Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why Can't We All Just Play by the Same Rules?

Sometimes, riding my bike, I feel like I'm playing Fizzbinn with cars, except that we're both making up the rules as we go along.

Me: Ah, here we are at a four-way stop. The car on my right goes, and then it's my turn ...
Car: No, I get to go, too. It's Tuesday after 7:30 pm, and Rule L84WORK states that I don't have to wait for the bicycle.
Me: Oh, sorry. My bad. Well, now I'm back on the road and ... yeow, that was close!
Car: Yeah, my car gets less than 15 miles to the gallon, so the three-foot law is waved. Rule H2-F150 says that no guzzling inertia should be wasted.
Me: Yeah, what was I thinking. I'll just cut through this neighborhood here, then, and down this hill and ... oh, another stop sign up ... well, nobody coming so I'll just run it. Rule Z00M-Z00M, you know.

Now, a lot of folks may think that there's nothing wrong with this, and very often they are right. We all just kind of "bend" rules usually. I mean, who am I hurting when I run that stop sign? And, since that car is going to just pass me in a hundred yards or so, what does it matter if he goes ahead and skips my turn in the four-way stop? Usually, nobody gets hurt.


Very often, the problem is that people really don't know what the rule is. How many of us understand what we're supposed to do when we come to a four-way stop at the exact same time as the vehicle opposite us, and we both signal for left turns?

Tuesday morning, I was driving to work (yeah, in a car ... ugh) and passed a cyclist on Holt Road. He was riding against traffic -- biking west in the eastbound lane -- and listening to an iPod with both ear buds in. And Holt is not a quiet back road -- it's got a 40-mph speed limit, but is one of the few roads that runs between Nolensville Road and Edmondson Pike, so it gets a ton of commuter traffic. I don't take Holt to work on my bicycle in the morning, and most people think that I am crazy.

I could have pulled over and yelled at him to get on the right side of the road and pull out those ear buds, but I think that would have caused an accident in its own right. Hopefully, he was just going down to one of the neighborhoods on Holt, because if he went all the way to Edmondson Pike and continued on, he would need nerves of steel. Or an adamantium skeleton.

Don't mess with my muttonchops!

Maybe we need more police, or cameras on every lightpost and telephone pole, so that any infraction yielded a ticket. I kind of wish that a police car had come along and gotten that cyclist off of Holt Road, if for no other reason than to explain to him that he needs to get on the right side of the road (using the iPod in traffic isn't illegal -- just stupid). A lot of folks don't know which side of the road they're supposed to bike on, just like a lot of car drivers don't know that they're supposed to leave at least three-feet clearance when passing a cyclist. Hell, most drivers don't even know that a bicycle qualifies as a street-legal vehicle, with the same rights and responsibilities as cars.

Probably, though, it's that second word -- responsibility -- that we need more of. People need to be responsible for their own actions. Before we get out on the road -- either on a bicycle or in a car -- we need to learn what the rules are, and once on the road we need to play by the rules at all times.

Sure, I'm going to look like a bit of an idiot when I come to a full stop at an intersection in the middle of nowhere at 3:45 am on an overnight brevet. But if we keep playing Fizzbinn, sooner or later we will all lose.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Don't Send a RandoBoy To Do a Max Watzz Job

Yes, lucky people, it is I -- your hero (and mine), Max Watzz.

I know that you've been regularly watching RandoBore's blog waiting for my report from Avery Trace this past weekend, refreshing the page until your fingers bled. I wanted you to taste the sweet thrill of anticipation, so that when you could read my perfect words you would be properly primed.

Of course, a few thousand of you came out to watch me race Saturday, and were hiding up in the hills so as to better view the entirety of my splendid ride. You need not be afraid to get closer -- few, if any, of my fans have yet to spontaneously combust from being too close to the wonder that is me. Fortunately, I am graced with super-human hearing (of course), and could hear your cheers and thunderous applause, even if I could not see you. I believe I heard many of you swoon -- and not just the women.

Anyway, as I am sure that many of you already know from the tweets of my many fans present, I destroyed all of the competition again in the time trial at Avery Trace. I was fluid perfection, an aerodynamic synthesis of energy and grace as I pumped my glorious self over the rolling hills along the river. I was inexorable and unstoppable, like lava ... or like lava would be if it moved at 25 miles per hour.

Sadly, I must again report that the so-called "results" do not properly reflect my performance, claiming that I was second (a mathematical impossibility) in the time trial. It's obviously an error, since they also have me 15th in the road race, and I have no recollection of doing the road race. I think that a letter-writing campaign is in order, or perhaps a congressional investigation. I would not blame you all for petitioning the War Crimes Tribunal in Hague.

With love (mostly for myself), I remain your idol,
Max Watzz

Um, RandoBoy here. I kind of need to clear up something that Max said above. You see, the truth is that he sort of didn't do the road race at the Avery Trace Cycling Classic in Gainesboro, TN, this past Saturday.

I did.

It was an accident, really. I went out there Friday night to drive the course, since there are a few tricky spots that I wanted to look over. The goal was to plan my race, but as I drove up the three short steep hills early in the course, down the twisty shaded descents, and then along a 15-mile stretch of corn fields and dairy farms, I kept thinking, "Gosh, this is pretty."

"Pretty" is not a Max Watzz word.

I stayed in Cookeville that night, and then drove over to the race start in the morning. After getting ready to ride, I decided to do the climb up to the finish line so that I could be prepared to be in a break at the end. I also figured that this would warm up my legs and get my Max Watzz game-face on.

Getting to the top, I figured a fast warm-up descent would be good, so I whipped down the far side. I still had plenty of time, so I kept going down the gently rolling highway for a mile or so. It was early, not yet hot, and the easy hills along the road were full of corn fields looking ripe and lush.

"Lush" is not a Max Watzz word.

I shook it off and turned around, hammering a bit of the hill on the way back before heading to the starting line. Standing there astride my bike, I tried to focus. I could see that a few of the local teams were well represented, whereas I was the only Gran Fondo racer in the 35-and-over Cat 5 group. Using Max mentality, I tried to determine who I needed to watch and whose wheel I should get on when the race got moving. I thought through the probable scenarios, and came up with contingency plans.

As the race officials starting giving us instructions, Shawn Ewing from the Harpeth Bicycles team pulled up next to me. We chatted a bit as we waited for the start, and as we rolled out I told him, "Good luck."

"Good luck?!" I was in trouble.

A MOAB guy went off the front early, and I was able to Max myself again enough to go to the front and keep the pace hot enough to keep close. As we approached the first climb, the MOAB racer was less than a minute ahead of us when he dropped his chain. We swept past him starting up the hill, and I turned and said, "Sorry."

Whoa. "Sorry" is not a Max Watzz word. It doesn't even rhyme with any Max Watzz words. I could hear Coach MacKillimiquads screaming, "If yer usin' you lungs for anythin' other than to put oxygen in yer fookin' blood, then yer nae usin' 'em right!"

