Tuesday, September 20, 2022

September Miles

Mellow Monday on the lakefront

It was another somewhat high-mileage week for me. With good weather and little to no rain there were no excuses, and then on Saturday some of us went over to Pass Christian for a nice 75 mile ride.

Thursday on the levee

The Mellow Monday ride that started the week turned out to be quite a fast one. Fortunately it is also quite short. I'd logged nearly 300 miles the week before, so Monday should really have been a rest day, which it definitely wasn't. Oh well. That's one of the things about group rides. You never really know what you're going to get, although there is always the (rarely taken) option of dropping quietly off the back ... or so I'm told. It is getting darker and darker in the mornings now. I just bought a new headlight since my old one's battery doesn't last as long as I'd like any more. 

The rest of the week was the usual routine with the long levee rides on Tuesday and Thursday, WeMo on Wednesday, and Friendly Friday on, well, you figure it out. 

That brings us to Saturday. Charles and Steve Martin had planned a 75 mile ride out of Pass Christian which is just an hour's drive away, so I figured I'd join them. The cooler temperatures of earlier in the week were nearly gone, though, so I knew it wasn't going to feel like a Fall ride or anything. We ended up with a nice group of seven - Steve J, Steve M, Charles, Pat, Dan, Norman Z, and me. The pace was pretty good throughout, although from the start I knew I was going to be dragging a bit. It's like that sometimes. There's no real reason you can find for it but from the first pedal stroke you kind of know it's not going to be your day. Anyway, I was fine with the pace but was being a little cautious about pulling too long or too hard. 

The Sunday Giro heading out

It was all kind of complicated by my screw-up with the route. Steve had sent out a link to the route which I had dutifully downloaded. I normally do that on my laptop at home and just plug the Garmin into the computer and transfer the file directly. This time I was at work so rather than wait until later I added it to my routes on Garmin Connect. When you "star" a route on Garmin Connect your Garmin device downloads it the next time it connects. Well it turned out that I also had an older 70-mile route from Pass Christian on Garmin Connect and of course I starred the wrong one so I started out with the wrong, but close, course loaded. Just to complicate matters further, right after starting the ride I realized I hadn't started my HRM and for some reason it didn't want to pair with the Garmin by the time I noticed, so a few miles into the ride I restarted the ride so it would pair. After a couple of intersections where my Garmin told me to go one way and the group went the other I realized I must have been riding the wrong route. So for the next thirty miles or so my Garmin was constantly telling me to make U-turns or turn onto side roads trying to get me back on (the wrong) course. 

I probably could have ended the wrong route and started the right one while riding but also probably would have crashed into the rider in front of me or ridden off the road in the process, so I waited until we stopped at the store and just ended the ride, saved it, selected the correct route, and basically started all over again. At least I wouldn't turn the wrong way at the intersections. Anyway, it was a good ride even if I had to do some arithmetic to figure out how far I'd ridden that day. Most of us went over to The Deck for lunch after the ride, which was quite nice. 

On Sunday I went out for the Sunday Giro Ride which was fairly tame, as Giro Rides go. Then I spent a few hours trimming hedges and clearing the badly overgrown corner by the house. I think I went through a couple of gallons of various liquids during that process, and of course did a number on my back. 75 miles on the bike was a piece of cake compared to the same length of time doing yard work.

Here we go

So although we have been exceptionally lucky so far this hurricane season, it is looking like our luck is finally running out. There's current a disturbance out there heading straight for the Caribbean and the early projections have it intensifying and ultimately turning north into the Gulf. It's still way too early to say anything for sure, but they are already giving it a 50% chance of development so it will likely be a tropical storm within a day or two. We are just a couple of weeks past the peak of hurricane season, so it certainly merits close monitoring. They will probably have better model consensus in a couple of days and it will likely be in the Caribbean by then. I just spent a couple thousand dollars having the oak trees trimmed back from the house, and we now have a bigger generator and a fair amount of gasoline on hand, so that's good. However the roof of the garage is held down mainly by gravity at this point, so that's not so good. 

Thursday, September 08, 2022


Back on the 26th we headed off to the airport for an early afternoon flight to the Pacific Northwest, aka Washington. 

