Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: The View from the Dorkiscope

As we prepare to throw out the 2009 calendars (adieu, Ms. December!) and peruse the detritus of calendar stock at the local Walgreen's for 2010 (I'm going with the "I Can Has Cheeseburger Please Cat"), we often succumb to our basic human nature and reflect fondly on the feasts, foibles, and f--k-ups of the year gone by. In this way we revert to our simian ancestry and act like chimpanzees flinging poop at our enemies and chewing the faces off of our adopted human mothers, although the poop we fling is metaphorical and much more smelly, and the loss of face is orientally philosophical, but can be arrested by judicious injections of blow-fish poison.

End-of-year reflections, however, are like the view that cyclists capture in the little mirror we stick on our helmet or hang off the arm of our glasses. It's a small piece of the whole, usually irrelevant to the world at large, and makes us look like uber-dorks. But, like the view from that jiggling dorkiscope, a quick look will give us an idea of what's coming up -- typically a clueless Hummer who is not ceding a single inch of their God-given road -- while a long look leaves us tumbling into the ditch of despair.

Here, then, is my glance into the Dorkiscope of 2009:

January was cold. We rode a couple of permanents, and I turned 50. After 31 days, it ended. Yippee.

February was not quite as cold, but windy. We rode the Murfreesboro 200K and a couple more permanents, and I started training for the races of April (or maybe this was when Max Watzz first manifested himself).

March had more race training, a couple more permanents, and my first crash of the year. I hate any year when I have to number my bike crashes.

April was when the training paid off. My teams won the Heart of the South 500 and the Nashville Super 80. RandoGirl emerged, thanks in part to her training for the Nashville Super 80. The weather turned better.

May was wet. RandoGirl and I did 3-State-3-Mountain in the rain, and the Little River Century started wet but turned better. The RandoDaughter graduated high school, and that was good. The month ended with me helping support the 600K here, but still finding time in the middle of it to ride a 200K permanent.

June we went to Ireland. We had a great time, but didn't bike much. (Maybe we had a good time because we didn't bike much.) We came back to a very hot Tennessee, where I melted on the Cherohala Challenge and rode with a TNABA athlete on the Harpeth River Ride. (It's weird to look back at how hot it was then, when it's so cold now -- it almost makes you miss upper-90-degree temperatures.) We also had a great time watching Kevin Kaiser show the RAAM racers what a randonneur can do.

July we cheered for Lance at the Tour, rode a couple more permanents, and basically enjoyed some great weather.

August had more permanents. RandoGirl and I bought a new tandem, and the RandoDaughter went off to college.

September started with an excellent Bundrick's Revenge 200K, followed by some nice weather, followed by some wet weather, and concluded with a mostly laid-back Six Gaps.

October was great. RandoGirl and I did a fast Sequatchie Valley Century, then I rode 250 miles at the Little River 24-Hour Challenge before crawling into the van to sleep. RandoGirl and I finished October with a 550-mile self-supported tour down the Natchez Parkway -- a vacation that was so much fun that within a week of our return I began planning a week-long tour down the Oregon coast. Maybe in 2011 ...

November saw my second crash of the year. I still managed to enjoy a couple of permanents, in spite of the quickly cooling temperatures and missing skin in places.

December ends today. I hit 10,000 miles on the first Saturday, and then rode only 600 more miles during the rest of the month. Fortunately, 150 miles a month is enough to keep the legs strong ... hopefully.

What's the plan for 2010? I'm going to let Max Watzz out a bit more. In order to qualify for Paris-Brest-Paris in 2011, I'll need to do a full series (200K, 300K, 400K, and 600K) this year, and probably a fleche in April and our 1000K in September. In October, RandoGirl and I will celebrate our 30th anniversary with a cycling trip in Sicily -- fewer miles than the Trace trip, better food and lodging, and hopefully just as much fun.

I hope that you and yours have had as great a 2009 (with fewer crashes), and will enjoy an even better 2010. As always, thanks for reading, and may all your rides be safe, beautiful, and longer than you used to think you could go.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ho-Ho-Ho's and Frosty Toes

As the last of the "Oh" years -- at least for the next 91 winters -- grinds to a close, clacking towards stasis like a well-trued DuraAce hub, my riding has become lackluster. I guess that's because the weather itself has lacked luster. There is certainly none of springtime's lustrous growth and deep color in the middle Tennessee woods -- merely dry spartan branches clawing away at each other in a biting bitch of a wind.

It's difficult to dredge up motivation to ride when the weather is like this. Next month we can start putting in those death march foundation miles, doing 200 kilometer rides in 200 kelvin temperatures (-99.4 degrees fahrenheit, for the non-scientists out there). Max Watzz won't insist on sessions of intervals and hour-long tempo rides until mid-February -- until then, he is satisfied with three hours each week in the weight room.

Instead, the only reason to ride right now is because it's still fun to be on a bike, and that fun is grossly tempered by near-freezing cold and howling wind.

Nonetheless, irregardless, and e caveat emptor, I did enjoy a painful 55-miler Sunday with a few friends. It was hard work, but we saw some cool stuff.

These Santa Ho manikins (maniki? womanikins?) were dressing the window of a house on Waddell Hollow Road. I should have gotten closer to get a better picture, but manikins (maniku?) have always kind of scared me ... probably from watching Twilight Zone as a youth.

We had a coasting competition going down Garrison Creek, which I handily won by virtue of being gravitationally enhanced this time of year (I'd had three pieces of cake at the party the night before to celebrate RandoGirl's birthday, kwanzaa, and boxing day). At the bottom, I stopped to take a picture of the frozen wall by the road.

Maybe that's the motivation for cycling when the weather outside is frightful. It never looks like this in the summer.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Zombie Butterflies vs. Impaling Unicorns: Last Minute Gift Ideas

At stately Rando Manor, we're getting ready for Christmas, and all of the merriment and misgivings that the season entails. The merriment is obvious: Family, friends, fun, food, and fpresents. (See, Mrs. Cybulski! I did understand the concept of alliteration. I bet you wish now that you could change that C- to the solid C that I so richly deserved.)

The misgivings are primarily centered around the food, which I will eat too much of and be unable to burn off because the weather outside is frightful ... and the prospect of two even more crappy months of cold, where getting out for long rides will entail lots of warm clothing and/or frozen body parts.

I can't do much about the weather ... at least, not until I perfect the lasers on the RandoSatellite. Once that's working right, I will warm up the atmosphere wherever I am, so that I can always enjoy a glorious 80 degrees. Of course, the butterfly effect will come into play -- probably such that butterflies will become brain-eating zombies and soon rule the world -- but at least I'll get in a good ride. And a planet overrun with butterflies would be really, really pretty. It would be even better with some unicorns ... except the butterflies would eat them, too, unless the unicorns could stab them first.

So, until I solve the energy-displacement issue surrounding argon lasers, the best that I can do towards making the world a better place (at least, during this time of pre-butterfly apocalypse) is suggest a few stocking-stuffers for the cyclists in your life.
  1. Toe Warmers. Your local bike shop has them, or you can pick up a case of them at Costco. Tell your cyclist to stick them on the outside of her socks -- maybe with another pair of socks over them -- just before the start of the ride. This will help keep the blood going to her toes for the next six hours -- which is good, because not even mutant butterflies like to eat dead toes.
  2. Glove Liners. Very often during the winter, you start a ride when it's about 40 F outside, and it will warm all the way up to 60. On these days, your cyclist can put a pair of glove liners on under his cycling gloves at the start of the ride. This will keep his hands warm, but still let him get the full benefit of shock-absorption, protection, and nose-wiping chamois from his usual cycling gloves. When it warms up, he just has to take off the liners, roll them up, slip them into a jersey pocket, and ride on wearing only the cycling gloves. Note: Tell him to wear the liners with that pair of cycling gloves that's a little too big, so things don't get too tight.
  3. Hand Warmers. In the store, right next to the toe warmers, probably made by the same company, are chemical hand warmers. On days when it's just above freezing when the ride starts, your cyclist should put these inside his glove liners, on the back of the hand, to warm the blood going to the fingers.
  4. Triple Tube. This is probably the most versatile way to keep any part of your cyclist's head warm. Rivendell makes the one that I use, and I carry it on any brevet where the temperature may dip below 60 F. It rolls up to nothing, keeps the cold out down to about 25 F, and can even be put on in such a way that it won't mess up your hair. Try that with a balaclava.
  5. Jimi. This plastic wallet made by Koyono is much better than a ziploc baggie for toting ID and cash. I carry one with an expired driver's license (I don't need to drive with it, since I have a bike -- I just want to be able to prove I am who I say I am), and $30. For rides over 300K, I'll also put in a bank card. It takes up almost no room, and nothing gets soggy from sweat. I only wish that they made one that was just big enough for a brevet card.
  6. Lantiseptic. This is the best taint paint for ultracycling, ever. Jeff Bauer is one of their spokesmen, and appears in some of their ads. This stuff does not come off in the rain, in gallons of sweat, or after a couple of hundred miles of riding.
  7. Batteries. This time of year, there isn't much daylight, and your cyclist had better bring lights even on a 200K. A spare set of batteries doesn't weigh much, and if it turns out that he needs them they are as good as gold.
  8. Zip Ties. An assortment of these in your bag can save your cyclist's ride. If she loses a screw, a zip tie may serve as a short-term replacement. If something is rattling, she can probably snug it up. If her headlamp breaks, she can get a flashlight at a Mapco and zip tie it to the handlebars. Imagine the possibilities.
  9. Big Box of Patches and a Tube of Glue. Inner tubes are expensive, and other riders seem to always want to throw them away after they've gotten a flat. Maybe they get them free from their sponsor, but if the cyclist in your life has not yet turned pro, he should offer to "dispose" of his friend's tube and take it home. He can then patch it, test it, and put it in his saddle bag for the next time. It's environmentally sound and it's cheap ... and that's a killer combination.
  10. Citrus-Based Degreaser and Cleaner. Again, you can get this at your local bike shop or Home Depot or Costco. Tell your cyclists to use it sparingly, because it can eat away grease in places that grease needs to be. Used properly, however, it will make his bike look better, ride better, and last longer.
So there you have it. Nothing says, "I love you, and understand your need to ride off into the frozen wasteland for hours on end, abandoning your dear family to the ravages of killer butterflies," as well as gifts like these.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Cycling: Riding the Razor's Edge

Riding a bicycle during the winter in any of the United States forced to straddle the schizoid meandering jet stream is kind of like being the sole offspring of a broken marriage of two abusive shmucks.

The jet stream plummets and you are shuttled over to stay with your Ice Queen mom. Life isn't too bad there, so long as you dress correctly and are constantly on guard against the barbed comments that strip the flesh from your bones and bring tears to your eyes. Her icy embrace leaves you trembling like a dog staring fixedly at the gleaming tip of a steel-toed boot, and your nose runs so much that you wipe it bloody. The harsh glaring blue of her skies brings no warmth, and is as fleeting as the smile with which she blesses you when she thinks someone may be looking.

Then dad punches out the jet stream as he blows up from some Gulf Coast casino in a backfiring Cadillac convertible that he "borrowed" from his beach whore girl friend, coughing fumes fraught with unfiltered Pall Malls and bottom-shelf blended bourbon from one end while blasting methane laced with last week's gumbo from the other. He is always wringing wet, with alcohol seeping from his moon-crater pores punctuated by delirium tremens-inspired storms of last night's gumbo and stomach acid, slowly abating to mournful dry heave rumblings about something lost.

The only thing worse is the hand-off, when they scream and spit and spew years of pent-up rage fueled by unrequited narcissistic self-loathing, as you cower below, rolled into a tight fetal wad with your hands clamped over your ears moaning for the kind of succor that you read about in a book whose title now eludes you.

And then -- oh so rarely -- that wondrous thing happens, and Grandma and Grandpa come swoop you away ... maybe for an hour, and sometimes for a day or maybe two ... and life is sweet again. Sure, they are the creatures that spawned your abominable parents, and the bloodlines run strong and bloody, but time has worn off the sharp edges of their temperament, making their fury more furry. You would never mistake an afternoon with the grandparents for one of those glorious days with Aunt Summer, but it is enough. In a long schizoid winter that even Chekhov could not have survived, it is these respites that keep us sane.

Well, guess who's coming to visit tomorrow?

For all of you out there, if you can find time to slip away from work, holiday shopping, and family duties: Get on your bike Tuesday. It is the first day of winter, and we're getting what may be the only break we're going to see in a while.

And then, tomorrow night, when you're warming up by the fire and feeling some good pain in your quadriceps, call your grandparents. You owe them one.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Putting the Ego in Alter-Ego

Many authors use pseudonyms. George Elliot, who wrote Silas Marner, was actually Mary Anne Evans. She used a man's name so that her works would be "taken seriously." There are also a number of authors who are famous in one genre, but publish under a pseudonym outside of their regular realm. Stephen King uses Richard Bachman, Nora Roberts uses J. D. Robb, and Dr. Seuss uses Tom Clancy.
Could you, would you, with a squadron of light infantry soldiers armed with Heckler and Koch submachine guns?

I could, I would, with a squadron of light infantry soldiers armed with Heckler and Koch submachine guns!
I, too, have an alter-ego. Or maybe it's just a recent manifestation of my multiple personalities disorder. As Ian Hunter once sang, you're never alone with a schizophrenic, and once bitten by one you will be twice shy.

But, as usual, I digress.

