Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day in God's Country

Returning from God's Country after a holiday weekend ride.

I put in the miles this Memorial Day Weekend, Gentle Readers of This Blog--but sorry for forgetting the camera, and then just being too much into the ride to pull the camera out and take a few shots for you.

Meeting up with Ron, and riding with a chap just a bit stronger than you--and with a desire and passion to discover every mile of this place--we rode at break-neck speeds and covered many a Summer Kansas mile.

Saturday was a fierce early morning ride to beat thunderstorms and a tornado or two--I kid you not! That was the morning I forgot the camera, mes amis. But is was cold and over-cast and we had to wear arm and leg warmers--what? In May? Yes we did!

Sunday morning we were set for yet another ride, Ron and me. Little Egypt however woke up and we had a bit of a row about me doing the Useless Bruceless Thing where I slip out the door at 5:30 am to return at Noon--all sunburned, covered with sweat and dirt from the road. Then I stumble around half-asleep--snoozing in the car on the way to the grocery store, falling asleep and snoring at the mall in one of those man-chairs while she's in the Petites...

I finally convinced Little E to let me out the door--and I sprinted off to meet Ron the Lion Heart at our rendezvous point. I can put in 50 miles and be back home before Little Egypt wakes up to the little birds singing Zip a dee Do Dah Sunday morning here in Interzone--but again, mes amis, she caught me but then let me go after all.

One thing about a road you've never been on is that point of no return. You hope that traffic will be light, the headwind far-off sleeping on his hairy back still, and maybe a bit of shoulder. We had all these and a bit more as we set out North of Lawrence past the furthest I've ever been on the road out of town.

With a strong tail wind we glided swiftly out of site of the city, and we were in, I do believe, a spot where God He Himself stepped down to take in a bit of his work around the place. I mean the crops were in the fields and emerald green and singing in the morning sun! Cows were in the green pastures being quite happy and small calves stopped for a look at us, then kicked up their heels and ran with us. Horses shone in the sun on the hills and seemed to want to come along. We saw sheep, and goats. Roosters did the cock a doodle do as we slipped past. The hills were rolling and smooth and the road black and healthy-looking like the earthy-smelling soil and mud.

So then it goes that you're not a big Clydesdale pushing a Mighty Trek on West Hwy 24--the thing happens where you're like a living wind--one with your breathing, your pedals, the road--and your eyes open.

The land is so green--and so alive--from every blade of grass to the little mouse peering at you from the cat tails on the side of the road. My goodness but there's a little village up ahead, and the speed you're going puts it in the perspective as it were a large living post card--the old houses (look new and straight and fresh) from the 1850's--(those first Kansas people) and a little church with cars parked around--then a wide turn--and there is the Old Cemetery containing those first Kansas people--and their children, and their grand-children, and great-grand children (all who lived to be very old themselves) and the crisp rows of Red White and Blue flags everywhere. Everyone Loved and Remembered this morning.

Where am I? What Road is this? It is almost a dream like place--I have to tell you that I am contained in my helmet and clipped in the pedals and reality is the bike and the road. But somehow we have ventured into a few moments of the Great Mystery.

It's not a scary place or creepy--there's no angels singing and God does not speak to you such that you shit your pants and have some sort of life-altering freak-out. Stay in the moment. Stay clipped in. Stay in your saddle. Reflect back at home and at work or before you hit the sack and go to sleep for the night that you have truly and ever-so-lightly tread where Heaven Meets Earth.

Allure Libre!


Friday, May 20, 2011

Bike to Work Interzone

Every day is Bike to Work Day!

I wanted to drop by the LBS for a free breakfast, being Nat'l Bike to Work Day. So I ride through parts of old East Lawrence near where I live early this Friday morning, through the rugged brick-paved neighborhoods, for coffee and cakes.

Local Bike Shop at 8:45 a.m.

There's not much traffic this cool morning--only the most intrepid cyclists are out--rain is forecast for later in the morning. I believe I'll have plenty of time to talk to the friends I've made at the shop, and get a cup of coffee before I head up to Mt. Oread.

The Desert San Campus Bike, now my Interzone Commuter.

