Monday, February 8, 2010

Rolling rolling rolling

I rode ten miles yesterday and didn’t get anywhere. That’s probably about par for the course for me.

The temperature outside was a chilly 34 degrees, with the wind chill well down into the twenties. That’s the wind chill if you’re standing still, of course. If you’re a goofball on a bicycle, who knows how cold you’d get. I didn’t want to find out, so I decided to ride in my garage.

No, I’m not loony -

Oh. Wait. Yes I am.

But I’m not loony enough to just ride in tiny circles around the inside of my garage. Instead, I rode the rollers. (This may actually be worse than riding in tiny circles around the inside of my garage, since the second worst accident I ever had occurred while I was on the rollers, but I did it anyway.

I haven’t ridden the rollers in a while, but I hadn’t forgotten that disconcerting tendency the bike has to slide sideways and off the frame, with potentially bad results to various parts of my body. (We won’t even discuss what happened the very first time I ever rode the rollers, but it was particularly painful and would have been equally painful for about half of the population. We’ll leave it at that.)

The first few seconds on the rollers were a bit hectic, but things settled down after that. In fact, they settled down a bit too much and descended into boredom. That’s the problem with any sort of stationary bike. It’s booooooooooooring. Rollers are about the best of the bad lot, because, at least if you ride as clumsily as I do, you always have the specter of impending doom hanging over your head to give the ride a little added spice, but it’s still booooooooooooring,

I rode intervals to add a little interest, and I had a book on tape playing (one of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels just in case you’re wondering), you can only look at the interior of a garage for so long before it begins to get…oh, what’s the word I’m looking for…oh yeah… booooooooooooring.

I stuck it out for ten miles, during which time I discovered that the garage was nowhere near as cold as I had thought it was. After about my second hard turn, it was really rather warm. During my third hard turn the bike considering slipping off of the rollers and dumping me onto the ground but kindly decided at the last instant not to do any of that. I was grateful.

I do plan to climb back onto the rollers this evening for another ten miles. Wish me luck with that. I’m hoping I can make myself do it. It felt better to get some miles than none, and the fact that it was actually a fairly hard workout made it even better, but no matter what I do, riding indoors is still…well…you know…

See you in the garage on the road.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Frozen Spokes

I am not a good weather forecaster. If there was any doubt about this, I laid it to rest on Friday when my students, all of whom had keenly followed the weather reports, asked what would happen if we didn’t have school on Monday. “Oh, I’m quite sure we’ll have school on Monday,” I assured them. “But, if we don’t, then we’ll have the test on Wednesday instead.”

Of course, as you’ve already guessed, we did not have school on Monday. A winter storm smacked us right in the face over the weekend, leaving a lovely covering of pristine white all over everything. (My Lovely Lovely, trying to drive while the sun reflected with great brilliance off of the snow and ice and shot straight into her eyes like a laser beam, described the snow somewhat differently than I just did, but we have to allow for personal preferences in these things.

After racking up a measly hundred miles (if I round up) in January, I am determined to do considerably better than this in February. I am not off to a good start. However, apparently feeling that I need a kick in the pants to get me going, the fates decreed that I would ride today.

No work on Monday and a two hour delay on both Tuesday and Wednesday, and today, our first day back on our regular schedule, my car decided not to start. (This lack of starting power on my car’s part is not due to a lack of motivation. It’s due to the fact that I didn’t close the back door all the way a day or two ago and therefore the battery, instead of being full of electricity and ready to go, is mostly ornamental at this particular point in time.) When I realized all of this, I sighed and went back into the house for my helmet.

The sigh was largely due to the fact that it is cold out. It is freezing out. Literally. 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Freezing. My work clothes, while quite stylish, are not very good for riding in the cold. (Actually, that’s a lie. My work clothes aren’t stylish at all.)

I filled a bottle (hey, the ride is only a little over six miles, but I always take something to drink anyway), put on my nice warm winter Walzcap with the earflaps (which I have been told makes me look like a German schoolboy – why German? I have no idea), pulled on a sweatshirt, some gloves and my helmet (I would very much like to keep my brains inside my head if anything untoward should happen while I am on the road), pumped up the tires and headed out.

