Internal Detours
Monday, March 27, 2006
  norris road and ponds everywhere

I went out for a few miles Sunday. I had no desire to go bumping over the trails with the club, and my schedule was a bit off, anyway, so I wrapped myself in my customary below-60-degrees wool and pumped up Belle's tires and headed out.

I went the usual way - through downtown, along the trail, through Wisewood and out to Scotch Cross Road. It's a route I've taken a zillion times with the club, usually on our way out to do one of the assorted loops that involves riding to Ninety Six and back.

It was pretty quiet out there. I passed the fairgrounds and saw a big tent set up for the Great American Circus, but the place wasn't exactly crawling with people. There were cars there to trip the light at Highway 25, so I wasn't waiting forever to cross. Then everything got quiet and I settled in for the ride.

I decided I wanted to stop for a natural, as the Euro guys put it, so I looked for the right location. Norris Road appeared on my left, and I pulled in. After taking care of matters, I turned and looked around and thought, "I've never seen that pond there before."

It was a swampy looking thing, and I wondered how I had missed it. I've ridden the length of Norris Road a couple of times through the years, most recently in the rain with Ainsley. I had stopped in almost the same place to fix a flat tire at the end of the 2002 Bee Buzzin' Tour. Still, here it was, looking almost exotic in the light that came through the trees.

I set off again, heading down the cumulative long hill. I spotted a farm pond beyond the tree line on my left, then another one. Again, I'd never notice them before. Hmm.

At the bottom of the hill, I started to go straight to Ninety Six, then changed my mind and hooked a left onto Lebanon Church Road. Immediately, I realized I'd made the right choice. The headwind was surprising, and it was better to fight my way through it now than later. I shifted down to the 38T ring and settled in. Surprise, surprise, surprise, as Gomer Pyle used to put it - there was yet another pond I'd never seen before.

I climbed on up the road. The nasty white dog was nowhere to be seen, possibly because the wind carried my scent the other way. I came back in via the Canadian Mist Highway, taking Florida back to the trail. No surprise at all there when I saw, shining in the distance through the trees, yet another pond I'd never seen before.

I had 21.8 miles when I got home, and I was in time to watch the Criterium International with Ana. It was nice to see Basso win. And on the mountain stage, it rained on them.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
  a saturday fixed-gear ride without rain

It just wasn't natural. It was a Saturday, Ainsley and I were both riding fixed-gears, and it wasn't raining. True to form, we got off to a later start than we planned, thanks to a balky front tire and a runaway chainring bolt. We went out via the rail trail to Wisewood and rode over to Scotch Cross and thence to Rock House Road.

We weren't in a hurry. I stopped to take a picture of a blue heron hanging out at a farm pond - no dice, before I could switch the camera on, he spotted me and took off. About a mile later there was another pond with what looked like the same heron. I stopped, admired his profile against the water and switched on the camera. By the time it came on and was in place, he'd taken off.

"I need to stop for a nature break," Ainsley said.

"How about we hold on till we get to the Rock House?" I said. He agreed, and moments later the big grey ruin materialized on our right.

The Rock House is an institution in Greenwood County. According to legend, a man lost his wife and child to a house fire. He decided he would build a house with nothing flammable in its construction. Before it was finished, the story goes, he himself died when a fire consumed the shack he was living in while building the Rock House. Peripheral tales involve coins left on a nearby bridge always disappearing on the return trip, apparitions, and such.

The truth is at least as interesting. According to a 1940 article in a Lander College (now University) publication, a Mr. Tolbert built the place in the 1920s - and never lived in it. It was built as a fire proof warehouse for family antiques. Sometime between then and the late 1950s, it was abandoned, and the legend began to spread through high school and college students visiting the empty structure late at night.

We dismounted to clear the ditch. Ainsley rode in closer while I took a couple of pictures. A minute later I went nearer to the house. I've ridden by the place several times over the last few years, but I hadn't been this close to it since 1991, when a bunch of us who really were in no condition to drive came out late one night. For the first time, I saw where the door lintel read "Tolbert 1922." Ainsley rode out to the road on a trail he spotted from the house. I rode back out the way I came in, then had a stupid moment and thought I could clear the ditch. No dice. The front wheel stopped, and I was poised for a moment, hanging in mid-air. I kicked out of the toeclips about the time I fell. I lay in the ditch for a moment, then got to my feet.

"Damn," I said. "I thought I could make it. Don't suppose you got a picture of that?"

"No," Ainsley said. "The best moment really was right before you got out of the toeclips. You looked like you were about to do a face-plant."

