Monday, September 28, 2009

Gaps Without Goals

I've started the Six Gaps century six times -- every year since 2004. One year (2006, I think) it was raining so hard going up Neel's Gap (the first of the six) that we wimped out and just did the Three Gap Fifty. We still enjoyed the ride, but I felt really dumb when I found out later that it never rained on the pack after that.

You see, I always have a goal on Six Gaps. It's arguably the toughest road century in the southeastern United States, and you could probably make the argument that it's the toughest road century anywhere. It's hard to beat 11,000 feet of climbing in just over 100 miles, particularly with some of it having long stretches of 15% or more.

The first year, my goal was to finish. The second year, it was to finish in under seven hours, then six (the rain-out year), and then six again. I came close that year (6:10) and could have worked a little harder and made it.

Last year was RandoGirl's first time, and my goal was to get her thru it. This year, her goal was to finish again, but a little faster. I knew that she could do it -- and she did -- so I was mostly just along for the ride.

No goals.

There's a wonderful lack of pressure that comes when you have no goals. Add to that the thoroughly excellent weather that enjoyed this past Sunday, and you get the kind of bike ride that should be everyone's goal.

A good day to be riding in the mountains

We set the tone early by getting to the ride late. While this may not sound logical (and it wasn't), it meant that we avoided the jostling around at the starting line watching the clock. Instead, we had to park up the hill from the high school parking lot, bike down, and head inside to get our numbers and stuff. While we were doing that, the gun went off and the crowds outside thinned. By the time we had pinned on numbers and strapped on transponders, it was a calmer world.

Of course, this didn't mean that there wasn't a heck of a lot of riders out there. We were soon into the madding crowd again, surrounded by the mating call of the migrating Fred ("on your left ... slowing ... on your left") festooned in faux Astana finery, spinning the furious 100+ cadence that they read about in Bicycling magazine -- crazy legs beneath uber-taut shoulders and locked straight elbows that you just knew would wear them to a frazzle by the top of Jack's Gap.

Six Gaps is very popular with riders from Florida, as well it should be. I lived and rode in the Tampa area for four years, and the prospect of a ride with a view beyond the local cypress swamp and more than a five-second descent is very alluring. Most of the Floridians climb well, too, and many are excellent riders.

However (and you knew this was coming), their descending skills do not get much practice. If you find yourself starting down from a gap behind a pack of riders with alligators on their back, either get ready to pass or sit up and prepare to ride your brakes.

RandoGirl way out in front on the way up Neel's Gap

Ordinarily, my friends Jeff Bauer and Fredia Barry do this ride on a tandem, but this year Jeff is doing the Endless Mountains 1240K in Pennsylvania. I was very pleased to see another tandem in their place, however. This couple was riding strong up every gap, and looked great here climbing Wolfpen.

Even without Jeff and Fredia this year, there was a tandem on the century

I talked with them a little bit on the approach to Neel's Gap, and advised that next year they should bring a little bell. The rolling nature of these first 20 miles had them passing a lot of groups, and I could tell that they were tired of having to swing out almost into the other lane.

Although it never rained on us, the roads were still wet from the heavy rains that had plagued Georgia for the previous two weeks. There was also a bit of wind from the high-pressure cell that was finally pushing all of this rain out, which tended to shake some of the water down from the trees. Fortunately, the roads were dry enough for good traction ... just wet enough to get gunk on you and your ride.

RandoGirl nears the top of a damp gap

After Neel's the roads dried out, the sun broke through, and the world turned about damned near perfect. I was having so much fun that I had to stop at the Sunrise market and get pictures of the huge pumpkins they had. I wanted to go inside and get a fried pie (Sunrise is a regular control on brevets hosted by Audax Atlanta) but RandoGirl told me to get a move on.

Field of pumpkins for sale next to Sunrise Country Store (one of my favorite controls)

Soon we were at Jack's Gap, refueling and watching some crazy riders turn off to climb Brasstown Bald. I would have envied them, but I had already climbed that a few weeks ago. Besides, the prospect of doing it again on a bike with just a compact crankset and 11-23 cassette was a little too painful.

Coming down from Jack's I remembered a small waterfall that we had ridden past on the way to Brasstown earlier this month. It's something you don't usually notice doing Six Gaps because this is a long gentle descent, but if you're going the other way you can hear the water. I stopped and took this picture Sunday because, again, I had the time.