I had packed up the old Orbea in my brand-new Airport Ninja bag the day before. This particular travel bag requires removal of the fork and saddle, and of course front brake and rear derailleur, but it makes for a small enough package that you can carry it on your back like a backpack and it doesn't get treated as over-sized. I had added the usual pipe insulation to the main tubes and seatstays, but that was mainly to minimize scratches because the bag itself has more than enough built-in padding. We'd already dropped off the dog at the vet for a long and expensive boarding stay, and were planning on parking in the airport long-term lot (also expensive) for the 10-day vacation that would be the first real vacation we'd taken in about three years. So naturally when we arrived we found the long-term garage to be full. Fortunately there is a new US Park place right down the street, so we parked there, which was marginally cheaper, and were immediately picked up by their shuttle for the short hop over to the airport.

We had arrived at the airport so far ahead of our flight time that the tiny Alaska Airlines counter was still shut down, so we had to wait a while for them to open it up. At MSY, Alaska is way down at the very end of the ticket counters and their electronic kiosks (which were no working at the time) are likewise in an odd little spot as if they were an afterthought. In contrast, at SeaTac there's about a quarter mile of Alaska Airlines counters. Anyway, I had paid the $20 for the checked bag (my bike) and then the agent offered to check one more bag for free, so that was nice. The flight was long but routine except that Candy got the full TSA pat-down thanks to her hip replacement hardware. Danielle met us at the airport for the drive from Seattle to Olympia which as usual featured a fair amount of bumper-to-bumper traffic. 

With the morning temperatures in the 50s, I didn't rush putting the bike back together the next day and finally headed out for a ride around 10:00 when the temperature was around 60°. I had loaded a number of routes onto my Garmin, and decided to start out with a 40-mile one that I had more-or-less done a few years before, heading south largely on the Chehalis Western Trail (a rails-to-trails bike path) and then through Tenino and back up through Olympia. I was in vacation mode, of course, and looking more at the map than my speed, which was the case for most of my rides up there.

The next day, the 28th, I ended up doing a somewhat longer ride, first north, then south, adding an extra loop on Military road after I got a text saying the others had gone to the grocery. I pulled up to the house just as they were unloading groceries, so it was perfect timing. I did a shorter ride on Monday the 29th because we were planning to do some paddle-boarding later in the day. The paddle-boarding adventure was harder than you'd think, but not because of the actual paddle-boarding part. The tide was out and parking was a fair distance from the water, so there was a rather long portage before we could actually get the boards in the water. We were on our way back when I pulled my paddle out of the water only to find that the paddle part had slipped out of the handle part. It immediately sank, of course, and so I ended up getting towed back in. I guess that at some point I may have grabbed the paddle right where the little spring-loaded button is that allows you to separate the sections and maybe twisted it or otherwise moved the button out place. Fortunately we were almost back by then. Tuesday's ride was basically a repeat of the southern loop, but in the afternoon we all went for a ride on the Trail to pick blackberries. I was amazed that there were tons of blackberries at the end of August! Here in La the blackberries are usually long gone by the end of July.

On Wednesday I did a fun ride mostly not on the Trail and over to the west, closer to Capitol State Forest. The route I mostly used was named something like "Wednesday Team Ride." The route had a lot more terrain than the southern loop, so that was nice. I got slightly turned around early in the ride when my Garmin told me I was off course when I wasn't but I eventually got that figured out. Then, toward the end of the ride I made a detour to meet the others for lunch in town, which was great, after which I rode back to the house. Most of the roads around Olympia have bike lanes (and roundabouts - love 'em or hate 'em), which is always nice when you are in unfamiliar territory. The next day was a long drive down to the Portland Zoo, which was OK but not particularly impressive. 

On Friday and Saturday I did rides in the morning and long walks/hikes in the afternoon. Saturday's 6.6 mile hike was mostly on the Mima Falls trail in the Capitol State Forest, and since I hadn't brought shoes for that I ended up buying a pair of hiking shoes at the local REI. I was glad I had, too, because there sure are a lot of rocks on Washington trails! It was a nice easy hike through the forest with occasional horseback riders and mountain bikers.

So on Sunday we headed back to SeaTac for the trip home which was slightly complicated by the fact that the daughter's Volvo tailgate that she had just gotten repaired to the tune of about a thousand dollars stopped working again. Luckily the Airport Ninja was small enough to easily go in though the side door! When we walked into the airport it looked like the day before Christmas or something because the place was packed. It took us about an hour to get through the security line that snaked all through the place. The flight home was crowded but otherwise fine, at least until we got close to Louisiana where the pilot had to navigate around some pretty spectacular storm clouds. During the flights out and back I read Mark Cavendish's book "Tour de Force" which was an interesting look into his remarkable and unpredictable 2021 season, along with a stage-by-stage account of the Tour de France. Cavendish can perhaps rub some people the wrong way, but I have always kind of identified with him as someone who just doesn't seem to have the right physiology for those long heroic climbs, while somehow always being able to put in a good sprint effort at the end - if I can just make it to the 200-meter flag without having to put my nose into the wind too much!