I had been on the road less than two minutes when I began to reconsider the wisdom of riding without a balaclava. I mean, aside from the fact that it makes you look like a ninja of the road, it does keep your face warm. I didn’t feel like heading back home to get it, though, so I just figured my face would go numb eventually and then it wouldn’t bother me anymore.

It’s a bit surreal to me to be riding with piles of snow and ice sitting beside the roads. If I lived somewhere else (like Anchorage), I suppose it wouldn’t be surreal at all. Or, if I lived still somewhere else (say…Tahiti) then it wouldn’t so much be surreal as an indication of a complete mental breakdown on my part. I guess it all just depends.

The ride itself was pretty smooth. My face did eventually stop bothering me, though the wind in my eyes occasionally made tears run. The cars were nearly all extremely polite, giving me lots of space. I have a feeling the drivers felt sorry for me because of the temperature (or because they felt it would be bad luck to hit a crazy person, I don’t know). Either way, I’ll thankfully take it.

I do miss bike commuting and this really inspires me to do more of it. It just feels so darned good. (Okay, I know that, if you read some of what I wrote above it doesn’t sound like it feels good, but it does. I know. I was there. My Lovely Lovely worries that it’s just too dangerous, so she doesn’t want me to do it, but, let’s face it, bike commuting is good for the soul.

See you on the road.

Friday, January 29, 2010


I've all my wisdom teeth
Two up top, two beneath
And yet I'll recognise
My mouth says things that aren't so wise
--Brad Roberts

So today I was unwise. (This will not surprise anyone who knows me.) Anyone who has read my recent posts and committed them to memory (a proceeding which is not recommended by any certified mental health professionals, by the way) knows that I haven’t been able to ride very much in 2010. Well aware of this myself, when I finally made some time to ride, I decided I would do about twenty-five miles. Not a long distance, but better than nothing, right?

When I hit the road, it was very windy and my legs felt like useless blocks of wood. With my twenty-five miles firmly in mind, I turned onto a route that I know is about forty miles long. Why did I do this? I don’t know.

The first ten miles of this route are up and down. The second ten miles are quite flat, but the road is surrounded mostly by fields, so there’s nothing to block the wind. The third ten miles are mostly up without a lot of downs. (I always think it’s somehow unfair when you climb a hill and then, at the top, it simply levels off instead of going down again.) The last ten miles are the hilliest of the route. This means that you hit the hardest stretch of road when you’re the tiredest. (My spellchecker does not like the word tiredest by the way, but I don’t care.)

The first ten miles went by pretty well. There were places where it was a tough pull, but that’s okay. I remember hearing Keith’s voice in my ear: “Pedal up and pedal down.” Well, I certainly have to pedal up the hills, but I didn’t feel like pedaling down the hills. Keith was insistent, though. (This insistence is all the more difficult to understand since he wasn’t actually on the ride and I was simply remembering his words from previous rides together.)

The second ten miles went by pretty well. They were harder than the first ten miles. If all you’re contending with are hills, the road will eventually level out, but, if it’s the wind, you don’t get away from it.

The third ten miles, oddly enough, were the best of the bunch. I don’t know why.

It was during this stretch of the route that I played hopscotch with a Highway Patrol officer. I was riding along the shoulder of a two-lane highway, and I noticed his pass me. Several minutes later, I saw blue lights ahead of me, though on the opposite side of the road. When I arrived at that point, I discovered that he had pulled someone over who was heading in the opposite direction.

I went on past and continued on my way. A bit later, the Patrolman went past me again. Several minutes later, I saw the blue lights blossoming in front of me, and he had pulled over someone else, this time heading in the same direction as I was. This was annoying because traffic prevented me from getting around him for a few minutes, and I had to stop.

Do you know what it’s like when you’re going hard and you suddenly have to stop? Then, a few minutes later, while halfway up a hill, you have to get going again? My legs had things to say to me. They were not nice things.

