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.

Coffee Quest

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It was a lovely spring day in north Texas. Wildflowers were blooming, the sun was shining, and the Rambler was looking handsome. But there was a worrisome question that nagged us.

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Would three intrepid adventurers be able to travel roads they had never seen, and still find a suitable spot for a roadside coffee brew-up?  It would certainly take some rambling, some searching for shade, and some evaluation of alternatives seen along the way against future possibilities unknown. Would these three be up to the challenge? A troubling question indeed!

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After a few miles of tires crunching gravel, grins and chuckles, and coffee kits rattling as we bounced through pot holes, a delightful spot was discovered. It was a roadside protected from both sun and wind, on a hilltop, and overlooking rolling pasture land. Bicycles, coffee kits, and rambleneurs sprawled in the road for some luxurious lollygagging. How suitable was it?

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Good fresh coffee, great company, and not a single vehicle passed by to mar the silence.

Cheers!

(Rambleneuring over randonneuring, because deadlines are too much like work.)

Spring Mini-Tour (6 of 6)

This is one of a six-part series documenting my spring 2016 mini-tour from my house outside of Sanger, Texas to Wichita Falls, Texas. My route consisted mainly of gravel and dirt roads, and I covered about 130 miles over 2.5 days. Although this was a “credit card tour” which included meals and lodging purchased along the way, I did bring my coffee gear and had a roadside lunch on the second day. There were two reasons for this. Firstly, there were no towns or services along my route on the second day, and secondly, I’m a coffee snob. Documentation will be mainly in the form of photographs with a few captions or comments to relay something that might have caught my interest.

The series will be presented in six themes; (1) Flora and Fauna, (2) Roads and Rambles,(3) Little Texas Towns, (4) