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, October 28, 2014

Breaker one-nine (crackle)

apparently this is as much of a smile as you get from Bruce
My 2015 MS150 training campaign kicked off yesterday at the Kiwanis Sealy Fall Classic, an organized ride that starts in Sealy and follows some of the "Alpe de Sealy" route but doesn't actually cross the alps.

I haven't been out with Kevin for a couple of weeks - he was away on his annual, boys-only fishing trip to Idaho and then had friends visiting - but I got rides in regardless, none of them blog-worthy. He showed up with his "Mountain Man" beard still intact (you don't shave when you're on a river in Idaho, the fish don't like clean chins) but I imagine Barbara may have a word or two to say if it lingers.

One of my rides sans domestique was with Bruce, a colleague who is an avid water-sports guy (sailing, kayaking, surfing, if it involves water he's there). He bought a decent bike and wants to get into roadie-ing, but he lives on Galveston Bay and the roads (and drivers) are not welcoming, so he came out with me for the Parks loop and enjoyed it enough to come along today as well. Unfortunately he had to drive 83 miles in each direction for today's 46 mile bike ride, but as he says, it's Texas, you drive three hours for a bad meal.

So off we go, on a terrific morning, cool, sunny and perfect for cycling. Bruce (who is 42 years old in hexadecimal) can maintain a pretty good pace on the flat but struggles on anything that looks like a climb, and we realized pretty quickly that we would be waiting for him at the crest of every climb, but that's fine, it's early season and good just to get miles in.

About an hour in, Kevin confided that he had lost faith in the structural integrity of the Mexican Truck (or in his words "it scares me"), after inspection of the seat tube had revealed very little actual intact metal. He needs a commuter, and hasn't ruled out the possibility of another long-distance run (see "The Little Mexican Truck that could" on this blog), so is looking at a Surly Long-Distance Trucker bike (I kid you not) as a replacement. I was very tickled at the thought of Kevin the Long-distance Trucker, perhaps taking a bit part in "Convoy", the 1978 Sam Peckinpah movie inspired by C.W.McCall's 1976 ode to truckers and CB radio. Turns out that Kevin was working as a mud-logger during the CB craze and had one in his car! "Convoy" the country song was a decent hit in the UK too, and started a mini-CB frenzy there. Several of my friends installed sets in their Ford Escorts and drove around Salisbury and environs firing off CB-lingo to each other in broad Wiltshire accents. They all had handles, on-air pseudonyms inspired by "Convoy" and also arguably needed because using a CB radio in Engalnd was illegal at the time. I doubt the "Flying Squad" paid much attention to a bunch of young men who used their radios mainy to agree on which pub to go to next, but you don't know.

So what was Kevin's handle, back in his mud-logging days? Apparently he didn't really understand the concept and used a name from a Jack London novel, via a humorous radio show - Rita B. Not as much fun as "Pigpen" or "Rubber Duck" but there you go.

We rolled on, all together on the flats, minus one on the climbs, stopping at each break point for pie and a pee. I stuck with the latter as I'm not a big fan of the pies they have here, the British ones are far superior - in other words, bye-bye American Pie.

The route merged on to our normal track a few miles before the lair of the devil dog whose "silent approach" attack has come close to taking one or both of us down in the past. We got ready for a sprint as we turned the corner in front of his home but he was not to be seen, presumably either chained-up or dead.

On to Cat Spring road and the last section of the ride. Although the route doesn't go through the "Alpe de Sealy" section, it has some similar, if moderated, topography, and we took the opportunity to show Bruce how to deal with rollers. He didn't really get it though - may take a few more lessons.
We stopped at the final break point (on this route it's also the first) to regroup and for more pie (no thanks). I was actually feeling pretty good and felt comfortable all the way in, perhaps in part because Bruce was feeling the miles (this was his longest ride) and we had to keep the pace down.

This ride has excellent food and decent beer at the finish and we felt like we'd earned it. Home-made meatballs, brisket and chilli, an excellent selection of what appeared to be locally-made sausage and of course pie. We washed it down with St.Arnold's beer and a few tales of derring-do on various rivers. On to the next -

Sunday, October 5, 2014

No thanks, I brought my own

The great spoke-breaking mystery has been solved and there was a surprise ending!  Ardent fans of this blog know that Kevin has been plagued with broken spokes of late, and that the bike shop had the gall to suggest he had accidentally weakened them by proximity to noxious chemicals in his garage.  How dare you, sir?  Well it turns out that they were correct, sort of.  When he took it in for repair last time, they discovered a few other areas with unusual levels of corrosion for a new bike and concluded that Kevin suffered from a little-known but serious condition called the "death sweats".  Essentially his perspiration is so copious and saline that it had corroded not only his spokes but also part of the brake mechanism and a cable housing!  The solution to his acidic solution?  Wipe the damn bike down after the ride.  I was a little skeptical - how many miles did he have on the Mexican Truck, after all - but actually all that's holding it together at the moment is rust and rustoleum so maybe it's not such a leap.  Hopefully now he will always ride a clean bike and never break a spoke again, unless of course I spoke too soon....

