Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year Resolutions - 2010 Review

Well - here we are on the final day of 2010. Time to look back and see how I did regarding my resolutions for the year.

Car Free for One Month (Grade = F) - While I did a pretty good job of riding my bike more for utility purposes, I never did attempt to go car free for a deliberate period of time. Life just got in the way - I'm gonna try this one again next year.

Build a City Bike (Grade = A) - I was able to convert my Light Roadster to a fully functional city/commuter bike. I know I haven't told you about it on this blog, but that post is coming, I promise.

Post at Least Once a Week (Grade = A+) - This year I posted 85 times. That's better than 1-1/2 times per week. It may be time to stretch myself and shoot for twice a week next year.

Lose Weight (Grade = D) - Well, at several points throughout the year I was able to focus my exercise and eating habits such that I brought my weight down to within single digits of my 155 lb. goal, then I would backslide. I was kind to myself and gave myself a D because at least I don't weigh any more than I did a year ago.

Ride the Blue Ridge Parkway (Grade = F) - What can I say, not only did I not ride the Parkway, but I did not take a week long tour PERIOD! That is totally unacceptable and I can assure you, this is a wrong that will be righted next year.

Increase Practical Bike Use (Grade = A+) - I rode to work everyday this year with the exception of 6 days due to icy conditions. On those days I took the bus. Not only did I ride to work, but I expanded my bike use for other errands as well. I rode it to church, the grocery store, the drug store, the gym, the barber, restaurants, the hardware store, the coffee shop and the like.

There you have it. My GPA isn't anything to brag about, but overall I'm pretty satisfied with the year. Stay tuned tomorrow and I'll roll out my resolutions for 2011.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bike and a Movie

For anyone who has ever trained on a stationary trainer, you don't need me to tell you how time comes to a veritable stand still. You can be riding along thinking that you've spun enough to circumnavigate the globe, only to look at your watch and realize that you've been riding a grand total of 10 minutes.

Over the years, I've employed numerous strategies in an effort to make the time fly by. I've tried riding with music. I've tried riding in complete darkness. I've tried do specific, intense workouts. While all have helped minimally to some extent, in the end, I find myself putting my head down and forcing myself, against my will, to keep spinning.

The only technique that I've discovered to make stationary training somewhat bearable is watching a movie. I have some great riding films from Epic Planet that give me a good work out and help pass the time. However, if I just want to spin at a leisurely pace, watching any regular movie will do.

All I need now is some popcorn and soda!!! Come on now, let's not get carried away, we are training after all.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

The last few weeks I've had to work late quite often and consequently, my rides home were in complete darkness. One of those evenings, as I slowly pedaled through the neighborhoods and enjoyed the array of Christmas lights and decorations, I realized it was time for me to decorate the bike and spread my own bit of Christmas cheer.
Riding around on this bike has become a bit of a tradition for me over the last 2 or 3 years. As I commute back and forth on this "Blinking Christmas Tree on Two Wheels", I can't tell you how many people stop what they're doing, smile and bade me a Merry Christmas. I know I look like a dork, but considering the little bit of joy it brings to people, it is a small price to pay.

Today is Christmas day. I'm done with work for the year. Instead of donning my riding gear and braving the cold and traffic, my mornings for the next week will be spent pretty much like this...
Its a rough life I know. Merry Christmas Everyone!!!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

12 MPH

Today is my last day of work for 2010. This morning when I climb on my bike it will mark the 205th day that I've ridden to work. Considering the fact that I worked a total of 211 days, that equates to riding to work 97% of the time. The other 6 days or 3%, I took the bus. I am quite proud of the fact that I did not use my truck a single time in the past year to get to work.

As I look back on this accomplishment, I realize that it was not without some degree of sacrifice. I rode through heat, freezing cold, rain, snow, ice and heavy winds. I rode early in the morning and late into the evening. There was more than one day that if that bike were a horse, I'd a shot it. I've had cars run through red lights, cut me off, buzz by me too close for comfort, honk at me, yell at me and run me off the road.

