgia Author Ride (that I designed) in August 2014
Anyway, back to the Sasquatch Ride...

We had another rest stop soon after the creek crossing.

The couple volunteering there had generously made all kinds of delicious looking homemade treats.  One type was an "acorn," made with a mini peanut butter sandwich cookie and a Hershey's kiss.  Unfortunately, I didn't feel up to sampling any of the goodies.  Calista partook for me, however.  In addition to an acorn, she had some beef jerky and some moonshine.  She's my heroine.

Maybe some moonshine would have fortified me for the last 10 miles of the ride: a bunch of single track at Dauset Trails.  I last rode at Dauset Trails at least 10 years ago.  Riding there last Saturday confirmed my status as a roadie.  Granted, I was on a cyclocross bike, which was harder than if I had had a mountain bike, but it was still a beast!

My main saving grace was that Calista wasn't any faster than I was on the single track.  It was roots galore.  We both kept getting off and on our bikes.  Nevertheless, we persisted.  I had thought we would finish the ride earlier in the afternoon, but because the single track slowed us down so much, we finished right at dark.

There was a good looking BBQ dinner following the ride.  I had already planned to go home to eat dinner with Robert.  If it weren't for my stomach, I would have been sorely tempted to stay for BBQ instead.

Day 2 - Halfsquatch Ride

The Sunday routes were the reverse of the Saturday routes.  Was I going to ride 100 miles again?  No.  Was I going to ride the Dauset Trails single track again?  *&$# no!  Perhaps not surprisingly, no one opted for the 100-mile ride on Sunday.

Doing the 60-mile option on Sunday meant that I got an extra hour of sleep before the 9:00 AM start.  Also, I drove back to Indian Springs early enough for breakfast that morning.  That was mainly because I hadn't had time to go grocery shopping, but it turned out to be an excellent decision regardless.  Breakfast was delicious!  I was able to eat a decent amount, and it seemed to sit OK with me.  At least at first...

Calista and I learned that the single track at the beginning of that day's ride was intended to slow everyone down before the lunch stop in Juliette.  Because she and I weren't doing Dauset that day, we delayed our start time until 9:30 AM.  In the meantime, Calista did some extra miles because she wanted about 70 total for the day.

It was another beautiful day, and by the time we rolled out, it was significantly warmer than when I had first arrived that morning.  I had been looking forward to a good ride, but the stomach ick factor kicked in pretty soon.  Calista was riding at a pace that normally would have been just right for me, but I quickly wondered if I would be able to keep up the entire ride.

Only six miles into the ride, we approached the turn that would take us back to the creek crossing.  I had planned ahead, however!  I had checked the route and found an easy detour.  I called out to Calista to turn right instead of left.  A couple of guys heard me say that we were avoiding the creek crossing, and so they followed us.

The lunch stop at Juliette was only 20 miles into the route, but we had delayed our start long enough for it to be a reasonable lunchtime.  Calista and I were the first to arrive.  Tina had made chicken and sausage gumbo.  I simply had to try some:

I couldn't eat much, but I still could tell how outstanding it was.  If I had been my usual self, I would have devoured it!

Calista and I continued on.  We headed north on River Road.  A couple of miles later, there was Robert!  He was parked on the side of the road collecting some survey data.  We stopped briefly to say hi.

As Calista and I rode on again, I started feeling pretty badly.  I had to slow down significantly.  I would have to slog through the remaining miles...or...I could ride back to Robert and have him take me to my car.  As much as I hated to do so, I told Calista I was heading back.

I've ridden in the dark.  I've ridden through terrible weather conditions.  I've continued riding with a sprained shoulder.  I've continued riding after I likely had a mild concussion after a minor crash.  So, maybe that gives you an idea about how poorly I was doing for me to bail.  As I retraced the couple of miles back to Robert, I sang some modified Depeche Mode to myself:

Your own personal SAG wagon

Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who cares

My timing was good because Robert was just finishing his surveying work.  Maybe that was another indication that I had made the right decision.  He graciously took me back to my car at Indian Springs.  When I got home, I slept for nearly three hours.  My stomach has been getting better.  Hopefully, I'm close to beating this gastroenteritis!

I'm already looking forward to next year's Sasquatch Ride: great riding, super people, and good eats!