All in all it was a great trip and I was happy to have ignored a lot of email and fit in a bit over 290 miles on the bike, which more than justified the hassle of bringing it along. Even so, it I were to add up all of the various expenses that went into those ten days I'd probably have an anxiety attack.

This week it was back to the regular routine, thankfully not until Tuesday since Monday was Labor Day. Of course, Monday was also a Holiday Giro Ride, so despite getting to bed a little late I was able to make it to Starbucks where I found Brandon B, aka "Half-Carat" who is in the midst of some chemotherapy and for whom a number of the local riders had recently shaved their heads in support.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Quickie to Mobile

Friday a week ago on Filmore, riding past the City Park golf course

The first thing I do upon awakening this time of year is check the weather radar. The second thing is to calculate the size of the wager I'm willing to make on getting soaked. This week we, or at least I, mostly lucked out. Tuesday's levee ride was pretty normal until the batter died on my Garmin just before the turnaround. Fortunately, and unlike a lot of other riders nowadays, I have a couple of decades worth of experience riding without the benefit of speed, distance, cadence, power, elevation, grade, weather, text-message, and Strava segment data. It's unusual for me to let my computer's battery get that low, and I think I must not have plugged it into the charger fully because it charged up normally the next time. Go figure. 

The Wednesday WeMoRi was likewise unremarkable, which in the case of the WeMoRi is always a relief. With the days getting shorter, and the morning light further compromised by often-cloudy skies, it seemed suddenly much darker as I made my way out to Lakeshore Drive. The city has torn up practically every street between Fontainbleau and S. Claiborne, so I've been taking S. Claiborne to Carrollton lately. At 5:45 am it's not too bad. They have the right lane blocked off for a few blocks because of yet another big hole they dug in the street, so I can slip past on the right side of the traffic cones there which provides at least the illusion of safety. By the end of Wednesday's ride I'd pretty much decided to do the first stage of the Mobile Cycling Classic on Saturday. Of the three races over the weekend, that was the only one that was an actual circuit. The other two races were back-and-forth affairs with U-turns at each end - something I would otherwise call "intervals" for those of us who would not likely be up at the front of the group. Relatively speaking I'm actually pretty good racing on courses with U-turns but I didn't really want to spend the whole weekend in Mobile since I will be heading off to Olympia for a few days at the end of this week. Anyway, by Thursday I was starting to think about easing up a little bit on the riding so I'd at least be fully recovered for Saturday.

The Thursday levee ride started out with pretty much the usual group. At the start there were rumblings about people needing to turn back early for one reason or another, which isn't all that unusual but seems to be particularly common during the first couple of weeks after schools start back up for the Fall semester. Even so, I was a little bit surprised when, after taking a pull around Williams Blvd., I pulled off and realized there was nobody behind me. I'd been abandoned! It was probably a good thing, though, because it allowed me to drift back down to a steady, easier pace. I turned back a bit early to accommodate the slower speed, which got me back home at the usual time. Friday's Friendly Friday ride was fairly routine, which is to say it had a few fast sections but was overall fairly moderate. By then I was avoiding putting my nose in the wind, so perhaps my perspective was a bit different.

Guess I should have brought the LAMBRA
finish line camera to this Alabama race
but they were using chip timing, so.....

So Saturday morning I rolled out of be at 5 am, threw the bike and the big NOBC P/A system (lending it to the race in Hattiesburg for next weekend) into the car, and headed East. My gut was not very happy from the start, likely thanks to the prior night's dinner of steamed artichoke, but things eventually settled down during the 2-hour drive to the race, just east of Mobile, Alabama. As usual, the weather forecast was all over the place, which is to say it would probably rain at some random time and at various random locations. Whether your particular race would be wet or dry was just a roll of the dice. Even though the road surface was practically perfect smooth concrete, I had lowered my tire pressures a bit just in case. I think the 25mm Michelin's were at around 80-85 psi, which is still about ten PSI higher than most would recommend. Personally I'd rather deal with a bit extra harshness in order to avoid pinch-flats and the barely perceptible increase in mushiness.

