Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Storm Chasing

Actually, that title is more about storms chasing me. They haven't caught me yet, but ...

I went out for a ride yesterday afternoon. We are into the rainy season here in the Pacific Northwest, so every day when it isn't raining, or if there's a good clear window of time, the bike's siren call seems to get louder. There have been three days in the last two weeks when I have actually gotten out. Today may end up being another. If this keeps up, I'll have to buy more cold weather gear (or do laundry more often).

So yesterday seemed like an opportune time to go see how far the Burke Gilman trail goes to the west. A quick ride down 15th led me to it, and a turn to the right sent me the direction I wanted to go.

I can see the allure of the trail right now. It skirts along several urban areas, allowing you to ride without having to constantly watch for cars (except where the trail crosses roads). Watching for other cyclists and for pedestrians is another matter, but at least right now there aren't as many out there as during the summer or on a weekend.

The Burke Gilman ended quicker than I expected it to. I knew it would end, but I didn't think I'd gone that far when it did. So I hit some urban streets (with at least some markings for cyclists from time to time) and headed further west through Fremont/Ballard, rather than crossing a bridge toward downtown. I will have to cross one of these days, but yesterday wasn't the day.

Right about at the Chittendam Locks (aka, the Ballard Locks) I picked up trail again and followed it as it curled north along the western shore of northern Seattle, ending up at Golden Gardens Park. From there I had two choices. I could turn around and go back the way I came, or I could climb this heinous-looking hill up the ridge. MG and I had driven on it before, so I knew it would be steep. Looking to the southwest, I noted that the clouds - dark clouds - were starting to mass and move in my direction. Going south would be toward them. I climbed the hill.

Now maybe I'm just used to climbing by now. After all, I usually rode some very steep stuff back in TN. I've also ridden a goodly portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway several times. (Sitting here typing this, it is very hard to reconcile just how far away those places are now.) I kept preparing myself for the climb to be worse than it was. I am out of shape, after all, having not ridden very much this year (I've had other stuff going on, OK?). I also haven't been climbing since I finally went cold-turkey off of the beta-blockers. But it wasn't so bad. That's not to say that it was easy - it wasn't - but it wasn't what I'd mentally prepared myself for. Maybe that was the difference.

I got to the top and realized that the quickest way back to the house was to head due east on 85th. A glance over my shoulder at the clouds motivated me to get going, perhaps a little faster than I meant to. 85th rolls a little as it crosses north Seattle, and I was out of the saddle moving quickly up each uphill section. I crossed several major roads, rode with a lot of traffic (but was able to maintain about the same speed, mostly), and finally turned down Wallingford to get from 85th to 80th. I figured that crossing the bridge over I-5 on 80th would be a little better than doing it over 85th.

After the bridge, a quick right on Banner Way led me to 75th, and then it was only about 4 blocks or so back to the house. I jumped off, headed into the house, stripped off my outer layer and sat in a stupor due to pushing harder than I'd meant to. But I felt justified about five minutes later. When the clouds reached the house.

And then it rained for a while (and I dozed off dreaming of riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway).

Sunday, November 15, 2009

'Crossed Up

I went to see my first Washington State cycling event today. It was the Woodland Park Grand Prix event (First Annual, they say, but I don't think the 'First' denotes 'Annual' until after it has been repeated).

I actually didn't even know about the event until this morning over breakfast. I was eating my breakfast while flipping through the most recent Seattle Weekly independent newspaper when I saw the notice for the race. The first heat was to start at 9:30am, but since I had to have MG at the airport at 9am (closer to 9:10, actually), and it's a 30 minute drive back, I figured I'd miss the start anyway. Of course I only barely missed it, since I have seen very few race events that have actually started on time.

It was a long and winding course. Most of the races I've attended/scored/officiated in Knoxville, TN have been a bit shorter, I think, but maybe not. Maybe it only seemed that way. Now that I think of it, the lap times were fairly similar.

The weather cooperated with the race, which is to say that it was cold and drizzling. That's the way a cyclocross race should be though. A little snow and it would have been perfect.

I hung around near the finish line to watch the last half of the first heat, the second heat, and part of the third. It was a little strange being at a 'cross race where I wasn't either racing or officiating. I'm way out of shape for participating, and I haven't had any local race contacts to do any officiating, though I did talk to a couple of guys today and offered my services in future events if needed.

To be honest, though, I did get to do my small bit to help out. The race announcers were working from on top of a truck near the finish line. At one point during the second heat the wind gusted and blew a couple of their start lists down to the ground below. I walked over and retrieved them for the guys and handed them back up, wet as they were. Not much, but at least I got to do something useful.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

... Found

The keys have been located. I spent a goodly amount of time last night looking high and low before it suddenly occurred to me where I'd stuffed the keys to my bike locks. I'm not going to say where I found them. I may want to use that hiding place again. It obviously worked pretty good this time, eh?

So, with that crisis averted, I found myself with the ability to actually go for a ride this afternoon. I had a few chores and such to finish first, so it was almost 3:30 before I got out there, which limited my ride time. Why? 'Cause it gets dark here early. Like, before 5:00 (actually, sunset was at 4:39 today according to Yeah, I have lights, but I'd rather not have to carry them if I don't have to.

I did have one chore that I waited to do, figuring that I could easily accomplish it by bicycle. Thus, I left the house and headed straight to the Post Office box first thing (1 piece of mail, which is better than wasting my time on none). Having done that, I headed ENE to a spot just north of Lake City where I thought I could pick up the Burke-Gilman Trail according to Google Maps. Google Maps lied. That's my story, anyway, since I refuse to entertain the thought that I could have misread the map, like maybe if I thought it said 137th instead of 157th or something. No way. They lied. I can't back that up, though. They must have corrected it while I was out riding, thus obliterating the truth of it. Yeah.

