Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Quest for 12,000 miles - True Confessions of a Mileage Junkie!

Rolling past 12,000 mile on Boss Road, Ringoes, NJ

On October 18th I casually rolled through my 10,000 mile of the year.  At the time I was riding my Salsa Casserol on the top of the Sourland Ridge with my buddy Al.  It represented my highest single year total ever. It occurred to me that I still had more than two months left in the year to accumulate more mileage! How much could I add to what already was my most?  I took a minute to run the math through my head then announced to Al that I would strive to reach 12,000 miles by the year end.  He thought it was kind of crazy (maybe even silly) but wished me luck anyway.
Al joins me for a brief roadside celebration

I've noticed that from a cycling perspective we have become a less is more culture. There are scads of articles published promising you can be faster and fitter than ever before by doing a half-hour lunch ride.  Or, you will climb like Alberto Contador by riding your indoor trainer just two hours a week. We can monitor our heart rate, watts output, elevation gained, cadence, speed, distance, average, maximum, all while being guided by GPS. Train smart and ride less is the theme of our time.  Our busy lives demand that our leisure activities be as efficient and productive as possible.   But, all this efficiency leads me to ask one burning question. What if you simply love to ride?  What if spinning the pedals at a smooth comfortable pace for hours and hours brings you to a level of peace and serenity to rival transcendental meditation? 

For us it is the act of cycling that is enjoyed.  The more the better.  Speaking for myself it is indeed an addiction.  Fortunately, unlike most addictions there are positive paybacks for extreme exercise.  Weight control being one of the most visually obvious ones. I've been able to binge on an entire box of multi- grain crackers, washing it down with a quart of applesauce as a between meal snack and continue to maintain a healthy 158 pounds year round.  I've not considered whether eating is my motivation to ride, or riding is my motivation to eat.  No matter it all works out in the end.  The good news is my food cravings lean towards healthier vegetarian fare and not Whoppers and fries. I typically breeze thorough my annual medical physical with a pat on the back from my doctor.

The down side to riding a lot is lost time.  Time one can never get back.  Much of it solitary.  Not unlike the alcoholic, or workaholic, the cycling junkie has much to make up for in lost time with family.  Is it too steep a price to pay for such self indulgence?  Or, is there some payback in the form that time spent with family is better for one whose addictions are satisfied?  The fact that my loved ones are supportive leads me to believe the latter may be true.  The day I find that to be wrong is the day I'll make the necessary adjustments to balance the scales.  Even tipping them in favor of those who my indulgence has been unfair to.

In the meantime,  I mostly choose to pay heed to the voice inside me that calls out for more.  I write this as I am about to go on the ride that will take me past the 12,000 mile mark.  Today being December 11th.  Twenty days from the end of the year.  Will the voice then say go for 13,000?   I hope not.   
At the computer blogging and searching for the meaning of life

Early this morning I wrote the above.   The photos were added, my thanks to Al, after the 65 mile bike ride that would bring me past the desired goal.  It was a great December day to be on a bike.  Although on the cold side this morning, there was no wind and some sunshine.  My friend Al accompanied me as we worked our way to Lambertville,  a quaint town on the Delaware River.  We met my wife and a family friend at Giuseppe's Italian Restaurant on Bridge Street for a slice of great tasting pizza.  After which we undertook the 32 mile return trip through Stockton, Seargentsville and Ringoes.  I felt great pushing myself up the rolling hills of Hunterton County.  The melancholy feelings of this morning were a distant memory as I realized for the millionth time that bike riding is really a lot of fun.  The inner voice was quiet.  A fully satiated beast.  At least for the time being. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

December R-12 - Stillwater 200k Retour - PA Randonneurs

Paul and Jon at the Portland Diner before the start
  The quest for the coveted R-12 Award becomes considerably more challenging as the transition from fall to winter is felt full force here in the east.  The PA Randonneur group holds a brevet every month to accommodate the R-12 hopefuls in the area.  The December ride was scheduled for the first Saturday of the month.  Unfortunately, so was the coldest, most wind blown day of the year.  I had committed to a number of friends that I would be there for sure.  In fact, I was expecting two riding buddies to meet at my house so we could all drive up together in my Chevy Van.  My high level of enthusiasm for the ride left me like air from a punctured tire when I checked the online forecast the day before the ride.  The starting temperatures were predicted to be in the mid-twenties accompanied by 15 mph winds.  Trying to find the bright side it at least was not expected to snow, sleet or rain.  But, more on that later.

My friend Al and I load our bikes on the rear rack of the van in the darkness of my driveway as we wait for Paul to arrive. I could have sworn I saw a car drive by the house with a bike on top a few minutes ago.  Just as I was questioning whether I was having hallucinations the car drives by again.  After the third lap I call Paul's cell.  He states he is having difficulty finding my house. After clarifying the location he arrives in moments.  We load his bike and gear into the van and we're off to Portland, Pa, some 65 miles away on the other side of the Delaware River.  We arrive at the ride start, the Portland Diner, in time for a hot breakfast. 

Portland, Pa to Lafayette, NJ - 30 Miles

The oatmeal is so tasty that we start the ride about 15 minutes late.  The main group is well underway as six of us leave the diner together in full daylight. Our group consists of Jon, from NYC, Walt and Dawn from southern NJ and the three of us central New Jerseyans.  We are out of Pa in the first mile by crossing the river on a pedestrian bridge.  My winter gear is working well as the cold 25 degree air temperature is so far not penetrating.  The first section is over fairly mild terrain as we head towards Lafayette, NJ.  There is some wind to deal with, but nothing devastating.  After 17 miles we reach an information control, which is a Post Office in Middleville, NJ.   There are a good number of riders there.  We answer the required question and start to move on.  After about 1/4 mile Al realizes he left his cue sheet back at the stop.  I wait for him to go back for it while the rest of the group moves on.  Once back underway All and I have now taken over the Lantern Rouge position.  That is except for Tom the RBA who started the ride even later than we did.  He catches up to us shortly after the info control and rides with us for a bit.  We pass a couple riding together on one of the larger rolling hills.  Tom slows up to chat with them for a bit. The control is reached in just a few miles.  It is a quaint cafe where we regroup with Paul and the four other riders we started out with.  We sit together sipping hot coffee.  Jon, Walt and Dawn who have been there for a bit get the urge to move on.  We agree to meet up with them at the next control.  We depart about 10 minutes later.

