Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Change in the Air

Bald Eagles in Kenner along the river levee bike path.
We felt the first raindrops at precisely 6:45 am as Christian, Judd and I were doing a little cool-down after the 5:45 am WeMoRi. It had been a fairly easy WeMoRi for some reason, so I'd only had a few brief bits of intensity (OK, yeah, I never really tried to go to the front) except for the last couple of miles when Jeff sat on the front for a long time just hammering before Judd came around with me on his wheel. Then, about 200 meters before the finish, Judd unexpectedly sat up just when I thought he was about to go for it. Turned out he had misjudged where the finish was. It was still rather dark because of cloud cover and, well, the fact that the sun wasn't up yet. When I'd looked at the radar before leaving home, I thought I'd be able to do the ride and get back home before the nasty-looking line of rain ahead of the cold front got here. It was now clear that my estimate had been a bit optimistic. I turned around quickly and rushed down Marconi as the occasional raindrops turned into a light rain, checking my tail light periodically because it has been known to turn itself off when it gets really wet.

Not a fan of this setup
The city started tearing up part of Marconi near City Park Avenue a couple of days ago, and although that would have been my shortest route home, I decided it would be a lot safer to go through City Park and head down Jeff. Davis instead. I'm not a huge fan of what they plan on doing on that section of Marconi because it's going to be a problem for group rides unless you're OK with 25 people going 30 mph down a two-way bike lane where they're trapped between parked cars, plastic road furniture, and the curb (no idea how the RTA bus is supposed to cross over all of that to pick up passengers). We'll probably end up riding in the one remaining car lane and pissing off the drivers. At least there should finally be some nice smooth asphalt along there. Fortunately the heavy rainstorms that had shown up on radar earlier had evolved into just some light to moderate rain, so I arrived back home twenty minutes later quite wet but not fully soaked. This was our second cool front in a couple of weeks, so it's now looking like Fall is inevitable. The low tomorrow morning is supposed to be around 62F, which qualifies as pretty cool around here although perhaps not quite cool enough to mount a full-on search for last year's misplaced arm-warmers.

No, that's not how it works.
We broke down and bought a new washer and dryer set last week at Lowes. Pretty standard stuff despite costing over $1,000, but the dryer has this "steam" cycle that requires a water line, and since the washer and dryer down in the basement are separated by a big old cracked and leaky cement double sink, the hose wasn't long enough. Just as well, though, because the guys from Lowes who showed up to install the stuff didn't have a clue what they were doing (I had to read him the instructions at one point). After they left I discovered that they hadn't bothered to level either machine and had, in fact, left the feet for the dryer sitting on top of the dryer. That was lucky, I guess, because when I pulled it out to install the feet I immediately noticed that they hadn't put the cable clamp on the power supply. That would have eventually rubbed through the insulation and shorted out, electrocuted someone, and/or burned down the house. Worse, they'd apparently taken the clamp with them, so I had to go find one and install it, re-install the vent pipe that hadn't been installed correctly in the first place, and then spend quite a while on the floor leveling the washer and dryer, after which I ordered a 12 foot water supply hose since they had none at the store. It would have been a lot easier if I'd just had them take the washer and dryer out of the boxes and leave them in the basement for me to install.

A few minutes at Zotz before heading home
Last Friday I went out for a solo recovery ride along the levee (it was Fall Break at Tulane so no regular coffee ride that week) and saw two sets of bald eagles along the way. I don't know where they hide during the summer, but I always start to see them along the river this time of year. Naturally I stopped and tried to get a photo or two. Seeing them is a sure sign that the weather is starting to change. Don't get me wrong, though. We probably won't have anything that qualifies as "Cold" for another month or more, but at least the early mornings should be noticeably cooler. I just wish the switch back to standard time came earlier because right now it's pretty dark for most of my morning rides, and I am never comfortable in a paceline on the levee bike path in the dark even though I leave an extra bike length or two ahead of me. Even with the super-bright headlights that most of us have now, un-lit pedestrians and bikes still catch us by surprise sometimes.

