November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

A quick update -- Happy Thanksgiving, USA!

A good, short week - two commutes WORLDS apart, in typical Kansas weather fashion:

Monday, 74 degrees - short sleeves, shorts, no socks - lots of sun, and strong SW winds.
Tuesday, rest day - helped clean out gutters at the old homestead.
Wednesday, 37 degrees before dawn - drizzle, then heavier rain closer to work.
Wednesday afternoon; 30 degrees, 28 MPH North winds, freezing drizzle mixed with snow.

Dang. THAT was weird. Monday feels like it was a month ago, as I arrive home today with a numb face, and snow-caked sleeves and chest. Wow! An awesome commute, honestly -- only a month ago, I would have talked myself out of it - but this morning and afternoon, I was undaunted by the weather. It was just a fun ride home, in the snow.

Oh, and for the record --- WOOL, WOOL, WOOL. Even if you can only swing ONE wool jersey, make it the long sleeve winter weight wool jersey. I like Woolistic, or Portland Cycle Wear, personally -- but there are lot's to choose from like Boure, Ibex, and some others I think - there aren't any bad ones, as far as I've read. Today: Wool + snow + sub-freezing temps + no rain jacket or barrier layer * nervousness about getting wet and hypothermic = making it 12 miles in thick snow and arriving home perfectly comfortable with big chunks of snow falling off my sleeves and a perfectly dry base layer. WOOL, baby. It's only expensive until you USE IT in conditions like this -- and then it's suddenly the best deal in the world. You only need one good set. For me, next; wool tights, so I can complete the package.

I love this time of year, and I love that I'm coming back on form - coming out of the burnout.
I have a lot to be thankful for, besides - of course - but it's the small things sometimes.
I arrived home with a big grin on my face, thinking that a friend down in Texas that was completing the November leg of his R-12 run was missing all the fun up here.

Again, have a good Turkey Day, ya'll!
Talk to ya next week!

November 13, 2007

The C'Dude Video Collection

First off, the "Tree Video" is here --- I only wish it was longer, but honestly there is nothing from stopping me from continuing it a little. My ultimate goal would be to take additional shots until the first snows come, maybe catch some ice on the limbs, etc., and catch it rebudding next spring.... stay tuned, but for now here's a taste of what I've been working on OFF the saddle. In order for this to flow better, I have already learned quite a bit -- for example, the initial pictures were much larger, but I had to pick objects in the frame to crop at, in order to get the tree centered (more of less) in each frame. This comes from rushing down the deck stairs, aiming the camera, shooting, and walking back upstairs every day. What I need is a tripod, something permanent, preferrably with a remote trigger - like a true time-lapse set-up would have. If I could have a static set-up and computer control, I could pull off a shot every 5 minutes, say, and then when composed at 30 fps, I tell ya -- that would look pretty cool. Something to think about for next year, perhaps. Anyways, enjoy --- I had some fun with it, even tho it's short.

Next, a taste of what I was working on LAST year, as well... the fabled Coffee/Coffee Ride, caught on film... and my first foray into video experimentation:

Next, several clips from the 300K and 400K this Spring. I wasn't able to get these edited together, as my current video software doesn't like the 3gpp2 format very much - but eventually there will be freeware editors for this kind of thing, so I'll clean them up -- until then, capture the raw, unedited carnage that IS a brevet! Ok, that might be a little dramatic. It's more like endless rambling, often masked by windnoise, and cinematography straight from the black box of a crashing airplane. Yeesh. Get a stabilizer! The quality, however, I have to apologize for -- these hyper-compressed mobile device video formats leave a lot ot be desired, but at least they are more tollerable than earlier versions! I can't deny the compactness of it all, tho -- on a long, long ride when the mind wanders a little, the built in MP3 player and external speaker keeps me entertained, but safe - no headphones needed. And the camera and camcorder is really nice to have in one small package, so some sacrifices are acceptable, I suppose. I'm sort of a tech-geek, so it still amazes me that they can do stuff like this! I remember when camcorders came with a BAG to carry the VCR in, and NiCd cells that weighed 10 lbs. Yikes, we've come a long way. I digress.... (what, again? me?!? get OFF subject?!?)