Well, I found the trail anyway, but not until after I wandered about for a little while (nothing wrong with that, though. Tolkien said "Not all those who wander are lost"). There weren't as many people out on the trail today as there were a few Sundays ago. Maybe the cooler weather kept them in. Or maybe there was a good football game on TV. I don't have TV right now, so I wouldn't know. I do plan on having it before le Tour de France next summer, though. I mean, I'm not crazy or anything. Still, I won't complain about less trail traffic. Maybe I should just become a die-hard winter rider so I can spend the next several months getting back in shape without having to dodge runners, walkers, young families who stretch out across the width of the trail and act indignant if you alert them that you'd actually like to pass their precious like tykes on his and/or her tricycle, ... the list goes on.

I did get home just before sunset, at about 4:35. And then, just as I was carrying my bike up the front stairs and before I could get my keys out and go inside, my cell phone started ringing and I had to stand outside talking for the next 10 minutes until I could hang up and dig my keys out of my carryall. How does she do that? How does she always know when it's a bad time to call? How?!?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Lost and ...

Hmm, now where did I put those things?

Well, I'm back in Seattle, and it has actually been raining here over the last few days. I know, crazy, huh? It was nice enough on Wednesday after I got back, but I didn't have an opportunity to ride my bike that day. I had to go retrieve my dogs (no pun intended) from the kennel and get the cat from the vet's and grocery shop and ... well, you get the idea. And then it has rained.

It's supposed to be a little nicer than that on Sunday according to the Weather Channel. I'd like to get out there if I can, but I have a little problem right now. What could that be? Well, I can't find my key.

OK, so what does a key have to do with cycling? Everything, when it's the key that goes to the lock that is wrapped around all of my bikes in the basement. Why did I lock them up if they are in the basement? Well, I'd heard of a rash of local break-ins lately, and since we were gone for 12 days, I figured that if someone did break in, I wasn't going to make it easy on them.

Except that now I haven't made it easy on myself, either. I feel certain that wherever I put that key, at the time I thought I would have no problem remembering where I'd left it. Ha! Shows how much I know, huh? Hmph.

So, here's hoping I can find the key to that lock, or at least find the other key that goes to my tool case where my hacksaw is, by the time the rain lets up for a while. Of course, some folks back home think I've got until April.

Man, I sure hope they're wrong.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

12 Hours of the Hill of Truth Report

What a muddy mess it was. And that was just in the Start/Finish area.

The race started at 11 am on Saturday under cloudy skies. It wasn't raining then, but there had been some rain overnight which, combined with all of the rains over the last few weeks, meant that the trails were fairly saturated.

I was in the field where the race started, and just after that I headed out to walk the route backwards. I walked up Saddle trail to the top of the ridge. I noted that it wasn't muddy there, but that the leaf cover on the trail was still intact at that point. It wouldn't take too many tires going by to change that, and reportedly, it didn't.

I stood at the top of Saddle for a long time, waiting for everyone on their first lap to go by. There were a couple of guys out there who were riding one lap on a tandem, so I had to make sure I saw that. I'd planned on getting a lot of photos, but light scattered light rains came along, and MG called me and wanted to talk for about 10 minutes, so I didn't end up getting a whole lot of shots up there. I did see the guys on the tandem, though.

After that, I continued on walking the route in reverse, policing the trail a bit as I went along (straightening out some markings, picking up a front fender, finding someone's race number...). I stopped once in a while to try a shot or two, but it just wasn't working out with the occasional light rain and the poor lighting conditions in the woods (and I don't think it's a good idea to hit racers with a flash in their eyes - unlike at least one other guy I heard about).

I ended up following the course all the way to the top of the Hill of Truth, which was maybe about half of the way around, and then turned and headed back to the Start/Finish area to hang out with everybody instead of wandering around with a camera and not taking very many pictures.

I had originally planned to head back out into the woods to try taking some long-exposure shots to get some light trails from the racer's headlamps, but by the time it got dark enough the rains started up a little harder than before, so I just stayed put. I did end up giving Jay a couple of breaks by taking over the scoring briefly.

The race itself ended up looking a lot like a war of attrition. Several teams ended up dropping out early, even before dark. By the time it had been dark for an hour I would guess that only half of the racers were still going. It had to be miserable out there. It was wet, it was muddy, and it was getting colder. Sometime around 9:30 or 10 pm the clouds parted and the moon came out. The bad thing was that the clouds had helped keep the temperature from dropping very fast. So it got cold quickly then, though I was at least prepared for that.

I saw riders come in with so much mud you couldn't tell what color their clothes or bikes were supposed to be. One guy came in with mud, grass and leaves trailing from his rear derailleur almost touching the ground. As people started leaving across the evening the camp area around the Start/Finish began to resemble dark brown peanut butter. Several cars and trucks lost traction and had to be pushed out. I saw ruts about 8" deep out there. I was happy that I had parked over in a gravel lot further up the road.

The race ends at 11 pm, but that only means that racers aren't allowed to start a new lap after that time. The last rider out had left at about 10:50 pm, so we had to wait until she got back near midnight before giving out the prizes (since the team she was on did place in the top three in their division). I helped with that, then helped break down the PA system, and then left.

I had planned way back in September that I would camp out with everybody else that night, and had left enough gear in my truck in Knoxville to do it. If it hadn't rained so much, I would have. Instead, I headed back to my truck, got out with no problem (and no mud), and went back to the house to sleep in a warm, dry bed.

In 11 years of the 12 Hours of the Hill of Truth, they had never had rain fall during the race before last night. I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later. Let's hope next year the race can be 'in the dry'.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Race Weekend

Tomorrow is the annual 12 Hours of the Hill of Truth mountain bike race at Haw Ridge near Oak Ridge, TN. I have been to all of these races since 2002 except for last year, but I had to miss that one to attend a wedding in Blowing Rock, NC for one of MG's friends. I'm happy to report that it worked out that I could be here for this year's race.

I was going to help John with some course set-up today, but most of that was already done. Where he needed my help was in the splitting out of all the the prizes donated by local bike shops and other sponsors into classification awards. That can be a very tough job, but I won't go into detail. That took us about three hours to get squared-away, at which point we finished up the marking of the start/finish/scoring area and setting aside t-shirts and glasses for the volunteers and sponsors.

