Sunday, March 27, 2011

With a Friend

Who is that cruising down an empty county road? Who is that enjoying the spring sunshine and the wide open spaces? Who is that with micro-tour gear at the ready?

Why, it's none other than the highly-celebrated friend of many, Myles, of Rat Trap Press from Fort Worth, Texas!

Myles decided to try and squeeze in a country outing before the Texas heat set-in for the long summer. He came up yesterday, and we had a plan to try out one of my favorite loops that includes more gravel than pavement. This is the same route I shared with another one of my Fort Worth friends last May.

We had a micro-tour in mind. That means that there is ample riding in the countryside, but the pace is not hurried, so there's always time to stop and admire the sights.

We paused at this shady creekside for a little physical and visual refreshment. We both commented on the tiny new green leaves on so many trees all along our route.

When the steady crunching and crackling of gravel stops, the peace and quiet will paint a grin on your face.

Myles' bike is really tailored to his typically more urban routes, but it performed well. We discussed the possibility of slightly wider tires and a different chainring combination if he were to do routes like this everyday.

I'm going to say that he's grinning because he's having a great time, and not grimacing because he's almost at the top of a tough climb.

Looking down from the top of the ridge, the sun reflected off this pond. It glowed in stark contrast to the surrounding pasture and wooded background.

This guy was just lounging in the middle of the road, apparently soaking up the warm sunshine. He didn't seem to be more concerned about automobile traffic than we were. He stayed right here in this spot as we road on by.

One of the benefits of riding with a friend, is the ability to try out each other's stuff. We decided to switch bikes for a few minutes to compare rigs. Fortunately, we are close enough in size so that neither of us was too uncomfortable for the short test.

Myles seemed to enjoy those plush Hetre tires on my bike, and I admired his basket. If I did more urban routes with lot's of errand-running, I'd have one myself.

Finally, after a brisk headwind, it's coffee time, and Myles comes casually gliding into Slidell, Texas with class.

Myles (behind the bike) was searching for a place that provided some protection from the wind. He wisely suggested a spot behind the Christmas tree still standing in the center of this gazebo. I failed to get a photo of the tree, but Myles included it in his post. I was also too busy fussing with refreshments to be bothered with photo documentation, but I assure you it was a classic Pondero-style micro-tour with homemade scones and fresh brewed coffee.

After our stop in Slidell, which was at the western limits of our loop, it was only a short while before we turned back east and enjoyed an amazing tailwind. There were some interesting old abandoned houses out there like the one above. We really should have stopped more frequently in this stretch, but I think we were both enjoying that intoxicating tailwind induced momentum.

Stopping here was easy. I'm no expert, but do enjoy the simplicity and all-business look of old tractors. A couple of guys were doing some fence welding, and had towed their gear on a trailer with this tractor. We chatted with them a couple of minutes, and I think they said this International Harvester is a 1947 model.

Myles and I rode and chatted. We talked about all kinds of bicycle pursuits. We covered camping, racing, touring, randonneuring, and mountain biking. It's all good, but an outing like this is about as good as it gets for me.

Thanks for a great day on the bike, Myles. I'm already looking forward to next time.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Tender New Green

A few minutes along the 3-mile loop, as a preview of those tender new green leaves that will be coming one day soon to my latitude-challenged friends.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Luggage at the Lake

took a vacation day
got out for a couple of hours
ambled east to the lake
avoided a fierce south wind
didn't need the honkin' saddlebag
(which I really like)
but there's bound to be another S24O
or micro-tour coming
before the heat arrives
so there it is

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Daylight What?

Daylight Savings Time kicked in last night. That means it was DARKER when I rolled out this morning.

So for those of us who enjoy the early morning, Daylight Savings Time...well...isn't.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Michael Micro-Tour Redo

golden grasses on the return

We had such a grand time back in early January, Michael and I decided to do it again. For some of us, a remote breakfast at sunrise is a perfect excuse for a micro-tour.

orange horizon after a black sky start

For the racer, it is about crossing the finish line in front.

with clear skies, it brightened quickly

For the randonneur, it is about traveling long distances with time constraints.

destination hilltop at upper left

For the tourist, it is about traveling self-sufficiently, usually for multiple days.

Michael brought apple spice muffins, I brought coffee

For the S24O aficionado, it is about overnight camping.

more golden grasses

All of the ways to enjoy the bicycle have their attraction, but the micro-tour is perhaps the easiest, most luxurious, outing of them all.

self portrait, almost home

Even with limited time, fitness, and gear, one can enjoy...