This was clearly an engineering disaster that never should have happened. How do you take down those
cranes and demolish the building in the middle of downtown?
Last weekend I rode back-to-back Giro Rides and crawled around under the shrubbery in front of the house putting up Halloween decorations. Not too exciting, although lots of stuff has been going on around here. For one, we had the collapse of a new hotel they were building on Canal Street just a couple of blocks down from Tulane's Tidewater building. Three people were killed - they're still looking for one of them - and they haven't figured out yet what to do with the building and the two big cranes that are now both damaged and unsupported. A big area around the site has been evacuated, and numerous streets are closed, in case more of it collapses or one of the cranes comes crashing down.

New plumbing to replace the blown-out section
of 110-year-old water pipe under Spruce Street.
Meanwhile, a few blocks from home on Spruce Street, a big 48" water main exploded, flooding streets and resulting in a boil water advisory for a couple of days for a huge swatch of uptown New Orleans.

There was a whole blow-up at the cyclocross race over in Lafayette last weekend. I was kind of glad I hadn't gone. An invisible grass-covered hole just after the start took Kenneth down and apparently he got up and started cursing at the race director and such, which put the race director on the defensive, which just made things worse, and I guess they argued about who should have known about the hole and who should get his money back and that kind of thing. Not that unusual, really, but I guess it went on longer than normal and maybe started to escalate. With all of that going on, the woman from ULL who was there because it was being held on university property inexplicably freaked out and called campus police, which made everything ten times worse and I guess must have freaked Kenneth out, being one of only a couple of black guys there, with an unknown white police officer and all. His team stepped up to defend him against some sort of fear of racist actions that, as far as I can tell, didn't actually materialize, but I guess it's easy to jump to conclusions nowadays when there's a white police officer questioning a black man, and they all left which left only one or two riders for the Cat. 1/2/3 race, which was then cancelled. They then posted something on FB calling the promoter's behavior racist, which I think was a bit of a stretch, if not flat-out libel, under the circumstances (I called him on Monday to find out what the hell happened) since he apparently wasn't the one who called the police or asked Kenneth to leave, and I have to assume he isn't entirely insensitive to the issues involved since his girlfriend is mixed race. Anyway, after a LAMBRA conference call Townsend posted kind of long reminder on the LAMBRA page about course design and proper conduct at races that was kind of a sensitivity training reminder at the end, which I read but didn't comment on and which predictably led to a lot of back-and-forth commenting as always happens on social media. I decided to stay out of it on Facebook since I wasn't there and really, it would have been pointless. The area racing community for the most part, and certainly in New Orleans, has always been welcoming to anyone interested in racing, going back at least 30 or 35 years when Carl Cook and Kendrick Perry and Eddie Padilla were racing here. I lost track of Carl and his son a long time ago. I suspect they moved because of work. Anyway, the whole thing reminds me a bit of the Mike William incident back in the 90s with the crash in the sprint, foul language in front of spectators and children, accusations and subsequent disqualification from the series. Of course, in this case some colorful words after such an unexpected kind of crash are understandable, but the whole thing should have been resolved with a couple of apologies, a refund, and a handshake.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Six Slow Gaps

The Tulane Cycling group, shortly before heading down to the 7:30 am start
Slower isn't really easier at Six Gap. Saturday morning we loaded up a couple of Tulane's rental minivans with eight riders and hit the road promptly at 8:00 am. It wasn't quite early enough, as it turned out. The weather forecast for my 12th annual flogging was calling for a nice dry weekend with Sunday morning temperatures starting around 65F but rising to around 90F. It was going to be a hot one. Before I left, I put two big bottles on the bike, one for plain water and the other for water with whatever electrolyte tablet I had handy, which turned out to be Nuun. Years ago I would have been planning to do the whole ride with whatever I had on the bike, skipping the rest stops in order to make up for time lost climbing like a turtle. This year, my plan was different. I was determined to stop at a few rest stops to down some Coke and Gatorade and refill my bottles. I'm pretty terrible at hydration and will typically ride myself right in dehydration territory without even realizing it. Anyway, I wasn't going to worry about my time this year, and was going to take a few minutes at the tops of the big climbs to catch my breath before plunging down the other side. I would, however, still be climbing like a turtle.

