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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

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Dublin 600K: A Southern-Fried Brevet

The Dublin 600K brevet is in the books.  I had several reasons for doing this ride.  First, my biggest current goal is doing Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) next year, and I need to get some long brevets under my belt to be ready for that.  The Dublin 600K is the longest brevet on Georgia’s calendar this year.  Additionally, when PBP registration opens next year, the sign-up order will be based on the rider’s longest brevet from the previous calendar year.  A 600K should put me in fairly good standing.  (I wish I could do a 1,000K this year, but my work schedule doesn’t fit with the ones that are offered in other states.)  The only other reason I can give for doing a 600K is that I’m a little tetched in the head.

First Things First

The brevet started in Dublin, GA this past Saturday morning.  Dublin is about an hour-and-a-half drive from my house.  For a shorter brevet, I would have driven down right before the ride.  For a 600K, however, I knew it would be a lot more comfortable spending Friday night at the start.  I had just finished a day and a half of teaching erosion and sedimentation control certification classes in Augusta.  On Friday afternoon I had barely enough time to drive home from Augusta, tie up a few work-related and household loose ends, and head to Dublin for the 600K.  Work hard, play hard:



The next morning six of us gathered at the start: Brad, Brian, David D., Jeff from Tennessee, Ken from Alabama, and I.  Kevin, our generous and hardworking Regional Brevet Administrator (RBA), was there to coordinate and support us.  (Thank you again, Kevin!)  We headed west on the out-and-back route to the Alabama state line.

By the way, the royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on Saturday was not really on my radar screen.  I vaguely knew that their wedding was sometime soon, but I didn’t know the exact date until the day before when I was listening to the news on the radio.  I thought to myself, “I can’t believe anyone would get up at 6:00 AM to watch the royal wedding!”  Then I thought, “Wayment…I got up to ride my bicycle at 6:00 AM…”

A Seat Post and STEM

I was very grateful to be able to ride with Brian and Ken.  We stayed together the entire time.  Brian is one of my regular rando buddies, and I had ridden a portion of my first 600K with Ken.  Additionally, Brad rode with us to the control in Hawkinsville.  He hung back after that because it was his first 600K (yea!) and he didn’t want to go too hard too early (smart move).

About 40 miles into the ride, I was riding behind Brian as we slowed at an intersection.  I heard a crack.  I thought Brian ran over something and hoped he hadn’t gotten a flat.  About 70 miles in the ride, Brian discovered what had made the cracking noise – his seat post!

We pulled over to assess the situation.  Brian certainly couldn’t continue with a cracked seat post.  Maybe he could make it to the next control by riding on the front tip of his saddle.  Then, Ken had the smart idea to lower the seat post about an inch so that the cracked portion would be supported within the surrounding tube.  That was good enough to get Brian to the next control, but he couldn’t ride the rest of the 600K with such an out-of-whack bike position.

Unfortunately, Kevin hadn’t brought a spare bike, which might have yielded another seat post Brian could have used.  However, I realized that I have several cycling friends who live near that part of Middle Georgia.  Maybe one of them had a seat post Brian could borrow.

I’m glad my phone is my husband Robert’s old one.  It has lots of contact information that I wouldn't have otherwise.  I left a message with Eddie, then with Ray.  Then I remembered that the previous weekend I had dropped my phone into the lake, which had damaged the regular telephone speaker.  I could only use my phone on speakerphone setting.  I had to call both of them back and use the speakerphone to leave messages again.  The second time, Eddie answered.  He said he would have been happy to bring Brian a seat post, but he was in South Georgia plowing fire breaks.

The three of us continued toward the next control with Brian looking like he was riding a clown bike.  A few miles later – of all the luck! – Brian got a flat tire.  Actually, it wasn’t a regular flat tire.  He has tubeless tires and simply needed more air.  While he used his hand pump to fix the problem, I made a few more phone calls.  Tina and Tony live nearby.  Tina’s mailbox was full.  Tony’s wasn’t full, but I got his voicemail.  I left a message, still hopeful.  Brian’s sort-of flat turned out to be fortuitous.

We got back on the road yet again.  A short distance later, a large turtle was crossing the road.  Of course, I had to stop to help.  I told Brian and Ken to keep going, and I’d catch up.  I quickly moved the turtle to the side of the road.  (Always place a turtle on the side of the road toward which it is heading, or it will try to cross the road again.)  Maybe it’s a good thing I did move it because a car came along moments later.

