Internal Detours
Sunday, April 30, 2006
  out of hodges

We met in Hodges, glorious, downtown Hodges, at 3:00 today. We waited a bit - Jim had discovered he'd left his shoes in Greenwood and had to drive back to get them, which gave us a little more time to hang out, chat, and walk around the back of Hodges' main drag and admire the brick work and ponder a new career in safecracking.

We got off to a bad start. Traffic passing through on 185 divided us when the folks on the side near the gazebo took off. Then Kim, a new rider, had a mechanical problem before she could get past Godfrey's Market. We cinched down the pedal on the crank and took off. By this point, there were five of us with no clue where the other eight riders had gone, so we figured we were on our own.

Rolling down 185 towards Blue Jay Road, I saw a flash of something by the side of the road. I looked closer, first thinking, "is that an animal?" Then I was closer and could see it a little better and thought, "are we hunting leopards in Greenwood County now?" Then I realized it was a cushion. I still haven't decided if someone accidentally lost it, if it was just dumped, or if someone with a warped sense of humor put it there just to freak out people like me.

We hadn't gotten very far along on Blue Jay when Kim's right pedal came apart. She managed to stay aboard her bike. Strawhorne doubled back and picked it up. It was one of those wretched Wellgo things that masquerades as a Look pedal, and it had popped right off the spindle. End o' ride for Kim.

Andrew Douglas, who for the second day in a row had come out to ride when it was below 70 degrees, offered to ride back and get his truck. I rode back with him, then rode back to Blue Jay. By the time I arrived, Landon the Silent and Strawhorne were riding back, while Andrew was driving Kim back to her car. We all turned and rode back towards Blue Jay once more.

Strawhorne launched an attack for the county line sign early on, before we'd hit the ranch. Landon was right with him. Andrew and I sat back and let them go. I felt like taking it relatively easy, and Andrew confessed he was frankly cold. The long-sleeved cotton T-shirt and perforated jersey with shorts probably wasn't enough. I understood that - it was the last day of April and I was wearing wool leg warmers and a long-sleeved wool undershirt, and how jacked up is that?

We turned left onto Klugh and rode down to the base of the evil second hill, then charged up it. It's a short hill, but steep, and I was happy I could get up it on the large chainring again. I did, however, drop off the back of our little bunch, but they were waiting for me at the intersection with Flatrock. We rolled back in, negotiating our way past the junkyard dog that lives across from the trash service.

Along the way, Andrew was a bad boy - Strawhorne was leading us, and Andrew quietly coached Landon into launching a bid for the county-line sign at the top of the hill. Strawhorne took it, but just barely. A few minutes later, we were on Dixie Drive, and Strawhorne dropped back and quietly tipped off Landon about the town limit sign coming up. Landon took the sign from Andrew.

It wasn't a particularly long ride - 16.88 miles, actually - but it was a ride, and it was what I needed. I hung out for a bit, and chatted with some of the faster guys as they arrived. Then I went home and watched the end of the Brasstown Bald stage of the Tour de Georgia on OLN.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
  in which fred takes us to the lake
Ainsley and I met at 9:00 at the fountain today for a quick warm-up loop before the club ride. The way out was predictable, and if you've read this blog long enough, you know the route as well as I do - out along the trail, through Wisewood, right on 221, left on 225, and then across U.S. 25 South along Scotch Cross road towards Ninety Six. The original plan called for turning off onto Hitching Post Road, a dirt road we'd both been curious about but had never ridden down.

Down the road we went, swapping stories as always. I had a chance to tell Ainsley about a conversation I'd recently had with Ana.

"We were watching TV, and they had some ad with vignettes of people doing unconventional things, right? Well, one of the vignettes was people racing lawn mowers," I said. "I told her I'd seen a couple of articles about that.

Ainsley nodded.

"Well, she looked up at the screen, then looked over at me and said, deadpan, totally serious, 'I don't ever want to hear in the same sentence about you, Ainsley, and lawn mower racing.' "

He howled with laughter. "If we DO get into lawn mower racing, we'd have to do something with a pushmower and some forks ..."

"Oh, like one of those reel mowers?"

"Yeah, but with some sort of fixed-gearing," he said.

The wind was ferocious, and directly in our faces. By the time we hit 225, I was grateful I'd chosen to ride Belle, my bike with the most gears to choose from. When we hit 25 South, we stopped and considered our options. We finally decided to take 25 back to town, arriving at 10 minutes till.

John Lake, aka Campbell, was waiting, as was David Craig. Strawhorne arrived, then Fred rolled up. Jim rode up a minute later, benefiting from living in town now that he's married. Landon the Silent arrived, Andrew Douglas shocked us by riding when the temperature was below 70 degrees.

We had a spirited discussion of routes before deciding to let Fred lead us out to the lake. We rode down Main and hooked our way over to Durst Avenue, crossing the bypass and riding towards Laurens County.

Of course we were spread out into small bunches as we went. I sat on Ainsley's wheel for a while heading out of town. Beyond the bypass, a gap opened between us, and Jim came around me and tucked in. A couple of miles further and I slipped off the back a bit. Strawhorne rode behind me, explaining that he'd burned a few matches too many on his raging ride Thursday evening.

It's been five years at least since I've descended the big hill on the Old Laurens Highway to the bridge over Lake Greenwood. I was wondering about the climb, but Fred led us left almost immediately onto Sulfer Springs Road.

I'd forgotten what it was like to climb like that. Seriously, the narrow road with the jerky shifts in grade was just like Route 602 in Ferrum, Virginia, the road I learned about climbing and pain on circa 1974. I downshifted and settled in, never quite losing sight of everyone else, but not quite catching them, either.

They were waiting for me at the stop sign where Sulfer Springs crosses Riverton. We had to pry Andrew off the other side of Sulfer Springs, which had nice new asphalt - "My bike saw a smooth road and wanted to go there," he said - and turned right, eventually making another turn and getting to experience a tailwind. Ainsley and I were in agreement that we needed pictures, but his batteries had died, while I had foolishly left my camera at home.

