Sunday, February 28, 2010

Burma Loop

Far background: Ty. Foreground: Marlon, John, Wilbur, Velma, Rick, and Bill who was just completing his ride.
February 27, 2010

The forecast was outstanding considering it is still February. It was to be a high of 63 and the wind 6-8 miles per hour. No excuses, so a social ride was called and I am glad we did it. Notwithstanding the social aspect of a group ride, Christine and I have a planned 100K ride at Bastrop next weekend. Whereas we have been having the opportunity to get in some rides over the winter months, the Burma Loop of 39 miles was to be our longest ride of the winter. We needed the distance to get ready for "Pedal Thru the Pines." Previously we had been able to practice for the first 10 miles of “Pedal” by riding Allen Lane. The Burma Loop would help us get ready for the next 52 miles of the ride.

Granted, even if we were not getting ready for some ride we would have called a social ride for the heck of it. For the heck of it, 10 of us showed up to get a jump on the official riding season. The riders were: Christine Buckstead, Ty Johnson, Christine Jones, Roy Jones, Gene Linthicum, Marlon Miller, Rick Ogan, Velma Ogan, Wilbur Thomas, and John Woiton.

Assemby point was the intersection of FM 2288 and Arden Road.

Wilbur, Velma, and Rick
John and Marlon
Roy, Ty signing ride sheet, Christine B., and Gene
At the appointed time, we took off en masse, or so I thought. Of course, Velma jumped out into the lead, with Rick, me, and Marlon chasing. Soon Gene over took all of us and lead all the way to the Arden/Burma intersection. As I mentioned, I thought we took off together. I noticed Ty was hanging back but didn’t give it too much thought as many times either he or Rick will hang back and talk with folks who may be a little behind the others. Later, I found out that just as we took off, Ty lost a cleat. He stopped to put it back on and didn’t think it would take too long. He didn’t use the card with rider’s cell phone numbers on it to halt us or tell us he was having trouble. It was too late to call by the time he had to get a rock as a hammer to fix his shoe. Instead of a social ride, he rode the first nine miles at time trial speed to catch up to us.

Everyone stopped at the Arden/Burma intersection to talk, take liquids, and make sure we still had all of the group together.
Rick, Ty, Gene (note Gene's neat bike) and Christine B.
Christine B., Marlon, and Velma (lady behind the hand)
Christine J. "She'll be coming round the corner when she comes"
John. Had to turn around at this point to get some "honey do's" accomplished.
Wilbur. Always in a relaxed state. I am not sure I have ever seen him perspire.
Christine B. and Marlon. Equipment check.
Gene, Ty and Rick.
The next leg was Burma Road. I started off riding and talking with Gene and Ty. The first time the road started a little incline, they kept riding and talking and I lagged back farther and farther. Then the parade of passing cyclists began. Wave goodbye to Marlon; wave at Christine B., wave at Velma, etc, etc., until Christine J. passed me, and then it was time to get serious—stop goofing off and start riding.

Wilbur pulled in behind me and I heard him say, “I’m going to get you back for what you said about me in your blog. 7%, 8%, 9%, 10%, 11%, 12%.”

He did that on at least three hills, but interestingly enough, 12% was the steepest grade encountered—at least while he was trying to bug me and rattle me. We, of course, did not turn around and go up "the Wall," so Allen Lane with the 14% seemed to beat the local inclines. But on the Burma Road trip, the only defense I had against Wilbur was to drop farther behind, and that’s the way it stayed until we were cresting the intersection of S. and N. Burma. I thought the crowd was at the crest of the hill, so I stood up and pumped to get ahead of Christine J., so the crowd wouldn’t know that I was last. But it was just Rick, Wilbur, Chris, and I at the crest. They knew I was last, and that is the way it could have stayed if this keyboard would stop telling off on me.