The sky was still looking OK when the 50-minute Masters race started, so that was good. I lined up in the middle of the 24-rider group along with Brett Reagan, Peter Stephens, and a few others I know. The rest were just wild cards, which was fine since I was there just as packfill anyway, and my goal was basically to stay with a group and not get lapped. I knew things would get messy because there were at least eight different races going on within the same race. The Alabama riders were racing for their state criterium championships - in three different age groups. Some riders were also racing for the overall 3-event Omnium prizes. Some were probably racing for the overall win. There were a couple of Alabama teams that would also be playing team strategy games as well. 

Cat 1/2/3 race lining up on Saturday

So the race starts and of course I miss clipping in. I look down and the left pedal is spinning at about 200 rpm. I step on it and then finally flip it around and get clipped in, but not without having most of the field pass me up. So much for the good starting position. Fortunately things started out pretty easy, so I was never in difficulty. We were only two or three laps in when I see Brett rolling off the front. He glances back, sees a little gap, and presses gently on the accelerator. As the gap starts to open at, what for me was an alarming rate, I look over at whoever was next to me at the time and remark, "I don't think they really want to let that one go!" 

I guess the gap was out to close to 30 seconds when the pace picked up and a small group spit off the front. It didn't seem to be going fast enough, or with sufficient determination, to catch Brett so I just stayed where I was in the cheap seats at the back with the old guys. It was a couple of laps later, just after turn #3 (the turns were more like wide 2-lane curves, so I use the term broadly) when I see Emile attacking down the right side. My instinct told me that was the only chance to get back up to the real chase group, but I wasn't in a very good position and was somewhat lacking in motivation. As it turned out that pulled a couple more across the gap and established a chase group of 8 or 9 riders, none of whom were in the 60+ age group. That group did eventually catch Brett, after which Eric Nelson must have attacked because he ended up finishing over 30 seconds up on the rest of that group. Brett finished 3rd or 4th, which was 2nd in the 50+ age group. Meanwhile, back the off-the-back pack, the pace was relatively steady. With two or three laps to go I started trying to move up a bit as the pace began creeping up. The last lap was at around 28 mph, which was faster than it felt thanks to the easy, fast "corners" and ample draft. Between the third and fourth turns Peter Stephens attacked hard and opened a nice gap that allowed him to hold off the sprinters all the way to the line. I'm not sure exactly where I was through the last turn, which was about 300 meters from the finish, but I eventually put in a decent enough sprint, finishing 3rd or 4th in that group. A light rain had just started to fall as I did a cool-down lap, and by the time I rode over to pick up my spare wheels from the pit we were in the midst of a serious thunderstorm, complete with enough lightning that they postponed the next race until it eased up. I ended up completely soaked, of course, but what better time to get rained on than immediately after a hot summer criterium?

I hung around until the rest of the races were finished and enjoyed seeing Peyton take the win in the Cat. 1/2/3 race. When he was up on the podium someone asked him how old he was (he's 15), which was followed up with, "Can you drive yet??" (he can't, of course). So I ended up getting back home around 3:30 I guess, after surviving one of those fifteen minute blinding summer rainstorms on I-10.

Sunday Giro heading out.

I got up Sunday feeling none the worse for wear and headed out for the Sunday Giro Ride, which had its moments but was a pretty normal Sunday Giro. I ended the week a bit below 250 miles for the first time in over then weeks so I can't complain about that. I probably needed a little less volume anyway. This morning, Monday, I dusted off the old Orbea and rode it for the Mellow Monday ride which was anything but Mellow. I guess there were a couple of guys trying to make up for missed intensity from the prior week or something because it got pretty fast for a while. I was doing my best to limit my efforts for the most part, though, because, well, it was a Monday for chrissakes. 

As it has been for the past few weeks, the weather forecast for this week has a lot of rain in it. Maybe I'll find myself underneath some of it. Maybe not. One thing that has my attention, though, is some new activity in the Atlantic coming off of Africa and heading my our general direction. It already has a name, "Invest 90," and 5-day cyclone formation chance under 40%, but that's normal for anything at that point and it can change practically overnight. Intensity models are putting it into tropical storm range within a couple of days, so we may well end up with a "named" storm, in this case Danielle. A week from today will be August 29. Hurricane Katrina hit us on August 29Hurricane Ida last year was August 29-30Hurricane Laura in 2020 was around August 27.  The end of August and most of September are definitely prime time for hurricanes. Hoping this one doesn't ruin our plans for next week.


Sunday, August 14, 2022

Three Days Worth

Monday, Monday

It was another week of sketchy weather down here in New Orleans, although considering the fact that we are entering the busiest part of the hurricane season, nobody's complaining too much. Thus far the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic have been relatively quiet. Nonetheless, I had to break out the old rain bike twice last week and had to get a car ride home from work once because of rain, or the threat of rain.