The climb back up from the bridge was one I would once have described as a monster. Today, while I once again slipped off the back, I just chugged along until I rejoined them. We took a different route back, going left onto Highway 246 for a couple of miles until we reached Coronaca and took a right onto Bucklevel Road. I hadn't ridden that road since the early '80s, when I used to ride with Rick Flowe and Scott Reese. I fell off the back on those rides a lot, too.

We were once again stretched out into several small bunches. As I approached some rail road tracks, Campbell was urging me to hasten before the train arrived. Of course, there was no train.

"Yeah, I was pulling your leg on that," he said. "Then I thought, 'you know, that might not be such a good thing to do.' "

I settled in on his back wheel and said, "Yeah, but knowing that something might not be a good idea doesn't always stop us, now, does it?"

We reached Durst, where Fred was watching us pass from his driveway. We waved goodbye and headed on in to town. I said my goodbyes and peeled off onto North and headed home. Total mileage was 36.95 miles, not bad for a very windy day with some stiff hills. Pity about the lack of photos, though.
Friday, April 28, 2006
  a more laid-back thursday night

After Tuesday night's ride, I felt like seeing how Belle would handle the Callaham Challenge course. I was figuring I would do my usual early launch from the parking lot and warm up on my own, with the knowledge that the speedy crew would overtake me at some point along the way.

When I arrived, Connie was at the ride's start. She was looking for ride partners for her second ride since crashing in Pendleton. I figured I'd had my hard ride for the week, and when Campbell declared he'd had the same, we formed up with her and rolled on out.

I let Campbell pull, with Connie following him while I brought up the rear. Almost immediately I settled in on the drops. We made pretty good time down Old Abbeville, and didn't lose much momentum on the hill just past Hunter's Creek. Between the house that used to have the German Shepherd and Allen Chapel, we were overtaken by Jim Cox, Strawhorne, and a couple of other riders. They buzzed on by and we watched them go up the road.

There was more traffic than I'm used to seeing on 72, but we only had about 100 yards of it before turning off near Ebenezer Church. I came around to the front on the last descent before the bridge, going in to a full aero tuck. I could tell I was aboard the Rivendell and not Stripe the Mercian Colorado - Belle's slightly longer wheelbase, wider handlebars, and slacker geometry all contributed to feeling a bit more upright, but not unpleasantly so. It was a different sort of stable, controllable feel, still enjoyable even if it took a touch more effort to lift into a pseudo bunny-hop over the joint where road and bridge meet.

I churned up the long, nasty hill, complete with its false flat. I shifted down to the 38T ring and spun along to the summit, then waited at the intersection of Stevenson Road. Connie made pretty good time up the hill, especially since she's still favoring a recently fractured elbow.

I snapped a couple of quick pictures and we were off again. Connie and Campbell fell into a conversation, while I got back down in the drops and pulled ahead, shifting up onto the 50T ring and alternating between the 21 and 23T cogs on the long false flat. I was almost to the Old Abbeville-Hodges road when I heard voices behind me. I cranked off a couple of quick shots with what Josh described as the "infamous $9 camera" as he passed me.

Zac was waiting for us at the intersection. "I've already ridden 75 km today," he said. I chatted with him a moment, then Campbell and Connie arrived. We hung out for a moment, while Bradley drifted back to us, then decided to ride in with us. He really wanted the longer route, but that's life.

Back towards Hodges we went. I tucked in behind Bradley and Zac, who were taking it easy and talking. They pulled me along for a while, then I slipped off the back on the hill past the bridge near the church. Not a biggie - I waited for Campbell and Connie at the intersection with Klugh.

From there, it was an easy enough ride. We climbed up to 185, then I led us on into Hodges. We reformed on Dixie, where a truck had broken down in the road near the site of the crash a couple of weeks back - we all felt a little freaked out by the flashing lights at first. It wasn't the pace Zac had set last week, but it was still pretty decent, and before long we were at the juncture with Deadfall.

We picked up another cyclist, and I'm ashamed to admit that my name memory failure has dropped his. Nice young guy on a Tommaso, who tucked in behind me as I followed Campbell and Connie down past the flea market and onto Calhoun. I was feeling the need to stand up periodically now after riding close to the rivet for much of the evening. The drops were still the natural position, though, and I loved the feel of the big pale blue bike on the smooth new surface of Calhoun Road. At the end of the ride, I had 25.7 miles, which wasn't bad for a Thursday evening after a long work day.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
  a coupla club rides

Sunday I was pleasantly surprised to see a large and diverse turnout for the club ride out of Hodges. We had the usual fast guys, guys who want to be fast, and some slower folks as well. Even better - the pace leaving town wasn't brutal at all.

I rode Stripe again, and again thought to myself, "I need to get a better saddle." The eBay-scrounged Vetta worked all right for a while, but I find I want to ride this bike further, and a Brooks Pro or Swift looks like the answer.

We went out 185 and took the usual left onto Blue Jay, staying the course as it became Old Abbeville-Hodges. Vonona hadn't been riding much this year and started falling off the back. I dropped back a couple of times, and the group stopped at McIlwain before going right towards Due West. When we hit 203, Vonona announced she wished to head back. Landon the Silent's father, Larry, also felt like heading back, so they rode off. I paced Donis up to John Campbell Lake and David Craig, who were trailing Landon, David Strawhorne, Bradley and newlywed Big Ring Jim Cox.

When we hit the intersection with 20, John suggested we take Central Shiloh a little further and take in some of the dirt roads I'd missed a couple of weeks back. Landon and Donis were game, so we rolled out, while the others did an out and back.

"It's Stump Road," Campbell said. "Or Strom, or Sharp, or something like that. It'll be on the right."

I looked at him.

"I think," he said. "I think it'll be on the right."