...riding the bike without experiencing exhaustion...

...the outdoors without over-exposure...

...the pleasures of culinary treats without carrying a huge load...

...and the mental refreshment of meditation, when it is needed most, with minimal preparation.

apparently our peach trees survived the winter

And when you return to real life, you just might find that it looks a little more attractive than it did when you left.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Rush Hour 3-11-2011

Tough week.
Needed just a few minutes to get myself together before work today.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

NAHBS - Wrap-Up Ponderings

I was fascinated. Here, in one location, was a convergence of thousands of bicycle enthusiasts. In fact, since it was the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, and since I was a witness to it all, I'll go ahead and say that this was a convergence of bicycle fanatics. As one observer, I must say the whole living organism of it all fascinated me immensely. What are we to make of it? What did we gain, and did we learn anything?

I suppose we all answer that individually. We all have our own separate motivations for being there. Whether business, craft, consumer, art appreciation, social benefits, or journalism, we all have our own measures of satisfaction from the event. We all have our own "take-aways". I was pathetically all over the place. Really. It was sensory overload in more ways than one. As the following paragraphs will show, I had several seemingly unrelated observations. The only thin thread that sewed them all together was this thing we call the bicycle.

I had a brief vision of what a bicycle-based transportation society might look like. On Saturday morning, just a few minutes before the doors opened, folks on bicycles came from all directions. Early on most Saturdays, this corner of downtown Austin is relatively quiet. But like an army of bees returning to the hive, all kinds of folks on all kinds of bicycles came swarming. The ratio of bikes to automobiles was completely reversed. It was quieter, more friendly and conversational, and a beautiful image. I had a living example of "what could be" laid out before me, and it was too bad that car people couldn't be there to experience it.

It was interesting to see the selection of components for bikes within my genre of interest. I didn't see much that was completely new to me, but I was sometimes surprised by the use of items that fall outside my own (insightful or mistaken) sense of optimum. For example, there were more internally geared hubs and belt drive systems than I expected. For my own applications, I've not seen a need to move in that direction, but there must be advantages for some. And just like those clever advertisers desire, I wondered if there was some real advantage that I was missing. Another example of product pondering focused on the Velo Orange Grand Cru 50.4bcd Crankset. I saw this lovely piece of hardware used on several bikes, and I thought to myself, "HooBoy, that would look handsome on my A. Homer Hilsen!" But would it really be better (or even equal) functionally to my current crankset? I don't know...which brings me to my next observation.

The excess was a little embarrassing. That said, I'll confess right now that "excess" is subject to debate, and some will opine that my wonderful A. Homer Hilsen is an example of excess all by itself. I offer no defense. Even so, I submit that more than a few of us thought to ourselves that some of the frames, components, and personal accessories were beyond the sustainable sensitivities that so many bicycle aficionados proclaim. Instead, they were in effect more aligned with a consumption model. I found myself thinking about replacing things that worked well with things that promise to be incrementally better (often at a substantially higher cost). So I myself am certainly not above the fray.

So I wandered the aisles and wanted. I wanted bicycle paraphernalia. I wanted a new frame. I wanted the fun of working with a craftsman to create something special. I wanted new bags, components, and clothing. I felt like buying some of these things would help create that bicycle society I sometimes imagine. I felt like buying these things would somehow change my life and give me more youth, strength, and time to ride. I almost pulled out the credit card on numerous occasions, and I don't know how I resisted. Maybe with age comes a better understanding of how blessed I already am.

So I left the show early on Saturday, straddled my factory-produced, TIG-welded, steel, fixed-wheel bicycle, and headed north on the Shoal Creek Trail. It was time to ride...

Friday, March 4, 2011

Ever Ready

I keep at least one of my bicycles inside the house. It is usually in the living room, leaning against the back of the couch. The couch is covered with a sheet to facilitate easier cleaning. The furry rascals sometimes join us for movie night, and maybe the bicycle isn't always perfectly clean while leaning. Like those furry rascals, the bicycle isn't terribly concerned with personal hygiene. It is more interested in adventure.

The bicycle leans there aimed at the front door. In the early morning, the sun shines through the window in the door and gives it an attractive glow. It is a constant visual reminder of adventure potential. It persistently, stoically, and quietly stares at the door, and waits. Without movement or sound, it simply glows and invites me outdoors.

For now, I must be about the day's work. But the bicycle is absolutely ever ready. It pleases me to have it close by, and always calling me to more refreshing moments, away from suffocating urgencies, to the open road and wondering what lies over the ridge.