Thursday, December 31, 2009

Senior Tea

Look at this junk mail I received today (partially photoshopped for privacy). Happy New Year to you too...

So who decides that we are "old"? Apparently AARP and fourteen year old employees at fast-food restaurants. Behold a true story... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAQHKGxWtJw
(or here: http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/5893871/)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Poetry Friday

Central North Carolina is now having its first snow flurries of the season, along with a flurry of weather-related posts on the local rando newsgroup. Bad poetry ensued...

"Most randos search real hard to know
the best forecasted day to go.
Though some take pride
in a cold, snowy ride,
not me; I need much more merino."

And since I am such a geek, http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/5847257

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tar Heel 200 - The REAL ride report

If you haven't discovered www.xtranormal.com, I highly recommend it. It is a website which lets you create your own animated cartoons. You type the script, move the camera, add gestures, sound effects, background music, and so on. Behold the future of epic ride reports.

I couldn't resist. I created a hypothetical trip report for Friday's ride on Tar Heel 200 (see the sanitized blog entry two days ago).

Here you will meet Sag, the straight man, and Jay, who adds 'color commentary'. These characters are purely fictional. Any similarity to actual people is purely coincidental. Enjoy. http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/5819917

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Blinky pedals

Several cyclists have asked about my blinky pedals. These are stand-on pedals with internal generators and red LEDs all around. They flash as you pedal, providing a unique up-and-down pattern. I've been told they are highly visible day and night, and drivers quickly recognize me as a bicycle.

I got my first pair at Target under the Bell brand name. They lasted more than two years of commuting and randonneuring before one stopped blinking and the other's bearings started feeling rough.

I recently bought my next pair from REI, the Glowspek "Premier Pedals 9/16". I did my second 200K ride on them yesterday, and they worked and felt fine. I expect another good long service life.

Retailer: http://www.rei.com/product/753562
Manufacturer: http://glowspek.com/store/

Glowspek also makes a higher-end MTB-style metal blinky pedal.
Credit: Photo skimmed from the Glowspek web site.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Don't your bikes have heat???

We laughed out loud. We were riding the RUSA Tar Heel 200 permanent today in crisp and chilly temperatures, and had just rushed into the convenience store in Stedman NC to thaw a little. The employee, who recognized us from past rides, shouted out this warm and welcoming greeting. Our teeth chattered as we laughed and scurried off to find the hot drinks.

A group of five randonneurs, Dean, Janis, Jerry, John, and I, started in Benson at 6:30am. We rode to the first checkpoint in Erwin together as a group, but Janis and I sent the 'fast guys' on their way after that. It was fun asking the employees at each checkpoint how long it had been since they had passed through. Of course, we didn't have to ask the employee in Stedman on our return trip. She shouted out a welcoming "Where have you been???", and told us how late we were. What a hoot.

I have bike-commuted many times in the cold, so I knew how to dress and keep moving to stay warm. But those were short rides, where I didn't need to drink or eat. Today's ride was a bit longer. I got lots of practice fumbling with water bottles while wearing lobster gloves. And opening ziplock bags with my teeth. And mushing my face into said bag to get at the PB&J sandwich inside.

But my biggest lesson-learned was about the temperature of convenience store drinks. At the first checkpoint, I thought the chocolate milk I bought was warm. Eww, this can't be good. Then, the next store's drinks were warm too. Eww, again. Finally, I realized that water bottles on the bike get a lot colder than those in a refrigerator, and I was accustomed to the colder drinks.

Everyone finished the ride intact with no problems. Janis and I even went slightly fast enough to not qualify as 'Cyclos Escargot'. And the Christmas lights on homes and the main street in Benson were beautiful. But the best part of the ride was that Dean had waited for us at the end, and took photos of our return in Benson (see photo above). Surprises like this bring the spirit of randonneuring to life...

Cross-post to Dean's report: http://ncrandonneur.blogspot.com/2009/12/tar-heel-200-three-rs-edition.html

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Raleigh Santacon 2009

And now for something completely different...
http://picasaweb.google.com/sagittandy/SantaconRaleigh2009?feat=directlink

Naughty. Naughty. Naughty...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Better randonneuring through technology


If ever you find yourself missing a receipt or two at the end of a ride, fret not. There is a website for everything. (Click the receipt photo for a better view.)

http://www.customreceipt.com/

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Revenge at Black Creek

I rode the RUSA permanent Showdown at Black Creek 200K today. We tried it a few weeks ago in horrendous rain, and we about froze. I tried again today and got my revenge.

High points: There is a new public bathroom in the delightful city park in Black Creek, right behind the municipal building and fire house (click the thumbnail photo). A sign says it is open seven days a week, from 6:30am to 10:30pm. It was immaculate (at least the men's side). I refilled my bottles with sink water. It tasted okay, stayed down, and gave no ill effects. I think this facility makes Black Creek a much more enjoyable turn-around location.

The weather was clear. Temps started right around freezing, and I would guess they rose into the mid 60s degrees F (18 C). It was like an early day in springtime. Traffic was almost nonexistent for most of the day. Secondary roads were empty, the interstates and major roads were empty, even downtowns were empty. I had very few dog encounters in the morning. My guess is that everyone slept-in after Thanksgiving, including the dogs. I enjoyed seeing a train cross my path just west of Black Creek near US 301. (See photos.) No flat tires. No mechanicals. Brand-new blinky pedals worked great. Finally, there was a bright moon in the sky tonight, and I was able to see the road quite well as I headed back to North Raleigh.

Low points: I had a near-miss head-on collision with a full-size pickup truck this morning on Old US 64 (I think). On this otherwise empty two-lane road, the pickup was passing a Jeep headed toward me. I could hear both engines revving, implying the Jeep was refusing to be overtaken, and the pickup wasn't to be denied. Lucky for me, the sound caught my attention, I looked up, and was able to swerve into the grass shoulder barely moments before the pair raced by, side-by-side. I believe the driver of the pickup never saw me. Something new to watch out for.

Other than that, it was very windy. I pedaled downhill in granny gear many times throughout the ride. I have read that riding in wind builds character. I'm not sure what that means, but I hope it is something positive.

Photos with captions http://picasaweb.google.com/sagittandy/RevengeAtBlackCreek

Thursday, November 26, 2009

extranormal

The bicycling community has discovered extranormal.com The site lets you type a script, and it prepares an animated video. Very cool.

The first video I saw was referenced by BikeSnobNYC: http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/5703489/

Now Randoboy has created a hilarious video spoofing an epic ride report: http://randoboy.blogspot.com/2009/11/ride-report-from-hell.html

Amazing possibilities...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

'Twas a warm and foggy day

Eight randonneurs turned out to ride the RUSA Tar Heel 200K today, thanks to a beautiful weather forecast for November in North Carolina. Two riders posted great and funny trip reports with photos. There is nothing for me to add. Enjoy...

Dean's report: Foggy Flatland BreakdownByron's report: Terrific Tarheel 200


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Turn up the heat

One day last week, we had the first early morning of the season with temperatures that got a little bit cold. I was bike-commuting along the Tobacco Trail in the pre-dawn darkness, staring intently for unlit joggers wearing the latest in matte black gruppo, when I felt a little shiver from the cold.

Without thinking, I took my right hand off the bicycle handlebar and reached over toward the right, in an attempt to crank up the temperature lever of the heater in my car. When my hand didn't land on it, I reached again. When that didn't work, I looked over toward my hand to find the lever.

Then I laughed out loud, just as I encountered and swerved around some unlits.