Sure enough, Sharp Lane emerged, and I pointed Stripe in the right direction. It's a narrow road, complete with pasture fences right against the shoulder. I could have reached out and scratched several of the cows as I passed, but decided the barbed wire was something I wanted to avoid. Young Landon surged ahead a couple of times, while Donis and Campbell took the pace at an easier pace.

The asphalt-bound were waiting at Sharp's terminus on Strawhorne Road. I stopped and took a long pull on my water bottle and watched Donis and Campbell appear. Doing that may have jinxed them - Campbell announced he had gotten a flat in the last 20 yards of Sharp. For once, I stayed out of the way and let other folks replace a tube, which probably sped the process up dramatically.

We took the shorter route back to 20, then hooked around to ride 185 back to Hodges. Campbell and Donis had ridden to the start, and they peeled off for their respective homes. When we crested the first hill on 185, the pace got picked up dramatically. I found myself chasing David Craig's wheel with Strawhorne sitting on mine, at one point pedaling down a slight incline and hitting 34 mph. I decided that was enough and settled down a bit. All the same, Strawhorne and I made good time past Porky Pine Acres.

Landon and David were waiting at the intersection with 203; Bradley had forged on ahead, while Jim doubled back, not realizing that Donis and Campbell had headed for home. While we waited for him to return, I heard a commotion in the woods across the road. A moment later, a German Shepherd, a Boxer, and a bulldog emerged, crossed the road, and headed on down the shoulder for a ways. They were expensive looking dogs, it seemed to me, and I always worry when I see somebody's pet close to the highway. About the time I thought that, they ducked into the woods.

Jim returned and we headed back in. By the time we were at the cars, I had 24.1 miles for the day.

I've been meaning to put more miles on Belle, because even though I haven't decided whether I'll do the metric or the English century, that's the bike I intend to ride in Vidalia in a couple of weeks. I walked out to the garage today, looked at my blue Rivendell for a minute, and set it up in the little Nitto rack. Three minutes later I had removed the fenders, shedding about a pound and a half and the winter look. I mean, it's late April, right?

We had a diverse group gathered at the Y. Vonona and Donis were there, Connie was back for the first time since her crash, and Larry joined them, completing one bunch. David Knecht was there as well, in addition to a bunch of fast guys.

I felt brave, so I left with the faster guys, getting one shot over my shoulder as we rolled through the neighborhood. The large pack held together down Pine Road and onto Dixie, but shortly after the split with Deadfall Road, a couple of the tri-guys went off the front, Fuji Norm went after them, and suddenly the spend went way up. I looked down, saw 28 mph on my cyclo computer, and sat up. Fast Fred was just ahead of me, and appeared amused when I said, "They don't pay me to ride fast."

I found myself riding with Fred, David and Landon. Fred sent Landon to the front to pull, and the pace hovered around 19-20 as we headed out to Hodges. A couple of times David and I fell off, Fred brought the pace down, and we reformed. We blew through town and headed out 185, passing Blue Jay for a change and taking Pickens Creek/Klugh Road for a change.

I found myself at the front, and called over my shoulder to Fred, "I'm not in contention for it. I'm just leading y'all out."

"You're doing a great job," he said.

A minute later the county line sign appeared. Landon made his move off the back earlier than I expected, actually taking the sign from Fred. David and I watched, neither of us in any mood to race around at that point. I reminded David that riding in this direction, we'd get to do the brutal climb on the second hill.

I felt good going up the hill to the first intersection, managing to stay on the 50T ring for the duration and using fixed-gear-strengthened back muscles to get me where I wanted to be. I didn't shift down fast enough on the second hill, and stood on the bike with my hands in the drops and muscled up it.

On the drops. For the zillionth time in the last couple of weeks, I was aware of how much more I'm using the drops these days. It felt right, and every time I started to feel tired, I settled down near the ends and dug deep and felt better immediately.

Down the length of Old Abbeville we rode, taking it easy. Fred went to the front, Landon followed him, I sat on his wheel with David on mine. When we started down the descent, I could see Landon peering around Fred at the signs approaching.

"Yes, it is," I said. That was all it took. He launched his attack, Fred responded a touch too late, and Landon had two signs for the day. We made him pull up the next hill, occasionally asking him to hold up his pace. We took the long way in, going out to Beaudrot and coming back to the Y by Cambridge Academy. I had 22.5 miles at about 16.6 mph average, and felt well and truly exercised. It was a good ride, and I look forward to Thursday.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
  tour de georgia and catching up

Ana and I have a new tradition. We drive down to catch the finish of Stage 1 of the Tour de Georgia in Macon, eat really good Italian food, stay overnight at a great bed and breakfast, then come back to Greenwood the next day.

We got to town and checked in to the 1842 Inn, Macon's coolest b & b, then collected the cooler and walked a couple of blocks down the street to Washington Park. Built in the '30s by the W.P.A., it's possibly my favorite park ever. It's small, hilly, and splits the difference between small-town Southern and Japanese garden. We picnicked on turkey-stuffed pitas, roasted asparagus and home-made potato salad, then walked down Orange Terrace. We passed Washington Square, aka the Atlantis, which had originally been called the Novarro - yes, the exterior was redone, but allegedly they didn't save any of the original architectural details on the inside.

Near the other end of the block we stopped in front of the Palisades. Of all the apartments I ever had, the only one I ever really loved was my downstairs flat in that glorious 1905 structure. The landlord, a retired urologist, lived in the building. Sometimes he'd have a bit too much to drink and would play 1930s cocktail jazz piano at 2:00 in the morning, but it was all right - he was a good pianist. I lived there for less than 11 months, but I have great memories of the place. I paid $200 a month to live there. The place has since been renovated into condos. The last time my old place was on the market, the asking price was $285,000. Ana snapped a picture of me in front of the building, then we walked back towards the park.