Going up Highway 87 to Grape Creek was a little surprising. The 6-8 mile an hour wind seemed more. However, as Chris has pointed out many times, the problem with a low wind velocity is that it feels like you have wind in your face no matter in which direction you are riding. And it was true again for almost the entire ride. The only other complaint was that one car seemed to try to come as closely as possible to each one of us without side-swiping us. This part of 87 has four lanes. The group ahead of us complained about the same car when it caught up to them. I didn’t think about trying to get a picture of the car to see if I could read the license plate number, so I just hope we never meet folks like him again.

The above compaint off my chest, the lead group was patiently waiting for us at the convenience store at Grape Creek. I always look forward to that particular stop, as they have some of the best chocolate milk drink around.
Marlon, Rick, Gene, Ty, and Velma at Grape Creek.
Ummmm. Chocolate (Roy and Wilbur)
Marlon, Gene, Christine B., Ty, Rick, and Velma (About ready to take off).
Leaving Grape Creek, we started on the last leg of the ride. Probably about four miles into the leg, the lead group was stopped on the side of the road. Ty had a flat tire and was fixing it.
Marlon was teasing him about getting a flat and fate stepped in.
What are the odds of TWO having a flat at the same time? I looked around and Marlon was on the ground fixing HIS flat.

Flats are mostly spectator events except for the  performer.

...except this time we had TWO performers.

After the flats incident, the rest of the trip was anti-climactic. All we had to do was pedal over the rolling hills of FM 2288. So ended another episode in the ride history of San Angelo cycling. May there be many, many more.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Allen Lane

Stretch of Allen Lane
February 20, 2010
Christoval, Texas

Allen Lane according to the road sign; Allen Road according to MapQuest. Take your pick because either route is a good one.

Saturday was lining up to be a good day to ride. The temperature was to be mid-60’s and the wind 13-15. Since our average wind speed is 12, what was new? So a ride was called for 1 pm to start at the old Toni’s Restaurant outside of Christoval. Allen Lane is a 7.4 mile stretch of hills with grades ranging from 6 to 12% with one or two stretches at 14%. It is an ideal location to train for rides that have hills as a theme.

Saturday’s turn out was gratifying considering the chilly wind, trail runs, and big rodeo going on in San Angelo. Twelve made the ride at least once. Riders included Brian Backlund, Christine Buckstead, Christine and Roy Jones, Ty Johnson, Dean McKenzie, Rick Ogan, Velma Ogan, Liz Rappe', Wilbur Thomas, Dan and Leann Waldron. Christine Buckstead, Ty Johnson, Dan and Leann Waldron were running a little late but joined us at the turn around point.

Allen Lane starts off with a bang in that as one turns onto the Lane from Hwy 277, it almost immediately starts with an incline. The first hill is about a mile long and culminates at about an 12% grade. My first mistake was to try and keep up with Velma. By about a ½ mile she started pulling away, and if that wasn’t bad enough, Rick shot by me as if I were standing still—wasn’t standing still but was already going quite slowly. And to make it even worse, I kept hearing Randy’s voice “encouraging” me to keep my RPMs to 70. Now in the CompuTrainer classroom going up a 6.3% grade, holding 70 RPMs is one thing, but on a 12% grade—ain’t telling my RPMs.

But we all made it up. As per custom, we re-grouped at the top of the hill.
L-R Brian, Velma, Rick, Wilbur, Chris, Liz, and Dean.
Wilbur has a GPS that lets him know instantly what grade he is climbing. A real neat gadget, but I have mixed feelings on knowing what I am encountering. For example, on one hill I was with him, and as we went up he would call out 6%, 8%, 9%, 10%, 11%, 12%. After each good hill I would ask him what the grade was, and he would say it was 8-12-14 or what ever. But listening to the increments as you were pedaling them was sometimes disconcerting. You know you are having trouble, and then he is verifying why you are struggling. But it is good training. Dean McKenzie, Chris, and I have used Allen Lane to get ready for the Fort Davis Cyclefest.

