Monday, August 31, 2009

Why I Fell Off My New Bicycle

The first ride I took on my new bicycle I fell off, to my great embarrassment. I thought I was past the stage where I fell off every time because I was just getting used to being clipped into my pedals. Apparently not so. On my weekly training ride I pass a little property where there are a few sheep. They're kinda cute and I usually slow down to get a look. This time they were laying around on the front porch like a bunch of dogs, and I had to get a picture. I was trying to hurry to get stopped and get my camera out because sheep are a little skittish and I wanted to get them before they got nervous and moved. So. To keep the sheep from getting scared by the sight of a cyclist stopping and getting off the bicycle (something even cattle don't seem to like much), I treated them to the sight and sound of a cyclist falling to the ground cursing with the bicycle stuck to her feet. I have a souvenir bruise the size of my foot on my backside, and another in a long list of humiliating tumbles witnessed by my cycling friends.
I loaded my Hotter n Hell pictures up to my Flickr gallery this morning, so you can go see them there. I was hoping to get come cute pictures of everyone but due (I suspect) to having my camera jammed into my top tube bag with so much other stuff that the controls got messed around I did not always have it set to "automatic" and a lot of - read most of - my pictures taken in the evening and early in the morning of the ride did not turn out to be of identifiable species of sentient beings.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Take Me to the Promiseland

I did not know this before, but The Promiseland is in Wichita Falls Texas! Apparently it is not the land of milk and honey I thought, but instead it's a somewhat seedy looking bar in an out of the way part of Wichita Falls. It's conveniently located just a ways down the street from the MPEC, where all the big events happen. If I had known the Promiseland was so easy to find and located so close to the center of Wichita Falls I would have gone there long ago.

I'm back in town after another century ride at the Hotter n Hell Hundred, a bit tired, sunburned, and a little sore in various body parts. Most body parts, if the truth be told. I think just about every distance ride offered was represented in our group, and (I hope) everyone had a good time. I know I did. I had signed up for 100 miles, but until the day before the ride I had not quite committed to the distance. The 100K is a good ride, and a distance I knew I could cover without killing myself. The weather turned out to be perfect and I have a new beautiful bicycle, so I stepped up and did the century. Helen was riding at about the same pace I was so we were able to meet up at the last few rest stops to encourage each other. She rode in with me to complete her first century and we were both thrilled to have finished and relieved it was over. We also could not wait to cool off in the spray from an open hydrant and get a corn dog. My goal was to finish before 4:30, which extremely modest goal I achieved. Because the weather was so good and I had done a century ride before I was able to relax and enjoy the ride much more than I had the first time. On a tough ride I am so fixed on just maintaining forward motion I tend not to see much beyond my front wheel.

This time I enjoyed the rest stops more, although I did not stay long at any of them. I had my (sweaty and dirty) picture taken at several and visited all but one. The last two stops were just quick roadside pauses for me as I was ready to finish up. Various organizations sponsor the stops and they each have a different theme with music, costumes, and a bunch of great volunteers. There were a record 14,200 riders, and a lot of people took advantage of the unusually good weather to go for the century, so rest stops were crazy busy but the 3,500 wonderful volunteers cheered us on all day. We also had loads of encouragement from residents who sat out (sometimes all afternoon) to enjoy the spectacle and wave at us. Because of the large crowds of riders that persisted far into the course there were a lot of accidents, but apparently no serious injuries beyond the usual road rash, broken wrists, and broken collarbones. The mild weather meant only a minimum of heat related problems needed treating, mostly new riders who were not prepared for long distances. Fortunately no one in our group was injured or involved in any mechanical mishaps.
We have already reserved our rooms for next year, and as we did last year, we are resolved to ride later into this year and start up earlier next year to be in better shape for an even better ride. My personal goal for next year is to ride the 100K ride at every event (except the Streak, where I am sure the 100K would be the death of me), and to get in at the Hotter n Hell by 4:00pm.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Schlegel Fest

This weekend's cycling event, aside from a very fast ride to El Reno Satruday morning, was "Schelgel Fest": a promotional event hosted by Schelgel Bicycles, a high end bike store in downtown Oklahoma City. Hamburgers and hot dogs were served, free minor repairs and a big sale brought in a good crowd. The timing for a promo event is perfect - the week before Hotter 'N Hell, and a chance to bring in some extra traffic to move the end of season clearance and catch more of the stock up business for participants getting ready to go. At the Hotter 'N Hell there is a big expo where loads of bike stores bring in their new cool stuff and their old end of season stuff, so if Schlegel wants to catch any of us with disposable bike $$$ in our pockets this is the time. I spent quite a bit of time poring over their stock and examining their assortment of women-specific complete road bikes. There were a couple with eye catching paint jobs, but nothing that was really any better than the bike I have in terms of frame composition or components. Schlegel had a great selection of cruisers and several nice men's road bikes, but not a lot in high end women's road bikes. I can ride a man's bike if the frame is small enough, but I have a women's bike in mind. The shorter length from seat to handlebar and the shorter reach on the brake and shift levers makes a big difference in comfort. Because I put more emphasis on distance than speed those features are more important to me. I had a particular interest in shoes but did not try any on - I think next year I may indulge in a pair - and I didn't see anything I coveted. I also was thinking of a new helmet - I have reached the conclusion that my current "hat" looks like a big blue tortoise is sitting on my head. I plan to check helmets out while I am in Texas, and I did not see anything here that would look good with Big Blue. I looked at a few seats, because I am currently not completely satisfied by the one I have. I picked up a couple of electrolyte items and went on home. Just as well I did not find a helmet to suit my taste. After several months of hinting around Shana stunned my by telling me she wanted to give me her Trek Madone. It's a beautiful all carbon Dura Ace bike, women's geometry and components. I must admit I have had HUGE bike envy ever since she bought it, but not enough to shell out the dough for a new ride for myself. Shana has not been riding nearly as much or as far as I have this year; she's going to finish the season with Big Blue and evaluate what she wants to ride next spring. I spent a happy hour in the garage raising the seat on the Madone and tuning up the fit, swapping out the seat bags (I carry a lot more gear along than Shana does) and transferring my computer over to My New Bike. I'll be looking for a red helmet in Texas to match my new ride. Tomorrow I'll take it out for a spin around the lake and adjust Big Blue to fit Shana.

