Internal Detours
Saturday, October 07, 2006
  time for wool once again

Okay, so I'm behind in my blogging. Last Saturday I rode Belle on the morning club ride. We wound up taking the classic loop route to Ninety-Six and back, augmented by what Jim calls the Fitzgerald Addendum (mostly because back in '99 I'd whine when we did it) as well as the John Campbell Lake Loop (the jog out onto Louden Road, thence back to Ninety Six via Hwy. 248 past the Star Fort).

We had a pretty decent turnout. I rolled up a couple of minutes late, but everyone was still prepping bikes and adding and removing layers. I had worn my nice new yellow jacket over my Mercian long-sleeved jersey, which was in turn worn over one of the Rivendell sleeveless "wife-beater" wool undershirts. The jacket had to come off, and I did the ride with it rolled up into a tube and stuffed into a jersey pocket.

Connie and Donnis set out before the rest of us, getting a sizeable headstart. We finally caught up to them at the intersection of Scotch Cross and Louden, and for a brief while we were all one big happy bunch - as I sometimes put it in the paceline, "we's all gruppo compatto!"

I was down in the drops following Jim up one of the hills when I noticed his rear wheel skewer looked ... strange. I had already noted that the front skewer lever was pointed forward, and had attributed that to Jim's tendency to be slightly eccentric at times. Sheesh, that rear skewer was pointed almost straight down, away from the frame ... but the angle of the lever looked wrong. Hmm.

The nickel dropped. I pulled up next to him and said, "Jim, your rear quick release skewer is unlocked."

He stopped at the top of the hill and made repairs, while we rode pianissimo for a moment, then poured it on to take the next hill. I glanced back and saw Jim still working on his bike and wondered if I needed to go back. We pressed on, making the turn onto 248 and passing the entryway to the Star Fort Park, land o' Revolutionary War re-enactments (the siege of the Loyalist garrison of Ninety-Six, while unsuccessful, led the British to withdraw from what they felt were untenable and exposed positions in the interior).

Jim was still way, way off the back. Hmm. I sat on a wheel and we made the right turn onto Johnston Road. I sped up and caught the front of the pack, Angie and Campbell, and suggested we wait for Jim. A moment later he caught up to us. He was still shaking his head. Apparently, someone had unlocked his quick releases, then spun the levers round until they were insanely tight and almost impossible to loosen. He had theories - someone had messed with them while the bike as on a car rack at a store, etc. We were all glad we caught them before they loosened at a bad time.

I wound up with 29.4 miles for what turned out to be a very nice autumn day, one that I completed by doing some yard work and doing some grocery shopping.

Sunday was trail time. We'd had a big, bad windstorm the Thursday before, and the reports we got suggested we needed to postpone the long ride we had scheduled.

So I took my battered Trek 950 single-speed down to the Rock. Ainsley was there, as well as Connie, Campbell and Zac Lake, and the Ronan Clan - Pepe, Sean and Alyssa (sp?). While we were setting up, Big Zack, half of the management team of Upstate Bike and Skate, showed up with a buddy of his. They had apparently had a minor run in with equestrians, but all appeared to be okay.

We said various hellos and goodbyes. Pepe sent 14-year-old Alyssa to ride with us as we set off for Gratin's bridge.

The trail down to the steel bridge is kinda technical, at least for me. It's rocky and bumpy, with sand drifts in some places and really tight, twisty switchbacks in others. I hung on, rocketing down the hills and trying to gauge risks as I went. As always, one risk I avoided was hopping over logs - easier for me to dismount and climb over, and much less chance of breaking bones, right?

We were maybe 9/10s of the way to the bridge when Sean and Jeff caught and passed us. As he went by, Jeff said, "You guys are doing really well." We caught up to them as they rested at the bridge and chit-chatted for a minute while Alyssa rested. They went back up the hill while we waited for Connie.

I looked at Ainsley and said, "So, does that mean we got the Pepe Ronan seal of approval?"

Ainsley nodded and said, "I believe that it does, indeed." He didn't even crack a smile.

"All right," I said. "Of course, this does go in the blog."

"Of course," he said. "Think Connie's coming this way?"

"Probably not," I said. "Let's go."