Me with Sasquatch and THE Sasquatch - thanks for everything, Ray!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Athens 200K Permanent: The Palindrome Ride

I would have done this month's Audax Atlanta brevet, the Little White House 200K, but it was last weekend, the same weekend as the Deer Festival and Deer Dash.  I always like to support my local community.  So, instead I did the Athens 200K permanent yesterday.  It had been a while since I had ridden a 200K by myself, but I didn't mind.  Besides, it was the twelfth ride to complete my fifth R-12!  The R-12 is awarded by Randonneurs USA (RUSA) to a member who completes a RUSA event of 200K or more in twelve consecutive months.

Sunrise was at 7:01 AM.  I'm sure I would have been fine with a 7:00 AM start, but I set it for 7:30 instead just to make sure I had plenty of light.  I certainly didn't mind another half hour of sleep either!  I drove to the usual starting location for the Athens 200K, which is a motel in Watkinsville.

My stomach had been rather unsettled that morning.  Maybe it was the remnants of a bug I had a few days before.  On Wednesday I wasn't feeling great and lay down as soon as I got home from work.  I wound up taking a three-hour nap and didn't even cook dinner.  I had a slight fever, too.  The next morning I felt much better, though.  On Friday I felt more tired than usual at the end of the day, but I attributed that to my 14-hour day of teaching.  Regardless of whether I was still recovering on Saturday, I wasn't exactly sick, but my stomach was bothering me just enough to be an annoyance during my ride.  A randonee, even a "short" 200K, is challenging enough without extra worries.  However, I was determined not to let my stomach stop me.

It was my coldest ride of the season so far, but I was dressed well for it.  Although I'm a heat lover, I still enjoyed the beauty of the bright fall morning.  The Athens 200K route follows quiet, lovely roads through the exurbs and farms between Athens and Madison.

My Trek, which I use for randonnuering, has a detachable bike bag, i.e., the Yogi Bear picnic basket.  Usually, I use my Yogi Bear picnic basket only on 300Ks or longer.  Yesterday, however, I had a particular use for it on this 200K.  As soon as possible after teaching a class, I have to mail my students' certification exams to be scored.  Because Monday is a holiday (Veterans Day, observed), I didn't want to wait until Tuesday morning to mail the exams from my Friday class.  Therefore, I carried the exams in my Yogi Bear picnic basket.  I stopped at the post office in Madison.  The timing was perfect, and my students are taken care of.  There's more than one way to skin a cat (although I don't know why you'd want more than one way).

I wasn't feeling particularly hungry during the ride, but I made myself eat something about every 25 miles.  At the control in Eatonton, I got a can of Coca-Cola Classic (the magic elixir of randonneuring) and some dill pickle-flavored peanuts.  Those both hit the spot.

I'm glad I refueled at that point because the next 25 miles were the hardest of the day.  The headwind was significant.  I hoped it wouldn't set me back too far on my goal of finishing before 5:00 PM (close to sunset).  Although the going seemed slow, my speed didn't seem too bad as I checked it on my Garmin.  I was performing OK despite my still-wonky stomach.

On one of my Garmin checks, I was just over 82 miles.  Ooo, if I kept a close eye on it, I could watch when it turned to 82.28 miles - a palindrome!  It was a minor thrill when those digits appeared.  I could do it again at 83.38 miles.  Oops, I was thinking about something else at 83.38 miles, but I had plenty more palindromes after that.  (Hey, I'm easily entertained, and entertainment of most any kind is welcome on a solo permanent.)

Palindromes became the theme of the rest of my ride.  My rides frequently acquire themes.  I can't predict them; they just happen.  That reminds me of one of Jack Handey's Deep Thoughts:

"If you get invited to your first orgy, don't just show up nude.  That's a common mistake.  You have to let nudity 'happen.'"

After 100 miles, my Garmin display changes from two decimal places to one.  Therefore, once I got to 100 miles, I'd have only a few more palindrome opportunities: 100.1, 111.1, and 122.1.  I was determined to see these three.

At mile 97 I stopped at an intersection.  It was only a few miles to the next control, but I wanted to go ahead and eat something.  I sat in a nice grassy area and ate a Clif Bar.

