Please support my 2015 BP MS150 ride!

Please support my 2015 BP MS150 ride!
click on the pic to donate to Andy


Although this blog was originally created by Andy Brickell and continues to be updated by him, the design and layout of the page is credited to his daughter, Mary-Claire Brickell. She's pretty awesome.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bluebonnets and gumbo

Last Sunday found me trekking out to Hempstead for the Bluebonnet Express ride, on a clear but cold morning.  There were a few other BHP riders in the event but we didn't manage to hook up, so I was a lone wolf for 48 miles.  The route is very scenic, if flat, and there were plenty of wildflowers, although not many bluebonnets until mile 30 or so.   I knew Dave was doing the ride out of Zube park the same morning, and the two routes overlap - sure enough, heading south on Field Store road in the pack I saw Dave and another rider heading north.  I called out to Dave but he didn't appear to see me.   Anyway, the ride went well enough - I'm feeling reasonably happy about the main event (rapidly approaching!).

Tuesday morning was another early start but for
 a different reason.  My friend Rog and his lovely wife Brandi cater a fund-raising Cajun lunch at BHP every year, and this year I offered to help with the cooking.  This involved a 3.00am start in order to get to Rog's place in Kingwood (40 miles from home) by 4.00am.  For the next six hours I stirred pots, tasted gumbo, beans and sausage and etouffe and went for kolaches (odd to be sent out for food with enough for an army right there!).  We drove the food down to the office and other team members served it to several hundred hungry BHP peeps, raising several thousand bucks for the cause in the process.  Great fun but now I'm about to go nose first onto my laptop - 

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sooey, sooey reprise

According to the Chron , the Army Corps of Engineers think that Steve Radack's plan to control the feral hog population in Bush park is about as wacky as I do.  Sorry West Houston bow hunters, you're going to have to stay on the archery range a bit longer, because the prospect of wounded hogs running rampant in the park was a bit too much to bear.

My colleague Scott grew up in Ohio, but as a child went hunting regularly in Western Pennsylvania with his dad and brother.  They used bows, too, but were after deer.  Apparently in 10 years of trying he never hit a single deer, even though he was a miniature Robin Hood in practise.  What's the point, anyway?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Got to pick a packet or two

MS-150 packet pick-ups have started, which means we're getting very close to ride-time.  It's also the point of no return for some, because once you pick up your packet, you're committing to the minimum fund-raising level of $400.  No problem for me, I passed the mark months back.

Sadly, though, I didn't get my paperwork done in time for the BHP group pick-up so I have to go to one of the Toyota dealerships and do it myself.  Tonight is my best option as I can go to the nearest one (while holding my nose - they were just fined by the state for cheating customers).

Not much riding ths week, as we have Bonnie and Evan staying, so I took time off work.  I went to spin class last night and I'll probably ride to work on Friday, then there's the Bluebonnet Express ride on Sunday.  The weather looks good - 

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Shine on you crazy riders

A busy few days of gardening and cycling.  I had Friday off so I joined Dave and Paddy at 1.00pm for a burn-up  along Terry Hershey.  Beautiful cycling weather, so predictably the park was heaving with walkers, but also predictably we had the trail to ourselves more or less once we reached the dam.  Into the wind on the way back, which slowed the pace a bit.  Just to add to the fun, I got a flat and had to do a roadside repair.

Paddy and Dave went out to Zube Park on Saturday morning and had a good time, terrorizing innocent pace-lines (see Paddy's blog) but I elected to sleep in and then get going in the garden.  The replacement tomatoes are now in (half the previous crop got blasted in a hail storm), as are some basil plants and a very nice mandevilla plant that Susan picked up at Buchanan's.  We finished the day in the garden off with a dinner of tandoori chicken and naan bread on the patio.

Sunday morning found me heading out to Zube (rapidly becoming our favourite cycling area) in some pretty dense fog.  Paddy showed up late and we were joined a bit later still by Sean, a friend of a co-worker who will be riding with us this year.  The fog had cleared by the time we hit the road but it stayed cloudy for most of the ride.  It was nice to be out without leggings, heavy socks, windcheater etc.  We made good time out to Hempstead, where I saw a few black and white cows in a field and immediately thought of this Pink Floyd album cover.  Paddy couldn't name it - can you?  

A good break at a gas station near the twenty-mile mark and then back home, with a stiff cross-wind most of the way and lots of low-relief hills.  We dug deep and made it back to Zube in good order.  Paddy decided he needed to ride a few laps of the car park to get his mileage up, so Sean and I watched him from the relative comfort of our cars.

Next weekend is the Bluebonnet Express, a very popular ride which starts near Hempstead and follows some of the roads on today's route.  I'll be there and so will Sean, but poor old Paddy will be on his travels again, this time in the Northern Territory of Australia.  Apparently a friend in Perth will lend him a bike so he can get some miles in.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday, bloody Sunday

Off to the outer reaches of Harris county for a ride with Paddy and Dave this morning, under grey skies with the threat of thunderstorms later.  It was good to see the guys, especially Paddy who has been out of pocket for quite a while.  We saddle up under the suspicious gaze of two rather large ducks who have decided to perch high in a tree above us.  Is it a coincidence that the ducks take off just as Paddy reveals rather a lot of skin, putting on his heart-rate monitor?  Dave and I thought not.  We share the usual pre-ride excuses - Dave has been working out too much, Paddy's meniscus is pinging, I'm on four different prescription meds for bronchitis - and head out.

It's cold and windy but the roads are quiet and pretty soon we're out in the country.  I'm a bit nervous about riding with these two because they ride much faster than I do, but we stick together and ride in a paceline, alternating the lead every mile, and I'm pretty comfortable.  After ten miles Paddy starts to cramp up, so for most of the rest of the ride we hold back a little, especially on the hills.