Movie Crew Monday

Monday's group ride was good, though, and I was glad we managed to avoid getting wet. I arrived at the Museum of Art in City Park, where the ride starts, to find the whole area looking like Hollywood. They had rented out the whole place to film scenes from some movie, the title of which I promptly forgot. As we were assembling at 6 am one of the park security guards checked with us to make sure we weren't going to be hanging around long. 

Last Friday was the last day for Tulane's COVID surveillance testing program that started almost exactly two years ago. During that time the university did well over half a million PCR tests, 524,665 to be precise, of which 6,215 were positive. This week students will be moving into their dorm rooms. I'm still tracking state and local cases and all, but the pressure is kind of off at this point since the usefulness of the reported data has been questionable for a while now, especially since the home test kits became so readily available and the severity of the cases seems to have declined with the currently circulating strain of the virus.

Tuesday on the levee

On Tuesday we had Dan temporarily back in town and were able to do the full ride out to Ormond and back, but Wednesday was an entirely different story. It had rained early in the morning and I figured the WeMoRi would be washed out, so I waited an extra half hour or so, aired up the tires on the old Pennine, and headed out for a short spin on the levee. There was still a light rain falling as I rode down to the river, but within three of four miles I found myself on perfectly dry asphalt. That's typical this time of year. It can be pouring down rain in one place and then two blocks away it can be dry as a bone. Anyway, Wednesday's ride had far more psychological benefit than training benefit, but I probably needed a little break anyway. So then there was Thursday, and again the weather was threatening. I again went out on the rain bike fully expecting to be riding alone but ended up riding with Charles. He had to turn back early since school had started for his kid, so it was another short and easy day.

That brings me to Friday, which for once didn't have imminent rain in the forecast. I guess there was a lot of pent-up energy in the group from the prior days of limited riding because it seemed like it was one of the fastest Friendly Friday rides in quite a while. Fortunately, those are short. Toward the end of the ride Woody rode up next to me and said they were planning a northshore ride on Saturday. I texted him later that evening and he said they would be meeting in Abita Springs at 7 am and had a 70-mile route planned. The route didn't have a whole lot of climbing, so I figured it would be fast. That turned out to be an understatement. At any rate, I figured it might be a good idea to put the race wheels on the bike and make sure I had a big bottle with Skratch Superfuel in it. 

Part of the Saturday group. Phone already coated with sweat.

Rolling into a parking spot along the school fence where I've been parking for these rides for at least three decades I noticed Peyton, who is just back from a few weeks racing in Belgium. We headed out onto the bike path and immediately had to close a gap to Peyton. Handwriting on the wall, indeed. We rode from there to St. Benedict's on Smith Road where we picked up more riders. This ride started out fast and for the most part stayed that way. We rode up Stafford Road to Million Dollar and then up Lee Road toward Enon. It was almost all single paceline and I was being careful to take short pulls because I knew it was not likely to get easier. Right around where Hwy 40 splits off toward Folsom I rode straight into a big jagged lengthwise crack that I never saw and rather dramatically pinch-flatted my front tire. We were back on the road pretty quickly and I was glad that the tire hadn't been sliced open which had initially fully expected. I was not feeling particularly bad, but I knew the distance and hills and speed would take a toll, so I was riding pretty cautiously, which is to say I was sucking wheels a lot. Toward the end we turned onto Old Military Road and as I was having flashbacks of long-past road race finishes at Pat O'Brien Road and looking at Peyton about thirty seconds ahead, Eddie, who was right in front of me, suddenly accelerated. It didn't take me long to decide that I was close enough to Abita Springs to ride the last five or so miles as a cool-down rather than literally race from there to Smith Road, so I eased over and happily backed off. I ended up with precisely the 70 advertised miles. Back at the car I ended the ride on the Garmin and discovered that I'd never turned my heart rate monitor on. I'm sure those numbers would have been interesting, but perhaps it was for the best that I couldn't contemplate how closely I might have come to having my heart explode. Anyway, I was really glad I'd made the ride and left thinking I really should try to do more rides like that. I felt like I'd gotten three days worth of training all in one morning.

By the time I got home it was raining and I was a couple of pounds lighter than I'd been when I left.