On the way, we stopped at what was once Capitol Cycle shop at the corner of Orange and Washington. It's a coffee shop now, a nice one, with wireless internet access and good beverages and polite, helpful staff. It was weird for me, though. I kept looking towards the corner, half expecting to see the stunning chromed '60s Paramount I had admired for more than 20 years. It was on a big rack, chained for safekeeping. That one, at least, got saved. When Capitol decided to move, two flatbed trucks worth of vintage bikes in the basement went to the scrapyard and were cut up within 72 hours. We got our coffees and headed back to the Inn.

Last year we hung out downtown and watched the big sprint from about 100 meters away from the finish line. There's not as much to see there, even if the peloton does roar past four times on the circuit through the city streets. This year, we decided we'd watch from the sidewalk in front of the Inn. We were maybe 40 yards from the crest of the last hill on the course. From there, you get the long view as the racers come around the corner from Washington onto College Street.

There was time for a leisurely loll on the front porch. I read the Macon Telegraph's articles on the race, including the information on the area's cycling clubs. I was amazed at how few cyclists the clubs apparently had - the Greenwood Cycling Club has been able to muster more riders in past years. Ana was not impressed with the paper, and I realized that I could remember that I once worked for the Telegraph, but it felt like another lifetime ago.

It was time. We walked out to the brick sidewalk. Ana had her $9 pencam and mine, and I had the Canon. The first three times the pack roared by they were on the opposite side of the road. The last time, they flew past on our side, maybe three or four feet away from where we sat. I could feel my hair being blown around as they rolled past while I keep taking pictures.

It wasn't just the peloton that I focused on. The stragglers were amazing to watch, especially the last guy. When someone asked why the car following him had brooms attached to the front bumper, I explained that they were there to sweep the field - and that the last rider would die before he got into that car if he could help it.

After the race, we ate at Olive Garden before going shopping at Barnes and Nobles. The next day we did some more shopping before heading for home where a project awaited us. We were up late Wednesday framing the five digital paintings Ana had going to Altered Esthetics' show in Minneapolis, a task that we had hoped to do a week earlier before discovering Ana's supplier had shipped her the wrong size frames. It all came together in time, and they were ready for overnight delivery by bedtime.

Thursday I rode with the club. Speedy Young Zac was there, and he wound up pulling the group I rode with along 185 and down Dixie at much faster speeds than I am accustomed to. Surprisingly for me, I hung on, and at the end of the ride found I'd done 25.6 miles with an average speed of 17.95 mph, which is much faster than I normally manage.

Saturday's club ride was probably rained out - I was running late due to a family automobile emergency, but I still managed to sneak in a 20.5 mile ride. It was much slower than Thursday's pace, but I was still happy.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
  fixed-gears in warm weather

I was running late this morning, and wondering who would be waiting for me at the fountain this morning. At 9:05 I showed up for the 9:00 ride and found - no one. About five minutes later I saw Ainsley riding up from his office down the street. We chatted for a moment, and suddenly Kickstand Danny drove up with his new bike hanging off a trunk-mounted rack.

"I'll need your hood there, Danny," I said, and I spread out the enormous map on the hood of his car. Fabricated by photocopying numerous pages from the 1989 S.C. road atlas, it covered Greenwood, Abbeville, and portions of Laurens, Saluda, Edgefield, McCormick and Newberry counties. Ainsley made properly appreciative noises, particularly since he'd left his map at the office.

It emerged that Danny would be turning off early so he could attend a prior commitment, so I proposed a route he could turn off and do a short loop from, while Ainsley and I set out for a longer jaunt.

"Let's go down Rock House. You can cut off onto Whitehall, then hook a right onto Briarwood and head back into town," I said. Danny nodded - he'd done that route in reverse a couple of times. "Meanwhile, Ainsley and I will go on down to the end of Rock House, go right, then left onto Millpond. We'll go right on Millway, which becomes Cedar Springs, then go back through Promised Land and back to Greenwood. Sound good?"

Apparently it did, because we headed out. We went down the length of the trail, avoiding Mineral Court - there was a shooting there last weekend, and I figured I'd pass on ducking bullets - and we maintained a conversational pace. The wind was up, and I spent a lot of time in the drops.

I made the mistake of mentioning that Ana had made some oat milk last night, which led to the inevitable conversation about oatmeal that Ainsley and I always wind up having. We hadn't reached Florida Avenue when he said, "We're in trouble. We normally don't have this conversation until several miles later. We're gonna be hungry."

"Yeah, you're right," I said. "I'm sure we'll regret this."

The Rock House was its usual enigmatic self, a little less visible due to new vegetation. My hands were getting numb from bouncing over the bumpy tarmac, and I wondered how I'd feel in a few miles. A few minutes later, Danny peeled off and we headed for the Greenwood County Steppe - a ridge that had been clear cut and was only now starting to grow back. The wind was in our faces, of course.

I worried about Millpond Road. I had led a bunch of riders onto that road about five years ago and discovered it had been re-gravelled in the week between my scouting trip and the group ride. Today, there was some relatively fresh rock in the first few hundred yards, but it rapidly settled down to a tight, well-packed mix of red clay and sand. Later, I realized that the 1.8 miles of Millpond were an oasis of smooth road surrounded by miles of bumpy tar and gravel roads.

Our route went right, but we went left for a moment so we could check out Calabash Road.

"There it is," I said. "The Gateway to Troy starts here."

Ainsley looked at it. "Tempting. Wish we had time," he said.

"When do you need to be back?"

"Oh, a little before 2:00 if I'm to be home by 2:30," he said.

I calculated, then nodded. "Not today, but sometime soon," I said. And we will do it, because there are a whole mess of interesting looking dirt roads out that way.

We took some pictures, then headed out along what I am told was once a Confederate supply route that runs through Abbeville. The fierce dogs I remembered from past rides were gone, or asleep, or something, and we rumbled along over the bumps in peace. We did, however, spook a bunny. He darted out from the right side of the road and ran in front of us for 20 yards or so before he ducked into the underbrush to the left and disappeared. Our laughing chorus of "Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit!" probably hastened his flight.