This year I went up with Gavin, Julia, Frank (Houting), Paola, Ben, Julie, and Kaitlyn. The first three would be doing 6 Gap and the other three would be doing 3 Gap. I knew that Gavin was planning on crushing it, but didn't know about the others. I was just hoping to finish quickly enough that I didn't delay our departure time back to New Orleans. Last year we'd left around 8 am and arrived literally as they were closing Saturday evening registration at 6 pm (eastern time), so I wasn't really holding out a lot of hope that we'd make it there in time to pick up packets on Saturday. The Tulane minivans will beep at you if you go more than 75 mph, so trying to shave off a few minutes by driving faster wasn't really an option. Anyway, the drive went fairly smoothly, but at one point everything came to a halt on the Interstate and we lost probably fifteen minutes. Together with a stop for lunch, and 5 pm traffic through Atlanta, we were looking at a 6:15 ETA. The first minivan was ahead of us by about ten minutes, but when they arrived at around 6:05 they were told they'd have to wait until Sunday morning to pick up packets. I'd never picked up packets the morning of the ride, so I didn't really know what to expect. We made a reservation at Pueblo's Mexican Cuisine, where we traditionally have dinner, and then wandered around town a bit until our table was ready. Dinner was nice and then we headed for the Super8 motel, the same one we'd stayed at the year before. When we walked in I recognized the guy behind the counter who'd given us all kinds of trouble the year before with the credit card situation. Tulane's club sports folks make the reservations, give them their credit card number, and send them a credit card authorization form. You'd think that would suffice, but no. Once again, this guy refused to use the credit card that the rooms had been reserved with. I ended up using my Tulane corporate card, which I'm sure is going to cause all sorts of problems once the charge hits my account and I need to move it to the club sports account.

Kaitlyn and Julia, with Haoting in the background
waiting for the start
So Sunday morning we got up around 5 am, had a quick breakfast at the nearby McDonalds, and got to the high school in Dahlonega around 6:15. Packet pickup was actually very well organized, so the only problems were Paola, whose packet they couldn't find, and Ben who was taking Seth's place. Even so, that was all handled pretty quickly. I rushed back to the cars to unload bikes and get my act together. Time goes by really quickly before something like this. We took a quick group photo, and I rushed through the rest of my preparations - Garmin, HRM, two bottles of HammerGel, electrolyte in one water bottle, shoes, phone, gloves, glasses - and rushed down toward the start a little late. We ended up standing on the sidewalk with about a hundred riders in front of us. Then I saw Gavin walking toward us and told him he needed to go to the front, in front of the rope, because he'd been under 6 hours the year before. I knew that if he wanted to be with the front group, starting where we were wasn't going to work. Julia had said she wanted me to ride with her, but I was pretty sure she was going to eventually ride away from me on the climbs (she did, remarkably easily). The start was the usual chaos as I was trying to keep track of Julia, Frank, and Paola behind me without causing a problem for the riders all around me. Eventually things started to thin out and Julia appeared next to me with, "Were you trying to drop me?"  I'd already lost track of Frank and Paola. We rode up the first climb pretty much together and I could tell Julia wasn't going to be having any trouble with the climbing. I was looking at my heart rate and trying to mostly keep it at or under 160 on the climbs. She waited for me at the top of the second and third (Hogpen) climbs. I think it was a pretty long wait at Hogpen! I'd lose her immediately on the descents, but she was easily climbing a couple of mph faster than I, so I wasn't surprised that she kept going on her own over Unicoi. I stopped there as well, and a few minutes later Frank and Joe showed up. The Unicoi descent was lots of fun, as usual, and basically I was on my own for the rest of the ride. Frank stayed behind a bit at the top of Unicoi and I'd lost Joe right away on the descent. I was never pushing it on any of the descents this year. The aero wheels did seem to make a difference, and so I was coasting a lot. I touched 50 mph for a moment, but mostly I was enjoying the swoopy downhills at speeds in the 40s.

Six Gap riders listed as Louisiana or Mississippi, Frank (Haoting) really flew up the timed climbs!

So after stopping at three rest stops and not bombing any of the downhills, and being old and decrepit, I wasn't even looking at my time. When I finally rolled across the finish back at Dahlonega and looked up at the big clock I was kind of surprised to see it reading something like 6:38. I'd expected to be more like 6:45. My final chip time turned out to be 6:37:43. The really surprising thing is that the year before, my time was 6:37:57. What are the odds that I'd be within 14 seconds of last year's time?  Anyway, I was pretty well-cooked by the time we finished. My neck was killing me as usual for the last 30 or 40 miles, but maybe not quite as much as last year. My quads were pretty sore, though. I spent a fair amount of time in the 39x28 and 39x27 going 6 mph, so I guess that's to be expected.

