Athlete and Bicycle Geek, Marriage Made in Heaven

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Here’s what the J.S. Bridwell Ag Center looked like when we arrived in Wichita Falls on Saturday morning. Mrs. Pondero and canine companion, Ferris Bueller, came for competition. Mrs. Pondero is the athlete (Ferris is no slouch either, but is clueless without Mrs. Pondero). I am the bicycle geek. Since the missus and I are quite fond of one another, finding ways to support one another in doing what we enjoy, and finding a way to do that TOGETHER, is one of the benefits of being joyfully married for more than 30 years.

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I was told the reason that gassy Ferris Bueller rides inside the cab is because he is a highly trained, ribbon winning agility dog. The Quickbeam, while handsome, has won nothing. He rides in the truck bed. That’s fine, he prefers fresh air anyway.

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This is what the inside of an ag barn looks like when it has be overwelmed by handlers, dogs in all shapes and sizes, crates, and between-run camp set-ups. Apparently, just like riding a bicycle, dog agility competition requires an amazing array of gear. That fact alone might suggest it is worth  closer consideration.

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As chief roadie, my main job is to support the athlete. However, since there can sometimes be hours between runs, the Quickbeam waits patiently for an exploration opportunity.

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Ferris focuses intently on the next run. You might think you see an aggressive, crush-the-competition determination on his face. But the only determination a dog named Ferris Bueller has is for fun. He doesn’t think about the other dogs at all. He bounces through the course like a pre-schooler at a play ground and flies over the jumps much higher than necessary. He uses every inch of the arena to milk every ounce of fun out of the run. He wins ribbons without even trying.

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Pre-run pep talk and mutual admiration society. You can’t lose with this kind of eye contact..and tail wag blur.

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Running across obstacles…

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…and enjoying high places. They seem to have that eye contact thing going again.

9In the end, I did find a little time between runs to explore the bike paths of Wichita Falls. As you can tell, it was nothing but serious training for the main event on my cycling calendar this year; the Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour. Well that…and the unmatchable joy of sharing the day with the lovely Mrs. Pondero.

We only had to roll the windows down to vent the cab once.

 

My Kind of Morning

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In which I pedal a bicycle, find a pleasant spot off paved roads, try out my new hand-crank coffee grinder, enjoy some freshly brewed coffee by the lake shore, and find that spring has sprung.

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Duluth, MN – 1088 miles…that-a-way.

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A little morning shimmer on the lake surface.

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Always visually refreshing to transition from dusty gravel roads to open expanses of water.

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Some brown grass.

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And some green grass.

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A path in the woods.

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So this is where the trail leads.

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Now that we’re near the water, let’s find a suitable brew-up spot.

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I’ll bet down yonder would be good.

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Indeed it is.

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I’m liking the way this tree makes a fine table.

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Now what am I missing?

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Oh yeah, the aeropress.

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Thanks to a recent birthday gift, I get to play with a hand grinder.  Now I have something to do besides stare at the kettle waiting for water to boil.

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Magnificent Camp Hobo.

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The pour.

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Oh that’s fine…mighty fine!

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The table doubles as a back rest.

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Following the fresh new grass to find my way back to the road.

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Playing with coffee toys is fun, and riding a bicycle to/from makes it special.

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I had to peel and stash a bunch of layers as it warmed up today.

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Another little hill, but with a tailwind.

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More evidence of spring in Texas.

IMG_4234And more of me plunking along on gravel roads…as usual.

 

I Am Small

big skyIt amuses me that circumstances have a way of reinforcing needed life lessons. Some might consider it coincidence or situational awareness, but I call it providence.

I was listening to a podcast and heard it. I grabbed a book and I read it.

Then I went out for a ride after work, snapping photos without thinking…wondering if maybe one of them would adequately, in a single image, communicate the ride. When I scrolled through the images, I actually saw it.

I am small.

This isn’t what I was actually thinking while out pedaling. But when I saw the image of my small bike shadowed against that deep horizon and massive sky, I was humbled.

This life is not about me, and remembering my place in it will help me live it well.

Quickbeam Three Speed

1As mentioned weeks ago, I’m prepping the Quickbeam for the Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour. The objective is to put my fixed gear bike into a British Roadster costume. The costume is partially complete, and in the testing phase.

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I took the bike to my office in downtown Fort Worth. But even on my urban rides, I’ll find a gravel path if I can.

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Drop bars were switched for albatross bars.

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Fixed wheel was switched for a Nexus 3-speed hub with coaster brake.

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Nexus grip shifter was switched for a Sturmey Archer 3-speed thumb shifter…conveniently installed on my stem.

6Preliminary test results indicate this should work very well. The remainder of the costume includes cream colored longboard fenders and my black Carradice saddlebag. Updates pending.

 

The Third Policeman

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This isn’t exactly what I’d call a book review of The Third Policeman, by Flann O’Brien. Maybe it is more of a teaser. Or more simply and directly, it is a quote followed by a few personal impressions. The story is so unique that I’ll leave it to the reader to do his own research before deciding to read it.

