Friday, May 8, 2015
Saturday, April 11, 2015
Monday, April 6, 2015
Sunday, March 29, 2015
Monday, March 23, 2015
Monday, March 16, 2015
Sunday, March 1, 2015
Friday, February 27, 2015
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
|Kama sutra for cyclists - the three way|
Saturday saw us heading to Zube by way of Starbucks. Can't remember exactly how it cropped up, but there was much mirth while waiting for coffee over the possibility that my Facebook feed might show "Andy has been listening to Heart on Spotify". I shudder to even write it, what about my jazz rock/Prog sensibilities?
The merry quips didn't stop once we were on the road. We got carved up by a lunatic driving a pickup, who shot across Kevin's bows and then decided he hadn't meant to in the first place. I pointed out that Kevin, in his current mountain man/Duck Dynasty posture, could get some revenge by opening his window and staring psychotically at the miscreant, but we ran the risk of provoking gunplay. Kevin noted that as gun-hating pacifist liberals, about the best we could do would be throw hot chai tea latte at him (aiming of course for the truck, not the driver).
We survived the road rage incident and somehow moved on to discussing Peter Frampton, don't ask me how or why. Kevin of course managed to drag out a Humble Pie song that he loved, featuring the said Frampton on guitar at some ridiculously young age. Lee reminded us that BJ his sweetheart (hi BJ, here's your name check!) had found a copy of "I'm in you", a Frampton album from 1977, in a second hand record shop, and had posted a picture of it on FB. For those of you like me who are less than familiar with the Frampton discography, this one features a cheesecake shot of the boy with his golden tresses a-flowing and his smooth, hairless chest artlessly displayed. Note that Steely Dan released "Aja" that year too, so it's not like there wasn't anything else new to play on your gramophone. In fairness I should point out that my own sweetheart had a disturbing fondness for moustachioed troubadours like Jonathan Edwards at about the same time. This was of course before she met me.
There was an organized ride out of Zube that morning, so we parked up at the Hockley community center instead, on a rather foggy and cool morning. We geared up and headed north, planning to ride our current route with some bonus miles around Hempstead.
Sunday, February 1, 2015
My self-inflicted wounds (second degree burns to the left palm caused by gross stupidity) are mostly healed so no excuses this weekend, back at it with the boys. There was an organized ride, Clay Walker's Band Against MS, on Saturday, that Kevin and I rode two years ago. My main memory of the ride was a pretty good brisket lunch afterwards, certainly good enough to do the ride again.
It starts from the Houston Oaks Country Club, just north of Zube park, and the routes mostly follow familiar roads. There was a 62 mile offering that looked doable, we need to be stretching out our rides with only a few months to run before the MS, but there was also a 45 miler and they split at the 20 mile mark, so we could make the call on the fly so to speak.
Kevin and Lee rolled up at my gaff at zero dark thirty and we loaded up and hit the road. Five minutes later we stopped at Starbucks for what has apparently become a traditional pre-ride caffeination moment. Duly refreshed we hit the road once more, on a cool morning with cloudy skies and rain in the forecast.
Two years ago the riders parked up on the grounds of the country club and had a short ride to the start. This time we had to use offsite parking in a field about half a mile north. So there we were, freezing our butts off in a field, while simultaneously practically wetting ourselves with laughter by reciting Monty Python sketches (this is the real tradition for my money). When we got to the club you could see why we had to park off site - what had been basically open land before was now built up with very upscale residences.
As always with these rides it's hurry up and wait. We joined the line for the start and didn't move for 20 minutes or me, still freezing. Finally into the chute and announcer on the PA told us to watch out for Clay Walker, who would be riding a section but was right now high-fiving everyone as they rolled out. Sure enough there was a gentleman in cycling gear cheering everyone on, so I rode in close and we had a glove slap. I'll never wash that glove again. BTW I have no idea who Clay Walker is but He's apparently quite a star.
Off we roll on fairly familiar roads. We were near the back of the line so for the first few miles we're passing everyone. It's still pretty chilly, with a decent wind out of the east that will make the outbound leg much more fun than the home leg. The route starts with a 10 mile loop that takes us back past the start, and then we manage to miss a turn and roll south for nearly a mile (including one climb!) before a ride marshal flags us down and we turn around. The route is marked with arrows on the road, quite easy to miss unfortunately.
