Monday, February 27, 2012

What A Long, Great Trip It's Been

Every once in a great while a vacation comes along that does what we hope. It provides us spiritual transportation to a different, peaceful place for rest and recovery from our everyday lives. It reminds us that we are in a very special place, if only for a brief time. And it reminds us that we are surrounded by important and special people.

Alex and I were fortunate enough to have experienced all that, and more, last week on our journey to Texas. Our plan was to head far enough south so we could remember what really warm weather was like. And we wanted to see birds. We originally were thinking about going to Florida. But most people we know in Indiana who think of going south think of going to Florida. However, we wanted to experience something different, so why not southern Texas?

So at noon on Feb. 17th, Alex and I jumped in a car full of clothes and bikes and birding gear and headed south. We spent the first full day in Nashville - Alex toured museums while I did a 200K ride with the Harpeth Bike Club.

On Brevet! Somewhere around the 100 mile mark, West-Central Tennessee.

From Nashville, we headed down to Arkansas, where we spent an afternoon and evening at DeGray Lake Resort State Park - a very beautiful place.

Sunrise over DeGray Lake Resort State Park. Heading out for San Antonio.

We then headed all the way to downtown San Antonio, where we visited the Alamo and the Riverwalk. Being a pacifist, I was surprised to be moved by an inscription made by James Bowie before his end at the Alamo. If he could see what has arisen around the spot where he drew his last breath, I believe he would be amazed.

On Tuesday afternoon we arrived at Corpus Christi, our southern-most destination. There, we birded all the daylight hours we had available until Friday morning.

We've Arrived! Padre Island National Seashore.

Laughing gulls on Padre Island.

String of Brown Pelicans at Padre Island.

Royal terns on Padre Island

Big Oak and a big oak. This one is a live oak at Goose Island State Park. I'm the one wearing binoculars.

This is the Big Tree, located a little ways north of Goose Island State Park. You've got to read the plaque, below, to really appreciate how special this great big live oak tree is.

Near the Big Tree, we got to see 6 Whooping Cranes. Once almost all but extinct, there are a little more than 200 whoopers in the wild. And we got to see 3% of the population! The work of many conservationists to help nurture this tiny population is a wonderful story of success. At least for the time being. It is good to see these cranes still walking on the earth and flying in the sky.

On Friday, we departed Corpus Christi, and headed up to Fort Worth, where I got to meet, in person, several bike blog buddies. Paul, Steve A, Myles (who no longer has a blog) and his lovely wife, Chandra, and Chris all showed up to meet me. We talked bikes and other stuff for two-and-a-half hours. Way too little time. I was tired from the drive, but energized by the great time I had with these wonderful people. Although I had just met them for the first time in person, I knew each one well from the posts they've made on their own blogs and the comments they've made on mine. It was easy to resume conversations from past blog posts, as if we had met to continue our conversations from last week.

Unfortunately, in our haste to find a parking spot, I left my camera in the car. And I had to park the car a long way away from the restaurant. But Steve, Paul, and Chandra took many photos. Steve and Paul even took a photo of each other taking a photo. After we departed, Alex and I followed Chris to his home, where he insisted we stay the night.

Chris and Mrs. Pondero are wonderful hosts. We stayed up way too late talking about biking and other things. The next morning Chris and Mrs. Pondero made us a huge breakfast, which we heartily partook. Chris showed me his stable of bikes, each of which is a showpiece. All together, it is like walking into a museum.

Pondero and Quickbeam.

Saturday morning we left and headed north, passing through Springfield, Missouri, home of Ron and Tracy, where I shouted "howdy" out the window. If we had more time I would have liked to have stopped and met them as well.

We arrived safely back home last night (Sunday). After cleaning out the car and putting everything away, we turned on the Academy Awards and I promptly fell asleep on the sofa. But I did get up and go to bed, and awoke the next morning refreshed, ready for work, and feeling fully recharged. Texas is so much more than we had hoped, and we look forward to the day when we go back. For now, I have many, many happy memories of the times we had in our brief stay, and know that I have many good friends there. One day soon, perhaps we'll have the chance to ride together.

A couple of things you folks may or may not find interesting, is that Alex and I counted 32 different state license plates on the entire trip, and two Canadian provinces - Ontario and Manitoba. Not bad for a February trip, I think.

We also counted hawks along the way - but only tallied hawks while we were on the highway. By state, here are the totals:

Indiana - 20
Kentucky - 2 (it was mostly night when we drove through KY)
Tennessee - 9
Arkansas - 47
Texas - 17
Oklahoma - 32
Missouri - 36
Illinois - 6

We also saw the Sandhill crane 2012 migration under way. We saw one large group in central Illinois, two large groups in central Indiana. Go spring!

Happy riding!

PS - Steve, here's the Tricross in its latest incarnation: commuter, or perhaps more appropriately, commuteur extraordinaire!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Nashville Spring 200K

I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to ride this brevet in Nashville, courtesy of the Harpeth Bicycle Club. When I considered the timing (February), weather (cloudy, but 50F, light wind, and no rain), and my conditioning (pretty good for this early in the season), everything worked out well.

Here's the blue beast ready to roll. I got the VO Randonneur Bag Wednesday for my birthday.

I'm learning quickly that randonneuring is nothing more than riding for a long time on the bike, and fixing problems on the bike for the next ride. On this ride, I had mounted my new Topeak Morph pump on the right seat stay. Bad idea, for 6 miles into the ride, the air tube came loose and rattled between the seat stay and the spokes. Fortunately the pump was OK, and the spokes weren't damaged, and I didn't wipe out and cause anyone else to crash. I quickly picked the pump up and stashed in my handlebar bag.