Hidden waterfall between Jack's Gap and Unicoi Gap

I stopped again at the top of Unicoi, but caught up with RandoGirl at the turn-off near Helen. Her back was hurting, so I gave her a quick massage before we started back up. We had decided earlier that we would each do Hogpen at our own pace, and I left her after the turn onto Hwy 348 and rode as hard as I could to the top.

While waiting for RandoGirl to come up, I saw Larry Lewis come over. Larry is a strong rider, a fellow Harpeth Bicycle Club member, and was a team-mate of RandoGirl on her Super 80 race team.

Fellow Harpeth Bike Club member Larry Lewis crests Hogpen

A little bit earlier, fellow randonneur Steve Phillips had just come over on his fixed gear bike. He rode every mile, with no walking, due to lots of training and careful research. He said he finally settled on a gear mix that would let him get up the steepest stuff without shredding his knees, but would let him descend without his legs flying off his hips or his brake pads bursting into flames. He was still walking at the finish line, although I smelled burning rubber a little later going down Hogpen myself.

Steve Phillips gets to the top of Hogpen on his fixie

When RandoGirl came up, we took another short break. The weather by now was almost cold on top of the gap, with the wind blowing in a perfectly clear blue sky, so we soon hit the trail again. RandoGirl needed another massage before Wolfpen, but this got her over with no more stops. We took our final break at the "unofficial" rest stop in Suches -- run by fellow randonneur Tom Cross to benefit the Suches volunteer fire department -- then enjoyed the last easy climb up to the final gap: Woody's.

They changed the ending of Six Gaps last year, so that it is now 104 miles rather than 98. While the way that they now bring us in to Dahlonega is light on traffic and very pretty, by this time we were ready to be done. A loud sigh went up when we finally pulled into the high school parking lot.

So, like I said, a fun ride with no goals. Well, except for the one where I wanted to put in a good time-trial up Hogpen. From the turn onto 348 to the top (the county line) was 43:07. Not bad for a fat old man fighting a head cold.

It took me 27 seconds to get out of the road and stop the clock

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Top 10 Great Things about Biking in the Rain

10. You don't have to bring more than one bottle of Gatorade. If you need water, stick out your tongue to get the water sluicing off your nose. If it needs electrolytes, work harder and sweat more, and then stick out your tongue.

9. No need to go to the shower post-ride when you bike in to work. Just whip out some shampoo, lather-rinse-lather-rinse, and you're good to go. Make sure you wipe the road spray off your shins, though.

My pale muddy shins finally get to the office

8. Cars are usually a little slower on roads with standing water in them.

Shenendoah Rd - They just put culverts along here, too

7. Bicycle tires do not hydroplane. Really. Sheldon Brown said so.

Yes, those are toadstools

6. Great chance to rinse the mildew off of that rain jacket that's been sitting in your bike bag all summer.

Great thing about Arkel panniers - they have the best rain cover ever!

5. Validates your choice of cycling footwear: Sandals. The water just kind of pours out of them. You would love to be able to show this to that racer guy in the Sidi Ergo 2 Vernices who laughed -- yes, laughed! -- at your Shimano SH-SD65s them last weekend. But you won't see him out biking in the rain today, since he just drove past you in his new red Ferrari. That bastard.

Cheap cycling sandals - my Obama socks are wet and need to be CHANGEd

4. It rinses the dry dirt and grime out of your drivechain and brakes ... replacing it with nice new wet dirt and grime.

3. For those who ride the greenways and multi-use trails, there are fewer baby strollers to zip around and less strain on the vocal chords from yelling, "On your left!"

Where is everybody?

2. Validates your choice of keeping real fenders on your bike. Remember last weekend when the friend of the guy with the Sidi Ergo 2 Vernices -- the one on the new Pinarello Dogma with electronic Dura-Ace -- yeah -- when he laughed -- laughed! at your fenders? Well, you'd love to see him out here today, getting rooster tails shot up the back of his fancy Assos ss.13 jersey! Of course, he just drove past you in his new red Lamborghini. That bastard.

Fenders - I would've been totally hosed without them

And the number one Great Thing about Biking in the Rain is ... you get to ride a bike!

28 Miles

Ordinarily, I love this time of year. It's a little cool in the morning, but not so cool that you have to put on much more than a light jacket and knee warmers for a ride. And, after 9 am, it's usually great out in just a jersey and shorts. Also, it stays light almost long enough for a flat 300K without lights.

