Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Normalacy"

Good to see the ol' blog is back to normal after a few frantic days of Gravel Grovel viewage. The results came in, and as expected, I was towards the back. Not surprising there, but I'm fine with that. I came in under time and didn't hurt myself. Apparently my post didn't sound like the most positive, but my race wasn't the most positive. I'm still battling the snot that's now been ongoing for 2 weeks now.

How did I battle the snot monster last night? I went out in the dark and rode an hour in the rain at 37F. I got wet and cold towards the end, but the first 40 minutes were quite fine, and the Blueridge+SON did its job to a 'T'. Great all-weather bike, that one. I won't top 600 for the month, but I have mid-500s and feel good about my November riding in general. I may scale back a bit of the distance for December, or at least as many all-day disappearance rides, but I'm enjoying two wheels and need to mentally gird myself for the colder temps.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gravel Grovel

You know, I don't have that much to say about the Grovel, but I'm sure I'll ramble for a bit. Suffice it to say it was a full-up Pain Garbage Can and not just a bucket. I've been battling a head and chest cold for most of the week (still am), so my preparation and enthusiasm left wanting. Then Patrick came down ill *and* Michael was a no-go due to mechanical disaster, so going in I was I guess we can say, "meh". The morning was enlivened with a beautiful sunrise and Dave and I arrived in plenty of time to get registered and get the bikes prepped. One of the most enjoyable things of the day was seeing the different rigs being used, ones which belonged in three camps: 'cross, mountain, and other'. I would say that that 'cross rigs ruled the day, with mountain bikes second. In third we had a varied menagerie of bikes like Dave's LHT, a Vaya, a Fargo, Timothy's Monstercross 29er, some frankenbike-looking 80s semi-mtbike things and perhaps a hipster frankensteel or two. It was, by in large, a conservative affair.

 The tone of the day was set by our "2-mile neutral lead out", which became a 4m lead out with three extra short hills thrown in. The lead car missed a turn and gave us a great opportunity to red-line just a few miles into the race. I thought I was going to die. After a brief gravel downhill we faced another 10%+ gravel climb to really get things going, and from there things descended into, well, I'm not sure what they descended into. We were in the back, but certainly not all the way in back and from then on really it was a personal ride. Barturtle, Dave and I sometimes rode together, most of the time not, and we would come across other racers, such as a younger guy on a baby-egg blue Crosscheck at the 'bridge', with whom we would ride with a bit but then separate.  Going in to the first checkpoint at the end of Tower Ridge Rd. it was fun to see the front-markers going in the opposite direction. I'll give props here to Timothy for a strong effort up Tower Ridge. He dropped several riders on the long false flat up TRRd.. In that Tower Ridge Rd. section, too, folks were still a bit more together so I had a chance to ride amid some different racers, at least up to the Fire Tower sag, where the pretzels were much appreciated. Some racers were availing themselves of the cold Modelo beer at that sag, but I couldn't imagine pulling that off; I was in no shape to play around as I was already on the brink and only halfway through.

The big downhill off the fire tower was appreciated and led us to the craziest section of the day, and one that probably kept me mentally in the race. Combs Rd. is marked as a "road" on maps, but the 2m section amounts to a mixture of double-track, single-track and goat-track. I was quite surprised at how rough this section was, but this video from '10 shows exactly what the Combs section offered. The outbound portion was a little obnoxious because of the number of returning racers, but my choice of the C'dale 29er felt like genius here. I treated the trails as a mountain bike stretch and used whatever skills I have to barrel through. At some point I caught and dropped Timothy here and left poor Dave to take a pee and deal with his own fate. After clearing Combs the Story sag was expected, but in between were four tough miles, not in terrain save the very steep Elkinsville climb, but mentally. Timothy caught and passed me and I just put my head down and slowly made my way to the checkpoint. Dave arrived not too long afterward and we enjoyed apple cider, animal crackers and I a chair. There were still racers at the checkpoint as well, including an All-City rider on a nice All-City cross bike, a guy I would see a few other times before the finish.

 We left the far end of the course and made the return leg, me riding behind Timothy and Dave because I was strugg-a-ling (says Sir Charles). Once we made the return Elkinsville climb I again made full use of my granny- a 22x28 perhaps- and slowly chugged, passing Dave and Timothy who had to walk. Shortly thereafter I reentered Combs. This time the path was clearer so I treated it as a full-on mtbike section and barreled and bombed what I could. I caught Vaya rider, who then did an awesome job clearing the climb while I walked the last portion. I caught All-City man, who was smartly riding conservatively on this 'cross rig. I caught Vaya right at the end of Combs and passed him, thinking he would follow but he drifted off the back. All-City man caught me at Maumee and made much easier work up the short climb there. At this point I thought of Timothy and Dave, but after 50 miles you end up riding your own race, as I saw all over the course. There were many fewer groups riding, even the front markers, and many, many more solo riders, a la the old Tour riders from the 1920s. Solitary soldiers.