Just as the phone book validated existence to Navin R. Johnson, so did a document that arrived in the mail yesterday force the formerly dormant racer wraith within me to blast it's hoary head through my brittle sternum, hiss caustically at a horrified world, and leap onto the nearest Big Wheel to roll hell-bent for spandex.

Meet Max Watzz. I would describe him for you, but I can feel his life force consuming me again ... too strong ... can't stop ... argh ... yadda-yadda.

Whew. Thank goodness we got rid of that loser. What kind of moron rides a bike for more than 100 kilometers anyhow? I mean, I can see it for the Spring Classics, but just to go riding out in the country for hundreds of miles ... for "fun?" With no podium at the end?! Puh-leaze!

And I want to make something clear, here. This dork RandoBoy DID NOT win the Super 80 and the Heart of the South 500 last year. I did. Me, me, me, me, me. That's my favorite word, by the way, so I'll say it some more. Me, me, me, me, me.

Okay, now I'm done. Yes, I am. Me done. Heh-heh. Me, me, me, me, me.

But back to the races that I won -- not RandoBoy. He wouldn't know how to reach into the barrel of pain, stir around in the victuals of strength, and pull out the kind of performance that it takes to be a winner. I know how to do that. Me.

I also know how to show restraint. It's part of the class that is only shown by true champions. Eddie was like that, and maybe Lance. They are like me that way ... the lucky bastards.

And I have shown lots of restraint lately ... maybe too much, if it is possible for me to make a mistake. It was actually all part of my master plan ... yeah, that's it. I had a plan from the start. Because another mark of the true champion is the ability to change history in his mind so that it continues to validate his world view.

So, my plan all along was to let this RandoBoy character get me enough good bikes that I could then strip control from him and bring myself out to bask in the limelight that is my own magnificence. Not that I need a good bike to win, of course, because it's all about the power that flows, barely controlled, through my massive loins.

Speaking of the power of my massive loins ... why, yes, I don't mind if I do. I will be using my brobdingnagian quadriceps this year to set new records in time trials throughout Tennessee. I may also bestow my skills to some road races, but will mostly limit myself this year to the Race of Truth. For that is where my Greatness shall most surely shine.

Anyway, back to power. My 42-centimeter quadriceps are capable of delivering untold wattage. Why, my threshold wattage alone is ... what? ... wait ... no, you can't take over again ... I won't go back in the box ... Nooooooo!

Geez, what an obnoxious peckerwood. You'll probably hear more from him during the course of the year, and for that I apologize. We all have our dark side, and we occasionally have to let it out in the sun in hopes that it either dries up and blows away, or at least stops raising such a stink.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Flash Frozen Dog Meat

RUSA (Randonneurs USA) has an award called the R-12, which any member can win, more or less, by riding a brevet or permanent every month for 12 months straight.

This sounds easy, particularly if you live in middle Tennessee where we have so many brevets during the season, and lots of good permanents to choose from. I've done two R-12's, as have many of my friends.

The tricky part of the R-12 is getting the brevet in during certain months. Naturally, this includes the winter, but it also can be hard during the spring, when the weather is usually great. There are so many other great rides around here that are not brevets that you may have to choose to skip one of your favorite club centuries to ride a solo permanent. In fact, I did not ride a brevet or permanent this past June, since I was off on vacation for two weekends, and the rest of the weekends were consumed by the Harpeth Bicycle Club's River Ride, and the Smokey Mountain Wheelmen's Cherohala Challenge.

But the perfect storm, of course, is December. This is when you can have really crappy weather here, plus you have trips to see family, holiday parties, shopping, and so forth. Inevitably, in December, you have to watch out for the best weather date that you can get when you are going to be in town, and then either skip out on something else that you're supposed to do, or ride the permanent fast enough to get home in time to do it in the evening.

Which is a long way of setting up why these three idiots are standing here in Murfreesboro freezing to death.

Jeff Sammons, on the left, needed a permanent for his R-12 -- this is either his second or third. Although the weather Saturday was not great, he figured it would be best to get in his permanent early just in case. Peter Lee, next to him, and myself were out there to keep him company ... or maybe we are just idiots for the sake of idiocy.

As usual, we started at 7 am from the Starbuck's on Nolensville Road near where Concord Road runs into it. It was 27 degrees. I had ridden over from my house two miles away, and had actually gone back home to get my warmer gloves and a balaclava. Thus, I had to guzzle a fast coffee and scone before we rolled out.

The extra clothes felt right as we rolled out. I felt nice and warm as we climbed up Pettus Road, watching the sun try to slip through the clouds, and then rocking down the other side the few slivers of skin that were exposed felt the biting cold.

Jeff had actually named this route for me, thanks to all of the dogs that chase you on these rural roads. But the cold Saturday kept the usual varmints on Old Hickory and Cane Creek inside, and it was not until we were south of Nolensville on Fly Road that the first dog -- a lumbering but lethargic beast that may have been a small polar bear -- actually came into the road to chase us.

The traffic was also very light as we rode down Rocky Fork Road to Del Thomas, over the steep climb on Paw-Paw Springs to Independent Hill, and then down Almaville Road to Shores Road. From there, we touched the edge of Murfreesboro at the first control, a convenience store on Hwy 99 and Armstrong Valley Road, where we grabbed a quick bite, topped off our bottles, got cards signed, and rolled on.

The wind had been light for most of this section, but it slowly gained strength as we went southeast on Armstrong Valley Road. Although the name of the road changes a couple of times, navigation is very simple here: Get on this road and keep going until it ends. As usually happens this time of year, the wind was in our face for the entire 25 miles, but one advantage of riding with randonneurs as strong as Peter and Jeff is that we were able to trade off pulls and make pretty good time down to Shelbyville.

After again clearing the control quickly, we then turned west, putting the wind a little more behind us. We zoomed north up Old Nashville Dirt Road, then tacked down Shaw and Troupe before settling in on a beam reach down a series of quiet country lanes. The dogs were still staying mostly inside, but we did manage to scare the two buffalo at the farm just past the creek on Fishing Ford Pike. I'm not sure if two running buffalo constitute a stampede, but it was more fun than dancing with wolves.

Eventually, we found ourselves back on Highway 31, being pushed by the wind up through Henry Horton State Park and in to Chapel Hill. The skies were still ominously overcast, promising rain and keeping the temperatures down to a level that would make things extremely unpleasant; thus, we skipped the stop at Subway and, after clearing the Shell station control, rode on.

Departing West Depot to Daughrity, swinging up Smiley to Sweeney, riding Thick, and then Dowdy, the route became hilly again. We went over the ridge to Bethesda on Cross Keys, then took Bethesda-Arno to the fun little climb and even more fun descent on Cool Springs Road. The southern wind buffeted us a bit more on Peytonsville and over I-65 to Old Peytonsville Road, but we ended up at the penultimate control at Henpeck Market about 1:30 pm.