But Tuesday, this week, it started raining ... and it hasn't really stopped since. To make matters worse, work this week was ... well, much more work than it normally is, starting early and going late.

So I rode 28 miles this week. Ordinarily, I ride 10 times that -- between 250 and 300 miles.

I can look on the bright side and say that it has given my legs a rest. I was starting to have some pain in my right knee and left achilles tendon, and the time off the bike probably fixed those.

But, ultimately, I am an addict, and I haven't had a fix now in a week. I need some bike time.

I could use my trainer or ride the spin bike in my living room, but it just isn't the same. I've never smoked, so I'm only guessing here, but I think riding the trainer is the exercise equivalent of Nicorette gum.

So, here's the plan: Monday morning, rain or shine, I am biking to work. There's at 50% chance of precipitation all day, so chances are that I will get wet. However, when I was made, they installed a semi-permeable membrane all around my vital organs that keeps out most moisture -- we call this "skin." I will use that part to its best advantage.

Either way, expect soggy pictures later this week. But expect at least one of them to include a smiling RandoBoy face, because a ride in the rain is still, ultimately, a ride.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Long Bike Gang

Submitted for your approval ...

You're out driving in the south Nashville country on a lovely Labor Day morning, just enjoying a day off and communing with nature. Rolling countryside with small farms ... quiet roads. Suddenly, you come across a gang of unruly bikers -- the dregs of the earth, taking up the road on their huge noisy machines, their biker babe "chicks" hanging on to the back for dear life. Probably listening to Steppenwolf.

You've entered ... the tandem zone.

Anyhow ... have you ever seen so many tandem bicycles in one place?

Yep, that's 15 bikes and 30 riders. Thirty-one if you consider how pregnant Angela Evans is.

This past Labor Day, the Harpeth Bicycle Club's tandem group got together at Tom and Judy Spear's house for a 30-mile ride down to Arrington and back, followed by a cook-out and potluck lunch. It was a nice laid-back ride with good folks, followed by some excellent food. All told, it was the perfect way to recover from Ten Gaps (for me) and the Sunrise Century in Clarksville, TN (for most of the other riders, including RandoGirl).

As Jeff Sammons will tell you, though, recovery is all about nutrition.

After all, Jeff is an ultracyclist.

Friday, September 11, 2009

In Your Face, Interface!

As one of the 14 most nefarious middle-Tennessee randonneuring cycling bloggers (according to a recent polled conducted by me, with a sample of group of one ... me), I field many queries regarding my buttocks. Oddly enough, these are not questions surrounding the manly musculature of my posterior, or the way that the graceful curvature of my gluteals makes the "Bianchi" on my Gran Fondo shorts shine forth like the pinnacle of Italian bicycles that it is.

No, instead people wonder how my nether regions survive the chafing that comes with very long days on a bicycle seat. Which then makes me wonder if maybe those shorts do make my butt look big. Or maybe my big butt makes those shorts look small.

But, as usual, I digress.

So, I would like to tell you today how YOU can have more shapely buttocks. I would really, really like to tell you that ... but I can't. Because I obviously don't know how to have shapely buttocks. I mean, if I knew how to have shapely buttocks, you think I would continue lugging this beast of a behind behind me?

Instead, I would like to tell you how YOU can spend days on end on ... well, your end. Or at least, with your end on a bicycle saddle, pedaling blissfully down traffic-free smooth roads, with no mean dogs, and no hills so steep that they hurt, and no headwinds, and always a low-humidity 74.6 degrees.

Okay, I can't tell you how to do that one either. I guess what I can tell you is what works for me. And then I will tell you of my insidious plan ...

Have a Fit

My first advice to anyone who wants to enjoy their bike time is to get a professional bicycle fit. Lynn Greer at Gran Fondo is the king of this art, in my opinion. Let Lynn put your bike on a trainer, climb aboard, and ride at the shop for half an hour while he tweaks some things, and your butt will be happier.

Of course, Lynn is just the matchmaker, and as anyone knows who has been married, you have to be willing to make some changes in order to maintain household harmony. At first, the fit may feel weird ... and it's possible that some of the changes are not entirely right for you. But, just as when you get married you will miss all-night benders with your old fraternity brothers, the changes are usually for the best. Just as your liver will thank you, so eventually will your crotch.