The drive back went smoothly and we arrived in New Orleans a little past midnight. One thing I know now is that going slower at Six Gap does not make it easier!  There were some impressive finish times from some of the riders I know, though. Elliott finished in 5:12, and Gavin, who punctured out of the lead group on Hogpen, at 5:20. Julia rolled in at 6:26, followed by Frank and Paola at 6:45 and 6:47.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Calm Before the Storm

Hills haven't gotten any lower since last year. I checked.
I've been trying to take it a little easy this week ahead of next Sunday's trip up to Dahlonega for the annual 6 Gap Century. It's not so that I'll have fresh legs and a full tank to attack the climbs and record a spectacular time. No. It's so that I'll just survive. Maybe. I first did this ride back in 2008 with a 39x25 low gear. It hasn't gotten any easier with time for sure. I did that one in about 5:44. Last year I think I was around 6:30. I blame it on the 39x29 I had. Having a lower gear to work with seems to just make me go slower without having much of an effect on how much the climbs hurt. This year I guess I'll use my new aero carbon wheels and a low gear of 39x28. Heavier wheels, higher gear, older rider. What could possibly go wrong? I'm definitely leaving open the option to stop at rest stops this year. The forecast is calling for a high of 90 F, which will make it one of the warmest I've done. Although I've survived the ride a few times on just the two large water bottles on the bike, that ain't going to be happening this year. So anyway, I figure at least I'll start without sore legs from the prior week's riding.

A new HRM for me!
This week I started using a new heart rate monitor. My old armband HRM was getting to be a problem, mainly because one of the pins on the charger got jammed so it didn't always make contact. I sprung for a Wahoo Tickr Fit this time. So far, so good. Although the instructions tell you to put it way up on your forearm, it seems to work just fine down closer to my wrist. Wednesday was the first time I wore it when I made a reasonably intense effort and I was surprised to find that it showed a max heart rate of 182 bpm for a second or two. Perhaps the old one's sample rate and algorithm didn't pick up the spikes as well as this one ..... or maybe I should see a cardiologist. Anyway, I put the carbon wheels and brake pads on the bike Wednesday, along with the new "6 Gap" cassette so I can put a few miles on it all ahead of time. The new wheels are SRAM/Shimano compatible, but seem to work fine with the Campi 11-speed stuff. The bike's been slow to drop the chain down to the smaller cogs for a while now but I'm probably not going to bother trying to re-cable things before the weekend. Slow shifts to bigger gears will not be the main problem at 6 Gap.

I was glad to see the U.S. having some success at Road Worlds this year. Dygert won the Women's TT, and Garrison and McNulty were 2nd and 3rd in the TT, and then Simmons won the Junior RR with teammate Sheffield 3rd. Guess there's still hope for road racing, eh?

There was a nice turnout for the Wednesday Night races on, you know, Wednesday.
Yesterday I rushed out of work early, rode home, changed, and drove up to Baton Rouge to help officiate the Wednesday night track races at the Baton Rouge Velodrome. Along I-10 over the marsh west of town I saw a pair of Bald Eagles at the odd nest to the north of the interstate. It has to be the lowest Eagle's nest ever - maybe ten feet above the water on this solitary dead tree - but they've been nesting there for years. Seeing Eagles again is a sure sign that Fall is coming. Eventually. Likewise, there are a lot of Brown Pelicans around. They always thin out a lot in the summer but start showing up near the lake around this time of year. There were about 20 riders doing the 4 km Pursuit, and then we ran a couple of Scratch Races. There was a crash in the Cat. 4/5 Scratch Race that fortunately took only two riders down on the back straight. They seemed OK afterward, so that was good. I guess I got back home around 11 pm or so but didn't go to sleep until midnight by the time I got something to eat and watched a little TV to try and relax a bit.

Mornings are getting darker and darker
In keeping with my strategy to take it easy and gain as much weight as possible before riding 103 miles and climbing 12,000 feet next Sunday, I started this morning's 6 am ride with the idea of taking shorter pulls and limiting the intensity. I didn't really succeed there, but I think I kind of made up for it by turning back early, at The Big Dip. I'd been expecting to turn back there and then have a nice relaxed ride back, but as it turned out the other three riders also decided to turn back with me, so the ride back was a bit faster than I'd planned. It is getting noticeably darker day by day now in the mornings already, and it won't be until November 3rd that Daylight Saving Time ends. I'm never very comfortable at the back of a paceline on the bike path when it's really dark, and usually leave a little extra room just in case. We almost always get surprised by a runner or something without lights or reflectors, even though everybody has nice bright headlights and we aren't usually going more than 25 mph or so. Anyway, last week was low-mileage with no riding at all on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, and tomorrow will be just an easy coffee ride, while Saturday will be sitting in a car for nine hours.