Sure, this year has not been without it's trials and tribulations. Yet, I rode on days when the temperature was absolutely perfect and the breezes gentle. I rode on days when there was not a cloud in the sky and nights when the stars were so numerous that if you could but reach the first one, you could spend an eternity hopping from one to to another. I saw majestic sunrises and breathtaking sunsets.

Commuting to work is healthy for the environment and for me. Commuting to work reduces congestion on our roads and our dependence on foreign oil. Those are good, noble reasons, but they're not what keeps me climbing on that bike day after day.

Everyday that I ride gives me a chance to slow my life down a bit and that's the primary reason I do it. 12 MPH - that's just about the right speed for me. At 12 MPH, I'm not gonna break any records or win any races. At 12 MPH, I won't be out of breath or tax my cardiovascular system. At 12 MPH, it's gonna take me a little longer to get to where I'm going.

By today's standards - 12 MPH ain't fast - but it gives me time look around, listen, breathe, think, relax and unwind. That makes 12 MPH fast enough for me.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

To Ride or Not to Ride?

Life is indeed a series of choices.

Like much of the country - Winter storms and frigid temperatures have gripped Southeast Virginia as well. My normal commuting route takes me through Huntington Park where there is a foot bridge that I cross to get into an adjoining neighborhood. Due to the snow flurries that had been falling all day while I was at work, this is what that foot bridge looked like as I made my way home that evening.

"Bridges Freeze Before Road" This was the thought that came immediately to mind as I applied the brake and came to a stop at the foot of the bridge. It was there - in the quiet cold - that I pondered my choices:

Do I ride across and risk the bike slipping out from under me where upon I crash down hard on the frozen planks and bust my head open on the steel hand rails?
Do I wimp out and safely push the bike across and remount on the other side?

My final decision...Well, I'll let you be the judge of that!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Red Sky - Oh Oh

"Red sky in morning - bike commuter take warning." I modified this phrase after my ride to work yesterday morning looked like this...

and my ride home that afternoon looked like this...

I did learn one thing though, 2" of slush really cushions your fall!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bike Snow Drift

Where's an ice scraper when you need it? That's what crossed my mind as I approached my bike and this is what I beheld...

It took me 10 minutes to brush off the snow and scrape off enough ice to get underway. Even then, I heard the tell-tale signs of ice scraping against fender and brake shoes for nigh on a mile of riding.

When I got home, the bike nestled near the kerosene heater to thaw out. In a matter of 30 minutes there was naught but a puddle of water as a distant reminder of the frozen grip that had cruelly grasped my beloved Commuter.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My New Mantra

I proudly display my new mantra on the downtube of my Commuting Bike...


I have gone many places, rode many miles and done many things on a bike; However, I must confess, the above is a feat I have yet to experience. While I tremble at the potentially damaging anatomical effects that such an experience may impart on my "manhood", I am determined to give it a whirl. When I do, you, my faithful readers will be the first to know. Heck, I may even capture this "sensitive" moment in pictures!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Heaven's Length

I have it on good authority (mine), that Heaven is at least 42 miles in length. Trust me - I know - I've ridden it.

It was the last day of a recent weekend mini-tour. Two days earlier, I rode from my home and had been riding and camping since.

My final night was spent at Chickahominy Riverfront Park. It was a beautiful camp sight overlooking the river

I was treated to a marvelous sunset.

The evening proved to be quite windy and cold. After burning what little firewood I had, I crawled in my tent and slept in relative (I use this term loosely) comfort. I awoke the next morning to nature's call, which I ignored for as long as I dared and then crawled out of my sleeping bag cocoon to face the raw cold.

For cooking on this trip, I chose to take along my Trangia alcohol burning stove.

I bought this stove late last Spring and used it to great effect several times this summer. I fell in love with it's simplicity and functionality. This was the first time I used it on a freezing, gusty, winter morning. The wind and cold combined to dampen my enthusiasm for it's functionality. I arranged my panniers as a make shift wind break and still had to fill the bowl twice in order to boil a single kettle of water. It was a frigid, if not thoroughly frustrating exercise.