We rode further, making the right turn onto Dendy Bridge, our first dirt road of the day. I stopped and took my windbreaker off, and we sorted out which track line was smoother. A large Malemute came bounding across a yard towards us, but he didn't bark and he stopped at the edge of his yard.

"The last time I rode this way, I saw a couple of deer on the road," I said.

"Well, they're out here," Ainsley said. He was to prove prophetic. A minute later he was telling me about how he'd barely missed a Carolina Anole that had been sunning itself in the road. When I looked confused, he said, "We call those chameleons around here," he said.

We passed Indian Road and emerged on Highway 221, then hooked a right onto Cedar Grove. I've been through Bradley, SC more times than I can ever count, but this was the first time I'd been down this road. A guy wearing a hat and overalls was doing something to a truck engine as we approached. He called out to us, wanting to know where we'd started and where we were going, in a way that suggested he'd had a malt liquor for breakfast. We gave vaguely friendly answers and rode on.

Watson Hill Road is dirt, and initially goes between privately owned tracts before heading into wildlife management land. There had been some clear-cutting on some tracts; on another, stern "no trespassing" signs warned all to stay clear of the funky trailer and hut compound on the left.

The road surface revealed motor vehicles had been down the road since the last rains. Twice, I felt the side of my front tire butt up against muddy crusts that almost brought me down before my wheel broke through. It was just like going off a road, then trying to get back on it and not quite making it. I steered more carefully into the center of the tire tracks.

We hit a long straightaway, and I looked up in time to see a doe bound across the road. I thought about getting a photo of her inevitable companion and started reaching for the pencam on the lanyard around my neck. Too late - the second deer bounded across the road and into the woods.

"I was kind of expecting that," Ainsley said. "When you see one, you can figure a second one will be along. Let's hope that if there's a third one, he doesn't run into us."

We negotiated a steep descent and crossed the bridge. I looked up at the climb ahead and said, "Can you say 'walk?'"

"Well, yeah, I suppose that IS an option," Ainsley said. "Rather not think about it, though."

It was steep. We got up the hill, him standing, me getting down into the drops and slowly turning the 67-in gear. Part of me wanted to get a shot of that fast drop, bridge, climb and turn, but the thought of resuming that climb from midpoint deterred me. Better to keep going.

Soon after, I stopped to take a photo of a tree that was just too cool. Then Ainsley found a dragonfly that had come out and found it too cold to fly. We took photos of him, too, and set him on a branch in the sun, hoping he'd warm up and fly off. He didn't want to let go of Ainsley's hand, no doubt finding human body temperature much more to his liking than that of a cold stick.

At the rocks, we took some more pictures, then left the dirt road for the bumpy macadam of Cedar Spring Road. Sumter Forest Road, the route to Troy, beckoned, but we saved it for another day. Instead, we cut through Promised Land and worked our way back to Greenwood on the now-familiar White Hall and Briarwood Roads.

My cycle computer read 41.2 miles at the end of the ride. We'd taken it easy, and added another batch of dirt roads to our fixed-gear repertoire. And it hadn't rained.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
  a tuesday afternoon ride

For once, I had no errands to run on my afternoon off. I knew there was a 6:00 club ride on the fire roads, but that wasn't what I wanted. Instead, I dressed myself in wool and pulled Julius off the rack and headed out.

I had a time limit, but that was fine. I didn't want a lot of miles, or fast ones. I just needed to ride for a couple of hours at a laid-back tempo. Along the rail trail, I played with the camera and took some pictures along the way. I went left on Florida, then cut through Wisewood to get onto 221 for maybe half a mile before taking 225 to Scotch Cross.

I was near the intersection of Scotch Cross and Rock House when I saw the collapsed house on the left, and it dawned on me I'd seen three abandoned, fallen-in houses on that road alone. I wondered about the people who had built the clapboard house with the tin roof, and how long it had been since anyone lived there. A minute later I was turning onto Rock House Road. A minute after that, I turned onto Feed Mill Road and saw where someone had cleared a lot for a new house. I wondered why anyone would want to live that close to Highway 221, and crossed said highway onto Antioch Church Road.

I guess every county in the Southeast has an Antioch Church. If not that, they have a Lebanon Church. We have both here. I rode past the much-modified, added-onto structure and bounced along on the bumpy tar and gravel road.

It got agricultural pretty quickly. There were a couple of fields full of cows, some herds in black, others in various white and brown shades. Cool. A little later I passed a fenced in field with three or four goats and two Great Pyrenees herding dogs that outweighed their charges.