Today's Giro Ride was far less intense, at least by comparison, although there were a couple of brief segments on Chef Highway where it surged up to 32 mph or so for reasons that I presume only the people at the front would know. On the way back I found myself near the front as we came over the Casino bridge and after flying down it at close to 34 mph I ended up on TJ's wheel. He just put his head down, went around a couple of people, and hammered as I tenaciously hung in his draft dreading the possibility that he might blow up and give me the elbow. Fortunately he held the pace at around 27 until just before the bridge. I could hear Jaden back there yelling for me to go earlier, but I knew better. TJ finally eased up and of course we were streamed by a number of riders, many of whom themselves blew up before reaching the top of the bridge. I stood up anyway and made an effort, passing a few of those riders near the top.

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Impossible Forecasting

Thursday morning's sky. Practically every morning's sky lately.

It's mid-summer in New Orleans and means that just about every day it might, or might not rain, and that rain might be a brief shower or a sustained torrential downpour. If that constitutes a weather forecast, well then I guess your standards are lower than mine. The problem is that it is virtually impossible to predict where it will rain, or how much it will rain, or how long it will rain. It's just a matter of whether or not you happen to be under whichever cloud unleashes the rain at the time it does so, and in the location in which it does. Basically, it's a roll of the dice. So rather than pay any attention at all to the weather forecast, we just check the radar and make our decisions based on that. We don't generally bring along rain jackets even when we know we'll probably get wet because the rain will probably be brief and the temperature will still be warm which means that wearing a rain jacket will leave you just as wet from your own sweat as would the rain.

Tuesday morning on the levee ended up with just Charles and me. Maybe it looked like it might rain and people bailed? We pushed the pace all the way out to Ormond, which was actually a lot more effort than it would have been if there had been a group. By then we were both kind of cooked and took it pretty easy all the way back.

On Thursday it rained hard early in the morning and although it was easing up by 6 am I waited another half hour or so and went out for a short solo ride after things had dried off a little bit.

A big Friendly Friday ride that of course turned out to be more fast than friendly.

The Friendly Friday ride had an unusually large group, probably because people had been skipping rides all week because of the rain. Naturally, the big group meant that the ride was a little more fast than friendly. Likewise, the Saturday Giro was well-attended. In fact, Frank Moak had even driven down from Brookhaven where I presume he usually rides alone. Then, after the turnaround at Venetian Isles, I looked up and saw Kenny Bellau. I think he's putting in some saddle time ahead of a planned cycling trip somewhere on the other side of the Atlantic. Predictably it was a pretty fast Giro.

Saturday Giro
Sunday morning the radar looked fine when I headed out around 6 am. There was a smaller Giro group than Saturday, which was not unexpected. What was unexpected, however, was the rain that started when we were halfway down Hayne Boulevard. For some reason I was staying reasonably close to the front dealing with the water spraying in my eyes and thinking the unexpected rain would probably be brief. When we made the turn at the end of Hayne I was surprised to find that most of the group had turned back and we were left with maybe 7 riders. Oh well, we were already wet, so we continued on as the rain slacked off. Of course the roads were still wet most of the way out to Venetian Isles so it was hard to tell when the rain actually stopped because the wheel spray didn't. Somewhere behind us it turned out there was another small group of four or five that had been gapped off on Hayne when people started turning back but hadn't themselves turned back, so we had a bigger group for the ride back. I got home and for about the 4th time that week had to rinse off the bike and lube the chain. The forecast for the coming week wasn't looking better, either.

It was not my finest training week, mostly thanks to Mother Nature, but I did manage to get in 260 miles, which was pretty good under the circumstances, even if most of those miles were pretty easy.

Monday morning on the relatively dry lakefront.

On Monday I went out to meet the Mellow Monday ride but almost nobody was there, apparently because they had consulted the radar which I hadn't. As I came to a stop at the ugly sculpture fountain in front of the museum of art I could see the raindrops starting to fall. There was one other person who showed up but he turned off quickly to head home. I went ahead an rode the route anyway, running into Mark on Lakeshore Drive for a while. I was feeling like I needed an easy day, so the solo ride was fine even if I did end up soaking wet once again.

Tuesday's morning ride didn't happen, at least for me. I was standing next to the dresser at 5:30 am pulling on my jersey when I heard the rain coming down outside. The radar was just a big glob of greens and reds all over south Louisiana and I was thinking I might not be able to ride at all that day. I'd already been drenched riding home from work the day before, so I decided it would be a good day to work from  home. Since I was already up, I at least got a jump on the day by a couple of hours. By early afternoon, despite the pessimistic weather forecasts, the sky and the radar were looking a light brighter and decided to try and get in some miles on the levee while I had a chance. Given the impossibility of knowing where and when it would rain, and wanting to do something to improve my chances of not getting rained on, I put my rain jacket in my pocket. I knew that if I left it at home it would definitely rain but if I took it along it probably wouldn't. It's kind of the same thing as talking about how long it's been since you've had a flat tire, which will reliably and promptly result is a flat tire. So I had a nice solo ride on mostly dry roads, but as often  happens after riding after rainstorms I ended up with a flat tire out by Williams Blvd. It was still worth it.