When I got to the next control, a convenience store control in Rutledge, I got some Powerade.  Certain Gatorade and Powerade flavors can be kind of icky, particularly well into a long ride.  I selected some kind of "frost" flavor.  I hoped it would be something like grapefruit, which appealed to me at the moment.  I definitely didn't want the cherry flavored glacier/frost flavor, but this one didn't say cherry.  As I opened the bottle, I thought, "Please don't be gross.  Please don't be gross."  It was gross.  But I drank it anyway because I needed the liquid and calories.

Between the Clif Bar a few miles earlier and the gross Powerade, I felt much better.  In fact, I felt better during the last 25 miles of the ride than I had the previous 25 miles.  I knew there was a steep climb shortly after Rutledge as I exited Hard Labor Creek State Park.  That climb didn't faze me, nor did the two or three others between there and the finish.  I was grateful to be feeling so much better.

During the remaining miles, I transitioned to word palindromes.  There's redivider, the longest single word in English that's a palindrome.

I also thought of Madam, I'm Adam.  If my name were Adam, every time I met a woman, I'd introduce myself this way.

Dammit, I'm mad.  Not really, because when I thought of that one, I laughed.

A few miles from the end, I was riding on a sunny straightaway.  I glanced to my right and saw my shadow.  Just at that moment, two other shadows of bicycles approached my own!  A friendly couple greeted me and asked if I was having a good ride.  I said yes, but I was about ready for it to be over because I had been on the road since 7:30 AM.  They asked how far I had ridden, and I said 122.5 miles so far.  The woman asked if I was training for something.  I didn't want to take the time, and I didn't think they were really interested anyway, to tell them about my fifth R-12 or next year's PBP, and so I simply said, "I'm just crazy."  She smiled and replied, "That's our kind of crazy!"  Ride on!

I rolled in at 4:50 PM.  It was before sunset.  Also, I was satisfied with my finishing time, especially considering that my stomach had felt less-than-optimal all day.

I went inside to the motel restroom to change clothes.  My legs didn't feel too spry as I walked across the parking lot.  Then, when I went inside, my quads felt like they were about to seize up!  That's only happened to me once before, at a 5K run several years ago.  Fortunately, yesterday my legs soon felt better, particularly when I went back outside.  I suspect it was some kind of muscle reaction to the significant change in temperature between inside and outside.

Before I headed home, I had one more stop - the Quick Trip next door.  My friend Julie had clued me into their hot, soft pretzels, which she said are good post-ride food.  She was right!  It was perfect for the drive home and also sat well on my stomach.  I didn't even mind that I had forgotten to put mustard on it in my eagerness to get home.

To close, I'll leave you with the best palindrome ever: taco cat.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Sautéed Green 25

For about the past 10 years, my friend Monte has hosted the Fried Green 50 (FG50) on the first Sunday in November.  I've ridden most years, and I really look forward to this annual mostly dirt-road ride in the Piedmont Wildlife Refuge (PWR) and surrounding area.  It's one of my favorite places to ride, and the weather is usually exceptional on this particular weekend.  So, I was sad to learn that Monte wouldn't be holding the FG50 this year.

Because the FG50 wasn't happening, I agreed to teach Sunday school.  I team teach with my friend Barbara.  She had filled in for me the past few weeks, and so I was definitely due to spell her.  Then, a few days ago, Monte put the word out that he was getting together a last-minute FG50 after all.  Drat.  Sometimes it's hard being a responsible person.

I came up with a good plan after all.  I packed my cyclocross bike, kit, and gear in my car.  I taught Sunday school as promised.  Then, I bailed on bricks-and-mortar church and headed to the PWR for bike church.

I parked at Allison Lake toward the eastern side of the PWR.  Monte and whoever else showed up had left at about 10:00 AM from the regular starting point at the boat ramp in Juliette at the western side of the FG50 route.  I got on the road about 11:15 AM and picked up the route partway through.  I hoped my timing was such that I might see some of the other riders.

The portion of the FG50 route that I rode took me on the south side of the PWR.  This is a beautiful section that I don't get to ride nearly as often as the northern side.  From Allison Lake I rode west on Round Oak-Juliette Road (paved) and turned left onto Little Rock Wildlife Road (unpaved).  Local off-roadies call this the "wildlife loop."  It winds through breathtakingly picturesque woods.  The angle of the sunlight on a bright fall day somehow makes this section especially stunning.

