Photo Contest Winners

The Sixth Annual Fall Finale Fifty-ish Mile Country Path Ramble included a photo contest. The assigned theme was to capture the spirit of the Ramble, and three categories were available. The categories were bikes, landscape, and people.

Here are the winning entries…

Bikes

Bikes Category Winner – Steve (graveldoc)  Butcher 

Steve earned spirit points for this well-framed close-up shot showing fat tire, dusty bike, canvas saddlebag, and well-used coffee cup.  Brew-ups are an important part of what the Ramble is all about. He also earned significant points by pandering to the host.

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Landscape Category Winner – Eric (Touring Thru Suburbia) Welborn

Eric earned spirit points by using his fish-eye lens and giving a rider-point-of-view perspective of a typical part of the route. He included the gravel road, the Autumn leaves, and the lazy, lollygagging attitude of lagging so far behind the rider ahead.

PeoplePeople Category Winner – Adam Neese

Adam collected major spirit points for this unique perspective showing the weighty drama associated with the rider, cue sheet in hand, at the cross roads. Bonus points were earned for including the chunky gravel, and the excellent bike, saddlebag, and coffee cup in the same image.  On top of all that, Adam’s entry here is of my friend Steve Butcher who came down all the way from Stockton, Missouri to participate in the Ramble.  Since Adam’s submittal does such a nice job of including all categories in one image, Adam is our overall winner.

Congratulations to our winners!  Thank you for participating and sending me so many enjoyable views of the Ramble from your eyes!

Thanksgiving Country Cycling

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I keep reminding my coworkers, “Now is the time.  Don’t miss it!” And by saying it over and over, I remind myself. Now is the time that summer’s oppressive heat is neutralized. It is the time of fall colors (such as they are around here). Now is the time Texans crave the entire year. It doesn’t last long, and we mustn’t miss it.

So I took the country bike out for some country cycling over the Thanksgiving holiday. I don’t know what else to say about this photo dump except everything was just about perfect, and the images probably speak for themselves. Thankfully, I didn’t miss it.

I wonder if I can squeeze in one more S24O before winter…

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Pot Luck Pleasantness

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The Sixth Annual Fall Finale Fifty-ish Mile Country Path Ramble was a week ago. I’ve finally been able to pull together the ingredients needed to complete my wrap-up post. In the post ride evening, I was talking with Steve Butcher (graveldoc…who came all the way down from Stockton, Missouri!) about how to describe what we had just experienced in a blog post. There were so many different little things. It was like a church pot-luck-dinner-on-the-grounds. Everyone brought a little something that makes the entire day special. It was pot luck pleasantness.

I can’t think of any way to do this post, except as a kind of mish-mash of stuff to document the day for me, and try to communicate what it was like to those who weren’t there. So in keeping with the pot luck pleasantness theme, what follows is a lil’ of this, and a lil’ of that.

To start, here are a few of my photos.

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The pre-ride included a place to get out of the wind, warm your hands, and chat with fellow participants.

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So much bike-y goodness in my front yard.

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Some sort-of paved roads.

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Some relatively smooth gravel roads.

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A few camera posers.

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A brew-up stop for the last weekend of the Coffeeneuring Challenge.

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The old Rosston Store with delightful hitchin’ post and wood stove heat.

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Enough elevation change to keep it interesting, but not so much as to be exhausting.

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Plenty of wind (note Carradice flap hovering on a cushion of air).

17Plenty of places to just stop and admire for a few seconds before moving on.

In addition to my own observations, there are a few others that might be of interest…

Eric Welborn (Touring Thru Suburbia) posted some positive comments and photos.

Pat Yagle prepared this entertaining time lapse video with photos every 5 seconds until his camera’s battery died.