We seem to have had an influx of the big dogs, all in the southern part of the county and all working on farms. Ainsley has reminded me that they don't work any harder than they have to, but these two were the exception. One staked out a corner and barked, holding his ground. His companion trotted along behind the fence, glancing over his shoulder as he paced me. When we got to the end corner, he turned and barked, almost ceremonially at me. I told him I'd stay out of his field and rode on, feeling his eyes on my back.

A little further on, the road steepened as it pitched towards the bridge. I stopped for a moment to take pictures of the llamas and concluded a telephoto lens would have been nice. At the other end of that field, two goats with incredible horns glowered at me. I pointed Julius on down the hill and climbed up to Briarwood. Minutes later I was on Alexander and passing West View Middle School. I realized it was only 3:30, a bad time to be near public schools these days. I hooked a right onto Florida Avenue and passed Springfield Elementary, a newly-built school with the enormous parking area and the long driveways designed for parents driving huge SUVs to pick up their dimpled darlings who are too precious to ride the bus. The driveways were full. I shook my head and rode down the hill to another bridge over yet another creek whose name I forget and headed for the trail back in.

The ride distance wound up being 20.1 miles. I was home a little after 4:00, and had time to run a couple of last-minute errands before going to the in-laws for supper. I ate well and quietly pondered the second anniversary of my heart attack.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
  riding within limits

It had been a rough day. A little before 2:30 I emerged from the garage swaddled in wool, threw a leg over Belle and headed out. I had an eye on the weather predictions - drizzle, followed by rain and more rain as the evening progressed. The sky wasn't yet a flat grey, just covered in moving cotton wool.

The route was the same as yesterday's, with a twist. I wanted to see if the dirt roads crucial to a proposed ride that would take us out of Troy and through to Bradley still existed, or if they were simply cartographic phantoms like the mystery route from Promised Land to Beulah Church Road.

It's a radically different ride when you're on your own, at your own pace, and unhurried. The actual ride time was about the same, but I didn't feel beat and winded at the end of it. I felt comfortable switching down to the 38T middle ring and spinning merrily along.

I hooked a left onto Millway at Cedar Springs where Abbeville and Greenwood counties meet. Surprisingly, the roads I sought were only a hundred yards or so past Cedar Springs Church. To the right was Sumter Forest Road, to the left was Watson Hill Road.

There I confronted a dilemna. I knew I didn't have time to go right and ride to Troy, but I was sorely, sorely tempted to go left and ride the dirt road into the back end of Bradley. But I was alone, and the cell phone was with Ana on a trip to her sister's. I made a promise not to ride unpaved roads without one or the other, and even if I hadn't made that promise, prudence would be to wait until I was properly accompanied or equipped. I rode maybe 30 yards of Watson Hill, down to where some stunning boulders flanked the road. I stopped and put a foot down. It looked like a great road.

I dismounted and leaned Belle against one of the rocks and took some pictures. I know my limits. I'll ride these roads soon, but with at least one riding companion and a cell phone. For today, I admired how green the undergrowth was and ate one of my peanut butter-filled pitas while looking around.

I looked at the cycle computer's clock. It was 3:54, the sky looked greyer and darker, and it was time to go home. I stopped at Cedar Springs and took some pictures of the Cedar Springs Church (organized 1779, current building constructed in 1859), the old stage station, and the octagonal house. I took a couple more riding back towards Verdery - and then realized I had left the focus on my $9 pencam at the closeup setting. Dang. I changed the setting and took a couple of pictures of the old store and post office at Verdery, then got onto Briarwood and headed home.

The sky got darker, and I switched on my blinkie tail lamp. I shifted around a lot climbing the hill above the bridge on Briarwood, ate the rest of my pita at the intersection with Alexander Road, and shifted back onto the big ring and stayed there for a while on the rail trail. When I put Belle up on the rack, I had 36.5 miles for the day.

I was home in time to watch the end of Milano-San Remo. I thought about Tom Simpson the whole time, and when it was still Milan-San Remo to Anglophones.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
  saturday ride(s) with a $9 digital camera

Today's ride was interesting. Let's make that rides, plural. Ainsley and I had originally planned to meet at 9:00 for a longer fixed-gear ramble, but a change in his plans scotched that. I rode Julius down to the fountain at 9:00 anyway, just to make certain that no one who had seen the emails had showed up for the ride.