I completed the wildlife loop and came back out on Round Oak-Juliette Road.  Right after that turn, I came up to a couple on gravel bikes.  Yep, they were doing the FG50.  I was glad to finally find some other riders!

Easy come, easy go.  I was riding a little faster than they were, and so I continued on solo.  A short distance later, I turned onto Caney Creek Road for the next dirt section to the south.  After about a mile and a half, I turned left onto Pippin Road.  Somehow I had forgotten just how hilly Pippin Road is.  It's got several significant climbs, particularly for dirt road riding, including one that's about 11.5% for a short distance!  I managed just fine, though.  The fact that I wasn't going at my usual FG50 race pace helped.  In fact, today I quite enjoyed a lot of scenery that I'm usually riding too hard to be able to notice.

I checked the time and decided I would ride half the FG50 distance, i.e., a Sautéed Green 25.  If I took the most direct route from there back to my car, I would be about 4 miles short.  So, I decided to go to the next dirt section and add a short out-and-back distance to get my 25 miles.

I rode north on Highway 11.  As I approached the fire tower at the intersection of Highway 11 and Round Oak-Juliette Road, there was another group of cyclists!  It was my friends Chris, Jake, Monte, Van, and three other guys I didn't know.  Cool!  Now I could ride with them for a while.

After they finished their break, we continued a little farther north and turned left back onto dirt at Westvaco Road.  This section was a prime example of what great shape the roads were in.  The dirt was well-packed with minimal gravel.  I've never seen the PWR roads look so good.

Alas, I got to ride with my recently found cycling buddies only a few miles.  The regular FG50 route headed northward for a while, but I didn't want to add that many miles.  I could have done a predictable out-and-back section on Westvaco Road, but I changed my mind at the last minute.  Instead, when we got to the first intersection on Westvaco Road, I turned south onto Mussleman Road.  Expect adventure.

I had never ridden this road and didn't know exactly how it connected, but I figured it had to somehow.  (The fact that Monte didn't discourage me from taking that turn also gave me confidence that it connected.)  I knew the direction I needed to go, and so I simply had some fun exploring.  After about a mile, the road came to a T intersection.  I thought the road to the right might connect to some other PWR roads that I would be familiar with, but I had a feeling the road to the left would take me out toward a cluster of houses on Round Oak-Juliette Road.  I took the road to the left.

My hunch was right.  I came out right where I thought I would.  From there, it was just a couple of miles back to my car at Allison Lake.  Actually, when I got back to my car, I was about 1/4 mile short of 25, and so I rode back and forth on Allison Lake Road to top it off.

Monte has plans to bring back the FG50 next year.  I sure hope it happens, but even if it doesn't, I know where I'll be on the first Sunday in November.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Georgia Neuro Team Camp 2018

Another Georgia Neuro team camp has just concluded.  It was a wonderful weekend.  This year we went to Alabama.  We rode near Lineville and Wedowee as well as up Cheaha Mountain, the highest point in Alabama.  With this trip, our Georgia Neuro team now has visited all of our neighboring states during our annual training camps: Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee as well as our own state of Georgia.

Robert did most of the planning, including finding a great Airbnb rental house on Lake Wedowee and mapping our riding routes for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  Most of the team was able to go to camp: Allen, Bill, Cal, Chad, Cody, Jeff C. (a.k.a. Stoney), Jeff K., Robert, Van, and me.  Additionally, our cycling friends Chris and Doug joined us as well as Stoney's wife Jodi.  It was a fun group!

Most of us were able to get away from work early enough on Friday for a ride.  We gathered at a country church north of Cheaha to approach the mountain from the north.  It was an out-and-back route of 26 miles with significant climbing, over 3,300 ft.

I had thought the hills would work to my advantage, but that wasn't the case.  Our group spread out as we went up and down the climbs.  I really didn't mind falling behind on the descents because that allowed me to take them at a pace comfortable to me.  I hoped I would be able to keep up better the rest of the weekend...

We finished the ride with just enough daylight to spare and started the half-hour drive to our Airbnb lake house.  A few miles later, we passed the most triumphant roadside attraction I've ever seen:

I SO wanted to go!  I proceeded to read about it online.  It's all human actors with no animatronics.  As if that weren't great enough, it benefits the Hollis Volunteer Fire Department.  Maybe I could talk everyone into going the next night...