Jon and other riders at the Middleville information control
 Lafayette, NJ to Great Meadows, NJ - 24 Miles 
Leaving the control one immediately is faced with a steep little kicker.  The occasional snow flake is seen flying by propelled by the ever increasing wind.  The temperature remains low as the sun has only peeked out from behind the clouds on a few occasions.  So far the cold and wind are manageable as we traverse over more mild terrain.  Compared to other PA Rando offerings this route is quite tame.  Some of the roads become familiar to me as we pass through Pequest amd Johnsonburg. We ride by the farms of Allamuchy Township on Alphano Road.  There is a drag strip nearby that I frequented many years ago during the muscle car era.  I expected to be miseraby grinding through this day and am surprised to find that I'm enjoying myself.  We arrive at US Hwy 46 and head east to the convenience store control ahead.  Jon, Walt and others are just getting ready to depart. We decide to make quick work of the stop so we don't get cold.  I refresh my water and perpetuem and am ready to go.  We are back on the road headed west.

Geat Meadows, NJ to Milford, NJ - 30 Miles
We turn quickly off US 46 onto Cemetery Road.  Once again I find myself on familiar roadways.  Much of this area is traversed by our NJ Rando rides.  We join Rockport Road near Port Murray and come across a bike club ride with about 10 hearty members out for a thirty miler.  I have a brief discussion with one the group about the merits of chromoly frames.  She was riding a Soma Smoothie and commented on my Salsa Casserol.  We cross SR 57 onto Point Mountain Road and follow the Musconetcong River to Asbury.  We seperate from the bike club at the SR 31 crossing.  There are lots of infamous hills in the area, but so far this route avoids them, keeping us on easier rolling terrain.  That is until we reach West Portal where we turn on SR 173 and climb up to start of Tunnel Road which is a 2.5 mile climb.  I've undertaken this climb before and never found it to be too tough.  I rather enjoy the many twists and turns on the way up.  It never gets too steep, but it seems to go on for a long time. I settle in and maintain a steady pace with Paul leading the way.  At the summit we wait for Al who is taking it a bit more conservatively.  Upon regrouping we turn onto Sweet Hollow Road which features several miles of gradual descending.  The sun is making one of it's occasional appearances making the downhill run enjoyable as we don't get too chilled.  We re-join the Delaware River at Milford, NJ and arrive at the Pizza Shop control which marks 84 mile point.  Jon and Walt have already made it through having apparently picked up the pace.  Dawn is just getting ready to leave with another small group of riders.  We decide to get a late lunch here before moving on. 

Paul and Al at Pipilo's Pizza in Milford, PA

Milford, NJ to Portland, PA - 40 Miles
Appetites satisfied with Pizza and Pasta we depart for the final leg of the ride. We have a little more than an hour of daylight remaining.  The wind has kept up and I'm a bit worried about getting cold once night falls.  The terrain to the finish is mostly rolling with a few medium sized kickers thrown in.  We work our way to Asbury where we decide to pull off at a convenience store to put on night riding gear.  Taking no more time than what is needed to accomplish that we get back on the road.  As I try to pedal away one of my cleats comes loose and my foot is flailing about as I pedal.  I try to clip out, but the cleat won't release.  I pull off to check out the problem.  Paul and Al stop with me.  I get the cleat out by removing my foot from the shoe, then using a leatherman tool to force the cleat to release.  One of the two screws has fallen out of the cleat.  The remaing screw is halfway out.  Paul thinks of the idea to use a screw from a water bottle cage as a replacement.  We tell Al to move on while there is still some daylight to ride in.  We will try to catch up to him after we get things worked out.  After some fiddling around getting the make shift screw to seat properly I'm able to clip in again.  It's nearly dark when we resume riding.  We lost about 15 to 20 minutes on the repair giving Al a very healthy head start.  Paul and I make good time for the next five miles and I spot Al's tail light way up ahead.  Thinking it will take a good amount of time to make up that ground we keep up the pace.  After only about a half mile I notice the blinking tail light appears to be stationary.  Al is stopped at the side of the road.  We quickly get up to his location to find his helmet light has gone out.  Needless to say reading the cue sheet is giving him a problem.  With Al in tow we continue on to Belvidere where the river crossing back into PA awaits.  Once across the bridge we are only 10 miles from the finish.  The wind is still strong, but we are fortunate to have a fair amount of wind block working for us in the form of a cliff which is on our left side with the River on our right.  The steepest climb of the day comes as River Road makes an abrupt turn.  For the first time of the day I need to use the granny gear.  After the relatively short, steep climb we work our way through the 4 miles of easy terrain to the finish.  After loading the bikes on the van we head into the diner for a bite to eat.  Al has something to celebrate as today's ride marked his twelfth 200k in as many months earning him his first R-12.     


Overall it was a successful and fun day for the three of us.  Not to mention the 21 other Randonneurs who completed the ride.  Once again the PA group accomplished a 100% completion rate.  A regular occurrence on Tom's brevets, even on the hillier routes.  This route is ideal for winter riding.  With just the right amount of climbing to help riders stay warm.  All but one of the controls featured indoor seating allowing us an opportunity to warm up before tackling the next leg.  I was happy we decided to partake.  

*Three more rides to go for my second R-12
*105 miles more to reach 12,000 road miles for this year!

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

November R-12 Ride - Noximixon 200k

Al Reaches the top of Center Hill Road in Pennsylvania on the Noximixon 200k
The second weekend of the month would provide the right weather opportunity to fullfull the November R-12 requirement.  Originally, I was targeting for the first weekend, but a head cold combined with a chilly weather forecast had me thinking better of it.  My friend Al agreed to wait until the next weekend to do the ride with me.  With only a few choices in the area to pick from we decideded to ride my friend Paul's Noximixon 200k from Princeton Junction NJ to Richlaytown PA and back.  We would pass by the ride's namesake lake on the way. 
Adjusting clothing at Lambertville as the day warms up
At the first sign of light, just prior to the 7am start, I looked into the sky and saw nothing,  Not a single cloud. None would make an appearance for the entire day.  We departed the Southfield Shopping Center in Princeton Junction enduring a chilly 34F air temperature.  The cold was very temporary as bright sunshine brought us into the fifties by the first control at Lambertville.  Then up to a balmy 67F by the Richalytown control around lunchtime.  The Nox route features lots of climbing, but is laid out in such a way that there are easy sections before and after hilly stretches.