In fact, my legs had suggested on my last ride that, if they had known I was going to let them in for that sort of thing with no warning, they would have stayed home. They let me know that they’d be happy to pedal around for me, just not right now. Not today at all in fact. They suggested we talk about it next week sometime.

A mile or two later I turned and hit the last ten mile stretch. The wind was right in my face, and the hills were all in front of me.

I was tired. I am not ashamed to confess it. I could feel my thighs swimming in lactic acid, my legs were shouting at me, but I was still ten miles from home, and the only way I was going to get there was to stay in the saddle and pedal.

I’m not sure whether the harder part was the pedaling or the staying in the saddle. I had been out of the saddle for too long, and my sit bones had begun to protest shortly after the ride started, and they were still complaining now.

It was at this point, with my body sore and all of me tired that I began to wonder how I could explain to someone else that I do all of this to myself because I enjoy riding a bike.

All I can say is that you have to try it for yourself.

See you on the road.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Still Here


Does that sound like a good number?

It isn’t.

It really works out this way: a temperature of 52 degrees F + a wind speed of 20 mph + only 37 total miles on 2010 = a rider who’s in for a very hard ride. Don’t you think?

That’s what I thought, and I was right.

I engaged first in my usual winter time sport of trying to decide if I was wearing the right stuff to brave the weather. Melanie offered the comment, “You have a lot of clothes on.” I agreed and then hoped that I was wearing enough. (As it turns out, it was just right.)

The wind was atrocious, and it made it seem bitterly cold and my legs were blocks of wood, but at least I was finally out riding again. That counts for something, right?

I would like here to give a shout out to the Grimes family. (Did you ever notice that no one ever actually shouts when they give a shout out?) Hey, Grimes family! I don’t know you, but you had a sign hanging outside your mailbox letting everyone know who you were. Hello!

There were no dogs out chasing me. There were no other cyclists on the road in my area. There were precious few cars out (not counting that really large truck that went screaming past me without giving me very much clearance at all.

Before the ride, I stopped by the bike shop to pay some more on my Lovely Lovely’s bike, which is on lay away. (It’s alright. There’s no chance that she’ll want to go out and ride until the weather warms up, so we still have a couple of months to pay it off.) I ran into Steve, Dave and Chuck at the bike shop, were I was assured that my name was being taken in vain at club rides due to my extended absence.

It was good to see the guys, though I rather see them over a pair of handlebars than standing around a store. I mentioned to them that my Lovely Lovely had told me I needed to get out and ride more. Opinion was divided as to whether this was a good thing or a bad thing. I’ll go with the good thing idea.

(I’ll go with the good thing idea? I’ll bet that’s a sentence you’ve never seen before. It’s surely a sentence I’ve never written before. Many of my sentences are peculiar, but that one might be in a class by itself.)

Well, here’s hoping I actually do get some more rides in. After all, the double century is only a few months away, and I’m determined to do it this year. You read it here first, and now you can hold me to it.

See you on the road.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Coldy Cold Cold Cold

From an area newspaper:

Two competing weather systems are pouring a blast of cold air on a wide swath of the nation, including the Carolinas. The result is an unusually long bought of very cold weather that has forecasters and other officials warning residents to take safety precautions.

Ahh, man. I knew I shouldn’t have written that blog entry about how it’s usually warm enough to ride here even in the winter.

I’m going to guess that, even though it won’t be on their list, one of the safety precautions is “Don’t go out riding a bicycle.”

By the way, the result is an unusually long bought of cold weather?

Meteorologists have issued a hazardous weather outlook for the region, urging residents to protect exposed water pipes, check heating units, bring pets inside and make other preparations for the cold.

Like not riding your bicycle? Did I already say “ahh, man”?

The region is experiencing the longest cold spell since 2005 and the low temperatures are expected to last into next, according to the National Weather Service.

To last into next? Next what? Next week? Next month? Next eon? You know, somebody really needs to porfreed these things.

Since Saturday, low temperatures have been around 20 degrees, according to data recorded at
Fayetteville Regional Airport. The lowest temperatures have typically come between 6 and 8 in the morning.

Here is something published on this same day: As of noon today, the temperature in Bismarck warmed up to -21 degrees.