I was told that about 40 riders showed up and I think that's awesome! I don't go into the office until late morning on some days, so most of the real rush hour car traffic has faded out. My bike is a real commuter--most everyone else rides an old road bike or a cheapee mountain bike. I have fenders, a basket, a bell, and of course my wool cap. I only ride just over a mile--all up-hill--and I don't rush to get to the office on time--that would take too much work! Instead I leave The Little House with plenty of time to spare so I can take my time with a steady pace.

Coffee and cakes, and a cool brand-new Lawrence Bike Map.

Guy in the blue shirt is my neighbor and one of the managers of the LBS--he's also just turned 40 and has joined the Lawrence Fire Dept. Quite a feat I must say! He worked hard to reach that goal, competing with much younger men for the few slots at the Dept.

Historic old downtown--the bike shop is a real hub of the community where everyone is friendly and helpful--they have been to me, mes amis.

Did it ever rain!

After I talked to the guys, and met the local bike racing coach (Professional Ranked Coach) who I would really consider getting some coaching from because he was a great guy--some really dark clouds full of loud cracking thunder and flashing lightening, arrived and it began to rain. No worries because I had my rain gear stowed on the bike.

But as I got up Mt. Oread and just a few blocks from my office, it really let loose in a torrent, Gentle Readers of This Blog--and I was soaked to the bone in a matter of a few minutes! Rivers of water rushed down the streets of Mt. Oread, washing all the beer cans, cigarette butts, litter, and junk out of the gutters.

I made it to work--I had ridden my bike to work--but now I had little choice but to ride back home, change into dry clothes--and get a ride in with Little Egypt. She met me at home, I got out of the wet clothes and into dry--and she drove me up the Mountain to my office. The whole time it was raining cats and dogs--thunder was ear-splitting, and lightening bolts jolted all around.

Well, mon ami, I hope your Bike to Work Week and Day was a good one. Every day is Bike to Work Day for me for the last two months. This was the first day I rode in by automobile.

Cheers! Bruce

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday's Child is Fair of Face

Kansas farmland on a bright sunny afternoon.

This past weekend was cold and dreary--it was if a chilly grey blanket stretched out over everywhere freezing us out after a long week in Interzone. I had Monday off, so when the clouds checked-out and the Sun shone clear and blue--I am on the bike!

Bon jour la bon jour, mes amis!

Late Monday afternoon and there's no headwind going out to Lone Star Lake--that means I am riding fast and furious--helped along with tunes from Rico's iPod. Normally I will not ride with an iPod, but with the messenger mirror set up now on my sunglasses, I can see cars coming up behind me on the long stretches of rural country road.

Many barns are white this year.

The Old Man.

Green dust in the muddy fields--crops are beginning to sprout!

Fast rollers on the road around Lone Star Lake.

Lone Star Lake, about twenty miles West of Lawrence, Kansas.

There was not a soul out at Lone Star Lake, Gentle Readers of This Blog--I zipped along the rolling road that hugged the banks, through towering thick newly green oak and walnut trees. Birds of all kinds darted past as I cut the silent cool air. The matter was actually a young hawk buzzing the canopy and creating a stir.

A memento of my ride.

The road around the lake ended--I was told that it would--it would have been nice if it went all the way around but I wanted to see for myself this once. Where pavement and gravel met, I found there one of the young hawk's feathers, and then there was a shadow speeding through the shadows of the oak limbs like a ghost. I looked up and he was flying above me. He gave me a glance and then banked back over the lake.

Time to go back I knew, but time to reflect on things... Leaving Tucson has been at times frustrating. Living here is an adjustment for us all; we're all together but this is just temporary--but for how long? School, jobs, a mortgage, and also rent to pay in Kansas. Often I feel like I'm having to start over and I will have to move again for employment. There are just no jobs in Arizona--and few now in Kansas. Like the road around the lake, it's a dead end--you're momentum is suddenly gone--the road has run out.

However, a reminder that you can soar above and beyond what's troubling, gives Hope that you can ride out what seems the tough Brevet that must be endured...

Allure Libre!


Sunday, May 08, 2011

May in Kansas

On the Road, Kansas, USA.

I'm trying to get more posts up for you, Gentler Reader of This Blog, but rain and then Little Egypt catching me before I'm able to get out the door on the bike--usually she's got some kind of domestic chore or something like that--has often thrown a wrench in my plans.