This year was the first time I had two route options (the standard 50-mile version, plus the shorter 35-mile option). I’m glad that the shorter option was able to better meet the needs of a few riders, but regret that I was unable to experience the route with them. Fortunately, a couple of the riders sent me email summaries of their ride…

Adam Neese’s account…

Adam’s Instagram photo

JC arrived to my house at 7:45, and after coffee and protein we were on the road to Pondero’s by 8:25. We arrived with a few minutes to spare, and after loading the bikes with gear and putting on a few extra layers (temp ~36F) we grabbed a couple of breakfast tacos and huddled around Pondero’s pickup truck for his welcoming announcement. Shortly after that, everyone was saddled up and we began our ride with about 30 folks. The first 5 miles were very pleasant and the high cirrus clouds cleared out, providing warming sunshine. At about mile 10 we were gaining in elevation, and I realized how out of shape I was. A few hills (and breaks) later, we were at the split- 35 miles or 50. JC and I split off from the rest of the group and took the shorter route. 

We had just crossed over SH 51 and hit the gravel again when we hear a loud shotgun blast from around the bend. Coming up on a bridge over a gully, we meet Joe and Rudy who were testing out a recently acquired shotgun. “Just wanted to make sure it shoots straight” exclaimed Joe. I asked them to snap their picture, and they obliged.
Just after passing through the “town” of Leo around mile 20, JC encouraged me to accelerate up a hill. On the first pedal stroke I heard the sound- looked down and saw my chain about 10 feet behind me. Luckily, JC had brought his chain tool and I was able to remove the broken link to limp back to base. We met a beautiful ranch dog who was very timid but friendly, and had a food break. The clouds had come back by now, and it seemed like the wind was picking up as we turned east.
Much of the last half was cold and windy, and I felt like we were racing to get back to the vehicle to warm our toes. JC seemed to have hit his stride, and kept complaining that it would end too soon. I think it ended at just the right time, as the last 5 miles were due south into a 15mph headwind.

Luis Garcia’s account…

Wow!  What a great day!    Paul, Jim, and I had a fantastic time.  I only wish that we would have had less wind and time to visit with you.   
We ended up deciding to do a variation of the 35 mile route.   We set out to ride to the Greenwood Grocer, have a burger, and head back in the direction that we came from.  Well, long story short, we ended up making a wrong turn, thus getting off track for a few miles.  When we discovered that we had gone the wrong way, we pondered our trajectory, and determined that we had ridden a touch over 15 miles.   At this point, the sky was turning dark and the wind blew cold.  We decided that we would pass on the burgers and turn around (into a strong head wind) and ride back for a total of 30 miles + a scooch.   Thankfully, we had the wind at our backs once we turned back onto Waide Road.  I must tell you that in the spirit of the Ramble and Cofffeeneuring, we pulled over at one point to have our coffee alfresco.  No beans were roasted or ground nor did we brew our coffee on the side of the road, but we each broke out thermoses of piping hot coffee and laid out snacks for an impromptu alfresco buffet.  I must add that my Noble  Coyote dark roast coffee tasted mighty fine out on the open prairie.  
Chris, we had a marvelous time.  Paul and I have ride together regularly.   JIm and I had ridden before and Paul and Jim had ridden before.  But the three of us have never ridden together.  Your ride brought us together.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and hope to be regular participants in your yearly gathering.
Steve Reisman, who had a heartbreaking crankbolt failure as he was pedaling out of my driveway, couldn’t do the ride at all. But he decided to follow the group around in his truck and serve as a SAG, just in case. The following photos, including a special appearance from Sloane Peterson, the puppy, are from him…
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IMG_5403_800[1] IMG_5641_800[1] IMG_5693_1000[1] IMG_5939_800[1] IMG_5971_800[1]Where else can you have so much fun with a flat tire?
Well…there’s a bunch of stuff, and more than I normally like to include in a single post. But this event includes a lot of little things that just ought to be mentioned. Still, it doesn’t feel like this (too lengthy) post adequately captures the richness of the interaction of people, or the joy I experience when so many folks (someone counted 24 riders) come up to my little spot on the prairie for a ride. It was a lot of little things, an integrated total of what everyone brings to the day. It was pot luck pleasantness.

Bikes of the 2014 Ramble

I had an opportunity to stroll around and take a look at a few of the bikes that were used on the Ramble. I took a few photos and decided to post them here because I figure there is probably someone out there besides me who’d like to see how various folks made their choices to enjoy the day.