The turn takes us onto a very smooth, quiet road which is dead downwind, so we're making an excellent pace with no effort at all. Lee notices that both of us are having a hard time keeping our leg warmers up, in my case it's because they're getting old and the elastic is shot, probably for Lee they've given up the unequal struggle with his quads. He humorously calls it a "Nora Batty problem", referring to a character in a British sitcom called "Last of the Summer Wine". This long-running show was set in the beautiful countryside of the Yorkshire Dales and featured three elderly misfits (Clegg, Compo and Foggy) who passed their days in a semi-fantasy world that included daydreams about Nora Batty, another old-age pensioner whose stockings seemed also to have given up the fight with gravity. It occurs to me that a simple solution to our sagging hosiery would have been the purchase of a Victoria's Secret garter belt that could be worn under the cycling shorts, but I suppose it might be difficult to explain to the spouses when it appeared in the laundry.
We reached the second rest stop at mile 23 or so, and after some thought I suggested we try the 62 mile run. I was feeling pretty good, in part due to having spent so much time running with the wind, and decided I had the extra miles in my legs.
A couple of short loops to build mileage and then we were on the road to Prairie View A&M University, a very familiar stretch that we normally ride in the opposite direction. We still had the wind on our backs and I was clearly feeling strong because the sight of a rusting piece of farm equipment prompted me to serenade the other two with a selection of hits by the Wurzels, including "I've got a brand-new combine harvester, I'll give you the key", "I am a cider drinker" and "They call me Farmer Bill's Cowman". Whatever happened to the Wurzels, they were a good band.
On and on. The run into Hempstead has a few good rollers and they split us up pretty well. We stopped at mile 43 and all the cold weather gear began to come off, not a pretty sight as Lee and I might easily have been the inspiration for the Procul Harum song "A Whiter Shade of Pale", had they not stolen the melody from Bach. No matter how many summers I ride in Houston, my legs never change color from fish belly white and Lee seems to have the same issue.
And so for the final 20 miles. I was doing ok until we hit a short climb dead into the wind, and all of a sudden I had nothing in the tank, not good with a lot of ride left. Kevin and Lee went into full Domestique mode, blocking as much of the wind as they could while urging me on. Riding into the wind is a lot easier with 400 lbs of prime beef in front of you (of course I'm guessing about the grade, it really depends on the marbling). With my head down I couldn't see much beyond a rear wheel and a stout pair of calves, which put me in mind of Iowa representative Steve King, who recently commented that some illegal immigrants had "calves like cantaloupes" from lugging drugs across the US/Mexico border. My buddies aren't illegal but they certainly have impressive lower legs.
We made it to the last rest stop and took a break for me (normally we wouldn't stop that frequently). In the line for the portapotty was a gentleman in a Fuller's London Pride jersey, so I had my two favourite beers on display since Kevin was standing next to him in the Karbach Rodeo Clown strip. I pointed this out but sadly he hadn't actually tried the beer, he just collected beer shirts.
Off again, somewhat refreshed but I was still basically done for the day. There were 10 miles left to run, mostly flat and smooth, and there were actually several riders who were more tired than me, hard to believe at the time but I passed them with ease. We crested the final climb and made the turn for the finish, passing a few more as we did. I offered to race one tired-looking woman to the brisket but she told me I could have it, she was done!
We dropped our bikes and got in line for lunch. I was disappointed to see that they had downgraded it to baked potatoes with chopped brisket, but it was still pretty good and most welcome after a long tough ride. Then we had to gear up again to ride back to the parking field, what a pain. We had managed 63 miles at a pretty good pace and although I had struggled mightily, I was glad to have completed a long ride so early in the training season.
Saturday, January 24, 2015
I managed to burn the crap out of my left hand on Thursday (picked up a skillet that had been in the oven, don't worry, 2nd degree burns only) and it's nicely blistered up. One-handed riding didn't appeal, neither did Lee's suggestion that I get a unicycle, so I got a free Saturday morning in the middle of training season! Woo-hoo! After a long lie-in and a leisurely breakfast, we scrubbed some lemons for one of my donors and headed for the Heights. Lunch in Les Ghivrals (superb banh mi) then off to Buchanan's to get some geraniums and ivy for our window boxes. Unfortunately my donor was not at home to receive her reward fruit but there you go.