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Rocky Mountain High

So off we go, bicycle, wheelchair and all, to Denver and then Fort Collins for the MS Society 2014 Tour of Champions! We were flying the Peanut (aka Southwest) and that part went fine as usual, other than a 90 minute weather delay (pissing with rain in Houston). Our son James works at the airport and was good enough to greet us on the jetway and then escort us to to ground transportation. Unfortunately the bus transfer to Fort Collins wasn't quite so pleasant. Our driver appeared to be Matt Groening's inspiration for Otto, the school bus driver in The Simpsons, and the A/C on his bus (a 20-plus year old former Denver RTA vehicle) only worked in the front half. Susan was in the wheelchair area and was able to enjoy the ride in relative comfort, while I was in steerage with the peons, sweating my butt off. Fortunately my seat mates were a group from Dallas who were seeing the bright side and having fun.

All the way from Denver to Fort Collins I couldn't help noticing these bumps on the horizon to the west. Maybe they're cloud formations, or dust storms? Don't tell me that there are actual topographic features out here? I don't think we're in Texas any more, Toto....

I was planning to ride on Friday (the easier route) and take Susan, James and Sarah his girlfriend sightseeing in Rocky Mountain National Park on Saturday, but when we woke up, neither of us felt very good. Turns out altitude sickness actually is a thing, and it made poor Susan feel terrible all day. I was lucky enough to get off with a mild headache but I wasn't in mountain-riding shape for sure.
By the evening we both felt well enough to emerge from the hotel room for dinner, and James drove up from Aurora to join us, which made it more fun. We agreed on plan B - scratch the mountain sight-seeing (if we struggled at the Fort Collins altitude, crossing the Continental Divide was probably not a good idea), I would ride the Friday route and the rest of the crew would investigate Fort Collins, definitely a fun little town.

So after a suitably high-calorie mountain climbing breakfast I left Susan in the safe hands of James and Sarah, tooled up and pushed my bike out into a gorgeous, cool and sunny morning. The ToC rides are fully supported, with SAG wagons patrolling the course and frequent rest stops, but I was riding the Friday route on Saturday and wouldn't get those benefits. Whatever, I planned to take it easy and stop whenever I felt like it anyway.

I had the route loaded on my GPS but at first I couldn't find the start. The finish was in plain view and I toyed with the idea of riding it in reverse, but then had the sense to look at the map on the website and worked out where I'd gone wrong. Off I went, having wasted about 15 minutes riding around the campus of Colorado State University (very nice too!).

The first few miles were through the outskirts of the city, with some gentle rollers to get my legs warmed up. Then came a long section due north that went past some of the university buildings, including the usual impressive stadium. This leg had some bigger rollers but my workouts with Kevin got me through in good shape.

And then...I turned west and immediately hit some stiffish climbs with no real downhill breaks. I was starting to blow a bit when I came to the one big climb of the day - an 8.8% slope with a couple of curves. I dropped into my granny ring, turned on my helmet camera and dug deep. I was on the granny gear pretty quickly and then out of the saddle, grinding hard, but I made it! At the crest I stopped to admire the view, which was worth the climb - a beautiful, narrow valley stretched out in front of me, much greener than the surrounding hills which looked pretty dry.

Time for the descent, but there was a 90 degree right-hander within a few hundred feet so I couldn't let her go. Once round the corner I let off the brakes and got a pretty good head of steam running until it was time to brake for a junction. The valley was a cyclist's dream - quiet, smooth roads, lovely scenery and lots of shade trees - but it didn't last very long. The route turned east, away from the mountains and back into flat lands not very different to Waller County.

Still a few decent rollers to negotiate though! The biggest climb left was long enough to force me back into the granny gear, and to my shame right after the crest I was passed by a couple on a tandem with a baby at the back, all three looking like they were barely breathing hard. Locals of course.
Back in the outskirts of Fort Collins, I detected a familiar smell from my childhood - the slightly sickly odor of a brewery. Sure enough, there was the New Belgium Brewery, famous for its Fat Tire ale (not actually one of my favourites though). Somewhere around here the route moved onto bike paths that didn't show up on the GPS and I was lost once more. I hit a busy intersection with College Street and worked out that if I headed south on it I should hit the university, which was pretty close to the hotel. Sure enough I was in familiar territory after a mile or so, and rolled up to the hotel in good time for lunch. My ride was a few miles shorter than the planned route but who's counting anyway.

After an excellent lunch at a real hipster hangout with superb beer, I was ready for a nap! The rest of the weekend was lots of fun, with a great party that evening. Many thanks to the MS Society for giving me a chance to ride in a very beautiful spot, and for treating both of us like royalty.

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