Just after I got back on my bike, my phone rang.  I answered, remembering to put it on speakerphone.  It was Tony!  He said he’d be happy to help.  I called Brian, whom I hadn’t caught up to yet, and asked what size seat post he needed.  Then, I called Tony back.  I’m glad it was a sparsely traveled country road that allowed me to make phone calls while I was riding, which is not something I normally do.

Tony met us at the control in Marshallville:



I was thrilled that my plan actually worked!  More importantly, Brian didn’t have to DNF.  Even Tony was glad that I called because he said that I got him out of mowing his lawn.  Happiness all around.

By the way, I got a new phone.

The Long and Not-So-Winding Road

Soon we came to a 41-mile stretch along Georgia Highway 96 and US Highway 80.  This is a four-lane highway with two lanes in each direction, rumble ridges at the edges, and bike lanes outside of that.  We used the bike lanes as much as we could.  Sometimes, however, they had a lot of debris.  Then we would move to the far-right side of the righthand lane.  That wasn’t too bad because traffic isn’t unduly heavy along this highway.

The Dublin 600K route doesn’t have an abundance of stores along the way.  Therefore, we made sure to take advantage of the ones we did encounter.

Brian had done the Dublin 600K before and knew of The Cotton Gin, a restaurant and inn in Reynolds.  We stopped there for lunch.  I thought about getting a taco salad but went with the catfish po’ boy.  The catfish was delicious, flaky, and not too heavy on the fried side.  Surprisingly, the restaurant didn’t have any hot sauce, but my po’ boy did come with a hot link (smoked sausage link) on top of the catfish.  It was an odd combination that I never would have thought of, but it was oddly tasty:



My choice of sides was fried, fried, fried, or fried: fries, onion rings, chips, or tater tots.  I got the tater tots because I hadn't had them since elementary school.  Now I remember why I hadn't had them since elementary school.

I also got a huge glass of unsweet tea.  Yes, I drink unsweet tea; no one has revoked my Southerner card yet.  As we were filling our water bottles up before we left, I had a great idea.  I had about half a bottle left of lemonade flavored Powerade.  I topped it off with unsweet tea, making an Arnold Palmer Powerade.

The next control was in Geneva, where GA 96 changes to US 80.  We loaded up on food and drink.  (Mostly drink for me – the catfish po’ boy and tater tots felt like they would be sitting in my stomach for hours.)  It was turning into quite a warm day, and shade around the convenience store was scarce.  There were a few chairs in front of the store, but they were in the sun.  Besides, they were occupied by local drunks.  I sat on the curb by the gas pumps, which were covered with an awning.  A couple of guys rode up in a golf cart and parked on the other side of the pumps, and one went inside.  Ken walked up, and the nice golf cart driver offered him a seat:



We would be visiting the same controls on the return trip.  Our second visit to this convenience store would be in the middle of the night, when it wasn’t open.  Therefore, Brian wisely advised that we stash some water in the nearby bushes.

Westward ho!  I’m not easily bored, and I’m pretty heat tolerant, but I had to agree with Brian’s assessment that it was a monotonous road on a hot afternoon.  As we finally neared our next turn, dark clouds gathered on the horizon…

Half Way There

Sure enough, within a few miles the rain started.  We stopped to put on our rain coats.  The rain didn’t last long.  The sun started peeking back out, and it turned into a beautiful early evening.

We went through the town of Cataula.  My cycling friend John lives there.  Robert had made sure I had John’s contact information with me as a precaution.  I’m glad I didn’t need it during the ride, but I’m thankful I knew someone in the area.  Brian laughed at how I know all these people in various parts of the state.  I explained that he’s used to the Atlanta cycling community, which has a huge population density.  The Middle Georgia cycling community has to draw from a much larger geographical area.

Our next control was at a Circle K right on the Georgia/Alabama state line.  About half a dozen cute little boys were hanging out at the store.  They looked like they were around 8-10 years old.  They had all kinds of questions about our bicycles and gear.  As I went inside to buy some Gatorade, one of them came up beside me and asked me to buy him a “juice.”  The bottles of Gatorade were 2 for $3.  If I had bought a single bottle, it would have been $2.39.  So, I was out only about $0.60 for succumbing to his cuteness.  I couldn’t resist buying him a Reese’s peanut butter cup, too.  Ken bought a couple of the other kids some gummy bears.  They really scored that evening!  It was well worth it in my mind to build some good will toward the cycling community and between human beings in general.

