"Freedom and responsibility we speak of easily, nearly always without recognition of the iron courage required to make them effective in our lives." j. glenn gray

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ride. Fish. Repeat... Summer Time!

Ok, let me see...

My computer went on the fritz and left me to keeping my log with the ol' pencil & paper. I put in roughly 586 miles in May and 429 so far for June. I've been riding Sunday mornings with my friend Colin and Bay Area Schwinn in Webster. I've also been riding short morning rides every other day or so with Theresa as she has again taken interest riding. The rides are only 10 miles in length and take less than an hour. My intention was to ride with her dropping her back at the house and then continuing on by myself, though we get back to the house and I bail out and find other things to do. It will be difficult to extend her mileage as the heat gets progressively higher for longer periods of the day. I've ridden with the WOOF Pack a couple of times and would like to do so more often this summer. I helped with the Tour de Braz again this year by putting out route signs. I also rode the 62 mile route with Lee, Chuck and Rafael. It was a beautiful ride as the skies were clear, the air dry and warm, and the breeze light.

I have been feeling much better and find the saddle to be much more inviting as of late. I don't know why I have/had such difficulties in the saddle recently. It seems one day I'm up only to reach the apogee of sucking the very next, though the good days seem to out number the bad lately.

Ah, alas, I sold my '05 Cannondale six13! The black beauty that carried me over so many, many roads across Texas is now destined to be stripped for her parts, rebuilt with lesser components and ridden by a teenager... It was a very good bike. On the other hand, I picked up an '08 Cannondale t1; the bloodline of Cannondale's flagship bike having not changed much in nearly 25 years. It is a beautiful bike though I do wish it were equipped with campagnolo rather than shimano components. The shimano shifters are much larger and do not fit well in my small hands. They also take more motion to engage where the supple campy shifters engage with barely a tap. The shimano seems also to be much more susceptible to ghost shifting. This is not a low-end group either; it is a 105 triple with the rest of the group being ultegra.

It sounds like I am complaining but, honestly, these are only observations apparent to me after having ridden bicycles equipped with campy for so many years. I truly enjoy riding the new touring steed. When I went to pick it up from the shop I was pleasantly surprised. The titanium grey paint is much darker than the photos on the web indicate and the metal flecks are not apparent in the photos either; in the sun the paint almost glows. It is very pretty. The geometry is completely different from the C'dale bikes I have been riding for years and, at first, it was almost awkward though the more upright position definitely provides a much more comfortable perch for observing the passing scenery. Conversely, the upright position catches more wind but I can live with that. The 700 x 35 tires are a definite ride improver as well absorbing energy from cracks and bumps rather than passing them to the frame and ultimately my butt and back.

I haven't made any long trips yet but intend on a trans-Texas tour once I get the panniers and other equipment. I also want to start a local recurring touring event. This idea came to me while reading an article in "Adventure Cyclist" about taking short, 24 hour, or overnight trips. I figure on planning some 62 to 124 mile trips for adventure cyclists who don't have days/weeks available for longer trips and/or rookie adventure cyclists who want to get a few short trips for experience. The idea is for all those attending to meet at a designated coffee shop on Saturday morning, ride out to the predetermined destination, camp Saturday night and return on Sunday. The recurring part would be like the 3rd weekend of each month and each month would be a different destination, as I'm sure there are at least 12 destinations that would be attractive in this area. I'm excited about this idea as it would be a short and inexpensive way to get out of doors, ride and meet new folks who enjoy the same.

On another note, we have a foreign exchange student coming to stay with us for the '08-'09 school year. Fabian is from Hamburg, Germany and will be here the first week in August. We are all very excited and look forward to having him in our home.

And another note... I have been having an AWESOME summer thus far! Mick, Jessica, and Trevor, have been taking me fishing nearly every day. It has been quite a while since the kids actually wanted to go somewhere with me, perhaps they don't have to worry about me embarrassing them in front of the fish! We have been to the Texas City dike, Pelican Island, and kayak fishing in West Bay so far. I've caught red drum, golden croaker and a couple of hard-heads. No flounder yet... odd as I used to always catch flounder in West Bay. I've missed a bunch of hits though, I guess that's part of the excitement of fishing. I've also hooked up with a couple of nice trout and something rather large but managed to yank the lure clean out of their grasp during my failed attempts to land them. Without having somebody to fish with, I haven't really been fishing since about fall of 2005 though my touch is coming back. I have thoroughly enjoyed the kids company and look forward to many more trips this summer. Guess I'll have to work out a riding-fishing, or fish-riding ;o) schedule!