Now the question is about the weather. The forecast has been calling for a 50% chance of rain tomorrow. The trail conditions at Haw Ridge are OK right now according to some of the folks who talked to us after they did practise laps today, but any rain will likely turn the trail surfaces into a soupy mire of muddy muck. I'm keeping my fingers crossed...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Go West, Young Man!

Well, it's done. The inhabitants of the former Casa de Big Guy have relocated to a new, temporary Casa de Big Guy. How temporary? That is anyone's guess. We are in a rental house in Seattle until our house in Knoxville sells and we can then afford a down-payment on a Seattle home. Anybody want a house in Knoxville? It's a nice house. It really is.

Mrs. Guy and I loaded up most (but not all) of our household items onto a moving truck on September 17th and 18th. Well, to be honest, we stood back and watched as the professional movers came in and did it. We also loaded up a rented minivan with all of the myriad things that we wanted to have with us in our rental house until the movers made it to Seattle. What kind of things? Well, enough clothing to get us through a couple of weeks if needed. An air mattress to sleep on (along with sheets, blanket and pillows), all of our computer gear, other miscellaneous stuff we'd want, my Ritchey Breakaway, and the cat. What? Only one bike? And what about the dogs? Not to worry. I drove the Mini Cooper Clubman with the dogs in the back and a bike and a cargo carrier on the roof. MG drove the van.

Ever since I told people we'd be moving to Seattle they've been going on about all the rain I would have to put up with. Well, that hasn't exactly borne out. It has been really rainy in Knoxville this summer and on up into the fall. It rained on us almost all of the first day of our drive from Knoxville to Kansas City, where we spent the first night. It rained for the first half of our drive from KC to Cheyenne on the second day. It was mostly sunny on the third day from Cheyenne to Boise, and sunny on the fourth (and last) day from Boise to Seattle. Then it stayed mostly sunny for our first three weeks in Seattle, with only a little rain during the fourth week, at which point we flew back to Knoxville for a couple of weeks so MG can have her second round of surgery. Yeah, it's still a little wet here. Go figure, right? Actually, Seattle averages less rain per year than Knoxville. It's just that during most years Knoxville gets the occasional downpour, whereas it rains more often in Seattle, but generally lightly.

So, you're still thinking I only have two bikes in Seattle, right? Wrong. Two of the bikes were boxed for me at the Bike Zoo (my Knoxville LBS) and loaded onto the moving truck. I left the tandem and my SS mountain beast - I mean bike - in Knoxville for now. They'll come in the final move when the house sells and we have a bigger place in Seattle. So I have the Ritchey, the Seven, the road SS, and my geared mountain bike in Seattle, and the other two in Knoxville.

Now then, those of you keeping score at home will remember that I had seven bikes. Well, the key word there is 'had'. I decided it was time for me to part company with the Kestrel. I hadn't been riding it much since I got the Seven, and space was at a premium, so I found it a new home with a friend of a friend. Besides, I could use the money.

Did I mention that I quit my job and don't have one out in Seattle yet? Don't worry, the hiatus was planned. I'll start my job search once MG is recovered from her surgery. Meanwhile I've been working on getting the house in order, getting essential services lined up, and acting as tour guide for MG's little sister when she showed up for a long weekend (she wanted to be our first visitor - I think she'll be first by a large margin).

So that's more or less a synopsis of our last couple of months. Maybe next time I'll actually discuss cycling in Seattle, the Emerald City.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Still here

I am updating posts today over on my other blog site, Dr. Deb's Surgery

Monday, June 29, 2009

Still Out There

I'm still out there.  Perhaps in more ways than one.

I know I haven't been posting much here (big shock, I know), but I have been posting a lot on the other site listed below about MG's (OK, it's 'Deb' - feel better?) surgery and recovery.  Still, once in a while I get a pass to go out on a ride.  I've gotten out two or three times during her recovery period, but I won't complain.  It's better than none.

On one of my rides I discovered something I didn't already know, though I might have suspected it.  Apparently, Hummer H3's are not required to stop at Stop signs in this state (or maybe it's all states?).  I take this revelation from empirical observations taken in a Farragut (West Knox County) suburban area.  Not one observation, but three, all in the space of twenty minutes and each observation was with a different vehicle (I can only assume it was a different driver).  Amazing, huh?

My latest ride was on Saturday with Joshua.  We'd planned on a greenway ride, but we modified the plan heavily.  The greenway runs through Volunteer Landing (by the water), but Joshua remembered that a wakeboarding competition was going on, so we took a major detour that led us across the river, behind the UT hospital, up a major climb (that reminded the 400 lb gorilla what its raison d'etre is), and  behind the old Baptist hospital building (where we could look down at the wakeboarders from a bluff high above).  We also ended up taking a big detour on the way back to stop for ice cream at Market Square, but that was only for the social experiment aspect of it.  Right.

My bike club is having a major ride on Sunday, which we call our 4th of July ride, even though it will be on the 5th.  No, we're not delusional.  I got a call from Ron tonight while I was driving home, so at least I know that he and Wally will be there, and I suspect Joshua as well.  There are three ride options:  100 miles, 62 miles, and 36 (or so) miles.  I think we'll be taking the short ride, but only because we want to get back and help grill hamburgers for everybody else.  Right (probably we'll serve best as 'food tasters').  Actually, I figure it's good to ride with those guys because they've all been riding about as much as I have this year (although I think Joshua has been a good bit more).

Stay tuned to this channel later this summer, though.  Some people have heard already, but the big news at Casa de Big Guy is an impending move across the country to Seattle, a cycling-friendly city if I ever saw one.  I will be posting more about that (especially if I don't have a job right away - MG's job is why we're moving in the first place).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I'm going to be posting a bit for the next little while, but not here. I'll be over at for now.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


The gorilla is still there. @&#*%!!!

I did at least talk to the doc about lowering my beta blocker dosage if he wouldn't let me cut it out entirely. He let me win at least that much, so you know what that means.