Perhaps I should start searching the internet. I want one of those levers for my bike. :-)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Purple Hair

During their formative years, children assimilate many of the behaviors of their parents. Click the thumbnail for a larger view of one example.

Be careful what you propagate to the next generation. :-)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Deluge November First (DNF)

Jayjay and I rode the first 25 miles of the RUSA Showdown at Black Creek today, in big rainstorms and crosswinds. It was fun, but we eventually had to admit we were not properly equipped. We turned around at the convenience store on the Bunn Bypass (Old Halifax/Brantleytown Rd at Pearces Rd), rather than risk hypothermia.

We learned a few good lessons:
  • Don't put a Planet Bike Superflash on your bike, then put your bike on a rack on the back of your car and drive to a ride in the rain. This unit is infamous for wet failures, and inundating it with rain at 65mph is not very smart.
  • Wool socks work. I blew the moths out of my wallet before the ride and bought a pair of wool socks from REI. $12 for one pair, mind you, but well worth it. My feet were soaked but warm. Next I must think about the rest of my body.
  • A helmet cover works. It really kept the rain out of my face and reduced the water running down my neck. I covered my helmet with aluminum foil. (Fear not, I wasn't about to buy two commercial products for one ride.) Aluminum foil is highly visibile, it complements my 'lunch pail gruppo' (kudos to Dean for that phrase), and the din of raindrops on the taut foil helped me gauge the intensity of each squall.
  • Hydrate from Mother Nature. When the rain is strong enough, you can look up, open your mouth, and drink a few drops. Just be sure to steer so you stay on the road.
  • Don't put the second half of an Egg McMuffin in a leaking pocket with intent to eat it later. It disintegrates and makes a royal mess.
  • Enjoy comments and belly laughs from strangers. Three senior southern gentlemen had fun at our expense: "You must really want to go bicycling if you are out on a day like today, he he he", one guffawed. The next one followed, "I was going to go buy a horse today, but I don't believe it's fair to the horse, he he he." Laugh with them. You know they are right.
  • Cyclists really can see much better than car drivers. This became painfully obvious as soon as we got back in the car and started driving with rain pelting the windshield and wipers flapping back and forth. Be visible out there.
Oh yeah, there was one other point. As I biked back to the starting point in North Raleigh, the rolling hills didn't seem as bad as I had remembered from the last time. And my bottom wasn't really sore when I got into the car. Then I realized this was only a 50 mile ride, and not 120. Ha, just wait until next time...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Snaps of the Commute

Here are misc photos from the last two weeks:
* Amtrak crossing Cornwallis Rd
* Detritus on the American Tobacco Trail
* Autumn colors
http://picasaweb.google.com/sagittandy/SnapsOfTheCommute02?feat=directlink

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Blog-famous

The question

"Are you Andy?"

The question totally surprised me. I was biking to work in the dark before sunrise a few weeks ago. I was riding through an industrial neighborhood with warehouses, parked trucks, few streetlights, and the occasional ne'er-do-well. I vaguely noticed an SUV parked on the other side of the street in a place where cars rarely park. I didn't think much about it at first.

But then the driver's window went down. And a head popped out. He quickly had my full attention.

And then he asked "Are you Andy?" Ahem, choke, relax. "Why, yes, I am. Who are you?"

Turns out he is also a bike commuter. He was out stargazing with his daughter. He knew this was a dark spot with a good view of the sky since he regularly bikes through the neighborhood.

And he knew it was me because he reads this blog.

The phenomenon

How cool, I thought, this blog has readers. As I rode the rest of the way to work, all sorts of thoughts and implications swirled through my mind.

A few years ago, I sent a note to a rollerblade skater in California who wrote a blog. She was surprised that a stranger in North Carolina had found her blog, and even more surprised that I found it interesting enough to visit regularly.

And now I just read a post from popular bicycle blogger Kent Peterson. He coined the phrase 'blog-famous' to describe himself, and touched briefly on what it's like to regularly have total strangers recognize him in public, greet him by name, and know things about him.

This must not be such an unusual phenomenon.

The effects

Kent also mentioned the 'Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle', a concept in quantum physics which says that learning something about a particle changes something else about the particle.

This is much akin to a tongue-in-cheek phrase I coined to describe timing-related problems in software. I call them 'Heisenbugs' because anything you do to investigate the problem will automatically disrupt the original timing of the program, and thus subvert debugging.

Along the same lines, I wonder if some 'Heisenblog' principle will bubble up here. Will I write differently, now that I know someone is reading? Will I write more words, or reveal more, or make better jokes? Or the reverse? Why am I writing this anyway? Watch this space. See if anything changes.

Meanwhile, thanks for reading. I'm heading out to shop for a white suit and grey ascot...

(Brad Pitt photo cribbed from http://www.theinsider.com/)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Baby Buffalo Tooth on the Tar Heel 200

At least that's what six randonneurs pretended we were looking at...

Today was an absolutely glorious day to ride the RUSA Tar Heel 200 in eastern North Carolina, with overcast skies, mild temperatures, low humidity, light winds, few dogs, and low traffic. Late last week, route owner Dean posted an invitation to ride, and six of us turned out for the 7am start in Benson. The group consisted of two accomplished randonneurs, Dean and Gary, two experienced racers who have just joined RUSA, Maria and John, along with Jayjay and myself.

The group rode at a graciously social pace all the way to the turnaround point in Tar Heel. This allowed Jayjay and I to keep up with the group. Jayjay and I usually ride slow and race through the checkpoints, so it was interesting today to ride a bit faster and linger at the checkpoints.

The group seemed to enjoy passing several billboards advertising the Jambbas Ranch, a 'natural zoo' with buffalo, elk, and other animals. A few signs had drawings of big buffaloes in the foreground, with baby buffaloes in the distance. These prompted lots of witty comments, and kept buffaloes on our minds throughout the rest of the ride.

After the turnaround in Tar Heel, Jayjay and I relaxed our pace, watched the fast guys go, and settled into finishing the ride by ourselves. But alas, a thorn made its way into John's rear tire as the group was leaving the next-to-last checkpoint in Erwin, and they were still there when Jayjay and I cruised in. As we watched them finish fixing the tire, someone suggested the thorn looked like a baby buffalo tooth. Now I have never seen a baby buffalo tooth, but given our preoccupation with the Jambbas Ranch today, I agreed it looked like one. If nothing else, it made for a cute story.

Congratulations to Maria and John on their first RUSA 200K, and best wishes for many more.

Many thanks to Dean for inviting us to ride and shepherding us throughout.

Lots of captioned photos here... Photos

Cross-post to Dean's ride report... ncrandonneur.blogspot.com

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Tar Heel 200

Jayjay and I rode the RUSA Tar Heel 200 today (in eastern North Carolina). It was a glorious overcast day, with the slight crispness of approaching autumn in the morning and a few hours of summer heat in the afternoon. Although Jayjay thought she felt a raindrop or two, our ride was completely dry.

Daylight is getting shorter, which affects slower riders like us. We chose to start in the early morning darkness while we were still fresh and alert, so we could finish the ride in the light before dusk. It worked out well.

We took an intentional brief excursion off the route today. The route roughly parallels the Cape Fear river from Erwin to the turnaround in Tar Heel, but the only time you can actually see the river is in Tar Heel. We rode about a mile west from the checkpoint at Erwin to see the river and took some photos.

The last time Jayjay did the ride, she met some other randonneurs from Raleigh who ate lunch at the Subway in Tar Heel. This really sounded good today and we did the same. This was the first time Jayjay and I actually stopped for a sit-down lunch. Our confidence must be growing that we can stop for a while and still finish within the time limit.