Meanwhile Lee and Kevin headed off to Pecan Grove for a 50 mile thrash with Larry. Sadly but not unexpectedly Kevin popped a spoke and rode the last 15 with his wheel rubbing on his brakes. I think I got the better deal to be honest, although to be fair the burns did hurt quite a bit for a while.
Sunday, January 18, 2015
We had planned a tougher ride this time, either Sealy or Bellville, but the wind was out of the south east so ideally we needed a loop that finished with a north leg. I suggested some options but in the end we decided that the wind wasn't going to be strong enough to be a factor anyway and headed off to Sealy.
As we passed the BP complex (aka the Black Lubyanka) Lee noted that the vultures circling the towers seemed more numerous than usual. Perhaps they too had heard that lay-offs were in the pipeline?
The park in Sealy where we start our rides was completely dead (except for the city employee unlocking the toilets, thank you very much sir). I don't know why Sealy isn't a more popular venue for weekend road warriors, there are great routes through pretty country on safe roads. It may be that it's just a bit too far from Houston but it's really not too bad a drive, especially when you have a domestique behind the wheel.
Everyone's equipment is back to standard. Kevin had his broken spoke replaced and was on the Roubaix, Lee had his crank re-attached (complete with a custom end-cap) and I'd got new tyres front and rear. As we geared up, Lee laid down a solid marker in the contest for "Most Favoured Domestique" by pumping up my tyres. That sort of brown nosing will stand you in very good stead my friend, come on Kevin, pick up the pace please. We're still riding in full (or nearly full) winter gear but with the forecast showing 60 degrees by noon I anticipated a strip tease.
So off we rolled, the Three Amigos, taking on probably our toughest route, the first time since my epic flame-out and subsequent rescue by Kevin last year. It was certainly pretty nippy during the early going but Kevin set a strong pace to warm us up. He was looking very comfortable on the climbs, even by his standards, and was definitely happy to be on the carbon bike rather than the steel. We put this down to his daily work-outs on the stairmaster, so I suggested to Lee that we adjust the intensity setting on the machine to "El Capitan Dawn Wall" or "Everest". We'd pay in the long run but it might slow him down for a bit.
On to Caracara Alley, the section on the run in to Bernardo where we have a lot of bird sightings. Too early for the scissor-tailed flycatcher but we saw herons and several large hawks. This took us into Bernardo proper where we usually stop at the feed store to regroup a bit. Kevin went in to buy water and exchange pleasantries with the proprietor (apparently they had a wet fall so they're not behind on rain this year) while Lee and I ate some snacks ( and I wrung the sweat out of my headbad, harbinger of hot times ahead in the months to come).
The next stage features very nice scenery, some impressive estates and the dreaded hell hounds. I was riding with my helmet-mounted video camera and told the team that I would be recording the sprint past the mastiffs' lair. Predictably enough I was poised and ready to capture the excitement - and the dogs stayed in bed. Lazy buggers.
We made the turn on to FM 949 and the short run into Cat Spring. The wind (which wasn't going to be a factor, remember?) was firmly on our backs and we cruised into town in fine style, hardly noticing the climbs. The Cat Spring Kountry Klub (I kid you not) marks the gateway to the Alpe de Sealy section, and we always stop for water and a chance to be glared at by the grumpy lady who runs this fine establishment before taking on the lumpy bits. Surprisingly enough she was almost pleasant today, probably because her daughter and grand-daughter were visiting. Kevin, in his role of Mr. Congeniality breaking down the barriers between town and country, made sparkling conversation while I "strained the spuds" and pulled off my arm warmers.
Time to get going again! I turned on my video, announced that it would be every man for himself and we set off, up hill and down dale for about 8 miles. In the end I made it through pretty well, perhaps because I was anticipating a lot of pain - I had to grind pretty hard in the usual places but when we got to the end I felt better than I normally do. This could be because I've trained harder this year, but I think the wind out of the south meant that I started the climbs feeling less worn down than if I'd been fighting it all the way. The video shows that the run lasted 28 minutes, but MC edited it down to a more manageable length, focussing on the section that usually kicks my butt. Take a look here: http://youtu.be/IK2Nc9rxjyk. Somewhere along this section, way in front of me, Lee caught Kevin on a climb when he missed a gear and lost his cadence. The recovery apparently had him blowing like a freight train (whence "Locomotive Breath", perhaps not what Ian Anderson had in mind but very apt for Kevin the Tull fan). Lee was feeling aerobic enough to offer a few words of encouragement, which probaby didn't help. Come on chaps, focus please.