The gorilla only weighs 400 pounds now.

That's not a bad trick, for a gorilla to lose half of its weight in such a short period like that. I'm sure there's lots of folks out there who'd love to accomplish it. Not me. I wouldn't mind losing 10% to 15% of my body weight, but any more than that would likely be counter-productive.

He's still heavy, though. Oh, yeah. I found that out on my last two rides. One was a greenway ride west of here with Joshua. There's one spot where the trail has a huge dip in it requireing a bit of climbing to power back out of it. There's another spot worse than that. I made it through the first intact, but I walked the last bit of the second one (but then, so did Joshua). I can usually make it up that hill, but the spots in front of my eyes warned me off of the attempt this time. The other ride was a longer venture with several hills. Hey, I live in East Tennessee, so go find me a decent ride without any.

I have an appointment with a specialist coming up. With any luck the gorilla will lose more weight, if not go away entirely (maybe I can lose him in a crowd somewhere).

Interesting how we use animals in so many figues of speech, isn't it? the '800 pound gorilla', the 'monkey on my back', the fact that 'every dog has its day', and the ever popular 'cat let out of the bag'.

Speaking of which, here's a new word for today. "Haemochromatosis." Big word, isn't it? Meow.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Blocking My Beta(s)

My doctor has slapped an 800 pound gorilla onto my back, and it's especially heavy during climbs.  I discovered how heavy yesterday during a ride.  He ain't heavy; he's my gorilla.

It was a lovely day yesterday.  The forecast had been good for something after all.  I texted and called several ride buddies as early as Tuesday, hoping to get a least a couple of others to go on a ride of the closed (read that "long unfinished") section of the Foothills Parkway between Walland and Wears Valley.  The Foothills Parkway was envisioned as a scenic roadway skirting the north and western edges of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Congress authorized it in 1944.  Construction began in 1960, starting at either end with the intention of meeting in the middle.  What we've ended up with is a well-used 17 mile section from Walland to Chilhowie Lake on the western end, and a less used, though open and viable, 5.6 mile section on the eastern end between Interstate 40 and Cosby.  Both were completed during the 1960s.  Fifty years later, there still isn't commitment to ever complete the entire project.

Still, work has been done in places.  The 15.8 mile section from Walland to Wears Valley was mostly completed except for the 1.6 mile "Missing Link" that includes several bridge in various stages of completion.  The rest of the planned 71 total miles of the Parkway?  Well, we'll see.  After all, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Natchez Trace were only completed after several decades of work.  Still, the best I think we can hope for now is that it gets completed before the 100-year anniversary of ground-breaking, if it ever gets completed at all.

OK, enough with the history lesson, lets come back the present.  Though (obviously) unmaintained from a roadwork perspective (e.g., badly degraded pavement, etc.), the Walland to Wear's Valley section is well used and loved by hikers, equestrians, and cyclist alike.  We saw all three yesterday morning.  The "we"?  Oh, sorry, I forgot to introduce my ride buddies du jour, John B. and Joshua.  Big call-out to John B., who had a birthday on Friday (and still showed up without a hangover!). 

The ride up this section of Parkway starts out steep, so I'd arranged to start a mile or so off to give us at least a five minute warm-up before the climbing starts, but it didn't help much.  John and I rode away from Joshua (and his mountain bike) pretty quickly, and then John rode away from me.  Soon after that was when the gorilla stared making its presence known.

The gorilla?  Beta-blockers, which is a class of drug used for a number of things, including hypertension.  I don't think my blood pressure is that bad, but the doc wants to see how I do on Propanalol for a month, so ...  

What beta-blockers do, though, is keep your heart rate low.  So I can't get my heart-rate up too high. Literally.  I don't mean that I'm not supposed to, I mean that I cant.  I thought, until yesterday morning, that the limit was higher.  After all, I had been on other rides since being on the drug without any issues.  Not the case yesterday.

There are two "tops" on the piece of road we were on.  As I got close to the first one (at a lovely overlook of the valley and the mountains) I was seeing spots in front of my eyes (maybe gorilla hands?).  Joshua caught me and we rode into the overlook so I could take a break.  I sat down, and stayed down for a while.  Joshua left at one point to go look for where John had gone (after I assured him I'd be fine).  My intention was to just rest until I could continue the climb.  I soon realized that if I when the rest of the way up, I'd be in the same boat again.  Joshua showed up with John B. soon (along with another guy John had met out on the road) and discussed my options. Continuing was pretty much out of the question for me, but I insisted that they go on.  After I convinced John (and pointed out that he'd know where to look for me if he got back and my car was still parked next to his).  Then I got up and rode back down to Walland.

But you know, I felt so good when I got back down there that I decided to keep riding.  I left a note on John's car and took the relatively flat River Road from Walland to Kinsel Springs.  That's a road that is heavily used by cyclists.  You can't swing a cat (or an 800 pound gorilla) on a Saturday without hitting at least two, so I knew that if I did have problems, somebody would be along quickly.

But I had no problems.  The gorilla didn't even move (I think he may have even jumped off at the car thinking I was done).  I rode at a good pace the whole way without even getting close to being out of breath.  I even felt good for the rest of the day without feeling tired at all.

So hear is the new formula for me and beta-blockers.  Climbing for more than 2 minutes = bad. everything else is apparently good.  Still, this is East Tennessee, so climbs abound.

I have an appointment with the Doc this Friday.  I gotta talk him into taking the gorilla back.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Recommended Daily Allowance of Iron(y)

Something I didn't mention in yesterday's post (it was already getting long as it was) is something that happened during the ride between Fountain City Peddler and River Sports.  We were still on Broadway, which is a four lane road with a turn lane down the middle of quite a lot of it.  I was in front of Joshua, Alex, and a couple of other guys who had caught us briefly and riding on the right side of the right lane, right where I was supposed to be.  We were approaching the intersection with Woodland, which has a dedicated right turn lane, so I moved over in order to allow traffic behind us to use that turn lane while we waited for the light to turn green.  One lady in particular did use the turn lane (which as I believe I said we had moved over so as not to block her), and also took the opportunity to yell at us out of her window something that sounded as she passed by like "muffle muffle muffle get on the sidewalks if muffle muffle muffle..."  (I guess people don't always realize that it's hard to hear something shouted from a moving car when you aren't moving next to it at the same speed).