 I was within the last 10 and suffered every minute of those. I almost caught All-City who was walking a hill while I in my 22, but couldn't make contact, and didn't really try. I also passed Mellow Johnny, a tall, strapping dude on a cross bike who was draped over his bars while crawling up the hill, on his feet mind you. The stretch along Horse Camp Rd. is a brutal, long 2m step climb and I cleared all but one portion on the bike, passing another 'cross rider fixing a flat along the side. By this point my arms were tired too, and I spent the last miles riding sitting up, and shaking my arms like a kind of bird mating dance. I finally saw the line of parked cars indicating the entrance to the campground and finished in 6.03, according to the computer. I told Dave that a Victory at day's start would be finishing within the 6.30 for the awards banquet (in lieu of the 8hr "course closed" time at dark) and I had achieved that goal even while snot-congested and hacking. After the finish I had time to fiddle with gear and clothing and wait for Timothy and Dave, who both finished within 10min of me. We recessed to the dining hall for Awards- of which we won none-, Schwag- of which Timothy scored a nice pair of Castelli leg warmers, and Dave a SRAM hat, which he gave to me-, and Food, which meant rice dishes and pie. A few further observations:

  • I'm pleased with my 29er choice. It certainly made the Combs section easier to deal with. And the gearing was spot-on. A future goal might be to do the ride on a 'cross bike just to see if I could be strong enough to ride the gearing, but maybe not. It wasn't the most comfy after 40 or so miles, but it got the job done.
  • The WTB Vulpines were excellent. They provided good roll on the road portions and gave me just enough grip on the dirt/mud portions. Recommended. Next time I'll roll 30psi instead of 35+.
  • The weather gods looked on us very favorably. It was in the 60s all day and the rain held off. I *cannot* imagine the suffering involved with a rainy version of this race.
  • I ate and drank and ate and drank and I still think I ended hungry and dehydrated.
  • Cliffbar jello non-food are much easier to eat than Powerbar jello non-food.
  • Most of my pics are out-of-focus. Deal.
Will I race again? Don't know. I've ridden some of those same roads in the past with Apertome, Dave G, Dave C, Asher and such and I think back more fondly of those rides. I wasn't at my limit however difficult they were unlike yesterday. That said, it is an interesting and instructive enterprise to test yourself. To do the race again, I need to think of better ways of approaching it, whether that be weight loss, gear, or training volume. Or maybe just be comfortable enough to accept one of those Modelos.


Start. Notice All-City checkerboard man. I ran across him a couple more times.

Approaching warm-up hillette, the one that wasn't supposed to be on the course.

Dave and Timothy somewhere around mile 10.

Hoosier Forest

I have other pictures of the same area from the snow ride. Those might be more in focus.

Dave along same bottom run.

The 'bridge' along Hunter Creek Rd. It's closed, but we hop the rails.
??Ghost Wheel??





Combs climb. Timothy at top.

Kirks Ford bridge

Horsies at Story checkpoint.

Timothy at finish.

Dave at finish.

Maysville

Evening ride under the fading sun.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

der Grovel

I and two comrades completed the Gravel Grovel today. I'm too tired to write, and although it's only 8.12 I think I'm going to bed. Pic is this morning's view in Seymour at a stop en route. Course is after that. More to come. Whew!


Friday, November 25, 2011

"Multi-Task"

I'm complaining on each of my digital platforms that I've done nothing but ride in the rain and grey for what seems like an eternity. Today, we're about to leave in a while for the in-laws and it's a brilliant blue outside. Horsecrap!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I'll have some stuffing with that Coffee

I'm fighting a bit of a cold again, so today's 30-miler pre-Turkey burn-off turned into a very lazy 21-miler with not one but *two* coffees stops. We- Dave, Timothy and I- met at one of the open Heine's to do the 30ish miler to Utica and back. By the bridge crossing I knew that today wasn't my day. Yesterday I was mostly vegetative and last night I awoke with a nice chest rattle. I thought I was fine but one in Jeffersonville I decided to turn around at some point and cut things short. I was weak, cold, and ready for the warmth of liquids and sweaters. Once announced, my compatriots both decided to do the same. Timothy carved off for TDay prep, while Dave and I found that Quills' was open, and to my surprise, was restocking the Savory Scone! The cup and snack there was excellent.

From there it was time to crawl home. I decided I need *more* warm liquid to keep things going, and Dave decided to stop with me again; he loves his coffee. Now I'm home and it's time to clean up and mentally prepare for what will be an excellent feast prepared by Mom. She's a great cook and everything will be even more savory than that scone.

Peace and Give Thanks. Most of my readers are employed, have your health, have a healthy activity to participate in and loved ones and friends to support you. We're lucky, I think.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Crosscheck Gravel Style

In the 'grovelling for Grovel' entry I posted some pics of my cohorts gravel rides. Barturtle and Patrick were both sporting new mounts. David in turn was on his trusty, rock solid LHT. I was doing my second gravel ride in succession on the Crosscheck, a bike which has vacillated in moods not unlike my own. I was tired of it last year when in MoustacheBar config and almost sold it. The younger progeny wanted me to keep it on the chance that he would interested in riding it as a teenager, which I thought (and think) was a fine idea. I changed out the 'stache bars back to some Salsa BellLaps that I had around.