And, just as your married life changes when you have kids, your bicycle fit will change as you swap out saddles, flip the stem, get different shoes, and so forth. In this regard, think of Lynn as your marriage counselor. Go see him for another half hour to restore wedded bliss.

Kiss Some Frogs

They say that you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find the prince. Of course, other than a Pinarello, I really have no need for a prince. However, I do sometimes like to kiss frogs ... and not just those ones that have that natural LSD on their skin, either. It's a fetish, I know, but the first step is admitting that you have a problem.

In the same way, you have to try a lot of saddles before you find the right one -- just don't lick any of them. I recommend you find an ultracyclist and ask to borrow his crate of "saddles I tried for a couple of thousand miles before I gave up on them." It's a cheap way to test a lot of saddles that have been well-broken in. Again, though, don't lick them. Don't even touch them until you wash them. Use bleach. Lots and lots of bleach.


Nothing is nearer and dearer ... in a very real and legally binding way ... to a cyclist than his or her shorts. They are our most intimate companions, going where no man has gone before ... with the exception of my proctologist, Dr. Krammenheine.

Shorts should be snug enough to keep things in place, but not so tight that your legs turn blue. The chamois should not have stitching in places that might cause chaff, and should conform to the topography of your taint. The entire effect of your shorts should be protective, supportive, and gently caressing. You should be able to forget that they are even there ... unlike Dr. Krammenheine.

In your quest for the perfect shorts, you will again kiss some frogs. What frogs are doing in your shorts I cannot even begin to surmise -- it's probably a question best put to Dr. Krammenheine. But my point is (if, indeed, I do have one) that you are going to spend $150 on at least one pair of shorts that fit great at the store, only to find that at mile 72 of a summer century they become the crotchal equivalent of a Pauly Shore movie. Just as with Bio-Dome, however, you paid your $8.50 (plus another $12.50 for the large popcorn and diet coke combo) and you're gonna sit thru the whole damned movie.

And so, three weeks later, you will again try the $150 shorts on another century. Whereas before they were like a small orbital sander with 200-grit paper, this time they feel like a belt sander with 60-grit paper at about mile 30, and by the end of the ride have become a dremel tool. (Pardon the carpentry symbolism -- RandoBoy has to appear RandoManly sometimes ... especially after he mentions the violations he has endured at the cold hands of Dr. Krammenheine.)

It's like you somehow felt compelled to actually buy Bio-Dome, and make yourself watch it every month ... four times in a row ... back-to-back-to-back-to-back.

Are you really that stupid? C'mon! Throw the shorts out.

Which brings me, finally, to my insidious plan.

Introducing ... RandoBoy Brand Taint Paint!

For serious distance, you need something to smooth out the bumpy parts of the relationship between you, your shorts, your saddle, and your bike. This is where RandoBoy Brand Taint Paint comes in.

(sotto voce note here: RandoBoy Brand Taint Paint is a trademark of RandoBoy Incorporated, a wholly owned subsidiary of DEATHCO, which also owns Halliburton, Phillip-Morris, Heckler & Koch, and Exxon ... just kidding! Please don't sue me.)

Just as there are 100 ways to skin a cat, there are 100 different kinds of salves and balms -- and the combinations thereof -- that you can slather onto that skinned cat. If it stops yowling, then maybe you should try the same mixture on your nether regions before you next don shorts for a long ride. Make sure you wash off the cat hair first, though, as it can really irritate your skin.

(another sotto voce note: RandoBoy products are not tested on animals or vegetables. Only inanimate objects, such as rocks and triathletes ... again, just kidding!)

I've tried Chamois Butt'r, Bag Balm, Assos Chamois Cream, plain old Baby Oil, and Vasoline (the Stone Temple Pilots version did just as well, and was easier to wash out of my shorts). For most long rides in recent years I've used Lantiseptic, which even advertises in UltraCycling (published by the Ultra-Marathon Cycling Association). My friend Jeff Bauer is one of their spokespersons, so they gave him a lifetime supply. It lasted him almost a year.

In a shameless attempt to cash in on my self-deluded fame, however, I am going to start hawking my own brand of butt balm -- the above-mentioned (rather flagrantly, I might add) and often-repeated (in keeping with the "repeat-often" tenets of advertising) ...