We backtracked only a few miles to the next control, a motel in West Point, GA.  Kevin had reserved one room, and Ken had gotten his own room.  Brian, Ken, and I were the only ones there from our group when we arrived.  I took a shower in the room Kevin had reserved, and the guys took showers in the room Ken had reserved.

Then it was time for food.  Kevin had planned to order some pizza for us, but he didn’t get a chance because he had to go back out on the course to check on the other riders.  Therefore, we opted for Newt’s Chicken across the parking lot.  As I was the only one of the three of us who had remembered to bring street clothes, Brian said that if I would walk over and get food for all of us, he’d give me his credit card to pay for it.  It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

The one thing I hadn’t put in my drop bag was non-cycling shoes.  (I didn’t anticipate having to walk anywhere.)  Therefore, I’m sure I looked rather strange as I clunked across the parking lot wearing shorts, a T-shirt, and cycling shoes.  Despite his lack of street clothes, Ken decided to accompany me anyway, wearing a neon yellow, sleeveless cycling shirt; bib shorts with the straps hanging down; and cycling shoes.  We seemed to blend in pretty well with the locals.

Ken and I returned with a 12-piece mix of fried chicken and two large sides of cole slaw and potato salad.  I even finagled a couple of small containers of hot sauce.  It was a rando buffet:



It was tasty, but especially after the catfish po’ boy and tater tots at lunch, I was definitely at my limit of fried food for a while.  There’s a certain amount of disregard for nutrition that's necessary during a brevet, but I was really starting to look forward to getting back to my regular diet, which contains a lot more vegetable matter.

Randonneuring veteran Brian had laid out the plan: shower, eat, chill for a while, and head back out around 11:00 PM.  I went back to the other motel room, which was empty because Kevin and the other riders still had not arrived, and set my alarm for a one-hour nap.  I slept for an hour and a half.  I didn’t hear my phone alarm go off.  I think that’s because I had put it on airplane mode to make it charge faster – a neat trick in case you didn’t know.  I woke up when Kevin and Jeff knocked on the door.  It was a few minutes before 11:00 PM!  Time to scramble.

Soon Brian, Ken, and I were back on the road.  We planned to ride through the night to get back to the Cotton Gin in Reynolds, the same place where we had had lunch.  Brian had reserved a room there.  Reynolds was a little past the 400K mark, which would leave us less than 200K to finish.

The Witching Hour

For the first few hours of Sunday, I felt pretty good.  I was tired but fairly alert.  It was about 83 miles to the Cotton Gin and a few more hours of sleep.  I could do this!

US 80 and GA 96 had little traffic in the middle of the night.  The whole time we stayed in the righthand travel lane rather than in the bike lane, avoiding potential debris that would be harder to see at night.

We arrived back at the Geneva control around 3:00 AM.  We retrieved the stashed water and borrowed the drunks’ chairs in front of the store.  (Glad they weren’t still sitting there.)  The closed store and dearth of stores in general wasn’t too big a deal for me because I was carrying a small convenience store in my bike bag, a.k.a. the Yogi Bear picnic basket.  I had brought some semi-stale tortilla chips from my pantry, knowing they would come in handy during the ride.  This is about as rando as it gets:



Although we certainly talked to each other during our stops, we were mostly quiet while riding.  However, after the stop in Geneva, the three of us started talking more to try to help Ken, who was fighting sleep.

Brian and I started getting very sleepy, too.  He dealt with it by significantly increasing his speed.  Ken bridged up to him quickly, but it took me a few miles to catch back on.  In the meantime, I began singing to myself, whatever came into my head.  It was mostly theme songs to old TV shows.  I also sang a few classic rock songs whose lyrics I could remember in my fuzzy-headed state as well as a commercial jingle or two.  I remember calling out "Ricola!" somewhere on the outskirts of Butler.

Then I did something new, kind of voluntarily and kind of involuntarily.  About every five seconds I growled.  I was thinking of an article I read recently about a scientific study that showed that athletes who grunt during a short, intense effort put out measurably more power.  I guess my growling worked.  After a while I didn’t have to work so hard to keep my eyes open.