I've mentioned before the Tomato Basil South at Henpeck, so I won't wax poetic about it again. Suffice to say that finally stopping to sit down here, after 110 miles, for a cup of this soup was sooooooo good.

Unfortunately, we were still trying to beat the rain, so we rolled out to start the last 24 miles about 2 pm. After getting beat up by the wind again on Old Peytonsville, past the Williamson County Agriculture Center, and all the way down the rollers on Long Lane and Crowder Road, we finally got our tailwind back on Peytonsville-Trinity.

It was about here that I began to get tired, probably because I have not ridden as much as usual in the past few weeks. I was able to hang on down Wilson Pike to Tuloss, but then let a gap open up on Clovercroft. The wind was against us down this stretch, but I knew that I had plenty of time and it looked as if the rain was going to give us a break.

Jeff, in an act of mercy, dropped his chain going up the last steep climb on Clovercroft, so that I could catch up to him. Unfortunately, he dropped it too far and the chain ended up slightly jammed. We had no trouble on Pleasant Hill Road, but on the first steep hill on Split Log the chain snapped.

In the perverse world of randonneuring, however, a mechanical problem is just an opportunity. I pulled out my Crank Brothers multitool, and Jeff quickly took a couple of links out and repaired his chain. It meant that he would not be able to use a couple of gears for the rest of the ride, but since we only had another five miles to go it was no big deal.

We took Split Log to Sunset, then north on Waller to the SUV-choked hell that is Concord Road. When we got back to Starbuck's, Peter was getting ready to come looking for us in his car. It was almost 4 pm, we had beat the rain, and none of us has to do another permanent for the rest of the year.

Unless, of course, the weather is really good this weekend ...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Perfectly Good Waste of Time

Today was the sixth straight day of coming in to the office by car. I could've biked in -- it was almost 50 degrees out this morning and dry -- but was deterred by the 20 mph winds and prospect of steadily declining temperatures all day as a cold front moves in.

I'm a wimp.

Since I've been riding less, however, I've been reading more. Reading leads to ideas, which can be very dangerous things in simple minds (like mine) that are ill-prepared to handle them. Here are some of the stupid thoughts that have wandered forlorn across the barren landscape of my non-riding consciousness -- a mental image that conjures up thoughts of Ed, Edd, and Eddy trying to find Thunderdome, or maybe Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," starring Beavis and Butthead.
  1. A cartoon version of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome could actually work, and Ed Edd n Eddy as comic relief would not hurt. In the season finale, Ed, Edd, and Eddy have to battle in Thunderdome. Three go in ... one comes out. It could only be an improvement.

  2. In the spirit of fair play, somebody needs to talk to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. American jurors are normally very fair-minded, and I am certain that they will listen carefully to all of the facts presented at his trial before finding him guilty, guilty, guilty, and decree that he must be hung by the neck until he is deader than hell, and even offer to "string him up right here and now" before the judge tells them that they don't get to do that. In which case they may pout. But my point (if indeed I have one) is that Khalid (do you mind if I call you Khalid? not that I know how to pronounce it) might have a chance if somebody would explain to him the concept of "manscaping." I mean, really? This guy is a freaking hair farm. A good barber, lots of hot wax, and a few hours on a treadmill and he could walk into the courtroom looking like this.
    And do I have to point out that this dude used to have a license to kill? American juries would probably still find Khalid guilty ... although they might not if he also hires a dialog coach and can get Pierce Brosnan's accent right ... but they would merely sentence him to a three-season contract doing "Remington Steele" on ABC. And everybody knows that ABC is synonymous with Hell ... at least until "Lost" comes back. NOTE: As of press time, Stephanie Zimbalist could not be reached for comment. Her dad is either undercover with the FBI, or doing the voice for Batman's butler.

  3. The guy who "invented" Twitter, Jack Dorsey, has announced his Next Big Thing will be a device that lets people make credit card payments using the iPhone or iPod. Wow. That's just what I need. It's always been so much trouble for me to make a credit card payment by actually pulling out a credit card and swiping it through the reader at Publix (where shopping actually is a pleasure ... I'm serious). Of course, I'm not sufficiently narcissistic to "tweat" anyway (I'm barely narcissistic enough to blog), so I'm probably not in Dorsey's target demographic.

  4. I do seem to be in Rivendell Bicycle Works's target demographic. They've been sending me e-mails pushing certain products, and then mentioning that they will not be laying off employees in spite of the current economic downturn. While I generally like Rivendell's stuff, particularly their bags, promotional material like this bears the faintly sour aroma of desperation, a la "Buy this bike now, or the kitten dies."

  5. Have people in cars always been this cranky, or is it just the season? Since I've been commuting in a car lately, I've been on the more traveled thoroughfares, and the people there are freakin' nuts! Maybe they're just feeling the time crunch of holiday shopping and stuff, but this is no way to get on Santa's "good" list.
That's about all the thoughts that I've had, or at least all that could survive on the marrow of desiccated bones and moldy bits in the bottoms of old cat-food cans that litter the drifting dunes of my post-apocalyptic mind. I'm hoping to ride a permanent Sunday, maybe even on the single-speed, and perhaps that will force my brain to change course to a less introspective mode. I'm just not equipped for deep thought.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Weather Outside is Frightful

For some reason, flipping the calendar over to December here in middle Tennessee this year was like flipping a switch on the big thermostat in the sky. We bypassed the "Cool" setting and went right to "Cold," and then had snow flurries this past weekend ... yes, snow flurries. In the freaking southeastern United States, on the first weekend in December, still three weeks from winter, and we get SNOW?!


It was so lousy last week that I didn't even bike in to work. Not one day. There were only about half a dozen weeks this whole year when I didn't bike in to work at least one day, and two of those were because I was on vacation.

Of course, in January, I rode in one day when it was five degrees. And last November I had a programming class over on the north side of town, and biked in to that ... even though it was an extra 20 miles round-trip, and pretty darned cold that day, too.

I think the problem is actually that I'm suffering from my own success.

Last year, I had to ride in some crappy weather to get in my 10,000 miles. This year, I hit that mark this past Saturday morning, riding a little 40-mile route in mid-30 temperatures on the first true Polar Bear Ride of the season.

Durk Peterson has been leading the Saturday Polar Bear Rides in Leiper's Fork for as long as I have lived here. No matter how cold and windy it is, you can count on a good hilly workout with Durk every Saturday. I would say that he likes to suffer, except that he is always so good-natured about these rides.

As you can see, we were all bundled up. I was wearing my beloved Assos gear, with winter shoes and chemical toe warmers on the socks, plus lobster mitts keeping my fingers warm. Frankly, I was dressed just about perfectly, which was easier to do since I kept the ride short and finished before the day reached the balmy 40's.

I started the day 39 miles away from 10,000. We rode 41, so that I pulled into the parking lot at 10,002. Goal met.