Al at Lake Noximixon
After Richlaytown we crossed the river back into New Jersey via the Milford bridge, after undertaking the toughest climb on the course (IMHO) Center Hill Road.  It was then clear sailing to Frenchtown whereafter we would take on Horseshoe Bend Road, which is a rather hilly three miles of blacktop.  We would be on moderate to rolling terrain until Ringoes. The next challenge being the climb into the Sourlands up Lindbergh Road where darkness would finally overtake us.  The lack of sun caused the air temperare to quickly plummet down to the forties.  I was not prepared for how fast it got cold and needed to stop shortly after the climb to put on a jacket.  Normally, I try not to stop between controls, but this time it was unavoidable as I was freezing.  Thankfully, there was another good size climb ahead, Old Gerogetown Road, to help me warm back up.  Once at the Kendall Park control I spent twenty minutes putting back on every piece of clothing and gear I took off during the day.  After which it was a comfortable eleven mile cruise to the finish. 

This little guy keeps guard at the top of the hill on Center Hill Road
Our time was a leisurely 12hrs and 30 minutues, but neither of us cared.  It's another brevet card to post on the wall.  For Al it was number 11 towards his first R-12 which began with his first official Permanent in January.  I'm looking forward to riding next month's 200k with him.  Date and location to be determined later. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

NJ Transit 200k Permanent - The first taste of winter!

As the weekend approached the timing felt right for another longish ride.  My friend Paul, recently recovered from a knee injury, wanted to test himself on a challenging 200k.  We settled on my NJ Transit permanent which features more than a fair amount of climbing. 

Paul adjusts layers of clothes at the Hampton control
We started from Hillsborough at 7:45 Saturday morning with the thermometer reading a finger numbing 33 degrees.  The day warmed into the upper sixties making it a challenge to carry all the cold weather gear we peeled off.  There was a stronger than predicted wind from the west which we slogged through for a good portion of the day until the Hampton control at mile 85.  From there we would battle the biggest hills on the route for the next seven miles, then finally enjoy some wind at our backs.  Darkness fell just as we arrived at the penultimate control in Bedminster (mile 109).  From there it was a quick 17 mile dash to the finish in Hillsborough.  We clocked in at just a tad over 12 hours havng spent a good amount of time resting and adjusting clothing layers at the controls.  Paul's knee held up admirably under the strees of many challenging climbs.  I'm happy to see him making a strong comeback with 200k's on succesive weekends.  

I was pleased with my decision to leave the fixed gear bike at home making it around the course smoothly on the Salsa Casserole Triple.  The granny was used on more than one occasion during the day.   While unpleasant the cold morning was good preperation for the cold rides yet to come as winter rapidly closes in on us here in the north east.  Next up will be the November R-12 ride.         

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

October R-12 Ride - PBP 200k - The Fixie Craze Continues!

The weekend after the PPP Century it was time to get down to more serious business and focus attention to the required R-12 ride.  My friends Paul and Al both needed thier monthy 200k as well.  We settled on the Princeton-Belmar-Princeton 200k Permanent deciding to ride it on the Columbus Day Holiday, which fell on Monday.  The flat route uses many of the same roads as the prior weeks century.   I decided to give the Sputnik fixed gear another tour of the countryside.

The first leg of the ride covers 45 miles to the shore town of Belmar.  The weather was picture perfect as we rode past the beach on Ocean Boulevard.  With no crowds this time of year it was a peacful setting. 

Yours truly on Ocean Boulevard at the shore town of Belmar. Photo by Al.

Al working his way through the sunshine at Belmar.  Photo by Joe.
 Once through Belmar we head north to New Egypt and the Wawa market at the 80 mile point in the ride.  A relaxing lunch is enjoyed before moving on to Pemberton (another Wawa), near the military base.

Paul and Al at the Pemberton Wawa

The miles continue to tick off smoothly for us as we depart Pemperton (mile 95) for points further north.  The next control is in Cranbury where we utilize an ATM to minimize down time.  Al's wife, Sue, thought she would surprize him by meeting him in Cranbury.  Since we opted for the ATM rather than a food establishment the meeting was brief.  Al still came out a winner as Sue rushed home to bake a lasagne for him to eat after the ride. 

A brief seven miles to the finish would have us done before 6pm (10hrs 55min).  We all made it home in time for dinner. 

It was a great day of accomplishment. Al completed his 10th R-12 ride (2 to go).  Paul's count is at 8 for this year (working on his second R-12).  I collected my 7th towards my second time at the award, and my longest ever distance on a fixed gear bike.
My first 200k fixed gear ride.  Feeling kinda crazy!

Pumpkin Patch Pedal - Fixie Century

The Jamis Sputnik.  A most worthy mount for a flat 100 miles 
Every fall for the past five years I've done this classic century ride.  A south jersey tour of flatland's and Pine Barrens.  It's the perfect time to break out the fixed gear.  The temperature range was pleasant with sunny skies.  A bit windy on the return back north for last half, but no complaints.  Me and the Jamis Sputnik negotiated the course in a total time of 6hrs 40min.  I rode alone for almost the entire 100 miles with exception to a brief conversation with Bruce from eastern Long Island, shortly after the Browns Mills rest stop.  And, the last 10 miles when one weary rider, on a full carbon Cervello, held my rear wheel to the finish.  He was too tired to converse so I never got his name. Of the five times I've done this ride, three were on fixies.  A tradition in the making. 
A costumed volunteer serves pie at the Clayton Park rest stop
A pumpkin picking farm in south jersey
Bruce from Long Island battles head winds on the return.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Natchez Trace 600k - The long and winding road!

To cap off my season with a second series I decided on this unique concept brevet as the final piece to the package.  The ride begins in Nashville Tennessee at the northern terminus of the Nathchez Trace Parkway.  The route consists entirely of that single road to Tupelo Mississippi and back for the 600k  (a 1000k was being run concurrently which went further south).  The parkway itself is actually an historical park.  The two lane road features 442 miles of meticulously maintained blacktop crossing three state borders.  It has frequent historical landmarks, allows no commercial traffic, is devoid of any businesses, and has beautiful scenic vistas.  Given that the road has low speed limits the only vehicle traffic is that of vacationers enjoying the resource.   From a cycling perspective it is very pleasant to ride.  There are many gentle gradients varying from two to seven percent.  Mostly concentrated in the one-hundred mile stretch from Nashville to Collingwood, TN.  I was a late entrant signing up about ten days prior to the start and was quite amped about the concept.  My wife would travel with me to Nashville and after the ride we would move on to Arkansas to visit family and vacation a bit.
The Natchez Trace Parkway near the northern end.  The road continues for over four hundred miles.
Natchez Trace 600k - Day # 1