OK, first, I was well within the law by using the road and not the sidewalk.  In fact, even the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization recommends that bicycles not use sidewalks (top of page 8) except for the very young due to safety concerns.  Second, I would have needed to cross over the right turn lane anyway in order to cross the intersection (since I wasn't turning).  But the third thing I have to mention was the ironic part.  The lady in question had a bumper sticker on her car that said "Coexist."  
Hmm.  I somehow think she wasn't really all that sincere about that, was she?

I want to take some space for a call-out or two.  First is for Steve, who runs my local bike shop.  He was involved in a crash yesterday morning during a group training ride (apparently a chain came off of a bike in front of him and got into his front wheel).  I saw him briefly after he got back from getting checked out at the hospital, so at least I know he's going to be OK.  Second is for Ben, the boyfriend of one of my sisters-in-law in Charleston, SC.  He was hit by a car while riding.  He was roughed up pretty badly, with facial lacerations, broken facial bones and clavicle, and I don't know what else, but he was at least able to get mostly clear after the impact.  The car that hit him kept going, dragging his bike for 4 blocks.  They pulled into a grocery store parking lot, disengaged the bike, and drove off leaving the bike there.  I haven't heard enough about the event yet to know if the witness(es) were able to give a clear description to the police, but I sure hope so.  The worst thing is that Ben doesn't have health insurance right now.  I'm just glad it wasn't any worse than that.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


It was a lovely day to go for a ride here in Knoxville, and that fit in just fine with Randy C.'s grand plan. You see, Randy is the president of the Appalachain Mountain Bike Club (AMBC), and today was set aside a while back for their first Poker Run around town. The plan was to meet up at noon at the old Bi-Lo supermarket (now closed, but everyone knows where it is, so we still refer to it for meet-ups). Mrs. Guy is sick today and wanted to sleep the afternoon away, so I got a free pass.

I was expecting somewhere between 30 and 40 people to be there when I pulled in. By my rough guess, the number was closer to 100 people or more. Wow. Big turnout. We milled about waiting for Randy and crew to give their pre-ride talk, so I found John B., Joshua, and several others I knew. Finally Randy got up in a truck bed and went over the rules.

To start, we were to ride down the greenway to Volunteer Landing several miles away behind Joel, who would serve as the pace-rider that no-one was to pass. This was pretty smart, because if you release 100 riders to go racing off to one spot in an uncontrolled fashion, carnage will likely ensue, and I'm not partial to carnage at this point in my life. At Volunteer Landing we would receive a 'spoke card' (which nobody actually stuck in their spokes) that we'd have to present at each check point before getting a playing card. The checkpoints? All of them were local bike shops. Seven in all (I know of two that chose not to participate). No preset order, no prize for finishing first. Just ride to as many as you can because you'd get an extra card for going to all seven. At the end we would see what the best five card poker hand we could make would be to determine the placings.

I took off near the middle of the group of folks headed out. I ended up nowhere near anyone I knew personally, but at an event like this if you know twenty out of a hundred, that just means you have eighty freinds out there you just haven't met yet. Actually, Abby and Derek did catch up to me close to our arrival at Volunteer Landing. To our surprise, they also gave us a playing card at to go along with our spoke cards. There were other surprises later on.

I got a 10 of Spades. Josh showed up soon after and got an Ace. . John came in soon after. We talked about routing from there, with Josh and I deciding to head to Tennessee Valley Bikes (TVB), and John deciding to head on out to Fountain City Peddler (FCP) after a bathroom break. Josh and I left, headed through downtown, and got seperated when he took a turn with a larger group after I'd gone straight at one intersection. As cosmic validation, I did get to TVB first, so my route plan proved correct.

At TVB we were surprised to find we'd have to do a stunt to earn our card. The stunt was to ride a (very) tiny bike down the sidewalk to a manhole and back. It looked really funny, but wasn't all that easy. Plus, they only had one tiny bike, so it took a while to wait through the line (I think a large percentage of riders went there first). I got my card while waiting for Josh (I got a 9 of Diamonds) and talked to Eric O. (who offered a beer, but I turned it down). I forgot what Josh got, but it was a face card.

We left TVB and headed out Broadway toward FCP. I'd never been there, so I was happy that we hooked up with a group containing someone who had. Still, after riding a little over 3 miles out there, Alex (a young guy I only met today) and I rode right past it (it's very hard to see - I was even looking for it). Josh called us back, and happily they didn't make us do any weird stuff to get a card, which for me was a 2 of diamonds. Josh got another face card. .

Josh, Alex and I ended up together on the return down Broadway back into town. Alex asked if we minded if he rode with us (of course not!), and I got the impression he didn't know his way around the hinterlands of Knoxville. That was when he and Josh put their safety in my hands and let me lead the way to River Sports Outfitters (RSO). I knew a shortcut. I didn't tell them it went through a particularly rough-looking part of town, but I've ridden there alone before without problems, so I knew three of us would be fine. A little over six miles later we pulled up safely at RSO.

The stunt here looked interesting, but I had to beg for a medical exemption. Given my problems with fractured and patched up collarbones, I didn't think my doctor (or wife) would approve of my taking a turn on a climbing wall. I showed the volunteer there my scar and hardware, promised to stay with Josh the whole time and not skip out early, and generally be a good boy, so she went ahead and gave me a card (Ace of Hearts). The line was long again, but at least they had three climbing sections open. I watched several people tackle the wall. Angie did well. Tanya did great. Others I knew, not so great. When it was Josh's turn I jokingly told him I was giving him 30 seconds and no more. I needn't have bothered. To my surprise he practically flew up the wall. It took him longer to get the harness unkooked than it did to climb. Wow. He's been holding out on the skillz, I think. He got another face card. Hmm.