I knew that I liked this bicycle more than I had ever liked any other bicycle, better even than I had liked some people with two legs. I liked her unassuming competence, her docility, the simple dignity of her quiet way. She now seemed to rest beneath my friendly eyes like a tame fowl which will crouch submissively, awaiting with out-hunched wings the caressing hand. Her saddle seemed to spread invitingly into the most enchanting of all seats while her two handlebars, floating finely with the wild grace of alighting wings, beckoned to me to lend my mastery for free and joyful journeyings, the lightest of light running in the company of the swift ground-winds to safe havens far away, the whir of the true front wheel in my ear as it spun perfectly beneath my clear eye and the strong fine back wheel with unadmired industry raising gentle dust on the dry roads. How desirable her seat was, how charming the invitation of her slim encircling handle-arms, how unaccountably compentent and reassuring her pump resting warmly against her rear thigh!

 

To me, this book is complex, humorous, strange, and over-the-top. I wouldn’t call it one of my favorites. I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend it, but I wouldn’t recommend against it. I enjoyed indeed several passages in which the author goes into poetically descriptive mode, as in the quote above. Even though I’ve chosen an excerpt about a bicycle, and bicycles are a key prop for the story, the story is about something else entirely.

Trails and Lakeside Coffee

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I was concentrating intently and slowly picking my way down a steep slope, through rocks and exposed roots, when I heard Eric’s comment that stayed with me all day. I can’t remember the exact words, but it was something like, “It’s pretty neat that the only sound we can hear is the rattle of our coffee kits in our saddle bags.”

Profoundly true.

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We started out in a light breeze, 50 degrees, and a heavy fog. We pedaled out to the lake and watched the visibility improve gradually as we went.

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After arriving at the State Park, it was still a little chilly and we headed straight to the trails. I pointed out a few of my favorite camp spots along the way.

IMG_3875Then we spent an hour or so weaving between trees and picking lines through rocks and roots. We learned that Eric is a better trail navigator than I am. When I led, I had us riding the wrong way on a one way trail.

IMG_3879I think going the wrong way might have generated the odd looks on other riders faces when they passed by. Eric opined that they thought we looked ridiculous riding trails on “road” bikes. Yeah, he could be right. We didn’t look like them at all.

IMG_3881As usual with photos like this, it is much steeper than it looks. If I would have held the camera level to help the perspective, you wouldn’t have been able to see Eric.

IMG_3882 IMG_3883 IMG_3886I told him to make sure he gets the part when my front wheel jams into a rock and I catapult over the bars. Since that didn’t happen, this is as exciting as it gets.

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About the time we made it out of the woods, the sun burst brightly into the sky. It was time to take a look at the lake, and it was time for a brew up.

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Eric brought his famous Pushing Steel cold brew coffee for himself. He offered to share, but I decided to demo the aeropress.

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My aeropress is simple and makes very good coffee, but his cold brew is a step above.

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After some lakeside lollygagging and enjoying the warm sunshine, we turned our attention to returning home for a late lunch.

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High temperature in Sanger today…83 degrees. I’ve got a little pink on the back of my neck and on my forearms. It was hard to imagine sunburn when we left this morning, and its hard to imagine what the weather is going to do to us tomorrow. The forecast for Monday morning…19 degrees. Winter is not giving up without a fight.

IMG_3918My Saturday excursions into the north Texas countryside are always good. But when friends make the long drive up here to join me, they are amazing good. Thanks, Eric, please come again.

 

New Route with Friends

1In which I change back to drop bars, make-do with scrap bar tape, and do my longest ride of 2014 so far…

2I met up with my friends on Chisum Road not far from my house. It started a little brisk, but we had to shed layers as the day warmed up.

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Nanette. It’s nice to have a lady along. She adds a certain level of class that is missing when it is only guys.

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Rick and Ronnie. Ideal gravel travel companions.

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I joined them for just over 60 miles of their 70 mile route.

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It was in my normal riding territory, but included a section that I hadn’t seen before.

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So now I have another east/west metric century route option. I really like metric century route options.

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I seem to have no ability to ride past this barn without snapping a photo.

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Big shady trees in some places, and big, wide-open and windy treeless hilltops in others.

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We don’t have anything like mountains around here, but if you ride west of my house the land does get a little more bumpy.

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So a little more climbing today than I’ve done in months.

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For Peter who requested photos of Texas longhorn cattle. I’m not sure this one qualifies, but it was the best candidate in today’s ride.

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When you have an outing with friends on this kind of terrain, you’ve had a good day.

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I think she is ALWAYS smiling.

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I think it was somewhere along here where I pondered how early I’d need to get started to survive this route in the summer. Would an hour and a half before sunrise be sufficient?

16It felt good to be back on the drops again. But that interim scrap tape job is a bit unsightly. Hopefully, I’ll get some fresh tape soon.