I could have ridden during the afternoon. It was not too windy, and it got all the way up to 42 at my house. Instead, I did some chores, and got ready for the Harpeth Bike Club's Holiday Party that night. RandoGirl and I chatted with friends, ate good food, listened to some really great music, and boogied.

Sunday, we met Mike and Patty Willman, and the four of us rode our tandems down to Henpeck and back. Again, the temperatures stayed in the 30's, and there was just a bit of wind, so we rode just under 40 miles.

I'm pretty sure that I'll get interested enough in riding to suffer the current temperatures again. It may not be in the next couple of weeks ... but it doesn't have to be. I've met my goal mileage for the year, and I'm having fun.

I'll let you know when that changes.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

An Open Letter to Mark Lynskey

Dear Mark:

I'm writing this to let you know how you saved my a$$.

First, let me be clear that by a$$, I mean my posterior. My tush. My keister.

The dollar signs are in no way a commentary on the price of your bicycles. They ain't cheap (although I managed to get mine at a ridiculously good price), but then quality such as this rarely is. Especially titanium quality. I mean, it's a rare metal, so it's expensive. And it's only a little easier to work with than adamantium (the stuff that Wolverine's skeleton is lined with, for my nerd readership), so anybody that sells a titanium bike cheap is an idiot.

Of course, I'm not calling you an idiot, even though I did get my titanium Lynskey pretty cheap. And I certainly wouldn't call Lynn Greer at Gran Fondo (a.k.a., "the Greatest Bike Shop in the Universe", where I bought this bike) an idiot. Not just because he's my friend, and not just because he is certainly not an idiot. And only partially because I'm a little afraid of him ... well, maybe more than a little. He can be crazy intense.

So, we're clear, right? There are no idiots here, even though I have been known to do idiotic things. But I was certainly no idiot when I bought this bike.

Of course, again, to give credit where credit is due, I did not just decide one morning that I wanted to buy a new Lynskey randonneuring bike. Credit for that has to go to Lynn ... or maybe his wife, Vida. They knew that I wanted a new randonneuring bike, and that I probably needed a new randonneuring bike. I was just finishing up a season where I rode a 1200K on an aluminum Masi, and although I survived this ride, it was not without damage, and it certainly wasn't an entirely pleasant experience. They knew, and I knew, that a custom geometry frame made out of a more forgiving material would make future brevets more enjoyable.

So, Lynn put together a great deal, and RandoGirl gave the OK. All I had to do was get measured and decide what to put on the top tube.

Which brings us back to my a$$.

I've now been on this wonderful bicycle for just over a year. I have crashed it once, I have raced on it, I have been on it for 18 hours and 250 miles almost non-stop, and I have ridden lots of brevets and centuries and just little fun trips and commutes. Basically, I now have almost 5,000 miles on this bike.

And I still love it. Rarely this season did I find its caress unkind, and most of those instances were probably the result of too much time on other ill-fitting bikes ... or maybe some shot shorts.

I rode my Lynskey on some crappy roads this year. When I had ridden those crappy roads on other bikes, I would raise up out of the saddle a bit. Not so with this bike, as it somehow smothered the crap.

Some bikes would make you pay for this shock-absorption. Not this one. When I want to quickly climb a hill, or jump for a county-line sprint, it is right there with me. If my legs are giving power, then the Lynskey returns speed.

A lot of fast bikes are twitchy, but not this one. Since I don't have mad bike racer skillz, I don't take my hands off of the bars much ... but I can on my Lynskey. It goes straight when that's the way I want to go, and when I lean into a turn it carves a sweet tight curl ... like Danish butter. Mmmm ... butter.

And, of course I don't have to tell you how tough it is ... I mean, it is made of titanium. When I crashed on some gravel on a turn in March, my wheel tacoed and I had a couple of scratches on the left brake hood. But the frame? Fuhgeddaboudit.

But, back to my butt.

In 2010, I plan to do a full series of brevets, culminating in the fall with a 1000K. In 2008, I took at least a full week off the bike before the 600K and 1200K, to ensure that the "human/saddle interface" was unmarred by lingering issues. This year, I won't have to do that. This year, with this bike, I feel pretty sure that I could go out next weekend and ride a 600K without any problems ... other than suffering from the cold and wind, and of course the lack of sleep and muscle stress that are inevitable with riding 375 miles in 40 hours or less.

Part of this may be due to the fact that I'm pretty well trained up right now, but most of it is due to you and the wonderful bike that you built for me. You helped make 2009 a great year for me in cycling, and you have given me hope for an even better 2010. For this, I thank you from the bottom ... of my heart.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

What a Wonderful World

Church signs are the haikus of the western world. They boil down the essence of the message to as many words as will fit on the sign and the letters that you have in the box ("Who the hell took all the L's -- you can't make HELL without L's!").

My two favorite church signs this year? Last week, I saw this one:
Come inside to talk to Jesus. Text message him now if you can't wait.
But my favorite, and one that actually struck a chord with me, is this one:
Grumbly hateful, or humbly grateful.
Sometimes I am grumbly hateful. I don't know many people that aren't from time to time, but now is when we are supposed to think of how really good we have it, and how much worse things could potentially suck, and be humbly grateful. This is not easy, however, for those of us for whom being humble -- due to our obvious superiority -- is difficult.

Nonetheless, one of the benefits of being a superhero with a far-above-average intelligence is that I can imagine what it would be like to not be so superior. Thanks to those ruminations, I was able to put together a list of what I'm grateful for:
  1. RandoGirl and the RandoDaughter. They are still the two people with whom I most usually like to hang out. They keep me sane ... or close enough to it.
  2. My other cycling friends. They make it much more fun -- and sometimes harder -- to be on a bike. But when they make it difficult, it's for my own good.
  3. The rest of my family, who have managed to maintain reasonably good health this year.
  4. Being lucky enough to ride (more or less) away from all of my crashes this year without permanent debilitating injury.
  5. Being lucky enough to have won both of the races I entered this year, mostly thanks to being on teams with great riders.
  6. Being lucky enough to be born into a good family in what I still consider the greatest country in the world, so that I have had a chance to make the most of my abilities and the freedom to present my ridiculous opinions in this blog.
  7. My loyal flock (is three or more a flock?) of readers. I would probably write this blog regardless of whether anyone read it or not, but I get a huge kick out of people commenting on it and telling me later how much they enjoyed it. Or hated it, as the case may be.
  8. Finally, roads like Spanntown Road, which I headed down to for a quick 40+ miles Thanksgiving morning.

It was chilly and windy, and this time of year I don't need to worry about burning off the mashed potatoes like this.

But I had the wind at my back all down this little five-mile lane, and there were absolutely no cars. Who could be grumbly hateful with that?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

14 Days Later: The Crash Update

Tuesday afternoon it had been exactly two weeks since I crashed my fixie commuter on Edmondson Pike. Lots of folks ... well, a few folks ... have asked how everything is healing. Generally, I'd say "pretty well."

