Monday, December 26, 2011

Valley View, Texas or Belgium?

Downtown Valley View, Texas
41 degrees, and drizzly fog

It was one of those surreal outings where the drizzly gray seemed to wash the color out of everything. While zipping downwind over the gravel patch, it was like watching a historical (b&w) documentary on the Ronde van Vlaanderen, and racing in it at the same time. Since none of the other guys were in sight, I must have had a pretty nice gap.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Sleet Spittin' Sky

Christmas Eve Ride
Upper 30s
The white streaks above are a couple of sleet pellets

Friday, December 23, 2011

Memory of the Heart

As I reflected back on this year's Third Annual Fall Finale Forty(ish) Mile Country Path Ramble, I struggled a bit on how to present my perspective. Doohickie's report was the first one I saw, and it alone seemed sufficiently comprehensive.

I had already provided a fairly thorough description of the route and road conditions to prospective riders beforehand.

In fact, since it was the same route as last year and I posted to this blog how that went at that time (and referenced it recently), what more is there to say about where we were?

The message that really needed to be conveyed took a little introspection...a little pondering you might say.

Before we get into the deeper stuff, how about a few facts? I believe there were 17 participants this year. Some of the folks that I had hoped to see, who could not make it included Bryan and Bernie from Trinity Bicycles, Steve from DFW Point-to-Point, Myles from Rat Trap Press, Chandra from GreenComotion, and my buddy Keith from Sulphur Springs. We missed you guys.

We did have a few folks that were new to the Ramble, including my son-in-law, Carey Jones. He happened to be riding what was the most prolific bicycle on this year's ride, the Surly Cross Check.

Overall, as mentioned by Doohickie, this year's version of the ride went a little smoother. I think we returned more than an hour earlier this year.

I don't think we were riding much faster, and I think we still had plenty of time for occasional stops for photos, snacks, and regrouping. It just seemed that things flowed a little better.

There was some chatter about the possibility of a spring version of this ride. That seems like a pretty good idea to me.

I actually have another route I like that might be of interest to a few folks. It involves a loop up to Gainesville that is maybe 60/40 (paved/gravel).

Maybe we ride up there, take over the local Starbucks and refuel, then ramble back. It might be a little longer, but (unless the wind is horrible) it is an easier route. I'm pondering that idea.

Finally, I suppose weather warrants a note. Perfect.

As I've said before, as soon as I post the date for each year's ride, I obsess about the weather. It has been clearly pointed out that if it is too cold and/or wet for me, I'll stay indoors. I'll apologize to those who made the drive up, invite them to come inside with me or hand them their cue sheets and wish them well.

In mid-December, almost anything can happen. This year what happened was we had a break in the rain, perfectly cool temperatures, and only a slight breeze from the north.

But what I'd really like to convey about this ride is beyond the numbers, the sequence of activities, and some of the pleasurable sights. All those things are part of what makes this annual event great fun for me, but none of them really get to the heart of the matter.

Since I ride these roads frequently, I already have in my grasp the joy of the rural countryside. What I miss is the pleasure of sharing it.

The ability to share an enjoyable day awheel brings an entirely new dimension to something already fantastic. A fine meal alone is fine, but a fine meal shared in the company of others brings a much higher plateau of contentment.

So, when I think back on so many friends who made special arrangements to come to my home, spend several hours riding with me in my local area, and make my day so rich, I am filled with gratitude.

And in the words of Jean Baptiste Massieu...

"Gratitude is the memory of the heart."

Friday, December 16, 2011


We're celebrating Ramble eve here at the Pondero homestead. Why? Because it looks like the conditions are going to be perfect.

After several days of long range weather forecasts of cold, or rain, or cold rain...and after 3-4 days of cloudy, gloomy, drizzly rain, and about an inch of rain yesterday, the skies are clearing nicely tonight. Cheerful sunshine is expected for tomorrow. Perfect.

Temperature expected at the 10am (that means rollout, folks, not just pulling into my driveway) start is 40 degrees. The high temperature should be about 55. Perfect.

The wind is going to be light and variable. Perfect.