We enjoyed several neighborhood dog relays today. As the first dog family would greet us, their barking would alert the neighbors. The neighbor dog family would wait for our approach and continue the greeting as we passed. One neighborhood had three sets of dogs doing the handoff, which was impressive. I must get a camcorder for the next ride here.

No flats, no mechanicals, no new injuries. I enjoyed watching a CSX freight train at the crossing just north of Wade. Jayjay enjoyed watching a fancy wedding at the Barrington House in Dunn.

Click here for some photos

Another great day on the bikes.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Snaps of the Commute

I stopped and took some random photos while I was biking to work this morning. Riding in the dark, nice roads, moderate traffic. It's a perfect way to start a work day.

http://picasaweb.google.com/sagittandy/SnapsOfTheCommute?feat=directlink

Friday, August 28, 2009

Randonneuring is an achievable hobby

Would you like to try randonneuring but are a little overwhelmed about getting started or unsure you can do it? Well, fret no more. All it takes is a reliable bike, some impunity, and a little fitness. I know this because I was able to do it, which means that you can do it too. So here is my story and my advice, while I am still a newbie.

My story

I am not an athlete. I never was. I am a 50-something office geek. Over the years, I did the obligatory 30 minutes of cardio at the gym now and then, and an occasional 5K racewalk, but that was it.

A few years ago,
several events converged. A nice rail-trail opened along my route to work, my wife brought home an old 12-speed bike from a dumpster, and I started bike commuting. I enjoyed it. It became the best part of my work day. And then a friend and I started riding together on weekends.

Every week or so, we would search the internet for leisurely bike rides out in the countryside. I kept happening upon extremely long routes, along with dramatic ride reports from a few crazy guys who rode them. I had never heard of randonneuring. At first, I thought the routes and reports were spoofs. Then I found RUSA and thought it was a massive, organized spoof. I tried to ignore them.

As we biked, our distances kept increasing. Over a few months, we learned about food, drink, flats, chains, and chemical toe warmer pads. Eventually we rode 100 miles. And then did it again. And finally, I did the math and realized we were within reach of the RUSA 200km distance and 13+ hour time limit. Maybe randonneuring wasn't so crazy after all. My eyes sparkled and I was hooked.

So I started seriously inhaling randonneur blogs and newsgroups. All the blogs were dramatic, humorous, and eloquently written, which held my attention. But most of the advice was intense.

First, it's all about the bike. Carbon fibre or titanium, custom fit frames, clicky pedals and shoes, fat tires or skinny, air pressure debates, number of spokes, lightest weight tool kit, fenders, dynohubs, designer luggage,
a GPS with audible autorouting, and more. Who were they kidding?

And then the training. You have to do intervals, hills, long runs, night runs, rollers indoors, rain and snow outdoors, and taper before the event. And you've got to have the right clothing, smear goop on your butt, and expect occasional vomiting. Doh, is this torture or a hobby?

'Balderdash', I said. I don't need all this to get started.
I realized that most of the information in the blogs and newsgroups is written by highly accomplished randonneurs, pushing for the ultimate in performance. There isn't much written by newbies, since successful newbies naturally don't stay newbies very long.

As I studied the rules, I also realized the RUSA rule-makers were pretty smart. They set the entry level event at 200km and 13+ hours for a reason. It is short enough to be achievable by mere mortals with determination, yet long enough to be tantalizing and to provide a sense of accomplishment. It is the perfect level to entice new riders.

All of which led to my own ideas about getting started...

My advice


Start riding today. Ride whatever bike you've got. Ride whatever fitness level you've got. Wear whatever clothes you've got. You will soon learn everything you need to know. If you bonk, eat better. If your bike breaks, get better parts. If you feel unsafe in traffic, ask for help. If your joints hurt, get them checked. If your butt hurts, well, I still haven't figured that out. Your equipment, your impunity, and your fitness will steadily improve. Your distances will increase.

Start practicing on permanent routes. Get the cue sheets. Practice as much distance as you can in one day. Do the remainder on another day. Eventually you will be able to do the whole thing. And when you finally do it for credit, you will already know the route.

Choose permanents as your first official events rather than group brevets. Focus on finishing your own ride, and don't compare yourself to the uber racing set. You can join group rides after you build confidence.

Start by selecting flat permanents. The credit is the same as hilly routes, and you can learn to adapt to the unexpected (like dealing with cattle on the road) without killing yourself on hills.

Start in nice weather with lots of daylight. I like riding in the rain, and I love riding in the dark, but don't abuse yourself more than necessary.

Share the load. Find another newbie, support each other, and share the ancillary tasks. One navigates, one is the mechanic, one brings food, one worries about the checkpoints and receipts.

So take the plunge and start riding. I guarantee that you will be doing official 200km events before you know it. You will soon call yourself a randonneur. Your name will be on the RUSA website. You can buy yourself medals. You can wear a randonneur T-shirt. And then you can start writing your own blog and dispensing your own advice.

Don't wait. Don't obsess. Start riding today, and be amazed at how far you can go.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Traffic speed detector on the PBP200

We are such geeks. My cycling buddy Jayjay and I would never dream of sprinting toward a state line boundary sign during a bike ride. There is no allure. But put an electronic traffic speed detector on the side of the road, and watch us go...

We were riding the RUSA Princeton-Belmar-Princeton 200k today in New Jersey. We were hot and tired, and consciously metering our energy consumption so we would have enough to finish within the time limit. And then late in the afternoon, about mile 100, we spotted a police SUV parked with one of these thingies up ahead.

I watched it mindlessly clocking the speed of cars as they sped by, 40, 50, 60mph, in a low speed zone. Then the cars were suddenly gone, and the sign alternated between 13 and 14mph. I thought nothing of it, but Jayjay instantly recognized that the device was tracking us. "Hey, that's our speed!", came her urgent voice from behind me. "Go, go, go!" she yelled. Once again, I had one of those moments where I jumped into action before giving proper consideration to the situation, and I was sprinting like crazy. Equally afflicted, Jayjay kept yelling "Faster! Faster!", louder and ever closer behind me.

Up, up, up, went the sign, 15, 16, 17. It finally got up to 19mph before we passed. "Aw rats", Jayjay said. Her delerious mind wanted to get to 20. Luckily we were only a short distance in front of the sign before we started sprinting, else who knows how fast we might have gotten. As a result, we only had to spend a few minutes stopped beyond the sign, hunched over handlebars, gasping for air, and guzzling water, before we continued on our way. Such geeks.

As for the rest of the day, the weather was beautiful, but traffic was horrendous. Most roads were filled with cars, they were all in a hurry, and most left little space alongside us. (The side of a towed boat came within inches of both our heads.) I suspect it was the gorgeous weather on one of the last weekends of summer which had everyone out and about, especially near the shore. The first checkpoint at a Dunkin Donuts at the beach in Belmar was filled to capacity with people glistening in sunblock. We waited forever on the long line, the clerk didn't want to waste time signing our cards, and then we had to wait on line to get into the bathrooms. Temperatures got really hot in the afternoon. We coped by filling socks with ice and draping them around our necks; this worked well again. We also drank cans of V8 juice, trying to address the needs of the 'Hydration Triangle', carbs, salt, and liquid. But the route itself and the scenery was delightful, and the dozens of other cyclists we passed were all super friendly. We finished the ride with 15 minutes to spare, woo hoo. All in all, a great day.