Back on route 36 and a 7 mile run in on smooth surfaces but with a decent head/cross wind. Kevin set the pace as ever and I was able to hang on without too much effort. But I was glad to pass the Sealy city limit sign.
Home in time for lunch, a short nap and then a fun evening with Lee and BJ watching "Selma", followed by an excellent dinner at Ibiza. Outstanding food and company and excellent wine selection by Lee.
Sunday, January 11, 2015
Last week's bike ride was punctuated with stops every 10 miles or so for Lee to re-attach his port side crank (long story that I won't bore you with and forgot to blog about anyway), but he was expecting it to be repaired in time for this weekend's fun. So it was a little suspicious that the bike had apparently got lost in the mail and wouldn't be available for an outing on the coldest morning of the year so far. Wonder how many times his dog ate his homework when he was a kid? But Lee is both a gentleman and a scholar, and indeed there had been a SNAFU by the bike shop that meant his Canadian steed was actually stuck in a warehouse somewhere. I humorously suggested that he could borrow my fixie or Kevin's renowned Mexican Truck - and in a New York (or at least Long Island) minute, Kevin had decided that he would lend Lee his Roubaix and take the truck out himself, just for old time's sake.
So there we were at Zube on a 30's morning, with the truck proudly positioned on Kevin's bike rack, just like so many rides before. She was in full commuter mode, with flashing disco lights on her frame, flat pedals instead of cleats and a trunk rack. Lee and Kevin are about the same height, so he could ride the Roubaix as is without messing with the saddle. He took an exploratory spin around the car park (Kevin has SRAM shifters, quite different to the Shimanos that Lee and I are used to) and came back with two Mules, Gene and Andy, who were OK with dumbing down the pace to ride with us peons.
It was cold enough for me to deploy my base layer, a long-sleeved top that goes under my jersey (and usually results in over-heating in about 5 miles). As you know I'm all about that base, no treble. We rolled out and straight away dropped Andy and Gene, despite the fact that between them they were pushing in excess of $20,000 of bike hardware. They caught up quickly enough though, and as Kevin pointed out, that was going to be the last time we left them behind.
Andy took the lead and I slotted in on his rear wheel. He's a dream to draft off - he rides like a metronome, dead constant pace, no weaving, and he's a big enough man to block some wind. Unfortunately his pace didn't vary on the climbs either and I was working hard to stay in touch on every grade. The group shared the work pretty well, which ws good as there was a decent head wind on the way out. Kevin looked as comfortable and strong as ever on the truck, and I asked him if he regretted getting the Roubaix - to which the answer was an emphatic no. He had got used to the more relaxed riding position on the new bike and was feeling more than a little uncomfortable in the more agressive crouch that the Truck imposed. Similarly Lee was enjoying his ride on the Roubaix and looking strong.
On the run in to the gas station Andy asked me how far we had to go. I assumed he needed to pee (like me) and was wondering if he could hold out. But no, he had plenty of space in his bladder and lots of juice in his legs and fancied a sprint. As we had about 2-3 miles to run he decided to take off, accompanied by Gene, and dropped us pretty quickly. To be fair, the Awesome Threesome had a strong run in too - the last section is on a very smooth, mostly flat road and we had a tail wind - and we were cruising in the low 20's.
Until - with a few hundred yards to run, Lee heard a suspicious click and then his rear wheel began rubbing on his brakes. Yes, he had broken a spoke just like Kevin, but this time the wheel was already significantly out of true and probably wouldn't stay round long enough for us to get home. Nothing to do but leave him there and head back for the vehicles, so after a good break (where I stripped off the base layer!) we took off.
Gene and Andy pushed the pace on the run home, and Kevin and I struggled to stay in touch with them. They ultimately dropped us about 5 miles out but that was OK. Back at Zube, we loaded the bikes and got back on the road for the rescue. We drove back on the highway but it still seemed like a long distance, a reminder that a 40+ mile bike ride is not trivial. We got to the Exxon just as it started to rain. Lee had occupied himself with some work stuff, watching the Premier League on his phone and chatting with a group of maniacs who were holding a rally of open-topped sports cars, apparently their annual Polar Bear run. Good to know we're not the only people stupid enough to ride around exposed to the elements on a nasty day like that.