Monday, March 8, 2010

It Was the Best of Roads, It Was the Worst of Roads

This weekend was an opportunity to wander among the myriad roads that flow through middle Tennessee -- sort of like the buffet at the Bellagio, but without George Clooney and Brad Pitt hanging out by the fountains out front, and the pit bosses are dump trucks who think you're counting cards, and some of the entrees are rotten and full of gravel and broken glass.

OK, it was nothing like the buffet at the Bellagio. Actually, cycling probably has absolutely no relationship whatsoever to the buffet at the Bellagio, since the buffet at the Bellagio will tempt you to gain so much weight that you will henceforth push your bicycle up any hill with an incline above, say, that of a buffet table at the Bellagio. I was going for a metaphor here, alright? Plus, this diet has me fantasizing about the buffet at the Bellagio. Especially the dessert table. Mmmm ...

Anyway, something that is almost as pleasant as the buffet at the Bellagio is Spring in middle Tennessee, when it finally turns warm and everything begins to bloom. Of course, that's not what we had this past weekend, since the weather just barely got to 60 degrees and the trees know that if they start anything now the winter that we have had so far will come back with an evil Terminator vengeance and kick their candy roots. So, we had the buffet at Sizzler this past weekend in middle Tennessee.

The soft ice cream at Sizzler is OK, but there's this coconut cake at the Bellagio. Mmmm ...

While I was out and about, I had the chance to ponder some of the finer points of the types of roads that we have here in middle Tennessee.

Crappy Busy Ones

Saturday morning I got to ride on a crappy busy one. I was running late to meet some friends, and had to take Hillsboro Road for a couple of miles.

Now, there are parts of Hillsboro Road that all cyclists should avoid like the plague. I was south of there, on a section that cyclists should avoid like a head cold. There are two lanes, cars are zipping by at 55 mph, there's not much shoulder, and the shoulder that there is has a lot of crap in it.

I rode the mile from Murray Lane down to Sneed. I got the flat just as I was turning onto Sneed. Needless to say, this made me even later to meet my friends.

Good Busy Ones

About an hour later, flat tire fixed and having met up with my friends, we were tooling down towards Leiper's Fork on Old Hillsboro Road, hoping to catch up with another group of cyclists there. Old Hillsboro is a more quiet and winding road, but still busy. Cars come upon you and seem kind of surprised that you are there -- being so audacious as to make you slow down a bit. And then they pass you in less-than-optimal locations.

At this point, it was about 8:30 am. There's no good reason for anybody to have to be hurrying towards Leiper's Fork at that time on a Saturday. They weren't going there for business, and I doubt they were heading home from the grocery store yet. These were, probably, people that were going out to enjoy the warmer weather -- people wanting to have fun. Maybe even fellow cyclists. Would it kill them to be a little more patient, then?

Mean Streets

When we finally got to Leiper's Fork, the group ride had already left. Fortunately, I was with Vida Greer, who knows every road down that way, so she figured out an alternative route that would let us meet up with the big group.

Now, I had foolishly decided to ride my single-speed Salsa Casserole that day, since we were going to try to take it easy. This was fun for most of the route, but in order for us to catch up with the group that we had missed we had to do a few climbs. One of them was cruelly steep -- I got up most of it before chickening out and walking a bit. Fortunately, it was a quiet empty road (I like to think it was too steep for cars, but that's just vanity), so I had a nice walk.

Just before we met up with the rest of the group, we went over another mean little hill with a house right next to the road. Three dogs came boiling from beneath the front porch just as I got to the top, and chased me halfway to the bottom. Fortunately, this put them out of their territory when Vida and Jeff Bauer came along, so they slunk home. This is another example of a mean, quiet road.

Like Butter

Sunday, RandoGirl and I went out to test a 50-mile route that I put together for the Tennessee Tandem Rally in June. We had a couple of Crappy Busy Roads early in the route, followed by a Good Busy Road. Later, we went over Owen Hill Road and then Pull Tight Hill Road, which are both Mean Streets (we didn't have to walk, though, since we had real gears). Then we turned onto a new road I found last summer: Choctaw Road.

Smooth asphalt. Great views. Easy swooping curves. A pretty good climb heading toward Giles Hill, but short enough and steep enough to just be fun.

We came down off of that to Giles Hill, and then headed west on Flat Creek Road (with a name like that, you know it's a good tandem road). A couple of miles later, the sun finally broke through the clouds, and we turned north towards the market at Bethesda.

I got a Zagnut bar there. Maybe not as good as the coconut cake at the Bellagio, but right then it was perfect.

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