RandoBoy Brand Taint Paint

But I need a slogan. Here are some that I've come up with:
  • Won't Weather your Withers
  • Avoids the Pinch Between the Cheeks (by Gum!)
  • Keeps your Hiney Happy
The problem with slogans is that they have to be short and catchy, and RandoBoy Taint Paint is supposed to keep your shorts from being catchy. With a mindset like that -- much less a pun that bad -- I am putting out the call to my loyal readers (yes, both of you) for slogans.

Please post your best idea as a comment. The winner will get to choose any saddle from my Big Bucket of Licked Frogs.

Bleach is extra.

Monday, September 7, 2009

10 Gaps by the Numbers

Let me start by admitting that I did walk the last 20 yards of The Wall. I could have made it up, but there are some interesting challenges that come with riding a bicycle on a 25% hill. One is that, unless you are Floyd Landis, you are going slow. The slower a bike is, the less stable it is. Two is that it gets really tricky balancing your weight on a bike that's tilted up like that, so that your front wheel becomes unweighted. When your front wheel is unweighted, it comes up off of the pavement. If the front wheel is off of the pavement, you can't really steer using that wheel.

So, on a 25% hill, you have to stand and lean forward for much of the climb, just to keep your bike from wandering all over the road. And that's what I was doing when the car came up from behind. I suspected it was the little Porche, driven by a middle-age couple, that had been passing us and stopping at points as it headed to the top. I was a little over towards the left side of my lane when I heard it, and that made me nervous, so I sat down on the tip of the saddle and tried to get more towards the edge. But the front wheel kept coming up, and I suddenly had visions of falling over right in front of the car.

So I stopped (which is easy to do at three miles per hour) and stepped quickly to the side. And since I was still 20 yards from where the 25% section ends and the relative flat of the 15% section resumes, I walked those 20 yards.

The rest of the ride, however, was great.

7:05 am

The first number is when we started from the WalMart parking lot in Dahlonega, GA. We could have gone off at 7 am, but the sun was not as "up" as we would have liked.
On the left above is Peter Lee. On the right is Kevin Kaiser. Let me give you a closer look at the bike that Kevin is riding, so you will understand our next number.


Yes, Kevin rode what is probably the hardest 200K in America on a fixed-gear bike. So he has one gearing choice (42-18, I think). And he can't coast.

Of course, riding fixed is nothing new for Kevin, and he has all of this fitness that he built up during the year to take fifth place in RAAM this past summer. He and Jeff Bauer did RAAM fixed in 2008, so he knew what doing 10 Gaps (a.k.a., Bundrick's Revenge) would be like Saturday. Of course, it did get to him from time to time ... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Since I admitted my failure, I will also now brag on myself with my next number, which is, again ...


Yes, I was the first rider over Woody's -- the first of the 10 gaps. Of course, everyone else was kind of marshalling their forces for the coming attacks, and Woody's may be the longest climb, but it is the most gradual. Nonetheless, it felt good.

I calmed down some after that. George Hiscox and Joe Fritz went off the front, and the rest of us slowly climbed Wolfpen Gap and headed to the first control. The rest of the Nashville contingent -- Peter Lee, Vida Greer, Jeff Bauer, and Alan Gosart -- came into the control and got some food, and we all headed out more of less together. I rode to the base of Hogpen Gap with Alan and Gator Cochran.

Lots of folks that have done the very popular Six Gaps Century know about Hogpen, but they know it from climbing it going away from Helen, GA. The other side is much shorter -- and, the calculation of a slope being what it is, obviously much steeper.


Here's a picture of one of the steepest parts of this climb.
And here's what I was doing on this climb.
I was working damned hard to do 4.7 mph, too.

I almost caught up with Jeff and Peter near the top.
I did catch up with them on the descent. Not that my descending was all that great, but Jeff was using this ride as a "shake-out" for his Waterford, in preparation for the Endless Mountains 1240K at the end of this month.

Jeff was considering the Waterford because, other than his tandem, it is the only bike he has with a triple chainring. However, the ride quality -- especially on descents -- was such that this bike has now been "shaken out" and will probably not make the trip to Pennsylvania for Endless Mountains.


Kevin beat me in to the second control, and still looked strong and happy.
Julie Gazmararian, who we saw on RAAM 2008 when she was doing Race Across the West (RAW) was also there.
The Nashville contingent again mostly left this control together, quickly going over Unicoi and Jack's Gaps, before turning right to head up Brasstown Bald.