At last we made it to the Cotton Gin in Reynolds.  Relief at last!  The guys generously let me have one bed, and they shared the other.  I felt kind of guilty seeing them hang off the edges.  I should have offered to sleep on the floor, but they probably wouldn’t have let me.  We slept only about an hour and half, but you wouldn’t believe what a difference that made.

The Push to the End


I woke up at about 7:00 AM and ate the hard-boiled eggs and apple from my Yogi Bear picnic basket.  In addition to Clif Bars and similar bike food, I really like having some real food among the provisions I pack.  I was fortunate to have this breakfast because there were no restaurants open on Sunday morning in Reynolds.

After the fried chicken excursion in West Point the night before, Kevin had ordered pizza for the other riders.  Brian asked me to carry some of the leftover pizza in my Yogi Bear picnic basket, which I was glad to do.  Handily, it served as Ken’s breakfast on Sunday morning.  We both marveled at how heavy the bag of pizza was as I got it out of my bike bag.  I should have billed Brian for the freight charges.

Brian had a Pop Tart and a Frappuccino, but he’s a big guy and needs a ton of calories.  His lack of a real breakfast put a hurting on him later that morning.  We stopped for the second time at the control in Marshallville – more convenience store fuel, but Brian was jonesin’ for something substantial.  We had one last control in Hawkinsville before the end.

Brian spied a Huddle House in Hawkinsville and made a beeline for it.  He got a hamburger and loaded baked potato, and Ken ordered a big breakfast.  I got a waffle and turkey sausage – not a huge meal by brevet standards.  I wasn't terribly hungry, but I knew I should eat.  My energy level definitely was better for the rest of the ride.



Happiness and delirium look a lot alike.
As is always the case on longer brevets, the last 20 miles or so seemed to last forever.  A little conversation did make it easier.  At the end I was fatigued (obviously), and all my contact points with the bicycle (hands, bottom, and feet) were sore.  Even so, I was OK and felt better than at the end than after my first 600K.

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig


On the drive home, I ate a few provisions left in my Yogi Bear picnic basket.  I got sleepy after a while, and so I pulled into a parking lot at a quiet country church for a 30-minute nap.  That was just what I needed to finish getting home comfortably and safely.


I was so happy to see Robert and the hounds!  Between my classes in Augusta and the 600K, I had been away from home for three nights.  We're rarely apart for that long.


Brushing my teeth and taking a shower made me feel much more human.  Despite my fatigue, I cooked dinner.  (I enjoy cooking, and it relaxes me.)  Robert opened a bottle of sparking wine to celebrate.  I relished our healthy meal of salmon with sesame noodles and bok choy plus the biggest, greenest salad I could assemble.

Post-Ride Analysis


It’s interesting to compare my performances from my two 600Ks.  A 600K has a 40-hour time limit.  I did the Dublin 600K in 34:12.  The fact that I had a comfortable time cushion at the end is a testament to having two strong riding companions the whole way and relatively little climbing (12,000 ft).  In comparison, two years ago I did the Double Caesar 600K in 34:53.  However, I rode much of that one solo and had nearly 22,000 ft of climbing.  Now I have a better feel for just how well I did on my first 600K.


I've also worked out a few technological kinks.  On these longer brevets, I charge my Garmin mid-ride with a battery pack attached to the top tube of my bicycle.  A few weeks ago when I did a 400K, the mount for my Garmin was too cramped, and I mangled the end of the charger cable.  On this 600K, I used a different mount configuration, and it worked perfectly.  The battery pack is supposed to be good for at least two full Garmin charges, but on this 600K I used it only for one partial charge because I also took advantage of wall charging at the restaurant in Reynolds and the two sleep stops.


I had a backup Garmin as well, but I didn't need it on this ride because I was able to keep the first one charged.  It was nice to be able to upload a single ride to Strava rather than having to splice together several segments.


Training-wise and gear-wise, I'm making good progress toward being ready for PBP next year.  The Dublin 600K makes me eligible to preregister on January 28, 2019.  Ride on!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Mr. Spock - He Lived Long and Prospered

Mr. Spock has died, and my heart is broken.  Realistically, I figured this would be his last year with us, but I still wasn’t ready for him to go.