We'd lost Alex in the crowd, so we headed on to Bike Zoo. The stunt there was to sing the "I'm a little tea-pot" song out on the front sidewalk. I jumped right in first off. It's not really embarrassing when everybody else around you has to do it too. My card was the Jack of Diamonds.

We left there and headed over to Harper's Bike Shop, where the stunts were more heinous. They had five set up, of which we had to do two. Forget the two involving jumping on a BMX bike. I did the log pull (a railroad tie attached by chain to the back of a bike they had) and the 'dizzy' course on my own bike. The log pull was a lot tougher. I got the 4 of Diamonds. Hmm. Maybe I had a chance after all?

Josh and I left and took a southerly route to Cedar Bluff Cycles (CBC) over Nubbin Ridge road. I wanted to stay on Westland (shorter, flatter), but Josh insisted there'd be less traffic on Nubbin Ridge. Well, that may have been true, but as I sit here now hours later my knee still says it was a bad idea due to the more-intense-than-I'm-ready-for climbs. After eight or so miles, we finally caught up with Alex at CBC.

The stunt at CBC was to ride a kid's bike (not as small as the one at TVB) all the way around the strip mall building (a LOT farther than at TVB). My knees already hurt. This was adding insult to injury. My knees were hitting the handlebars, so I had to ride with them both sticking way out to the side. Not comfortable. But my card? Queen of Diamonds, and that spells Flush, baby. There was one more bike shop on the list, but it was way further out in the wrong direction, and I didn't really see how even getting two more cards (one at the shop and one for hitting all seven) would help my hand enough to be worth adding an extra 10 miles (if we were stupid and rode straight down Kingston Pike - more like 16 or 17 to do it safely) to our ride. This was already going to be my long ride for the year, I thought. Josh agreed, so with Alex back with us we headed for the greenway entrance over by Lowe's Home Center.

Again Josh got seperated, but he won this time when Alex and I Got caught up at a traffic light. We hit the greenway and headed back toward the Bi-Lo. I was happy to find that the section of greenway behind the Wal-Mart/Sams Club had been finished so I wouldn't have to ride through their parking lot on a Saturday afternoon. We took the greenway all the way to where it ends, which is where we saw John, Dianne, Cathy, and some other guy headed the other way toward CBC (they had no plan to go further west than that either.) John was nice enough to tell us the quickest way back to Bi-Lo from there.

As we finally approached the Bi-Lo, Alex said he still needed to go to Bike Zoo (which explains how he'd gotten ahead of us to CBC). Bike Zoo is really close to Bi-Lo, though, so I knew he'd be back soon. Josh and I rode in to discover that there wasn't really any activity going on other than sitting around at El Mezcal, a Mexican restaurant which is in the same strip building where Bi-Lo was. Josh got a beer. I got a Diet Coke. Then we went out and sat around meeting several of the friends we didn't know yet. This was about 4:30. Fifteen minutes later I ordered a burrito and rice since I was famished (not surprising since I'd had no lunch before riding a total of 39 miles).

They finally got around to determining prizes at about 5:15, by which time I was shivering since the temp was dropping, the wind was picking up, and the clouds had moved in front of the Sun. I felt good about my flush, though, since I knew places went about ten deep. Little did I know.

Apparently there was a lot of horse-trading going on out there. I'd seen a few people trading cards around at CBC, but didn't think much of it since even their hand improvements were not better than my flush. However, when about 9 people held up their hands with a 4-of-a-kind, I knew there was something more widespread going on. Since there had already been a straight flush (Hmmm), I knew my flush was useless. At one point I figured I could give my 4 of Diamonds to John to give him a fourth 4 (and tenth place), but he declined. Good for him.

All in all, a great day for a great ride. I think a lot of people were headed over to Union Jack's bar afterward, but I didn't have a change of clothes and figured I really needed to get out of my cycling gear and into a shower. After twenty minutes under the spray of hot water in my shower back home, I knew I'd been right.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Struck in the Moonlight

One of my very first blog posts (way back in the old MicroSoft blog days) was about a full-moon ride I went on with some friends that went up and over Rich Mountain Road into Cades Cove (in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in case you didn't know).  On Tuesday night we did something similar, but with a little bit of modification.  Instead on entering Cades Cove via Rich Mountain Road, we rode in on the main access road and then went over Rich Mountain Road to go back out.  That ends up making it a 28 to 29 mile loop (that can be extended if desired).

Wednesday was a work day for me (meaning I had to be up before 5 am), but the ride was scheduled to start at 7 pm (while it was still daylight), so I figured I might actually get home between 10 and 10:30 pm.  I discuss what time I actually got home a little later.

I amazed almost everyone by actually showing up a little early for the ride.  That even amazed me, really.  I don't get off of work until 5 pm, which usually means I get to my car at about 10 or 15 after 5 pm.  Then it's a 30 to 40 minute drive home, I have to walk and feed the dogs, give the cat her medication and put down food and water for her, change into cycling gear, gather my stuff, and then drive 45 minutes or more (depending on traffic) to Townsend where the ride starts.  I must have somehow bent the laws of time and space (without bending the laws of traffic), because I got to Townsend at 6:55 pm.  Prepping my stuff the night before helped a lot.

The one usually getting on my back for being late is Wally.  Who do you think was late by 5 minutes?  Wally.  Think I got some payback in?

Nine cyclists hit the road at 7:15 pm or so and rode through Townsend on the greenway next to Hwy 73 toward the Park.  After the greenway ends Hwy 73 comes to a tee where it goes off to the left toward Gatlinburg and Cades Cove Road goes right.  Turning right, we got into the gradual climb that takes you most of the way to Cades Cove (there's a short downhill section just before you get to Cades Cove).

I was not in the front on the climb.

Nor was I in the back.

Actually, I was able to mostly stay with Jen, as we would pass each other back and forth as the grade would gradually change.  We did that all the way up to the top of the climb where the group waited to get back together.  Joshua was last up the hill, which wasn't surprising since he was climbing on a mountain bike with mountain bike tires (at 45 psi) and no way to lock out the rear suspension.  The cyclists among you will realize that makes for a more difficult climb.