I tried to focus and stayed with the group over that hill and the next, but was falling off a bit as we got to the top of the third one. I knew that, once over this, it would be flat and that I could mostly sit in and recover, but the descent was tricky and I couldn't bring myself to just let it go. When I got to the bottom, I could see the front group was already 200 yards ahead, and the group that I was with was starting to hammer to catch up to them. Max Watzz could have hung with them, and maybe even bridged up.

But Max wasn't there any more. He'd gone back to Dairy Queen in downtown Gainesboro for a Peanut Buster Parfait, and he'd taken Coach MacKillimiquads with him, and neither of them was coming back any time soon. All that was left was RandoBoy -- sitting up, looking around and drinking from his bottle, humming a Willie Nelson tune and wishing that he had a camera so he could stop and take a picture of that neat-looking barn over there.

Shawn had fallen off on the third hill and he pulled up next to me. We rode along side-by-side for a while, chatting about a trip to South Africa that he and his wife, Cali, had just returned from. Cali races with Team Belladium, and they're both really nice folks.

When the MOAB racer who'd dropped his chain on the first climb came by, Shawn and I got into a fast rotating paceline with him for a few miles, closing with a larger group ahead of us. Max could have kept that going, but I got tired of it and waved them on. Then I rode along by myself again for a couple of miles before a slower group came by. I hung with them to the start of the penultimate climb, and then a Cumberland Transit racer and I went off the front on that hill, zipped along the last miles of flat country, and finished the race pretty strong.

But not Max Watzz strong.

Max was back for the time trial, of course, and did well. But he left right afterwards, and I took the long way back to Nashville, driving down Hwy 135 to Cookeville. I'd noticed that road earlier in the day, and thought that it might make a good permanent.

I was right. It's gorgeous, winding along the Roaring River there, with a nasty little climb back up to the plateau. The surface would be terrible for a race, but good for a brevet. I haven't figured it out yet, but I'd like to put together a route that uses that and the long Avery Trace road race circuit. It would be nice to share with some randonneuring friends.

And none of those are Max Watzz words.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Rise and Shine

It's not that I like getting up at 5:15 on a Sunday morning.

Like most people, I like to sleep. Lazy Sunday mornings, lounging around the house drinking coffee and watching the news shows, talking about maybe going out to see that new movie this afternoon ... I like these things as much as the next guy.

I told a friend that I was out riding before 6 am this morning, and he gave me a look and asked, "Why would you want to get up at that un-godly hour?"
  • Because I can ride on Edmondson Pike with almost no traffic.
  • Because I can come around a corner by the agriculture center near Crieve Hall and startle birds on the road, apparently eating seeds that have blown there, so that they fly all around me.
  • Because it validates Panera Bread's decision to open at 6 am when I come in and buy a scone, a coffee, and my three-seed demi.
The three-seed demi just fits in the bar bag
  • Because I can ride right through downtown Brentwood with almost no traffic.
  • Because, going down Wilson Pike, I still startle a white-tailed deer crossing the road.
  • Because the temperature is still bearable 30 miles into my ride, even if the humidity has made me very sticky.
  • Because there are turkeys out on McDaniel Road, just north of Hwy 840, and one of them will run across the road while another flies up into the trees (yeah, they really can fly).
  • Because I'll see lots of other cyclists about this time trying to get in a ride before it gets really hot, including my friends Tom and Judy Spears on their tandem, and we wave and yell hey at each other like we're sharing a special secret that a lot of other people wouldn't understand.
Mostly, though, because it's a beautiful world out there, and sometimes you have to get up early enough to see it.

I used to go to church on Sunday morning, attending services of various denominations. None of them gave me the peace and connection to a higher being than I feel than when I am out in nature riding a bicycle. Things feel right then.

5:15 am. Un-godly? No, it's exactly the opposite.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Most Valuable Gift of All

After racing Saturday in scorching heat in Memphis, and then driving back to Nashville afterwards, it was tough getting up just after sunrise on Sunday morning. I had only gotten about six hours of sleep, and frankly none of it was very good -- being exhausted actually screws up sleep for me, so that I don't really rest.

But I had promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.

As usual, once on the road it was all good. Well, it was all good once I went back to the RandoCave and got a couple of bottles of Gatorade and started out again.

Have you ever noticed how you cross-chain differently on a recovery ride? Usually, I stay in the big chain ring for too long, but Sunday I was getting down to the middle ring much earlier. More than once, I realized I was in the middle chain ring and the small cassette cog. The legs were tired, and I was taking it easy.

Originally, I was just going to head over to Spanntown Road, but on Nolensville Road just before the turn I changed my mind and continued south. I had not been on Old Murfreesboro Road in months, and needed some new scenery.

We all know roads like Old Murfreesboro -- perfect little cycling roads that we would all love to put on our regular routes, except you have to suffer a mile or two of crappy and/or dangerous road to get there. In the case of Old Murfreesboro, the roads and just busy and dangerous: Nolensville Road on one end and Hwy 96 on the other.

But in the middle, you have things like this little church that AT&T bought.

I think that's a portable generator in the shed. Just to the right of the door, you can see the AT&T Death Star.

Here's what Old Murfreesboro Road looks like just past this.

Smooth, clear pavement leading to a nice hill. Just enough shade. At the top of the hill, you can look to the right and see Hwy 96, and Hwy 840 beyond it, and then just rolling hills all the way down to the plateau.

Then you go under some lovely canopy, past a field full of cattle, and into an easy swoopy little downhill. Nothing that you have to hit the brakes for ... just enough to coast down.

Then, at the bottom, you turn left on Hwy 96. I didn't take pictures of Hwy 96. Even at 7 am on a Sunday morning, there were cars zipping up and down travelling between Murfreesboro and Franklin. Yikes!

Fortunately, I only had to stay on that road for just over a mile, and then got to turn right on Haley Lane.

This is another of those "could've been great" roads, although the bottom of it is Patterson Road, which is pretty good. Haley is just over 1.5 miles long, and after this little climb you go over a bridge that crosses Hwy 840, and then go onto some nice shady stuff that always smells like good, growing forest.

At this point, I was running low on time ... remember, I had promises to keep. I headed west to Arrington, stopping by the market to fill my water bottles and eat a piece of chess pie, and then waited at the post office for RandoGirl and the RandoDaughter.

Since it was Father's Day, the RandoDaughter was giving me what I would consider probably the best gift that you can give a cycling dad: Stoker time on the tandem.

We only rode eight miles, heading down Cox Road to near Horton Highway before turning around to come back. But the RandoDaughter has not been on the tandem with me in at least six years. She had a good time, although she still gets a little worried when the speed gets over 25.

I don't know that she's going to be doing Paris-Brest-Paris any time soon, but I'll take what I can get. And since time is the most precious commodity that any of us has, when my lovely daughter is willing to give me some time doing one of my favorite things ... well, it don't get much better than that.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

How I Won the Smith & Nephew Gran Prix Omnium

Yes, lucky readers, it is I again ... your hero, Max Watzz. I'm here to tell you about how I won the Smith & Nephew Gran Prix Omnium in Memphis this past Saturday.

RB: Wait a minute, Max. You didn't win that race. You only took fifth in the road race and third in the time trial.

MW: Do not interrupt me, you imbecile! And certainly do not correct me! Technically, I won both of those races.

RB: Oh, yeah, right. I'm just dying to hear this one.

MW: I wish.

Anyway, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, I'm going to tell you about my masterful racing this past weekend, and how I won the omnium.

RB: You didn't even race the criterium, Sunday.

MW: I didn't have to, since I'd already won the other races.

RB: That's not how it works ...

MW: I told you to be silent.

RB: [Sigh]

MW: That's better.

Anyway, first I will tell you about the road race. It was a fairly flat course, which didn't give me a chance to best use my extraordinary climbing prowess, but did lend itself to my explosive sprinting capabilities. I had thought about going off the front early and just schooling the field, but decided to conserve my energies -- yes, they do seem boundless, but it's best not to push it -- and just sit in for the full 32 miles.

It was hot, and the other riders were suffering as they tried to mimic my ability to perform at a peak level in spite of any hurdle that nature attempts to put in my path. In the end, they were all wilting as we approached the finish line, and it was easy for me to finally exert a fraction of the awesome power that seems always at my disposal, and pass everyone to a first-place finish.

RB: But you were fifth ...

MW: And I commanded silence! Although I may not have been the first one over the line, I would have been if you had done as I instructed and gone to Memphis the night before. It was your wasteful use of our time, driving us there Saturday morning, that kept me from proper pro behavior. I should have spent the morning lounging around the hotel, getting a massage from my soigneur ...

RB You don't have a soineur!

MW: I don't have one because you are too cheap to hire one!

RB: Cut me a break.

MW: Anyway, as I was saying, after thoroughly decimating the other riders with a sprint that would be Herculean only if Hercules had been as god-like as I am, I then went on to dominate the time trial, beating all of my so-called competitors by a full minute.

RB: Oh, come on! You were five seconds slower than the winner ...

MW: I am the winner! I am always the winner. And if you're going to keep interrupting me, then I am leaving! Goodnight, loyal readers -- I leave you to read whatever drivel RandoBore may now spout. Believe me when I tell you, though, that he is lying!

RB: Man, what a putz.

Max did get a few facts right. I went to Memphis this past Saturday to do the Smith & Nephew road race and time trial. I had to come back Saturday night, since Sunday was Father's Day and I wanted to hang out with my two favorite ladies. Besides, Sunday was the criterium, and those still scare me.

Max was also right in that it was hot.

That's the thermometer in the RAAMinator, which is usually pretty accurate if it's not sitting still out in the sun.

So, as you can tell, it was almost 80 degrees and it wasn't yet 8 am. By the time I got to the road race start, it was officially "Africa Hot."

As Max said, I mostly stayed in the pack ... actually, in the back of the pack the first time through the 16-mile loop course. Then I moved up a bit, and even took a pull when somebody guilted me into it. About mile 28, it was 12:30 pm and easily over 100 degrees. We were all seriously hot and tired, and everybody was pouring the last of whatever cold water we had over our heads and down the backs of our necks. I started to fade, but fortunately the rest of the pack faded with me so I was able to hang on. When we finally came up to the finish line, nobody had anything to sprint with, so I was able to move up a bit more and get over the line fifth.

That's when I saw this guy, and he saved my life.

This is John Shelso, a fellow randonneur who lives in Memphis. He had come out to watch the race, and as I limped off the course he handed me a bottle of cold water, which I immediately poured over my head. Then he gave me a tube sock full of ice, which I put on my neck.

Nothing in my life has ever felt better than that tube sock full of ice felt, on my neck, at that moment.

John and I hung out for a bit while I drank more water and got my core temperature back to normal. After they announced the race results (I was fifth, in spite of what Max says), we went over to Lenny's Subs for lunch. John gave up his Saturday ride to save my life and watch the race, and I appreciate it more than I can possibly ever say.

After lunch, John finally went to get in a little bit of a ride, and I drove over to Germantown to check out the time trial course. This is a really nice suburb of Memphis, although I did not see any affable burghers or frauleins in leiderhosen eating schnitzel. It could easily have been Brentwood.

I've been looking forward to finally doing a time trial, since the one at Highland Rim was rained out, and was really excited. I'd gotten some clip-on aero bars from Gran Fondo, and installed them after the road roace.

After looking at the course, I went to fill up the RAAMinator for the ride home (Memphis has a lot of BP stations, with the occasional Exxon station between -- being politically conscious forced me to drive 10 miles in search of gas). I changed into my skin-suit in the gas station bathroom, then drove back to the course to warm up. Since it was still at least 95 degrees outside, this did not take long.

Finally, about 6:20 pm, I went off. The course was four miles long: two miles down a pretty flat road along a quiet railroad grade to a turnaround, and then two miles back. I rode it about as hard as I could, although I maybe could have been a little faster turning around. I must admit that I did get a greedy sense of pleasure when I passed the guy who had started 30 seconds ahead of me.

Much as we might like to deny it, there's a little bit of Max Watzz in all of us.

Anyway, I finished in 8:43, which was well inside of my goal. I'd hoped to average 27 mph, and I did. The winner finished in 8:38, and second place was 8:39.

Afterwards, when I finally stopped sweating and got my temperature close to normal again, I changed clothes and hung out at the finish line watching the last racers come in. I'd brought a sandwich and some nuts, and ate those and drank a couple of diet root beers. Here's a couple of my racing friends, Jeremy and Valerie Nagoshiner.

And here's some video of one of Valerie's teammates, Lisa Starmer, finishing her time trial.

Since I had a long drive back, I left right after this. On the way home, here's what the RAAMinator had to say  about the temperature.

Yeah, 8:12 pm and it was still 85 degrees. Ouch.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Yet Another Learning Experience

Occasionally, I use the car enough that it needs fresh oil. It's rare -- I wash and lube each of my bikes about 10 times more often. And it's more expensive than bike maintenance. And -- unlike bike maintenance -- it's something that I don't care to do. This is probably because I equate working on a car with driving a car and working on a bike with riding a bike, and the only time that I like to drive a car is when I've got a bike in the back and I'm going somewhere fun to ride, and that somewhere is too far away for me to bike there given the time that I have in my busy schedule.

Anyway, when the car needs to have it's oil changed, I usually just load the Salsa into the back, drive it to Firestone in Brentwood, and leave it with the mechanics there while I bike the last five miles to work. This was what I did yesterday, and I had a really nice ride in to work from there.

