Sunday, July 26, 2009

Shrivelled and Dehydrated

Yesterday we drove down to Duncan for the yearly Dehydrator. It's one of our yearly visits because it's a well organized and enjoyable ride (with lunch!). In our training schedule it comes at the point where we are looking for a 50-63 mile ride in the heat on a fairly flat course to evaluate our training up to that point. Because the ride benefits the local high school marching band the morning starts with music from the band itself. Just before the race and the ride left we had a prayer led by the town mayor, then were played out by the band (think tunes like "Rocky").

In the past the route has been two medium to large hills early on, followed by a flat section of intense boredom relieved on the 66 mile course by two passes across a large lake, then back over the same two hills to the finish. I had signed up for the 66 mile course (which is actually 69 miles) but had decided to do the 53. This year the course and distances were changed slightly to be closely compliant with the stated mileage of 62, 50, and 26 miles and to go over different roads for a more scenic ride. The end of the ride was over the same hills in the last 10 miles, but the prior route was completely different. I saw lots of sheep, goats, and chickens in addition to the usual cattle, horses, and burros of Stephens County. There were gently rolling hills, and a pass through a neighboring small town. As we rode along over the new route I thought about going on to the longer route. This idea died as the heat quickly picked up. When the new and improved 50 mile route passed over the lake I felt that I would have had the full experience without stepping up to the longest ride (the only course on the old route that passed over the lake). It turned out to be a good choice, because by the time we passed the 30 mile stop temperatures were well over 100, and by the time we got to the 40 mile stop the temperature on the road had reached 109. On of our party cramped and Shana took her back in in my car. Alan bonked but did finish his ride after a flat tire four miles out from the finish and learned a valuable lesson in hot weather riding. We're all hitting the bike store this week to get some electrolyte concentrate because the usual Gatorade offered on organized rides does not contain nearly enough for temperatures this high unless you can get bananas at every stop.

Young Blake (5) was a first time participant under his own steam (he'd been on a child's tandem on previous rides) and finished his 10 mile ride. Although he was the last finisher on his ride he did finish and we were all proud of him.
Today I'll be taking Vivian to church with Aunt Rita and we'll have Sam and Alex joining us for lunch. Big fun all weekend long!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Melissa Made Me Do It

We rode the the annual Norman Conquest today. We were so lucky with the weather: temperatures from 70's to low 80's during the ride, sunny skies and no wind. It was the kind of day we seldom get in Oklahoma and I was prepared to make the most of it. Some of my friends were planning to ride, so I'd have the extra fun of company during the ride. I was planning to attempt the 48 mile ride, which I have done before. Alan also had his sights set on the 48. Somewhere around mile 12 we both decided that maybe the shorter 22 mile ride might be more suitable. The toughest hills the last time I did the ride were asphalt in not-quite-prime condition. Some care needed to be taken to pick a good line to ride to avoid potholes, but the surface was otherwise OK. Sometime between then and now a new chip seal surface had been added. This is becoming a pretty common surface, especially these days when money for road improvements is getting to be a bit sparse. I understand the need to use it, but it's not always the nicest surface for cyclists. A fresh surface like this is almost like a gravel road, with all the opportunities for sliding around and for rocks to be kicked up at you by passing traffic. A year later after traffic has had a chance to squash the gravel into the tarry surface it's usually OK, but it's not a very fast surface. If really big chunks of aggregate are used (as this stretch was) it is a really rough road that will test your personal structural integrity in addition to that of your bike. It might improve your chances of scoring a nice slightly used water bottle as they tend to shake loose on this surface. I may improve your balance because the consequences of falling on it are so awful. It will certainly give you many opportunities to improve your fitness level by exerting more energy. You have to put out a lot more effort pedalling, and this year I just did not have it to spare. None of us thought we were up for a longer distance after fighting our way up the first part of the course.

Having decided on the shorter distance we cheerfully proceeded down the road at a pleasantly leisurely speed knowing that we were not going to be suffering over a long distance. Alan was riding quite a bit faster than Melissa, and I slowed a bit and paused to let her catch up with me so he could go on ahead at his own pace. This is where our trouble started. The worst of the hills were past, and on the gently rolling verdant terrain in the cool morning we had a chance to visit. Our thoughts turned to knitting. Our talk turned to Monkey Socks, of which Melissa was making her first pair. We missed our turn. About four miles down the road Melissa noticed that we were coming up on 22 miles without reaching town. We noticed the lack of yellow arrows on the road. The yellow arrows were the markers for our distance. We were on the 48 mile course, which I might survive but would not enjoy, and which Melissa would not have the strength to do. Melissa flagged down a passing sag wagon and we loaded our bikes into the back. After driving on a couple of miles to see if Alan had made the same mistake we decided that instead of sagging all the way in we'd like to be dropped at the last rest stop, which would let us finish with a distance of roughly 30 miles. This was the very distance Melissa had wished was offered, so we jumped back out of the sag wagon and finished a ride of a bit over 32 miles. As it turned out Alan had made the same mistake (without the excellent excuse of knitting talk), but instead of calling the sag to the rescue he adjusted his route to join back up with the 22 mile course. He ended the day with a ride of about 38 miles.