Robert and I adopted him when he was 10 months old.  It’s unusual to get a greyhound that young, but he broke his foot as a puppy, which kept him from a racing career.  In fact, he still had a cast when we brought him home.  When it was ready to come off a few weeks later, I had to take him back to the vet in Atlanta (who took excellent care of him).  It was a beautiful, sunny day in June after several days of rain.  The DJ on the radio reveled in the good weather, too, playing “Blue Sky” by the Allman Brothers Band.  It was a happy day all around, and ever since, I’ve thought of “Blue Sky” as Mr. Spock’s and my song.

I don’t know what possessed me to want to adopt this particular greyhound, but I’m so glad we did.  He was wonderfully quirky, probably because he didn’t go through the typical greyhound training at the racetrack.  Can dogs have autism?  If so, I suspect he might have had it.  He was always big on rules and structure, and anything out of the ordinary threw him for a loop.  He wouldn’t go through a partially open door.  He never ventured into rooms where he knew he wasn’t supposed to go.  In recent months, when his back legs got weak and we had to spot him on the basement stairs, we had to do a particular sequence of steps at the bottom before he would go up.

Mr. Spock was always insecure.  I joked that he would be omega dog if we had that many.  However, it was a trait more endearing than annoying (well, except for his incessant licking, which drove me bonkers!).  Often, he would rest his head on the back of one of our other greyhounds.  Mr. Spock sometimes would whine a little for no apparent reason.  I would say that he was experiencing existential angst.  We were kindred spirits :)

Mr. Spock usually didn’t get along with other dogs outside of our own pack.  Therefore, I had to quit taking him to gatherings with other dogs: Greyfest, greyhound meet & greets, etc.  However, Mr. Spock loved people and enjoyed outings like going to the Deer Festival.  He also did well as a therapy dog, visiting the residents of our local nursing home (Greyhounds & Grey Hairs.)  He was an excellent snuggler, too!

He was always skinny, even for a greyhound.  No matter how much we fed him, he wouldn’t put on weight.  Dr. Gay was our vet for many years.  He was very kind but a dry, no-nonsense, country vet.  When Mr. Spock was young, I asked Dr. Gay if I should be concerned about Mr. Spock being so skinny.  Dr. Gay simply said, “Do you want a fat dog?”

Mr. Spock got even skinnier in his old age, as both animals and people tend to do.  Even so, he was happy and had a great quality of life up until the end.  On Thursday morning he was bouncing around for his breakfast; he was dead when Robert and I got home from work. We think he had a heart attack.  I’m so thankful he didn’t suffer long.

He didn't quite make it to his 15th birthday in July.  My cocker spaniel Garth also almost made it to 15, but I had Garth before I met Robert.  Cosmo made it to 15, but he was three when we adopted him.  Therefore, Mr. Spock is the dog Robert and I have had the longest since we've been married.  We got Mr. Spock about five months after we moved into our current house.  It sure is empty without him.

RIP Mr. Spock (7/16/03 - 5/10/18).  You lived long and prospered.



Thursday, May 10, 2018

Racing and Relaxing: An Anniversary Celebration!

My favorite day of the year is May 6, Robert's and my anniversary.  It's like a national holiday at our house!  Our anniversary was this past Sunday.  We celebrated 23 years :)  Robert wanted to go to the USA Cycling Masters Southeast Regional Championship road race, which was the day before.  Whither Robert goes for our anniversary weekend, I go, too.  Therefore, I decided to do the USA Cycling Masters Southeast Regional Championship time trial (TT) the same day.  Then, Robert suggested we make it into an overnight anniversary celebration outing.  Party time!  Excellent!

Racing


The races were in Dacula, Georgia.  Robert's road race was first, at 10:45 AM on Saturday morning.  That meant that we didn't have to get up terribly early - about the same time as a weekday morning.


It was great to see some of my Sorella cycling friends, particularly Jennifer, who was one of my RAAM teammates in 2015.




Jennifer won the women's Masters 50+ road race!  I wasn't surprised a bit.  Even at 62, she is one of the strongest female cyclists in Georgia.


Soon after that, it was time for the men's Masters 50+ road race.  I watched Robert start and then set out for my own warm-up ride.


I started doing interval training once a week toward the end of January.  I do so much long, endurance riding that I knew I needed to work on intensity and speed to get ready for TT season.  Although I'm not currently at my peak TT fitness, my interval training over the past few months definitely has helped.