And then the clouds moved in.

So, here are 25 things that I learned yesterday:

  1. When the guy in your office who fixates on the weather tells you that you had better get on your bike soon and head home, you should listen to him.
  2. The guy who is over the data center fixates on the weather for a good reason, since power outages seem to screw things up.
  3. You cannot finish up a few things, change into biking clothes, load up your stuff, and roll out on your bicycle in less than 15 minutes.
  4. When you are leaving and the security guy says, "You're gonna get rained on," odds are that you're gonna get rained on.
  5. You cannot out-run a thunderstorm within five miles. Even if you are going south and the thunderstorm is going south.
  6. A thunderstorm moving in the same direction that you are moving gives you a great tailwind.
  7. When you turn right to get on that less-busy road to the east, that thunderstorm will give you a nasty crosswind.
  8. A nice heavy commuter bike does not get blown around in a crosswind as badly as your race bike does.
  9. A pannier gets a lot of wind. Particularly in a crosswind.
  10. Trees block wind nicely.
  11. Small limbs blow off of trees in a thunderstorm and end up in the road.
  12. It's kind of fun to ride and bicycle and dodge small limbs blowing across the road.
  13. Trees also block the rain when it starts.
  14. When the rain starts, it tends to beat down the wind a bit.
  15. When you come out of the trees, you will discover that it's been raining harder than you thought.
  16. Most cars behave pretty well around cyclists in the rain ... maybe even better than they behave when it's not raining. I think that they believe you must be insane, and that it's bad luck to kill crazy people.
  17. Always turn on all of your lights in the rain. It's the law, and it makes you more visible.
  18. When it's 85 degrees outside, being soaked for a few minutes is not that bad.
  19. A well-made road is "crowned," so that the water from the middle of the road flows to the edges. This is good, since it keeps the water from pooling in the road, where cars would then hydroplane.
  20. Lots of water flowing to the edge of the road will get dammed up by the grass and dirt on the shoulder, so that cyclists there get to ride through what appears to be a small creek.
  21. No matter how dorky they look and how much trouble they are, fenders are worth it.
  22. Sandals are still the best cycling shoes for commuting, since the water that gets past your fenders pours right out of them.
  23. If you are riding a bike in traffic in the rain and you come to a red light or stop sign, put your foot down and whistle to yourself or sing (I prefer "Yellow Submarine"). Grin like an idiot. Drink from your bottle. Tilt your head down so that the water pours off. If you act miserable, the people in cars will feel justified. If you act happy, you just might find that you are happy.
  24. Those people in cars that think we're crazy may be right.
  25. Crazy ain't that bad.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

When Difficult Becomes Ridonculous

Memorial Day weekend, Audax Atlanta held the second Long Hammer 600K in the mountains of North Georgia. They had a 66.6% DNF rate. Three riders started. One finished.

Sounds kind of like Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. "Two go in ... one comes out." It also reminds me of the 1971 hit "Timothy" by Rupert Holmes, except in that song three guys go into the mine and only two come out ... and they've put on weight.

Now, I've never ridden it, but from what I've heard the Long Hammer 600K is not a death cage battle, which are usually quick and relatively merciful. And I imagine that it would be hard to eat an entire human being on any brevet shorter than a 1200K.

No, the Long Hammer 600K is the perfect example of taking the Incredibly Difficult and adding sufficient pain to it so that it becomes Horribly Ridonculous.

The weekend before, while we were doing the 600K in Kentucky, Jeff Bauer and I were talking about the Long Hammer. Jeff had done it the year before, and said it was pretty difficult. "It's like riding Six Gaps, and then riding a rolling 175 miles, and then riding Six Gaps again," he said.

If Jeff Bauer says that something is tough, you'd better believe it. This is a guy who was half of a two-man RAAM team in 2008, racing over 3,000 miles in just over eight days on a fixed-gear bicycle.

And Jeff said that they were very lucky with the weather the year he did the Long Hammer, in that it was overcast and relatively cool for May. He had such an easy time of it that he did the Tennessee 600K the weekend after, and then the Kentucky 600K the weekend after that.

Like I said, a pretty tough guy.

The only finisher last weekend for the Long Hammer was Steve Phillips, who did the 600K with us the weekend before in Kentucky. Steve rode pretty much straight through, finishing the ride in 34 hours. And he's crazy strong.

Now, as I see it, Andy Akard -- the Georgia Regional Brevet Administrator (RBA) -- has three ways to go regarding this 600K route.

Option 1: Do Nothing

It's possible that Andy now has the perfect 600K. If you can finish this 600K alive, you may be eligible for randonneuring canonization, and your name shall be sung around the campfire for years and years. Maybe next time the temperatures will get really warm, so that somebody has to go to the hospital ... or worse.

In a perverse way, this will probably attract more riders. People don't do Six Gaps or the Assault on Mount Mitchell or Death Ride in California or the Leadville 100 because they are easy. You walk around wearing the t-shirt from any of these and people know that you are serious. Word gets around in the randonneuring community about a 600K with a 66% DNF rate, and next year you have 20 certifiably insane cyclists at the starting line.

Option 2: Make It Easier

I have to admit that this sounds like the better idea. I have finished 600Ks, supported a 600K, and DNF'd on a 600K. Finishing was rewarding ... but I don't think I would call it "fun." Supporting was kind of rewarding and kind of fun, but heart-breaking when you had to go pick a rider up and drive him back to the ride start.

DNF'ing, however, was a total bummer. At least in my case -- and it's probably the same with most riders -- you've ridden 200-250 miles, and at that point you can't help but think that all of that pain and suffering was for nothing! Maybe you can learn from it, so that whatever "mistake" it was that kept you from finishing this time does not happen again. Or maybe you can use the memory of this failure to get stronger, ride faster, sleep less ... whatever it requires to get you over the hump next time.

But at the time, taking a DNF on a 600K can be literally soul-crushing. Many randonneurs never try another one -- I didn't for almost two years. So it would be terrible if everybody started trying to make their 600K the hardest one around.

Option 3: Make It Harder

Sure, you've got 26,000 feet of climbing, with some of it stupid steep on barely paved roads with no shade. Yeah, it's out in the middle of nowhere with long stretches between stores, so you can't get water or food, much less ice, or find a place to hide from an afternoon hailstorm.

But have you thought about how much more fun it would be with rabid dogs? And maybe some machine-gun nests?

Or, you could have folks do Bundrick's Revenge back-to-back-to-back. That would be just under 50,000 feet of climbing, including going up Brasstown Bald three times. Since most of the controls are closed at night, the riders would still have to go long stretches without help.

I'd like to meet the person that could do the Bundrick's Revenge Cubed 600K. But not in a dark alley.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Heroic Is As Heroic Does

This past Saturday, my bike club had its annual century, the Harpeth River Ride. We had more than 1,300 riders, one of the biggest turnouts ever on this ride, in spite of temperatures in the middle 90's.

There are probably a lot of reasons for this many people coming to the ride: New route, excellent marketing, sponsorship from a big company (Nissan), a larger membership in the club. One of the biggest draws was that we got three professionals from Team Radio Shack, which Nissan also sponsors. Everybody wanted to ride with their heroes.

I gotta admit, it was pretty cool rolling out with these guys. We stayed in the pack with them for the first seven miles or so, all the way through downtown Franklin and out to Carter's Creek Pike. We had a Team Radio Shack pace car in front, and a ton of cyclists all up and down the closed roads.

But I was there to ride with this guy.

This is Dan Dillon. He's 68 years old, and blind. We rode the River Ride together last year, doing the 43-mile route. This year, he wanted to do the 64-mile metric.

For the past few weeks, we've been training every Tuesday night at the track, riding very hard for an hour. He's also been doing spin classes, and riding an exercise bike at home. He was doing about everything that he could to get ready for this ride. But, let's face facts: There really is no way that he could get ready for a ride this long, over these kinds of hills, in this kind of heat.

We rode really strong at the start. I had to back way off from the front with Team Radio Shack and the pace car as we headed south, mostly because there were so many cyclists on single bikes jockeying for position, apparently with no idea of the intricacies of captaining a tandem with a blind stoker.

RandoGirl was riding her single doing the same route, and she joined us about mile 10. Ten miles later, just before the first rest stop in Thompson Station, we had a flat on the front wheel. I quickly got the bike over to the side of the road, and Dan and RandoGirl held the bike while I changed the tire. We took that as our "break," and passed up the first rest stop.

Just past Bethesda was Pulltight Hill. Dan was starting to get pretty uncomfortable, but was strong as we went up this three-quarters of a mile climb. At the top, we pulled off at the overlook and got water from some volunteers. During the break, I tried to describe the view for Dan, but I think he was more appreciative of the time out of the saddle and the cool wind blowing up from the valley.

After descending Pulltight, we climbed back up the same ridge on Arno-Allisona Road, then zipped down the far side to Owen Hill. From there, we worked our way over to the next rest stop at College Grove Elementary School. We were now 40 miles in, and Dan had not ridden this long in almost a year. I got him into a shady chair in front of a fan, and he drank as much cold fluid as he could.

As usual, the River Ride rest stops were unequaled in the quality of their food and support. Dan, RandoGirl, and I really enjoyed the fresh baked goodies, fruit, and cold "margaritas" at this stop. Oddly enough, the boiled potatoes were extremely refreshing.

After a good break, we rolled out. The day was now officially HOT, and we slowly climbed Eudaily-Covington Road to Arno Road.

As we turned on Bethesda-Arno Road, Dan began to get cramps in his left leg. I shifted down as we tried to spin our way up the hills, knowing that we were less than five miles from the next rest stop. When we turned onto Cool Springs Road, I pulled us off the side of the road under a shady tree, and Dan tried to massage out the cramp. We sent RandoGirl on to the rest stop, and I gave Dan some Tums and more water and Gatorade as we took a break.

A SAG truck came by, but Dan was not yet ready to give up. We got back on the bike, and started climbing the long hill on Cool Springs Road. Dan's cramps immediately returned, and I told him to slap his arm to disrupt the pain receptors. He was sitting on the back of the bike, slapping everything, turning the cranks over, in constant pain, but refused to give up. Soon, we were over the hill, descending down the other side, and pulling into the Peytonsville Church rest stop.

Again, we quickly got Dan into a seat in the shade. I pushed lots of cold water and Gatorade on him, and Bill Glass (who was also riding with a blind stoker, named Sue) gave him some Endurolytes. We took a long half-hour break to let these kick in, and Dan ate a couple of bananas and rehydrated. Then, we rolled on again.

We had about 13 miles to go from here, and one last big climb over Gosey Hill Road. Since we were on familiar roads, however, I knew a short cut, and offered this to Dan. It would mean maybe two fewer miles, and would remove the last climb.

Dan said no way. He was going to do the full route. Period.

Sure, he was cramping going over Gosey Hill Road. We bombed down the other side, and I kept the pressure on as we skipped the next rest stop on Arno Road, just before Carothers Road. Dan's cramps had eased up, but the saddle was obviously bothering him as we crossed Hwy 96. I counted down the last few miles, and  Dan definitely perked up when I told him that I could see Nissan headquarters. There were volunteers at the turn into the parking lot, clanging cow bells and shouting encouragement, and we coasted into the finish line at last.

Dan was so glad to get off of the bike, and I must admit that he was not the only one. He later told me that he felt that he had let me down by having cramps, and that this had slowed us down. This was funny because I thought I had let him down, and that I should have carried electrolyte tablets and more water bottles. Maybe I pushed too hard, as well, and we should have stopped at the first rest stop.

But Dan definitely did not let me down. He fought through cramps and saddle discomfort, riding longer than he had ever done before, and probably in hotter temperatures. He refused to take the easy ways out when they were offered, and stuck to his original goal of riding 100 kilometers in spite of everything.

Sure, the Team Radio Shack guys are impressive. They're great riders, and I know that they train incredibly hard and are at the pinnacle of their sport.

But my hero is Dan Dillon. He's the cyclist that I came to see at the Harpeth River Ride.

Friday, June 11, 2010

My River Ride Preparations

It's been a really busy week around here getting ready for Saturday's Harpeth River Ride.

Monday I heard that Team Radio Shack pros Chechu Rubiera, Matthew Busche, and Bjorn Selander will be riding with us. Yes, I mean that Team Radio Shack ... the one with Lance. Seriously.

You see, Nissan is the presenting sponsor and host for the River Ride this year. We're starting from their headquarters in Cool Springs, with new routes and good parking and pre- and post-ride facilities and everything. They've been really cool throughout this whole thing. Well, it just so happens that Nissan is also a big sponsor for Team Radio Shack, so they called Johan and asked if any of his guys would like a nice recovery ride in a beautiful setting and Johan said, "You betcha." Or whatever the Belgian equivalent of "You betcha" is.

So, Monday night I had to clean my bikes ... even the ones that I'm not going to be riding Saturday. I mean, what if I go out for a recovery ride Sunday and run into a bunch of Team Radio Shack guys, and I've got worm guts all over the down tube? It would be like running into Cindy Crawford at Rooms-2-Go and finding out later that you had a dangling booger.

In the "Interesting Facts from the Team Radio Shack Website" Category:
  • Chechu and I have the same birthday: January 27. Chechu's is a few years after mine.
  • Bjorne's birthday is pretty darn close: January 28. He's a few years after mine and Chechu's.
  • Bjorne was born in the USA, so if you want to meet him don't go walking around the ride start listening for somebody talking like the baker from the Muppets. "The bike go flippety-flippety-floop."

Tuesday I went to the track for one last night of training with my partner for Saturday, Dan Dillon.

Dan and I rode the River Ride last year, winning the "42-Mile Adaptive Athlete Tandem Division" (or so Max Watzz claimed). We're doing the metric this year, and have been working hard to get ready. Tuesday night we averaged just under 20 mph for a full hour of riding, so I think we're in good shape.

The great thing about riding with a blind stoker is that he can't see when you un-clip from the pedals and rest your feet on the front wheel quick release. Dan notices that the pedaling just got harder and I tell him we're going up a hill, or into a headwind. I can never get away with that with RandoGirl.

Wednesday I did my River Ride baking. You see, the River Ride is famous for home-baked goodies at the rest stops. For the past three years, I've made chocolate-covered peanut butter crackers. This year, I did something different.

First, I changed crackers, so that rather than using plain old Ritz crackers I'm using a thinner whole wheat cracker made by Keebler. Next, rather than just plain peanut butter I used some of my Peanut Butter and Company stuff. One-third of the crackers have Dark Chocolate Dreams in them, one-third have Cinnamon Raisin Swirl, and the rest have The Heat is On. I then covered all of them with white chocolate.

As any conscientious baker would do, I sampled the results, as did RandoGirl and the RandoDaughter. We were pretty unanimous in that the ones with The Heat is On are freaking spectacular! The juxtaposition of the sweetness of the white chocolate with the chili powder and cayenne peppers of the peanut butter is just about perfect.

Now, let me warn you about something. First, I have no idea which rest stop is going to get these goodies. We just deliver them to the powers that be and they put them where they deem fit. Next, these things melt, so they will probably be kept in a cooler until the rest stop workers put them out. Finally, once the workers put them out, they get eaten fast ... maybe because they melt, but probably because they look almost as good as they taste.

So, what I'm trying to say here is, if you want one of these on Saturday you had better ride fast and stop at every rest stop.

Thursday I cleaned the tandem again, since we had ridden it at the track. I washed it, waxed it, cleaned and lubed the chains, and squirted lubricant into the derailleurs, brakes, shifters, and pedals. I made sure that the wheels are true and all of the spokes properly tensioned, and that the tread on the tires is still good.

I'll tell you why I do this ...

A couple of years ago, RandoGirl and I rode the River Ride on our old tandem. We were doing the century, coming up to the toughest climb on that year's route -- Stillhouse Road -- when the small chainring came loose. It turns out that the bolts securing this ring had slowly worked their way out, fallen off, and disappeared, and the next to the last one finally dropped off. So here we were, about one mile from the steepest part of the ride, with no granny gear.

We had about reconciled ourselves to just gutting out the climb in the middle ring when a SAG vehicle came up. They asked if we needed any help and we -- knowing the impossibility of the request -- asked if they had any spare chainring bolts.

They had four of them. Ten minutes later, we've got a granny gear again and we're heading for Stillhouse.

I learned two lessons that day: One, regularly make sure that everything is tight on your bike and that no screws or bolts have fallen off. The other is that the Harpeth River Ride has the best support of any bike ride, anywhere, ever.

Friday (well, tonight), I'm attending a pre-River Ride reception. Honorary ride leader Steve Baskis, who lost his sight fighting in Iraq, will be there, as will Paralympic Gold Medalist Pam Fernandes. There will also be lots of food, which I'd better stay away from because ...

Saturday is the ride. Dan and I are going for the podium in the "62-Mile Adaptive Athlete Tandem" division this year. Afterwards, I'll try to support the ride, and then help clean up, and then go to the post-ride volunteer party (New Belgium Brewery is donating us goodies for that!).

I'm exhausted and exhilarated just thinking about it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Introduction to Middle Tennessee Cycling

Have I ever told you about my bike club?

RandoGirl, the RandoDaughter, and I moved to Tennessee during the first week of June in 2005. I was still working for the same folks in Florida, and RandoGirl was working for her new employers up here. The RandoDaughter was doing what most kids like to do during summer break: Chilling out.

After a couple of weeks of unpacking and getting this and that set up, I was ready for a break. I heard about a club century down near Franklin, and decided that this would be a good way to check out riding on some of the hills of Tennessee. I figured that I had done centuries before in Florida, so how much harder could a few hills be?


During the course of that first painful Harpeth River Ride, however, I discovered something about cycling in middle Tennessee ... and I mean something other than the fact that different parts of your legs hurt from climbing than from flat-country biking. I discovered that riding here was a richer experience than it had been in Florida.

First, I found a really well-run ride. Registration was a breeze. Just before the start, we got last-minute instructions, and everybody behaved well as we rolled out. The routes were well marked, with police escorts the first couple of miles, and the roads were nice and smooth.

I also discovered the best rest stops that I had ever seen. These guys had everything -- lots of cold stuff to drink, home-baked goodies, chairs to sit in, and friendly folks to meet. On Florida centuries the rest stops focused on the "stop" part ... if that. You'd slow down and top off a bottle and roll on. But the Harpeth River Ride had stops where you could actually "rest." Since I was hurting from all of the hills, I needed it.

And there were all of these nice cyclists. On a Florida century you find another rider and work together taking short pulls into the headwinds. Conversation is mostly "Car back," "Last wheel," and "Clear." On the River Ride, I actually met people. We gave each other our names and everything! Sure, we would hammer some sections in a paceline, but then we would ease off, spin, and chat in the shady sections. Since I was new to the area, everybody was giving me recommendations on where to ride, where the biker-friendly stores were, and so forth. It was just the kind of basic information that I needed to let me explore further, ramble on, and find the secret gems of my new world.

Right after the River Ride, I joined the club and started attending the Thursday evening and Saturday rides. I met most of the folks that I consider my closest friends there, and first heard about ultra-cycling and randonneuring. This year, I'm an officer with the Harpeth Bike Club, serving as the Ride Coordinator.

None of this would have happened if I had not come out to that Harpeth River Ride in June of 2005. Sometimes -- like about 500 kilometers into a 600K -- I wonder if that first River Ride wasn't a BAD thing, but down deep I know that it wasn't. The Harpeth River Ride really brought me into the world of cycling in Tennessee, and got me riding more than I ever had before.

We're doing it again Saturday, starting at Nissan headquarters in Cool Springs. I hope you'll join us.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Attack of the Long Bikes

Normal (i.e., non-cycling) people usually have a cool reaction when they see a tandem bicycle -- also known as "a bicycle built for two" of "Daisy, Daisy" fame. It's usually something like, "Ah, look Myrtle. Ain't they cute?"

And then they see that there's 50 of these long two-headed bicycles, and it's kind of like that scene in The Birds, when the crows are all over the schoolhouse playground ... sitting ... watching ... waiting for their moment to strike.

Suddenly all of those long bicycles ain't so cute any more, eh, Myrtle?