After finally warming up with several cups of coffee, I decided to skip trying to cook breakfast. So I packed up and got an early start.

For the last day and a half, I had been heading predominantly North the entire time and, seeing how I chose to start my final bike tour of the year just as the first cold front of the season blew through the area, had a stiff headwind the whole time.

Since I was taking a circuitous route, it was only a matter of time before I would head South. The final day of my mini-tour was that time. I rode to Jamestown, crossed the ferry and then traversed the counties of Surry and Isle if Wight to Smithfield.

The skies were clear...

The sun shone bright...

The traffic was next to non-existence...

The country roads were peaceful and pristine...

The fields were freshly harvested and settling down for a long winters nap...

Does it get any better than that? You bet it does. I rode a total of 42 Miles that day and had the pleasure of a stiff TAILWIND the entire time. Pedaling was almost effortless. With such a tailwind I could have flown down the road, but instead chose to use it to maintain my normal speed with less effort. I was in Heaven and not knowing it's width or breadth, I was in no hurry to happen upon it's boundary.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Changing Conditions

My ride to work yesterday morning was warm and rainy.

My ride home yesterday evening was cold and clear.

The weather conditions could not have been any different, with the exception of one minor detail. I had a 25 to 30 mph headwind - get this - BOTH WAYS!!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Some Unsolicited Advice

One evening this week, as I slowly rode home through the dark streets, I passed a lady who was in the process of getting in her SUV. She saw me coming and waited until I went by before opening the door. I nudged to my left to give her a little more room. As I passed she kindly encouraged me to "be careful out there", I mumbled in return "I will". The last thing I heard her say before I disappeared in the envelop of darkness was, "there are crazy drivers out there!"

I have to admit I was a bit taken aback by her admonitions. I've been commuting regularly back and forth to work for more than 20 years. She wasn't telling me something that I didn't already know, not only as an intellectual fact, but from first hand experience. What surprised me was that she made such an effort to share unsolicited advice to a stranger in the dark. It was a testament as to her character and provided an encouraging reminder that while "there are crazy drivers out there", there's also some friendly, courteous ones that care about their fellow man, whether they be on 4 wheels or 2.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Taking Advantage of Time

As I was riding to work yesterday, I glanced at my watch and realized I was a bit ahead of schedule. Passing through Huntington Park, I decided to take advantage of this schedule surplus and pulled over and stopped at a deck that was overlooking the beach. The beach was obviously vacant this time of year and day, so I had it all to myself.

I flicked the kickstand down, dug out my Apple Itouch, opened the Kindle app and read a book. My only company was a mother cat and her kittens, the view of the river and my imagination. The only thing that could have made this any better would have been a hot cup of coffee. I see a thermos in my commuting future.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mechanical Difficulty

On a recent morning commute, as I neared the end, I went over a speed bump and my panniers came off the rack and dangled precariously off my bike. I stopped to survey the problem and ascertain the cause. I won't bore you with those details or the ingenuity I employed to get me back underway. That's not the point of this post.

I really wanted to point out two interesting observations associated with this unplanned event.

The first thing that dawned on me was that this is the first mechanical malfunction that I've had this year. Think of it, I've ridden back and forth to work hundreds of times this year, through all manner of conditions and I haven't had a single mechanical failure. I've not had to stop my bike to fix a single thing. That is a testament to good quality gear and if I the importance and routine maintenance.

The second observation that I made was the simple fact that several folks stopped and offered me assistance. People I knew, people who see me riding this route every day. That realization brings a level of comfort. None of us should consider that we are an island unto ourselves. We are surrounded by family, friends and associates that are there, even in the rarest of circumstances, when we could use a helping hand.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bike Racks in Norfolk

I live and ride in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. Hampton Roads' commitment to bicycle infrastructure is next to non-existent. Imagine how encouraged I was when I came across this article in the Virginian Pilot about a move afoot in Norfolk to add some bike racks in the downtown area. These artful twists are part of a larger initiative by city planners aimed at "encouraging bike riding as a transportation choice."