Monday, July 25, 2022

White Kitchen Ride

Coming back over the Rigolets with Fort Pike off to the left.

Last week the state unexpectedly closed the old Highway 90 bridge over the West Pearl River, which reminded me that it had been probably thirty years since I'd ridden east past the Rigolets. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, Charles soon suggested doing a "long Giro" out to White Kitchen, and considering my recent steady diet of same-old same-old, I figured that would be worth doing. It's really not all that much farther than the regular Giro, which for me, from home, is around 60 miles. The additional distance would add maybe 30, and since we'd be starting with the SaMoRi group at 6:30 rather than with the regular Giro group at 7:00, I'd probably be back home just an hour or so later than normal. 

I remember stopping at the White Kitchen on
family road trips to Florida. It burned down 
decades ago.

Still, it was going to be hot and sunny, so I brought along a large water bottle with a bunch of Scratch Superfuel mix in it, plus a regular bottle with just electrolyte mix. I stuffed a couple of gels in my pocket just in case, but since we were planning to stop at the marina at the Rigolets I knew they would probably just be along for the ride, which they were. I left home at my usual time Saturday morning, but of course had to skip my wake-up coffee at Starbucks. I think this was the first time I'd ever ridden with the "early" group, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but whatever it was I was planning on minimizing my efforts until Venetian Isles where the regular group would turn back but we would continue east. Things were going pretty smoothly on the way out with the pace hovering mostly in a very reasonable 23-25 mph range along Hayne, so that was good. Shortly after turning onto Chef Highway we had to stop for the light at Michoud, and then for some unknown reason some of the riders decided it was a good time to launch an attack while the rest of us were still trying to clip in. That required a mile or two of chasing at 28 mph before we were back together and things settled down a little bit.

At Venetian the "long group," which consisted of about six of us, regrouped and crossed Chef pass, gradually ramping the pace up to a nice steady 22-23 mph paceline. I was feeling pretty good and was taking somewhat longer pulls than usual.

End of the road. Bridge is closed "indefinitely"

Once past the marina on the east side of the Rigolets the nice smooth asphalt changed to 50 year old concrete which wasn't too bad except for the annoying expansion seams every thirty feet or so. It was just about five miles to the bridge that was, as expected, barricaded. Apparently a recent inspection discovered some significant structural problems. I'm sure we could have climbed over the barricades and crossed if we'd wanted to, as I expect the weight of a bike rider wouldn't turn out to be the final straw for the old bridge. Anyway, we turned back, then stopped at the marina briefly for refreshments as the locals who were launching boats and buying bait eyed us cautiously, the way you'd watch aliens debarking a flying saucer. 

By the time we were heading back it was getting warmer and there seemed to be a very light headwind. A couple of the guys seemed to be starting to wilt a bit, some of us started taking long steady pulls to keep it smooth and keep everyone together. I guess the pace was more in the 20-22 mph range by then, which seemed to be fine. I got back home with 90 miles of the computer but feeling none the worse for wear thanks to the moderate pace.

On Sunday I went out to the regular Giro Ride, which was a pretty normal Sunday Giro - sometimes fast, but not debilitating. A little group rolled off the front along Hayne on the way back, and although there wasn't really a chase, they were still only maybe 30 or 40 seconds up the road as we approached the Seabrook bridge. That's when Brandon, whose wheel I was on, pulled over at 28 mph, looked over at me, and said, "Go get 'em, Randy." So naturally I had to put in a little dig, sprinting up the bridge and closing much, but not all, of the gap before blowing up just before the top and then immediately feeling my rear wheel come to a skidding stop. I'd picked up a roofing nail that had momentarily caught on something and stopped the wheel. Rather than try to put in a new tube at the top of the bridge I cautiously rolled down onto Lakeshore Drive, choosing a spot in the shade of a big oak tree to make the repair. Cliff stopped with me, so that made the ride back home much more enjoyable.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022


Sunday Giro starting to ramp back up on Chef Highway

I wish there were some races around here right about now because it was just another week of routine sweat-soaked training rides. Yeah, it's hot and all, but if we survived the Tuesday/Thursday training races and all of the weekend races back in the 80s when the only electrolyte replacement was Gatorade and shorts were lined with actual leather, we could certainly handle it now. Anyway, it seemed like a decent enough week of riding for me. It's funny how one's "fitness" ebbs and flows in the absence of actual racing. It's mostly all in the head, though. 