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Catching Up...

Well, here I am. It's nearly a month now and I'm still struggling to get my legs back. The last few times I've ridden I just can't seem to find my rythm. Prior to, and including the Gator Ride I was feeling and riding great. No kidding. I had never been able to sustain 20mph on the bike yet it seemed very comfortable. Maybe it was the new bike; lighter, more efficient and better fit allowing for more output with equal input. All things considered, I should be kicking ass on the bike. My diet is good and I'm back down to 165.

My rides lately have been 20 to 30 miles and so uneventful that I haven't even bothered to log the miles. I feel guilty for neglecting my bikejournal. My back, shoulders and neck have been giving me hell just 15 miles into each ride. The weekend before last I rode with the WOOF Pack for the first time in a while. We did the bridges ride over to Cedar Bayou and back. It ended up at 74+ miles for the day. The first 40 miles were great. I thought, "man, this is it...much better," then I just went nose in. I struggled the last 10 miles just to get home and, I had a tailwind! I couldn't help but think, "damn, jack, you suck!"

During the week I put in a couple "round-the-blocks" of 24 miles each. I still was not feeling all too courageous so I skipped the Rolling Hills Challenge. I rode Monday and Wednesday for 56 miles combined. I jumped on the bike Friday feeling pretty good and went for a spin with no preset was just gonna be a nice ride. So, 15 miles and my back was hurting and I rode through it. Then 30 miles at weemart and I felt good. Then 40 miles and I still felt pretty good though it was getting warm. I took off my helmet and hung it from the stem over the bars and kept a nice slow but steady pace. Then 48 miles and I started feeling that wierd tingly feeling that creeps in from who knows where. At 52 miles I was barely ticking over the pedals as I made the exxon in Manvel. I had already finished 4 24oz bottles but still I drank 2 quarts of gatorade and ate a package of cheese-peanut butter crackers. I sat on the bench and watched my legs twitch and jump. After about 20 minutes I swallowed my pride and called TC for a ride home.

It's now Wednesday and I'm cleaning my bike and figuring on riding tomorrow once this rain passes. As Van Morrison sings that there will be days like this, I contemplate my back injury and how the nerve damage affects my riding and, more urgently, how it will progress as I get older. Is this my 40yo midlife crisis? Is that where this damn feeling of losing my grasp...losing time...watching my ability slipping away is coming from?

Thanks to TC I now have a really nice bowflex trainer in my garage and am going to put some work into my overall strength. This should help with my endurance and basic performance. Other than that, I simply need to put in some serious individual saddle time.

You don't have to be fast to have fun!

Ride On!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

'08 Space Race

Another week flys by and here we are at the Space Race. I'm still feeling under the weather but managed a couple of short rides during the week but, just the same, I stick with the metric century so not to tear myself up. Colin and I drove down to LaMarque where we met up with Raf' and Irene. We just had to mess with Raf'. He didn't know we were there yet so when he went to the latrine Colin grabbed just one of his shoes and hid it in the truck. Boy, poor Raf' was at wits end telling us how he was certain that he had put both of his shoes in the truck when he left home. Even the guys in the vehicles around us were laughing. We gave him his shoe and he had a few choice words for us.

It was a beautiful, sunny day with a breeze out of the Southeast. I was enjoying being with friends and watching all of the other riders. It's hard to get excited about a ride that covers the roads that you ride on a regular basis but it was a good feeling knowing what roads you could cut back on if you needed to shorten up the ride.

We rode out at 18mph and managed it all day taking turns pulling when heading into the wind. At the 60-100 split Raf' took off for the full century and we picked up Brian, who is a former Marine. I felt good right up to the last 10 miles then I don't know what happened. My back was really hurting bad and the pain was radiating down my quads. I was also getting really bad shooting pains and cramps in my hamstrings. At one point I fell off the back and tooled along at 11mph. I felt bad when Colin came back to pull me up while Brian and Irene waited for me around the corner. I started feeling a little better and we upped it right back to 18. I held on 'til the last 3 miles when 12 to 14 was all I could manage.