I may not be in shape, but I'm definitely not over-trained.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Colorado Springs the hard way

Things seemed to be going along nicely last week. I got my bike back from Bicycle World with a brand new Campi Record crankset (nothing feels as nice as brand new chainrings), and then on Wednesday my new Wahoo Tickr HRM arrived.

By Thursday afternoon I was kind of looking forward to my Friday morning flight up to Colorado Springs for the USA Cycling Local Associations Conference. I figured I could probably use a few days off the bike, and it would be nice to catch up with some of the USAC staff and other LA folks. It was mid-afternoon when I checked the weather and discovered that the FAA had just shut down the Houston airport until Friday afternoon because of flooding associated with a tropical storm. Houston was where I was supposed to catch my connecting flight to COS. Crap. I spent an hour on hold with United Airlines, only to find that there was basically nothing they could to for me but give me a refund. So I pulled up trusty Orbitz and luckily found a flight that went through Dallas that would get me to COS in time for the first meeting Friday evening. It seems that all United flights go through Houston and all American flights go through Dallas. So after shelling out another $200 I booked the flight and felt like all was good.  It wasn't.

I got to the New Orleans airport very early for my flight that was scheduled for just before noon so that Candy could drop me off and then get to work. While I was hanging around the airport I ran into Brian and Laura on their way up to Alaska, so it was nice to be able to catch up. They were on the same flight to Dallas. So eventually we get onto the plane, buckle up, and back away from the gate, roll down to the runway, and then we stop and the pilot shuts down the engines. Crap!  Well, turns out they had just issued a Ground Stop for anything destined for Dallas because of the weather. We sat on the plane for a couple of hours while I online chatted with Orbitz since I knew I'd miss my connection in Dallas. The guy on the other end was amazingly helpful and got in touch with American, but in the end there was nothing he could do and the best advice was to just go ahead to Dallas and roll the dice rather than exit the plane and cancel the whole trip. By then the whole seemed like a challenge, so I went with it. By the time we landed in Dallas, Orbitz had rescheduled me on a later flight to Colorado Springs, which was kind of amazing since there aren't all that many flights into COS anyway. The downside was that I would be missing the 5:30 meet and greet and insurance presentation. So then I had to contact the USAC folks who were scheduled to pick me up at the airport to shuttle me back to Headquarters. They were super helpful and didn't have a problem picking me up later than planned. Over the next couple of hours the flight was pushed back another hour or so, and then moved to another gate on another concourse, etc., etc., so by the time I finally arrived in the Springs it was around 10:30. At least I was there!

The symposium agenda this year looked ominous, which is one reason I made the extra effort to attend. USAC has a brand new CEO plucked straight out of the business world (New Balance shoes) who had basically retired to his home in Utah until this job pretty much fell into his lap. I think for him it's just another challenge. So after all of the usual presentations about declining memberships and events, we started up Sunday morning for a long session about re-structuring the Local Associations model. If they had anything specific in  mind, they weren't saying, but what they were saying was basically that the current model was broken and was not going to continue, so we were tasked with making some suggestions about what a new model might look like. I don't know if they got out of it what they wanted, but we could all agree that three of the things that the LAs currently handle - event permits, upgrading, and officiating - would soon be almost entirely automated under the new system that was originally supposed to be in place about two years ago. Still, there are things like shared equipment, local knowledge, mentoring, etc. that need to be done more locally than centrally. Also, there's the whole issue of figuring out a way to pull new people into the organization as members. In the past, USAC was basically a race licencing organization that provided event insurance and rules for, mainly, road racing. Now there are all sorts of other cycling-related things going on that don't fit under that model - gravel, fondos, Zwift, eBikes, etc. The new president wants USAC to be the go-to place for all of that, so that's the challenge in a nutshell. At any rate, I expect we'll see some radical changes happening in a very short timeframe. Hopefully it won't be a repeat of the disaster back around 1999 when USCF abruptly fired all of the District Representatives, which led to the establishment of a few competing organizations like OBRA.