It's a small step I know. It's in a city in Hampton Road's that I don't even live in. Non-the-less, it is a step in the right direction.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Farewell Ye Staple of Summer

This weekend we turn the clocks back. Of course, for a bike commuter, this signals an increased reliance on lights and more riding in the quiet, secluded envelop of darkness.

In many ways I look forward to this phase of the commuting year. Many save one. For this changing of the time forces me to bid farewell, for a season, to a staple of my commuting rituals and that which is one of the most appealing.
After a long hard day in the office, I look forward to this all important ritual. Taking a little detour on my ride home. Riding to a nearby park. Settling down on a secluded picnic table. Enjoying a cold beer. It is at moments like this, with iPod Touch in hand, that the beginnings of many a blog posts are born. In fact, it's where this one saw the light of day.

With the changing of the time, it will be dark when I pass this spot over the next 4 or 5 months.

It's sad! I know!! Take heart my dear readers - Spring is but a Winter away.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Cades Cove by Bike

On vacation recently, I had the opportunity to ride the 11 mile loop around Cades Cove. If you ever find yourself in this area of Tennessee and your considering visiting this park, trust me - riding a bicycle is the ONLY WAY TO GO!!
That is unless you enjoy cruising along at 3 mph - on a one lane road - stuck in a mile long convoy of cars that comes to stop every time one of the passengers spots a "blankety-blank" deer or turkey.On a bike, you can cruise along at your own speed, which is far quicker than the cars, and when the traffic grinds to a halt, you simply pull to the side and go around. On a bike, you can spend less time frustratingly staring at the bumper of the car in front of you and more time focusing on the beauty that surrounds you.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bike Sign

On a ride recently, I happened upon the most unusual and entertaining bike sign that I've ever seen.
Ignoring the warning - I continued down the road - on my bike.

At the bottom of the "treacherous hill", I concluded that either I am an exceptionally skilled and gifted bike handler or that sign was intended for the non-cyclist.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Bike Stowaway

My Wife and I recently returned from a 9 day camping trip that took us through North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

This trip was not a cycling holiday. In fact, my wife was opposed to the whole idea of me bringing a bike, so while she wasn't looking, I folded the Bike Friday and stuffed it under the bunk in hopes that she wouldn't notice.

I was too pleased with my resourcefulness to stop and think about the logistics of actually getting it out and taking it for a ride without my wife noticing. However, that was a problem for tomorrow and I don't usually get in the habit of thinking that far ahead. Anyway, I did have a plan in the event she did catch me. I would simply deflect the impending attack by blaming my good friend Steve, who planted the idea in my head in the first place.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Racing Diety

As I prepared to leave work yesterday, I looked out my window and noted dark clouds above. Yet, when I scanned the ground, it was dry. I figured I could make it home and as such left my rain gear in my pannier.

A couple miles into my commute, on a section of road that runs adjacent to the James River, I glanced to my left, across the river and to what did my wondering eyes behold, but a wall of white racing across the surface of the water in my direction.

I immediately calculated the distance to the nearest shelter and compared it to the distance of the storm. I then bounced my current speed against the speed of the impending maelstrom. I think I can make it. I should have recognized the foolishness of such an endeavor. It would not be a battle against flesh and blood, but an all out sprint against the Hand of God that gently nudged the storm. In this match up, I was sure to come up short. I know this, not based on some theological theory, but from first hand experience, for this was not our first head to Head sprint.

The thing about it is that although I have a rough idea my of distance to the nearest shelter and the time it will take me to get there, God knows it precisely, down to the nearest nanosecond. Armed with that omniscience, God times His effort such that his opponent maintains a slim margin of hope that I was actually going to be able to make it. Then just before crossing the finish line, God sweeps the storm over me such that I arrive at the shelter drenched and panting profusely from my vain effort.