So we climbed back up out of the basin and went looking for the others. Coming off the T, I poured it on as best I could, the old blue bike flowing over the rocks and roots. We were almost to the Grand Switchback when I saw Connie, and I pushed the bike harder, hand out on the forward extensions of the Zoom bars. Forget the brakes exist, they just slow you down, flow through the turns, do not think, do not try, there is only do or not do, blah, blah, blah, and I caught up to her back wheel in twisty bit right before the climb back out starts again.

We rode along in a bunch to the road, then Ainsley and I bombed down the trail towards Memorial Bridge. As always, the roller-coaster beckoned on the way down, content that it would make me pay on the way back. I sweated my way through the switchbacks and the gravel drifts the Park Service put in to slow the damage done by horse hooves.

We caught up to Pepe and Alyssa, who were going back in. It was a good chance to rest a moment on the trail and talk, catching our breath and preparing for the next bit. Moments later we pushed on, crossing Memorial Bridge and taking on the next slog, with all its gravel and rock gardens, pushing on to what the horsey folks think of as the trailhead down near Fell Hunt Camp. Ainsley ate some granola, I ate some trail mix and sucked on my CamelBak, and it was time to go back. Yes, it was a slog, and I had 19.6 miles at the end of it.

Tuesday, more of the same. I rode 10.8 miles or so, 9.8 mph average, and that's all I remember.

Thursday night, I was running late. Jim and Tommy Davis had apparently already left, but Campbell and Connie were still setting up when I arrived right on the dot of 6:00. I pulled the Trek out of the back of the truck and we were off. We skipped Gratin's Bridge and headed for the end of the section beyond Memorial Bridge. It felt like darkness was falling very rapidly, and I set off at full blast for the return trip.

Zen? Try flying down the trail when you're not sure you can see it. Do not think - do. Yeah, yeah. I rode the bar extensions, rarely touching my brakes on the descents, throwing my body around on the bike to keep the rubber side down and on the trail. The switchbacks leading to the roller coaster felt steeper than usual, but no matter. The red cliffs of pain awaited me, and once more I got up them, the last one a stump-puller as ever, turning 12 rpm or less until I popped over the point and the front wheel started coming down again.

The bike just rocketed along down the trail now, as I focused on the pale line that was where I needed to be going. I blew across Fire Road 505 and onto the trail on the other side, stopping long enough to talk first to Mark, then to let Milo, Pepe, and their crew pass under full lights. The trail was a pale, pale thread now, and I was riding as much from memory as anything else, hands on the brake levers now and hoping I'd stay upright.

The blackened stumps on the last descent still gave me the flashing thought, "what is Hannibal the cat doing out here?" before I remembered last spring's controlled burn. I blew past them, then rode the ridge-like projection alongside the roots and shifted my hands to the extensions when I hit the concrete ramp and climbed back up to the road. I had 11.2 miles at an even 10 mph, my fastest time ever. Compared to Milo and his crew that's slow, but it's not back for cardio-boy on a single-speed, and I'll take it happily.

Today I rode Belle down to the fountain. It was a small bunch - Jim, Drew and Tommy D. Jim was still nursing a knee hurt in a slip/slide/fall in his kitchen earlier this week, so I suggested the same route as last time, as it has less climbing than many other routes.

As always, the pace picked up too soon for me, but I'm used to that. I apparently was still feeling Thursday's ride - my legs felt stiff and sore for a long time. But I hung on like grim death down the long descent down Scotch Cross. Jim announced he would go straight on in via Golf Course/Scotch Cross to Ninety Six and wait for us there, while we turned right onto Louden and headed for the Star Fort.

I fell off the back, then caught back up in time to suggest we go straight on through to downtown Ninety Six. Of course Mr. Cox was not there. "Jim waits for no man," I said to Tommy, who allowed that there was some truth in that. We headed back towards Greenwood via Lebanon Church Road, where Drew dropped back to pace me in. We talked about some bikes he wants to sell - he's got three aluminum Trek road frames he'd like to move, if anyone is interested, and a bunch of parts for that matter.

While talking in the parking lot at the end of the ride, it emerged that Drew is a bee-keeper. I hadn't known that, and I mentioned that the next time he harvested honey, I would love to buy some for medicinal purposes.

He promptly opened his truck and handed me a jar, as well as a jar of blueberry-honey. "Here, these have been sitting in my truck for a while. Enjoy."

So I thanked him profusely and stashed them in my saddlebag and headed home with a total of 29.4 miles for the day.
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