We crossed Highway 221 with not a car in sight and hit the rollers at a touring pace. The last time I'd done the descents on this road, I was on Belle, and had coasted down in an aero tuck. Today, I went slower, controlling the speed with my feet and and spinning steadily. The second descent let us out onto a bridge that spans a great little swampy wetland.

"I'm almost tempted to stop to take some pictures," I said.

"All right," Ainsley said. "Let's check out this little spur here."

The spur took us down to the edge of a pond surrounded by beaver-gnawed stumps. We both broke out our $9 pencams and went to town. About that time, Ainsley realized he had indeed lost a water bottle on one of the descents, so he doubled back.

I rode back out onto the bridge and took some more photos. I just missed getting a picture of an enormous snapping turtle - I saw him gliding ever deeper into the water under the bridge. I admired a beaver dam and watched the large black butterflies. Ainsley had earlier told me of the kamikaze Tiger Swallowtails that zeroed in on his head while riding, and we speculated on what would happen if you gave a male Tiger Swallowtail large doses of testosterone. Would you get a big butterfly that demanded beer and swatted women on the butt while demanding sandwiches? Hopefully, we'll never know.

I was beginning to think I would need to go check on him when he came back down the hill. The bottle had fallen out of the saddle-mounted cage two miles back. One more climb, and we passed Watson Hill Road and were back on our route from two weeks ago.

I had wondered if we would encounter anyone from the 10:00 ride, but they must have taken another route. We stopped to take pictures one more time - in Greenwood, Victory Road is a dead end - and wound up having a conversation in the middle of the road with Stephen Shenal, one of our faster local riders.

I was feeling the miles by the time we hit downtown, but it was nice knowing I could have gone further. Still, my water bottles were empty, I'd eaten my last sandwich, and it was time to go home. I spun along at a steady pace and was home a few minutes after 1:00 with 44.09 miles for the day.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
  back on the bike

Tuesday I got to ride, which was delightful. We pulled out from the Y parking lot in a decent sized bunch and headed out Pine towards Deadfall Road. By the time we got to Dixie Drive, Joy had decided to bail and head back, the victim of a cold that just wouldn't quit.

Duann held up and let me catch her wheel. We watched Josh and the other speedy guys go on up the road. Rolling into Hodges, we commented on John Lake's car and wondered if we'd see him. Maybe three miles later we found him waiting along with David Knecht at the intersection of 185 and Blue Jay Road.

I was surprised when we hit the fierce second hill on Klugh Road. The grade on this rascal is brutal and steep, and I've suffered horribly on occasion. On the other hand, there was one Thursday ride in 2000 when we were fleeing a thunderstorm. I was at the bottom, behind several other riders, when there was this clap of thunder RIGHT over my head, and the air sizzled behind me like a lightning bolt was homing in on my rear hub. I'm a legendarily bad climber, but that day I flew up the hill, blowing past guys who normally drop me like a bad habit.

Anyway, Tuesday I charged along down the hill, then charged up the brutal one. Something was going right - I stayed on Stripe's 53T ring, shifting when necessary in the back but charging up the grade and passing everyone. We wound up coming back in via Dixie Drive, and I felt nicely worked over. It was only 20.6 miles, but that counts, right?

Today's ride went very nicely. I headed out a few minutes early, giving me a chance to warm up at my own pace. I got across the county line and climbed the mid-point of the old time trial course before I saw the pack rushing towards me. I tried without success to get a shot or two of them, then they were rolling past. The first trio blew past, then a minute later the main pack caught me. Tom said hello as he passed, as did clan Ronan, pere et fils. I took a deep breath, gritted my teeth and tucked in behind Josh.

Josh is tall, something over 6 feet. He's in good shape, broadshouldered - and ideal to draft off. So I did. I shifted up and hung onto his back wheel for dear life. I glanced down at the cycle computer a couple of times and discovered we were rolling along at 24 mph on the flat. I'm not used to that. I managed to hang with them to the end of Old Abbeville Highway, then let them go up the road.

David Strawhorne had decided to hold back and ride with me, so we slowed up a touch. By the time we made the turn off 72 near Ebenezer Church, John Lake and young Landon the Silent had caught us. We rumbled down the macadam to the bridge. Strawhorne charged the hill, Landon followed with John's encouragement, and John and I shifted down and sat up, rolling steadily up past the false summit and on towards the turn onto Stevenson.

I noticed the Fuji fork on John's Specialized Roubaix and got the story about Sunday's ride. He had noticed some slop in his steering out on the road but had attributed it to a need for adjustment. When he got home watched OLN and saw George Hincapie's fall in Paris-Roubaix. He thought about it, went out to the garage, and found a frightening crack in his steerer tube near the stem.

As we reached the top, David Knecht and Jim Cox rolled up on us - at least, until Jim dropped his chain. We regrouped at the intersection, and I snapped a couple of quick pictures. We rolled along at a moderate pace, for which I was most grateful. When we got to the Old Abbeville-Hodges road, we found Landon, Andrew Douglas, and John's son Speedy Young Zac waiting for us.

There was no stopping for rest - we churned our way up the first hill, then descended past funky little houses. Another climb, another long descent, down past a church and towards the bridge over the creek. I flashed on a memory of walking across on a girder while wearing Look cleats back when the bridge was being rebuilt in 2000 or so, then it was time to downshift and climb. I dropped off the back, but not too far, and David K. and I chatted and watched the speedier members of our gruppetto duke it out for the county line sign.

A little while later we caught up to John. "They out-maneuvered me," he said. "I wound up leading 'em all out, and at the end I just didn't have it. I burned all my matches."

By the time we got to 185, we were joined by Jim. We rolled up the road in a compact bunch, the pace picked up, and I found I was riding better than I had any excuse to. The last part of the climb is gentle, but I'm not used to doing it at 19 mph. Stripe was under me, though, and continuing to pull my aging body along. It's just a bike, but this one just feels like it wants to go, constantly challenging and demanding more.