It was a maddening work week. I haven't been on the bike since last weekend. I guess that means I'm starving for the bike...and I'm not "over trained". Perfect.

Yeah, it rained earlier this week. You might be wondering if this year's Ramble will be a mud fest. Actually, no, it will not. The beautiful and fabulous Mrs. Pondero, the eager son-in-law, and the bored, yet patient daughter took the truck (while I was earning a living) and conducted last minute reconn. They reported a few puddles, lot's of easy-to-ride gravel, and a little mud to make it interesting. I'd say that's...perfect.

So, who's in?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

What it SOUNDS like...

Back on November 19, I took to ridin' the Fall Finale Forty(ish)-Mile Country Path Ramble route solo. Figuring you'd what a reconn report, I provided the description, and I included the photos. I tried to communicate the delightfulness of this ride. But when I compare my memory of the ride against the reports, it seems like words and photos are not enough. Allow me to appeal to another one of your senses.

When you are out there Ramblin' across the prairie, it sounds like this...

Really. It is quite amazing, and I'm not sure why I haven't mentioned this before. Listen to all of it, and don't miss the sound of the far-away train whistle at the very end.

You really don't want to miss this. The long range weather forecast is improving. The temperatures are going down, but so is the chance for rain. Feeling optimistic.

Are you?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ramble 2011 Forecast

It's a good thing we are still 10 days out. Things can change. The current forecast for Ramble Saturday is for 35 degrees in the morning, a high of 49 degrees, wind from the north at 11mph, and a 60% chance of showers.

In the prior two editions of this event we've not had to deal with rain and muddy conditions. I'm not too eager for a cold, soggy Ramble. Rain and temps in the 35 to 45 range is not really fun for me, and could land me beside my fireplace.

Oh well. I haven't given up on my "which bike should I take" deliberations. I'm counting on this long range forecast as being pretty much a wild guess.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mid-Week Outing

Perfect day for a ride. Since a few refinements had been made to the Kogswell, a good thorough evaluation seemed in order. The turquoise Brooks bar tape adds a splash of color, and the Hetres finally replaced the well-worn Col de la Vies.

One of my longer regular loops was chosen. It includes a trip to Denton, followed by a south-to-north run of the Greenbelt Trail immediately downstream of the Lake Ray Roberts Dam. The first stop in the courthouse sunshine was perfect for a short coffee break.

The Greenbelt Trail follows the Elm Fork of the Trinity River for roughly 10 miles or so, and is fairly flat.

Here in the middle of the workday, this popular trail was empty, except for the two deer encountered just beyond the limits of this photo.

Most of the time, the creek is beyond sight. Occasionally, the trail draws near and the vegetation clears, catching my eye.

Speaking of eyes, looking to my left during my lunch break, I saw this probing eye watching my every move. Less creepy on the other side of the handlebars.

With some of the leaves already gone, there were more opportunities than usual to see the leaning creekside trees and a greater variety of colors. Perfect timing.

The trail only crosses the creek in one location, and it is worth a short pause.

At the end of the trail, there is a climb up to the road on top of the dam. Before aiming my front wheel towards home, just one more glance at where I'd been.

Lucky me.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Sense of Place

(micro-tour destination)

I like the sense of place that micro-tours provide. Even with limited time, I can go to a place of my choosing. I choose the place based on available time, the activity planned, and weather conditions. It was in the mid-30s and windy when I left this morning. I searched for a sunny place, sheltered from the wind, quiet, and with a pleasant view.

(looking north)

(looking west)

(looking south)

(looking east)

When I found it, I sat down. With all my senses, I let it seep in.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ramble 2011 Details

(looking back)

For those of you that might be interested in joining me for the Third Annual Fall Finale Forty(ish)-Mile Country Path Ramble on Saturday, December 17, I promised a few details. So I rode part of the route today, and looked back at last year. As it turns out the most important details were described pretty well in last year's preparatory post. Please read that post carefully, especially the part about weather. I'm all about fun, and if I don't think the weather looks pleasant, sitting in my warm house sipping coffee might be more fun for me.