First, from April, the 300K brevet -- details from the day, in three parts when I finally got SO looped out from the day that I decided to record a monologue - this was a hard one. The full story is buried HERE if you'd like to pre-read the tale. After hours of rain, cold, and hardship, I was DYING to talk to SOMEONE, and here is the result, in three parts:

Episode I - A New Dope.

Episode II- The Dude Strikes the Record Button

Episode III, which is really Episode VI, Return of the Moron:

SO, you get the Tree Video, the Coffee/Coffee montage - the collection of 300K videos, *AND* the collectable plate?! YES! NOW how much would you pay?

But WAIT! There's freakin' MORE!

Finally, in two glorius parts, the 2007 400K video -- the story is featured "on the cover" this month, and you can read it HERE if you like. Same kind of deal as before, but what's interesting - to me, at least - is how the differences in the videos tell how trying this ride became near the end. In the first video, I'm chipper, almost - really enjoying the day, riding along, smiling... and then later, after the sun has been down for hours and hours, I'm just whipped. It's almost funny. I don't remember that 2nd part of the ride, but there it is -- enjoy!

...and then, 11 hours and 38 minutes later...

And, just for fun, some goofiness from someone better at it than me... so far...

This one.
That one.

"If this is a consular ship, where is the ambassador?"

November 12, 2007

40 miles to freedom

This weekend, or ths first time since late September, I rode a bike with a group -- well, if you can call three people a "group" -- ok, I suppose you can.
Still, it wasn't SOLO, for once! Wasn't a commute, wasn't some lame solo training -- just a good ride with a couple other blokes.
Started out from home, rode to the ride start, then basically almost rode home again, passing within a couple miles of the home-20, and then working back towards the start again - afterwhich I rode home, much the same way I had ridden there.
The result was a good 40-mile workout, and some pretty neat scenery along the way. Because of high south winds, we decided to ride towards the south first and get a little push all the way back, but that quickly turned into bike trail abandon as the south winds proved a little strong for some. Since I was just along for the ride, I didn't have the heart to say "uh, I just came from this way" -- it was too good a vibe to spoil with pettiness about the route.

Jeffrey and Jim led the way as we proceeded SW on the trail system, towards Olathe. Leaves were everywhere, and the condensation from a particularly wet airmass made the pavement sweat - keeping things damp, without rain. Thick clouds blanketed the sky, and the ride had that flavor of fall that I really like - but unfortunately I was a little over-dressed for it, temps were in the mid-60's - which was weird for November, but had the markings of the steady fall rains that I kinda like. The thick southern wind were'nt as bad back in the trees, and so we settled in, conversation, occasional avoidance of oncoming joggers, riders, dogwalkers out for probably one of the last good weekends of the year.

The scenery was the same as usual for me, but something about riding in a group made things seem a little more exciting today. My mind was relaxed, no work to report to, and the bike felt spry and ready without the normal baggage of the workday strapped to the rack. Rounding underneath Antioch and behind the ballfields near 137th St, we were all three surprised by a sudden encounter with a red-tailed hawk that had found his breakfast, or early lunch. No caring that we were bearing down on him on the trail at 16 MPH, the hawk spread it's wings and appeared from above, landing past Jeffrey, and just to the left of the trail and about 5 feet (no kidding, FIVE feet) from me in a pile of leaves -- and before you could blink, he was airborne again with what appears to be a clump of leaves, wherein was probably a squirrel, mouse, something like that. Hawks are brave, smart, and it didn't seem to care that we were there, or didn't size us up as a threat - either way, it was business as usual. The hawk re-perched from where it launched, and proceeded to examine the catch of the hour as we rolled by, awestruck. While a common sight on top of lightpoles, trees, and circling the air around town, I'd never been THAT close to one, and the color and detail were amazing -- I really wished I'd had a camera ready. Instead, some stock photos will have to suffice. It was rare, the smell of the leaves and the fall air, thick with humidity, and the stillness of the moment was almost surreal, hearing the wind beating beneath wings, the effortless grab and ascent, and the faint humming of drivetrains and bicycle tires in the background.