Many thanks to the owner of this RUSA route. I look forward to riding it again some day when I am back in New Jersey.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Randonneur bike candidate

It's got fenders.

And plenty of storage space.

I would have to practice making sound effects.

http://failblog.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/fail-owned-bike-repair-fail.jpg

Saturday, August 8, 2009

"Oh, nice."

"Oh, nice." That's what I said to three bicyclists this morning after they told me they were riding 100km. My tone of voice must have been patronizing, because they all gave me a highly indignant look.

The threesome was parked outside the Wawa at Pemberton, NJ, as I pulled in. They were all lean and attractive, had fine bicycles, and were dressed to the hilt. I had my overloaded dumpster bike and was wearing a t-shirt, shorts, sneakers, and reflectivewear. I had just locked my bike (a joke in itself), and was walking past them to go in the store. I made a small-talk comment about the glorious weather for riding, and everyone agreed.

Then one of the guys said they were riding 100km today. My first impulse was to say "Oh, nice, I am riding 200km". Knowing it would be rude as well as completely unbelievable, I truncated it at "Oh, nice". But there must have been something in my tone or the look on my face which delivered the complete message anyway, because they sure gave me the indignant look back. I didn't mean to minimize their accomplishment, and I am sorry it came out that way, but I knew instantly I had just experienced the 'defining moment' of today's ride. I kept thinking about advice from blogstress MG Thursday about socially acceptable bragging, and how I had just blown it. Oh well...

I rode most of the RUSA PBP Permanent today, a 200km loop connecting Princeton and Belmar NJ. I rode it in reverse, and not for credit. My bicycling partner Jayjay is passing through NJ next weekend, and we plan to ride it for credit toward our R-12. I have this thing about memorizing routes before we ride, but this one has so many twists and turns that I needed to actually ride it again to refresh my memory before Jayjay gets here. It also provided some much-needed saddle time.

The weather was absolutely glorious. It started in the mid 70s (F) and could not have risen more than the mid 80s. There were spotty clouds and mild variable winds all day, and not one drop of rain. It was a wonderful ride.

I also took a ton of random photos with my cellphone camera, since I was not on the clock. Hope you enjoy them... http://picasaweb.google.com/sagittandy/PBPLite?feat=directlink

There were two annoying sections of bad pavement which rattled my teeth. Just past Roosevelt (around MP16), the road was scratched and torn up in preparation for paving. This is a temporary nuisance and should be beautiful soon. The other is on West Farm Road (MP33) just past Georgia Tavern Road, where you will find a stretch of potholes, loose chunks of asphalt, and failed patches. It must be less than 100 yards long, but it seems to be a permanent condition. Be careful.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Tweedonneurs

I have been trying to come up with a catchy phrase to describe our style of slow randonneuring. Jayjay and I average about 10mph. We don't train, we don't race, and we seek flat permanents. It's an accomplishment when we finish a 200Km ride within the time limit.

We have made a conscious tradeoff between investment of time and money for training and equipment and are comfortable where we are, right at the entry-level of randonneuring. We can buy our medals after a 13 hour ride, just like the fast guys do in seven hours. I considered the phrase '80-20 Randy', to convey that we get 80 percent of the benefit from only 20 percent of investment, but nobody would understand without a long explanation.

I considered 'Flat Randy', since we can't finish hilly permanents in the time limits yet, but that seemed too negative. I want something positive.

I thought up 'Ten Mipper', a play on '10mph rider', but that was dismissed quickly. It made me think of the RCA Victor dog.

Then I happened to be looking at the Tweed Cycling clubs. They ride classic bikes, dress in period clothing, and emphasize style over speed. They host events where people ride slowly, with a positive spin. I remembered that Jayjay has already worn a red plaid skirt on one of our rides. Then I thought of the phrase 'Tweedonneur', contracting Tweed and Randonneur. Hmm, it does have a nice ring to it.

Perhaps I need to hit the thrift stores. Watch this space...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cycling and Swimming

Jayjay and I rode an 80-mile portion of the RUSA Kerr Lake Loop permanent in North Carolina and Virginia today. The full permanent route is shaped like a lollipop, with the loop portion going around the lake, and the stem heading down toward Raleigh. We only rode the actual loop portion today, both for fun and to learn the route. Unofficial rendering on gmap-pedometer: map

The fun part was knowing what awaited us at the end of the ride. Earlier this morning, we had driven to the Satterwhite Point Recreation Area on the lake, which is conveniently located adjacent to the bike route. We paid the day-use fee and parked the car near the beach. When we returned after a long hot bike ride, diving into the lake was wonderful.

In between, we enjoyed a full day of bike riding in the heat. The weatherman had predicted cloudy skies for the day, but no such luck. The day was absolutely beautiful, sunny, and hot, which about wore me out. Oh, and the clouds finally arrived late in the afternoon.

Mid-morning, when the weather started getting steamy, we filled some tube socks with ice and tied them our necks. I'm not sure if it was wishful thinking or reality, but they seemed to make us more comfortable. Plus, carrying a supply of ice and drinks in an insulated cooler on my back rack helped me have faster descents going down hills.

This ride was Jayjay's and my first ride across a state line, going from North Carolina to Virginia and back. Neither one of us showed any interest in sprinting at any time during the day today, nevermind at some sign on the side of the road.

The dogs were out in force this morning. I was amazed how many 'dog families' raced out to greet us, each having one big grizzly dog along with two or three other little yappy dogs racing alongside. Luckily, their energy dropped off as the day got hot.

We were looking forward to stopping at some yard sales today, since we were not doing an official timed RUSA event, but we were out of luck. Surprisingly, we didn't pass one yard sale today.

Jayjay was our photographer today. She definitely takes nicer photos than I do: photos

The designer of this route did a marvelous job. The scenery is wonderful, most roads have light traffic, the hills are challenging for us, and there are abundant convenience stores along the way. I look forward to riding the whole route some day.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Research Trailer Park

I had the day off work today and went for a nice bike ride. I discovered this elusive RTP sign (see http://ncrandonneur.blogspot.com/ for additional references).

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Welcome Back Youth

I was ready to drink the Kool-Aid when I first saw this sign. My bicycling partner Jayjay and I were finishing a hot and humid 120 mile bike ride, the RUSA Tar Heel 200, and I could have used a jolt of youthful energy. Luckily I realized the true meaning before I went inside and embarrassed myself.

Overall, today was a perfect summer day for riding in North Carolina. The first third of the trip, from Benson to Stedman, was cool and overcast. It started getting warm on the next third, from Stedman to Tar Heel and back, but remained partly cloudy. It only got uncomfortable on the final third, where scattered rain showers left the roads foggy and steamy. Luckily, we missed the rain itself.

We ate, drank, and stretched well throughout the ride, the bikes worked well, no flat tires, and traffic was extremely cordial. It was a delightful day. Random photos are here: photos

Unfortunately, our spirits were dampened later tonight to learn that one of our local safe-bicycling advocates, Bruce Rosar, had been killed today in a bicycle-car accident. His influence was everywhere, teaching classes, interpreting laws, and lobbying for change. He will be missed.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Big Slosh on the PBP 200

As a child, I loved to ride my bike through standing water. There was a big park down by the river, and it flooded often. My buddies and I would sneak out after a big rain and go riding through the thigh-high water. We never got hurt crashing into submerged picnic tables because it was so hard to pedal that we couldn't go very fast.

These fond childhood memories came gushing back to me vividly as I rode the PBP permanent today, a 208Km (129 mi) loop connecting the towns of Princeton and Belmar, NJ.