The ride was scheduled to begin at the civilized hour of 6:00am on Friday (the 1000k started at 4:00am Thursday).  I arrived at the YMCA parking lot at 5:15am to check in along with 10 other riders (the 1000k field was 51 strong).  I leave my drop bag with the volunteer, then wait patiently for the start time.  I know none of the other riders.  When we are given the off signal we head out as one group.  In just a couple of miles we reach the parkway on ramp.  It's the first of many gentle climbs as it winds over the top of the road we just exited.  In less than a mile there is a long gradient.  I opt to gear down and undertake it slowly.  Most of the group charges up at a faster pace.  I decide to let them go.  Three riders are behind me having dropped off the back.  I want to start slowly to thoroughly warm up.  I notice my legs feel a bit stiff as the climb continues for quite awhile.  As I wind around one of the turns I no longer see any riders.  After reaching the top with a long view of the road ahead there is no one in sight.  A look behind reveals no one visible there as well.   I resign myself to riding solo for awhile resolving to enjoy the experience.  I'm getting my first taste of this unusual road as there is some daylight starting to appear.  The opportunity to take in the scenery and be introspective has some appeal in this setting.  As full daylight brings the surroundings into view I am impressed at the beauty and solitude of this place.  At twenty miles in I've yet to see a vehicle, or any living thing.  The rolling terrain continues with more gradual ups and downs.  I'm not feeling much snap in my legs as I tackle the inclines.  My hope is that as the miles tick off I will start feeling better.  The sun rises above the tree line bringing the temperature higher as well.  It was mid sixties at the start, soon I expect to be dealing with temps in the nineties.  At forty miles in I pass the Jackson Falls comfort station which consists of restrooms and a water fountain.  I'm planning on refilling water at the first optional stop on my cue sheet which is a trading post just off the parkway.  All the controls and optional stops are commercial establishments located at parkway exits, as there is nothing to be purchased anywhere on the Natchez Trace (hereafter referred to as NT).  Five miles past the free, convenient opportunity to re-fill water I suck the last drop from my Camelbak.  I'm twenty miles from the optional stop at Napier, Tn.  There is nothing listed in between.  I have a bottle of Perpetuem that I've been steadily sipping on in my bottle cage.  It still has a little bit left so I use it as fluid which lasts about five miles.  I've got to ride the next fifteen miles with no fluids.  Of course the temperature is steadily rising every minute.  With twelve miles to go to the stop I see a bicycle up ahead traveling in the same direction.  At first I think it is another rider on the 600k, until I notice panniers front and rear on the bike.  I catch up to the guy on a gradual incline.  I match his pace to converse with him.  I find out his name is Sam and he is on his way back to the west coast having just completed a US crossing going west to east.  He graduated college in the late spring and decided to spend six months on a cycling adventure.  We converse until he decides to stop for a break at one of the historical points (Merriweathers Gravesite).  Since there is no water there I decide to keep moving on to the trading post which is now just a few miles farther.
I arrive at the exit and find the store which is just one quarter of a mile from the NT.  It feels really hot when I stop riding.  I buy a bag of ice, bottles of water and refresh camelbak, and Perpetuem bottle.  Taking no more time than what is needed to perform those tasks I head back on the parkway and continue south.  The next stop will be the official control in Collingwood, twenty-six miles away.  I vow to drink the fifty ounces of water from the Camelbak by then.  It is really hot now and I need to replenish lost fluids.  It was stupid of me to run out of water when there were resources available.  I'm angry with myself for not having my head fully in the game.  I may be physically below par today, but there is no reason why I shouldn't be able to think clearly. 
One of the many scenic vistas to be enjoyed on the NT.
I met Sam along the way.  He was heading for the west coast on a double US crossing.
As I'm working my way south the wind starts to pick-up.  Of  course it is not blowing in my favor, but instead is a noticeable head wind.  At this point I begin to feel the first niggling pangs of doubt.  I'm questioning if I can make it through when I feel this poorly so early on.  Add to it having to deal with a hot, windy environment while riding all alone.  I decide that no matter what I'm making the next control in Collingwood.  If I'm in a real bad way when I get there I can quit, but not before.  I can't believe I've only ridden a little more than 100k and I'm entertaining thoughts of quitting.

The remaining miles to the control remain hot hilly and windy.  It's very quiet on the NT.  Only occasionally a car or motorcycle passes me in either direction.  This really is something to be savored, but I'm struggling to enjoy myself.  I arrive at the exit and work my way to the control, a Tiger Mart.  Before arriving there I decided I would make it to Tupelo before allowing myself to think about quitting, so there was nothing to think about.  I go through the routine of refreshing my fluids, while eating a small bag of Fritos at the same time.  The volunteer transporting the drop bags to the sleep stop comes in for lunch.  He tells me the three riders behind me are way behind.  He's quite sure they won't be catching up.  The cashier at the control mentioned the group in front of me is over an hour ahead.  I expect to be riding solo until Tupelo, at which point there is a chance I can ride from there to the sleep stop with one of the 1000k riders.  The timing would be right for the mid-pack to be on their way through there.
There were plenty of cotton fields along the parkway in Alabama.
Back on the NT headed south I'm feeling a bit better after the stop.  After a few miles the terrain flattens out some.  Unfortunately, the wind does not let up.  After about 10 miles I cross the border into Alabama.  The NT cuts through a small 33 mile piece of the state.  The scenery changes to fields filled with cotton plants.  It's a refreshing change to view something a little different.  The Mississippi border comes up quickly, followed just six miles later by the exit for the optional store stop at Tishomingo, MS.  I use the opportunity to refresh fluids.  Since sunset is only about an hour away I put on my reflective gear so I won't need to stop again before the turn around.  I'm doing well from a time perspective having past the 200k mark in 9 1/2 hours.  I'm on target for a 15 hour 300k.  I'm quickly back on the parkway headed for the turn around control at Tupelo forty miles further south.  Sunset on the NT is a pretty sight.  With little to no traffic to interfere with the sights and sounds it is peaceful experience.  I think about Sam riding alone for months on end.  I try to imagine what it would be like.  I can only conclude that being by oneself for long periods becomes easier and more comfortable with practice.  I enjoy riding alone at times and have ridden up to 400k without the benefit of company.  But, truth be told, in the dark of night on an unfamiliar lonely stretch of road company is appreciated.  I begin to see the lead riders of the 1000k heading north to their second night sleep stop, which is where I will be headed after the half-way control.  The traffic picks up some as I near the city.   The NT has five exits for Tupelo so locals use it to get around the city to some degree.  So far all motorists have been well behaved. I reach my exit which is State Highway 6.  The stop is listed as an open control allowing riders to choose any business at the exit.  The choices appear to be burger, or chicken fast food establishments. I spot a convenience market and choose to stop there.  So far I've eaten very little in the way of solid food. The Hammer products have gotten me through largely on their own.  But, after 15 hours I'm in the mood to munch on something.  Scanning the shelves inside the market the only thing that appeals to me is cookies.  Contrary to my belief that simple sugars are less than an ideal food I buy a sleeve of vanilla cremes and eat all of them.  I refresh fluids and prepare to leave. 
The state of Mississippi hosts the southern end of the NT.
I notice one of the 1000k riders departing from the Hardees next door at the time I am leaving.  His name is Nemosho, he has ridden 700k as of Tupelo.  We ride together attempting to converse as much as our fatigue will allow.  It's about forty miles to the State Park where we will be able to sleep.  Nemosho is understandably riding quite conservatively.  On the other hand I'm having a sugar rush from the cookies and my legs want to spin.  Knowing how short lived energy is from sugar sources I go with the flow reluctantly leaving my newly found riding companion on his own.  I fly along until the surge of energy leaves me as quickly as it came.  The high is replaced by sleepiness.  After a few more miles I realize I have to find a place for a short nap.  I come across one of the many turnouts on the NT that feature a convenient trash receptacle designed for cars to throw out stuff without the driver having to exit the vehicle.  There is a fence to lean my bike against and a slab of cement to lay down on.  I'm asleep the second I lay my head down.  When I awaken with a start it takes a second to figure out where I am.  It is very dark on the NT with no artificial light except at bathrooms.  We were under a full moon, but it is not in visible anymore.  Probably because it is thundering and lightning at the moment.  A thunderclap must be responsible for waking me.  I figure I was only asleep for about twenty minutes, but I'm feeling considerably more alert.  Without further delay I resume riding.  I have about 15 miles to the control.  A rain shower appears to be a distinct possibility.  After another mile a car comes speeding up from behind.  The passenger yells something out the window and ejects a beer bottle in my direction.  Fortunately, it smashes to the pavement about 100 feet in front of me.  The inebriated occupant was incapable of timing his throw to compensate for the speed of the car.  The incident actually makes me laugh aloud.  About ten miles later I come to the exit for the state park.  It's raining softly as I turn into the entrance.  It's a full five miles on the park road to the cabins that are being  used for the overnight control.  To my surprise the five miles represent a good amount of climbing.  The rain picks up a bit as I make my way to the designated control cabin where the volunteers await.  I check in, am given my drop bag and shown to a cabin.  There are about ten riders already asleep in bunks. The lights are out.  I take a shower in the adjoining bathroom and return to the bunks to sleep.  It's after 2am, I'm hoping for three hours of quality sleep.