We rolled on, through the interesting part of the trail that I usually avoid - even though I end up catching the trail again later on by using 137th street to bypass this section, it is worth the small detour during the week. It's twisty, tight, blind corners, and the thickness of the woods here makes the trail a slurry of dead leaves, mud, and slick spots even in the summertime -- because of the additional care needed in negotiating this section, I often save a few minutes by detouring around it. Today, however, there was no time to save, no need to reroute - we advanced through, around corners, up hill, down, over the broken branches and leaves and slick mud, carefully arriving at Switzer. Things were about to get interesting - I knew this section of trail well, part of my daily routine in the afternoons. This is where I pick the trail back up again normally, and awaiting it a steep grinder 10% and above, with a few curves thrown in for good measure. The condensation here on the lee-side of the hill is thick on the blacktop, and the thin dusting of dirt from recent landscaping over at the golf course has made for interesting traction conditions. Jeffrey, leading the climb, stands out of the saddle only to have his rear tire slip on every pedal rotation. I'm seated, and actually have a similar problem! It's low-gear chaos just to get to the top, as I stay seated to harness whatever traction I can get, and just spin it out. The other side, usually a reward, is also just sloppy enough to make the next mile of descent into a brake-riding nervousness. Eventually "out of the woods", we are soon back on the flat heading towards Quivira.

Just about then, we three regroup and begin to enjoy the scenery again - when we are rewarded again with a rare treat. Normally very shy, we catch up to a bobcat that is on the morning hunt.

The clouds and humidity must be playing crazy with some of the wildlife, because this is again a first as a normally semi-nocturnal prowler is caught in action. Not as bold as the hawk, however, our latest encounter is short - one quick glance, and the bobcat leaps with one muscular bound out of our sight and into the brush closer to the creek below.

No, not THAT one.

Mercury Bobcat? Rare, yes... but no.

That's the one!

We coutinued onward to the west to trails-end, and then joined traffic on the roads for the rest of my usual commute homeward, along 143rd Street through Olathe towards Mur-Len, eventually heading north finally, and enjoying a tailwind treat. I felt a little guilty for enjoying it, since I'd been playing 2nd wheel for a while - but hey, I'd forgotten how much fun it is to actually FOLLOW someone! Tejas was a non-drafting event, the MS-150 had a little paceline fun - but was mostly solo, and before that was the 600K, which was all solo primarily -- I hadn't ridden with someone in front of me since the 400K back in May. Ok, there were some night rides in there, too, but that goes back to August, at least --- yeesh. Group rides are a treat anymore - and I need to change that, because Jeffrey and Jim are beginning to get warmed up. We reach 127th street, and begin the mildly hilly march back towards Antioch. I'm allowed to pull for a little bit, and the climbs are going fairly well considering. I can still feel the weight - not the bike's weight, but MINE, holding me down a little. I'm not exactly poking up the grades, but I'm not flying up them either - and I can feel my legs groaning under the first real efforts in months. It's just acclimation, I tell myself -- done it before, just need to blow out the cobwebs and do it again.

We reach Pflumm, and a lucky green light that allows us to continue pace towards Quivira. This is where things got interesting, and I felt like I got a little training today. First, Jim advances on the left, sweat apparent on the tip of his nose, working -- I jump on, and proceed to hold pace until we hit the top of the hill at the intersection. A brief rest, and we get the green light for a nice downhill. I coast it out, and then the grade pitches up again towards the ascent to Nieman. More action -- but this time it's me at the front, and I think I have Jeffrey in tow. We hit the intersection, and get the green, and the grade continues. I hear a shift on my left, and there's Jeffrey spinning a big gear. He advances up away from me, one bike length -- I try to answer... two bike lengths... I'm dying fast.... three bike lengths.... four.... he's away, and my legs are screaming! I thud back into the saddle, and shift down to spin the burn out of my legs. Dang. Yup -- outta shape! Gasping for breath, I manage to catch up near Grant street, as Jeffrey lets up and looks back to assess the attack. Jim and I bridge up, and next is Antioch, what I affectionately refer to as "the hard part" of my morning commute towards work. Here, from 127th street, the road is a steady climb of about 4%, then peaks at the overpass for US-69 and hits a solid 8% - which doesn't seem like much, but the way it's delivered slowly and then redlines at the end, it's torture -- toss in relentless traffic, and the stress levels make the climb a do-or-die affair. The only way I've found to get driver's respect here is to LOOK like you're not trying to stay in their way for very long. Out of the saddle is essential, and usually the effort requires it anyways. I'm at the front, and manage to pull our group up and over the bridge, and then a little downhill on the other side awaits before turning onto 123rd street. Then, a short downhill, little faster, and then another climb. My legs are always on fire by this point, and today is no exception. Thankful that at-least I don't have full panniers to lug up the bump this time, I settle in and try to control the breathing. There is a lot I've forgotten since riding to try and keep from getting passed. Even though this is a leisure ride, there is always something to be gained. For the moment, I'm managing to get some good training off the front. It's cool-down time behind me, and we eventually regroup at Metcalf - then to Lamar, and finally back to the ride start. It was a great time, but sadly with conflicting schedules and holidays coming up, it may be the last time the temperatures cooperate at this level. We'll see, but I look forward to the chance to do this ride again.