The weather had been raining all week, and Saturday's forecast was for more of the same. As I drove my car to the start in Princeton, the news radio station predicted 'drenching rains' all afternoon. And they repeated the forecast every ten minutes, making it hard to ignore. But I had already paid my $5 fee, and was not going to throw that away.

I got off to a late start. My first distraction started when I arrived at the Princeton Junction train station, the start of the permanent. It must be a popular place for commuters heading into New York or Philadelphia, because there were parking lots all around, and each had big signs listing different entry criteria. Some lots were for local residents, some for permits, some for monthly passes, and so on. None said 'RUSA event parking'. All the businesses nearby also had big threatening signs to keep train riders out of their parking lots. I finally drove the bridge over the tracks to the other side and found a lot for 24-hour general public parking. That should work.

My second distraction came when I went into a Dunkin Donuts shop to get a donut, drink, and receipt, and to have my card signed. Well, the clerk complained that the night crew had not fixed her cash register, and she could not print receipts. Uh oh. And she did not want to sign my card. My powers of persuasion were not working. Each time I said something else, such as 'I am biking 129 miles today', she would believe me less. Finally, I think she signed just to get rid of me. Once outside the store, I remembered that I had a timestamped receipt from the parking lot, so I headed on my way...

The first 45 miles to Belmar went swimmingly well (pun intended). The skies were grey, winds were light, traffic was nonexistent, and it was dry. I had ridden the route three weeks ago, and I recognized most of the turns. I passed so many friendly cyclists that I lost count.

When I got to the Dunkin Donuts controle in Belmar, I was surprised to see my wife waiting for me. She had ridden her bike the three miles or so from where we are staying to the controle, and was waiting patiently. This was the first time she has seen me during a ride, and she was not happy with my appearance. She kept saying that I looked 'dead', which may have been true. She spoke to me for the few minutes it took me to snarf another donut and guzzle a drink, then I was gone.

The next 50 miles were not so dry, as I hit two separate rain storms. The first started shortly after leaving Belmar, and it rained hard for about two hours. I learned the challenge of reading a small-print cue sheet with raindrops inside and outside my goggles. It rained all the way through the next controle at a Wawa in New Egypt. There was a little break after leaving New Egypt, but then it rained hard for another two hours. It was interesting to ride through Fort Dix in heavy rain, with the booming sounds of a serious firing range in operation nearby, convoys of Humvees racing by, while biking in the rain. It was almost surreal.

The rain finally stopped (or so I thought) as I approached the town of Pemberton. The sun actually peeked through the clouds for a few minutes, and I squinted in the bright light, wondering about sunglasses. I lingered in the mens' room at the next controle at a Wawa store, enjoying the warm air from the hand warmer. It didn't dry anything, but it did feel good. I took a few photos of the old railroad depot in Pemberton, then headed out for the final leg, rejuvinated.

Alas, the brighter sky didn't last long. Less than 30 minutes after leaving Pemberton, the skies opened up again, this time with a vengeance. I remembered the weather forecaster's words about 'drenching rain', and realized this is what he meant. The deluge continued for another full two hours. I thought I had been soaked before, but that was nothing. It was raining so hard that cars actually seemed to be driving a little slower. I got off the bike twice just to make sure my two taillights were working. I hoped the Superflash brand was up to its marketing hype.

It was on this leg that I had my favorite experience of the ride, and this is what brought back those childhood memories of riding under water. As I crested the top of an overpass over I-195 or the Turnpike (I have no idea which), I could see tons of rainwater gushing down the bridge with me to a big flat spot at the bottom. The entire roadway was under water, six lanes wide with entrance and exit lanes, probably the size of a football field. And it was anyone's guess how deep it was.

Now a child may be forgiven for doing foolish things, but there was no such excuse for me. Prudence said I should ride the brakes and cross the abyss with all due concern, but I ignored Prudence. In two nanoseconds, I saw the opportunity, weighed the alternatives, upshifted, squealed out loud, and pedaled down the bridge as hard as I could. I blew two huge rooster tails to either side as I blasted through the lake, I soaked myself with greasy water, and blew road schmutz into my face. It was absolutely great. It was my favorite part of the ride. And I only hit one huge pothole in the underwater pavement, and it didn't cause snakebites.

The slog continued through another few towns, but time and memory jumbled together after that point. The rain let up a little for a controle in Cranbury, and finally stopped for good as I approached the end of the ride at Princeton Junction.

When I got to the finish, I was surprisingy lucid. I remembered the hassle I had at the Dunkin Donuts this morning, so I first made a withdrawal from an ATM across the street to get a timestamped receipt, then I went to Dunkin Donuts to have my card signed. It was a good decision, because I stood on line forever behind one customer on his cellphone who was taking orders for individual donuts and custom blended coffees for a party at his house. Arrgh.

I was amused that the clerks at three of the controles recognized my permanent card and almost grabbed it out of my hand to sign it (Belmar Dunkin Donuts, New Egypt Wawa, and Pemberton Wawa). They must have seen lots of RUSA riders coming through. On the other hand, it was obvious neither clerk at the Princeton Junction Dunkin Donuts had ever seen one. Next time, I'll find another place to get my card signed. :-)

Overall, it was a great day. It was my first long ride in the rain, and it gave me plenty of time to think about improvements. I might actually buy some real rain gear. And a visor. Oh, and maybe a shower cap. Temperatures were mild throughout the day which made the rain very tolerable. I shivered cold for the first few minutes after each stop, but quickly warmed as blood resumed pumping. And finally, my dumpster bike held up for yet-another long ride, I had no flats, and traffic was very cordial (except for one driver in Hightstown who rolled through a stop sign causing some angst).

And when I got back to the parking lot at the Princeton Junction train station, I enjoyed a few high speed trains blasting through the station. It's on the Northeast Corridor, so trains can go fast. So neat to watch the high-speed electrics blow by.

Here are my photos from the ride. Most photos are from the first leg when it was dry. I borrowed the camera from my friend Jayjay, and kept it dry in a ziplock bag during the rainy parts of the ride. Enjoy. http://picasaweb.google.com/sagittandy/PBP200?feat=directlink

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Training ride on the PBP

That's the Princeton-Belmar-Princeton permanent in New Jersey, not to be confused with the more famous Paris-Brest-Paris ride in France.

I am spending a few weeks living in NJ, visiting relatives, and working remotely. I have been off the bike for probably ten days, and I have been going through 'withdrawal'.

I found the PBP Permanent on the RUSA website and exchanged emails with the owner, who promptly sent the cue sheet and some additional information. The ride is a big 208km/129 mile loop connecting Princeton, which is inland mid-state, with Belmar, a famous beachfront party town on the east coast. The ride is mostly flat, with lots of short hills just to get your attention. Oh, and lots of highway overpasses.

Since I have been such a couch potato, I decided to give it an unofficial whirl today. The ride is not 'reversible' for credit, but since I am staying only five miles from Belmar, I biked to Belmar and started and finished there today. It was very convenient not having to load the bike on my car.

Aside from getting on the bike again, my other goals were to get a feel for long rides in the 'Garden State', and to learn the route. Knowing the route is important, since my normal slow speed allows no time for bonus miles.