Jim was the only rider present. We went out for a quick spin before the club ride scheduled for 10:00. A couple of miles into it, I realized that the pace the club would want to maintain would not be possible for me on the fixed-gear, especially after whacking myself in the ribs Tuesday night in the woods. I turned back and rode home to switch bikes and meet everyone downtown for the later ride.

I pumped up the tires and headed back downtown aboard Belle, shifting through the gears and feeling I'd made a wise choice. Waiting for me at the fountain were Donis, Jennifer, her husband (T.J.? I'm bad about names!), Jim, David Craig, Bill Thompson, Andrew and Bill Evans ... and Rick Flowe.

I used to ride with Rick back in the early 80s. I had the white Puch then, and he was riding a Trek, if memory serves me right. He was faster than I am then, too. On the plus side, he showed me some great roads to ride back when. On the minus side, he introduced me to the guy who sold me my first car, a Volvo 164 that never failed to let me down at crucial moments.

At any rate, we set out in groups. Donis, Jennifer and her husband had left first, so Bill Thompson and I set out in pursuit, catching them near the beginning of the rail-trail. The rest of the pack caught us at the end of the trail, where it dead-ends into Florida Avenue. We wound up retracing the route we'd done a couple of weeks back, but going all the way out to Cedar Springs.

We split up along the way, of course. I found myself riding with the faster pack, talking with Bill Evans about his plan to ride the 200 km brevet the Spartanburg Freewheelers are doing next weekend. On the first long-ish hill, I realized I really HAD done a number on my ribs when I fell Tuesday night. Deep breathing became, well, challenging.

Bless their hearts, the guys would wait up at different intersections for me. Rick dropped back twice to pace me back up to the bunch, as did Bill and young Andrew.
Unfortunately, picking up the pace was not an option.

I took pictures as I went, giving a field test to my newly-acquired Aiptek pencam. A small, 1.3 megapixel digital camera, refurbished examples are selling for $9 plus shipping. There's been a lot of discussion on the iBOB list about them. When mine arrived on Friday, Ana the Tech Goddess found a Mac-compatible program that would interface with the little beast. She liked the results enough to immediately have me order two more, one for her use and one as a spare.

Anyway, following Kent Peterson's method, I wore mine on a lanyard around my neck and would periodically drag it out, switch it on, and see what I could get. I misinterpreted the beeps at one point and foolishly dumped some images I'd gotten earlier in the day, but I think I made up for it with the shots taken over my shoulder while riding.

We worked our way back through Promised Land, going right on Whitehall, then left on Briarwood and heading back towards town. Jim doubled back and picked me up and paced me back up to where Bill Thompson and David Craig were discussing taxes while riding very slowly. I took a couple more pictures, and we headed back in on Alexander.

I let them go on up the road, and they decided to let me come in at my own pace. I stopped for a moment and devoured a peanut butter-stuffed pita and drank some water. I checked my mileage and started cycling through the functions of the computer and realized I had 6,996 miles on Belle. I left the readout on total mileage when I got rolling again. The odometer rolled over the 7,000 mile mark as I rode in on the trail.

Everyone was packed up and heading out when I hit the fountain, so I waved and rode home. I checked cycle computers and came up with 9.58 miles on fixed Julius and 36.32 on Belle. As I figure it, if I can ride 45.9 miles while still feeling beaten up from a fall in the woods, despite letting others set a pace that wasn't comfortable for me, and ride through a bonk induced by not stopping or eating along the way, then I'm on track for a metric century April 1. We'll see how it goes.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
  a coastal ride, falling in the woods, commuting daily

I'm late getting back online. Part of it was a trip to the beach, part of it was life getting in the way of writing a blog, part of it was just plain basic laziness on my part. Oh, well.

I mentioned the beach. Ana and I took four days to run down to the Isle of Palms, enjoying a small getaway. I packed Stripe up, removing pedals, putting the wheels in big black trashbags and wrapping the drivetrain in thick plastic. It all fit nicely in the backseat of the Toyota, too.

After spending Friday downtown walking around King Street, checking out galleries and the Gibbes Art Museum, I rode Saturday. I left the condo and headed out along Ocean Boulevard, working my way through the residential areas and towards Sullivan's Island. Hopping out onto 703, I quickly worked my way over to Middle Street and rolled down the length of the island. At the far end, I found a couple hundred feet's worth of unpaved road, then turned and headed back. I passed the back end of Fort Moultrie. I passed several historical markers for fortifications used during the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and World War II. Lots of artillery parked out there, including several Dahlgren guns - and yeah, being able to identify and spell that particular type of cannon really is a warning sign of a childhood spent being a Civil War nerd.