Warmed up to -21 degrees?!! Okay, we are officially wimps here who should be grateful that our twenty degrees is above zero instead of below.

Of course, I’m still not going to go out riding…

Scott Sharp, a meteorologist with the Raleigh office of the National Weather Service, said the cold temperatures were the result of arctic air that is being funneled south by pressure systems over parts of Canada and the American west.

Is it just me, or does it seem like they always blame arctic air? Doesn’t this air warm up when it leaves the arctic? Why is it always bringing the cold to us?

Sharp said the cold spell will continue to produce temperatures between 15 and 20 degrees lower than the average for this time of year. "This is very abnormal for this time of year," he said, "to have temperatures this low for this long."

This is not making me feel better. Will I be reduced to riding the rollers out in the garage? Trust me, as lovely as she is, my Lovely Lovely will not let me ride the rollers in the house. And, you know what? It’s still cold in the garage.

My Lovely Lovely was quite strict with me (but still lovely) yesterday when I suggested going out for a ride because she felt that it was just too cold, so I stayed in. Oh, well.

It has to warm up eventually. When it does, I'll see you on the road.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all of my two wheeled friends!

In a recent post, I referred to
geocaching. I meant to make the word geocaching a link to a geocaching website so that anyone who didn’t know what geocaching was could visit the geocaching website to learn about geocaching.

But I forgot. Sorry about that. I think I may have rectified that now. And now, back to our blog about cycling.

If your first ride of the year is an omen of things to come, I don’t know if I should be happy or sad, because my first ride went both badly and well.

It went badly because I intended to join the group ride this morning, but circumstances beyond my control (really!) kept me up too late and I didn’t get up and out of the house in time. When I did get out, I headed toward the start point. After all, it was possible that they would ride in my direction. (Hey, there are only 360 degrees on the compass, so it might have happened. It might have, but it didn’t.)

So I ended up riding alone. I don’t know about you, but I find riding alone when you were expecting to ride with a group to be demoralizing, so, demoralized, I still decided to do thirty miles (which was the length of the expected group ride.)

My ride ended up being 37 miles, mostly because I got lost. Just as I was calling my Lovely Lovely to let her know that I had absolutely no idea where I was, I noticed a sign for a school crossing ahead. Figuring that a school was a pretty good landmark, I pedaled over to it and found that it was a school I had heard of. It was also a school that I had never known the location of. Well, I knew the location now – it was where I was, after all – but that knowledge didn’t help me get anywhere that I knew. All of which is a very complicated way of saying that I was still lost.

Then the universe began to play tricks with me.

I saw a sign for a town I knew. Three miles that way. (There was an arrow pointing. The sign didn’t actually have the words “that way” on it.) I followed the sign. A mile later there was a sign saying that the town was now two miles away. Excellent. I kept pedaling. A mile later there was another sign saying that the town was two miles away in the direction I had just come from.


Well, going back didn’t seem to make much sense, and, somehow I didn’t feel like continuing in the same direction, so I took the first turn I came to. About ten minutes later I found a sign for the same town and it was – did you guess it? – two miles away, this time in a totally different direction.

It was at this point that I decided to ignore all the signs and simply ride until I spotted something I knew. The something I knew finally turned up in the form of a church that I had ridden past with Scott on previous rides. I was on firm footing once again (so to speak, since I was still riding my bike) and could actually point my bike toward home.

I called my Lovely Lovely who was relieved to find that I now knew where I was. I didn’t have any idea how I had gotten there, mind you, but I knew where I was. I was rather farther from home than I had intended to be by that time, but that’s life on the bike.

I was pursued by dogs every direction I went. It was definitely a dog day morning, but, since none of them actually caught me, that was okay. There’s nothing like a large slavering dog, by the way, to make you realize that you weren’t as tired as you thought you were. All of sudden, you do indeed have the energy to go faster than you were going.

So, anyway, I got a nice long ride in to start the year, which is always good, even though the ride didn't turn out to be much like I had expected it to be.

I hope we all have a great year and get lots of miles.

See you on the road.