Natchez Trace 600k - Day#2

I awake on my own about 5am after a rather fitful sleep.  I lay in the bunk for another half hour before getting up and preparing to ride.  Most of my cabin mates continue sleeping.  It takes me about 45 minutes to get my gear together and get dressed working in the cramped quarters of the bathroom.  It was raining lightly outside when I got up, but now a thunderstorm has come overhead and it's absolutely pouring buckets, accompanied by loud thunder claps.  There is a breakfast being offered in the dining hall so I decide to go to that while waiting for the storm to blow through.  The volunteers are serving eggs, pancakes, sausage, hash browns and cereal.  After consuming all of the items that can be considered vegetarian I hang out chatting with some of the other riders until the rain lightens enough to depart.  I'm extremely careful on the wet leaf covered road leading out of the park.  Soon, I'm back on the NT headed north.  The road is very quiet at this early hour.  I see an occasional RV, but not much else.  Some of the faster 1000k riders who departed the camp after me start to pass by.  Before long the rain picks up dampening my mood.  I'm not thinking about quitting anymore, I've gone this far and I plan to see it through.  I pass the sign denoting entry into the state of Alabama. I notice the loaded touring bike headed southbound.  Sam is out here on the NT riding in the rain.  We wave to each other shouting good luck as we pass by.  Thinking of the incredible distance he has left to cover makes my task seem insignificant.  I've got about 200k to go with 14 hours of time left.  Regardless of the elements I'm confident I can manage that.     
The parkway crosses the Tennessee River
The Tennessee River viewed from the bridge.
Thankfully, the rain lightens up again and I cross the final state border back into Tennessee.  A rider appears on my left saying he doesn't expect we should have any more rain as the Nashville area is dry.  His name is Jim.  He is the RBA of the Pittsburgh region and he is riding the 1000k.  He explains he's ridden the entire day before alone.  He was looking for some company for the remaining miles.  A more fortuitous meeting has never occurred.  While I am mentally prepared to finish the ride alone the time will certainly pass by quicker and easier with company.  Jim and I fall into step chatting easily.  The exit for the Collingwood control appears.  We head off the NT to the stop.  There are a lot of riders there.  I am smack in the middle of the 1000k group.  Shortly we head back to the NT for the remaining 90 miles.  The roads are drying out and although somewhat overcast rain does not look likely.  Jim's weather prediction is so far holding true.  The terrain gets more hilly as we go north.  On one particular incline I comment to Jim that it appears we've been gradually going up for a long time.  After viewing his GPS he tells me the incline is a 2% grade for fifteen miles.  The weather warms to a comfortable, but not hot temperature.  On occasion the sun peeks out between the clouds.  We maintain a steady pace and discuss whether or not to stop at the optional rest stop coming up.  Both of us agree to just use the NT rest areas for the remainder of the way.  They are plentiful in the northern portion.  They feature bathrooms and drinkable water.  Shortly before the Gordon House rest area at mile 346 I'm stung in the neck by a bee.  The area swells up a bit, but not dangerously so.  A couple of the volunteers pull alongside in a car and inform us they are setting up a rest station at the rest area just a few miles ahead.  When we arrive there we opt to stop.  They have water food and ice.  I ice the site of my bee sting, refresh fluids and head out with Jim for the remaining thirty miles.  The terrain is decidedly more hilly now.  We make it to the next rest area at mile 365 and stop to set up for night riding.  Back on the NT we encounter more inclines.  They are longish climbs with varying degrees of steepness, although none are terribly steep.  The hills continue into full darkness as we near the end of the NT.  After some momentary confusion as to which way to turn at the end, we are finally off the parkway.  The cue sheet leads us to a volunteers house just a few miles away.  The standard practice with brevets is to select the finish location that is at the highest elevation.  I rather enjoy the final big climb. Surprisingly, my legs are feeling real strong all the way up.  Somewhere along the last 100 miles I finally warmed up.  I felt like myself again.

Jim and I are clocked in at 8:16pm.  Jim is almost 11 hrs ahead of the 1000k cut-off.  With the heat he encountered on the first two days  it's an impressive effort. As for my time of over 38 hours it represents one of my slowest at the distance. But, perhaps the most satisfying.  I was doubting myself for a good portion of the ride, all the while continuing to move forward.  Eventually, the doubt was replaced by determination.  I learned a lot in the hours and minutes that made up this adventure.  A lot about the mental side of ultra distance riding.  I read somewhere that the credo of the distance rider is that:  no matter how bad you feel or how good you feel it wont last.  Keeping those words in mind helped me manage the lows and not take the highs for granted.    