Anyway, the meeting was interesting and we had a nice dinner at a New Orleans style restaurant Saturday night, plus the weather was pretty spectacularly nice if you don't mind 12% relative humidity. The flights back were fairly uneventful but full - typical for Sunday afternoon and night flights. On the leg from Dallas to New Orleans I was way back in row 33 in the middle seat (remember, I had to make the reservation at the last minute) squashed between two huge people, one of whom looked like a Saints linebacker, complete with knee brace, and the other like yo' mama from the Nint' Ward. Good thing I'm small.  At least all the time I spent in airports and planes allowed me to read Draft Animals by Phil Gaimon, which I thought was quite good and very well-written.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

To the Shop

It's sunrise season for the morning rides
A couple of weeks ago I put on a new chain, which I try to do every 2,500-3,000 miles. Every time I do that, I listen carefully the next morning when I go out to ride, and check to see if the new chain is skipping on the more worn cogs, which are usually the 14 and 15 in my case. What I heard, and felt, was a little different and I knew immediately what it was. I'd been looking around for replacement chainrings for my older 11-speed Campi crankset without much luck. They made those particular ones for only a couple of years before changing the inner ring so that they were threaded, thus doing away with the "nut" part of the chainring bolts. A couple of years after that they went to the newer 4-pin crankset with the smaller bolt circle. I could get the threaded type chainrings, but then I'd need the bolts as well, and with the chainrings were generally in the $100 and up price range - each - so I'd been reluctant. Anyway, it was getting obvious that something had to be done since I could now hear all those wasted watts every time I pushed on the pedals. Last week I just happened upon an eBay listing where a shop was obviously getting rid of some of the older Campi cranksets, and at $200 for the whole crankset, with bearings and chainrings, it looked like a great deal and easy solution. So on Monday evening I went down to the basement to do what I thought would be a really easy and simple crankset replacement. Unbolt the single bolt holding the two halves of the crank together, pull the old cranks off, clean things up a bit, put the new cranks on, re-install the bolt and torque to spec. Easy-peasy, right?  Well things were going fine until I pulled off the non-drive side crank and heard the sound of metal pieces falling on the floor. The "wavy washer" was broken into pieces and the bearing on that side was completely worn out. I'd noticed some play in the crankset, so I wasn't too surprised about the bearing, but the wavy washer situation was going to be a bit of a problem since that's something that comes with the BB30 cups, not with the crankset. I figured that under the circumstances I might need new cups as well, so I called Adam at Bicycle World and rushed over there with the bike before they closed at 6 pm. to see if perhaps they had a washer lying around or something. Not surprisingly, they didn't, so I left the bike and the crankset with them so they could order the appropriate parts and put it all back together since I'm a little reluctant to use the wooden block and hammer method of pressing in bearing cups with a carbon frame. Anyway, looks like I'll be riding the old Orbea for a while until that all gets sorted.

Here we go again.....
It's that time of year when the early morning rides feature sometimes spectacular sunrises, either on the lakefront for the WeMoRi, or along the levee bike path. It's also the peak of Hurricane Season, and sure enough, there's a tropical wave heading in this general direction that has rather suddenly gotten a lot of attention. Nobody's predicting it to be a major hurricane, if indeed it even gets that strong, but then again it's still a long way out and this time of year these things can blow up really quickly. The track models are kind of all over the place, which is to be expected, but at the moment it's looking like we could see some impact around the weekend. Or maybe not. Who knows?

The 6 am Tuesday and Thursday rides have been kind of different lately. Some of the riders have been going pretty hard from the start, but then turning back either at Williams Blvd. or The Dip, leaving just one or two to do the whole distance out to Ormond. Although that makes the average speed slower, it definitely increases the amount of work! With a bigger group, I might be taking a pull once every two or three miles, but with only two, it's obviously much more frequent. I guess that's a good thing, although I've ended up alone for the last six or seven miles a few times and when I'm alone I usually have trouble pushing myself as hard as I should. Yesterday I ended up with just Dave after the Dip, and although we pushed pretty hard out to Ormond, after we turned around we were in conversational mode most of the way back, and then I was solo after he turned back to go home.