Shana's cousin Glenda was in town to visit this weekend. Glenda took Rita all around town, and we all got together for a cookout with Uncle Buddy. One new feature this time is that I was not the only one taking pictures. Buddy and I were having "dueling cameras", Glenda and James also brought theirs. A good weekend and too soon over.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Grab Bag Post

I've got an odd combination of too much going on which eats up my blogging time and nothing really new to say. Cycling continues unabated, with ever more miles every week, except for last week when I took the week off to rest my aching legs. That may have been a mistake, but I'll fix it this week. I still can't commit to a distance for Hotter 'N Hell which is only 11 days away. Spin Your Wheels this year featured high temperatures and a continuous heavy crosswind which tried our endurance. Lucky for my fellow participants I only took a few pictures at the start of the ride when everyone looked good. Trust me, no one looked this good afterwards. In addition to the traditional sweat and salt all over, the wind had added new features to our appearance. At about the 30 mile mark someone had chosen that morning to plow, so we received a nice gritty layer of dirt to stick on our sweat. I had foolishly forgotten to put on sunblock, so I fried my arms. Because of the heat I had tied a bandana full of ice on my neck, so not much sunburn there. Because the wind was intense I had my head down, sparing my face from the worst of the sun.

That ride went through El Reno via old Route 66 with no time to stop in town. Yesterday Shana joined Diane and Sharon and I for a ride out to El Reno on the back roads, which we far prefer. The wind was even worse, although temperatures were a little better. We had a lot of fun, but it was a very strenuous ride. We stopped a few times to break it up. The llamas I see at The Carpenter's House (some kind of non-denominational church) on the way into town had a baby, so we had to stop a minute to gawk at it. So cute. I wanted to sneak up a bit closer, but I thought Momma might take a dim view of it.

Farther down the road some donkeys caught Shana's eye. These were the same ones that got Diane's full attention on an earlier ride. This ride she had no time for them as she was trying to get in a boatload of miles by riding on and circling back to taunt us. Shana stopped to enjoy them, even giving one a kiss on the nose. Good thing they are a friendly pair.

In knitting news I'm still working on the Canal du Midi socks, and a secret project that cannot be revealed until after a certain baby shower. The Float Stole is calling me sadly from the bottom of my knitting box, but it will just have to wait. Deadline for the baby project is a full month sooner than I had expected, so I have to concentrate on that.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Weekend Potpourri

This has been a busy and fun weekend. Shana and I went to see the new Harry Potter film, which we both enjoyed very much. As always the sets were wonderful and the special effects suitably magical. Of the series, I would say this was the weakest one, sort of like the second LOTR movie (The Two Towers) with Horcruxes. Worth seeing, I thought, and important to advance the plot for the series as a whole, but is possibly not a good stand-alone feature. Having seen all the movies and read all the books I may not be the best judge, and I'm not at all sorry I went to see it, especially when Shana had a pass so we were effectively getting in for half price. I was stunned almost speechless by the prices at the concession stand, though. We saw the movie at the mall, and stopped to do a little bra shopping for Aunt Rita on our way out. We stopped by to see if the bras were a good fit (they were. at last success in this area) and went on for a ride around Lake Overholser. We finished up the day with a delicious Mexican meal at Los Amigos, a trip to the grocery store and went home to do our prep work for a hot dog lunch with friends after our planned Sunday ride.

We met up Sunday early in the morning with friends to enjoy the day. We split into two groups with one group riding around the lake and the other riding to El Reno. It's an easy and convenient 40 mile round trip that has become our go-to weekend ride. Sunday is a nice day to ride out because there is even less traffic than usual. Since we are not so occupied with watching out for traffic we are free to look around us more than usual. We passed a group on horseback having a spot of trouble on the road. A house caught my eye on the way into town with some unique lawn decor. What appeared to be a Native American couple stood on the porch behind a group of flower pots and under a sign mentioning Jesus. The couple was watching a fairy take a bath in the birdbath. Even more items were featured on the porch, but I didn't like to stop too long staring at the house. I only took one picture, and a poor one it was. I suspect I would have had a better picture had I taken it on the way into town when the light was not quite so harsh. Ah well. I'm no photographer, just an observer of the the absurd. Next time I'll get a better one. Having stopped there I looked around before taking off and saw a round rock house I had never noticed before. I'm sure there is a story behind it; one day I'll find out more.

I've had occasion to visit with a resident with a store across the street from the Shamrock gas station where we always stop. He has a beautifully restored car that gets a detailed washing every week.

We enjoyed our hot dog lunch with most of the friends who rode and several more who were not riding but were able to come by for a visit. Shana was finished with her ride before I was, so she picked Aunt Rita up so she could come over for lunch and visit with our friends. It was so much fun to visit, and we firmed up some of our plans for the upcoming Hotter n' Hell festivities. Before heading home Diane B was kind enough to not only build a bike rack to fit inside my car but also put up the hangers to get Shana's bikes hung in the garage.
There are more pictures of this weekend's adventures in my Flickr Gallery, and also recent pictures there from last weekend's visit with Miss Vivian and the kids.