I've never been to this part of Tennessee before, and wasn't sure what type of terrain to expect. I was thinking that since we were quite a ways from the Appalachians, this would be a moderately flat course. Well, that was wrong. This was a very hilly course (at least it was to a flatlander like me). One of the riders said there was 8,000 feet of climbing over the 200K. Some of the hills were fairly short, but steep. And others were long, and steep, like this hill on Dyer Road, below.

This is beautiful country in which to ride a bike. Mile after mile of forested hills and ravines riding on the smooth, paved, and twisting roads makes for a cyclist's heaven.

I rode the first 30 miles or so with David. He has a sweet Rivendell Ramboulliet, which he's had for several years. This was the first control, but I didn't realize until later that David was turning back at this point.
This is the group I ended up riding the second half of the ride with, but I lost them after this first control. These guys headed down the road while I waited for David. When he said he was turning back, I quickly said my goodbye and chased after these guys. They had maybe a 7 or 8 minute head start.

From miles 30 through 65, I rode by myself. It gave me a chance to admire the scenery, and my new handlbar bag. The thing I like best about this bag is the handy cue sheet holder. I didn't miss a turn on this brevet - that is the best way to save time.
This is the new bridge over the Duck River, and the old bridge is on the left. This stretch of road is Minnie Pearl Memorial Highway. Seeing the sign reminded me of how we used to watch Minnie Pearl on Hee Haw when I was a kid. Shortly after this, I caught up to the four guys I had been chasing at the next control - Cissy Lynn's General Store. The store was right across the road from her mother's (Loretta Lynn) Ranch and RV Park.

Up until the last 7 miles, I rode with four local guys. They talked and joked up these big hills while I stared at my front wheel and gasped for oxygen. The only thing that helped me was my larger mass which was my only equalizer on the downhills. This photo was taken on one of the longer hills. In my tiny chainring and largest rear cog, I can climb just about any hill. I may only be going 4.5 miles here, but it's still faster than walking. But I dropped off the back of this group with 7 miles left, because I just couldn't keep up on these big hills anymore.

The blue Trek worked very well on its first official Brevet. The Nitto Technomic quill is long enough to allow me to raise the handlebars almost level with my new Brooks saddle. While the frame may be just a bit too small, I like top tube length which permits me to sit a bit more upright than on my grey Trek, which is a bit larger.

Happy riding!

On The Road Again

I was able to complete the Nashville Spring 200K yesterday. I didn't realize there were mountains west of Nashville. All the locals called them hills, but these are more than hills.

Despite my frequent and persistent gasps for air, this was a great ride. Beautiful scenery and super people made the day great.

I'll post photos and a brief story in the next day or two.

We're heading for Arkansas today, Texas tomorrow.

Happy riding!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Rando Ready!

This Saturday, I'll be riding the Nashville (TN) 200K Brevet. Alex and I are heading south Friday afternoon, and right at 7, I'll be departing with the Harpeth Bike Club on their first 200K Brevet of the year.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been adding to my Trek 710, which I bought from Jon, of Two Wheels fame, last summer. What originally attracted me to the bike is the triple TA Specialties crank, the bar end shifters, and the randonneur-style handlebars. As I've put many hundreds of miles (I don't know for sure because up until tonight I haven't had a bike computer on this bike), I've grown to really like it. It is much different than my 1986 Trek 500, which I dearly love, but I believe this will be a much more comfortable bike for long rides. The frame geometry is just a little more relaxed, and the slightly shorter top tube makes it easier for me to reach the handlebars. What bums me out, however, is that I can't fit my 40mm SKS fenders on this bike. I'm wondering if slightly narrower fenders might work, like 35 or 37mm, but that means I'll need to run 25mm tires, which I just bought. I really like my 28mm tires, and if I had the clearance, I'd run 32mm tires on this bike. But they just won't fit.

I added this new Brooks saddle last week, and I have a couple hours on it inside on the trainer. It's still very hard, but two small areas, right where my sit bones meet leather, are just ever-so-slightly-softer than the rest of the saddle. Funny how these saddles work. I've had my other Brooks for two years now, and it's so nice, and I know this will be as nice as that one in a little while. I also added a Topeak Morph pump. I have a CO2 filler with two cartridges in the saddle pack (along with two new tubes and a patch kit and three tire boots). Two new Continental Gatorskin tires were waiting for me on the porch tonight when I got home. They'll go on tomorrow night. After flatting several times on long rides, I've gotten a little paranoid about flats.

I added a new Sigma wired computer - just a basic model. I used to have a wireless computer several years ago, but received a great deal of interference. I don't ever foresee going back to wireless (unless I go with a GPS). Did you folks happen to notice the new, VO front rack? Just a premonition, but I may receive something for my 50th birthday on Wednesday to fit on it.

The old blue Trek - a 1981. It is a sweet ride, and as soon as I change the tires, it'll be ready for its first 200K.

In other developments in Big Oak Land, Alex and I are heading further south after my ride concludes in Nashville. We're heading all the way to Corpus Christi, TX for several days of bird watching, warm temps, and hopefully a little sun. While we've only had winter-like weather here for the last two weeks, it'll be nice to be warm again outside, and it will be really nice to see the sun.

On our way back, we're stopping to visit my blog friends in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. It'll be fun to put real faces and voices with the electronic images. And while blogs are a fun way to communicate, there's nothing like talking and joking with real, live people.

Happy riding!

Saturday, February 4, 2012


I was wondering where the snow which fell in Colorado the past few days was headed. We woke up this morning to 6" of beautiful, fluffy snow.

Guess I'll ride the trainer today.

The weather ahead still is forecast to be unseasonably mild, so I think this will be gone in a few days.

Happy riding!