Monday, September 30, 2013

Country Highways

"Country highway" is a useless term. Let's first break down exactly what a "country highway" should be. I propose that a road  which is paved and runs through an area that has less than 5.851 inhabitants per square mile (the population density of Wyoming) is a country highway. In reality, this is just a dream. I've ridden on country highways that are magic carpets of freshly laid smooth asphalt and others that much less enjoyable are gravel roads. On my Sunday ride, I had to yet again re-adjust just how unpredictable these roads can be.

It all started with me looking at a map and thinking to myself "Google says it's a road. I should be good to go,"  so  I set out to complete a 28 mile loop that would take me through the amazingly scenic Jefferson National Forest. The first 11 miles went swimmingly, but then I went down a really steep and long decline. (I really don't like steep descents that twist and turn. especially when there are no guard rails: see previous post.)

After two or three miles of decline, I hit the bottom, breathed a sign of relief, and realized that the pavement was turning to gravel. Faced with the prospect of crawling up the climb that I just came down, I decided to continue forward. The houses along the road quickly turned into hunting shacks without electricity and plumbing. Yes, there were outhouses! 

Then the road kind down graded itself again and I wasn't sure if I was on a road or riding on the dried up portion of a creek. At some point, I crossed the Appalachian Trail. This made me nervous enough to try and call Liz, but there was no cell service in this part of the country.

I was too far out to turn around, so I didn't. I didn't really believe it in my gut, but I knew that the map said this"road" would eventually connect to a real highway which would take me home. Then the river jigged and the road jagged. This ride was the first river crossing I've ever had to do on my bike. I wasn't sure if Liz would be able to find me if the woods people kidnapped me and stole me away to West Virginia.

Once across the river, life improved quickly. Houses started looking like people lived in them. The gravel was packed enough to support a little speed, and I was starting to feel like I might come out alive.

Then the moment of Triumph!!! This stop sign marks the return to pavement. Never before have I been so happy to be on a real road.

I still had a ways to go after this point, but it was uneventful. Some kids on a trampoline dressed in full camouflage waved at me. Talk about collision of cultures. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013


Now that fall is upon us,there have been tons of gnats flying around while biking. Riding through their swarming clouds is gross. It seems that once or twice each ride a gnat will hit the back of my throat which immediately causes the swallow reflex. I regret this every time. They are gross and I prefer not to eat them. The only good thing that comes out of riding through clouds of gnats is that it is the only time of the year when I get to pretend to be a whale eating krill. In the end, I would willingly forgo this experience in order for a more peaceful ride. However, I have no control over mother nature so there isn't much I can do except eat my krill and make the occasional whale call. (If you ever hear this amazing impression, I promise that I'm not having a stroke.)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Another day another ride

Liz and I decided to check out some bluegrass music that was going on in Blacksburg last night. On our to the town we came up on a cyclist who in the middle of the country walking with his bike. There is really no graceful way to walk in cycling shoes. It just looks silly. Anyway, it was raining and this guy clearly had a long walk ahead of him, so we stopped. It wasn't real easy to stuff his bike into our trunk, but after taking off both wheels and putting a seat down we got the bike in. Just like that we had a third passenger with us. He seemed really grateful for the lift.  He told us that he was a VT freshman from somewhere on the east coast. However, his father got his degree from Purdue and his grandparent live in Chicago. He seemed like a nice kid. It worked out well since he gave us directions to where we needed to go. The bluegrass music was cool, and there were some people dancing which was fun to watch.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A different kind of adventure

The plan was to quick drive to the mechanic to pick the new car tire and then jet home and hop on the bike for a quick ride. Then, it all went south. I was exiting the parking lot and the brakes went out on the Ford. I'll tell you...losing your brakes is the weirdest feeling you can have in when driving. After driving that car for 7 year (or so) those extra two inches of down made it feel like my foot was being eaten by the engine itself. 

Thankfully, I was only going 3 mph, and I didn't hit anyone. I called a for a tow truck and dropped of the car at the mechanic for yet another patch. Since I didn't get home till later than anticipated, I was relegated to biking for 50 minutes on the trainer while watching football. Somebody should tell Peyton Manning that he is an old man and shouldn't throw so many touchdowns. Nobody likes seeing a grown man go through a midlife crisis.

Tomorrow's adventure. The start of interval training....

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Readjusting life

A friend at work just bought a road bike, so he's been peppering me daily with questions about the proper way to do things. After all, I am an expert. Friday, we had a very serious discussion about how long your cycling socks should be. (correct answer: neither too short or too long). 

Overall, him getting a bike has been great for my own routine. If he's going to tell me stories about what he learns on his daily bike ride, I better have a parallel story of what crazy stuff happened on my hardcore ride. This has forced me to get more adventurous on my rides in order to come up with interesting things to talk about. Last year, I had two bike routes and I never deviated from them. It felt safe; It was what I liked; It was really boring. It's just not that exciting to tell your friend that on your ride you saw that Farmer Bill has finally cut his hay field. 

So in the last two weeks,I've inserted some spontaneity. I've gotten lost in the national forest, made a serious bid to ride all the way to West Virginia, unexpectedly climbed a really really big mountain, and descended that really really big mountain. Going down the mountain was by far the most terrifying experience.

I like the change. I hope it lasts. I'll be getting better brakes soon.