As I recall, last year's 10am start time worked pretty well. It allowed folks a little time to travel up here without the need to wake up so early on a Saturday. So we'll do it again...roll out at 10am. Since we're starting so late, there's no reason to arrive late, right? Don't miss the roll out.

I also remembered that we had sizable group last year. We spread out a bit and I didn't have as easy time regrouping as I planned. In fact, a few folks took an excursion off course.

(looking ahead)

So as I look ahead to this year's event, I've prepared a cue sheet (using an Excel spreadsheet) for folks who wish to travel along at their own pace. I've decided NOT to prepare a map. However, I have mapped the main loop, and the Rosston spur, on If you plan to join us this year, and would like the Bikely links and/or the cue sheet, send me an email. The alternative to all this complicated navigating is to simply ramble along, and stop for the occasional refreshment, with me.

You DO have this entire day blocked out on your calendar for this event, right? It's only two weeks from this coming Saturday. Let's get ready to Ramble.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

South Texas, Thankfully

Our Thanksgiving tradition includes a trip to south Texas. During the drive down, we very nearly change seasons.

We assembled as family and we feasted. We were thankful. We expressed our thankfulness to Him who provided all that is good.

We rested from our labors, and we refreshed our minds. I was able to visit with both of my daughters in the same place at the same time.

As you might imagine, my son-in-law and I found time to get out on the bike for a while and ride through rough, scrubby, rolling terrain among the mesquite trees.

And the ride of the project bike was as tasty as the slice of pecan pie I had for dessert.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Third Annual Fall Finale Forty-Mile Country Path Ramble

The Third Annual Fall Finale Forty-Mile County Path Ramble is scheduled for Saturday, December 17. Get it on your calendar now, before you read the rest of this post. Go ahead, I'll wait.

This event has sort of become an end of fall tradition for me and a few of my fellow bicycle aficionados. I'll have more to say about specific details later. For now, however, I plan to ride an unsupported, approximately 45-mile mixed terrain (mostly gravel) ride from my house, and you are welcome to join me.

Since there is no support, no sag, and no T-shirt, and since this is simply a group of friends riding bicycles, there is no cost to participate. Last year about 28 persons joined me, and it was great fun.

I conducted my reconn ride today and took a few photos along the route. Due to the fierce wind today, I seriously doubt that there will be this many colorful leaves left on the trees by then. But at least you can get a little taste of what the route is like.

The route is generally north and west of the northwest corner of Denton County. There are some rolling hills out there. Some of them are a little steep in places, but they are not terribly long.

There are no services of any kind along the route, except the fabulous and historic Rosston General Store somewhere around the mid-point of the ride.

But there are tree-lined creekbeds, wide-open wind-swept prairie hilltops, and a heaping helping of rolling, rural landscape. And lots of gravel.

Some of these roads are a bit rugged in places. In some areas, the loose gravel has been worn/rolled away and there is a smooth, fast dirt road exposed that allows paved-road like speed. However, there are also a few areas with recently placed deep, marble-y gravel that forces my skinny legs to slow it way down.

I've referred to this ride as a "ramble". That means the basic intent is to ride at a conversational pace, stop for photos, and maybe even pause for a snack a time or two. I've been known to pack a thermos of coffee for myself, and would encourage others to approach the ride the same way if you like. If you do, plan the entire day.

Others might be interested in riding the route as a "tempo" ride. That's fine. I'm thinking about preparing a map and/or cue sheet for those who wish to ride faster than a "ramble". I'm not committing to the map/cue sheet thing, but I am thinking about it.

As in years past, I'll follow this post later with a few more details about how all this works. The objective for today is to formally announce the date so you can make plans. I hope that everyone who came last year will come again. And if your friends are well-behaved, and will not get me in trouble with my pickup truck driving neighbors, you are welcome to bring them too.

Oh yeah, one more thing. For all veterans of the Ramble, you might remember the guy with the catfish heads on his fence posts. Well, it appears that he's added some variety to his fence decorations lately. I'm not sure this coyote will still be here on December 17, or that you'd want to see it up close by then anyway, but I'm sure there'll be something to amuse you somewhere along the route.