I've been doing my interval training on my road bike so I don't have to constantly switch my power meter back and forth between by road bike and my TT bike.  I ride in a fairly aggressive position, and so specific training on my TT bike perhaps isn't as critical for me as for some people.  Still, ideally I would have ridden my TT bike for this first time this season sooner than this past Saturday.  Fortunately, it was in fine working order thanks to my soigneur (i.e., Robert), and it felt as comfortable as if I had just ridden it last week.


Using Garmin Connect, I found a 22-mile route right at the race venue that didn't interfere with the race course.  I had a good tempo ride that also helped me get ready for my TT.


When I finished my TT pre-ride, I Googled nearby restaurants.  I brought back some Blimpie sandwiches.  They wrote on the outside so Robert and I would know which sandwich was whose.  As if there were any doubt...




Robert had just finished his race when I got back with the sandwiches - good timing for him but a little weird for me.  My TT start time was 2:11 PM.  I needed a little fuel for the race (I hadn't eaten since breakfast at around 7:00 AM), but a whole sandwich would be too much to race on.  So, I ate a few bites before the race and saved the rest for afterwards.


The person in front of me didn’t show up.  Therefore, there was a “ghost rider” in front of me, and everyone after that kept their originally scheduled start times to avoid confusion.  The guy lining us up knew about the ghost rider, but he didn’t get a chance to tell the other official counting us down at the starting line.  I told her, however, and she was glad I knew protocol.  I said, “This isn’t my first rodeo,” right before I rolled out.

During a TT, my thought processes aren’t quite normal because I’m riding so hard that some of my brain circuits feel like they’re starting to overheat.  Generally, all I can think about is what’s right at hand: this climb, this turn I’m making, etc.  However, I did have at least one tangential thought during Saturday's TT.  It occurred to me that I should have said, “This ain’t my first rodeo” instead of “This isn’t my first rodeo.”  That made me think of John Kerry’s quote: “Who among us doesn’t love NASCAR?” (which, by the way, he never actually said).  I’m glad I wasn’t coherent enough to laugh at this whole sequence of thoughts until after the race.


I rode well.  I kept my focus throughout the race, putting out as much effort as I could and giving it all I had as I crossed the finish line.  Can you believe that Jennifer beat me by 12 seconds and had the overall fastest women's TT time?  And she was on a road bike!




I don't think I could have ridden 12 seconds faster.  So, I'm satisfied with my performance, and it was enough to put me on top of the women's 40+ podium!



With the toughest part of the weekend finished, Robert and I headed out for even more fun.


Relaxing


A few weeks ago, I had suggested to Robert that we go to a nice restaurant on Sunday evening for our anniversary.  When he considered that we would be racing in Dacula the day before, he came up with a much more intriguing alternate plan: have Sunday brunch at a cool Midtown restaurant we discovered a few months ago and spend Saturday night somewhere interesting.

Thanks to the Google, I found a great hotel deal for us: the Ellis Hotel in downtown Atlanta.  The website describes it as a "boutique hotel."  I didn't know exactly what that meant, but it sounded pretty good (more on that in a moment...).


It's a little over an hour's drive from Dacula to downtown Atlanta when traffic is good.  Traffic was not good on Saturday afternoon.  Google took us on several detours, but that turned out to be a good thing.


Ultimately, we approached downtown from the east, on DeKalb Avenue.  DeKalb Avenue has all kinds of wonderful murals along the way.  I couldn't get any photos of those then, but while we were stopped, I did get one of this building with the scraggly bit of vegetation.  Note the middle sign:




We soon arrived at the Ellis Hotel and opted for valet parking - simple, secure, and not much more expensive than trying to find a public parking lot on our own.  Besides, we planned to walk everywhere during our time downtown.


I had assumed that the "boutique" description of the Ellis Hotel meant that it would be rather small (a la European hotels) and not part of a chain.  Those were certainly true of the Ellis, but later I learned other characteristics of boutique hotels.  They don't have many rooms (fewer than 100), they tend to be in the city, and they have a one-of-a-kind atmosphere.  These describe the Ellis, too.  It was clean and elegantly comfortable with a definite contemporary vibe.


To be on the safe side, Robert and I took our bicycles to our room.  The hotel staff didn't mind a bit, but I don't think that's something they see every day.  A little quirkiness, however, fits right in with a boutique hotel.