For now, it's time to head homeward - and I sincerely think about waiting for the wife to show up so I can get a ride home. Nah... you've had worse, remember? But, the vague soreness of not having ridden even THIS long for over a month was really apparent. Gotta push it home, man...remember your deal with yourself from years ago? If I leave the house under my own power, I get home that way, too. Earn it. If it was EASY, you'd never have gotten OUT of shape, right? I put the helmet back on, fill the water bottle, and mount up.

The ride home is fairly pedestrian, the same route as my normal commute - and solo again. Still, the busy squirrels, the birds, the colors - it's still a treat for the senses, even if this would be the third time I'd see it today. Doesn't HAVE to be like that, though -- and quickly, I start to get that old feeling back -- the old feeling of, "let's try THIS road" -- the long period of burnout must really be behind me now, because I haven't wanted to shake things up like that in a while. Today, I have the urge, and I start to remember the old-days again, and thinking about WHAT got me into shape: Switzer... Ah, Switzer... part of the old "standard loop", today, I hit it a little late --- normally, one of the best training runs I can get to from the house is just Switzer from College Blvd, heading south to 175th Street. It's got everything, really, and a fair amount of climbing. From creek-level at the trial crossing just south of College Blvd, it's a steady climb all the way to 127th Street, two miles worth with a small break in the middle. Then, a fast downhill with a curve in the middle takes you to another long climb up to 135th street. Invariably, you are caught by the traffic light here, so it's a chance to rest before the next interval. Recently widened, Switzer between 135th and 143rd has lost a little of it's punch, but the grade is still there. A slight downhill all the way to it, today in a headwind, and then you climb the rest of the way to 143rd street. After that, ANOTHER downhill with a curve in it, and then the long, steady climb to 151st street. With a new traffic light, 151st is a LOT safer to cross than in years-past, and after you reach the other side the fun continunes as you climb AGAIN, steadily to one of the highest points in the county. Stopping just before 159th street confirms it, as you can see for miles in almost every direction from here. After that, a really long downhill, un-interrupted cruising until you reach 175th street, then 179th and the Tee. You can pick out any route you like now, as 179th is a great road to ride on, or you can continue the training and turn around -- the trip back north on Switzer is just as challenging, but the hills are longer and steadier heading northbound. It's no Johnson Drive, but it allows you to get into more of a realistic rhythm - where Johnson Drive and the hills surrounding it are just pure punishment. Swizter is good training! Today I take is as far as 141st, and then zig-zag my way southwest towards the new trail that parallels 151st, and finally home. Right at 40 miles, and a lot of fun today!

stay tuned --- more good riding to come!

November 8, 2007

A worthy project

Another challenging couple of weeks, as I try to get my mojo back - but meanwhile I have stumbled into a project for this coming winter. A new frame has entered the stable, courtesy the Warbird. A recent visit back to the states, and a garage cleanout session yields a classic bicycle that doesn't fit him quite right, but happens to fit me rather well. So, I begin the long process -- finally prepared to NOT be in a hurry to get a bike rolling. This one is worth the time. Not only does it have a storied riding career under the Warbird, but it's a vintage Trek made from good steel tubing, and lugged. DEFINTELY worth the effort. While it's seen a lot of miles and the components need a refresh, it's quickly becoming a labor of love.
Heck, I remember when he bought this bike - one warm summer day he brought it over to my parent house, and let me ride down the street on it. It was the first time I'd been exposed to any bicycle that WASN'T a Schwinn. I was impressed. It was light, fast, and had components from companies I'd never heard of, like Shimano and Ofmega. But, at that time, I was cleaning out the inside of my car - mired in THAT new experience, and the cycling bug hadn't bitten yet. But, I still remember it.

