Sunday, February 28, 2010
Breaking Away is a coming-of-age movie about cycling. It includes a very young Dennis Quaid as part of an Indiana cycling team, the Cutters. It's shown every year at the LaGrange overnight stop on the MS150, but most riders (including me) are too tired to stay up and watch. It's a nice intro into this post about the Sun and Ski Sports Spring Breakaway ride, which was run this morning.
Nearly perfect weather (just a bit chilly) when I found Paddy at the start. We were pretty soon joined by Kenny, Jason, Mike, Dave and Gregor. It was quickly noted that Mike and Jason had shaved their legs, pro-style, so of course this was a golden opportunity for a bit of banter and a direct comparison of their shaving prowess.
On to the start and we run into Doug and Richard from work. The main group of Mules gets going but I'm stopped by a marshal and watch them disappear down the road. It's probably just as well, since I'm out of shape and still not 100% healthy. I eventually get going and ride with Richard and Doug for a while. The pace gets a bit hot for me though, so I don't try too hard to keep up on a corner and they quickly drop me.
These are very familiar roads all the way to Fulshear, from all the Bike Barn runs. The route to Simonton isn't quite so familiar but I've definitely been down here before. Pretty flat terrain and a modest tail wind make for comfortable riding. Once in Simonton the routes separate, 55 miles to the left, 37 to the right. I planned to ride the 37 but missed the turn. I quickly realized my mistake and for once had the sense to turn around and get back on my route. Not very long ago I would have just stuck with the 55 and probably hurt myself in the process.
Rolling north now with much less bike traffic. I spot a hawk on top of a telegraph pole and decide it was probably a bald eagle - if so, the first I've seen. Very impressive bird with a distinctive white head. We pass the Brookwood community, cross over I-10 and turn right for the run back along US90. I've been down here before, too - a boring, straight road with a fairly rough surface and nothing to block the wind. First, though, time for a rest stop.
I park my bike, fill up my water bottle and look for fruit - sadly only cookies were to be had. Back at the bike I decide to strip down a bit, so off comes the Mules cap and the jacket (called an anorak by my so-called friends at the start). I do my good deed for the day by showing another rider how to park your bike on a curb using the pedal. Back on the road for the slog down 90. The wind picks up and it's a bit of a grind. I'm actually feeling pretty good and keep my pace up well.
Into Katy and then it's a quick run back to the start. A lady wearing a Google shirt passes me without calling out, a flagrant breach of rider etiquette. I want to tell her to Google "manners while cycling" but chicken out. I get to the car, to find that the Mules are still on the course (they did the 55 miles), so I load up and head home. It's now a beautiful morning and I sit back and relax in the garden with the Times. Life is good.
Monday, February 15, 2010
"Fog on the Tyne" was a hit for 70's English folk-rock band Lindisfarne. Its catchy little theme was running through my head for most of my Sunday morning outing with the Mules, no doubt because we spent most of the ride in thick fog. I started out from home on a very pretty, if chilly morning, but once I got onto 290 heading west the fog descended and made for some uncomfortable freeway driving.
We're doing 0730 starts at present and I arrived at Zube just after Paddy, who made it slightly before the bloke who unlocks the park gates. Once parked up we caught up a little, not having ridden together for some time. He went on one of the MS-150 recommended rides yesterday, so was looking for a gentle run today, which pleased me no end, as I was just coming back from two weeks out of the saddle. In due course Kenny, Mike and Gregor arrived, and after the usual banter we headed out. I'd managed to forget my jacket, but Paddy (bless his cotton socks) had brought a spare.
I was reasonably comfortable in the early going but told myself very firmly that this was a day for drafting, not pulling, and tried to ride within myself for once. The guys were taking it easy too, but even so I struggled on a few sections, mainly when there was a climb. The cardio-vascular fitness needed to attack the climbs is what you lose first, unfortunately.
About twenty miles in, with the fog as thick as ever, we stopped for "un besoin naturel" and I took the opportunity to irrigate a very large placard promoting some red-neck wing-nut Republican candidate for county dog-catcher (or something similar). It turned out that they had changed the route, so now we didn't stop at the Exxon. I was a little taken aback as I always appreciate the break and usually stock up on water and carbs. Anyway, "Onward thru the fog" as the Oat Willie bumper sticker says (apparently, means nothing to me).
The changed route took us along a very pretty country road which wound its way into Prairie View. It's a definite improvement over the old run back (a straight slog along Business 290) but also had a lot more topography. Once again I was flagging a bit on the climbs. By now the fog had lifted and we had a beautiful morning. Riding past some homes, a Jack Russell terrier (or some other breed of rat dog) decided to take a look at us, and walked right in front of me. I swerved and braked to avoid cutting it in half and very nearly dumped Paddy who was drafting off me. These damn dogs will get you one way or another.
Back in lovely Waller, and we picked up the familiar route back to Zube. Gregor told me to take second wheel for the run-in so that we could keep together, and I velcroed myself to Kenny's wheel as we rolled along at 19-20 mph. With only a few miles to go, Kenny began to ramp up the pace. I hung in there for a while but eventually dropped off the back and made my leisurely way back to the start. A bit more chat with the boys and then I headed back to pass the rest of Valentine's Day with my lovely and very understanding spouse.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Unlike the Norwegian Blue parrot, I'm actually pining rather than passed-on - pining for the byways of south-east Texas, that is. Last weekend's chilly outing unfortunately aggravated a cold, and as usually happens with me, it turned into mild bronchitis. I coughed all the way into work on Monday and Tuesday morning but had to bail out by lunchtime, and didn't make it in for the rest of the week. And of course in a week when the rest of the country is gripped in a winter storm, the weather down here is perfect for riding. I'll take it easy for the next few days but aim for a solid ride at the weekend.