Here's the leg now:

Not bad, considering what it looked like two weeks ago:

Most of the credit for this leg looking so incredibly good goes to my mom, who also has very shapely calves. As to the skin on the leg, most of the credit there has to go to Lynn Greer at Gran Fondo (a.k.a., "the Greatest Bike Shop in the Universe"). When I went by the shop the day after the wreck, Lynn gave me a Road Rash Repair Kit, which has colloidal bandages. I put two of these on the big scraped area that evening, and kept them on for about 10 days. When I then peeled them off, the skin was kind of flakey and dry, but was otherwise all healed up.

I also put a smaller colloidal bandage on the knee. This was a deeper cut, but it's almost good now. I keep a band-aid on it just because jeans otherwise kind of scrape along it when I walk or sit down.

There was more road rash on my hip, but I have no pictures of that for the obvious reason that a photo of this much of the huge expanse of RandoBoy's fabled Quantum Quadriceps would make my female readers swoon. I put a large Nexcare tegaderm bandage on this area, and a tegaderm on the lighter road rash on my forearm. These did not stick as well as the colloidal bandages, particularly in the shower, so that I had to replace them about every other day; but they nonetheless worked fairly well.

RandoBoy Recommendation: If you crash and have road rash then you should dash ... ah, never mind. Just go to Gran Fondo and get a Road Rash Repair Kit. You can find smaller colloidal bandages at your local pharmacy, but these are not nearly as good. For lighter road rash, or if you can't find the colloidal bandages, get some tegaderms.

I also put a colloidal bandage on my mallelous:

Here's what this foot looked like after the crash:

While neither of these are exactly beautiful, for this I must blame my father. He, too, had ugly feet.

On the upside, the thing is healing, it doesn't hurt, and I learned something important: The little bone that sticks out on the side of your ankle is your mallelous. I hope to avoid future crashes on it, however, as I have a hard time remembering whether to put the double "L" and where.

Finally, the hand:

I show this because I think that the scars on the pinkie and ring finger could present an opportunity. Since they will look like capital Os, I could get tattoos on just the right-most knuckles -- the "bird" finger and the "trigger" finger -- to make the following:

Get your own knuckles at the knuckle tattoo gun.

Of course, I won't get the exclamation points on the right hand, but you get the idea.

Anyway, the hand is probably the thing that still bothers me the most, which you would expect since I had to get a stitch in the bird knuckle. Still it is healing pretty well, as you can see here:

This obviously looks better than it did:

Unfortunately, we were unable to catch the alien as it went scampering across the room. It has already grown to adulthood and has been spotted all over the country during the past weeks, wreaking havoc on an unsuspecting nation.

"I taught Contador how to fingerbang!"

In bookstores now, where no one can hear you scream. Well, they can, but then security comes and makes you go outside.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Ride Report from Hell

A lot of randonneurs, when they first start, do ride reports on every brevet. Some are realistic, like My Sexy Randonneuring Lifestyle -- a great write-up on the 2006 Cascade 1200K. I remember reading a strange stream-of-consciousness report from the 2007 Paris-Brest-Paris that really captured the essence of the event, which was plagued with rain and wind.

Some ride reports are more like advertising for the next time the event is held. They will wax on about how beautiful the scenery is, while never mentioning the fact that the average temperature was 100 degrees, the wind was always in your face at 40 mph, the mosquitoes were like something out of a Hitchcock movie, and the tractor trailers with which you were sharing every road had bike-shaped decals on their noses to indicate their "ace" status.

Most ride reports, however, love these details. Last week, I made a movie to illustrate:

Of course, my inspiration for this was the following:

Kind of makes it easier to understand why the London-Edinburgh-London 1400K is so tough.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Winding Down with Friends

I've been hitting the road a lot on my bicycle the past few weeks (literally, one time too many), and sensed the beginnings of burn-out. My friend, Vida Greer, has been feeling a little burn-out coming on for her, too, and Jeff Bauer ... well, okay, Jeff never gets burned out. I think Jeff could probably spend the rest of his life on a bicycle seat and be happy. But Jeff has had some pressing business matters come up, and so he was amenable to the idea of a shorter Saturday ride this past weekend.

It was colder than last weekend -- when the temperatures had risen into the 70's both days -- so we opted for a later start from Vida's house. This allowed me to get in an extra 40+ miles by biking over there and back.

I went through "downtown" Brentwood, stopping at Bruegger's Bagels (which used to be partly owned by cycling legend and French rock star Greg LeMond). Unfortunately, the shop had been commandeered by cheerleaders from a local high school, apparently on their way to one of those cheerleading competitions. I went over to Starbuck's, instead, and made do with a scone.

There's a nice ridge west of Brentwood. Coming over Manley Road, I was reminded of another reason that I like to climb: The view.

By the time we rolled out from Vida's, it was warm enough to take off my jacket and glove liners. Vida also shucked a layer, and then slipped it into my bag. RandoGirl does this all the time, too, but it's just the downside of having a big trunk -- all the girls want to put their junk in it.

We headed south on Old Natchez to Del Rio Pike and Boyd Mill Pike, circling in towards Leiper's Fork. Since it was a leisurely ride, I was able to stop and get pictures of the longhorn steers on Bear Creek Road.

While we were stopped, the horses across the road came over to check us out. They still had their horse snugglies on.

Blue for boys and pink for girls.

Skirting the edge of Leiper's Fork, we stopped at Robinson's Market for fuel, and then headed further south down Robinson Road. Here, we got a good look at the construction on Hwy 840 that is tearing things up.

We all loved the fact that the little house in the hollow is still there. It will be really weird and cool if it's still there when they open the road ... kind of like the heart of this area thumbing its nose at progress.

Since this was a "short" ride, we only went as far as Mobley's Cut before starting to circle our way back. We went over to Davis Hollow, then left on Peach Hollow and down to Garrison Road. The buffalo cooperated by standing close to the fence.

Then we got back on Leiper's Creek Road. There's a farm on your right coming north on this road, just before you get to Pinewood Road, that I think is just about the prettiest farm in the world. You come over the hill, and the field on your right opens up to reveal it whole.

Pictures never do this farm justice. You have to drive out and see it. Better yet, bike there!

We zipped through "downtown" Leiper's Fork without stopping, taking Southall to McMillan, then left on Boxley Valley after the first of the two steep hills. We call those hills "the Dolly Partons," so I guess Boxley Valley has us veering down Dolly's cleavage towards a place where we ain't got no business.

Back on Boyd Mill Pike, some baby donkeys had heard that we were taking pictures.

I had a package of Powerbar Gel Blasts in my jersey pocket, which I had noticed earlier in the ride had somehow sprung a leak. They were suspect for humans, but the horses in this field loved them. Vida also gave up most of her last granola bar, and we made some friends.