We arrived at the Airbnb house on Lake Wedowee.  It was perfect for our group, sleeping 15 people and having a spacious kitchen and common area, grill, and even kayaks!  The only downside was that it was a couple of miles of driving on super muddy dirt roads to get from the main highway to the house.  We would have to find an alternate location for the our ride starts on Saturday and Sunday because we wouldn't be able to ride our road bikes on these dirt roads.

When we arrived at the house, Cal said that we ought to go to the Haunted Chicken House the next night.  Yea!  An ally!

On Friday night we went out for dinner.  This is a remote area of Alabama, and so there weren't a plethora of restaurant options.  However, the owner of the house had recommended the Mexican restaurant in Wedowee, about 12 miles east.  It was pretty good, and it amply fueled us for the next day's ride.

All of us woke up early the next morning, partly because we're all used to getting up early and partly because we had gained an hour going over to Central Time.  I had volunteered to cook breakfast both mornings.  Saturday morning's menu included Cranberry Stuffed French Toast, sausage, and fruit.  Cranberry Stuffed French Toast is convenient because it's assembled the night before.  I had done so Friday night when we got home from the restaurant, and then Saturday morning I simply put it in the oven.  The original recipe calls for blueberries, which are delicious in it, but I like cranberries in it this time of year.  I also add some chopped walnuts with the cranberries.

Blueberry (or Cranberry) Stuffed French Toast

1 loaf thickly sliced bread (I use a 1-lb. loaf of French bread)
1 lb. cream cheese
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (or substitute cranberries)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (add if using cranberries)
10 eggs
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 cups milk

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups blueberries (or substitute cranberries)
1 tablespoon butter

The night before, cube bread.  Spray the bottom of a 9 x 13" glass baking dish with vegetable spray and place half the bread cubes in the dish.  Top with cream cheese (cubed), then blueberries (or cranberries), walnuts (if using), and remaining bread.  Beat eggs; add the maple syrup and milk.  Pour mixture over bread, cheese, and berries.  Cover dish with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, place dish in oven and preheat to 350 degrees.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for 30 more minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce.  Heat water, sugar, cornstarch, and 1 cup of blueberries (or cranberries) until mixture thickens.  Add butter and 1 more cup of berries.  Pour over individual servings.

Yield: 9-12 servings (I made two batches for our big crowd of hungry cyclists.  There was a little leftover, which was good reheated the next morning.)

I had also brought some homemade pumpkin muffins on the trip.  I got this recipe from my cycling friend Jen, who got it from Triathlete magazine.  She says it's one of the most popular recipes they ever published.  No wonder - they are really delicious and calorie-rich, perfect for long rides or runs.  The recipe makes a big batch.  Therefore, I offered them to the team to take on our rides and planned to serve whatever was left with Sunday's breakfast.

Pumpkin Muffins

4 eggs
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil*
1 1/2 cups sugar
14 oz. pumpkin pie filling (the kind with the spices, not plain pumpkin puree)*
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
2 cups chocolate chips (Jen recommends dark chocolate chips - good recommendation!)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix eggs, vegetable oil, sugar, and pumpkin pie filling.  In separate bowl combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder.  Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients.  Stir in chocolate chips  Spray muffin tins with cooking spray.  Spoon batter into the muffin tins and bake for 15 minutes.

*Jen uses a large can of pumpkin pie filling.  (I think it's 30 oz.)  I did the same but then reduced the vegetable oil to 1 cup because I didn't want the batter to have too much liquid.  It worked perfectly.

Yield: about 30 muffins

Robert scouted out a nearby church on a paved road just off the main highway.  The church became our staging location for Saturday's 64-mile ride.  We headed west to Lineville and then north toward Cheaha Mountain, approaching it from the opposite side as the day before.

After only one mile of riding, I was already averaging close to my threshold power.  Uh oh.  That didn't bode well for me to hang with the guys.  I managed to stay with them for about 10 miles, but then I rode solo the rest of the way.  I was disappointed, but I made the best of it and had a good ride.