Ever since I let go of my old 1982 Trek 720 in 2004 that I'd bought used, which was ultimately too small for me, I have wanted another vintage Trek back in the shack. I did a couple Corporate Challenge time-trials on it, commuted on it, rode it geared and fixed, rode it on Ride the Rockies. It was only on brevet where the size issue really started becoming a problem, and it was sad to come to that realization because randonnuering was REALLY what that bicycle was meant to do. The 720 was a perfect bike in most every way - the only thing I can say to really drive that home is the success of Surly's Long-Haul Trucker frameset they currently have available. While the construction and tubing are different, the geometry and usefulness of the frame largely echo the way good frames used to be designed and made. Longer headtubes up top, longer chainstays, more relaxed angles -- still responsive if you wanted to stomp on it, but comfortable all day long, and able to take a load and remain stable. The 720 was excellent; Reynold 5-3-1 tubing and fork - light, quick, strong, and cozy. It was a frameset that retailed for over $800 back in 1982, and you'd pay handsomely to get something comparable from a current custom builder. This latest acquisition is a 1985 Trek 450, which is everything the 720 was -- but leaning towards racing, rather than touring. The angles are a little steeper, but not ridiculously so. The wheelbase is shorter - but interestingly only a cm shorter than my Kogswell. The SUPER-tight racing frames of today would almost serve to make the 450 look like a modern tourer, in that respect. This frame, while tight, will actually take 28c tires, and probably fenders and a rack, too - which drives home it's original purpose. Trek knew that anyone buying such a frame wanted a useful bicycle, too. If you REALLY wanted a custom racer, you went to a custom builder - or to something Italian. It reminds me of the Bianchi Reparto-Corse EL-OS frameset I had a couple years back, but better: it solves all the problems I had with the Bianchi, tight clearances and subtle twitchiness -- This Trek has braze-ons for a rear rack and fenders, and while it will take a load if you ask it, nothing is sacrificed in the handling department to make that possible. It's WICKED fast in a corner, but not twitchy. When you stand up on the pedals, it FLIES -- but you won't find yourself in the ditch if you point it wrong. It's well designed, but not so compromised as to get "all-rounder" label. It's a racer. It's just not a pure-bred, race-only weekender that will only fit 20c tires and makes your back hurt after 30 miles.

The execution of that design is terrific - the best American tubing in the hands of the best American frame builders, with Trek-made lugs designed for a specific purpose. The result is a pleasure to examine; the lugs are minimalist - but attractive and strong. The joints are perect - inside and out. Even the INSIDE of the bottom bracket shell looks as if it was intended for presentation. No burrs, no runs, no ragged edges. Each lug is cast with the "Trek" name on it, when pride meant something special. The dropouts are simple, and strong - elegant, but not showy; they're purposeful. The seat-cluster with its socketed seat-stays is unique and signature to Treks of the time. A tasteful "U.S.A." decal is displayed on the seat tube, and a simple "TREK" in matching font on the downtube.

Simple and clean; not the loud and gawdy sticker-sets of today with swooping graphics that seem to try and hide the frame details and lines. This frame is one color, bold scarlet red - and the simple graphics let the frame speak for itself. Elegant, smooth, CORRECT. This marks the near-end of an era of American bicycle craftsmanship, because shortly after this frame was produced - infact, within the next year, 1986 - Trek would slowly start transitioning to aluminum and early carbon fiber designs, leaving eventually only one model of steel frame, the last 520s made of TIG welded Cro-Mo. About that same time, Bianchi, Schwinn and others would abandon lugged steel forever. In my opinion, 1985-86 were the last two years Trek would produce it's best stuff. Trek, don't get me wrong, still builds a good bicycle --- but something got lost when the torch-wielders were handed their walking papers. To me, that period represents the pinnacle of American frame-building, tied with the Waterford-built Schwinn Paramount frames of the time.