The advantage of the CC over the LHT or a 29er is sprightliness of ride. It feels like a springy cross bike instead of a "lumbering" touring bike or mtbike. I really enjoyed it on the HenryOwen ride so I took it on the NewWashington Gravel fest hoping for a similar performance. Schwag with comments:

  • SalsaBell Laps + Salsa riser stem. I *love* a higher position now and this combo did it for me. I never had any hand or elbow problems and felt *really* comfortable all day. I was just able to ride in the drops some too, or at least on the ends. This cockpit is a keeper after debating a move to a new CowBell2 or comparable. No need. Good angle on the brake levers too. Pink tape?
  • Shimano barcons with 46/36 x 12-34 pieplate in the back. This was the first trip of the extended gearing. There were a couple noisy cog matings, but the new cassette made it such that I rode in the big ring most of the day. Other than our one big climb out of the river valley, the gearing might have even been too small. But that one time you need toe granny is a Godsend. My cohorts could spin up the climb in relative comfort. I had to punish myself in the 36 instead of their 24. New SLX worked great!
  • Storage: PlanetBike Gas Tank with grub. It flops around but it's alright. MtFeedBag up front with essentails. Didn't use it much other than pure storage. My mom's purple seatbag. I don't if she knows that I've stolen it. When the jacket had to come off Patrick ended up carrying it, which I think is weak. A cyclist should be self-sufficent, so this storage system didn't really work. The front bags were fine, but big rides like this need a bigger saddlebag or lash point for things like jackets.
  • Like that mudguard? I didn't ask my cohorts if it kept the gunk out of their mouths.
  • VittoriaRando35s: great on rough roads. Fine of smooth gravel. Torture on soft gravel. I had a *terrible* day in the rough stuff. It was all soft and devoid of good lines and these hard tires pummeled me. Frankly I whined about it all day. Based on my experience of these 67m, I decided to ride the 29er for GG. I know I appreciate the ride characteristics of this machine more, but I can't be beaten like that. And watching Patrick and Timothy ride off the front in gravel sections was sobering.
  • Garmin60cx mounted on stem. Worked well although the angle was a little strange. Dave and my routes didn't always correspond, so that was awkward. 



Monday, November 21, 2011

grovelling for the Grovel

A group of us all decided a while ago to do the Gravel Grovel the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The GG is a 60m gravel race south of Bloomington, IN, terrain I've ridden in a couple times. Our usual gravel sojourns include *plenty* of time to smell the flowers, look at pretty trees and rest at the end of every challenge. I would call it 'gravel touring' instead of 'racing'. As such, there has been an impetus of late to up the ante a bit, increase the pace and fitness, limit the stops,and mentally prepare for a "race".

 Yesterday four of us- Timothy, Patrick, Dave and I- hit the roads north of New Washington, IN for 60+m of road and gravel, dare I say Training, in preparation for the GG. It further provided a shakedown ride for numerous new and reconfigured bike choices for the GG and the future. Oh, and it rained, not as much as Tuesday's Hundy, but it was another somewhat warm, very wet day on the bike. Because of the precip I don't have pics to share; you'll have to hit up Dave's entry for that. His bike pics, which I don't think he posted, are much better too; mine are shite. And his gps track is more functional, as mine ended up spliced into 3 sections. TechnoFailure all round. Suffice to say, though, that at the end of the day we were all good and knackered after a day of healthy pacing, challenging gravel and plenty of rollers to keep us honest.

Our exit from New Washington was uneventful and we quickly had to shed some layers around mile 6. Our first gravel arrived at Arbuckle Rd., a path Dave and I did in the past. Last night I remember it being a highlight as a series of field and trees tucked in tight along a creek. This time it had me strongly considering my bike choice- Foreshadowing- for GG. I again was riding my Crosscheck with its 35s, which I did to some success a few weeks ago in Henry Co. This section with its chunkier, softer surface pummeled my skinny skins. Patrick pulled on ahead a bit and we convened at the next turn to wait for the other two. What transpired was a 30min game of cat-and-mouse with us separated from Dave and Timothy. Apparently Dave had a different turn listed on his gps, one which passed a chained gate I had seen on Arbuckle. Text messages decided for us to move up on the course a bit to S. Hutchinson/Hutch Rd. They never showed. More text messages decided to meet and the end of Hutch. They never showed. A neighbor first and foremost warned that we "would be shot by hunters if we returned to the woods, oh, and  two cyclist had passed that way a while ago". Thanks. S.Hutchinson, as last time with Dave, was a highlight as one of the most non-road paths you can find in modernity. Great stuff.

So the cat-n-mouse continued until we caught Dave and Timothy after a 3m chase. The group then settled in to a group rhythm after which we found one of the next highlights of the day, a northern loop along what Dave said was a branch of the Muscutatuck (again, pic on Dave's site). This was a nice 3-4m stretch of more worked-in gravel with obvious tire tracks, and more hunters. The Crosscheck was much happier in this area and I found myself rethinking again. At some point we turned south into the wind and rain and headed on paved roads towards Hanover, stopping at some point to refit rain jackets for the increasing precipitation. The run into Hanover was uneventful albeit wet and foggy. After more technofumbling we found a pizza place to eat lunch where I ordered a small spaghetti, although Patrick's large looked much better. Warm food girded out bellies for the last 25m on the day. Little did we know the last 25 would be more challenging than the first 45.

We left Hanover diving down to the river on a white-knuckle descent on Hanover Beach Hill Rd. and hit the bottom land S. River Bottom Rd. along the Ohio. What began as a nice gravelly mundane section turned interesting after seeing a "Road Closed- Travel at your own Risk" sign. The road surface changed from rideable to boulderiffic. Patrick and Timothy with their 2.1s rode up the road while Dave and I on our 42s and 35s respectively really struggled for purchase and a straight line. In hindsight this stretch only lasted perhaps three miles, but it erased any chance of me riding the Crosscheck for GG. I need big rubber for similar potential sections. No, the 29er ride won't be as nimble, comfortable or even fun, but that three miles was a near-low point.