Back on Del Rio, I said goodbye and started for home. After crossing the ridge and getting back to Brentwood, I was starving (this is what happens when you don't get your bagel in the morning and your gel blast later), so I stopped at McAlister's and had a big sandwich before riding the rest of the way home.

It's nice to have friends like Jeff and Vida that I can do this sort of ride with -- cyclists of similar abilities with whom I can enjoy good conversation as we roll through beautiful country. Sometimes, we ride with too much focus on training and technique and huge miles -- spending so much time within ourselves that we forget to interact with the world around us, and the great people that live there.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Kind of Like Kevlar

What if Peter Parker had never gone on the field trip where he was bitten by the radioactive spider? What if Bruce Banner had pulled a hamstring the night before testing his gamma ray bomb, so that he couldn't run out and get caught in the blast while saving Rick Jones? What if Steve Rogers had not been 4-F at the start of World War II, so that he didn't become the test subject for the super-soldier serum that turned him into Captain America?

And what if Assos had never started selling their gear online? In that case, RandoBoy might not have ever been.

To make a long story short ... well, that's not my nature. Anybody will tell you that, if anything, I tend to make a short story long. Usually much longer than it really deserves. Long enough to bore most people to tears. Like this paragraph.

So, I'll just tell the damned story the way I was going to anyhow. It takes the space that it takes ... that space being the space of your typical blog entry.

In 2006, Assos still sold clothing only through retailers. Gran Fondo (e.g., the Greatest Bike Shop in the Universe) in Nashville carried it, and I would regularly peruse it longingly on the racks there. It was so beautiful, and I knew it would keep me all snugly warm. But it was also expensive (and still is), so it was kind of like the Pinarello Dogma that they built up for Frankie Andrieu, which they had in the shop this week. Like a Dogma, Assos gear was something that I could lust after and would love to buy -- but, as Wayne and Garth would say, "I'm not worthy."

Then along came the radioactive spider ...

When Assos started selling their gear through some online merchants, Gran Fondo decided to stop carrying it. Lynn and Vida Greer -- two of the owners of the shop, and good friends of mine -- then did something very nice: They put aside one of the sets of Assos outerwear in my size, and sold it to me at a ridiculously low price.

When I got it, Lynn warned me, "Don't wear it when it's over 40 degrees." This is kind of like "Don't feed the Gremlins after midnight," in that it is not obvious, but very sound advice. Since I always follow Lynn's advice, the new outfit hung in the RandoCloset -- well, back then, it was just my bedroom closet -- for over a month. Then, it got cold enough one morning that I could wear it for a little 50-mile spin.

I'll never forget the first time I stepped into these bibs. They were snug in all the right places, squeezing my legs just enough to make the blood flow, but not enough to stop it. They kind of ... energized me. I recall hearing this humming sound, kind of like a Ghostbuster firing up an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on his back. I'm pretty sure it's solar power, though, because they have all these tiny mirrors sown in (as you can kind of tell from the picture). At night, when a car's lights hit them, they flash and strobe and do everything to tell the car that I am there short of hijacking the OnStar system and directing the driver to give me at least three feet when passing.

And then I put on the jacket. Snuggly soft. Lots of pockets on the back, and they're easy to get into even with thick gloves on. Good soft elastic on the cuffs that keep the warm air in, but don't keep the blood from going to your hands. A different elastic on the waist with some kind of stickiness that keeps the jacket right where it should be. Comfortable collar with a snap. More little mirrors to make sure that drivers get the message broadcast by the bibs. Snuggly.

When RandoGirl (who back then wasn't even the RandoWife, but just "my wife") saw me, she said, "Wow. You look like one of the X-Men."

I immediately ran to check myself out in the mirror. Not because I doubted her, of course, but I really wanted to see if I looked like one of the X-Men. And I did look like one of the X-Men ... at least more like one of the X-Men than any of these folks. Even though this outfit was black and blue with mirrors in it, instead of mostly yellow with black and blue, and didn't have a big belt buckle with an "X" on it, I looked pretty superhero-esque.

By the way, a tip to all of the women out there: If you want to make your husband happy, you can do a lot worse than telling him, "Wow. You look like one of the X-Men." This is true even if you aren't married to a nerd (like me).

Anyway, after admiring myself in the mirror for an hour or two (it would have been longer, but remember Lynn's advice about not wearing this gear when the temperature is above 40?), I went for my ride. Maybe it was because I was dressed like a superhero, but I felt like I also rode like a superhero ... or at least how a superhero would ride a bicycle if he/she couldn't fly. I was energized. I was sleek. Best of all, I was snuggly warm. I would have even been snuggly wuggly warm, but I can't imagine any of the X-Men saying "snuggly wuggly." Wolverine would kill you before you could get past "snuggly wug-"

When I got back, my wife said these immortal words:

"How was the ride, RandoBoy?"

I'm pretty sure there was a thunderclap then. Maybe it was a gamma bomb exploding nearby.

Anyway, I bring this up because I got to put on the Assos gear this morning for the first time since last winter. It was 36 degrees when I left the house, and it hit 40 about the time I got to work. I was snuggly-wuggly warm.

Today was the first day that I've biked to work since my accident last week. It felt super.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Long and Boring Non-Road

It's usually about this time of year that the "Bicycling Press" begins telling you how to make the best use of your indoor trainer or rollers. Everyone has these "killer workouts" that only take an hour or so of quality time with your bicycle hooked up to or riding on top of some whirring gizmo, three times a week, and you will be super-fast and super-strong come the super-Spring.

The best part is that you won't have to go outside in the cold, rain, or wind. Instead, you can stay warm and snug in your living room.

Really? That's a good thing?

First, I disagree with the basic premise that this kind of training is sufficient for the type of riding that I do. I am an endurance cyclist. which means that I ride stupid long distance. Now, an hour of hard intervals and tempo work on a trainer may help me build more muscle in my legs and give me a little more spring on a county-line sprint, but if I count on that kind of saddle time to prepare me for a 200K in late February I will be sorely -- and I do mean sorely -- disappointed.

When I first got interested in ultra-cycling, Bill Glass (who knows more about randonneuring than just about anyone) told me that the key to training was to start doing at least one day of century length of greater mileage, every week, beginning in January. I laughed. I really thought that he was kidding. You don't do centuries in January, for crying out loud! You build up to that distance so that you can maybe do one in mid-April, when the weather gets nice.

Nope, Bill said, January. Otherwise, you won't have the miles in your legs for the April 400Ks, and the May 600Ks.

I didn't follow that advice that year. In April, I survived the 400K ... but it was close. In May, I DNF'd on the 600K after 250 miles.

Now, one option is the "indoor century," where you spend at least five hours on the trainer. There may be times this winter -- like when the roads are frozen all weekend -- when I am forced to do this. It will require one fan, 10 towels, three good movies, two ounces of Lantiseptic, and most of my sanity. Since our trainer is kind of noisy (imagine an annoying whirring buzz at D# below middle C -- basically, the sound that a huge dentist's drill would make if it was boring out a cavity in Godzilla's mouth, and Godzilla's novocain was wearing off -- that permeates the entire house), it will probably also require that RandoGirl be out for the day.

