It’s not too early…

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…to mark your calendar for the Eighth Annual Fall Finale Fifty-ish Mile Country Path Ramble.

That is what I was thinking as I sat there, striking a pose, and pondering the delightfulness of the shorter 35 mile loop option I rode yesterday.

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Yes, it is still early September. It still looks like summer out there. But it was in the low 70s when I started out. Wow. It isn’t too early to plan.

Mark…

Saturday, November 12

…on your calendar now.

 

For Sale: A. Homer Hilsen

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I didn’t expect this day.

I thought I’d have this bike until I couldn’t pedal anymore.  It seems I accidentally keep re-building the same bike. Some of you know what I’m talking about. So it is time to rid myself of redundancy and build a completely different bike. More about that later.

I’ve decided to sacrifice the Hilsen to help fund the new project. I’d prefer to sell it as a complete bike (Carradice bag, Klean Kanteen, and tool roll not included) for $1800 shipped CONUS, but am willing to discuss frameset or partial builds if you wish.  I’ve got drop bars and some aero levers if you prefer that arrangement. It is a handsome, smooth ride, and it will make you smile.  Frame size 56.

 

Breck – Lofty Riding

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In more ways than one, this was seriously lofty riding for me. My house is at elevation 778 feet, and most of my riding is done in an elevation range between 600 feet and 1200 feet. Last Friday, however, I joined these two gentlemen for a ride on a mountain somewhere in the 9600 to 10,500 feet range. That’s Brad (Association of Caffeinated Wheelmen and Instagram) and Jon (Two Wheels – Six Strings) shown in the photo above, somewhere along our Peaks Trail route.

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My trip to the mountains for the conference was a last minute thing. I didn’t give these guys much advance notice. But they arranged their lives to make time for the lowlander, and drove up from Denver on a weekday to spend the day with me. They brought the coolest bikes I saw during my time in Colorado, including the Bridgestone MB3 above for me to ride. The fit was perfect. I had a crush on this bike all day long.

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I had to stop frequently because the views stunned me. I simply had to obtain photographic evidence as proof that I was really riding a bicycle in such wonderful surroundings. This place had almost everything. The weather was perfect. We had climbs, descents, creek crossings, forests, open spaces…almost everything I could ask for. Well…what we didn’t have quite enough of was oxygen. And that’s the other reason I had to stop frequently.

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The boys were kind and patient. They let me set a pace that my oxygen starved body could handle. But as I look back on the photos of them riding, it appears they were also having a pretty good time.

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We fueled up with giant burgers before we left town for the ride. We rode for a few hours, rolled into town, and had pizza for dinner. Then we headed over to the coffee shop for one more indulgence. When we weren’t riding, the conversation was non-stop. All that talk was insightful and entertaining. They made me feel welcome, and as if I had been a close friend for years. Come to think of it, the conversation between the two of them was non-stop even during the ride. I would have joined in if I wasn’t so busy gasping for air.

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We did, indeed, ride in some lofty places. But it was the quality of the company that elevated my day to the loftiest of heights.  Thanks, boys!

Breck – Setting the Stage

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Hotel Room View

It was a last minute thing. My employer and I agreed it might be a good idea for me to attend a conference in Breckenridge, Colorado. So arrangements were made, and I landed in Denver last Monday night.

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I spent Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday morning inside hotel conference rooms.  It took considerable effort trying to forget what was outside, and focus on learning things. Temperatures stayed, I think, between 50 and 75 the entire time of my stay. To me, that is incredible for July.

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Starting my ski area hike

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In the early mornings and late afternoons, I got outside and walked. Most of my time was spent in town. After all, many of my walks involved finding meals. But I also ventured up into the ski area a bit, and up hill on the east side of town on some urban trails.

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The conference included a “bike tour” of stream restoration work done on the Blue River between Frisco and Breckenridge. We did that on Thursday afternoon. It was a little humorous that my first experience with a modern full-suspension mountain bike was on a rental on the bike path. Even so, I was impressed how well it performed. I imagined that the knobby tires and up/down movement would be energy sapping. But it worked pretty well.

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Looks better than it once did

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But the pinnacle of the trip was on Friday. I was fortunate enough to be able to linger one extra day for non-business purposes. I sprung my last minute plans on some of the locals to see if we might arrange a meet-up of some sort. A couple of guys broke free, and made it happen. My free day in the mountains was packed full of fun. It deserves its own post. I’ll get to that soon.

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Trying to figure out how to live here

Feeling Faster

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I recently replaced my previous crankset with the White Industries VBC crankset. I lowered by drivetrain gearing by reducing my double chainring combination from 46/30 to 44/28. Ironically, I think lowering my gearing made me faster.

My theory is that the small reduction in gear ratios for my rear cassette put my “engine” in a more efficient operating zone. I don’t think the reduction was enough for me to change the rear cogs I normally use.  Instead, for any given rear cog, I “spin” faster instead of “mash” slower. This theory has not been tested scientifically, and it won’t be.