I tell ya -- I don't want to turn this into a rant about what-ever-happened-to American manufacturing and superior craftsmanship and pride, but it's hard not to looking at this frame and comparing it to what we call "good" today. I think of things like Collins Radio, in the amateur radio scene. I think of back when the 1970 Buick GSX was the quickest car on the planet, and was comfortable and well-built, too, and Asian and Italian offerings were laughed at - although there is strong evidence that American car-making IS coming back. While there are things like this that partly make me weep for what we've lost touch with, I can still smile that there are small builders that are trying to bring that vibe back, as well -- some that never left, like Richard Sachs. There is still a lot to be proud of, but it's frustrating that there is so much push for faster, lighter, cheaper that we sometimes forget that, occasionally, we had it right the first time.

I digress... I'm happy to have been given the opportunity to give this frameset some new life. I have already spent hours in typical Dude fashion polishing the paint, rubbing compound, buff, repeat, getting out the faded spots and grease deposits that had seeped into the top layers of gloss. I have degreased parts, taken the toothbrush and Q-tips to the nooks and crannies, and made my shopping list. It's good to have a project again, and the result is going to be one fantastic bicycle. One of these days, I'll return the favor to the Warbird -- I'm not sure if he knows how much this meant. Well, he probably does NOW. (bow)

It's been a good diversion, honestly -- the 1st anniversary of my father's passing is coming up next week, and it's hard. Uncharted territory again, emotionally. Things like riding a bicycle or polishing a chainring become essential to survival.
Time and distance, it WILL get easier - but things have not been, and never will be, the same. Keep moving forward. Along with a tribute and homage to America craftsmanship, and keeping an example of it relevant and operational, this project is a tribute to the practice of things I was taught. Patience, doing it right, carefully, with pride and proper attention. It's a chance to put these teachings to use, and that makes the project even more worthy. That's why getting that spot out of the paint becomes important. Never saying "good enough", but making an effort to get it right, make it good, make it shine. It takes extra time, but it makes me appreciate that I HAVE the time, even when life becomes busy enough to make me think that I don't. Life is short... polish that chainstay, because someday, someone will care. Like MY son. Sure, there are things that can be rushed, the folds in the bath-towels don't HAVE to be perfect; but, there is a time for the finer things to be appreciated. Whether it be pocket watches, classic cars, coins, an old waffle iron, I dunno -- the extra effort becomes very worthwhile. So, here's to a cold beer and an old rag, some polishing compound, and something old and timeless to polish.

November 1, 2007

Shedding the Shackles

There are hearty smells in the air, and the bite of the cold air on exposed skin, the tightness in the fingers while shifting gears - the cooling rush of cold air down an unzipped jersey, long sleeves. Ahhhh.... fall!
A couple of good commutes this week, after getting re-inspired this week by a visit with the Warbird, as he comes back over the pond for a few days. Honestly, even though it didn't exactly work out, the promise of sharing a ride home was just enough motivation to actually get me in the saddle again this week. I hadn't been on the bike since October 11th, and after yesterday's commute the total number of ride I had for October 2007 is a whopping THREE. Yeesh. But, I'm getting back into a routine, finally. The cold air is not that cold anymore, and the promise of a good morning warmup on the bike is excellent and propells me through the work day. In the evening, shielded from the low sun by my cycling cap, the early spark of fireplaces and the constant crunch of fallen leaves against the asphalt of the bike trail lulls away the stresses of the day. The notion that cycling somehow had faded as a stress reliever for me was clouded by the fact that I simply hadn't ridden enough lately to allow it to happen. I have to let the release come, to stop thinking so much, to allow the miles homeward melt away the day - and eventually upon arriving at home for a hot shower and warm flannel, my day is summed up by the last first and last thing that I did -- the ride.

