Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Scouting the 300K route with Stoney.

I had spent the early morning hours working on the cue sheet for the 300 kilometer route that we'll ride next year on June 18. While working, I had noticed that a couple of the road names near Williams Hill were different on the computer mapping program than I remembered them. Crista Borras and Geoff Swartz are both eagle-eyed on this kind of thing and I decided I'd better check the signs in person to make sure of the names before I submitted the cue sheet for certification. Time to head out on the road.

This is Stoney, one of my dogs. Usually I would have used my bicycle for this adventure, the round trip is only about 80 miles, but it's been a long while since I had any face time with Stoney. About a year ago, we rescued a female Jack Russell that we named Rinti, and because she is small, Rinti became the default dog for traveling. In fact, Rinti became the default dog for just about everything, and Stoney started feeling like a red-headed step child. Today it's just me and the big boy.

Speaking of "default". This was his default position for the first part of the trip. I had to continually make him sit up and look out the window. My wife's car has a manual transmission, and it was too hard to shift with his big head in the way.

I finally rolled down his window. That changed his attitude about everything! Now he could sniff all the country smells as we traveled. And there were country smells - we rolled past a pig farm and we both had to hold our noses. Phew!

Sure enough, I was right (was there really any doubt?). The computer mapping system was incorrect. I'll be including these pictures as an attachment when I submit the routes for certification. That will save one email step later on.

This is the turn-around at the end of Williams Hill. As you can see there is a pump which brings spring water to the surface. This was put here by the homeowner who lives nearby, and it is open year round to hikers, cyclists, and whomever wants spring water. All that they ask is that you leave it as you found it. Remember, I said "turn-around". The cyclists who have just climbed and descended Williams Hill will now "rinse and repeat". This route will be challenging, even to those mountain goats who love climbing.

The work is all done, so Stoney and I decided to drive to the top and go for a walk. A fall day is a good day to be in the woods.

There seems to be plenty of stuff to sniff around here. However, despite the peaceful surroundings, I had to keep forcing myself to slow down and enjoy it. My mind wanted to get home and finish the cue sheet I'd been working on. We walked for about an hour and I was never really was able to just be "in the moment". My mind was racing on to other things. I have to work on that.

Stoney had no problem being "in the moment" and just enjoying the woods. When I took this picture, I was hoping that I wouldn't need it for a "Lost Dog" poster later today. I had a 20 foot lead with me, and although he is obedience-trained for off-lead work, I was still nervous about taking this picture without his leash attached to his collar. (Stoney and I finished obedience training when he was about 2. He graduated "top dog" in his class. When we entered the class, I told my wife that "top dog" was our goal, and she had laughed out loud. The class was mostly made up of pedigreed dogs and pedigreed owners. Stoney and I are neither. But we had the last laugh!)

Time to go home. It's been a fun morning for both Stonemans. Actually, Stoney was a Stoneman before I was. While I was still a Wiseman and waiting for the right time to change my name, we rescued him and named him Stoneman. Then in 2006, we both became Stoneman. While I have much in common with Rinti's personality, Stoney and I will always share the same name.

This is the other Stoneman in the car today. I asked Stoney to take a picture of me while I was driving. He did pretty good considering that he has no thumbs.

Whenever you're in Southern Illinois, always watch out for the cowboys. I would never live in the big city. There is too much traffic, too much noise, too many people, not enough trees and no cowboys. Today has been successful and productive. And it's been fun.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Today's blog is brought to you by the letter "R" and the number "12".

Today's ride will be the final adventure in the R-12 blog. I decided to ride the original route, that I created last year so that I could obtain the R-12 award.

It's a little cold out this morning, but I decided to save the heavy cold weather gear for later in the winter. I went with a poly-pro base layer and a long sleeve jersey covered with a wind jacket. I have bib shorts with leg warmers and decided to skip the mid-weight neoprene shoe covers and use the lycra blend stretch covers. It should warm up by mid-afternoon, and I don't want to be over dressed.

Although the picture is blurry (I must have been shivering when I took it!), you can see that it's below freezing. I don't think I overdressed. In fact, I'm going to have to move to plan "B", which is ride as fast as seems reasonable to stay warm, without overdoing it and breaking into a real sweat (which would NOT be warm). My feet were cold at the start but now are feeling better. I hope that doesn't mean that they are numb. I guess we'll see.

This is the first control. As you can see, it's closed. I've used this route on several occasions this last year, and I've always found it open early. A quick check on the door reveals all - winter hours. They won't open for another hour. I can't wait for that, the control will be closed by then. I'll sign my own card and move on.

In Carbondale for the next control - it's open. Yea. After I left the Grassy Store, I experienced an unusual psychological phenomenon. It seemed that the dark was darker, and the cold was colder, and the lonely was lonelier. And a voice in my head said, "This is stupid. Let's go home." However, I knew from experience that the voices in my head are seldom right (like the ones that tell me to walk around my neighbor's yard naked making cat sounds). Ignoring all the voices in my head is usually a good idea. (Of course, one of those voices is my conscience, I'll have to figure out which one that is and NOT ignore it.)

Here comes the sun! Finally. Maybe now my beard and my water bottles will thaw.

All three of these pictures show why I ride. It isn't about awards or approval from others. It isn't about bragging (or in my case whining). It's about being out here. While there are seasons in the great out doors, there isn't time. It's always now. I like that.

I don't know how many times I've stopped at Payne's Service Center to have my brevet card signed. In fact, today they were training a new cashier, and when I handed her my card, the girl doing the training explained what the card was for much better than I could have. Cool.

My strongest memory of this place is the stop I made here in June during the 600 kilometer event. I had flatted in the dark just 30 mins after the start. Everyone rode off, leaving me alone, and I hurried to change the tube so that I could catch up. (I had started in the back with the RBA and others. Now I was the last man on the ride.)

Although I carefully checked the tire for the offending glass or thorn, I found nothing. However, after an hour or so I began losing air. Because I was in a hurry, and because it had taken an hour, I just stopped - pumped it up - and kept going. Unfortunately, I would do that all day. I did stop once after catching up and took the tire off to recheck it, but found nothing. (Of course I was now alone again.)

Finally, when I got to this stop, it was late afternoon and there were three other riders here. Two were getting into the broom wagon (it was brutally hot that day), and one offered to check my tire before he rode away. Fortunately for me, he found a small stone embedded in the outside of the tire, picked it out and went on his way. I re-tubed, pumped and started the chase all over again. But this time, I didn't have to stop again.

What could have easily been a DNF for me, became the final ride in the full SR series. Yea.

I think about this every time I'm here. Thanks, Dennis, for finding that stone.

Home again. As the rednecks say "got 'er done"! This has been a long year full of learning. The one thing that I became most aware of was how little I know. I have lots more learning to do.

I'd like to thank the one person who made this all possible. Ed Robinson. Ed was the Permanents Coordinator when I applied for my first route last year. There were no routes in my area, and I needed something I could ride for credit.

When I contacted him by email, his response was "Who are you?" He went on to say that he had checked the data base and noted that "you have no results". I sent him a brief summary of my bicycling adventures up to that time, just to convince him that I could ride long distance.

He was willing to work with me to create a route for certification, but he insisted on a control every time the route changed direction. (There are so many controls on this route that you can often save time by walking your bike to the next control. It saves the time lost in all the mounting and dismounting!)

I was aware that he didn't know me from Adam's younger brother, so I didn't take offense.

This last year, I've completed the R-12, the SR series and been privileged to start serving our members as the newest RBA in a new region.

I just want to say thank you, Ed. And, Oh, I got results now.