I learned some hazards which are different from riding in North Carolina.
  • When riding in the 'door zone' on the main oceanfront street in Belmar in the early morning, you must beware of fisherman unloading their gear from their parked cars whirling their fishing rods out into the street and whacking you in the chest. (Luckily there was no fish hook at the end)
  • When riding on desolate rural roads with heavily overgrown vegetation, you must beware of lush poison ivy hanging out into the road, patiently waiting to brush you in the face and arms. It is everywhere. I would guess 1 of 20 places where bushes encroach into the road is poison ivy.
  • There are a good number of dangerous sewer grates still in place here. These are the ones with the slots in the same direction as travel, at the perfect width to capture and hold a road tire and launch the rider.
  • New Jersey likes traffic circles, aka rotaries. No modern traffic-calming devices these, but high-speed chicanes. There is one on the ride. I crossed it empty in the early morning today, but have no idea how I will cross it with typical traffic.
  • Public works departments apparently collect yard waste which has been placed in piles in the street. I frequently encountered piles of branches, logs, and/or leaves in the residential areas and had to avoid them. Some piles were so big that cars had to swerve to avoid them. Yech.
On the other hand, one hazard I expected did not materialize.
  • New Jersey drivers are a different breed. The highways here are like roller skating rinks. Cars sashay from side to side continuously, making the most of every available inch. Something that seems to be out-of-character is that if you are merging onto the highway, drivers actually let you in. It appears to be courtesy, but I think it is a mature realization that letting you in now will avoid a wreck and congesion later. And everyone's goal is to avoid congestion. Finally, drivers do parallel park here. They know the exact exterior dimensions of their car, and they whip their cars into and out of tight spots with great flair and pride. It is impressive. Given all this, I was expecting a lot of aggression and verbalization.
  • Instead, they carry the same efficiencies to dealing with bicycles. Not once did someone pull up on my tail on a narrow two-lane and wait for an opening. No. They hung back, watched for a slight opening in the oncoming traffic in the distance, and poured on a masterful display of horsepower and timing at exactly the right moment. It didn't happen just once, it went on throughout the day. Time after time, I'd see a car hang back behind me, then gun it as an oncoming car was approaching me. Eeek! Then nanoseconds after the oncoming car passed me, the car from behind would whip left and pass me, whip right back in front of me, and nicely miss the next oncoming car. After a few hours of this masterful dance, I found myself not paying attention. They are that good.
Back to the PBP ride itself, it is very pleasant and enjoyable. Most of the ride connects small rural towns and villages, and goes through beautiful farmland. It passes McGuire air force base, which I think was responsible for the large airplanes and helicopter formations seen during a good portion of the ride. The ride also goes through a number of high-end neighborhoods and upper-crust towns, especially near Princeton. The permanent owner has done a wonderful job of finding low-traffic scenic roads through to connect all the dots. Here is my pre-ride transcription of the route: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=2734811 (It takes a while to load; do let it continue loading if it stops.)

During the ride, I passed about 25 cyclists. Most were individuals or pairs, and one group had about ten riders. The biggest surprise was that they were all very friendly. I waved at everyone, and they all waved or said 'hello' back. And the big group which passed me all said 'good morning'. Very nice.

One lesson-learned for this ride is to carry lots more food and drink. Convenience stores and services are non-existent on several long stretches of the ride. At one low point, I walked into a neighborhood swim club and asked to buy bottled drinks from a vending machine. My regalia definitely did not blend with the dress code of a swim club, but some nice ladies welcomed me anyway.

As for me, I am in better condition following the ride than I anticipated. I am tired but not dead, my shorts did fine (normal street clothes), but both of my little fingers are numb (what's with that?). I took 14 hours to finish due to my normal slow pace (10mph), plus, ahem, about five wrong turns (my fault) which added about ten bonus miles. This should improve to get under the limit next time. And my dumpster bike did fine for another 200km. I look forward to doing this ride for RUSA credit in some time in June.

Unfortunately, I can't post any photos from today. I had the obligatory shots of controles, a high-speed passenger train racing through the Princeton NJTransit station (one of the controles), all the animals (horses, a bull, and a huge hog), and fun shots (like a road sign 'guinea hen crossing'). And one house in the country had a tall platform in the back yard with a celestial observatory dome (presumably housing a big telescope). Very neat. Well, I had just bought an inexpensive digicam from WalMart, and it lost all the photos when I tried to upload them. There is a point at which I can be 'too cheap'. Arrgh.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Summer in New Jersey

So this is summer in New Jersey?

It's Memorial Day Weekend, the official start of the season, meh.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

'Twas a dark and foggy morning

A spooky sunrise, shortly after 6am on Tuesday, May 12, 2009, during my bike commute. So very neat.

Click the photo to enlarge it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Search for Black Creek

Alright, so it wasn't that hard.

To follow-up on my last post, I found the body of water known as The Black Creek using the topo maps available on http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/ The creek is just west and south of the town of Black Creek, NC.

Click on the map to see a bigger copy.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

"You two look terrible!"

Actually, it was shouted more like "ARRGH, YOU TWO LOOK TERRIBLE!!!", accompanied by a scrunched facial expression and slightly recoiled body language.

This was the greeting we received from the startled counter person at McDonald's at the conclusion of our 200Km (120+ miles) bicycle ride yesterday on the 'Showdown at Black Creek'. Alas, he was right.

On the other hand, we thought it was great. My riding companion (I'll call her "Jayjay") and I were still standing after having just ridden our second RUSA permanent, this one from North Raleigh to Black Creek NC and back, in just under 13 hours.

The ride got off to an uncertain start. Early in the week, Jayjay had injured a knee. We were not sure she could or should try such a long ride and risk getting stranded or cause long-term damage. She decided to go for it moments before the start. It turned out to be a good decision. She was able to finish, thanks to keeping the revs high throughout, as well as some good drugs. (Memo to self: I need to devise a portable ice bag for occasions like this.)

We had one mechanical problem. About 25 miles out, Jayjay's right bar-end friction shifter completely locked up. It had been hard to shift before, but completely froze today. After three or four unsuccessful shift attempts going up one hill, all forward motion had been lost anyway, so we stopped to look at it. I was able to force it into a central usable gear, so she could proceed shifting only the front chainring, effectively a two-speed bike. We decided to continue onward and work on it seriously at the Kountry Kwik Pik.

I looked for some light oil at the convenience store, but had to settle on a huge can of WD-40. This was actually a blessing in disguise. I started at the derailleur end of the cable and moved forward, spraying gobs of high pressure WD-40 into the sheaths as I yanked on the cables. When I got to the friction shifter, I unloaded much of the can into every opening. Finally the lever broke loose. Jayjay said it shifted better than ever. Woo hoo, success. I think the easy shifting made her knees feel better too.

As we made our way east with renewed vigor, the wind started to pick up. We were expecting thunderstorms today, so this felt like a bad omen. Every flag stood at attention, and of course the wind changed direction every time we turned. However, we only had to contend with the wind. The skies stayed mostly cloudy, and we never got more than a few drops of rain here and there.

As we approached the town of Black Creek, I started wondering where the body of water known as Black Creek was located. I slowed going over every bridge, trying to evaluate if it the water was black enough, or if it could be called a creek. I took lots of photos, but don't think I found it. Our next ride will be the "Search for Black Creek".

We ate lunch at a picnic table in the Black Creek Community Center, a delightful park right behind the fire house. Curiosity got the better of a young boy playing football, and he came over and spoke with us. He asked where we came from. He immediately turned and screamed to his friends that we had bicycled from Raleigh. General disbelief all around. Then he asked my age. Complete disbelief. His wary eyes accused us of duping him, and he scoffed and ran away to play more football. Yeah right, and 200K is only the entry-level RUSA ride distance...