For God's part, I think it's all in good fun. It brings a smile to His face when His creation dares to go toe to toe (or pedal to pedal) with Him. For my part, I don my rain gear and slowly ride the rest of the way home. Grateful for the fact that I have a Creator that takes the time out of His busy schedule of running the universe to help me improve my sprinting skills. I just wish He'd let me win every once in a while!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Just Learning To Ride

On a recent commute home, I stopped at a local convenience store for some "post ride liquid refreshment". As I was walking in, a lady stopped me and ask what the little thing was that I had dangling from my helmet.I explained that it was a mirror to help me see what was behind me. I asked her if it looked dorky? She changed the subject and went on to explain that she was 40 years old and had, at the ripe age of 38, just learned to ride a bike.

I wasn't sure whether to be happy for her achievement or greatly saddened by her neglect. I can't imagine going your whole life without having ridden a bicycle. What about the overwhelming joyous experience the first time your Dad let go of the seat and you actually stayed upright on 2 wheels? What about the freedom and escape and adventure afforded by a bike ride? What about the daring of riding your first wheelie or jumping your first ramp or riding with no hands? To be robbed of such simple pleasures is a tragedy of sorts.

I figured this lady had been deprived enough in her life, the last thing she needed was for me to open up old wounds. Instead I simply smiled, said "good for you". Now, I hope she gets out there and rides, she has a lot of lost time to make up for. Given the fact that she never answered my "dorky" question, I have a feeling she'll never put a mirror on her bike helmet.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The First Time This Year

I've ridden to work every day this year, with the exception of 4 days last Spring when the roads were covered in ice and snow.

This morning is the first time this year when I don't want to get on the bike. The reason probably has something to do with the thermometer reading 46 F. It's not that 46 F is cold in and of itself, I've certainly ridden in much colder weather this year. I think it's more a question of acclimation. For months now, Ive been riding in the heat and humidity. My body has grown accustomed to it. While this Summer has been a record busting scorcher, I am just not quite ready to let it go.

If you were to ask me, "What is the hardest part of your commute?" I would respond, "My driveway." When the weather is frightful or your dragging physically, getting up, climbing on a bike and riding away can sometimes be a daunting task. This is especially true when you look over and your automobile is beckoning for you to climb in.

If you were to ask me, "What is the easiest part of your commute?" I would respond, "The end of my driveway." Once you get on the road and have a few pedal strokes behind you, all foreboding flees and you find yourself privileged to be on a bike.

Dark - 46 F - today my driveway is gonna be a long ride. I can't wait until I get to the end of it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Idiot - We Work For An Idiot

"Idiot - we work for an idiot!" That's what my secretary said as I walked into the office this past Thursday morning. This Summer has not only been an absolute scorcher in terms of heat, but we've had practically no rain for months. Everything was dry and dead. I use the term "was", cause Thursday morning as I readied for my commute to work the weather forecast (compliments of CNN) read something like this:

..."Tropical Storm Nicole only lasted a few hours, but its remnants, along with a stalled frontal boundary, are expected to dump heavy rain Thursday on parts of the Eastern Seaboard. Flood warnings are in effect Thursday for parts of the Carolinas and southeastern Virginia. Flood watch advisories are in effect from eastern South Carolina to central and eastern parts of New York, Vermont and New Hampshire."...

"southeastern Virginia" - heck that's where I am! It was time to break out the "Shower Pass" rain gear.

When I pulled out of the driveway and for the first 1-1/2 miles of my commute, not a drop of rain fell. I was a bit disappointed, but not for long. As I drew closer to work, the rain began to fall in veritable torrents. At one point - the heavy rain, flooded roadways and strong wind gusts combined to push me off the road, where I ended up locking the brakes and almost doing an endo. Thankfully, I was able to get my foot down and not so gracefully get both wheels back on the ground. A little shaken by this mishap, I slowed down and rode the rest of the way to work more cautiously.