Overall, this was a great event.  Every bit the adventrue I hoped it would be.  The Organizer, Jeff Sammons, and his crew of volunteers did an admirable job managing the two simultaneous rides.  The Harpeth Valley Bicycle Club were wonderful hosts.  There were side events both before and after the ride. From a reception at the well known Gran Fondo Bike Shop, followed by a pre-ride dinner.  To a  post ride breakfast on Sunday morning held at the Loveless Cafe, a famous eatery in Nashville. My wife Lucy and I had the pleasure of attending the breakfast.
Lucy and I at the Loveless Cafe.  The biscuits are to die for.
Jeff states in his post ride communications that they are planning a Natchez Trace 1400k which would traverse the entire length of the parkway in 2012.  Sounds like a winner!  I hope to be there.

For the present this concludes my 2010 brevet season (except for R-12 and fun rides).  Were off to Arkansas. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

PA Randonneurs - Hawk Mountain 200k - Hills and Scenery A-Plenty

My friend Al was in need of his September R-12 Ride.  Given that our local rando group has no more brevets scheduled this year that left us with the choice of riding one of the three nearby permanents, or traveling to a brevet elsewhere.  I spotted a dandy looking 200k on the PA Rando calendar which was touted as a beautiful, hilly tour of Lancaster County, aka known as the Amish country.  Despite it being over a two-hour drive for us Al agreed to go for it.
Old fashioned transport at its best.  A common sight in Lancaster County.
We undertook the drive the night before on Friday, staying at a small inexpensive motel one mile from the start.  In the morning we left our vehicle in the motel lot riding to the start in Ephrata, Pa.  It was a a crisp, clear morning with the air temperature in the upper fifties and little to no wind.  A field of 27 riders clipped in at 7am sharp heading for the first control 48 miles to the northeast in Kempton.  We encounter a few hearty climbs on the way there.  Also, we pass through a small town that was having a yard sale en-masse.  About half of the homes had stuff for sale.  At 8am the streets were crowded with people looking at the used merchandise.  There were even some sidewalk food vendors offering breakfast.  It was quite the sight.

The day would just get nicer and nicer as the temperature rose up into the upper sixties with sunshine and light winds.  The challenge of the course was off-set by the beautiful scenic vistas that were omni-present.  We come across a rider, Eric K, a regular on the PA brevets.  Eric would ride with us for most of the way.  He traveled over two hours from State College, PA for the event.  An engineer starting a new business as a  bicycle frame builder, he was riding one of his own creations.  I enjoyed conversing with him about all things bicycle and randonneuring.
Eric at the top of one of many climbs.  Panoramic views made the climbing more worthwhile.

We arrive at the first control on Hawk Mountain Road, just a few miles from the rides namesake climb.  There were other riders I know there,  Len Z, riding a recumbent that looked a lot like "Mellow Yellow."   Also, Ron and Barb, aboard the purple tandem.  They are all regulars on the New Jersey and Pa brevets.  Despite the control being close to fifty miles in we manage a relatively quick stop.  As we ride out we eye the mountainous landscape knowing we will soon be working our way up.
The mountain ridge beckons us
Al riding smoothly on traffic free roads
Len on the Bacchetta high racer.  Al in background.
 After a few gradual miles on Hawk Mountain Road we start going up what has to be Hawk Mountain itself.  The climb starts gradually.  I manage in my middle chain ring as the switchbacks keep coming.  I'm feeling quite good for the first mile.  As the climb goes on the grade steepens.  I decide to visit granny and save the legs for the sixty plus miles of hilly terrain yet to come.  The rest of the climb goes smoothly for me. On the way up I passed by Ron and Barb, who were so enthralled with the scenery they were not aware they were on the signature climb of the day.  I also passed by Len who had generated enough internal heat on the way up that he needed to peel off a layer.  At the top I wait for Al and Eric who climbed a bit more conservatively than me.  I use the time to send a Twitter message updating the ride progress for our faithful followers.  That would consists of my family and Al's.  The message goes through just as Al crests the top of the climb.  We descend together with Eric not far behind.

Al on the descent
The three of us re-group shortly after the descent only to begin more climbing.  Hill View Road and Summer Road are one continuous hill, but the pretty view makes it worth the effort.  After encountering a few more shorter knee breakers the control in Pine Grove appears. Not being sure what is ahead we agree to take some time to eat some solid food and rest a bit.  The last 33 miles were the hilliest so far.  As we're resting outside the mini-market a rider arrives.  I ask him how it's going and he shows  me a rear derailleur that he's holding in his hand.  He explains that he over shifted on a hill mashing the derailleur into the spokes, breaking off a spoke and the derailleur.  I look at his drive train and see that he has shortened the chain and is running as a single speed in a fairly small gear.  With plenty of time left and only about 45 miles to go he should make it.  Although it won't be the most fun he's ever had.  We leave the control having spent about a half hour.  The next leg is only 14 miles, we all agree to keep the next control to a minimum of time.

The next 14 mile leg consists of pleasantly rolling terrain, which I enjoy more than any other.  We make good time flying up the rollers with momentum gained from the one before.  It's lots of fun and I'm almost sorry when the control point arrives.  I felt like I could have ridden like that all day.  We are now 33 miles from the finish, and having taken a substantial break at the last control we keep this one brief.  Just as we get ready to leave the single speed guy rolls in.  He comments to us that he thinks he may shorten the chain to go with a bigger gear.  After a total of only fifteen minutes the three of us leave together.

The last leg is a fairly tame one.  We manage a steady pace without pushing it.  Al's shoulders begins to bother him, but he keeps rolling,  The scenery is as pleasant as all the miles before and the weather is perfect.  With about 10 miles to go Al announces that he needs to stop for a few minutes to stretch his shoulders.  I agree to stop with him, as Eric continues on the finish.  It takes Al about 10 minutes to loosen up to the point of being able to ride with out excruciating pain.  I take a scenic photo while waiting for him. When he's ready we move on headed for the barn.
My Salsa takes in the local scenery while on a short break near the end.
The final ten miles are on moderate terrain.  Despite Al's pain we manage to keep good time and arrive at the Turkey Hill convenience store, just a few minutes behind Eric.  Tom Rosenbauer, RBA, and Andrew Mead, organizer, are there to greet us.  We process our paperwork and undertake the one mile climb back to our car.  It was a bit of an effort to come out here for this ride with a total of four hours of driving, but as I reflect back it was well worth it.