Robert at the elevator with his bicycle

After getting clean and fresh, Robert and I were ready for an evening in the ATL!  We started at the restaurant at our hotel because our timing was perfect for their $2 Wine Down.  It was a beautiful, warm spring evening to enjoy their patio and take in the downtown sights.



This carriage looked just like Cinderella's coach that was on top of my birthday cake when I turned 6:




As we sat on the patio at the hotel, we discussed where we wanted to go for dinner.  We thought about Der Biergarten, an excellent German restaurant we've been to a couple of times.  However, particularly with so many choices, all within walking distance, we wanted to try something new.  Google to the rescue again!  I quickly discerned where we had to go: Trader Vic's.


I probably heard of Trader Vic's while I was growing up in metro Atlanta, but it really captured my attention several months back when I read an article about it in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Asian-inspired cuisine - heavy on the seafood - served among kitschy Polynesian decor: that sounded like just the ticket.


Robert and I walked the few blocks to Trader Vic's, located in the basement of the Hilton Atlanta.  A hostess led us past bamboo covered walls, faux tropical vegetation, and miscellaneous South Pacific decorative items.  Maybe Trader Vic's recycled the sets from Gilligan's Island.  I pretended that Robert and I had won a reward challenge on Survivor.


Because Trader Vic's is home to the original mai tai, there was no question about which adult beverage to order:



One must always wear one's Cinco de Mayo chile peppers to a Polynesian restaurant.
A couple at another table had this giant drink in a bowl.  They drank it with straws that were about two feet long.  That was probably more than I could have handled, but it sure looked intriguing.

I had a good salad and some delicious macadamia-crusted mahi mahi.  Fish/seafood is my favorite type of meat.  Robert had bacon-wrapped scallops cooked in a wood-fired oven:




Following our most satisfactory meal, I stopped on the way out to read this comic strip posted near the entrance.  (I love comic strips!)




The sun had not yet set, and so Robert and I walked around as twilight descended.  A number of people were enjoying the fountains at Centennial Olympic Park:




The fountain jets spray intermittently, apparently randomly.  It was particularly fun to watch an Indian family at the fountain.  It looked like three generations.  The grandmother, spectacular in her sari, had made her way to the center of the fountain without getting wet.  She was ready to come back out and wanted to stay dry.  The family and various onlookers laughed in delight as she watched the jets, waiting for just the right moment to dash to dry safety.


Some coffee (Robert) and tea (me) sounded good, but, alas, all of the nearby coffee shops had closed.  So, we walked back to our hotel.  We read the historic marker next to our hotel, which originally was the Winecoff Hotel:




It's terrible that tragedies like this often seem to be required before we humans take appropriate safety precautions.  On the other hand, the technical side of me is impressed with the success of fire safety codes since the Winecoff fire.


Robert and I certainly are habits of creature, as our friend Dale would say.  Compared to the dozens of people we could hear on the streets below our hotel room, we went to bed much earlier and got up much earlier than they did.


It was nice not to have to get up to an alarm clock, but we still didn't sleep that late.  By the time we packed up, got our car back from valet parking, and drove to Babs for brunch, we still arrived a few minutes before their 9:00 AM opening.


Babs is such a great discovery.  Robert and I found it a few months ago when we stayed overnight in Atlanta for the Georgia Engineering Awards.  At that time, we thought we might go to The Flying Biscuit, which is locally famous, but when we saw a line stretching out the door there, we turned to The Google for other options.  Babs was close, sounded good, and didn't have a wait.  The food was outstanding - good enough for us to use our anniversary weekend as an excuse to go back.


This past Sunday morning, Babs was busier than it had been when Robert and I were there in February, but we still were seated right away.  The menu is seasonal.  Given our particular affinity for Italian food, I love the current theme of La Dolce Vita.




Knowing Robert as I do, I correctly predicted that he would have a tough time choosing between the Italian Holiday and the Pisa-Pisa Omelet.  I recommended the Pisa-Pisa Omelet because how often do you get pepperoni at breakfast?  He took my suggestion.  I ordered one of the specials, poblano pepper lasagna.  The Sweet Life, indeed.


It was a beautiful morning - bright blue skies, warm but not hot.  Atlanta really is a nice place on Sunday morning when traffic is light.  Because we didn't have to rush to get home, I wanted to revisit DeKalb Avenue and check out the murals more closely.