Onto Dixie Drive now, and the pace ratcheted up. I looked down and found we were rolling at 22 mph, sometimes 23, which doesn't sound like much, but again I'm normally much slower. Halfway to Flatwood, David was falling off the back of John's wheel, so I cranked a little harder, came around him and pulled him back towards the group. Between Flatwood and Lagrone, I had to drop back, but the speedier guys were waiting for us at the intersection with Deadfall. We rocked along, past the flea market and the skating rink and turned onto Calhoun for the last run in. I couldn't hang onto the wheels long, but before they dropped me, I managed to come alongside Zac, David and Jim and get some action pix.

I settled in, running on the big ring and wondering how much of an effect, if any, new parts will have on Stripe. I concentrated on making perfect circles, then shifted up for the slight downhill section. I was glad I had sense enough to downshift for the right turn onto Beaudrot - for some reason, the tiny climb was getting to me - and then I was rolling into the parking lot. I had 25.66 miles and a 17 mph average on a course I normally do somewhere around 14-15.
Monday, April 10, 2006
  of rain, prior commitments, and the exercise bike

For weeks, I'd been looking forward to a special club 50+ mile ride that young Andrew Evans had plotted out. The route includes several miles of dirt roads, and it sounded promising.

Then it emerged that the forecast called for massive thunderstorms Saturday, so the ride was moved to Sunday. Unfortunately, another I had another commitment so I missed the rescheduled running of the Ware Shoals-Roubaix classic. As so many race fans have said, "next year."

Saturday I rose a little later than normal and checked the weather. Maybe there was an opportunity to get a few miles in, I thought. I ate breakfast, puttered around a bit, then stepped outside to get the paper. It was starting to rain, and I figured it would probably become torrential soon enough, so I decided to stay in.

It was frustrating. The rain played hide and seek most of the day. When it did rain, it was just enough to convince me that I'd just wind up somewhere in the middle of nowhere and get buckets of rain dumped on me. The forecast called for really scary thunderstorms, and there were all sorts of dire warnings about dangerous weather. Riding the rain is normally not a big deal to me, but I didn't feel like it, I didn't feel like being struck by lightning, and I didn't feel like riding alone, so there.

Finally, about 11:30 I decided I'd settle for an hour on an indoor bike. I dug out the folding exercise bike I'd bought for $5 from a local thrift store a couple of years back and set it up in the garage. I hung a water bottle cage on the bars, fished my heart monitor out of the drawer and strapped it on. I moved the folding repair stand closer to the bike to hold a towel. I stepped back and looked it all over and pronounced the arrangements good.

Ruby the cat had never before seen the exercise bike in action, and bless her heart, she got a mild thump on the head when she walked into the path of the pedals. I apologized, she looked at me and sat down a few feet away. I settled into pedaling, working on turning perfect circles and all that.

The bike flexed a bit under me, encouraging my pursuit of form over force. It's a strange exercycle. Unlike most of them, it doesn't have the usual chain driving a heavy wheel with a strap or brake pad providing resistance. Instead, it has a flywheel arrangement on the left that whirls around four times for each crank revolution. As I warmed to my task, periodically I'd reach up to the Huret shifter near the stem and adjust the tension of the felt-covered brake pad inside the housing.

The bike might have had Raleigh transfers, but even if several parts weren't stamped "Bianchi" the old style Celeste paint would have given it away. It's the old, old version of Celeste, not the pistachio color they use today. As always, I remembered the story of Jim Cunningham of CyclArt at an Interbike show. As he relayed it, the Bianchi reps were giving away Celeste-colored buttons. Cunningham asked, "Is this really THE official color?" They said yes, it was, so he asked for something like ten of them for his workforce to be used as color references for restorations. Almost immediately all present began laughing - there were several obviously different shades of the color just in the small sample of buttons he received.

I continued spinning along, feeling the sweat beginning to come down my forehead. I was grateful I'd left a towel within reach. My heart rate settled in just under 100 bpm and I sat up long enough to peel off my shirt and drape it over a projection on the repair stand. Periodically I'd stand up on the bike to ease my posterior - the ancient Wrights W3N saddle isn't quite what my hindparts are used to - and I'd gingerly keep the pedals turning.

I avoided putting too much force into anything, because the exercycle isn't the most stable feeling example of its breed I've encountered. For that matter, the ancient French AVA handlebars don't lend themselves to powerful standing riding - this particular variant started life on a Peugeot PX-10E equipped with the infamous AVA "death stem."

After I felt sufficiently warmed up, I started accelerating, driving my heart rate up to around 120, then letting it wind back down again. It seemed to me I was generating the same amount of power I'd been churning out on the exercise bike last year, but at a lower heart rate. My memory is that this level of exertion ran me up to 140 or so last winter.

I was pouring sweat by this point - a fan would have been a VERY good thing, I decided - and the cycle of revving up my heart rate, then taching back down, began to happen in shorter bursts. At fifty minutes, the half-full water bottle was empty. I spun the cranks up to full speed one last time, the heart rate monitor registered 140 or so, and I sat back and watched the numbers come back down. It was down to about 90 bpm in approximately 1 minute, 15 seconds, down around 80 bpm another minute later.

I toweled off and went in to have lunch. That would have to do.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
  thursday night's ride
I don't usually get to do the Thursday night ride. My work schedule calls for me to be at the library until 6:00 on that night, and 6:00 is when the ride starts. But I figured it was worth using an hour of annual leave to do the first Callaham Challenge of the season, so I filled out the leave slip and headed out the door at 5:00.

Ana had fixed me a couple of peanut-butter-and-raisin-on-pita sandwiches to take with me on the ride. I'd prepped Stripe the night before with some chain lube, adjusting the indexed shifting until the chain moved smartly from cog to cog. There were two full bottles cooling in the party fridge in the garage, clean shorts and jersey and cycling socks laid out - I was ready.