A more comprehensive Ramble Wrap-up will be posted this weekend. But it will be disjointed enough, and content-heavy enough, without these photos included.

Emily wins this year’s “Hardman” award for riding the entire 50-mile course on the Pugsley. My daughter, Lisa, had such an impressive performance last year…

The “Hardman” award goes to someone who taught us all a little something about what it means to “shut up and ride”. That would be my daughter, Lisa, who did the entire route on a single speed BMX bike she’s had since second grade.

…I wanted to make note of her achievement. This year, Emily, showed us some serious gumption.  So two “Hardman” awards so far on the Ramble, both earned by women.

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Post-Ramble Tease

Ramble 2014

Leading a few of the ride participants through the countryside (photo by Steve Reisman)

I’ve got my photos, and a few that folks (like Steve R., here) have sent me. There’s a cool link to a YouTube video coming that was prepared to document the Ramble. I’ve even got a post-ride email that captures a certain interesting element of this ride that I’ll at least share in part.

In summary, we had a great time and wish you were there.  More soon.

Coffeeneuring Journal 2014

After spectating all the prior Coffeeneuring Challenge events in fascination , I finally was able to be an active participant this year. Combining two things I enjoy so much, even with a few rules, was a delight. One of the most interesting outcomes of my participation was the opportunity to share with others what I was doing. When describing the concept, I could almost see how their thought patterns shifted from an initial, “how silly, why would anyone do that”, to a contemplative, “how delightful, why haven’t I done this already”.

As expected in my rural location, most of my controls were coffee shops without walls. Still I worked in a couple indoor stops for variety. I was able to use three different bikes, and a variety of coffee-making techniques and toys. My stops covered a vast geographic area. Mostly, I was in and around Sanger, Texas. But one stop was in Corpus Christi (well over 400 miles south), and one was in Fort Worth (about 50 miles south).

It was a great seven weeks, and I plan to continue my training to be ready for next year. So with that as my overview, here is my documentation…

Control No. 1

Date: Saturday, October 4

Location: Hill Top Community Center Nature/Fitness Trails

Bike: Kogswell P/R (fixed wheel)

Weather: Sunny, light breeze, 73F

Beverage: Pour over coffee (Sumatra)

Mileage: 12 miles

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Description: Traveled down to Corpus Christi for my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday celebration, took the bike and coffee kit so as not to miss the first weekend of coffeeneuring 2014, pedaled backroads, shoulders, and bike lanes in my looped route, it was the coolest weather of the season so far in south Texas, and I found a shaded picnic table for a perfectly delightful outing.


 Control No. 2

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Date: Saturday, October 11

Location: Buon Giorno Coffee, 915 Florence St., Fort Worth, Texas

Bike: Rivendell Quickbeam (3-speed IGH)

Weather: Cloudy, strong breeze, 57F

Beverage: Americano (plus an almond croissant)

Mileage: 27 miles

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Description: I had to work this weekend, and drove into town to represent the City in a series of meetings. A had a mid-day gap of a few hours that allowed me to take the Quickbeam out for a downtown tour and coffee stop. As an almost exclusive rural rider, I was pleased at the relative ease I had in getting around town by bicycle. It wasn’t as nice as Madison, but it was better than I expected. The lack of bike racks at most of my destinations was plenty apparent, but I was always able to find some suitable solid object to lock my bike to that was closer than car parking spaces. Buon Giorno Coffee is a calm environment serving up a wide variety of baked goods, quality coffee, and classical music.  Refreshment for body and mind.