Okay, sorry. We're always cute. We just can't help it. Maybe it's our outfits, with both the captain and stoker wearing matching jerseys, shorts, helmets, shoes, gloves, and socks. Or maybe it's the little bell or the horn -- which we usually ring or toot to tell you to stay out of our way -- or how most of us (although certainly not all of us) smile and wave and are just so gosh-darned mid-western Americana friendly to everybody. Most tandem riders are the kinds of folks that say "Jeepers" and love to show pictures of the grandkids.

In a lot of ways, tandem riders are the ultimate cycling Freds. We're out there to noodle around the countryside, see the sights, eat a home-cooked muffin at the country store, and sometimes just stop and sit under a nice shady elm tree. Other times we're deadly serious, such as when we're bombing down a hill that it just took us way too long to climb, or barreling along in a tandem paceline on a flat road at 28 mph. We are a mystery wrapped in an enigma, with a sweat-stained spandex coating outside and a creamy center of gooey goodness inside.

So, anyway, back to the 50 tandem bicycles.

This past weekend, Nashville played host to the Tennessee Tandem Rally, with two-headed beasts converging from points around the country to enjoy our scenic roads and cool temperatures. The scenery was here, but the cool temperature have been in short supply lately. On Saturday's route, we stopped for a huge lunch at Tap Root Farms, and many of the cyclists enjoyed the cool pool.

That's Tom Spear, by the way. He's the one who organized this year's event. Foolishly, he asked me to design Saturday's route, and I put together what I consider a "flat" route. We went over a few lumps heading south, with a short stop at Hatcher Family Dairy, and then climbed Pulltight Hill and Choctaw Road. This put us on a couple of nice, fairly flat roads, before we regrouped at the store in Bethesda.

I then snuck Cool Springs Road in there, just because I love the descent on the other side. Everybody had 50 miles in when they got to Tap Root Farms, where we all ate too much while listening to bluegrass from the Music City Flyboys.

Since the temperatures had by then reached a lovely 90+, RandoGirl and I then headed out on the "post-lunch route" that I had planned. I think that there were maybe half a dozen bikes that did this extra 24-mile loop out to Nolensville and back, but everyone that did it agreed it was quite scenic.

After getting cleaned up, changing clothes, and resting a bit, we all met at the Boxwood Bistro at the Factory in Franklin for dinner and wine. Some people may have had too much wine.

Steve Grizzle was very proud of those sandals.

Sunday morning we had a little 35-mile recovery ride before everybody headed home.

It was fun seeing so many old friends and making new ones, but the best part for me was getting to spend so much time with RandoGirl. As Jeff Bauer likes to say, "Whatever direction a relationship is heading, getting on a tandem is just going to get it there faster." Maybe that's why the best two-headed beasts are usually of a single mind.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Building a Better Beast: Coach MacKillimiquads

Last week, I had an opportunity to sit down with world-renowned cycling coach Angus MacKillimiquads, the mad genius beneath the huge sweaty thighs of Max Watzz ... though hopefully not in a literal sense. In today's blog, I'm going to give you part of that interview. For reasons that will become obvious as you read, Angus is best taken in small doses ...

RB: How's the training for Max coming along?

AM: He's a fookin' idiot. If he'd joost do exactly what I tell 'im to do, he could 'ave a chance. An' it doesn't help that you keep doin' these idiotic long rides.

RB: But shouldn't long rides help Max?

AM: As I told Eddie Mercxx when he was younger, "Ride hard lots." Eddie, of course, bein' the lazy stupid bastard that he was, could nae remember all three words, so he left out the one that hurt. Any loser can ride lots.

RB: Wait a minute, here. You trained the Eddie Mercxx? The Cannibal?

AM: Aye, for all that he listened to me. He could 'ave been somethin' grand. Ya' know I'm the reason they called 'im the cannibal, right? Told 'im to get up on podium and rip a leg off of the loser to 'is left, an' then start eatin'. That would 'ave fookin' well showed 'em who was boss, eh?

Uncomfortable silence ...

RB: Okay. So, back to riding hard. I thought that I was riding hard. I did 230 miles in less than 15 hours weekend before last ...

AM: An' that's as fast as ye can go?! What a fookin' poosy.

RB: Well, no. I've done sub-five-hour centuries ...

AM: If it takes ye' more than four hours to ride 100 miles, yer a loser. Nobody ever won a Tour stage like that.

RB: Well, sure, but that's the Tour. And those stages are rarely more than 200K long ...

AM: Aye, now they are. Back in my day, we joost did the 'ole damned thing in one fell swoop. Men would fall to th' side o' th' road bleedin' out of every orifice. Th' ones that were real men would die an' still keep racin'.

I remember one tour when one o' me teammates, Scottie O'Lairdithurts, died in the Pyrenees. 'Is heart jumped out of 'is chest, wrapped th' aorta around 'is neck, and strangled 'im. We dug through 10 feet o' snow an' two feet of permafrost to give 'im a proper Christian burial -- may the Lord have mercy on his soul -- an' then I bridged all of us back to th' front of th' pack. About 100 miles later, there was Scottie, back on me wheel, pennies on his eyes and tha' bloody aorta still wrapped about his fookin' neck. Gave me a case of the willies, I tell ya'. Scottie should 'ave won the fookin' stage, too, but Desgrange found some loophole in th' rules. French poof. Called Scottie a zombie, th' bastard.

RB: He ... what?

AM: He what what, lad. 'Ave ye got a question there or no?

RB: Um, no. I don't know what to say about that.

AM: Course not, ye' twit. None of ye' nancy boys today 'as any fookin' idea what it took to race bicycles in those days. Nae a testicle between the lot 'o ye. I'd be racin' today if I still 'ad me legs ... an' as it is, I'm pretty sure that I could still beat th' likes of a poosie loser like you, legs or no.

RB: Yes, I wanted to ask how you lost your legs.

AM: Then why don't ye?

RB: Because I'm afraid that you'd tell me.

AM: Well, then. You're a smarter boy then ye' look like, eh?

Uncomfortable silence ...

RB: So, tell us about your degrees.

AM: Degrees?

RB: Yes. Don't you have, like, a PhD in exercise physiology or something?

AM: What, like from attendin' university?! Are ye' daft, man?! What fookin' school ever taught anybody anythin' worth a damn?!

RB: Well, I went to college ...

AM: An' there you go, man! What did ye bloody well learn there, eh?

RB: They taught me how to write ...

AM: An' ye bloody well sook at it, too! Yer allegories are weak, yer punctuation confusing, and you use alliteration like a eighth-grade girl who fancies herself one of the Bronte sisters! Now drop and give me 10 prepositional phrases, ya' poosy!

RB: Under the elm ...
Under the elm ...
Under the elm ...

AM: One-handed, ya' lazy cretin!