Last weekend I watched the Saturday night pro Criterium in Salt Lake City, which looked plenty fast and featured some controversy in the end that resulted in a little punching match and a couple of disqualified riders. Whether the move in question was intentional or accidental is impossible for me to say but I can certainly see how it might have looked intentional to some, especially the rider involved, considering where and when it happened.

Big Friendly Friday Group

Last Friday's Friendly Friday ride drew a pretty good crowd which of course made it fairly fast. 

The Saturday Giro had a pretty decent turnout, though, and so the ride out to Venetian Isles averaged around 27 mph. I was atypically in a reasonable position when the sprint started, which took me up to 36 mph before I bailed with about 100 meters still to go. Felt good, though. We had a delay in starting back because of a flat, and as often seems to happen the return trip was a bit slower. Quite surprisingly, the roads out to the east were quite wet from a rain shower that we kind of mostly missed, so there was a lot of wheel spray for a while and even a little bit of actual rain, I think.

Sunday's Giro was at least dry, and as is usually the case, a bit slower than Saturday's. I felt good both days, and for a change didn't end up riding in with just a handful of people after stopping to help someone with a flat. After the Sunday ride we went over to Poydras Home for a brief 95th birthday party for my father. My brother is in the midst of moving from Orlando to Madison MS, so he was there with a couple of my nieces, and of course my own sisters were there as well. Dad's attention span is pretty short nowadays, and it was all over in an hour or so.

Monday, Monday

Monday's Mellow Monday ride was more mellow than usual. For unknown reasons, only four of five were on hand, which at least had the effect of keeping the speed down a notch or so. Sometimes that ride has four of five miles that get pretty fast, which isn't really quite the kind of recovery ride I probably need, but let's face it, recovery rides can be pretty boring, and I don't need that either. 

Meanwhile, Charley the dog has been chewing up anything he can find when we're not looking. This week it was a baseball cap, my pocket comb, and the TV remote, the latter being kind of an issue since it's for the DirectTV box. Candy went over to the AT&T store where of course they didn't have any and they ordered a replacement that is theoretically coming via US postal service one day. Fortunately the phone app lets me cast to the TV, so that worked fine. Last week I finally broke down and ordered a bike travel bag. I've never been too keen on dealing with the big rigid cases. Last time we went to Washington I packed my old bike in a simple soft bike bag that we originally got when we toured Colorado back in 1983. It was about at the end of its useful life, of course. So I sprung for a rather expensive Airport Ninja bag that is nice and small and can be carried as a backpack. 

The latest victim

Of course in order to do that you have to remove the seatpost, handlebars, front brake, fork, pedals, rear derailleur, etc., but that's not really too much of an issue for me.  Given the size of my bike it's entirely possible that I will be able to leave the seatpost and just lower the saddle and still get it in there. We shall see. We're planning a visit to Olympia at the end of August that unfortunately means I'll miss the criterium in Hattiesburg, but the tickets were already purchased before we knew the race date. 

Now we just have to worry about whether there will be enough pilots and airline personnel to keep the flight from being cancelled. I'm also a little worried about the COVID situation which is currently blowing up across Europe and has been on a steady rise here for over a month. I'm hoping that the Tour de France survives all the way to Paris without losing too many more riders to positive tests. I'm also hoping that I survive all the way to Olympia without any more positive tests. I've been on the fence about getting a second COVID booster since the currently circulating strain is now pretty far removed from the original and immune responses from that don't seem to be doing a whole lot to prevent mild and asymptomatic infections, although the vaccine has certainly brought the number of ICU cases and fatalities down dramatically. 

My data are kind of fuzzy right now because the amount of testing is way down but the percent positives are way up. Louisiana today was showing 24.5% positive and New Orleans was showing 18.3, both of which are pretty high percentages. Although hospitalizations have been rising persistently but slowly, deaths have been quite low. In the last two weeks New Orleans has reported only one fatality and the state has reported only 43. I think it's likely that a whole lot more people are being infected but aren't having symptoms serious enough to get tested at a location that is reporting to the LDH, especially since the at-home test kits are so readily available now. What I'd really like to see is a new version of the vaccine that targets the more recent variants, and although they're working on that, the variants are changing more quickly than they can get the new vaccine versions ready. They're saying we may see something in the fall.