The next day I make the decision to enter the Natchez Trace 600k in Nashville.  If I can complete the brevet that will give me a second (RUSA) series for the year.  Which will be a fine finish for this season, which so far has been my best ever.

Stay tuned. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

NJ 300k - Englewood

This late season 300k is a new edition to the NJ Randonneurs calendar this year. Organized by Laurent Chambard, with the start in Englewood on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. The route heads north to West Milford near Greenwood Lake, then on to Port Jervis, Cornwall, through Harriman State Park and Congers before returning to Englewood.

I joined my friends Paul and Jon at the 4am start.  I began by riding slow to warm up a somewhat sore hamstring.  Paul, Jon and just about everybody else were quite a bit ahead of me.  After about five miles I came across my two friends waiting for me at the side of the road.  We continued on together over rolling to moderately hilly terrain.  After a few more miles Paul mentioned that his right knee was hurting pretty bad.  We continued on until about the twenty mile point where Paul reached the conclusion that the knee would not get him through the day.  As luck would have it the organizer drove up at that exact moment.  Paul would take a ride in the car to the train station in Port Jervis.

Jon had stated in advance that he needed to ride the route quickly, as he had a commitment later in the evening at home.  I would not be able to match his pace up the big hills, that would be presenting themselves shortly, so I told him he should move on whenever it suited him.  Shortly before the control he put the hammer down on a good sized roller.  I didn't see him again until the control at West Milford.  Paul was there also, as Laurent had stopped at  the control to confer with the volunteer.  Jon left a few minutes after my arrival.  I chatted with Paul while eating a bagel.  Knowing the stage ahead was hilly, Paul suggested I not linger.  He assisted me with re-filling my camelbak and preparing a fresh bottle of Sustained Energy.  I then headed out towards Port Jervis on my own.
I came across this sleepy little lake while riding on my own in the early morning hours.

These guys were local roadies out enjoying the cool morning near Port Jervis

This is Lou who was together with the two riders above.  Lou took my photo using my camera. 
I'm settling in for a long day.  Photo by Lou.

The riding was quite pleasant with a sixty-five degree air temperature and clear skies.  There was a slight headwind, but not significant enough to matter.  I was enjoying the scenery as the route took on a hillier profile.  I caught up to a group of three guys riding together thinking they might be on the brevet.  As it turned out they were just local roadies out enjoying the day.  We rode together for a few miles and chatted.  They had seen a couple of riders that were obviously with our group.  I took some rolling photos of the three of them.  Then one of them borrowed my camera to take a shot of me.  The picture taker was named Lou.  I memorized his e-mail address so I could send him the photos.  We parted company shortly thereafter as they arrived at their turn-off.  It was a pleasant meeting which left me in good spirits.  I was zeroing in on Port Jervis, but not before encountering a pretty substantial climb of about 1,000 feet of elevation gain.  I would come across a few more of those over the course of the day.  After a little difficulty finding the control, thanks to a turned street sign, I finally arrive at the coffee house control in Port Jervis.  I come across Bill, who struggled to find the place as well.  Laurent verifies our brevet cards and informs me that Paul is safely en-route to home via NJ Transit Service.  Bill heads immediately back out on the route.  I take some time to refresh water and energy drink and am back on the road having spent about a total of 15 minutes at the stop.  I leave with about an hour and a half in hand.
Entering New York State shortly before Port Jervis

Shortly into the segment I come across one of the biggest single climbs of the day on Guymard Turnpike.  Fortunately the gradient isn't killer steep.  I also have some wind at my back.  The climb tops out at close to 1,200 feet with the steepest section at about 12% grade.  None the less it was not unpleasant.  About a mile later I come across Bill off to the side of the road attending to some personal business.  I continue on for another mile or so and come across a view that calls out for me to take a photo.  I stop and position my bike in the foreground capturing a photo of the scenic vista.  Bill happens along and stops for me to take his photo as well.  After which we begin riding together.  The rest of this leg goes quite smoothly as we enter the town of Goshen, where there is an information control.  We then continue on to Conrnwall New York.  With exception to the one big climb this section was so far the easiest.   The control in Cornwall is a busy pizza place.  My friend Todd is the volunteer there, accompanied by his two young sons.  There are about five other brevet riders inside the place, most of whom I know.  I enjoy a slice of veggie pizza.  Then re-fill water, and energy drink. Bill and I depart together en-route to some more sizable hills.
A scenic vista worth taking the time to stop
Bill at the same scenic spot

The elevation profile showed this next section in excess of 4,000 feet of vertical gain.  Making it the undisputed winner of the toughest leg category.  Several good size knee breakers of 600 feet or more show up rather quickly.  After which it's on to some familiar climbing on East Mombasha and Bramertown Roads.  Then the all too familiar Harriman Park whose paved road leads one over the top of Bear Mountain. With the nice scenery, moderate temperature and slight tail wind it is all enjoyable to me today.  The roads are almost traffic free through all of the park.  I'm enjoying every minute of it.    Daylight is dimishing rapidly as we pass by Lechworth Village.  By the time we reach Havestraw we need to switch to night riding gear.  The control in Congers is only about 4 miles further, but I don't want to risk an accident, or be DQ'd.   We take ten minutes in a parking lot to don reflective gear and turn on lighting.  We arrive at the Dunkin Donuts in Congers about fifteen minutes later in full darkness. The volunteer, Brain, checks us in with about two hours to spare.  We take a nice 30 minute break, then head out for the final 22 miles to the finish.

There is a good size climb on Rt 9W shortly after leaving the control.  We grind up it, our legs finally feeling the effects of all the hills that are behind us.  After making it to the top we know the rest of the terrain is fairly tame. We only need to stay on course to make it in plenty of time.  I become fastidious about the cue sheet.  Making sure each turn we make is correct.  It's easy to make an error in the dark of night, especially when tired from almost two-hundred tough miles.  Working together with Bill we manage to stay on the route. We are on much busier roads along the Jersey side of the Hudson River.  There are lots of turns but soon enough the turn to the hotel comes up and we are in.  With more than an hour and a half to spare,  A small group is on hand to greet us as we enter the lobby.  Laurent verifies our brevet cards with a final time of 17hrs 29minutes.

I was very pleased with the this new 300k.  The route design by fellow NJ Randonnuer, Mordecai, was superb.  It was plenty challenging, but well worth it. I would sign up again without hesitation. Also, running into Bill was fortuitous.  It would have seemed like a longer day had I gone it all alone. It was nice to have help with navigation and company along the way.  It is also safer to ride with others in the dark.  All in all it was a good day on the bike.   