Most of the ride was with a stiff cross wind. Going up a hill the wind was not so noticeable. Going down was another story. As you are going down a hill at 35-40 MPH the cross wind seems to come in gusts trying to blow you over. I have read articles with the advice to “ignore” gusts and not correct for them. That is hard to do when you think you are being blown over. But sure enough, just as you correct it seems the gust is over and you are leaning to the side in an awkward position. Only once did my leaning my bike into the cross wind seem to help, as the cross wind was consistent instead of gusty. It was the same feeling as banking into a turn to counteract centrifugal force.

At the end of Allen Lane, we re-grouped again before beginning the return trip. Dan and Leann Waldron had arrived late but rode in with some of the group. Shortly behind, Ty and Christine had arrived late also and came in right behind us.

Ty Johnson and Christine Buckstead at turn around point.
I had taken some shots of Dan and Leann as they arrived. Will turn on the camera next time before taking pictures.

We all took off at the turn around point. The first hill may be relatively short but it crests at 14% grade. I for one made the mistake of thinking it was just a short hill, so I didn't gear up for the grade. I found myself standing up pumping and pulling on my handle bars trying to get some leverage to compensate for my gear ratio. Several times I could just see myself stalling out and toppling over. It might have been a lively story, but I hate to bleed. So don't be fooled by short hills.

I muse about the short steep hills, as recently I was talking to Christine about the up-coming ride at Bastrop and the tough first 10 miles. She waved me off with "Yes, but they are short hills". So she doesn't pay heed to my words, [most of the time (editor's note)]but I know she will edit this and maybe pay attention to the written word. 

As "most" of the return trip is downhill, there was only one stop for re-grouping and that was the last hill before 277. Rick raced ahead and was able to take "action" shots of people climbing the hill. It also is a 14% grade.
Velma Ogan

Christine Buckstead

Wilbur Thomas
Brian Backlund
Roy Jones
I saw Rick taking pictures so I put on my "No big deal" face. However, in my routine self-deprecation, I will reveal what really went on coming up the hill.

(I know--I remember Randy, 70 RPMs going up hills--but it was 14% (he whined.) At least note that the speed was LESS than my average)

Christine Jones, Liz Rappe', Dan/Leann and Dean in background

Christine Jones and Liz Rappe cresting the hill.

Dan/Leann Waldron and Dean McKenzie about over the crest.
After this particular hill, it is all downhill all the way to Highway 277.
At the end of this stretch, the ride was over.
However, "Hey, that was fun. Let's do it again!" So five of us decided to do a repeat at least to the Mayfield Ranch gate about 5.4 miles back up the road.
Top of the first (12%) hill on the second go around. It did not seem as traumatic the second time up. Maybe our muscles were warmed up--or maybe it was because I wasn't chasing Velma up the hill the second time. But all agreed the repeat wasn't as bad as the first ride.

Liz dismounting at the end of the first hill.

Wilbur and Dean looking as if on a Sunday stroll.
After the re-group at the first hill, we all went on to the designated turn around point.

Dean and Liz at the turn around point.

Taking in the scenery.

The valley is even prettier in the summer.

One more group picture before we depart. Dean, Wilbur, Roy, and Liz.

And off we go back to the parking lot. Of course, all the way back was downhill and with the wind. : )

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mt. Nebo

Mt. Nebo
Saturday, February 13, 2010
A pre-Valentine ride to preempt all those bonbon treats seems to have been a good idea in retrospect. But in truth, on Wednesday when the Saturday ride was still a flip of the coin, the forecast called for 59 degrees and 10 mph wind. The ride was called. Of course, wind forecast crept up to 15 mph, but the ride was on.

Eleven of us assembled at the State Park Headquarters to start our approximately 30 mile ride. Cast for this day’s ride included: Aaron Glass, Brian Backlund, Ty Johnson, Christine Jones, Roy Jones, Dorothy Langdon, Marlon Miller, Rick Ogan, Velma Ogan, Liz Rappe, and Wilbur Thomas.

Start Time. Marlon Miller, Rick Ogan, and Brian Backlund.

Wilbur helping Liz get ready.

