For now, I've been looking back at the year and I can count my weekend rides almost on two hands - and no more. Everything else in the 5,000+ miles for 2009 has been filed under the commuting category - which is actually quite good. The last time I was this consistent on commuting frequency and distance, I was getting ready for another big challenge: the Mississippi Valley 24-Hour Challenge in 2003. This is a good sign, and my intent is to keep the 2nd car out of the driveway, make it through the winter, and keep right on going. When I need a car, I think I might rent - weekend-style. The fee should be less than a car payment, and if I plan in advance enough I should be able to spec what I rent - ala, minivan with removable seats. With that, instant, indoor bike storage and a place to snooze, change, stay warm at the early season brevets, and a vehicle to crew from at Tejas itself. Careful planning required, of course, but what I'd end up paying for insurance, registration, gas, etc., on a car that I could call my own will simply go towards building the nutrition pantry and covering the registration and travel expenses for the events themselves.
All in good time - meanwhile, my training loop shopping gets me out of the house on a particularly nice and long holiday weekend. Sixty-four degrees on the thermometer, in LATE November? Even the national weather service is stumped, and recent forecast discussions indicate that even the morning lows aren't in the right place - putting Kansas City on target to break a record for the latest hard freeze on the books. It still hasn't dropped below 28ºF, officially.
Today's research loop was about the length of one Tejas lap, roughly 26 miles of goodness. I started off into a stiff headwind, from the south, as I rolled down Ridgeview into the countryside. I really like spring and summer for riding, but there is something interesting about riding in the fall after the leaves have dropped and blown away. The landscape looks very different, and the scenery changes just enough to make "the same old road" take on a new feel. I found myself noticing "new" grain silos, and spotting water-towers in the distance that would normally be hidden from view by trees. With the trees bare, the sight-lines seem to extend from horizon to horizon. Horses, cattle, and people taking advantage of the temperate boost to make last minute winterizing maintenance a pleasure instead of a frigid chore.
Today, I managed to make a few detours, and took the "same old route" theory a little farther by taking some "new" roads and turns that I might not have in the past. The county in many areas seems to have removed a lot of the excess gravel from many rural roads, and so the notion of riding an "unpaved" road isn't such a sketchy experience on 28c tires. I ride east on 207th street beyond where the manicured pavement runs out, and turn north on Pflumm. More "new" things to see, as I'd never been on a bike there before. Surprised a few dogs, too - probably not used to seeing cyclists here. They still gave chase, however - a little sprint workout. Onward to 183rd street, enjoying the tailwind, and then east to Quivira: another "new" road for me. This is the part of the county where many roads don't go all the way through, so I discover these neat little jogs and gentle curves that eventually take me northbound to 179th street. I have plans to ride another recently discovered cycling road; Antioch north of 179th street, which also doesn't go through to the north but curves me back westbound, towards Quivira again, and over some nice rolling climbs. It's a good workout, and there is lots to see. I like it back in here, seeing the land of those that still farm and raise animals here - possibly safe from future development pushes, locked in by a natural watershed and thick woods. At least, that's my hope: not only to have these pristine reserves left alone, but perhaps to someday be lucky enough to have a home in such an area. No more residential traffic snarl.... ah, to live on a street close to good riding, where cars-per-hour ratings are in the single digits! I'd gladly ride the extra miles to work every day to enjoy such a setting.
I ride west, cresting hill after hill, and then turn north on Quivira to enjoy a really long downhill, tailwind-fueled, run towards 159th: a street that I'd long written off as being unworthy of cycling - a perfectly good road, mind you: but traffic increases in the last five years make it less than enjoyable, in my opinion. Still, I figure the holiday weekend may take a little off the plate for this road, and I'm partially correct. It's a good road, still the occasional challenge, and a quick skirt of the local, small-plane airport, and I'm back into the neighborhood again to round out my ride. A solid little jaunt, and a worthwhile way to spend a short amount of time. It's a ride I almost didn't take - but I'm reminded that I doesn't need to spend hours on the bike to have a good ride, even if my tendencies lean towards the longer distances.
Not sure how many more of these above-average days we'll have, especially as December looms - but I'll take whatever I can get!