Monday, March 30, 2009

Flood of Foolishness

Been monitoring the news of all the government bailouts of various private companies. Foolishness from the beginning. Heard today about the actions at GM. Foolishness piled on. At first, foolishness, like children at play is amusing. After a while, it becomes tiresome. Finally, like a mob riot mentality, it becomes dangerous.

Beginning to get pretty impatient (no, spittin' mad) at all this foolishness. Can't decide whether to aim my anger at the new administration for selfishly ignoring the constitution, or the private companies selfishly begging the government for money, or the American people selfishly seeking a short term so-called solution without an understanding of long term impacts. It is a maddening cycle. A spinning, swirling cycle.

Like the stuff we flush, swirling down the drain.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

When Windy...

...wander Waide Road.

Early spring weather in north Texas has the same roller coaster volatility of the stock market. Warm, calm, and sunny days followed by snow flurries, 25 mph to 35 mph wind, and low clouds. This Saturday we found ourselves in the later, quite a weather valley, as it were, looking for a rebound.

I've learned staying low on windy days is more pleasant. That is why Waide Road is so perfect. It is a zero traffic gravel road near home. Short rides on windy days involve cruising along in Clear Creek bottom land, in forested areas, below most of the atmospheric activity.

So, friend, my advice is, "When windy, wander Waide Road".

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Afternoon Solitude

Arrived home a little earlier than normal

Pointed the front tire toward the wind

Followed the sinking sun back home

Enjoyed a spring afternoon

Monday, March 23, 2009

What Gears Are For

As much as I enjoy a fixed-wheel bicycle, the multiple gears on my new Rivendell were a joy today. Winds at 25 mph, gusting to 40 mph, made conditions less than optimal. I didn't really want to stay outside long and endure the atmospheric beating, but needed a little spin.

Another perfect opportunity for the famous 3-mile loop. Just wanting a little time on the bike, I found a tiny gear and commenced to spinning with machine-like regularity. Turning pedals at 90 rpm, I slid downhill at glacier pace. I figure, on a revolutions basis, I had a nice, easy 15-mile ride today all within a single lap.

Maybe for true bicycle geeks, it's not how fast you go, it's how many times your pedals go around.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Where I've Been

Where I've been? Well...

The weather forecast was promising, so I rolled out as soon as the sky was light. During my warm-up the clouds changed from gray to purple to pink to orange before the sun topped the horizon.

With a little time to explore something new, I generally headed south. At one point, however, my route took me east for a little while. The early morning sun laid down a shining carpet before me.

After a gradual, but sustained climb, I realized I was on top of a ridge and could look back and see where I've been.

Sometimes I rolled across open pastures, and sometimes through tree-lined gravel roads. After several lonely miles, signs of civilization are a jolt to the senses.

I was determined to explore some new roads. I studied a map beforehand, but was unable to tell how much pavement and how much gravel. A significant amount of the new roads today were not paved.

After a couple of hours of pedaling the countryside, a short break at the creek seemed like a good idea.

I had a few minutes to see that some trees were still leafless, but others had tender new growth.

Crossing the last big ridge coming home, I had my last scenic view and one more example of some of the early spring color around these parts.

That's were I've been...and you really should have been there.

Maybe next time...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Beside Still Waters

What is it about still water that is so restful? Is it awareness of the violent potential of a whitewater river or stormy sea? Is it the absence of telephones and email? Either way, viewing an expanse of still water is good medicine.

I rolled out this morning into a spectacular spring day. Unlike my previous post, color is tossed liberally around like some hysterical artist with paint to waste. It is still, 55 degrees, and only the last remnants of fog are slumbering in the low spots. A fairly strong south wind is predicted. Not a problem, today's route is east/west.

(Since my bride left town with the camera, the photo is missing. This is the spot where I would have inserted the photo of purple and white tree blooms, green leaf buds, green grass, and bluish wildflowers. This isn't television, use your imagination.)

Isle Du Bois Park is located at the east end of the Lake Ray Roberts dam. My route, consisting primarily of low traffic secondary roads is about 23 miles one-way. With a small lunch and an emphasis on "no-hurry", I spin easily over the rolling landscape.

(Imagine here a photo of an up-and-down roadway profile on a ridge line with rolling pastures in the distance. Note the absence of traffic.)

I arrive and notice the breeze is coming alive, and it is much warmer. I shed a layer of wool and enjoy shorts and sunshine. I sit on a rock beside the lake. Rest replaces a rushed routine and I wonder, for a moment, what I'm missing at work. It can wait. Like the early morning fog, my stress evaporates. Can these loose and lazy legs pedal me home?

(This is where my photo of the shimmering lake would be. Knowing me, I'd probably find a way to get my bicycle in the frame there on the left. Peaceful, isn't it?)

With a few revolutions, the muscles awake. That's a good thing since exiting the park requires a little climbing. The wind picks up even more and the temperature climbs. Last week, 36 degrees and rain. Today, shorts, t-shirt, and sunburn.

(Here's the climb up away from the lake and toward the park headquarters. Even farther, way back there in the background, is the park exit. These climbs never look as steep in the photos. Frustrating.)