As the clock ticked on steadily during our return trip, Jayjay expressed concern that we would not finish on time. She repeatedly insisted I continue forward on my own rather than wait for her, under the mistaken perception that I ride faster than she does. I eventually relented about 5 miles east of Youngsville, and sprinted off into the distance. Of course, this sprint depleted what little energy I had left just as I returned to the rollers in Raleigh. This is such a fiendishly great ride with the hills at the ends, and I blew it. I was in Slog City. I stopped some, I walked some, and for what little good it did, I refueled at the convenience store at Old Hwy 98. So you can imagine my pleasant surprise, as I stopped for one final photo at the Wakefield High School stopping point, that Jayjay caught up to me and we rolled into McDonald's together. What a hoot.

Oh, and traffic was cordial, dogs were tolerable, and my face isn't too sunburned.

Photos http://picasaweb.google.com/sagittandy/BlackCreek200

And, as always, many thanks to the route designer for a great ride.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Axlus Interruptus

I felt something funny as I rode my bike to work on Friday morning, but I couldn't quite figure it out. On the way home that afternoon, the symptoms steadily got worse and became more identifiable. I heard a loud clunking sound now and then, which was very similar to the sound made by my industrial padlock banging on the frame. I removed the padlock from its hanger, but the banging continued. As I pedaled, I also felt a very fast buffetting sensation, as if the wind was blowing me forward and backwards, reversing direction about eight times per second. It was very windy on Friday afternoon, but I didn't think wind could change direction so fast.

About the third time I stopped to check things out, I realized that my rear wheel was free to wobble side-to-side about an inch at the rim, even though the axle nuts were tight to the frame. Uh oh, not good. When I got home and took it apart, I discovered that the axle was broken in two pieces.

I expect the clunking sound was from the wheel flopping from one side to the other. And the buffeting feeling was probably related to the ball bearings being forced around unnaturally, several times per second.

A little bit of internet research at the Parke Tool and Sheldon Brown websites confirmed this old bike has what is called a 'freewheel' hub. And some general googling found opinions on their shortcomings:

Broken axles used to be fairly common with freewheel hubs since the drive side bearings were well inboard and the unsupported axle under the freewheel was quite long.

Yep, my drive side bearings are about 1.5 inch inbound, and my axle was broken right at the inboard bearings. I guess my break is due to old age, excessive pothole shocks, carrying too much weight, letting the bearing cones get loose, letting the grease dry out, or all of the above.

A quick visit to a local shop provided a replacement axle, cones, and bearings. Everything was replaced except the bearing cups in the wheel. Everything reassembled quickly. Adjustment was a little tricky with only two hands, until I figured out some secrets. We'll see how well I adjusted it after riding a few miles, and whether the bearing cups were damaged or not...

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Tar Heel 200

We bicycled the RUSA Tar Heel 200 today, from Benson, NC to Tar Heel, NC and back, 200 km (124 miles) round-trip. We enjoyed perfect springtime weather. Temperatures stayed in a nice range, from crisply cool in the morning to mildly warm in the afternoon, so we didn't have much hassle with layers of clothing. We had no flats, no mechanical issues, we ate and drank well, and our bodies survived. We had great directions on the cue sheet, few dogs, few hills, gorgeous scenery, charming villages, immaculate homes, and flowers in bloom everywhere. We finished in just under 12 hours.

The route is a brand new RUSA permanent. It is the first permanent designed by the owner, and if our documentation is accepted, this will be the first official ride on the permanent. It will also be my cycling companion's first RUSA ride, my first RUSA ride, and my first Lanterne Rouge. Lots of 'firsts'.

Trip report: Here is my trip report. A link to all photos is at the very bottom...

We arrived in Benson early enough to lounge in McDonald's for a little while. As the starting time approached, I suggested to my Pedal Pal that we do a few miles to warm up, but she wisely would have none of that. We headed over and parked on Church St, bought some drinks at the Exxon for the receipts, got our cards signed, and we were off. One might have thought I was shivering with excitement on our first official ride, but it was just the crisp cool air.

But I wasn't cold for long. My adrenaline started flowing just minutes after starting, when a big SUV pulled up alongside me and lowered its passenger window. Uh oh, bottle alert! But no, the young driver hollered out some nice words, wished us good luck on the trip, and said he wished he was riding with us. What a nice surprise.

Between Dunn and Erwin, three big military cargo planes caught our attention as they quietly dropped out of the sky directly overhead. We also encountered a little commotion as a mobile home came down the road with escort vehicles chasing everyone to the sides of the road.

We hit the first controle in Erwin in plenty of time. I began getting the hang of the paperwork routine, perfecting my 'shtick' with cashiers.

Once we got out into the country, there were horses everywhere. One saw us from a long distance, came galloping to greet us, and then ran alongside us for the length of its corral. And my Pedal Pal noticed big birds soaring on the wind currents throughout the ride. Very cool.

We were impressed with how every village along the way was so nicely kept. Most all the homes, whether big or small, were immaculate. Front yard gardens were lush, with azaleas, dogwoods, red buds in bright bloom. Ah, springtime.

We had only a few dog encounters throughout the ride. Most were cheerful dogs running alongside with tails wagging. The funniest encounter was with a dog lying in his yard, barking ferociously at us, but too lazy to get up. He did the same on our return trip. I suspect he moves under a shade tree and sips a mint julep during the hot summer months.

We met another cyclist at the controle in Stedman. He lives in Fayetteville and was doing a loop of about 50 miles. We pulled out at the same time and rode south together. A few miles later, he announced he would change his route plans and continue all the way to Tar Heel with us. He must have been enjoying our stimulating conversation, since it was certainly not our pace. While chatting, we learned he was a seasoned racer and tourist, and had ridden from Fayetteville to the Florida Keys last summer.

Overall, the Tar Heel 200 route is incredibly flat. The biggest climb is an overpass over I-95, just east of Wade. Other than that, there are a dozen 'dips' where flat farmground drops down to a creek bottom and then back up the other side. Nothing else is worth mentioning.

Most of the roads were smooth, clean, and had no debris on the sides. Two exceptions were a short section of bumpy joints on NC 82 near the Averasboro Battlefield Museum, and then the ten miles or so of rough pavememt in Bladen County as you approach Tar Heel (well described in the cue sheet). Otherwise, we rarely thought about the pavement.

We did miss one turn at the very end, between Dunn and Benson, just as we were feeling pretty smug about not once looking at a map or powering on the GPS. We missed the right turn from Fairground Road onto Tilghman Rd. There are two sets of road signs on diagonally opposite corners of the intersection. The signs on the far left have road names. The signs on the right just have state road numbers and distances. We didn't notice the signs on the left. As we approached the intersection, a big dog came racing to greet us, and I'd like to claim this as an excuse for missing the turn, but I'm sure we would have missed it even without the dog. Lucky for us, the next half-mile contained the most significant hills of the entire day, and we quickly realized we had not been there before. Alas, we turned back and earned 0.6 bonus miles.

As we continued on to Benson, we spotted a partial 'sun dog' in the sky, which looked like a rainbow around the sun (http://alanlbw.wordpress.com/2009/01/14/rainbow-around-the-sun). And right alongside the sun dog, there was a hot air balloon in the sky. Too bad I couldn't get a good photo.

Acknowledgements: Kudos and many thanks to the route owner for designing the route and getting it approved, and for preparing an excellent cue sheet. The directions were perfect and had exactly the 'right' amount of detail for us. It is a perfect ride for newbie Randonneurs doing their first RUSA events, and I am sure it will become a favorite sprint for experienced Randonneurs.