Which brings me to the other problem with indoor training: It's not outdoors.

Sure, the air can be so cold that it hurts your lungs. Yes, the wind can beat you to death. Of course, the spray can form ice on your shoes and turn your toes into little cold lumps of pain. Meanwhile, salt seeps into your bottom bracket and chews up the last vestiges of grease, then proceeds to grind the ball bearings into dodecahedrons of decay.

But you're moving out there. You're going around corners -- even if you do slip on icy patches and find that yellow lines can be really slick. But you learn just how slick they are, and how fast you can go over that patch without having the bike slide out from under you, or how to recover when it starts to slide, or how to crash in ways that do minimal damage to you and your bike.

You climb long hills, and the cold air hurts as you suck it down, but the burn in your legs spreads outward to thaw -- however briefly -- the little frozen parts of your wool-encased body. Then you tuck in to zip down the far side, probably going a little more cautiously in the curves but still exercising that part of your brain that picks out the right line on a 40+ mph descent.

You learn how to ride in slush and stay drier. You try different mixtures of clothing layers, figuring out how to keep just warm enough without overheating, and how to avoid carrying five pounds of dead-weight clothing that you never use. You experiment with wheels, tires, tubes, fenders, bags, lights, pedals, shoes, drive trains, and lubricants, so you know what's going to work for you if something goes wrong or the weather turns weird on a 1200K that summer.

On the trainer, you work your legs. On the bike -- on the road -- you work legs, back, shoulders, hips ... everything that you're going to need during the season. Most importantly, unlike the mind-numbing trainer, you work your brain.

Now, to be fair, trainer workouts are better than nothing, and they're great for doing the kind of prescribed workouts that will make you fast. If I can't get out to the track on Tuesday nights for tempos or intervals, I will probably lug the Bianchi upstairs and do that kind of workout there. There are also a few of us here that regularly get together Thursday nights in Bill Glass's barn for a "spin-in movie." You have to bring your own trainer/rollers, and somebody brings a different DVD every week, so it's basically a social work-out. It beats sitting solo on the vomitron.

But I will not depend on these to get ready for the spring brevets. The only thing that will do that is lots and lots of road time.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Three Days Off

So, you crash and leave a bunch of skin in the turn lane on Edmondson Pike. If you're a hardy randonneur, you then go right back out and ride a 1200K. Fortunately, I'm just a wimpy randonneur, so I took three days off the bike, then went out Saturday and rode a 200K permanent. I did the Jack Daniels Distillery route with Jeff Bauer and Peter Lee (on Jeff's tandem), Mike and Patty Willman (on their tandem), and Jeff Sammons (on his bike which is almost big enough to be a tandem, since Jeff is over eight feet tall ... or close to that).

The day started out fairly chilly, but warmed up nicely. There was enough wind to keep things interesting, but it wasn't too bad -- so long as you stayed in the draft of a tandem.

Peter took this picture. Obviously, he was in the draft of a tandem. It's funny how stoker pictures on a tandem often include portions of the captain's head. This one shows just how long Jeff Bauer's hair has gotten.

I had a scarey moment about 20 miles in on the ride when we went through the very tiny town of Verona. Some dogs came out of nowhere right in front of Mike and Patty, forcing Mike to hit the brakes and move left. I was on their wheel, and ended up clipping them. The quick release on their rear wheel hit the spokes of my front wheel.

Fortunately, none of us went down. I did get a bent spoke out of the deal, but was able to ride on after opening the front brake a bit. It was a frightening moment, though, particularly given my recent crash. It kept me from wheel-sucking as close as I normally do for the rest of the day.

If you've never ridden in this portion of middle Tennessee, I recommend it. It was incredibly beautiful, and the roads were nice and quiet. Some of them were a little bumpy, but that's usually the price you pay for low traffic.

There were a lot of tractors on the road Saturday. One of them was towing one of these things -- a thresher? All those whirly blade things really makes you move to the right side of the road when it's going by.

Although there's only between 5000 and 5500 feet of climbing on this route (depending upon whose device you're looking at), it ain't flat. Peter took this picture of your intrepid RandoBoy beating everyone up this long climb.

Peter then took a picture of the look of awe on his face, to capture his admiration for my magnificence.

The foliage was also extraordinary. I would probably say that we peaked in Nashville about a week or two ago, but the lack of rains and storms has allowed some of the leaves to hang around on the trees.

This was Patty's first brevet, by the way. She was great, moving through controls quickly, churning away on the pedals, and passing food and drink to Mike as he needed it. I've ridden with a lot of tandems where the going gets tough in the late miles, and it's hard to stay positive. Patty was not only positive, she was smiling and laughing and appeared to be having a great time. This is a randonneuse in the making.

I took the camera back from Peter later so that I could zip ahead and take pictures of everybody following me up the climbs. I wish that I had a better zoom so that you could see the looks of awe and admiration that they have for me and my incredible power.

Most of the route is on state road 129, which is just an incredible cycling road. Here's Mike and Patty getting to the top of the climb, where we turned briefly on to US-231.

As you approach Lynchburg, you can smell the sour mash. It was really strong here, where they are either storing it or making it in these buildings behind Peter and Jeff.

When you get to the distillery, you can take a tour. Since we were racing daylight, we only stopped long enough to get a free glass of lemonade.

It was really good lemonade.

We then went to Subway, where we could eat fresh. This is, frankly, one of the downsides of randonneuring, as opposed to touring. It's those extra 30-40 miles that you do each day that means that you can't go to one of the nicer restaurants in Lynchburg. Not that Subway isn't good and nutritious ... it's just that it would be nice to replace the calories with something a little better.

This was the last county line sprint that I took Saturday. I got three, while Jeff and Peter won seven. Those two, on a tandem, have so much power that even RandoBoy has no chance in a sprint over level ground.

Peter's doing his Leonardo DiCaprio imitation.

Peter was also modeling this jersey for some friends in China. He said that they are planning to do some kind of ride where they will do 700K in 24 hours. That will hurt.

At the top of the climb past Petersburg, I went up and shot some short video of everyone coming over. Here's Jeff Bauer and Peter.

Next was Jeff Sammons.

And then came Mike and Patty.

It took me miles to catch up with everybody after they tore down the descent. I almost got the feeling that they were paying me back for passing them on the climb and then filming them.

Here we are leaving the last information control. There are two of them on this route, and you have to write down information on the signs. I won't tell you more, as that would force Jeff Sammons to find another sign.

This is at the top of the last climb, about five miles from the penultimate control. We hurried in from here, and I was working too hard to take more pictures. Suffice to say they would have been blurry.