We climbed out of the river valley on W.Prospect Rd., again, a road Dave and I had previously ridden. I remember it being easier last time, but perhaps that was the mileage speaking. I recently had a 'pie-plate' cassette put on the CC, and the gearing change worked to excellent effect on most of the route. On this climb, though, I would have preferred a nice granny ring to save the legs. I outclimbed the others not due to inherent strength, but that I had to push a larger gear because I had no bail. Whew!

At the top we faced a headwind and tiring legs. I took a little runner through Saluda, IN at what could have been a school and pushed the pace a bit across Big Saluda Creek and turned left onto Taylor- another Dave and I road- and was prepared to up the ante. My legs were tired but I still felt relatively good. Taylor changed that. Last time through I really enjoyed Taylor for its sweep and farm vistas. This time, again, the surfaced had been recently graded and proved chunky, soft, and mostly miserable on the 35s. Again, the 29er was stuck in my mind. We turned left towards a short section of gravel on which I refused. I would meet the others at the end but none for me, thanks. They easily obliged and we turned south into the wind where we met more gravel before finally turning west, finding more slog, er, gravel along Little Egypt Rd. and then *finally* meeting our southwesterly roads that took us back to New Washington. For some reason I took a runner the last four miles or so and barreled head down into the wind and finished "first". Today I feel more beat up- much more beat up- than I did on Tuesday's century, so I'm not quite sure that was a good idea.

Dave put together an outstanding course with a significant amount of gravel, which was perfect for GG practice. Also, while the 60F and raining weather wasn't optimal for sunshine cyclists, I think it made for a more memorable and productive day of "training"; it certainly felt more like training than usual, with some big efforts here and there to make things interesting. I enjoyed it thoroughly and will probably find it more fun than the actual Grovel this upcoming Sunday.

And now, new bike list (with terrible flash pictures):
Patrick's new Fargo3, running Woodchippers, Kenda Smallblock 8s and an Old Mountain rack. He wanted more hauling practice, so he asked to carry my rain jacket for part of the ride. I obliged.


Timothy's new Origin 8 dedicated gravel monstercross machine. I don't know as many of the specs, but it seems like a great set-up with compact double gearing, Kenda tires and a couple different bags for carrying all the shit needed for rainy gravel grinders.



Dave's LHT with 42 Schwalbes and fenders. He rode his standard machine and complained less than the rest of us. Lesson to be learned?

**I just erased by Crosscheck pic. I'll have to do a separate entry.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Post-Hundy thoughts 1.3

Usually when I do a mega-ride I write nice, long-winded entries full of pictures of varying quality. I like to do so as a means of reminding myself of the experience as much as supplying my many readers the opportunity of living vicariously through my cycling.

This time I have fewer thoughts to record; the ride itself was the long, rambling narrative instead of the post.
  • Weather: it rained on us for the first 80 miles, rarely pouring, but virtually always steady in every way. We also saw temps about 55F all day long. I was never cold, never warm,and never comfortable, but I was adquate mostly all day. It certainly goes in the books as one of those "because I could" moments. Imagine, my century in Sept. was in 100F temps, yesterday's 55F with constant range. I figure if I could put up with that, I can face other miserable challenges.
  • Clothing: We knew going out that the forecast looked on us unfavorably, but I dressed the part in wool tops, bottoms, hat and gloves along with a rain cape. I used my lighter army-surplus gloves; they were the weak link of the day. My hands were often slightly cold. Next time: Dry gloves, Dry socks. I brought a dry hat and dry light-weight socks, but I needed replacements of comparable nature.
  • Bike: The Blueridge was superb. I had very little back, neck soreness. The cockpit is spot on. Eventually I will change to alternative crankset gearing (mostly b/c I like the compact on the IF so much). As such, the downtube shifting was seamless and smooth but I think it did contribute to some crotch soreness as I regularly leaned over onto that "spot" during the course of the day while shifting (a lot during the many rollers). Aside some tights/shorts/"spot"/seat issues, the remainder of the bike experience was excellent.
  • Food: I think I did a little better than usual, although I was facilitated by the weather in that I didn't have to drink as much. I took in my first snack in Shelbyville, munched a little mid-course and then we ate a good-sized meal in Crestwood. Dave mentioned in his post that he can take in more than I can, and I agree. A big meal always feels like it's going to come back up while on the bike. However the bigger meal- cheesy bread, Dr. Pepper, meatball sandwich- did sustain me for another couple hours.  I think I need to work on eating more regularly and in smaller portions. And I've decided that I like gels and other "non-food", certainly for long days. I would have paid $5 for a "gu" a few times.
  • Bad Spot: Somewhere in there I thought I was going to get through my first century sans "black spot" like those that have plagued me in previously efforts. Typically it's around 75-85m but yesterday I felt strong all the way through the rollers and hilly parts. Once we dived down the river escarpment onto Rose Island I though, "home free, flats all the way home!". Instead I had to stop at the end of Rose Island and take in some grub at mile 80 and really had to concentrate from there on in. It wasn't a get-off-the-bike moment. I didn't lay down in the wet grass, but I grimaced and gritted the teeth all the way down the trecherous rush hour of River Rd. Dave and I stayed close during that last portion as a means of support and protection during rush hour. When we hit Indian Hills I got off the bike for a few moments before making it in those last 6m. In some fashion, it will always happen. Eat!
  • Pace: I'm not very fast on long rides, but I feel like I'm getting steadier, more consistent. My times (avg) for my centuries: 7.41 (13.2) /7.24 (14.2) /7.29 (13.7) /7.30 (13.6)-understanding that they're all over 100 but of variable of a few miles. Notice a trend? Every single on at the 7.5hr mark moving time. I didn't compute stoppage time, but I know the HotternHellHundy in September had the longest air-conditioning break. I next goal might be to do as consistent a time and get the total time under 9hrs and then closer to 8. I think it can be done. Keep moving. Be consistent. Be fit.
  • Mas Pace: I averaged 14.2 on the IF in September in 100F temps *and* I think the computer was registering when I walked two hills. That's the machine I want to use again under more clement conditions.
  • Set-up: So much for being short-winded. the pic below shows use of the Acorn Rando bag and my Garmin 60cx mounted on the stem instead of the bar like September. Both decisions get very high marks. The gps unit was much easier to deal with in that position; too bad it wouldn't run "route" and I had to rely on Dave's "track". Shite! The rando bag was great, but the BR has interrupter levers at the moment. Not for long, though. This weekend it'll be losing those for some new cockpit elements. And, yes, Dave and I wore reflective gear all day, ran lights all day and got rained on all day. Quite!