The houses were a mix on Sullivan's Island. The small ones, low one story places, had been there forever. Local folks lived in places like that. Overwhelming them were the new McMansions, typically three-stories of faux clapboard and lots of balconies. Who knows how much longer before the people who keep Sullivan's Island's restaurants and stores going won't be able to afford to live there anymore?

I was making the turn towards 703 and the bridge back to Isle of Palms when I saw three cyclists in a paceline. I judged the distance, figured they wouldn't hear me, then accelerated. I stopped for the sign, waited for two cars to pass, then shifted up and chased. It took a moment, but I dug in and caught them. There was too much traffic to do much more than say "hello" to establish that I was back there.

About a mile or so later we passed 517 and its bridge to Mt. Pleasant, then took a left turn onto a quieter street. I had the chance to talk with Amy, Rebecca and Joe over the next couple of miles. The pace was moderate and conversational, and I settled in to the 53x23 and spun along with them. I felt like the Ancient Mariner, riding in clips and straps aboard my battered, scratched old Mercian with downtube shifters while they rolled along on their shiny STI-equipped Litespeeds and Specializeds. No matter.

They took me through the construction entrance to Wild Dunes, a gated community I'd been in a couple of years back. I saw a lot of well-fed people walking about or wobbling uncertainly along the bike paths on beach cruisers. Somewhere in there, Rebecca's iPod Nano escaped and bounced along the roadway - and survived nicely, thank you.

We went back out of the Dunes and headed back. I said my goodbyes and rode back to the condo. 25.8 miles, pleasant companions, and a nice ride on a lovely day.

I got to commute Monday. It was fun to ride fixed again, even if only for the short hop to work and back. Tuesday night I rode the trails, and the ride wound up being rather different.

Early on I got a warning it would be a challenging ride. Coming up the hill from the Rock I was doing all right. We were passing through the scorched forest, where the Forest Service had done a controlled burn recently. Thanks go to Ainsley for the pictures. Oh, yeah - more than a week later, there are still small fires smoldering out there. I approached the first log, one I've hopped over a zillion times - and blew it. Too slow, too far over to the right, whatever. Thump, down I went. At the time I knew about the skinned elbow and the solid thump to my lower back when I landed on the log. Later, I would discover I'd managed to hit myself low down on the ribs with either the handlebars or my own elbow. I managed to not dump a whole bucket of guttural consonants and full glottal stops.

After I straightened my handlebars, we rode on down to Grattan's Bridge, past Ronanhenge and through the charred stuff down through the muddy crossings. Back we came up the long hill, muscling up the climbs sometimes, giving up and walking others. By the time I got back to the truck, I could tell I'd feel the fall the next day.

I drove the six miles or so back to the pavement, then headed home. When I pulled up in my driveway, I discovered I hadn't clamped the fork properly when I put the old Trek into the rack. The bike had toppled over into the bed of the truck, mangling the right front dropout in the process. Sigh.

More commuting Wednesday and today. It's strange - the places where I banged up my body hurt when I walked or turned in my chair, but were fine when I was on the bike. Go figure.

We'll see how I do Saturday. Ainsley and I are talking about a longer ride on the fixed-gears ...
Monday, March 06, 2006
  why did the chicken cross the road?
This isn't my story - it's Speedy Zac Lake's - but it's too good not to share.

Zac, who races for Hincapie Sports, was out on a training ride last Saturday. He decided to do some intervals, and was no doubt cooking along on that matte black and Celeste Bianchi he rides when he first saw it.

"I saw this chicken standing by the side of the road," he said. "The first thing I thought of was, 'why did the chicken cross the road?' Then, before I could do anything about it, he did."

The next bit made for a challenge.

"I managed to get my front wheel over him without a problem," Zac said. "Then he got hung up in my bottom bracket. It got kind of noisy for a minute there, then he managed to get free."

Zac managed to bring his bike to a halt without going down.

"I was really afraid I was going to crash because I was laughing so hard," he said.

Then he got to the best part - he opened up his cell phone and showed me the picture he'd taken.

"I got this much, but the chicken had gotten up and run off by that point," he said.

Can you understand why I love riding in this area?
Saturday, March 04, 2006
  Belle gets a makeover

Tuesday afternoon I finally replaced Belle's shifters and handlebar tape. The bar tape, a two-tone double wrap of light blue over black cotton Tressostar coated with shellac, had been in place since October 2001 or so, whenever it was I switched over to the T.A. triple crankset. The mid-70s SunTour bar end shifters had been there from the original build of the bike in December 2000.