This morning's WeMoRi seemed fairly fast, but I wasn't feeling very aggressive and was just following wheels most of the time. I can definitely feel the difference riding the Orbea, which currently has 25 mm Gravel King tires on it. Hopefully the Bianchi will be back in action fairly soon. We had the Tulane Cycling introductory meeting on Tuesday and had a few new members sign up, so that was good. They're gearing up now for Six Gap in a few weeks and I guess I'll be riding that again, possibly setting another record slow time. If it's not looking like rain I'll probably try and use the new carbon wheels just to see how they fare. Will the aero advantage on the flats and downhills outweigh the extra climbing weight?

Monday, September 02, 2019


Friday coffee ride on Lakeshore Drive
Just back from the third Giro Ride this Labor Day weekend. Not exactly exciting stuff, but at least they were both fast and convenient. This morning, Monday, we had a surprisingly big group that showed up for the lagniappe Giro, but even so, I was expecting a nice moderate pace since so many of them, like me, had also done pretty fast rides the two days prior. As it turned out, the ride got quite fast here and there, which I guess was good because I wasn't feeling too drained from the Saturday and Sunday rides. On the way back when we were halfway between Chef Highway and Lake Forest, riding along the merge lane of I-510 as we've been doing ever since the city inexplicable shut down the service roads, a Levee District police officer decided to stop the whole ride and lecture us about how we shouldn't be riding on an Interstate highway. I doubt it will have much effect on the ride, given the lack of viable alternatives. If the road surface on Bullard wasn't outright dangerous, and if there weren't a number of traffic lights there, it might be OK, but we'd lose some of the best long stretches of fast riding. I used the new carbon Mercury wheels this weekend. Figured I should give them a good workout since I'm considering using them for Six Gap at the end of the month. If it looks like significant rain, though, I'll probably stick with my old aluminum wheels since I'd rather not learn about braking with wet carbon rims while plummeting downhill at 45 mph on unfamiliar roads.

Friday was the first Tulane Coffee Ride of the semester. There was a nice turnout, and the ride was pretty easy as planned. Looks like we'll be going to Six Gap again this year.

The Org Expo table with swag from USAC
Yesterday was the Tulane Organizations Expo over at the Reily Center. It was probably the nicest venue for that they've ever had. We've already had a few new riders come along on the club rides. I think we collected about 60 email IDs for students who were interested. Based on prior experience, that probably means three or four will still be involved by the end of the semester. Most of last year's riders are still at Tulane, so it should be a pretty good year. As usual, we haven't heard a peep out of the SCCCC. They pretty much seem to ignore us for mountain bike season. I see on the website that they have an Oct. 4 deadline for 2020 road race "bids" (as if...) but I don't know if they have bothered to contact the club directly.

Pulled the rear carb to start the rebuild. It was in surprisingly good condition, despite the frozen bolts.
Meanwhile back at home I finally got around to pulling one of the carbs off of the GT-6. It was surprisingly clean inside, other than the brown powder left from evaporated gasoline. I have the rebuild kits and will probably do them one at a time, just replacing the essentials to avoid changing any of the existing settings. Unfortunately, one of the Phillips-head bolts holding the dashpot cover on, and which I needed to remove in order to change the torn diaphragm, was seized so badly that it broke. I'm going to keep spraying it with penetrating lubricant for a day or two before trying to remove the rest of the bolt with some vice-grips. Wish me luck.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Water and Weather and Fourteen Years

Inside the Lafitte drainage canal.  Yes, that's a car down there. Probably floated in during the Katrina flood
fourteen years ago.
Today is the 14th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's landfall, and although for the most part things have been back to normal for years, we're still picking up the pieces here and there. To nobody's surprise the underground drainage canals in New Orleans are a mess. After a big and somewhat unexpected flood event back in July where areas of the city that don't usually flood, did, the Sewerage and Water Board started looking for answers.