I thank Dave (with a few pics beetwix the rain) for being willing to go out at the drop of a hat for such a long, tough day. It was a lot of fun and I'm very proud to have finished in the conditions. I think, too, that yesterday's hundy was a better tempo than the others I've done. The avg. speed was little lower, but it felt like a good tempo to take. Great day




Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The day's proceedings

I'll admit it. I am taking a "personal day" and am playing hooky from work. I am turning 42 years-old today. I am riding my bike for approximately 102 miles. We'll be mixing in some very well-known terrain such as 148 into Shelby Co. and later Goshen Ln. and ol' Rose Island Rd. We have stops in Shelbyville, Crestwood, and I'm sure a few more spots along the way as needed.

The image at the bottom is presently filled with green and yellow, a real smorgasbord of precipitation. The temps will be in the mid to upper-50s, so it's one of those "really wet, not that cold" moments, so wool is on the menu. I'll take a rainy, chilly Hundy mostly any day, especially on a birthday. Why not?




Sunday, November 13, 2011

Riding around

Saturday morning involved a somewhat spirited run down to the river to the U.S. Gran Prix Cyclocross race for a quick view. I had to stick an early ride in since later I was to drive the teenie-bopper down to the State Cross Country race, which we did (and Manual runner Cassidy Hale with the 3A win!!). It was another nice, tough ride on the Crosscheck, which as become the "bike to abuse, but faster than the LHT, which is also abused". This morning I plotted a two-tiered attack, scheduled around church choir practice. We're now in preparation stage for the Christmas Concert, so I'm taking one for the team and going to 9-10 Sunday morning practice. Today, that meant I was up early and off to see LithoDale race the Cat4 starting bright and early at 8.00. I stayed for the whole race and gave my best effort to yell at Dale when I could Below are a few of the pics I took at Eva Bandman.

Odd how the Fall colors of the ground correspond with the Fall colors on this trashed cup.

Run-Up!! Hup Hup!!

Juxtaposition of the "classic" Bleriot in front of the very flashy, modern 'cross support vehicles.

Teenage leader of the Cat4 race bunny hopping the barrier. All the kids are doing it. He flubbed a run-up in the last minute of the race and took second. He's fifteen or something like that.

Stage Two was me high-tailing back to church to catch practice. I did stop near the race site and took a few pics of Beargrass Creek.


I tried to catch a cool image of the race on the bridge and its reflection. Didn't quite work.

After practice, the third stage began with me meeting Dave at Sunergos for a cup before our ride. He was coming off a big 100K Populaire yesterday, but I was looking for mileage. It soon became apparent that such a goal was not to be. We were buffeted with 20-30mph winds out of the S and SW, the direction we attacked on the way out. It was quickly obvious that I didn't have much uumph, and Dave was happy to oblige with a moderate pace while recovering. As the ride towards Iroquois went on, I felt more and more like crap. We bagged earlier notions of heading out into Jefferson Forest for more substantial mileage and instead toured around Iroquois Park a bit. As ever, I love the top of that park. Dave has ridden with me enough to know of my proclivity for grassy fields.
\

Bleriot against a very different background that at the 'cross race.







Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Night

The chirp of crickets as their time comes to a close, the hum of tires on a smooth surface, the drone of traffic vacillating as my momentum shifts, crunch, crackle and snap of plummeting leaves after losing their tenuous grip, "was that just a critter in that drain?", heavy breathing at that right turn. Dark, quiet, noisy.

"Dusty Bike"

This afternoon I made a reasonable effort to tweak a fender line, but in my frustrating capacity I slightly mis-drilled the bolt hole I needed and put the line slightly to the right of the desired. Frustrating. Story of my mechanical life. No harm done, but not an elegant solution.

I recently posted a long effort to be a bit more evocative in my ride descriptions. Pondero, though, better did the trick, and all in one brief paragraph. Excellence.

Posts and Rides

I worked my tush off on that last post and I got nary a comment. Goes to show I shouldn't be wasting my time on trying to sound literate!