Control No. 3

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Date: Saturday, October 18

Location: Johnson Branch State Park, Lake Ray Roberts

Bike: Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen

Weather: Sunny, light breeze, 60F

Beverage: Pour over coffee (Sumatra)

Mileage: 20+ miles

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Description: Overnight bicycle camping (S24O) with buddy, Michael Stallings, at the State Park. We enjoyed the relatively cool evening, with campfires evening and morning. We spent much of our time lounging in our luxurious hammocks, and watched the mountain bike racers whiz by taking practice runs in advance of tomorrow’s race. Someone stopped and asked if we were racing. “Absolutely not,” I replied. What I didn’t say was that our objective was to see how lazy we could be. I think this was the first time I heated water in my kettle over a campfire (instead of the Trangia stove). We solved a majority of the world’s problems over two cups each. Then we rode around the Park for awhile in the morning before riding the 20 or so miles back home.


Control No. 4 

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Date: Saturday, October 25

Location: County Road 320, Cooke County, Texas

Bike: Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen

Weather: Sunny, breezy, 61F

Beverage: Black coffee (Aeropress)

Mileage: 45 miles

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Description: Unlike the first three outings, this was a typical Saturday morning ride for me. It was just the usual multi-hour, mostly gravel ride on one of my many loops that begin/end at my house. I had one truck drive by while stopped, and one more (who stopped to chat a little) as I was packing up to leave. Other than that, it was a bird-singing, leaves-rustling kind of peaceful spot. Bicycle accommodations and coffee at this location were excellent. The barista knows just the way I like my coffee.

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Control No. 5

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Date: Saturday, November 1

Location: River bank at abandoned bridge, Elm Fork, Trinity River

Bike: Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen

Weather: Sunny, breezy, 46F

Beverage: Black coffee (Aeropress)

Mileage: 45 miles

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Description: This was the first day it really felt like Fall. I started my ride in the brisk high 30s temperature and made my way to a forested area. Along the way, I discovered additional secret overnight possibilities. I found the old abandoned bridge over the Elm Fork, sat still, and heard the babbling of the water through a nearby riffle. It was dead silent except for the breeze driven leaves beginning to tumble down, and that babbling. A bridge beam served as my bike stand and dining table. This is a coffee shop without walls that I most definitely will visit again.

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Control No. 6

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Date: Saturday, November 8

Location: Carson’s Coffee Corner, Sanger, Texas

Bike: Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen

Weather: Cloudy, cantankerously breezy, 59F

Beverage: Americano

Mileage: 19 miles

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Description: I had no plan going to today’s outing, except finding coffee. I was out of beans so a roadside brew-up wasn’t in the picture. So I rode into town to give Sanger’s only “coffee shop” a second try. It was adequate. I prefer my own for the flavor and, frankly, for the fun of playing with my coffee toys. In the end, it was probably best to avoid battling the wind today. Since I had no real route in mind, I noodled around town for a while and rode back to our little place on the prairie. It was a shorter than usual Saturday ride, but that’s okay. I’m hosting a ride next weekend and I’ve got things to do.

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Control No. 7

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Date: Saturday, November 15

Location: Public Park, Greenwood, Texas

Bike: Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen

Weather: Cloudy, windy, 43F

Beverage: Pourover black coffee, gift beans (Mudhouse Coffee, Springfield, MO) from @graveldoc

Mileage: 50 miles

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Description: It was fitting that my final cup was coincident with a ride I host every year riding on rural roads and stopping to do things like brew up a fresh cup of coffee. It was the Sixth Annual Fall Finale Fifty-ish Mile Country Path Ramble (The Ramble). I was joined by 23 other riders, mostly from the Dallas/Fort Worth area, but my dear friend Steve Butcher (@graveldoc), came all the way down from Stockton, MO. Steve and I enjoyed our coffee shop without walls in a wonderful park in the Greenwood community. I thought we were the only ones to pause for coffee, but I later learned that a few other riders brought a thermos of hot coffee along and enjoyed some refreshment on a cold, windy day somewhere along the route. To me, it was a special way to complete this year’s Coffeeneuring Challenge.

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Weather

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As usual, I’m obsessing about the weather for Saturday’s Ramble.  I want my guests to have a good time.

Compared to a couple of days ago, the chance of rain in the long range forecast has been reduced from 50-60% to 20%.  So that’s encouraging.  Also, it’s much better than last year’s situation that included muddy, messy roads before the event.

So chin up, Ramblers!