As eventful as my morning commute was, it was nothing compared to my ride home that afternoon. Steady, heavy rains fell all day and continued to fall as I headed out to my bike late that afternoon. The drainage systems of the city were overburdened and simply not able to keep up. More than once I had to gingerly navigate through small lakes that had formed. It was one of these "lakes where there should be no lakes" where my judgement faltered. I was passing through Huntington park and came upon a section where the road disappeared underwater for a stretch of 30 or so yards. Without a second thought I rode on. It wasn't until I was a third of the way through and noticing that my hubs (I ride 700C wheels) and bottom bracket disappeared underwater, that I realized that maybe my secretary was onto something. At this point I was already committed, I stood on the pedals and pushed with all my might to keep up some semblance of forward momentum until I reached the far shore.

I made it home safely, but now I have the unpleasant task of overhauling my hubs and drivetrain.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Big Rack

A big rack indeed...What? Did you have something else in mind? This is a cycling blog after all and a rated "G" one at that:-)

Seriously though, I came across this rack while on a ride on the Outer Banks of North Carolina a couple weeks back. I was struck by it's size. Conclusion - it's either a bike rack for giants or Penny Farthings.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Vacation and Bike Tour Dreams

My wife and I, along with 3 other couples, spent last week on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We rented a 3 story, 7 bedroom, 9 bathroom home, complete with pool and hot tub. We were right on the beach. It was a gorgeous house. The weather was perfect. We all had a great time.

I digress, for this blog is not about my non-bike related activities. I did take my road bike along for the week. Unfortunately, it stayed in the truck the majority of the time. However, all was not lost for I was able to get out for one ride. Bob, Buck, Ray and I took a 15 mile round trip to the Currituck Light House.

Atop the lighthouse, as I leaned against the rail, enjoying the breathtaking view... idea began to percolate in my mind. Along the Outer Banks of North Carolina are 5 light houses:


Bodie Island

Cape Hatteras

Ocracoke Island

Cape Lookout

Wouldn't it be cool to start where I am right now and do a 3 or 4 day tour along the Outer Banks and visit each of these light houses, while camping on the beach along the way? Now that's a great idea. Stay tuned - I got a sneaky feeling that "Tour de Lighthouse" just might be in my future next spring.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

GRT - Let's Get In

Let's get in... Those were the words that Ray uttered as we stood on the bank, enjoying the view on our final day. We were less than 5 miles from the end of the trail. In line with my tentative schedule, were were on track to arrive in the parking lot at 11 am, for the loading of the truck and the 4-1/2 hour drive home.

Ray, just 2 days earlier, was speeding along the trail intent on arriving "at the destination". Well he caught onto this touring thing pretty quick. He grasped the fact that bike touring isn't as much about "where you are going", than "where you are".

Let's get in... Right then and there, Ray wanted to put the ride on hold and get in the water. A hoard of reasons not to ran through my engineering mind in an instant.

- We only have a few miles to go.

- I don't really have any swimming clothes to change in to.

- We have a 4-1/2 hour drive to get home.

- We have a schedule to keep.

- If I get on my Brookes saddle all wet I could damage it.

- What will riding all wet do to proper butt care?

My logical mind wanted to protest, but strangely enough, I found myself taking off my shirt. The next thing you know, we were laid back in the middle of the river.

The water was perfect. The sky was a beautiful, clear blue. We were surrounded by breathtaking mountains.

We frolicked around in the water like kids for 30 minutes. I can honestly say, it was the best 30 minutes of bike touring that I've had the pleasure of enjoying in my life.

Thanks Ray for those 3 simple words, "let's get in."

Monday, September 13, 2010

GRT - Eating Like Kings

When I tour alone, I try to keep things light and simple. That philosophy extends even to my meals. In fact, my ideal menu consist of packing the Mini Trangia stove and food that necessitates nothing more than boiling water.