Dave and I took a fun ride last night, doing a soccer practice ride. Instead of 'cross we chose a road ride, as the 'cross course is pretty dang dark with the time change. I rode the Blueridge, which I an exceedingly in love with. It does everything I need it to do well, including participate in a spirited road ride like last night. We yo-yo'd the pace with hard and easy efforts via Indian Hills and St. Matthews. Once in the parks we saw a gaggle/mob/throng/group of lit-up cyclists, I presume a LBC club ride with everyone fully lit, many with bar and helmet lights and reflective vests. It looked like Close Encounters as a ship comes up over the horizon. Fun. After tempo through Cherokee we took the Beargrass Creek Trail and then to Mellwood for the return. After passing Brownsboro, Dave put in a big-gear attack; obviously he was feeling saucy. I had to dig hard to pull him back, which I did in about a half-mile. Once I took a brief breather I did the same to him, digging very deep for a while before leveling off. He and never ride like this, but it was fun. The evening's efforts gave me a very enjoyable 59min ride. Dave turned and rode home, prolly giving him 30m+ on the day.

As to the Blueridge, I just mounted a new front fender to replace the one I trashed on the Orleans ride. I need to tweak the front line a bit, as the rack in pushing it down a little close to the tire for comfort, and giving me some rub here-n-there. I'd also like to try a new bar. The Salsa Bell-Lap, for me, has no drops position whatsoever; I hate it. Patrick has a FSA Wing Short-n-Shallow which I might try. Many of the newish bars are 31c (or whatev the new standard is), but the present stem is 25.8c, so I'm leery of changing out a stem that is definitely working for me on basic tops and hoods riding position. Not sure what to do. I do want new bar wrap and to remove the interrupters. Fresh tape and easier access to the rando bag make the BR a perfect rando mount, or near-perfect enough.

I'm closing in on 4000m for the year as well. I'm excited about that and hope to have a productive Nov and Dec, as I usually do.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Now that was an adventure ride!

Last night I finished an article out of the recent Bicycle Quarterly, a ride report from an "amateur" rider in lieu of a report or review from the owners. I don't know whether the author is an amateur or a professional writer, but he so greatly invokes the ethos of the Yorkshire Dales with its sheep, hardscrabble hills, desolate moors, impenetrable bogs, vistas and villages. I wish I could evoke a similar response with my own write-up of our extremely interesting foray on Sunday into Henry and Owen Counties, but I don't think I have the same gift for the written word. Suffice to say, our venture of nearly 12 hours total time (driving+riding+trekking+eating) was one of the most interesting of my recent years of gravel reconnoitering.

Our party included Dave, me, and the 'other' Timothy, Barturtle, with whom we rode back in August at our Orleans70. After coffee, a muffin and a superb peanut cookie courtesy of Java Brewing we made our way to our departure location in New Castle, home of Hammer and Mama, parents of my college roommate. Good people, very. The route would be a roughly figure-8, with stints of gravel in both Henry and Owen, a Kentucky River crossing at Gratz, and unknown store stops based on vague information found in our technological ether. The boys had been warned.

We were met with crisp Fall temps around freezing, blazing azure skies, and almost immediately the confusion of technology and a lack of leadership. My gps unit was confused and I didn't heed Dave's exhortations, and as such we missed our second turn. It perhaps was going to be "one of those days", We descended a somewhat gentle slope into a creek run and found our first gravel of the day on Flat Rock Rd., a pleasant, mundane gentle sweep downwards towards the Drennen Creek valley. This portion was bounded to the left by low rock walls and limestone cliff, and the right the open view of a brook, frozen foam flowers. Timothy nicely pushed ahead while Dave and I alternated shot-making along the descent.
Descent on Flat Rock Creek Rd.


Towards the bottom we first noticed what looked to be a run along the right, a definite crossing, albeit one too rough for bicycles. We continued straight, perhaps another .1m, to find signs of construction or merely the results of boredom with a bulldozer. The road had disintegrated into the creek with large piles of rock and trees pushed to form a wall, or merely a large pile of trees and rock. Where had Flat Rock Rd. gone? Both Dave and my gps units showed the road, and I had inspected the KY.pdf, which definitely showed a road along this route, but there was no road. "I don't see any road at all, sir." Timothy wins the gardenia for his initiative, as he set about building a crossing using large rocks across a narrow passage. Without one we would have all been knee-deep or better. Instead, after manly rock throwing and the dainty removal of shoes and socks we made it across, but across to what? I was pretty insistent that there was a road somewhere.
Flat Rock Creek Rd. continues behind Dave's head. It didn't look like a road to me.

Facing west up Flat Rock Creek Rd.

Dave and Timothy inspecting local road-building techniques

Timothy admiring our impromptu bridge-building project of our own. 

Socks

After some befuddlement, we ascertained that the road was the creek was the road, so we followed some 100 yards until seeing, for lack of a better term, an opening venturing upward to the right that could have been a road in a past life. We rambled, pushing the bikes, until we found a house, barking dogs and what looked to be Drennen Lane on the far end of our creek escapade. We had made it to the other side.


Bike "Ride"



Yes, this passes for a "road" on most KY road maps

And again I return to the BQ article. Where the author evocatively describes the landscape and how to be within in it, I regale of a military operation of crossing the River Kwai. I would rather paint the scene of a very cold Drennen Creek running, sunlight skimming off with a low sun to the east, bottom land, scrub, roiling landscapes carved from many a creek run, soft terrain underfoot interspersed with Kentucky limestone rocks and boulders. Scrubland, but beautiful scrubland.

The Crosscheck as gravel-grinder. I enjoyed the bike immensely throughout the course of the day. Guess that means it was a good choice.