Ty Johnson. Planning his strategy?
We started out Mercedes, Arden Road, and then turned onto 2288. Almost from the first turn of the pedals, Velma set the pace. It was a good thing the wind was almost to our back as each time I glanced down at the odometer, it was on 18 mph or so.

Almost three miles out from Grape Creek, a person pulled up beside me and then proceeded to pass. It was Aaron. Somehow Aaron had showed up for the ride without a bike. Dorothy had an extra mountain bike and let Aaron use it. Aaron, on a mountain bike, was heading to catch up to Velma, Rick, and Ty who had taken the lead and were setting the pace. Amazing--but he continued to amaze me throughout the rest of the ride. I hope he shows up at our mountain bike time trials as he will be a real contender.

Aaron Glass at Grape Creek stop on a mountain bike.

The Grape Creek convenience store is always a welcome stop. Not only is it a convenient place for us to stop, re-group, and attend to any personal needs, but they have a chocolate drink for 99 cents! Excellent recovery drink and at a nice price.
 Dorothy, Rick, Aaron, and Velma

Liz looks rested up and ready to go.
Liz, Velma, and Dorothy.
Just as we were ready to pull out of the parking lot, Christine announced that she had a flat tire. Luckily it was on the front and Ty and Rick made short work of the task. But, they had time enough to reminisce about
my bringing a spare tire to the infamous December ride. It will take a long time to over-ride that blunder.

Brian left us at Grape Creek and doubled back to the start position. He had to work later and didn’t have the time to finish the route. At first I felt for him as he was going to have to go back over the 2288 hills, and our route was relatively flat for the remainder of the ride. HOWEVER, it was a trade off as we were going into the wind with nothing but plowed under cotton stalks to provide a wind break. I will wait until sometime that Brian can complete the entire route before I ask if it was a fair trade off.

Velma mentioned that she didn’t know the way from Grape Creek. I told her to go straight down the road until you can’t and then turn right. She and Aaron took me at my word and they became the lead group—not the pace setters. The rest of us rode in a group, and I wanted to stop and take pictures of the riders in front of Mt. Nebo.

Marlon and Dorothy at Mt. Nebo
Mt. Nebo might not look like a big deal for people from other parts of the country, but for us sitting on the edge of the Edwards Plateau, we will claim any "mountain." We probably have about four routine routes that present a climbing challenge. Mt. Nebo is not one of them but in the middle of cotton field country, we take pictures of prominent humps.
After pictures, the larger group started off again. Way on down the road, Velma and Aaron complied with the normal protocol of a social ride. They chose a major intersection and waited for us to catch up.

Shortly after the March/Wren intersection, we came upon Hwy 87 and turned left. Probably about 100 yards later, we turned on Grape Creek Road on which the ASU Meat Market is located. The market was closed but the location provided another re-group opportunity as we were close to the O.C. Fisher dam.

Group at ASU Meat Market; a good stopping place just before the dam.

Turning onto the dam, to me, is always the low point of the ride. It may be only 6.5 miles in distance and it may be perfectly level terrain. But it is the LONGEST 6.5 miles; the ROUGHEST 6.5 miles; and the wind is ALWAYS in your face. And the wind is not my friend.

About mile two, Rick and Velma decided to get the ride over with and pulled away. About mile 4.5, Ty, Aaron, and Marlon pulled up and away. What a time to fade. Only two miles to go.  I saw Rick and Velma stop just as I hit the ¼ mile marker. Ty and party were just behind them. OK, OK, it was not a race. It was a social ride. Who cares about who finishes when or where. OK, OK, I do a little bit as I am “working” my tail off three times a week chasing a little silver guy and secretly hoping that I can chase real people more closely.

Christine mentioned her motto is to be “Stronger, faster, farther.” My motto is going to be “Less far behind.”

On the way home, the State Park longhorns were grazing closely to the fence. We are as proud of our longhorns as we are of our Mt. Nebo.

When this one started pawing the ground, I knew I had worn out my welcome so we headed home after another great group ride.