With this being Ray and Buck's first tour, I wanted to leave a good taste in their mouths (pun intended). As a result, my panniers were loaded to the brim with "real" food and we indeed - feasted like kings:

Friday Dinner - Spaghetti with pepperoni (garnished with red pepper flakes and Parmesan cheese). Garlic and cheese biscuits. Apple cobbler. Coffee.

Saturday Breakfast - Breakfast Burritos (eggs, pepper, onions, cheese and Spanish rice), Coffee.

Saturday Dinner - Chicken Jambalaya (with Tabasco hot sauce). Corn bread. Crumb cake was also on the menu, but we were too full to bother cooking it. Coffee.

Sunday Breakfast - Pancakes. Coffee.

I was a bit disappointed that our mutual friend, Bob, wasn't able to make the trip, I had a special meal prepared for him.

Don't worry Bob - I'll save it for next time.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

GRT - Perfecto Weather

I've done numerous bike tours over the years, ranging from a long weekend to a full week. During that time, I've experienced a broad spectrum of weather conditions. In fact one time, I took a 4 day road trip in which 2 of the days were in literally hurricane conditions. That story is too long for the likes of a blog post. Buy me a beer sometimes and I'll be glad to tell you the story.

Yet in all the bike tours I've had the pleasure of taking, the weather for our weekend ride on the Greenbrier River Trail, was hands down the absolute best.

The humidity was low.

The winds were mild.

The skies were clear with not a drop of rain falling along the entire eastern seaboard.

The highs during the day were the upper 70's - perfect for riding.

The lows at night were in the upper 50's - perfect for sleeping. Perfect that is unless you're Ray and Buck who decided to ignore my sage advice and fore go a sleeping bag. Their bedding consisted of something akin to Grandma's shawl.

Given the awesomeness of the weather - I suspect Ray and Buck have been lulled into thinking that all bike tours are like this. I didn't have the heart to tell them different. If they keep riding, they'll discover the truth eventually. I just hope that when the weather forecast is calling for a hurricane moving up the East coast - they have enough sense to stay home - I wish I had!

Friday, September 10, 2010

GRT - Beerless

On the first night of our trip, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I was aiming for a campsite that was completely remote. I managed to accomplish just that.

It wasn't until we were unpacked and the camp set up that I came to the realization of a serious tactical error. When we went through the last town, some 5 miles back, I failed to pick up any beer. For those of you who have followed this blog for any length of time, I know you think I'm pulling your leg. I can assure you that I may joke about a lot of things, but never when it concerns beer.

A small saving grace in this utterly despicable situation is that I managed to tuck into my panniers a couple of beers from the night before. They were warm, but given my current plight, the best beer on the planet.

As I finished the second and final beer is when the relationship between myself and my fellow touring companions was strained for the first and only time on this tour. I calmly asked if they would be willing to ride to the nearest town and buy me some more. A request that they simultaneously and summarily rejected as ludicrous.

- Never mind that I had spent the last two weeks planning out every detail of this tour.

- Forget the fact that I bought and prepared all the food.

- So what that I helped them each select the proper bikes and outfitted those bikes with MY racks and panniers.

- Who cares that I had brought all of my vast experience and resources to bare so that they might have an awesome, trouble free weekend.

I uttered no complaint, all my efforts were but a labor of love. Now I make but one simple request of them and they trample it under foot with a reckless disregard for my selfless sacrifices.

The degree of their self centered attitude was truly manifested the following morning when a scant 3 miles down the trail we happened upon this establishment.

For the normal person, the pang of guilt upon such a discovery would have been incapacitating. However, Ray and Buck are obviously not normal people, cause despite my protest and eloquent articulation of their self-centered, shameful behavior, they displayed not a morsel of remorse.

A lesser man than I would have let spite eat away at the essence of who they are, but I chose on the other hand to use that negative energy for good. I spent the predominance of the remainder of that tour pedaling and mulling over in my mind an idea for an "instant beer". A concentrate of sorts that by simply adding water could be converted into that most lovely beverage among beverages - beer. I'll save the details for that idea for another post. Suffice it to say for now, I think I'm on the cusp of discovering something that will not only make me independently wealthy, but even more importantly, will be my contribution to the betterment of mankind. My legacy.