When I got to the parking lot, I saw Speedy Young Zac's car with an empty rack and deduced he had already headed out for a warm-up. Big Ring Jim Cox showed up, then John Lake and others began filtering in. We teased Jim about it being his last ride as a single man - he was marrying his long-time sweetie Jackie on Friday.

I thought about the pace Sunday and made my decision. "I'm going to head out early," I told John. "You guys can catch up with me in a little while, but this will hopefully let me warm up at my own pace."

"Okay, let's meet up where Stevenson Road comes in," John said. I agreed and headed out onto Old Abbeville Highway. A few hundred yards along, I shifted up onto the big ring and settled in. I'm normally pretty slow, but I got the old bike rolling along at a brisk clip, at least for me. When I got to county line, I was holding to an 18 mph average, which doesn't sound like much, but it was for me. I finished the climb, grateful I didn't have the thundering herd fighting it out for the sign around me, then got onto the flat. The big German shepherd wasn't out on his chain, and I wondered if he was still around, or if he'd died over the winter. Then on past the intersection with Mill/Klugh Road and going for Highway 72.

I sat up, drank, and coasted to a crawl at the stop sign, decided I liked the gap, and turned right. My average speed had fallen some, down to 17.5 or so, but I figured I had a good time gap anyway, and starting early was the only way I'd ever have that.

I took the right near Ebenezer Church and started the long descent to the bridge, bumping along on the rough macadam. For the zillionth time I wondered if a Brooks Pro would be more comfortable on Spike, then I hit the really fast part of the descent and was busy making myself small and flat along the top tube.

The climb up from the bridge is a nasty piece of work, but I chugged on up it. There have been times in my life when it has beaten me, but this time it was just a hill. I got to the intersection with Stevenson and sat up, then turned and stopped. I drank some water and cooled off. That was no good, so I started riding up and down the road between the Old Greenwood Highway and 72, just trying to keep everything loose. After a dozen minutes went by, I concluded that next time I would either not leave quite so early, or I'd agree to meet up further on the ride.

I was at the far end of the little jog when I turned and saw the first riders making the turn onto Stevenson. It looked like Zac towing someone else. I rode back and watched most of the pack roar by, then rode small circles while John, Jim, Duann, and a couple of other riders finished the climb. Almost immediately they accelerated, and I was working hard to stay on a wheel.

"This is Landon," John said, indicating the adolescent on the red Specialized. "Feel free to give him advice and pointers. He takes it pretty well, and he doesn't say anything back."

That was an understatement. For the next hour, I didn't hear a word pass the lad's lips. Who could blame him - no doubt he wasn't sure if he could trust me with any information at all. Considering how disreputable old Stripe looks, it makes sense.

We rolled along, and the pace finally settled down a bit. Landon was apparently on only his fourth ride with the club. I watched him, riding back a bit from his rear wheel. He had a fast cadence, a little jerky maybe, but he looked like a natural who with a little setup work and some practice would have great soupplesse and a great spin.

We turned right onto the old Hodges-Abbeville road and started climbing. I hung with the group for a while, but on the big climb up from the bridge near the church, I drifted off the back. I saw John sit up and regained his wheel near the top. Jim was already gone off the front, powering on in. Duann and Landon were up ahead, their red jerseys moving along down onto Blue Jay.

We let them go. John and I talked about Deal or No Deal and its combination of sheer raw greed with gaming strategy; county line signs and great sprints for them; and best of all, the cheesy cutouts of lounging cowgirls decorating the fenceline of the farm at midpoint on the hill.

"I think he took some liberties with that pattern when he cut those out," John said.

I looked. One of the cowgirls appeared to have a replica of Anna Nicole Smith's bustline, but bigger and even more cartoon-like. "I believe you're right," I said.

Once on 185 towards Hodges, we could see Duann and Landon maintaining a steady pace ahead of us. I sat up for a moment in Hodges, then we rolled on.

In hindsight, it's weird. I looked back and saw a red car coming up on us and called out, "Car back." John nodded, the car passed us, then accelerated, the engine growling louder. I noticed it was a Camaro or some such thing, and I could see the driver and no one else. His pace ratcheted up and he went burning on up the road and around the corner.

"I do believe that fellow is exceeding the speed limit," I told John. He agreed, we chuckled, and I figured he was like who knows how many motorists that go by at great speed. A moment later, I saw a flash of red as the car turned onto Dixie Drive and roared on. A moment later we followed, more slowly of course, with me sitting on John's wheel.

I don't really remember what we were chit-chatting about, but we saw Duann and Landon ahead. We were rolling along at 19, fast enough to get somewhere but not burn me up like a book of matches, and then there was a turn ahead that the riders in red had gone around already.

We made the turn and I saw cars stopped in the road, bikes on their sides by the roadside, and Duann and Landon standing on the shoulder. I was wondering if they had crashed or if Jim had come to grief when I saw the red car.

No one had seen it happen, but it looked like the driver had taken the curve at high speed and lost control. The car wound up pointing back the way it had come, on its side after apparently hitting a tree roof first. It was eerily still. For some reason, probably to keep it from being too real, I noticed rust and road dirt on its underside.

One of the motorists had climbed up to check on the driver; another had called 911 on her cell phone. Duann came back down the hill from checking to make certain no one had been thrown from the vehicle.

We spoke to the gathering bystanders, agreed we could only add to the confusion, and headed on towards Greenwood feeling more than a little spooked. We left the road a couple of times as emergency vehicles came out from town with lights and sirens going, watching them pass from the grassy shoulders.

Back at the starting point, riders began trickling in small clumps. There was lots of talk from the fast guys doing the longer route who had run up on the wreck site after the emergency personnel arrived. We speculated, mostly wondering why he'd been driving so fast.

I went home and hung Spike up on his pegs. I had 27 miles for the day, and Ana had supper waiting for me.