First were the pteranodons flying above power poles.




Thanks to my friend Hunt Kelly, I learned that these are pteranodons, not pterodactyls.  Pterodactyls don't have a crest.  What we usually see in pop culture are actually pteranodons.  Furthermore, it's scientifically incorrect to refer to either of these creatures as flying dinosaurs.  A separate order from dinosaurs ("terrifying reptiles"), pteranodons and pterodactyls are types of pterosaurs ("winged reptiles").  Pterosaur: isn't that a great word?


As cool as the pteranodon mural was, I was even more eager to go back to another mural we had passed.  It depicts many of Georgia's major rivers and their native flora and fauna.  As if that's not amazing enough, the mural is physically located on the Eastern Sub-Continental Divide; water that falls north of the mural flows to the Gulf of Mexico, and water that falls south of the mural flows to the Atlantic Ocean.


I started at the east end of the mural and took pictures all the way down, 33 in all.  Later, I created a looping slide show in PowerPoint to show during breaks in my erosion and sedimentation control certification classes.  I hope my students find the mural as inspiring as I do.

Because 33 more photos would be a lot more pictures to include in this write-up, here's a small sample:



This section of the mural represents approximately where Robert and I live
within Georgia's watersheds (also see next photo).

These three rivers converge at Jackson Lake, which borders Jasper County
and marks the beginning of the Ocmulgee River.




"I've known rivers: I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.  My soul has grown deep like the rivers."

- Langston Hughes



Robert and I made it home earlier than I anticipated, before noon.  As we drove by our church, I joked that we ought to stop and get the flowers we had provided for that morning's service.  We always do the flowers on the first Sunday in May in honor of our anniversary.  Although I didn't snag the flowers then, I did go back later in the afternoon to pick them up.  The florist did a nice job with the white and green color scheme that I had requested.



This has been a whole lot of stuff about our anniversary weekend, but then there's been a whole lot of love in our 23 years of marriage.  Ride on!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

My Contact Once Was Lost But Now Is Found

Because I had a church committee meeting tonight at 6:30, I left the office at about 4:30, planning to ride roughly an hour and a half before my meeting.  To give myself a little leeway, I figured I could do a route about 25 miles long and go to the meeting on my way home, leaving less than three miles at the end for me to get home.

One of my routes is about 22 miles long and includes Calvin Road, Liberty Church Road, and Bethel Church Road.  I call it Theological Loop.  For several reasons, this seemed to be the perfect route for today.

I headed out on this beautiful afternoon.  About seven miles into my ride, I turned onto Calvin Road to begin the ecclesiastical part of the route.  A speck of dirt or something had gotten into my eye.  Usually, I can let my eye water or gently rub my eye, and the discomfort goes away.  That wasn't happening this time.  The pain was getting more and more distracting.  Finally, I decided to pull over and rinse my contact with water from my bottle.  Surely this would do the trick.

I purposely stopped on a shoulder with short grass.  I would be as careful as possible, but if I dropped my contact - heaven forbid - short grass would be easier to search than tall grass.

Heaven didn't forbid.

Yep, I dropped my contact.  I froze, trying to pinpoint in my mind the exact spot where I was standing when I lost my contact.  Carefully, carefully, I set my bicycle to the side, got on my hands and knees, and started searching.  I selected an area about four feet by four feet to cover inch by inch.  My face was right next to the ground.

A car stopped.  Was I hurt?  Was I kissing the ground?  I thanked the woman for her concern, and she sympathized when I told her what I was doing.  I said I was going to be patient...

After about five minutes, I hadn't found it.  I could get a new contact.  After all, when I had my annual eye exam a few months ago, I was borderline needing a little more power on that eye anyway.  Then I thought about how I really don't need that extra expense right now, which inspired me to do one more check.

I zeroed in on what I thought was the exact spot I had been standing when I dropped my contact.  Once more search...there it was!


My contact once was lost but now is found.  I rinsed it well, put it back in, and was as good as new!

Because I was on Calvin Road, maybe I was predestined to find my contact.  In gratitude, and because by then I didn't have time to complete the entire Theological Loop, I just went out and back on Calvin Road.  

The speck that was in my eye sure did feel like a log.  Now that I've removed it, I can see clearly to remove the speck from your eye :o