Here's Peter, just before I passed him.
Okay, me saying that I passed Peter here is kind of like Contador saying the he didn't see Lance crash at the Vuelta because it happened behind him. Yes, I'm bragging. But when you can pass a rider as strong as Peter, you have to take at least a little pride.

A little further on, you can see a point where the road bends left. That's where The Wall begins.

As in "Porche 911" and not the phone number or date.

After my episode with the Porche, Vida quickly passed me. She climbs like a dream, even without a triple. She did have a compact crankset and an 11-26 on the back, but never had to get off and walk. George, on the other hand, rode with a standard crank and an 11-23, but did walk.

Of course, I don't think even Floyd Landis rode this leg of the Tour de Georgia with a standard crank and an 11-23.
Here's an even better shot of Vida quickly climbing away from me, from when I was riding again. Note that this is one of the easier sections of this road.
At the top, RBA Andy Akard had borrowed an awning from Bicycle South in Atlanta, and was making sandwiches. I asked for a Reuben with pastrami. Andy wisely fixed me a turkey with cheese on whole wheat, and did not point out that there is no such thing as a Reuben with pastrami (that would be a Rachel).

It was 74 degrees and sunny on top of Brasstown Bald, with nice low humidity. It was obvious why there were so many families eating picnics up there.

Last year, I remember being in such pain at this point. I was cramping like crazy, and knew that there were more hours of agony ahead. This year, I had made it up with minimal pain, everything was working well, and I was able to just sit down, enjoy my sandwich, and look down upon a beautiful world.

Life was good.


There are no pictures from the descent. Only a fool would try to pull out a camera when coming down from Brasstown Bald. If you are not putting every ounce of mental energy that you have into keeping your speed down without blowing out a tire, then you are a better man than I.

Alan and I came down together, then hammered back over the next two gaps and back to the control. He is also going to Endless Mountains, and looked very ready.

From the control we headed back over Hogpen, going the "easy" way. Here's Peter Lee catching up with me.
I hope this picture makes up for the one where I was catching up with Peter.

Peter was also riding strong. He did Gold Rush Randonnee with Jeff in June, and has not lost any fitness.


Halfway up this climb, near the end of the 15% sections, Peter and I passed by Kevin taking a break. He had walked some of Brasstown and Hogpen, but you really have to hand it to him for doing this ride fixed. It is the kind of thing about which epic poems are written.

After Hogpen came the beautiful shady climb up Wolfpen, and then the easiest climb of all to the top of Woody's again. Vida took the points on this one, and I stopped to get a picture of my Lynskey. This was when Alan, Peter, and Jeff slipped past.
Of course, the Lynskey deserved a picture ... even if the lens on my camera was sweaty by then. This ride was uppermost in my mind when I ordered the Lynskey last year, and she made Saturday the pure joy that it was. I love my bike.


By the way, I did not need all three bottles. I rarely emptied more than one between the controls. But it was nice knowing that I had extra fluid if I needed it. As you can tell from the sweat stains on my shorts at the finish, I sweated ... a lot.
The ride down was a hammerfest, with all of us smelling the barn. Alan and Peter got into the parking lot a couple of minutes before Jeff and I, with Vida close behind. There, we found George, who had finished over an hour before. Andy was still feeding him.
Here's Alan talking with Joe, who had finished nine minutes before George and Julie. The weird thing is that Joe lives in Florida. Maybe the lack of hill training works to his advantage ... somehow.
And here is your fuzzy RandoBoy with his beloved Lynskey. Even after 11 hours, 128 miles, and 16,000+ feet of climbing, the Lynskey is still #1.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Top of the world

Got up on Brasstown Bald five minutes ago. No cramps. Walked 20 yards, but it was because my front wheel kept coming up and a Porche passed kind of close.

Carol: Hope you had a good ride.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Friday, September 4, 2009

My Prediction? Pain ...

In an hour, I leave for Dahlonega, GA to ride Bundrick's Revenge ... also known as "Ten Gaps." Jeff Bauer, Alan Gosart, Vida Greer, George Hiscox, and Peter Lee are coming with me.

I am afraid.

I think that I am about as ready as I could be. I've lost about as much weight as I can. I actually was a couple of pounds lighter last week, but would get light-headed when I stood up. I decided that this was probably because I was too skinny ... although maybe that's just a good excuse to eat food.

I've also been training very, very hard. Intervals, tempos ... all of the usual crap. I am about as strong as I think that I have ever been.