Now, up until this point I had no need for my new, not-cheap, helmet-mounted lighting system, though the daylight had been slowly fading as we climbed up the road.  I had turned on my rear flasher light long before (as we left the greenway and got on the tarmac), but I had just enough daylight to get me to the meet-point.  Barely.  It got dark awfully fast after I stopped.  Then, a few minutes later while we waiting for Josh, the moon started to come out.

I realize that folks love a good sunrise.  I know that folks love a good sunset.  But sometimes there is nothing like a moonrise on a lovely dark night up in the mountains far away from city lights.  Gary got some pictures, though I haven't seen any of them yet, but it was wonderful.  I would guess this was sometime in the 8 to 8:30 pm range.

One problem with doing a ride like this on a weeknight is that the ride has to start early in the evening and the moon never really gets very far overhead.  I've been on rides around Cades Cove when I almost never had to have a light on at all except in the midst of thick tree cover.  This wasn't the case the other night.

We left the pull-out where we'd stopped, climbed up the road for a few hundred yards, and then started the descent into Cades Cove.  It took me a few minutes to  figure out how to turn my light on correctly (this was the first time I'd used it), but I did get it on and I was very happy with how bright it was, even at the setting two down from the brightest.  We crossed the parking area, rode around the bar gate stopping traffic from entering Cades Cove at night (except for cyclists and hikers, of course), and proceeded along the loop road until we got to the old Missionary Baptist Church, which is where the turn-off to Rich Mountain Road departs to the right.

We stood there and talked for a while, allowing all who needed it to find a proper spot for a nature break, when I looked at my watch and announced that I didn't care if everyone else decided to continue around the loop further and then back and over Rich Mountain Road, but I was going straight out.  Joshua decided to head out as well, but everyone else went on around the loop.

Rich Mountain Road starts off with a consistent climb out of Cades Cove that stretches on for a while. I would guess that it is a 3 1/2 mile climb to the top of the ridge, and it is on gravel road.

Let's talk bike selection for a moment.  Normally I would ride a mountain bike on Rich Mountain Road just because the tires are so much better for traction.  I would also lock out my rear suspension (which Joshua couldn't do) to save energy - you waste a lot climbing and the bike always feels "mushy".  However, we did a lot of riding on pavement.  Most of it, actually.  On pavement I would want my road bike which has no suspension (it doesn't need it) and tires that run at higher pressure for greater efficiency.  So, what to ride?  Well, there is a middle ground.  Most of us were on cyclocross bikes, which typically have sturdier frames and slightly wider tires than a road bike.  I rode my 'Three Week Bike'.  I still had one issue, though.  I was running my tires at fairly high pressure.  I figured I would want that for the climbing and road riding and that I could deal with it for the gravel (which is typically hard-packed) road.

Climbing up was not fun.  The road surface was not as solid as I'd remembered, though I had only ridden it on mountain bike tires at lower pressures, so maybe it had been like that all along.  Still, I slogged along as best I could and maintained a minimum ridable pace (so I didn't ride off too far from Joshua and abandon him).  About half-way up the climb is when it happened.  I got hit in the face by a bat.  No, not a baseball bat.

Ironically, we'd all been talking about usual wildlife sightings earlier, but until then I hadn't seen any.  I couldn't miss this one really.  It was up close and personal.  I heard the "thwack" on the front of my helmet and suddenly there was this soft floppy thing covering up a goodly portion of my face. Before I really had a chance to react, it fell away and then flapped off into the night air.  My question is; what's this echo-location thing I keep hearing about and does it actually ever work?  Honestly, I would bet that it was as surprised as I was when it hit me.  I think I understand the old "Blind as a ..." thing now.

I waited for Joshua at one point on the climb, and then waited again at the top.  He wasn't the one I saw at the top, though.  Gary and Philippe came riding up after having cruised around the loop a-ways.  They hadn't had any bats to the face, though.  I asked if they cared if I took off and left Joshua to them, and then headed down the descent back toward the car and the rest of bat-free civilization (relatively speaking).  But I was having a couple of problems.

First, and most importantly, my headlight was starting to flash red intermittently.  This is a design feature intended to let me know that it's not going to be long before the battery gives out.  I found this surprising, since I hadn't been using it at full power and I thought I was supposed to have a longer charge capacity.  I was informed later that the battery needs to cycled (charged/discharged) a few times before it gained full capacity.  Wish I'd know before.  The other problem I had was the lack of front suspension on the descent.  The road is a bit rough.  I had the headlight turned low to conserve power.  I didn't see quite all of the larger bumps and ruts.  Basically, I was getting beaten up.  I started riding with the brakes on full time, but I was getting more concerned about overheating my tires/rims and about my already fading battery reserve.

Happily, Jay and Jen caught up with me about half-way down the mountain.  I was able to shut my light off for a while and see by Jay's, which made me feel a lot better.  That lasted maybe five minutes until we got to the park boundary and they decided to wait a while for more of the group.  I didn't have the time to wait, so I flicked my light back on and headed down the road, which was at least paved the rest of the way.

But paved doesn't mean smooth.  I swear it was almost as rough as the gravel road I'd just left.

Jay and Jen didn't wait long at the boundary, either to catch me or because they could see more people coming down the gravel.  Jay caught me for a while, but fell back at the last few miles and I finished on my own.  Those two were less than a minute back, though, and got to the cars just as I was opening my rear hatch.  I expected the rest to come swinging in at any moment, but I didn't see anyone else before I left.  This was at 10:25 pm.  And I had a 45+ minute drive home to make.  Think I got home between 10 and 10:30 pm?

I got about half-way home before my phone rang.  It was Wally, asking if I had Joshua's phone number.  I told him I did, but it was programmed into my phone and I couldn't really get it.  So instead he had me call Joshua and tell him to turn around and go back to the Huddle House.  Apparently they had discussed going to the Waffle House, but made a change in plans on the fly, but Joshua had missed seeing it happen.  He missed my call, too, so I left him a message to let him know that he was going to be awfully lonely when he got to the Waffle House and noticed he had a message.