I'm the kind of person that does chores a little every evening, during the week so that when the weekend rolls around I can be out on the bike all day. Little Egypt does not operate that way--so what I must do is have everything ready to go the night before, and then slip out at 6 or 7 am. I get back 40 miles later just as she's waking up. You guys know what I mean, right?

Early May Morning in Kansas--arm warmers required for the first few miles.

I had a bike fit for the Mighty Trek recently too, as I was having some knee problems--that came to a head on the 200 KM Casa Grande I rode in January. I've also had on-going sit bone problems but just rode through the discomfort. So the lads down at the local bike shop offered me a fit about 50% off and I went in. I have to say that the last fit was for my LeMond, which Trek replaced after I found the crack on the bottom bracket--so this fit was for the Mighty Trek--and much needed I felt. Of course, all the expensive light weight saddle posts and saddles fit awesome. But with some work, my trusty Brooks and seat post came through for me. I needed the saddle lower and my cleats adjusted. Also got a shorter stem which got me in the right position on this bike from the LeMond. This Sunday Morning in May, I got to go out and see if the fit was going to work--happy to report it did, and I recommend you get a professional fit when you are able.

On the Bike and Running Path to Clinton Lake.

Got up at Dawn's Early Light and slipped away without so much as a clip-in-snap to the pedals, mes amis. I got some recon from the bike shop boys--sprinted down what is usually busy 31st Street (deserted this morning) and headed to the start of the trail that would head West out to Clinton Lake.

Bike Path that cuts through some remote farmland. Reminds me of the River Bike Path of my home back in Tucson...

This path is lush and green, and took me through some farmland on the outskirts of Lawrence. Then it cuts through some new housing developments--sprawl even in Kansas--and that's where I met up with Ron. The bike shop guys told me to keep to the right when on the bike path, but I came across several forks in the path where right looked like it would back-track, and I had no idea how to go. I saw a cyclist coming up, stopped him to ask for directions--and in typical Lawrence cyclist style, he says, "He I'm going out that way! Ride with me and I'll show you the way!" Hey is that great luck or what?

The Bike Path follows the spillway of the Clinton Lake Dam.

Ron will take me out to Clinton Lake, and then we'll ride on to Lone Star Lake--a route I know well. As we ride, Ron and I discover we have a lot in common--besides our love for riding, he's just moved to Interzone himself. We've both put on a few pounds since our arrival. Ron's from Florida and used to the heat like me. Both of us are about the same age--and both starting new jobs. Best thing is that Ron is about a step-up in fitness than I am, so I have to work to keep up with his pace--this will be a good workout!

Ron and I take on the hills this morning--the wind has not shown up yet, thank goodness!

Ron is an endearing, cheerful and motivated fellow, and we're going to be pals I know! Like me, he's carrying that extra weight, but we are really moving along--he drops me on a few of the big climbs. As there seems to be no wind heading out to Lone Star, we make fast time of the trip to the lake.

On the Dam on Lone Star.

Turkey Vultures, or Buzzards--what ever you want to call them--seem relaxed and indifferent to us riding by.

I tell Ron about the route that was shown to me by the last cyclist I met up with, and we decide to take that course back to add on some more miles. We'll have some climbing and then some fast downhill to get us back.

On the road, heading back toward the city of Lawrence.

This part of Kansas is not that flat--there's some long climbs--and the wind has picked up and coming at us from the East--this is an odd direction and can only mean one thing--more rain on the way for the week!

Taking my turn pulling in the headwind!

Ron is going to get me back into town and then I'll ride in on Interstate 40, which is 6th Street. There's a wide sidewalk which is designated bike lane, but Ron tells me he's not sure how long it goes East on 6th. Its Sunday morning and I'll probably be okay as traffic will be light for this cross town part.

You can see the bike path on the far right, going into town.

Ron rides with me a ways on the 6th Street Bike Path, and then he heads home. I have to ride on the road with traffic, which is okay except for now at about 10 am, the head wind is awake and stretching--and is grumpy! And I have to pretty much climb back into the city. Eventually I'm in the older part of Lawrence and the trees block the wind. I zip down into and onto Old Historic Massachusetts Ave, which just a few clicks from the Little House--and I'm home free!

My street, in the heart of Interzone...

Time for a quick shower before the gang wakes up, and then sleep while Little Egypt finally gets into the shower herself, makes coffee, and starts to plan my day.

Cheers! Bruce