We soon found tarmac after a meaty 20% climb up Point Pleasant Rd. I felt good here and tempo'd up in my larger climbing gear that the ones sported by my compatriots. Somewhere along this stretch Timothy returned the favor with a powerful uphill sprint to keep the group's pace moving forward. Dave was suffering at this juncture. We stopped at Eastern Elementary school for a snack break and shortly found out next gravel juncture along Joe's Branch Rd., again another creek run descent along a more acute vertical cut of what I can only assume is Joe's Branch. Timothy used the term "baby heads", one I think I observed previously describing the large cobbles of Flanders, i.e. kindercoppen; a most apt description if you ask me. While the terrain of the valley was a bit more severe, the descent more acute, it was the surface that soaked in my attention. Riding 35c Vittoria Randos instead of my more customary 1.75" Contis, I found myself having to more carefully chose lines. On occasion water drainage channels filled with course stone spanned the entirety of the path, disjointing my trajectory like speed bumps in a subdivision, only speed bumps with jagged edges hurtling towards me at 20mph in a barren landscape rife with trees, vermin and detritus instead of cookie-cutter homes, mailboxes and absurd yard art.

Dave in the distance on Joe's Branch Rd.



Joe's Branch was sublime. At the base of the run, after crossing a newly poured cement drainage bridge, we took a left onto Six Mile Creek Rd., a two-mile run of near-perfect gravel riding. The surface provided a bit of variety, but wasn't too stony; the CC cruised with ease. We also found a little climb mid-run to mix up the texture, and best of all, it harbored us blanket-like to the left with a snug hillside. On the right the land opened a bit to fields and then Six Mile Creek. Interestingly, for most of this portion the land to our right comprised a gun range, which during deer season left us jittery and much desiring of bright orange safety vests. "Promise, we're not deer!!". This stretch emptied into tired town of Lockport, with its river malaise, unfortunately-closed-on-Sunday-morning store and dueling church vying for lost souls. Seems the Baptists were winning.

Timothy on Six Mile Creek Rd. ensconced in a cedar 'allée', on of my favorite spots of the day.

Lock at Lockport





Church of a by-gone era in Gratz

After a brief glimpse of the lock we turned north and soon crossed over the Kentucky River and into Owen County, a new territory for my riding experiences. Dave had read of possible food opportunities in Gratz, but our inspections led to nothing more than vine-covered churches, dilapidated homes and the need to find more open terrain away from the unease of a past lost in encroaching modernity. The next stretch along nearly proved Dave's undoing. A rolling road along the  river country pushed him further back. At one point we lost contact only to find him a bit later having wrestled with yet another gps conundrum. His unit stated to turn right. Unfortunately the route I had sent him did not contain the updated deletion of Severn Creek Rd., which local maps had as a dead end. Dave was at his own dead end because we had left him proverbially dangling in the breeze. Somehow we reconvened and set sail for Monterey, down hard by Sawdridge Creek and the river. Another river town. More squalor. Small red brick homes flooded time after time. More derelict buildings devoid of use or benefit. A small empty Christian church on a Sunday morning. Better times had been had. One of us asked a local gentleman about opportunities for food and he gave some in a round about way. I was swept me back to a risible anecdote including my wife, France, teeth and a truck

In 1993 my wife and I took our honeymoon in France where we spent time in Paris and in the Loire Valley visiting chateaux. We reserved a room at one of the many B-n-B's in the countryside as a means to experience 'la coeur' of the country, all cigarettes, vin, and fromage . On our first night we found a delightful BnB that lay adjacent to a local canal bounded by fruit trees and hedges with "du, du, hoele?". Our Savonnierres reservation was at the home of Madame Carré and her large, stupid dog, Sallee. Upon arrival in the town, we found no sign, no indication of any BnB to speak of. We asked a petite maiden at the local boulangerie; alas, we had found the only person in France who seemed fearful of us. We drove to and fro. We took took a right into the countryside along Le Bas Bray until we encountered two Frenchmen who, according to the wife, upon being asked for directions said something about a tree. I think the lack of teeth didn't help hte explanation. We drove back to town only to find that the large white box truck parked at the crossroads in town had moved, thereby revealing a very effective BnB sign, pointing directly to Madame Carré's house just next door. The homemade apricot marmalade was delightful.
I am a language teacher. I teach Spanish and revel in the sounds and intricacies of language. I love dialects, idioms, expressions, and varied diverse accents. I have a generally good ear for the cadences of language. That said, I could barely understand Monterey man. His advice, once deciphered- and much appreciated by the flagging Dave-, led us to a gas station/store up a ways where we feasted on home-made sandwiches, salty chips, scrumptious-yet-disgusting Swiss Cake Rolls, chocolate milk, dried meats, and assorted caloric-rich foods that provide no nutrients to speak of. After our repast, it was time to return.

Our bellies (some ample) girded for yet more adventure, our senses not yet sated for texture, I immediately set us astray, in of all places, Monterey, KY, population 167. Our next appointment was to be Old Landing Rd., another bit of gravel according to our cartographic sources. Exiting on the west side of town we were faced with a ribbon of dirt, even less a "road" in some ways Flat Rock Rd.; it resembled nothing more than a way for tractors to access the low-slung plains with their flood-enriched fields along the Kentucky. I charged, and Timothy shortly thereafter taking the lead.









Logic told me that any possible road marked as "unimproved" may offer numerous textures, be they gravel, rock, dirt, grass or fading pavement for that matter. Once our progress was halted heavily along the banks of the Kentucky, with nary an exit in site, I knew that my own piloting skills had been revealed as suspect. We had no choice but to return to the bustle of Monterey to reconvene. With no obvious evidence of Old Landing road in plain sight, the obvious albeit boring solution was to return via 355, our outbound path.