After a couple of micky d's hamburgers, a pie, 2 bags of cookies and a coke at the finish we loaded up and headed for home anticipating our next ride. There are only a couple of pics until Raf' sends me the ones he took.

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'08 Bluebonnet Express

After laying around a couple weeks like so much dirty laundry I went on another trip. Rafael and I drove up to Waller and camped overnight at Yogi Bear's Jellystone kidding. I should have known by the name that it would be crawling with kids. It was probably a great park for kids but it was too cramped and over crowded for me. Seven years of being a Park Ranger gives me a different perspective on campgrounds. Personally, I leave the city to get away from noise, tv's, phones and traffic all of which were abundant at Jellystone. I was still a bit under the weather and being tired bagged out around 2100hrs. Unfortunately, the campground didn't care. The movie was in full blare until after 2300hrs and there were kids zooming around tripping over tent pegs 'til after zero hour their parents hollering at them from the other side of the park. I think I must have gotten about 4 or 5 hours sleep when my alarm went off at 0545hrs.

We got up, packed up, drank down a mt. dew, ate an oatmeal bar, choked down a handfull of pills with another mt. dew and headed over to Prairieview A&M for the ride start. I began to think I'd made a grievous error in judgement when the first 15 miles headed right into the wind on chip-seal pavement chocked full of pot holes and patches. The couch sure sounded good for a while. It was just then that the route swung north heading with the wind and onto a nice, smooth blacktop road. We immediately went from pushing hard just to make 12mph to flying along like there wasn't even a chain on the bike at 25mph. Oh, it was good. Then Raf' peeled off and headed for the 80-mile route. I rode the last 35 miles chatting with those around me and taking turns pulling on lines I came across along the way. The last 10 miles were like some fricken narrative out of the old testament. The route swung back around into the wind, which had picked up quite a bit and carried with it storm clouds and scattered showers. Adding insult to injury I managed to flat three times in the last 8 miles. Having only two CO2 cartridges I put what I had left in the front tire, which amounted to about 24psi, and shifted my weight to the rivets in an effort to keep from tearing up my rim. The Fulcrum Race 1's are about two grand a set and the last thing I wanted to do was chew up a rim. I managed it thus way for the last 6 miles to the start/finish line where I borrowed a pump.

The post-ride festivities included FOOD, music and conversation with other riders while waiting for Raf'. It wasn't long before he showed up as I had wasted about 45 minutes fooling around with flat tires. Funny, the whole Soldier Ride clean across Central Texas and no flats. At any rate, it was a good ride and I enjoyed myself.

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WWP Soldier Ride

Well where do I start... where I'm at... where I've been... where I want to go...

My intention was to update my blog daily on my journey with the Wounded Warrior Project. Unfortunately, that proved to be more than I wanted, or could maintain. In fact, I've been so damn depressed since my return that I really haven't had the energy or drive to do a damn thing. It was a tough month. During my trip I felt bad physically with aches, cold sweats, cramps, stuffy head. Turns out I was carrying a rather nasty little virus and apparently all of the tequilla I ingested wasn't enough to kill it. The doc gave me a couple of shots and 10 days worth of anti-biotics. I had been sick the week before we left and thought I had kicked it. Then it crept back in on my trip and I spent two weeks laying on the couch when I got home. I guess being physically ill opened the door for my psyche to wander down a dead end road. It was an entire week before I could even muster the energy to talk to my wife and kids.

Even being sick I had a great time on Soldier Ride. I met some truely courageous individuals. Their stories are amazing... gut wrenching. These are the young Americans who put themselves in harms way every day in iraq, afghanistan and other parts of the world. I felt kind of funny driving back from San Antonio. We spent the first day just shooting the breeze and getting to know each other. By the end of the second day we were establishing bonds of friendship and it felt like we were just getting started when it all came to an end. Woody invited me to Soldier Ride, Las Vegas this fall and I'm looking forward to it with great anticipation.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hitting the Bricks

