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 Bikely.com. 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.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


What is the significance of the the number 96? I'll get to that.

In the meantime, I'll just say that reading blogs and cycling forum descriptions from bicycle commuters fascinates me. It is hard for me to imagine commuting to work by bicycle everyday. It's not the weather or distance that is such a mental challenge. It's having a job that would allow such a thing. It's not the lack of showers, the challenge of finding a place to safely store the bike, or clothing logistics. It's really none of the things most commonly discussed as challenges to the prospective bicycle commuter. But it is none-the-less incredible.

Many cycling advocacy groups, and individuals, promote using the bike for common everyday errands. They say that some extremely high percentage of trips by some extremely high percentage of people are less than 2 miles in length. Really? I have a decent imagination, but that's hard for me to imagine. It might be true, but it is so foreign to my situation, I can't fathom life in that way.

Reading accounts from those who live a car-free lifestyle makes me dizzy.

For me the the thing that makes it such a challenge is that my office is...well...Texas. And in case you haven't looked lately, Texas is a fairly spread out area. My work provides me an opportunity to be quite familiar with most major metro areas. On a regular basis. Not only to I spend more hours than I'd prefer on the job, I also spend more time (if the whole percent of trips thing above is to be believed) than many do traveling. Which brings me back to the number 96.

Just recently my Ford pickup turned four years old. I took the number of miles driven and divided by the number of days I've owned it. The result is the average number of miles I drive my pickup everyday.


That means 96 miles every, single day. Weekends, holidays, days I'm sick, days I work from home, and days I'm on vacation. It includes days I only drive from my house to my "home" office. It includes the days that I only drive from some hotel to one of our offices in another city, and it includes the days I leave my truck parked at an airport when I fly out of town for a few days.

A lot of my miles are on the highway, but many are in town. Let's say I average about 50 mph. That means I spend about 2 hours of every day I live in the cab of a Ford pickup.

Why am I out of shape? Why are my pants too tight? Where does my time go? Why is my diet so pathetic? Why am I always behind on things?

Why do I tend to crave slower-paced rides than I once did? Why am I so grateful for every moment on the bicycle rambling through the north Texas countryside?

Why does car-free living seem like a fairy tale to me?

96. That's why. Every single day. For four years straight.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Taste Samples

If you visit the ice cream shop, and feel experimental, they will give you an opportunity to taste samples of various flavor offerings. They give you just enough to get an idea of the unique characteristics of each one on a tiny spoon. Here are two taste samples of the variety enjoyed on today's ride. It was great to have my fill of them all.

Down in the lower areas, where creeks wander and gurgle, trees grow. When November winds finally arrive, leaves array themselves in color and fall like the rain we thirsted for all summer. Puddles of golden sunshine sparkling on the side of the road.

Up on the north Texas prairie hilltop, the wind whistles through barbed wire like the lonely moan of a ghost. Prairie ghosts? Or just the cry of the long time fenced up land?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mid-Day Micro-Tour

Making the best of a work-spoiled S240, I investigated a potential new lake access point. I had spotted something on an aerial photo that looked promising. If I couldn't camp last night, I'd pack a lunch today at least, and explore.

Turns out my hunch was correct. This spot is a little farther from the house than the spot I usually visit for a lake view, but it is also more remote. It might serve well as a future S24O spot.

Since the lake is down a few feet, I was able to ride along the beach a bit. I found a place out of the blustery wind and set-up my picnic lunch. Compared to the work week, it couldn't have been more luxurious.

I took my time. The clouds sailed by. The warmth of the sun came and went. Ducks moved from one spot to another, low to the water, against the wind, like cyclists in a paceline. I found a flat, grassy spot and imagined what it would be like to wake up to the sound of the lake shore and this view.

On the way home, I thanked God for balance, clarity, and restoration.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Extra Hour

It was decided that last night was the time to put Daylight Savings Time back on the shelf for awhile. That means there was an extra hour available before meeting with other christians this morning for worship. Since I was starved for physical activity, I spent my extra hour on the country bike.

It was much better than sleep.