Pulling a Mazda out of the underground canal
What they found about a week ago, were entire cars and tons of other debris, including other car parts, shopping carts, bicycles, etc., stuck in the Lafitte canal. That was probably just the tip of the iceberg, though. A big SELA project that took years to finish and that added some huge underground drainage canals along Jefferson and Louisiana are now being looked at as contributing factors, pushing more water into the system than it can handle. Less than a week after pulling the car out of the drainage canal, there was another flood event last Monday. I was sitting in the office looking at the torrential rain and watching the iron manhole covers along Poydras Street across from the Superdome get blown up into the air as high-pressure backed-up water gushed out from underneath them. By 5 pm there was a lot of flooding downtown. I'd taken the car to work because of the rain forecast and although it was safely parked on the third floor of the Tidewater parking garage, the exit to the garage was flooded, as was LaSalle street, so Candy was afraid to try and get out of the garage to pick me up. Instead, we decided to take the Tulane shuttle home and leave the car where it was. Candy walked over through the rain as we waited for the shuttle that was itself stuck in flood-induced gridlock. When it finally arrived, it was full. By then the rain had about stopped so we thought we'd walk back to the garage and see if we could take the car. We got a couple of blocks when we saw another shuttle coming, so we ran back there and squeezed onto that one, which still had to make its way over to Tidewater and the Med School and the Hospital, etc. I don't think we got home until around 7:30, but at least the waters had receded by then and the walk from campus to the house was uneventful, which to say I arrived with dry feet.

That's a lot of bugs. Smelled like dead fish.
Last weekend was affected by the rain as well. We had planned a nice 60-something mile ride on the northshore, starting at 7 am, which actually turned out to be quite nice...and dry... even though the turnout was a little low.

A little stretch as we got going after the Pine store stop. Always a few Tri riders on these Northshore rides.
I picked up Haoting, aka "Frank" before 6, stashing his entire bike in the back of the Volvo, with my bike on the roof. Driving across the causeway we were continuously pelted with swarms of Midges requiring five of six windshield washer attempts. By the time we arrived at the Lee Road ballpark, my bike was literally slimy with thousands of dead midges plastered on all of the leading surfaces. Fortunately I found a water hose over by the rest rooms and was able to clean most of it off before the ride.  It was a nice moderately paced ride for the most part, perhaps a bit easier than I'd have liked, so on the way back when we got to the "Watchtower hill" climb, just past Enon and where there isn't a watchtower any more, I kept a little pressure on the pedals which split a few of us off the front. At that point we were only maybe five or six miles from the end of the ride, and indeed that last stretch is traditionally where anyone with anything left has carte blanche to go hard, which we kinda did.

Dark clouds brought rain ten miles later
On Sunday I went out to the Giro Ride. Looking at the radar, I wondered if I'd just be having a cup of coffee and then riding back home in the rain, but eventually a pretty good-sized group turned up and we headed out. The sky, however, was clearly threatening, and by the time we turned onto Paris Road we could see the rain in the distance. A lot of people turned off at Lake Forest to avoid the rain, but a fair number of us continued on. Naturally we got soaked on Chef Highway, both going and coming, but by the time we got back to Lakeshore Drive the street was practically dry, so basically we had strategically ridden right to the only rain in the area. Regardless, it was a nice enough ride that got me a second consecutive 250+ mile week.

Hope this turns north after crossing Florida
So right now we're looking at a hurricane, Dorian, headed for Florida. The forecast tracks are still kind of all over the map but it looks like it will have built up to Cat. 2 or even 3 by the time it makes landfall around Monday. We had a little, and by that I mean very little, cool front come through last night that dropped the humidity down a notch and treated us to the first sub-80+ degree morning we've had in quite a while, not that it lasted much past sunrise. That front is, hopefully, going to force the hurricane north after it crosses Florida, if it crosses Florida, well before it gets close to New Orleans ... or maybe not.  Nobody's making any promises just yet. Jay and Laura are staying in Orlando, which at the moment is basically right under the center of the probability track, although usually by the time hurricanes get that far inland they've weakened considerably.  Anyway, perhaps because of the relatively nice weather we had a relatively good turnout with about a dozen riders for the 6:00 a.m. levee ride. As usual a lot of them turned back early but Rich and Matt continued on with me, and we picked up Dave and Steve along the way, so it was a pretty decent workout.

Tomorrow morning will be the first 6:30 a.m. Tulane cycling coffee ride of the semester. Should be interesting to see who shows up. On Tuesday I helped pick up a bike from Bicycle World that one of the students had shipped via BikeFlights. His pedals were missing, naturally. The shop had received another bike for another Tulane student the same day, and that one was missing its front wheel. Anyway, we went over to HQ where I "borrowed" a pair of Shimano road pedals from one of the TUCA bikes until Max gets his own pedals.