So I finally got home at 11:20 pm or so after stopping for a quick snack at a mini-mart along the way home.  I think I was in bed by midnight.  Was I dragging the next day?  Guess.

3 Weeks

I lied.  It's been four weeks.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Three Weeks

OK, it seems that last time I might have mentioned that I got a new bicycle in 2008. That was a true and factual statement. I really like the bike, but some of the joy of a new bike was ... well ... hmm. How to explain.

To say that the whole buying experience was a disappointment would be a gross understatement. With that preface, I now present the story of what I call my 'three week bike', a true tale of consumer woe.

I have long wanted a travel bike. That is to say, I wanted a bike that I could easily break down and pack into a reasonably-sized case and take on an airplane to some far-off destination that might promise some pleasant riding. Now, I didn't really want to increase the size of the stable here at Casa de Big Guy, so I had to choose which bike to replace. My cyclocross bike didn't see a whole lot of use outside of 'cross season (and not much then, truth be told), so I ultimately decided that I could replace it with a bike that could serve a touring purpose yet still be called upon in a rare 'cross emergency (yeah, I can't really think of one either, but that isn't the point). So the LeMond Poprad would go to make room for the new bike.

The big decision then was what to get as that new bike. I thought about an Independent Fabrication or a Seven (steel frame), but the price tag on either was a bit high (and this was before the major financial meltdown). I eventually settled on a bike that had a good reputation among several people I know, and that was a ... hmm. Maybe I'd prefer not to say exactly what bike I went with for various reasons. Maybe I'll leave a hint or two as I go along.

So, around about July 21st (remember that date, it's important later), Steve down at my friendly LBS place an order for my new bike that comes apart like a field in that old movie about a stone cutter's son who wanted to race against the Italians .. or something. Was that a hint? I can't tell.

After Steve called in the order he called me to let me know that since they were changing over frame colors, there would be a three week delay. OK, I guess I can wait that long. I'd like it sooner, but OK.

Three weeks passed.

I called Steve to ask if he'd heard anything (this was actually about a month after the order was placed). He called them and called me back. There was some unspecified problem with the paint on the frames. It was going to be another three weeks.

Three weeks passed.

I called Steve. He called the company that reminds me of that Cunningham kid on Happy Days. (Another hint? I dunno.) More problems with the factory in ... I forget .. somewhere in Asia. It would be another three weeks.

Three weeks passed.

I called Steve. I discussed with him some of the names I was thinking of calling those guys (the names got worse as time went on). He called them. Some issue or another. Another three weeks.
By this time I was thinking I'd made a real mistake not sucking it up and buying the Independent, but by then it was October and the financial turmoil was in full boil.

Three weeks passed.

November came and my cycling really took a back seat once it started getting cold and dark before I got home from work. Still, hope (no matter how foolish) springs eternal. I called Steve. Steve called them. Steve called me back. Yet another inexplicable excuse. Yet another _____ weeks (I thought it might be fun to let you, the reader, fill in the blank).

Around Thanksgiving they said things were really happening with the bike/paint/asian factory/whatever. But not for another two (TWO!!!) weeks.

So of course it took three more weeks before my new bike finally arrived at my LBS during the week of December 8th. I had most of the components switched over from the Lemond and went on vacation ... without my bike. I didn't think Jamaica was the best spot for a maiden voyage, and besides, the bike build-up wasn't quite ready before we left anyway. So my first real ride (other than around the parking lot or up and down my street) came on Christmas Day when I joined John B. and several others for the traditional downtown parking garage races. My second ride was on New Year's Day in the same parking garages.

Now, you might think (I certainly did) that a company who promises a bike in three weeks and actually delivers it in about five months - for WHATEVER reason - might want to do something for the customer who stuck with their order. I'm not talking about a free fork or anything (though this company makes them). I'm not even expecting a free logo jersey or anything. But maybe a card with a "Sorry it took so long" or a "Thanks for waiting, we appreciate your business" or SOMETHING. Nope. Just a bill for the bike.

So now, everytime I look at my new bike, instead of getting excited about going for a ride, I think about just how long three weeks can sometimes turn out to be and how exceedingly poor the vendor's customer service is, at least in my experience. The 'new bike' thrill was gone before I even got it. Think I'll ever buy anything of theirs again? Nope. Think I'll ever recommend anything of theirs? Nope. Think I'll tell this tale in greater detail than this if anyone ever asks me about their products? Oh, yeah. And I will be entirely honest - brutally honest in fact.

Oh, and if you're wondering when I'll post again, three weeks.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Prarie Dogging

Wow. I just realized how long it has been since I stopped blogging regularly. Right around 1-1/3 years. Wow.

Well, a lot has happened since then. Happily I have no further major injuries to report, so I haven't had to bother my surgeon recently. But I've been doing other things.

My riding has suffered a bit over the last year. I'd set a goal of 2,000 miles ridden during 2008 and then failed to meet it. Work has been a big part of it. We've been working a scheduled 50 hours each week, so by the time I get home I'm usually tired. We only backed down to 40 hours/week again in January, so maybe going forward I'll do more. Other factors have been travel, weather, just plain life in general. Also, Mrs. Guy has been commuting to Philly each week, so my weekends have been more committed to her.

But I have remained somewhat active in cycling. Last January I became an entry-level USACycling Official. Now ever time my bike club or my friend John sponsor a race, I'm there helping to run and score the race. I was already doing a lot of that for John, but now it's official and he doesn't have to hire someone to come in and oversee it all. I think I've officiated in some capacity at 13 or 14 races since then (with two more coming next weekend). I volunteer my time for John and the bike club, so I've only gotten paid for doing one race, but I'm not really doing it for money anyway.

I also got a new bike last year, but that's the subject of another post for later. When, you might ask? Well, soon, I hope. Soon.

I hope.

If you think you "get" the title of this post, comment and I'll tell you if you are correct or not.