With my Lynskey, I have the perfect bike. Strong. Light. Lots of gears. Comfortable.

And I have some of my best friends riding with me. They will inspire me when I need it, entertain me throughout, and goad me through the low spots.

Since I will have my camera with me, I will post some pictures for you loyal readers next week. Maybe I'll even have words.

Or just groans.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

You Ain't Got No Business Here

Wednesday morning, I lost one of my favorite short-cuts.

Just last week, I mentioned how my morning commute goes through the CSX railroad yard next to Traveller's Rest. I said then that I was "cheating a bit," since there's a No Trespassing sign there. I've been taking this short-cut for over a year now, though, and nobody has ever given me any grief. Heck, the few folks that I have seen working in there usually wave to me.

But the sign says "No Trespassing," so I've just been waiting for someone to enforce it. And, Wednesday morning, a guy in a CSX truck yelled at me, "You ain't got no business here."

Now, I could be a putz about this and do any of the following:
  • Take him literally regarding whether I own some kind of business operating in his railyard. Obviously, I do not. Maybe he was asking that I not begin selling hot dogs there; since I rarely carry hot dogs on my bike (much less buns ... although I have been known to pack relish), I can oblige that request.
  • Take him literally and channel my inner grammar Nazi. His use of a double negative means that I have business there. He is not only giving me right of passage, but carte blanche to open a shop. Maybe he wants to buy a hot dog.
  • Ignore him and continue to trespass.
There are probably other options, if I'm willing to think just a little further outside the box, but many of them involve death and dismemberment, or that I finally turn the power on at my orbiting laser platform. I'm not willing to do that just yet ... and not just because the electricity bill for orbiting laser platforms is freakin' huge.

Instead, I'm going to heed the admonitions of this self-appointed official of CSX, and stop traversing his mostly vacant railyard.

(To translate for my friend in the CSX truck: Okey-dokey.)

I will miss this part of my morning ride. It means that I have to get on Trousdale Road for another half-mile, and there are lots of cars there jockeying for position to get through the busy intersection with Harding Road. The railyard often had a lot of gravel, and a couple of tricky railroad crossings to get over, but it was usually nice and quiet.

Of course, this illustrates one of the classic facts regarding Great Bicycle Routes -- very often, we ain't got no business there. Just as water seeks the lowest lowest, traffic seeks the shortest distance between two points ... and then goes way over the speed limit along it. Unfortunately, there often is a neighborhood or school or park or a shopping center in the way, which means that cars ain't got no business there, either. To foil them, the responsible municipalities or corporations will put up speed bumps, traffic barriers, no trespassing signs, or just close the damned road. This has the effect of funnelling traffic back to the major thoroughfares ... or through neighborhoods full of poor people that cannot properly contribute to the local congresswoman's re-election fund.

The cyclist dares not get on the major thoroughfare, so he often ends up cutting through parking lots, speeding on the greenway, bouncing over speed bumps, or cyclocrossing through somebody's yard. Many of these tactics has us flirting with the law ... but of course we do that on a regular basis anyway. You really cannot be a cyclist in this country without eventually running a red light, merely because your bike does not have enough metal to trip the sensor.

But law-breaking is a slippery slope. Once you've run a red light enough times because "it's not going to change for you," you may find yourself treating every red light as if it were a stop sign, and then a yield sign, and then behaving as if you're a New York City bike messenger and only slowing down enough to flip off the cabbies.

The trick is to bend the law just enough so that you can get under it, and then continue on your way. It won't always keep you from getting a ticket, but it will keep your karma clean.

Without law, we have chaos. Which reminds me of one of my favorite bits from Get Smart. The TV show, not the movie ... although I really liked the movie. Steve Carell is a funny guy, and Anne Hathaway ... mm-rowr. That was a roar, in case you were wondering.

But, I digress.

Anyway, in the Get Smart bit, Siegfried is talking with a henchman about how to dispose of Max and Agent 99. The henchman says, "Let's put them against the wall and shoot them with a machine gun." Then he pretends to have a machine gun that he is firing, saying "doo-doo-doo-doo-doo!"

Siegfriend yells, "Idiot! We do not 'doo-doo' in Kaos!"

Which, I guess, is my point (since I am supposed to have one ... I think it's a law). Now that this inbred semi-literative representative of CSX has made it clear that I "ain't got no business" there, for me to continue to trespass would mean that I was doo-dooing in Kaos.

And that creates a slippery slope.