There's a gas station outside Hempstead at the twenty mile mark where we stop and take a break.  This always involves detailed inspections of each others' bikes and today's examination revealed that Paddy and Dave need to hose theirs down after several rides in the wet, while mine still looks new.  We all agree that it's a great area for riding, better than the West Houston parks we normally use, but a bit remote.

Back on the road and the route puts us on old 290 all the way back to the start, with a few hills and traffic lights to negotiate.  Paddy is still cramping so we take it fairly easily.  With 2 miles to go, though, as usual he finds a second wind and leaves me for dead on a short, sharp sprint.  We dismount, load the bikes and head out just as it starts to rain.

The rain gets steadily heavier on the way back and is really very nasty coming down the Beltway.  However, the big surprise was waiting for me when I got back into our neighbourhood - we'd had a very sharp hail storm, with marble-sized chunks coming down.  All I can think of is my tomato plants - have they survived?  Sadly, no they haven't.  Here's the view from our garden door.

Friday, March 13, 2009

sooey, sooey

According to today's Houston Chronicle, George Bush park (where we ride every weekend, just about) is over-run with feral hogs, like this charming family.  One estimate puts 10,000-15,000 little piggys in the park's 7,800 acres.  They must be well camouflaged because I've never seen one.

Park employees are allowed to trap them and they typically take about 400 a year, but a more aggressive cull is needed.  Step forward Commissioner Steve Radack, whose brilliant idea is to allow licensed hunters to take as many as they want... providing they use a bow and arrows!  Jeez Louise, only in Texas.  He also wants to donate the meat to churches, shelters for the homeless, food banks etc.  Sounds good except that most of those places can't accept meat unless it has come from a slaughterhouse, and anyway by all accounts it's like eating old socks stuffed with mud.

Not much riding lately - the weather has been crap but should improve on Sunday.

Friday, March 6, 2009

no saddle time this weekend - it's getting dusty

We're off on a trip to Roanoke, Virginia to visit Hollins University, Mary-Claire's top college choice.  We fly out tomorrow morning but don't arrive until 4pm - we have to change planes in Atlanta, which is a bore.  We'll have Sunday to look around and then a programme of events at the University on Monday.  We do the whole trip in reverse on Tuesday.  So no bike time for me this weekend - I'll need to make up for lost time next week.  There's an organised ride out of Magnolia which looks promising - a $5 barbecue lunch afterwards!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Monday, March 2, 2009

I'm nearly famous

This cutting from the Houston paper was spotted and passed to me by my buddy, former colleague, fellow rider and fan of Turkish food, Jim Clark. Thanks Jim, and see you on the road!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

It's cold in them thar hills

Off to Sealy this morning, for the first real test of my legs this training season.  A cold front came through last night, bringing temperatures in the mid-30's and a fresh wind out of the north - not exactly ideal conditions.

I got to the start in Sealy at about 7.30.  A group of riders were getting ready to start but I got out in front of them and almost immediately found myself battling the wind.  The lead riders from the group caught me pretty quickly, but they stopped at one of the turns to regroup, so I got in front again.  The first half of the ride is on fairly rough country roads and runs roughly east, so the wind was on my right side, which made it much more managable.  I rode past the ramshackle old trailer where I usually get chased by a dog.  I wanted to see how long he could keep up with the Plastic Fantahstic, but he wasn't around - maybe he chased one bike too many.  The dynamic duo caught me again but I kept them in sight on the way down to Bernardo, where I normally take a break as it's about 20 miles into the ride.  They had pulled over too, waiting on their SAG wagon.

After a bite of apple, a slug of water and a good stretch I headed out on the next 5 mile leg, which runs past a very impressive looking spread with a big house and a lake.  My buddies caught me (again!) and this time I jumped on a wheel and drafted a bit.  We turned east and had the wind on our backs for a mile or so and really accelerated.  Back on to the main road and they dropped me pretty quickly.  It was quite a struggle working my way north into Cat Spring but I used my gears and made it reasonably comfortably.

The next stretch is the toughest part of the ride - 10 miles of very rolling terrain, with several nasty climbs and one double climb, where you think you've made it to the top but you have to do it again very soon after.  Fortunately the wind had veered west enough that much of the section was down-wind, but it was still tough.  I got a good work out with the gears, and realized how much harder this ride would have been on my old bike, with its down-tube hope-you-can-find them gears.

Through the hills and on to the least enjoyable section, the 7 mile run down Hwy. 36 back to Sealy.  The speed limit on 36 is 70 mph and it's pretty busy, but it has a wide shoulder so it's safe enough.  Unfortunately the road surface is very rough, and the Plastic Fantahstic is a very harsh ride (like all carbon bikes - the only real drawback) so my teeth were shaking all the way.  I found out that the white line was much smoother and rode on it as much as I could, but that put me too close to traffic so I had to keep ducking back onto the shoulder.  By the time I got to Sealy I was afraid to get out of the saddle in case my bum fell off.  The road quality is much better for the last mile and it felt like I was riding on silk.

Back at the start, and the two hotshots have clearly been in for some time - did they do the full ride, I wonder?

So overall I passed the test pretty well, although we'll see what shape the legs are in tomorrow - 

Bear Creek - Terry Hershey loop

Bear Creek - Terry Hershey loop

Daily commute to work

Daily commute to work
This isn't quite right but it's close. 9.5 miles, about 40 minutes.

Terry Hershey Park

Terry Hershey Park
10 miles of safe, paved cycling bliss - except for all the foot traffic

The Sealy ride

The Sealy ride
45 miles through very pretty Texas countryside. Looks benign but there's a very hilly section at mile 35.

The Katy ride

The Katy ride
It's on the Katy prairie - flat, flat, flat