Thanks also to the route owner for being so accommodating to us. We have only recently taken up this hobby, did our first two centuries in the last few weeks, and have just joined RUSA. He was very welcoming, gracious, and encouraging, and will be a good representative for RUSA.

Cellphone photos with more stories and clever witty captions: http://picasaweb.google.com/sagittandy/TarHeel200

Interactive route map (my unofficial transcription): http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=2683689

Humor: And finally, since this ride was just a few days past 'April Fool's Day', I modified the sign in this photo as a spoof. Click on the photo and read the fine print. Enjoy.

Cross-Post: from the Research Trailer Park, NC Randonneurs website.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

License to Fill

We bicycled just over 100 miles today, from Morrisville to Snow Camp, NC, and back. The weather was clear and crisp. The temperature started at just over freezing, and got up to almost 60F by mid afternoon. We were in good form, we ate and drank well, and finished in just over 10 hours. Not bad for newbies.

Early on, we got a few 'bonus miles' just west of NC 55. Suburban sprawl empowers developers to re-route, rename, and add new intersections to roads as needed to suite their interests. They have apparently done just that with Yates Store Rd. Unfortunately, Google Maps and its satellite photos are a little outdated, so our cue sheet was wrong. Luckily, we were able to follow our noses (and my GPS) to get back on the desired path.

Jordan Lake was gorgeous in the clear morning, and every unofficial parking spot near the lake was occupied with the cars of people enjoying the lake. We spotted people everywhere fishing from the banks in the morning, and boats were everywhere on our return trip.

We rode on Parker Herndon Rd for the first time today. It was delightful. There were few cars, nice hills, and not one cramped housing development. Yet. Give them a few years, though...

The Haw River was flowing fast. We had a few days of steady rain earlier in the week, and the river was carrying a good bunch of it.

The canine welcoming committees were out in force today. We were greeted by dogs at perhaps a dozen places between NC 87 and Snow Camp. And they greeted us with equal zeal on our return trip. I took some photos during one of the encounters while riding (not too smart, I know); they are posted in the album below.

We passed lots of cyclists today. We saw mostly solo males, a male-female pair on individual bikes, and another male-female pair on a tandem. Everyone waved and said 'hi'. It must have been the beautiful weather. Usually, serious cyclists take one look at us bohemians and look away, but not today. The couple on the tandem were funny; they were climbing a hill as we coasted down. He was in front, head down, struggling. She was in the back, sitting upright, waving gleefully at us. I can only imagine what was going on between them.

West of Cary and Morrisville, motor vehicle drivers were incredibly courteous to us today. One young man in a souped-up race car even slowed and stayed a safe distance behind us as we climbed a winding hill, until we got past the blind spot. Very unexpected and appreciated. But alas, once we got back into Cary and Morrisville, we were reminded about the high Driver Urgency Index there. The ubiquitous BMW and Lexus SUVs have important business ahead, and time is valuable. Luckily their drivers actually can multitask sufficiently to see us and accelerate past us while transacting important business on their cellphones.

After we finished the ride, we packed the bikes on my car and headed back to Souper Salad restaurant, to graze at the buffet. It hurt to stand up each time I headed to the trough, and it hurt more to sit back down, but it sure was nice that riding 100 miles gives a "License to Fill", allowing us to eat everything in sight.

Interactive map: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=2657086
Random photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/sagittandy/MorrisvilleSnowCampCentury?feat=directlink

Saturday, March 7, 2009

No Bull

We biked just over 100 miles today, from Youngsville to Black Creek NC and back. It was our first 'English Century'. The route is mostly flat, and the weather was absolutely gorgeous. Traffic was very light, and drivers were mostly courteous. Surprisingly, there was an abundance of clean, open convenience stores nicely distributed along the route. As the day progressed, we stopped at more and more of the convenience stores to rest and refresh.

Community Service: About two hours into our ride, we passed a big pile of glass shards along the road. It looked like someone had tossed a few bottles out of a passing car. We scrambled and avoided it, but couldn't continue onward and leave the pile there for other bikers to hit. We doubled back, dismounted, and spent a few minutes shusshing glass off the road with our shoes.

When we arrived at our turn-around point in Black Creek, we were pleasantly surprised to find a small open grocery store on the main street. We bought drinks there, and sat outside resting and eating lunch.

After leaving Black Creek, we encountered a small herd of cattle on the road. They had apparently broken out of their fence and were headed for a freshly planted field across the road. Luckily, two guys pulled up as we arrived. They got out of their cars, put on their cowboy hats, and issued the secret sounds and hand gestures which instructed the cattle back into their fence. We hung back, and happily let them demonstrate their masterful skills.

Total miles: approximately 102
Overall time: 10.5 hours
Interctive map: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=2615784
A few photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/sagittandy/YoungsvilleBlackCreekCentury

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Daughter in Brooklyn

I flew to New York City to visit The Daughter a few days this week. Here is a photo taken in the late afternoon at the South Street Seaport, with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hilly Cow

My cycling companion and I rode 86 hilly miles in Chatham and Alamance counties today. We started south of Chapel Hill (15-501 at Lystra Rd) and rode generally west to Snow Hill, turned south to Siler City, then reversed the route to return.

It started out at 20 degrees F. The temperature may have risen to 50 after lunch, but quickly started dropping as we returned. Chemical toe warmer pads are just wonderful.

The western half of this route was new to us, but there were so few turns, it was easy to memorize it. It was nice to not worry about the route, and we only turned on the GPS twice to be sure.

Traffic was light, although there was an abundance of trucks pulling wide trailers today. Everyone was hauling 'stuff', such as furniture, machinery, ATVs, bags of garbage, even an open trailer with a horse. Late afternoon, we were passed by a pickup straining to pull a huge wide trailer piled high with bales of hay. I saw the monster slowly approaching in my mirror and we pulled over to let it pass. The driver waved to thank us. 'Share the road' works both ways.

We saw six deer prance across the road, safely far in advance of us. The first one stopped at the roadside, seemed to look both ways, and then crossed. The other five followed one-by-one without looking. The leader will survive.

We only had one dog come to greet us as we climbed a hill in front of his farmhouse. It was a senior citizen dog, barely able to keep up with our slow pace. I respected his effort and smiled at him as he barked at me briefly. Namaste.

We also passed a farm with a delightful rendition of a cow in the front yard, as shown in this photo. It was made from an old fuel tank and other scrap metal parts. Very clever.

This was the longest and hilliest ride we have done since beginning this absurd hobby back in December. The hills took a toll on our pace, but not by much. I will wait a few days to assess their toll on my body. Some of my joints are already speaking to me...

Interactive ride map: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=2578084
Photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/sagittandy/BikeRideChathamAlamanceCounties

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Bunn Wash


We bicycled 83 miles today, starting in North Raleigh, and heading mostly east, doing an out-and-back route. There were moderate rolling hills the first few miles (and last), but the eastern part was delightfully flat. Temps started cool, but got unusually warm mid-afternoon.

We had lunch at a convenience store in the town of Bunn, NC. The name of the car wash business in the photo caught my eye.
Link
Mechanically, the tire on one of our rear wheels was found rubbing on the frame chainstay. I must not have tightened the rear wheel sufficiently the last time it was off. Oh, and the next morning, my rear tire was almost flat. I must have picked up a slow leaker.

GPS stats: 83.4 miles. Moving average 12.6mph. Overall average 9.8mph. Moving time 6:37. Stopped 1:53.
GPS map: http://www.mapmyride.com/route/us/nc/raleigh/317197954272
A few social photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/sagittandy/BikeRideEasternNC20090207?feat=directlink