RB: ... in my joy,
... in my joy,
... in my joy,
... in my joy,
... in my joy,
... in my joy,
... in my joy,
... in my joy,
... in my joy,
... in my joy,

AM: Oh, sure. Right-handed, o' course. What a woos ...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

21st Century Schizoid Man on Vacation: A Tale of Two Rides

I went to the beach with family this past weekend, but managed to get in a couple of early morning rides. Friday morning, Max Watzz did his thing. Saturday morning, Max slept late and RandoBoy went out. Here are their ride reports.

Friday Prescription: 1:00 Tempo, :30 EM, :45 Tempo, :30 EM

My coach, the world-renowned Angus MacKillimiquads, had prescribed a lengthy break for me following RandoBoy’s misbegotten 600K last weekend. He told me that “ya moost let the whithers rot themselves, laddie, ‘er they’ll be 'ell to pay,” ... or something like that. I find that he often does not appreciate the remarkable recuperative powers that nature has bestowed upon me. After studying the prodigious power numbers of which I am capable, you would think that he would know better than to think of me in mere mortal terms.

As is only proper due to uncanny genetic make-up, I was almost fully back to normal Friday morning – well, “normal” in Max Watzz terms … and maybe for Superman . Rolling out from the house in Seacrest just before 6 am, I was soon cruising along a flat road averaging 200 watts. I turned right on some other flat road, went over a bridge, turned right, and finished my first hour with a 22-mph average.

I eased up after turning left on some flat road, and stopped at a convenience store to refill bottles and eat something. As I paid the clerk at the store, she was in obvious awe at the visage of my muscular majesty. I'm not sure which is more embarrassing: When people beg me for my autograph in these situations, or when they are too stunned to stammer their request.

After another 10 minutes of easy riding, I took the power back up to 200 watts just before going over the bridge again, then turned left on some flat road. I turned right just as my second tempo session ended, and went down a flat road to turn left on another flat road. I was back at the house by 8:30, having ridden just under 50 miles with an overall average of just under 21 mph. I then enjoyed a recovery drink of whey protein and glutamine, so that my brobdingnagian quadriceps could fuel and grow more glorious.

Saturday Ride: Good Donut

RandoGirl, the RandoDaughter and I fell in love with the beaches of Walton County in the Florida panhandle back in the 90’s. We lived in Atlanta in 1996 during the Olympics, and we fled the city to come here with some friends for a week away from the madness that we were all sure would ensue. The madness never came, but we had a great time on “the redneck Riviera” nonetheless.

In 2000, we bought a small house in Santa Rosa Beach. We rented it out to vacationers, but managed to spend a couple of weeks a year there every year ourselves. Our plan was to eventually retire in that little house, but we instead sold it when we moved to Tampa.

One weekend this past winter, RandoGirl and I came back down here to look at other properties, and ended up buying one. The “three bedroom with a tower” is in Seacrest beach on 30A, right across from the beach. RandoGirl named it “Serenity” – both for the peaceful aspects and nerd-ish overtones.

This weekend was our first chance to visit the new house since we had closed on it, and much of this trip was about getting it ready to rent. After a very hectic Friday, we managed to finalize most of the pressing business issues surrounding that, and RandoGirl’s parents arrived. After a big dinner and quiet evening of talk, we all turned in early.

Saturday morning, the sun started to rise about 5 am, thus waking me up. As the alarm on my watch went off at 5:30, I hit 30A and began rolling west.

It was a muggier day than Friday had been, with that foreboding sense of afternoon thunderstorms that you can only get in the tropics. I worked up a good sweat biking along, looking over at the Gulf of Mexico on my left, listening to the birds and wildlife awake around me. Traffic was very light, so I decided to stay on 30A all the way to the end, instead of heading over the bridge to Freeport as Max had done the day before.

Just before Grayton Beach, I stopped to help a turtle across the road. He was obviously heading to one of the many lakes that I was riding past, full of tall grass and calm water. There were few enough cars that he probably would have made it, but I wasn’t in that much of a hurry. Better safe than squished.

There is a multi-use path all along 30A, but I have always preferred to use the road here. Like most multi-use paths, this one cuts in on driveways and side roads, often with rather abrupt bumps and limited sightlines. It is best for runners or recreational cyclists who don’t mind stopping frequently for cars that may be coming out, but bikers going over 15 miles per hour here tend to avoid it.

About 6 am I started to see some early runners and one or two other riders on the multi-use path. We all smiled and waved and yelled “good mornings” to each other, enjoying the camaraderie of fellow early- rising exercise enthusiasts.

At Santa Rosa Beach, I waved at our old house – still a lovely Florida lime green. Soon, I came to the end of 30A, and went east on Hwy 98. This is a very busy road, but has a pretty good shoulder (sometimes marked as a bike lane – very confusing). So long as you don’t mind dodging the occasional detritus and listening to the roar of semis passing at 70, it’s a decent way to travel.

When we were here in March I had test-ridden a route this way, but a closed bridge had kept me from seeing all of it. Turning left on County Road 393, I was soon on a quieter back lane. The bridge was open again, and although the road was bumpy and pot-holed, it was fairly shady and quite scenic.

Doubling back, I was now getting hungry, so I continued west on 98 past 30A and on to the Donut Hole. This is one of the few places that has survived every storm – tropical and economic – that has hit this area in the past decades, probably because their donuts are delicious. I got a light confectionary tube filled with chocolate and a cup of coffee, and then went outside to eat on a bench by my bike. Some kids soon came out and began to ask me about my bicycle and where I was going. A number of grown-ups asked about the same thing, and some said that they wished that they could go with me.

The day was growing warmer by the minute, so I soon mounted back up and returned to 98 to work my way east. The wind had come up out of that quarter, and it grew stronger as I turned back onto 30A and returned to Santa Rosa Beach. Just past there, I noticed my rear tire was going soft, and pulled onto the multi-use trail to change it. I had somehow picked up a small piece of wire, which I quickly dislodged before replacing the tube.

As I worked, there were now a lot of people going by on the path – some running, some walking, and some biking – and many of them asked if I needed help, or wished me a good day, or told me that there was another group of riders just up the road a bit. We were all on vacation – or at least enjoying a nice outing on a pleasant morning – and the pure joy of being free to do what we wanted to do this morning was evident.

My tire taut again, I headed back out into the headwind on 30A, rolling through Blue Mountain and into Seaside, where they filmed the Jim Carrey movie, “The Truman Show.” Everyone was up and about by now, roaming this carefully planned pastel village en route to morning coffee and some pre-beach knick-knack shopping. I slowed down with the other vehicular traffic, enjoying a bit of people-watching and waving to the kids.

In Seagrove Beach, I thought about stopping for another coffee and beignets, but decided that I had better head back. Since it was now 8:30, everyone would be up and getting breakfast, so 50 miles would have to do for the day. As I approached the house, RandoGirl was on the upstairs balcony and she gave me a wolf whistle, which a passing runner thought was for him. As sweaty and hot as I now was, he may have been right.