The drive to Ft. Worth got under way slowly as an accident on the IH45N closed down 2 lanes of traffic. I spent the first 45 minutes of my trip driving a whopping 5 miles! As I crept along I couldn’t help but notice the ugly, brown, dense layer of pollution hanging on the horizon. It amazes me. We have a tremendous bank of knowledge, science, engineering and manpower in our Country, on our World, yet we choose to continue along a path of glutinous and irreparable usage of our natural resources. We could have just as easily put in place an urban sprawl line and built a public transportation infrastructure that would have much more impact than the joke of ethanol fuel. Yet we pursue filling coastal wetlands for multi-million dollar “planned communities” and expanses of roadways to carry us 50 and 60 miles per day to and from work one car per person. Lots full of shiny new cars assembled along the freeway like a pass in review as a thought crosses my mind…

shining poles line the freeway
all donned with garrisons
old Glory dancing on the breeze
proclaiming their patriotism
with words

Once I got North of the Houston metropolis it became a beautiful day; the sky clear, the breeze SSW and the vegetation showing the first signs of the impending Spring. Traffic was light and the jeep ran exceptionally well. I simply tooled along at 60mph enjoying the drive. I haven’t been on a road trip in a long while and I intend to enjoy this experience. It was a little more difficult to watch the passing landscape as the jeep requires one to actually drive rather than to set the speed control and cruise down the highway. Given the price of fuel, I also chose to remain on the freeway rather than take the scenic route as I usually do when traveling. Thus way I enjoyed my trip.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Ready to Go

OK. My gear is packed and I'm ready to get underway but, first things first... food and sleep. I'm cooking a large pot of Irish stew for dinner. A piping hot bowl of stew with some good bread ought to be just the thing to send me off right. Yesterday a cold front came through and along with the rain came a 45 degree temperature drop and 30mph gusts of wind. The cold and wet made for miserable company last night causing my back and legs to ache and twitch. The pain and muscle spasms kept me awake most of the night. I feel better today though as the sky cleared, the humidity dropped and the quick silver climbed to 65F. A full belly and a soft rack should allow me to be plenty rested for my journey. This time tomorrow, if without incident, I will be in Ft. Worth.

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Sunday, March 2, 2008

'08 Gator Ride

First t-shirt ride of the year and it came off without a hitch. I was pleasantly surprised at my performance. Rafael, Colin and I managed to keep a pace of 18-19mph throughout the ride finishing up with a 16mph average for 63 miles. I love the sound that several well-tuned bikes make as they hum along the black top on a quiet country road.

The morning started out foggy and mild in the mid 60's. I left my jacket in the truck and was glad I did (for once). I was happy to see Bill at the start and again when we finished as I hadn't seen him in about a year. The ride start was delayed about 30 minutes while we waited for the fog to clear a little. The first 11 miles to the ferry were fun. It was like riding in a cloud; the sounds were muffled and condensation built up quickly on my glasses and rained down from my helmet. I had no troube spinning up the Fred Hartman and took it slow coming down because of the limited visability, wet pavement and lots of other riders of varying skill levels. We went through TXPWD San Jacinto Monument Park and passed the Texas and it too was very pretty in the fog. I could only see about 60 feet up the monument as it disappeared in the fog. The wait for the ferry was about 15 minutes and by the time we got across and deboarded the sky was clear and a beautiful blue. We even managed to catch Chuck, Roy, Stephanie and Susan who had started before us. We road with them for a while talking and enjoying the company. The wind did not blow very hard settling in around 8mph out of the SSE. We only made one more stop at No. 4 Rest Stop (thanks out to the VFW folks) for some quick water and a cup of cheez-its. We finished the ride at 1214hrs, which made me happy as I had set a personal goal of finishing by noon... close enough for me. We loaded up and enjoyed some chili dogs and a nice cold coke. The ride was well organized and supported.

Lastly, Sun Block! Sun Block! Sun Block! At the end of the ride I happened to look at my arms and found 2nd degree burns. Last Sunday we had gone for a ride and I forgot the sun block. I turned quite a nice shade of lobster pink on my arms, knees, ears & nose. Friday my arms began to peel. Saturday I, el stupido, forgot the sun block...again! A nice young lady at the beginning of the ride let me have some of her sports block and I applied it to my arms and nose. Still, with the sun block applied I burned. I have not had a blistering sun burn since I was about 7 years old. So, today I picked up 2 containers of sun block while at the store... a 45spf to apply before the ride starts and 70spf spray to apply during the ride as needed. I really should have known better but I haven't had a problem with sun exposure since I was a child. If this doesn't ameleorate the problem I will go to wearing all white, long sleeve coolmax shirts.

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