Today's paper had a three inch story on page 2 about a man dying in a single car accident on Dixie Drive Thursday. He was my age, 44.
Sunday, April 02, 2006
  JJR crash, getting dropped, a good club ride and an anniversary

Saturday I loaded Belle up into the bed of the truck and drove up to Pendleton to ride the Jubilee Joy Ride. It's been a few years since I did this one. It's a hilly ride with 28 and 63 mile routes, and it's always the first Saturday in April. It's pretty much the first official event ride of the season around here, and historically, it's been the first warm ride of the year. In past years I've come back with sunburned legs.

I got off to a later start than I planned, and it naturally took me longer to get there than I hoped for. I still wanted to do the metric century, though. I was unloading the bike when David Craig, Greenwood Cycling Club member and long-term cyclist showed up. Apparently, we had a crew from the GCC up for the ride, and the plan was to ride the shorter route. I figured I could ride that much with them, then see if I still wanted to do the metric.

I took some quick photos before we took off, getting shots of Joanne and Alan Burkette, Bill Thomson, Connie Boltz and David Craig.

Of course we broke up on the way out. I found myself on David's wheel as we watched the Burkette's tandem and Bill's Trek go up the road, while Connie was adrift a couple of hundred yards behind us. We stopped and regrouped on Fants Grove Road.

The Burkettes were leading aboard their Burley tandem; I was directly behind them, and had settled into the drops for the slight descent we were on. I noted we were going about 18 mph, and I was just beginning to think this might be a good ride after all when there was a huge crashing sound behind me.

I glanced over my shoulder, taking in David Craig riding behind me, and saw at least one rider lying in the road. "Rider down!" I yelled at Joanne and Alan, and I slowed enough to do a U-turn and ride back.

It looked pretty bad at the scene. Bill was out cold and Connie was bleeding from a scalp wound. It turned out she had fractures to her elbow and sinus bones and a concussion in addition to the cut. Bill got a broken forearm, lots of road rash, and was unconscious for several. They both left the scene in an ambulance bound for the hospital in Anderson. David later described it as the worst wreck he'd ever seen that didn't involve a car.

So we rode back to the start - where I discovered I'd left my regular glasses and my sunglasses case at the crash site while digging around in my saddlebag. I drove down, found my stuff, then followed David to the hospital. Both crash victims were doing better, so I headed back to Greenwood.

Sunday I met the club for a ride from Hodges. In hindsight, the communication was not what it could have been. We didn't talk about the route, and the pack took off like so many bottle rockets. There was a time when I would push myself beyond my limits to stay with them at the start of a ride like that, but that was before the heart attack and bypass surgery. Their backs going over the first hill on Blue Jay Road was the last I saw of them. I later learned they thought I had peeled off to ride with another club member who got dropped.

At any rate, I spent the next several miles pushing along, figuring they'd eventually stop and regroup. No dice. About eight miles or so into it, I sat up and rode my own ride. I went down Blue Jay past Klugh Road to where it became the Old Abbeville-Hodges Road, then past Stevenson and a right turn that eventually put me onto a series of roads on the edge of Abbeville.

I got onto Highway 20 and headed towards Due West, finding a comfortable, loping rhythm. I was riding like a tourist, not a racer, and I decided I really was happy with it. When I got to Central Shiloh Road, I turned right, then pointed Belle down Gilgal Church Road. When I got to 185 I decided I wouldn't have enough miles if I took the usual right turn back to Hodges, so I went straight across.

It was bumpy, but that's why I ride a steel bike with 28mm tires. It was forests, then scrub woods, then agricultural country. On a longish flat, I saw two large Great Pyrenees dogs out along the road near a driveway. As I approached, a car pulled out and came towards me.
The lady driving made a point of rolling down her windows and assuring me they wouldn't bite before driving off. I thanked her and rode on towards the dogs. They barked, one to my left, one to my right, but didn't come onto the pavement. I assured them I would be a lousy choice of animals to herd, they agreed while saving as much face as possible, and we went our separate ways.

Don't ask me how I managed it, but I wound up getting confused when I hit Pickens Creek Road. I rode for a while, then discovered I'd taken the wrong turn when I reached Highway 178 instead of 185. Hmm. Well, I'd ridden worse, so I pointed Belle down the road and went. The drivers were well-behaved, there was a decent shoulder, and when I saw West Grumling, I took it, knowing I'd seen its other end on 185. It was a fun little road, concluding with a nice little wall of a climb. I went left and back to Hodges and wound up with 30.5 miles for the day.

Tuesday's club ride went better. I wound up riding with John Lake and David Craig for most of it. In the wake of Sunday's ride, we discussed the route with all riders, and agreed on Jim's suggestion we go out Dixie to Hodges, thence to Blue Jay, a left on Klugh, and back in on Flatwood to Dixie and thence home. You can imagine our surprise when Jim took the Lagrone Road option, then apparently went down Flatwood and reversed the course. We learned this later - we'd gone to Hodges, doubled back to check on Jim, then went down Flatwood in pursuit. When we hit Klugh, we turned back towards Greenwood to beat nightfall, ending with 21 miles.

Today I commuted on Julius. It's the second anniversary of my quadruple bypass surgery. Last year I celebrated it by climbing the wicked steep second hill on Klugh Road on a 71-in fixed gear - after having my heart monitor stop working on the first anniversary of my heart attack. No coincidences, right?

Tomorrow night beckons - the first Thursday night club ride of the season, the resumption of the Callaham Challenge. Stripe is oiled up and adjusted, tires pumped up, bottles filled and in the fridge, ready for it. I hope I get there early enough to slip off for an early start, giving me a chance to warm up some before the peloton overtakes me like some poor sod in the Tour who almost got to the red kite alone. It's a great ride, with the options of a little suffering, a lotta suffering, or Phil-Liggett-"he's-suffering-like-he's-never-suffered-before,-Paul" suffering.

There's no such thing as a bad ride so long as everyone is still upright at the end of the day, right?
cycling through life is more than the cycling life

Location: Greenwood, South Carolina, United States
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