The Bicycle League of Norman puts on a good ride with great support, a good lunch and a drawing for loads of good stuff. Our table was well represented among the winners although to my great disappointment someone else was awarded the Shimano sandals I had hoped to claim.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Fourth of July Redux

With our plans for the actual Fourth of July derailed by weather and family problems we ended up with a fresh round of festivities this weekend. We watched a rescheduled local fireworks display Friday night. I had a nice long ride Saturday morning, and we had a family barbeque Saturday night.

Today is Sunday and Shana and I are planning to hang around the house and enjoy each other's company.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

If It's Thursday Those Must Be Cattle

If there was any doubt that I am usually riding way out in the country here is my proof. These are really only a sample of the many bovines I pass on every ride. This year there are even a few longhorns on the route. It's kind of surprising to me that the cattle are pretty skittish. They don't seem to care about anything that goes by on the road, but if you stop they get suspicious and nervous. It must be the difference between the dairy cows I used to see when I was young and herds of meat animals who get much less handling.

Of course there are lots of horses, both full size and miniature. In general the horses seem to enjoy watching the cyclists go by. On organized rides when there is a really big group the horses will sometimes get excited and run along beside the pack. Last year on my Wednesday night route there were some goats but this year they are not around, much to my disappointment. If I ride all the way to the sod farms there are a few chickens, but this year no one seems to be keeping any guinea fowl.

Tonight it was 100° when I headed out for my ride, with winds gusting to 30 mph. Quite a challenge. It's hard to stay motivated when the weather is so difficult. Next week Shana will be riding with me and that should make it more fun even though it's going to be really hot every single day.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Scene on Wednesday

The last few evening rides I have not had any company to distract me, just the scenery around me and inside my head. I've been riding to Jones exclusively because it's a good hilly route with little traffic and loads of cyclists so the motorists are aware that we are out there and not too likely to run us down. I'm not afraid to ride alone on that route. The roads I ride on are almost all two lane, but they are pretty good and lines of sight are good. Jones is a little town with under 3,000 residents. There is a convenience store, a SubWay and a Sonic and 15 churches including two Methodist churches. Not all denominations are represented, so I have to assume that part of the church going population is driving into Oklahoma City to worship.

Among the churches there are a couple that are especially interesting to me. The first one I pass is Saint Mary's Ukrainian Orthodox Christian Church. It's one of the cutest churches I have ever seen, and always immaculately tidy.
The other one that piques my curiosity is Cowboys For Christ (covered in the blood of Jesus) conveniently located across the street from the livestock auction barn. There is apparently lots of activity around this one - behind the main building they have a covered outdoor area for musical programs and a kind of western town mock up. It always looks well kept as well.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

More Thrilling Holiday Fun

Shana got in late last night - didn't matter when because the fireworks display we had planned to attend was cancelled due to storm. We had a massive thunder & lightning event which not only cancelled several local events but made my burger grilling a team sport. Sharon Jean held the umbrella while I tended to the burgers. If I do say so myself (and I do) they were very good indeed. This morning I made Paula Deen's avocado and corn salad with slight changes to the thanks of a grateful nation. Maybe not the actual nation, but it was very well received at the church potluck. It will definitely join my repertoire as it has all the best features of a potluck dish: NO COOKING, no mayonnaise so it can sit at room temps without poisoning anyone, good looking, and inexpensive.

Before I left for church this morning I was watching Stage 2 of The Tour de France, but had to leave just minutes before the end of the stage. I therefore missed the exciting sprint to the finish. I came home after services and potluck lunch and settled into my study/craft room to work on the Canal du Midi sock in progress while watching the rebroadcast of the stage. It was so relaxing that I fell asleep just minutes before the end of the stage. Doomed, I'd say. I did see the last few seconds in the replays at the end of the program but DANG. Missed it twice! I've had this book for a while and always intended to make this sock. I did begin the first sock twice, but only because after a couple of inches I could see that I needed to go to a smaller needle. I am continuing the ribbing across the back of the sock down to the heel as I think this will provide a better fit and a slightly better look. That mysterious lump in the photo is my toe, not some defect in the sock!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Holiday Weekend Fun

As usual Shana and I had big plans for the Fourth of July weekend. We had scheduled a ride with friends (and pancakes after!), a barbecue, and fireworks. Unfortunately all of these things will happen without Shana. Taking advantage of both of her kids being out of town for the holiday weekend Nancy H dropped a big piece of marble on the instep of her foot and broke it (the foot, not the marble) It's a bad break, and Nancy needed someone to help. For a variety of reasons neither son nor daughter was able to come back, and because it's the holiday weekend she was not able to get home health care to come out so she could take her pain medication without worrying about what Larry might get up to without supervision. We hoped Shana would not have to drive down to Dallas, then that she would only be there for one night, now it looks like she may make it in time for fireworks but will have missed everything else. Our guests will be subjected to my hamburgers!

So far everything else is rolling right along. We had a really nice ride, cool and overcast. Pancakes were as good as always, and the company was excellent. We may have rain later today, but I won't complain if we do. My home made cinnamon ice cream is delicious, pies are ready to go in the oven, and the potato salad is assembled. The beer is cold and Shelly is bringing the baked beans - if she can get her car issue taken care of before then. Oh well, I may be picking her up. I was not counting on manning the grill myself, but I've done it before. It wasn't recently, but it should be like riding a bicycle. The only thing is that when last I grilled burgers I was timing them by the cigarette method - smoke one and turn the burgers over. I'm not going to take up smoking again for the sake of the burgers! It's funny how Shana is the official cook and party hostess so no one is at all sure I can do this myself.