Mildly frustrating, however, another "first" for 2007 - but not on such a good note, on Monday's ride home from work, the first ride in almost three weeks, I got passed from behind on the bike trail. It's something that I'm not used to - a matter of timing, and personal speed that keeps most recreational riders off my six. Monday, however, a close proximity and the fire of youth got me. Upon reaching the bottom of the big hill near the golf course, I came upon a teenager, jeans, sweatshirt, skater's helmet, walking his hardtail mountain bike up the steep grade. I geared down, and never having had to walk this monster, I proceeded my laboured out-of-saddle rhythm towards the top. As I passed him, I muttered "well, THIS sucks!", to which he chuckled and replied in the affirmative. I figured that'd be the last time I'd see him, so it was my way of offering a litle encouragement in a language he could understand. What I hadn't bet on was his prowess on the downhill side of things. About three miles later, after passing under the bridge at Quivira Road, I heard it -- first the faint whirr of knobbies on pavement, just coming over the wind noise in my ears, and then the "on your left" -- it was him, passing in a flurry of pedalling cadence that indicated he was either geared out, or didn't want to shift. Talking about 120 RPM easily here, turn and burn, then coast. He didn't pass me very fast - but he DID pass me. Before I could really react or counter, he peeled off into the grass, clearly arriving at his home, or near it at least. Ugh. Safe in my small chainring, I COULD have shifted and answered easily, but I hadn't - and really hadn't seen the need to. While it kinda put a dent in my personal record of never having been passed on the trail since probably 1999 (then, a mountain bike also - and a good story in itself - Warbird knows it -- "get it on!"), I wasn't really totally bummed about it. It happened -- and while I did have the desire to answer, I simply didn't have time, and that's okay. Even though answering has changed a bit over the years, I still had that DESIRE to in my gut, which means I'm not ready to simply be complacent and allow the passings to begin. I just know I have work to do, and need to get my game back up. Why is any of this important? You have to be a cyclist to understand --- there are two types of riders in the world: those that pass, and those that are passed. EVERYONE is either, depending on the day. Sometimes you're the bat...sometimes you're the ball.

Wednesday, the Halloween Commute, complete with blue flashy pumpkin that makes an appearance on the rear of the bike once a year.

A colder, crisper morning than Monday - but full of the promise of warmth and a nice tailwind on the way home as a cold front whips the wind around to the north. It's too bad the Warbird's plan didn't quite work out, but hey - life is like that sometimes, and the stars just weren't right. Still, it was a good time, as I made a conscious effort to keep things in the small ring for the trip home. Temps were higher, the sun lower, and the leaves danced across the trail and the still-green grass waved as I passed. My body was sore from weights class, but in a good way - the kind of way that makes you want to stretch a lot, which feels great. Yeah, I'm back in the gym at work, too, and planning on sticking to my goals for once. They're going to be more personal goals, but basically they involve getting fitter and slimmer. But, MAN, that class whipped my backside GOOD, and the ride home from work was for recovery only. The tailwind was fun, but I kept things concervative and just enjoyed the hills and flats, and paced carefully up the monster hill on the bike trail again - this time no-one to pass, or pass me. The only other cyclist I saw was at the top of that hill, taking a short rest, staring off into the golf course scenery - a Boulevard Racer, or KCBC - I couldn't tell, but the colors are similar I guess between the teams lately -- anyways, a local racer, slim, fit, strong looking in his full kit and on his race bike, he was clearly doing hill repeats on the monster - confirming my notions that it's one of the steepest climbs around here, as most roads in the area have been graded flat. As I passed towards home, he turned around and descended the hill for another round of pain. It was a good day to be on a bike - chilly, but sunny.

I don't really have a good wrap for this entry, only to say that it's realy god to be back in the saddle with some regularity again. Tomorrow, Friday, I'll ride again to round out my every-other-day pattern plan for this week, and hopefully will get myself together to check out a Saturday ride for the first time since the Spring. It's the perfect season to get back into the swing of things -- the holidays are coming, and I have to be careful not to stack myself against more caloric adversity. I can feel the focus coming back, the drive, the desire to improve. The shackles of this summer's struggles are coming off. About five months until the first 200K of 2008, and only two months until I decide whether or not to make an R-12 RUSA medal attempt, which is a brevet or permanent every month for 12 rolling months. I re-read my 600K account from June, and I liked what I saw; it still seemed like it came from another rider, but I know it was me, and I want that feeling back -- these last two days on the bike, I can feel it coming back around again. It feels good! Thanks for reading, and stay tuned!