Although this ride is the last on the NJ Randonneurs calendar, my season is not yet over.  I'm planning a 200k in central PA next weekend.  Also, I'm hoping to finish the year with a 400 or 600 kilometer.  I'm looking into rides from Pittsburgh, High Point, NC, and Nashville, TN.

Stay tuned!


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

NJ Randonneurs - Annual Meeting and Ride

The day after my return from Canada was the annual meeting for my rando club, New Jersey Randonneurs.  As in the past a pre-meeting 25 mile bike ride was available for all who wished to attend.  The ride is a casual-social-get-together attended by the RBA and a few of the ride organizers and volunteers. Just to make it more fun and interesting we try to schedule it on a rainy day.  This year we were successful.  Five bikes with six riders showed up at the appointed meeting place The Hibernia Diner in Rockaway, NJ.   The sixth rider would be the stoker of the tandem.  What was rather interesting was that no two bikes were of the same type.  There was a fixed gear, a recumbent, a folding bike, a tandem and one standard upright.  The uniqueness of it combined with the rain (heavy at times) made it one of the zaniest and fun rides I've ever been on.
Left to right: Yours truly (Jamis Sputnik Fixie); Len  (Rans Recumbent); Leroy (Specialized Roubaix); Paul  (Bike Friday) Katie  (Co-Motion Tandem); Jon (not pictured is tandem partner taking photo)
All riders including tandem stoker Jon
  After toweling off and heading to the Legion Hall in nearby Dover, NJ we would enjoy a catered lunch arranged by club secretary extraordinaire Katie.  After which we got down to business hammering out our events schedule for the 2011 season.  The club enjoyed a large increase in participation this year.  Next year should prove to be even better.  For info on our meeting an event schedule for 2011 visit the web site at

Pro Bike Mechanic School - Canada

Some time ago, thanks to the Ontario Randonneurs on line forum, I became aware of a pro-level bike mechanic course offered in Guelph, Ontario.  When I found myself with enough time available to attend the two-week course I signed up.  The program is administered by the Conestoga College offering college credits for successful completion.  The Winterborne Bicycling Institute provided the facility, and the instructors.   There were eleven full day sessions in the classroom/shop.  I found affordable accommodations at a Travelodge motel about 12 miles away in the town of Cambridge. I would commute to the class by bike to keep my fitness up over the two weeks.
City limits of Guelph, Ontario (pronounced "Gwolf")

 When the class began on Monday morning I was welcomed by Jay Filer, owner of Winterborne Bicycle Institute (WBI) and lead instructor for the course.  I was shown a convenient indoor parking spot for my bike and almost immediately was immersed in the world of bicycle repair along with nine other eager students.  Jay and a second instructor Alberto De Ciccio, who also arrived by bike, seemed to know all there is to know about the mechanical workings of bicycles.  Jay's background as a custom bike builder was key, as he was able to help us understand why things were done a certain way.  Alberto, a former WBI graduate, had much to share with us from having worked in many shops.  He was able to demonstrate safe, efficient techniques to perform specific functions of assembling and repair.  About half of our time was spent with books.  Also, watching Jay and Alberto demonstrate procedures.  The other half was spent actually performing procedures on bikes that were provided by the class.  At the end of the day we would leave with approximately two to three hours of assigned home work.
Instructors Jay (right) and Alberto (left) demonstrate wheel building

I fell into the routine that was to be my life for weeks.  I would get up early, ride my bike 12 miles to the Starbucks for breakfast.  Then ride two miles to the class. I would ride back to the Starbucks at lunch time to get coffee.  At the end of the day I would ride the 12 miles back to the hotel.  I typically would eat dinner in my hotel room while doing the daily home work assignments.

The first week consisted of six full days of class leaving us with the Sunday off.   Alberto asked me if I wanted to join him on a road ride starting at his hotel in Guelph.  I agreed to meet him riding over on Sunday morning. We went on a brisk 40 mile ride through the countryside.  I learned Alberto had spent 14 years as a bike courier in Toronto.  He had incredible bike handling skills.  I watched him balance his Cervello at a traffic light by clipping out one foot, turning the front wheel to the side, then keeping the bike stationary with his foot on the front tire. After returning to Guelph I rode back to my hotel for a total of 62 miles. I spent the rest of the day doing laundry, food shopping and homework. The microwave and mini-fridge in my hotel room were getting used extensively as I was preparing most of my meals there. 
Scene along the bike route to class
Another farm. Note the Canadian flag
This private pond was one of  my favorite views
Entering the industrial area where Winterborne Bicycle Institute is located

Beginning  the second week I started to feel tired. The daily commute, the intense day of learning and the never ending home work were wearing me down.  I was not fully confident I could absorb enough of the material to pass the final written exam and the bike assembly evaluation.  A failing grade would result in no credit for the course and no certificate.  Of course, I would still come away with any knowledge and skill  I was capable of retaining.  I made peace with that concept taking the pressure off myself.  I wanted to enjoy the experience and not be stressed out for the remainder of the course.  Despite being tired I stuck with the daily bike commute. It was so enjoyable to ride there I looked forward to it each day.  I worked on my home work assignments to the best of my ability, sometimes lugging three volumes of text books back and forth in a back pack. I also made an effort to retain as much as I could from the classroom sessions.
A relaxing break is taken as Jay demonstrates his technique with the "Spud Launcher".  The gophers in the adjacent field quake with fear at the sound of those potatoes flying overhead.

As usual, I arrived by bike on the final day, which would consist of a three hour written exam and a three hour bike assembly.  The written exam was the first business of the day.  It was an open book test, so we could use the five classroom text books provided to us.  There were 103 questions in total. A score of 70% would be needed to pass.  I took the entire three hours to complete mine. After the lunch break we would begin the evaluated bike assembly.  We were given brand new bikes in boxes and would completely assemble them taking care that all the components were correctly set up and all fasteners were torqued to specifications.  It would take three hours to complete the project.  Jay and Alberto carefully inspected the project bikes grading the students on the quality of the work.  We took a break while waiting for our final grades.  When the calculations were complete I learned I had passed the course. While I could have lived with myself if I had failed passing was far better.  Despite being hard the two weeks were enjoyable. The nine other participants were all fellow bike enthusiasts some were already employed as bike mechanics. The time spent with this group and the instructors was pleasant and memorable.
The graduating class and instructors at the end of the two week program.  The vintage cruiser was the property of WBI, not my daily commuter.

I would recommend this program to anyone looking to improve their knowledge of the mechanical workings of the bicycle.  Enrollment is through Conestoga College the course number is: MECH 1234.