The tape had actually matched Belle's paint - until the third coat of shellac went on. I had re-shellacked the tape once or twice a year since then, watching as it took on an organic appearance and my handlebars looked like some exotic snake out of the deepest, darkest swamp. It became greener and swampier over the years with each application of shellac, and would then wear in and and fade nicely under the summer sun.

The shifters were another matter. They were built to handle five or six cog rears. To make them successfully shift over an eight-speed cassette, I had to set the cable just exactly right. The last year or so, it wasn't quite there, and to get the chain up onto the 26T cog I often had to reach down beneath the cable housing stop on the downtube and tug the wire to get that last bit of necessary tension to make the shift.

Tuesday afternoon, the weather was warm and dry and I had a couple of hours free. The old tape came off easily enough, though the multiple layers of shellac gave it a texture like a twizzler. Despite frequent lubrication, the shifters were nasty and funky when I removed the mechanisms for access to the mounting bolts.

The new Rivendell Silver downtube shifters went on easily enough, once I got the old bolt-on housing stops off. After looking through my stash of bar tape (light blue cotton bar tape is no longer in production), I went with the Tresso I'd gotten from an iBOB last month. I broke out the Bullseye shellac, wrapped the bike up plastic to protect it from spatter and went to work. Three coats felt like they would protect the tape, but still came reasonably close to the frame's color.

The fixed-gear ride Ainsley and I had planned didn't happen Saturday - he'd had an emergency and couldn't make it. So I left the Mercian fixed-gear on the rack and took Belle down for a quick wipe down, pumped up the tires, stuffed the necessary stuff into the banana bag and headed out.

The first few shifts were interesting. I'd never used friction downtube shifting on a bike with more than seven cogs. I kept overshooting the gear I wanted, and it was the middle of the ride before I mastered them. The front derailleur wanted to creep back inwards until I firmly cinched down the center bolt with the handy D ring.

Saturday's route was basically an out and back - down the trail, right on Florida Avenue, cross the bypass, left on Alexander, left onto Briarwood and all the way out to Verdery. From there we took Highway 10 for half a mile to Cedar Springs road. The turn-around point was where Forest Service road 505/Curltail Creek Road dead-ends into the bumpy asphalt. We were pretty much riding to Jim's schedule, a not-infrequent occurrence on club rides, and he wanted to be back in around two hours.

Speedy Fred decided he'd had more than enough when we first hit 10; declaring he'd had enough of the bumpy roads, he burned on home along Highway 10 back to Greenwood.

I managed to persuade everyone else that, rather than completely retrace our steps, we might enjoy taking Highway 10 as far as Promised Land, then hook a right onto White Hall and back to Briarwood and the way we'd come out. Traffic on 10 wasn't bad, no worse than on many organized centuries I'd ridden in the Low Country. It wasn't long before we were passing through the hamlet sometimes called Promiseland (I know the sociologist who used that title for her book on the place - at one point one of the networks was considering basing a television series on it).

Founded by freed slaves after the Civil War, Promised Land isn't much to look at. It's fascinating to see it and know why it's there, though, and it's certainly livelier than many other communities that have become empty dots on the map over the years.

We turned right onto Briarwood. Had we turned left instead, we'd have been on New Zion. I had to explain to John that despite what the maps say, there is no open passage from the end of that road to the network of fire roads in the National Forest behind it.

"We just need to drive out there in a car and find the route," John said.

"John, you can't drive it. It turns into single track and it's closed off," I said, before explaining that even the satellite images show nothing but woods for about 1000 feet from the end of one of the branches off New Zion to the edge of Beulah Church Road.

We headed on in. I was back to noticing things about the Rivendell again. By this point I was leaving the chain on the 50T ring and shifting back and forth between the 19, 21 and 23T cogs. The shifts were smooth and intuitive now, no muss, no fuss. Belle felt solid and stable beneath me, smoothly carrying me down bumpy roads. I still didn't love the ride quality of the Continental tires currently on the bike, and made a mental note to order some more Roll-y Pol-y tires from Rivendell in the near future.

The weight reduction involved in going from bar end to downtube shifters is probably quite small, but psychologically the bike just felt lighter and livelier. Maybe it's the lighter handlebar tape color, I don't know. I do know I was really enjoying the bike again, and by the time I got home I was wondering why I hadn't gone to downtube levers a long time earlier.
cycling through life is more than the cycling life

Location: Greenwood, South Carolina, United States
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