To think that this awesome gift to mankind was born because a humble, simple and selfless man (i.e. ME) refused to let the self centered act of his companions (i.e. Ray and Bob) make him bitter, but instead make him better. As a result future generations of mankind, no matter where they find themselves will be able to enjoy the unbridled ecstasy of GOOD beer.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Insulated Water Bottles

Bob is a long time biking buddy of mine. For as long as I can remember, Bob has always had a bit of a fetish for cold beverages while riding. To satisfy that fetish he has been a long time fan of Polar Water Bottles. Before a ride and during a ride, I have had to wait more than once for Bob to buy, steel, borrow, or generally finagle a bottle of ice to quench his unhealthy addiction.

I always felt as though Bob were a bit of a wimp for making such a fuss about the temperature of his liquid refreshment. Mind you, when it comes to beer I share his conviction, but apart from that, particularly when it involves your water bottle, well that's just plain ridiculous.

I've been cycling a long time. During that time, I've consumed more bottles of luke warm water than desert nomads. I even took it as a bit of a point of pride, and as such felt I were a better man than Bob. In my way of thinking, drinking ice cold water from a water bottle was akin to sipping on fruity drinks garnished with an umbrella.

This Summer has drastically changed my opinion in this regard. In Va, as in many areas of the country, we have been experiencing a heat wave of unparalleled proportions. A couple months back, I filled my water bottles with tap water, the same as I have for the past 20+ years. I jumped on my bike and not 5 miles down the road, the liquidy contents almost scalded my mouth. I rode the remaining 7 miles without drinking. Upon arriving in Colonial Williamsburg, I took long draughts from the water fountain. Before heading back to Yorktown, I refilled the bottles. I wasn't 5 miles down the road and wallah, I had hot chocolate, minus the chocolate. On my way home, I stopped at a local sport's store and became the proud new owner of my very own set of Polar Water Bottles.

Over the last couple months, my "on the bike" drinking habits have been revolutionized. I fill the bottles with ice, dump in some powdered sport's beverage and fill with water. I then enjoy, even in the hottest conditions, ice cold refreshment for nigh on 2 hours.

In closing, I've come to the conclusion that my good friend Bob, perhaps may not be as good a friend as I thought. He's been holding back on me. For years he's enjoyed the unbridled ecstasy of "on the bike", chilly, liquid passion; while I've had to settle for something akin to the consistency and temperature of piss. Am I bitter? You try drinking piss for 20 years and see what kind of taste it leaves in your mouth.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

GRT - In Camp

"A bike tour" represents so much more than just a bike ride. It encompasses riding, observing the surroundings, experiencing new things, meeting different people, battling the elements, separation from modern amenities and surviving solely on the stuff you bring along (including your ingenuity).

Camping is a part of the whole experience that I've come to enjoy as much as the riding. Good thing because the fact of the matter is, one spends more time in camp, than on the bike. My goal for this trip was to avoid public campgrounds with all their modern conveniences like electricity and running water. I wanted us to camp in the most remote areas possible. The Greenbrier River Trail accommodated that goal quite well in that they have primitive sites set up along the way. Those primitive sites consist of a picnic table, latrine, tent pad and if your lucky, a hand water pump.

Toward the end of our first day, we arrived in the town of Marlinton with the tentative plan to camp at the Marlinton Municipal Park. While the camping area was located toward the back of the park, it was still - way too urban for me. We pressed on another 5 miles or so to this jewel.

Remote - quiet - primitive - no electricity - no cell phone signal (yea) - no wireless internet (yea)- no water (darn) - perfect - except for the fact that they had no water (darn).

Once in camp, we are occupied with an assortment of activities:

Unloading our beasts of burden...

Setting up our tents...


Taking care of the call of nature...

Yet in the midst of all this bustling activity, as the sun sets, there's always time to relax by the soothing sound and glow of a campfire...