For the last ten years or so, going faster has not been the objective. But the feeling of efficient mobility is delightful. So the way the new gearing feels is the key. Who knows, I might be slower.  But, for me, feeling faster is better than being faster.

Making Perfect

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It’s that warmer time of year when I like to pack up my coffee kit, and head to the lake…

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…so I can lounge in my hammock and brew fresh coffee. I enjoy the cool breeze,…

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…and notice things. This kind of time allows me a certain…

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…perspective on things not readily available in work week urgencies. So I spend a morning in a balance of active and inactive lollygagging, made perfect…

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…by the bicycle.

In and Around a River

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Jake had a calm, easy-going manner, and a relaxed pace of conversation when we met for lunch in Johnson City. Thinking we are likely the only two owners (so far) of Ocean Air Cycles Ramblers in the vast state of Texas, we took advantage of my business trip to the San Antonio area to arrange a meet-up. Fortunately, it coincided with a two-night stay I had planned at Pedernales Falls State Park. There was wonderful ramblin’ terrain in abundance.

He only had one afternoon to spend with me, so we didn’t bother much with planning ahead. We simply hauled my camping gear to the primitive camping area, dumped it on the ground, and set off for the trails. Jake rode consistent with his relaxed, easy-going manner. His excellent balance and smoothness over the rocky, switch-back climbs reminded me of a cat. He was deceptively fast. Every time I pulled out my camera on some reasonably smooth terrain, he vanished around the next curve. After a couple of hours of chasing him up and down the paths, double-track, and single-track, Jake headed home and I went about the business of setting-up camp…and resting.

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By morning, I was recovered and ready for more exploration…and coffee. I rode up to the northern limits of the park and found the falls for which the park is named. The area has some interesting geologic features, but to me it was simply a beautiful place for breakfast. Fly fishermen and a Blue Heron pursued their morning refreshment from the river. I sat up high on a flat rock, fired up my Trangia stove, listened to the rushing flow, and watched the sunlight sparkle on the water’s surface.

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South Texas was significantly warmer and more humid than where I live.  The air was steamy, and I experienced a couple of rain showers, but the river water was delightful. I spent the entire day exploring by bicycle, walking along the river bank, or wading in the shallow areas. At times I was wading knee deep in the Pedernales River, and awhile later I’d be up on a hilltop looking out over classic Texas hill country terrain.

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My camp was set-up on a rocky bluff high above the river. The vegetation was too dense for me to see the river, but I could always hear the flow rushing across the riffles. It wasn’t a tiny babbling brook, and it wasn’t a mighty roar. It was just right mellow river music for bluff top meal times and a little hammock lounging.

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There is a low water crossing that allows access to trails on the opposite side of the river from where Jake and I rode the day before. The park map indicated a scenic overlook on one of the trails, and that sounded like a perfect afternoon destination. I lifted my bike and carefully found my footing through the fast flowing knee deep water. When I reached the other side, the steepness and looseness of the trail forced me to push my bike up the first quarter mile or so. After that, I was able to pedal the rest of the way. I found the overlook, and it was (as we all say) much more spectacular than my photos would indicate. What luxury to find the breeze, see the view, and not be in a rush to leave.

On the descent, I came across this snake in the path. Figuring I could “encourage” it to scurry off, I tossed a stick at it and hit its tail. To which he responded by turning around aggressively, holding his ground, and daring me to approach. That’s when I got off the bike, and walked off the path, and stepped cautiously around him. In the end, it was me doing the scurrying.

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There are some remarkable Cypress trees along the river’s edge.  The knees made for some scrambling as I made my way for some views of the river. This is the part of the river down below my camp spot on the bluff. This is also the spot where I hiked through head high grass and picked up my first load of chiggers for the season. Why do these little buggers always take me by surprise?

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Wolf Mountain has a short ring trail around it near the top. The trail was almost level, and allowed for easy pedaling and views in every direction.

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After sundown on the second day, I was sitting at about this spot on the edge of the bluff with nothing to do and nowhere to go. It was too early for bed, so I sat still and watched the light leave the sky. I had told myself that once the lightening bugs came out, I’d climb up the rocks to my hammock and call it a day.

I heard a noise behind me. When I turned, a large horned animal, about 40 feet away, was staring at me. It was a light brown color like a deer, but larger and stockier. It also had those roundish spiral horns of a ram. I didn’t recognize what it was, but it was clear that I was offensive to him.  After giving me a motionless stare-down for about 3 seconds, he bolted up the mountain even more smooth and effortless than Jake pedaling his Rambler. After returning home and doing some internet research, I believe it was a Desert Bighorn Sheep that I saw. Magnificent.

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The grand finale included one more freshly brewed cup of coffee, with the sound of the Pedernales River flowing behind me, the warmth of the first rays of sunshine on my side, and rocky trails of Wolf Mountain in front of me. After two nights, and almost two full days in and around the river, it was time to return home.