Kentucky River locks from afar, next to Lockport where we had been 1hr previous.


*Not* Old Landing Rd.

Before making our mundane way back first Dave had an encounter with a muddy puddle, from which his shoulder and neck became intimate with the hard, crusty bottomland of Owen County. Wracked with pain he crawled well over 75yds and pulled himself free of his crankset via a roll of bailing wire and an axe handle.

No, no, no. Dave did meet the Owen Country floor, and I did have to straighten his right brake lever a bit before we commenced further inspection for our textured route. We seem to have found remains of the Really Old Landing Rd., but this portion wasn't remotely passable, and with heads hung low in resignation, we slowly pedaled towards 355. On a whim Timothy veered to the left on Taylor St. and I, seeing a potential turn at the next block, took a turn at the front where, by excellent fortune, the rumpled pavement plunged down a slight swale and onto Old Landing Rd., a highlight, at least, of my day. It abutted a cliffside leading along the river bottom, with varied fields to our left of dried corn, pasture grasses and more scrub. Unfortunately my pics reflected the bouncy nature of gravel terrain; my favorite shot is out of focus. Old Landing shortly left the bottom lands and began to climb somewhat abruptly onto an escarpment, with the river below and classic, rolling Kentucky woodlands to our right. Signs indicated land belonging to some type of state program, later to be revealed as the Roberts Tract of the KY River Wildlife Management Area, which are basically state-owned hunting areas. We paused briefly to adjust our garments, as the sun had finally joined us and helped to warm our efforts. The labors experienced  finding Old Landing Rd. proved well worth it, at least for me, as revealed in the sensations of the river, the varied nature of its gravel under tire, and the gentle transition from bottomland to a kind of woodland parkway tucked nigh on the Kentucky.





Out of focus, but I have to include it anyway. The orange of the leaves juxtaposed with the gravel make it worthwhile regardless of image quality.


Old Landing Rd. with the Kentkucky to the left and a WMA to the right. Outstanding!


Our return continued, although slowly. Timothy experienced a little sponginess in his rear tire, which turned into a mostly flat tire. I, stopping for the boys, made an attempt to alight by a traffic sign to adjust something, and instead found myself adjusting my momentum in my descent towards the ground, still clipped in. Dumb! Dave, however, was rallying. We stopped at Lockport and availed ourselves of a picnic table in the park where Timothy could change a tube. Dave availed himself of the store across the street for more sustenance. I availed myself of the table bench. In short order we were ready for further gravel, first meeting Six Mile Creek Rd. on the return leg, and then turning left followed SMCRd to its terminus.




Aces Grocery in Lockport. Googlemaps makes no mention, and  Mapsource has it located 6 miles away. Technology.




Dave wondering how he can get a 'boss' gravel grinder like the Crosscheck.


Six Mile Creek Rd's western leg proved to be one of the main challenges of the day. While as flat as mamaw's kitchen table, the texture was a rough as papaw's mood at breakfast after third shift. Timothy's preferred 'baby heads' became inveterate shards of cow bones and entire stone fences dumped in the middle of the road just to make the trip more interesting. As the denizens of Paris-Roubaix are wont to know with their teething ring still moist, the more efficient way to make war with the road is to trample it, Genghis Khan's horde running roughshod across the Asian steppe. I geared down and stomped, praying that the 35s would support the onslaught. Eventually I danced around Timothy- who was now experiencing shifter issues- and Dave, who rode a smart and steady line and who remained as the rearguard in support of Timothy. I rode those four miles as aggressively as I could muster, stopping twice to gain a rearward glimpse of my colleagues. While Dave was providing support at the rear, I did the group a service by engaging two growling river mutts in a grand game of chase for well along a half-mile. By the time they acquiesced they had nary the energy to confront further prey and tucked tail home as Timothy and Dave rolled by.






Crosscheck cockpit, with Salsa Bell-lap (already coveting Salsa CowBell2, with usable drop), 2 mountain feedbags and Vittoria Randos 35s. A change in bar angle at mile 6 (the creek) made all the difference.




As the superb SMCRd came to a close, Timothy needed to attend to his onerous shifting. Emptying his luggage of all contents (foreshadowing), he found his extra master link and replaced the stiff link which has befouled his SMCRd traverse. Once completed we began our final leg, this on the paved 573 all the way to New Castle. Our previous hours had been dominated by a landscape of rocks, puddles, rivers, woodland, serrated cuts along old pathways made for rough, manly work. We enjoyed our newfound smooth tarmac, but we suffered consequently given the need to climb away from creek bottoms and towards the town which is always built on a hill. I climbed relatively comfortably on the Crosscheck, which was a prior concern, but Timothy and Dave used the good fortune of easier gears to spin along while I fought my machine to eek out the necessary forward momentum. We reconvened several times, but we became malleable points along a slinky as we ebbed and flowed from hillcrest to trough to hillcrest. At some point Timothy rallied, his mechanicals behind him, and the three of us paced forward. I took the final runner into town and we finished quietly, satisfied, and a probably a bit tired. Now *that* was an adventure!






1.1 And poor Timothy lost his phone along the route, probably during the tire change in Lockport or the link change at Six Mile Creek.
1.2 I talked Dave into McDonalds on the road home, ravenous. Never again. Never.
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