I took a shower back at the house and settled in for a relaxing afternoon - something I hadn't had in quite a while.  I read a little, napped a little, had a little wine, sat by the lake with Robert for a little while, and had a large amount of gratitude.

Van was in charge of Saturday night's dinner.  He made his famous pasta dish with grilled chicken.  I love pasta, and it's a treat for me to get anything from the grill because Robert is missing the male gene for cooking over an open flame.  Because I was enjoying hanging out with everyone, I didn't notice that dinner was substantially later than the originally announced time of 6:00 PM.  Apparently, Van had trouble getting the grill going.  Jodi joked that the chicken was delayed getting roasted because the cook was roasted.

But at last we had a delicious meal, including the pasta with chicken, salad, potatoes, and corn.  Also, Jodi had made a couple of apple pies while the rest of us were riding earlier in the day!  She even made special crusts: our team logo on the left and a bicycle wheel with spokes on the right.

It was about 8:30 PM when we finished dinner - still plenty of time to go to the Haunted Chicken House!  Alas, everyone bailed on me, even Cal.  I'll admit that it would have been hard to stay awake for the drive over there and back, but sometimes you're presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  And I missed this one.  (sniff)

We all were up early again the next morning.  I cooked breakfast, which included scrambled eggs, bacon, grits, fruit, pumpkin muffins, and some leftover Cranberry Stuffed French Toast.  Then, we headed out for our final ride of team camp.

Because it was Sunday, the church where we had staged the previous day's ride wasn't a good option.  So, we went a short distance farther to a volunteer fire department.  From there we headed east toward Wedowee.

Sunday's route was significantly less hilly than the ones on Friday and Saturday.  I went into it optimistically, thinking the relatively flatter terrain would help me stay with the guys.  Nope.  I lasted about six miles.  I was bummed, but there wasn't much I could do but ride as best I could.  The route was kind of T-shaped with an out-and-back section to the north and and out-and-back section to the south.  I rode a slightly shorter distance out each "arm" of the route, estimating how far I could ride and still finish about the same time as the others.  My calculations were right on; Stoney got back to the fire station about 30 seconds after I did, soon followed by everyone else.

Back at the house, we showered and packed up.  Georgia Neuro team camp 2018 was drawing to a close.

Overall, I had a great time at camp, but I was feeling down about not being able to keep up on the rides.  I talked with Robert about it on the drive home.  I hadn't been able to keep up with my teammates for most of the season of Tuesday Worlds that just ended; they had ridden in the A group, and I had ridden in the (often squirrely) B group.  At team camp, however, I thought it would be more like Peach Peloton, our winter training rides that are intentionally more of a group ride than Tuesday Worlds.  Now I have doubts about being able to keep up during the upcoming Peach Peloton season.  I'll try, though.  And if I get dropped on the first few Peach Peloton rides, I'll either form a B group if others are interested, or I might just stay in Monticello and do long rides from home while Robert goes to Macon for Peach Peloton.

I'd like to think I'm having trouble keeping up with my teammates because they have gotten so much stronger.  However, it's also partly because I've done so much ultra endurance training that I can't ride with as much intensity as I used to.  Robert helped me put it in perspective.  Even if I were at my peak form intensity-wise, I likely still would have gotten dropped at team camp because Robert and several of the other guys had a hard time keeping up.  Also, I love randonneuring, and endurance is my strongest suit.  I wouldn't want to sacrifice doing well on long brevets just to stay with my teammates for a few more miles.

Having said that, I still plan to work on intensity simply for overall fitness (and maybe it will help me hang a little longer!).  Robert outlined some good anaerobic intervals that I'll work on in the near future.

One last note: I must acknowledge the horrific shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, which occurred Saturday during team camp.  My heart breaks, I'm outraged, and yet I don't have sufficient words to address the hatred that has emerged to the surface in our country.  I suppose such sentiments have always existed, but currently people who harbor them seem much less inhibited about expressing them.

Before I even heard about the shooting, I had already been thinking about the injustices we inflict on each other.  My team was riding in a very rural part of eastern Alabama.  There were a significant number of Confederate flags.  We passed the Dixie General Store; if I were African-American, I wouldn't feel very welcome there.  In fact, if we had been a black cycling team, there's no way we would have chosen this area for our team camp because it would be foolhardy.  I dream of the day when no one has to take such things into consideration.