I return home physically fatigued, mentally refreshed, and spiritually grateful. So it is when bicycling to a still water retreat.

I am unusually blessed.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Gray Tones

I don't know, maybe I'm in a black & white phase.

Or maybe it's cloudy, 36 degrees and raining. Maybe its been like this all week and all I can see is gray tones.

For all you know, this what a color photograph looks like today.

I know one thing. We Texans have higher expectations for our weather about this time of year.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Always New

You can ride the same short 3-mile loop repeatedly and keep finding something new.

Look for it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Spring Sunshine

Those not smitten with the bicycle are oblivious. I've studied them and find them quite a curious lot. They seem to regard a spin on a two-wheeler like most folks regard a picnic. It's something pleasant enough, done when the weather is grand or if one is in need of spending an excess of leisure time. Otherwise, out-of-mind. Take it, or not...either way is just as fine. Is this not an odd way to view life?

We bicyclists, thankfully, are enlightened. If it were not so, I fear we would perish. Riding the bicycle is sustenance. It is food, water,...a breath of air. When a harsh alignment of circumstances keeps us off the bike for a few days, we wither. Backed into a corner, our survival instinct lashes out. Our family and friends fear us. It's desperation and perseveration until the blizzard passes. Then, after a spirited gallop through the countryside on a finely tuned machine, peace returns.

A couple of days without pedaling the bicycle is a cold, barren place, but the eventual return is spring's first warm sunshine.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

NBS, Is It Real?

Only a few short days ago, I posted an account of a bicycle commute into work. It was about one of those lucky situations that just happen. Fortunately, we sometimes are able to recognize our blessings and pause to count them.

This post is also about a bicycle commute to work, but the circumstances are quite different. For one thing, the days have grown longer and this ride included the benefit of more sunlight. This trip also included the excitement of a brand new bicycle. Weather conditions, so liberally praised the last time, were a bit more adversarial this time. Even the purpose of this post is different from the one previous.

While celebration was the intent last time, the purpose of this post is to document research. There is a curious phenomenon called New Bike Syndrome (NBS) that has been reported by cyclists. For the uninitiated, NBS is an alleged performance increase experienced during those first few hours on the new bicycle. It is common to hear riders describe this. They might say something like, “Now that I've got my new XYZ, I’ve increased the average speed on my 12-mile loop by 0.6 mph” or “I’ve never been able to stay with the lead group on our club rides, but last Saturday with my new XYZ, I finally did it!”

With a 20-mile commute into a 20-mph (gusts to 30-mph) headwind, I was hoping for a little NBS to kick in. I wasn’t looking to set any speed records, or even any personal best times. I just wanted to arrive at work on time and still be able to walk. Well, to be honest, I wanted the NBS to make it EASY to ride into a direct 20-30 mph headwind. So did it work?

I am happy to report that I did experience NBS. New bikes are clean and their drivetrains are quiet. A brand new chain running on brand new chain rings, rear cogs, and derailleur pulleys makes a soft, mechanical whirring sound that stirs the bicyclists’ soul. The new Rivendell also fits very well and handles delightfully. I’m not sure why, but the AHH is noticeably smoother than the Kogswell. Both have the same comfy 650B tires. Both have a similar wheelbase and similar length chainstays. The point is that the ride quality was a joy and I was grateful to take Homer for a ride longer than a 5-minute, post-build test ride. Still, I had a tinge of dissatisfaction.

I am very sorry to report that NBS did not make it easy to ride into that headwind. I did arrive at work on time. I was even able to walk, although not easily. Even with the new, shiny, bike. Even with the whirring, stirring chain. Even with the multitude of gears. Riding into a 20-30 mph headwind is HARD. I suppose I could have geared-down dramatically, but arriving at work on time was a pretty major objective.

I have concluded, therefore, based on exhaustive (exhausting?) research, that (1) NBS is real and an experience I recommend for all my cycling buddies, and (2) the NBS experience does have its limits. Oh yeah, one more thing…(3) riding into a 20-30-mph headwind is still more fun than driving a car (at least with a good dose of NBS, it is).

Pair O' Country Bikes

Just after sunrise on Saturday morning, I walked into the kitchen for breakfast. Looking over to where I store my bikes (living room, of course), I noticed the light pouring in through the window. It was a pair o’ country bikes ready for service; one fixed wheel Kogswell P/R for simplicity and connectedness, and one Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen with more than enough low gears for hauling stuff over topographic humps. It was a lovely, heart warming sight.

They were ready, but I was not. My already excessive work week spilled over into the weekend. Before the weekend is over, I’ll be flying out of town for a few days. I’ll give you a hint, the travel is not for a bicycle tour. No riding for me for awhile. When I do have time to ride, it will feel like a fitness start-over…again. Until then, it will be simple frustration and perseveration.

Ironic, isn’t it? That which enables me to own this delightful pair o’ country bikes is the very thing that doesn’t allow me to enjoy them. They say that “time is money”. Well, I’m here to tell you that “money is not always time”.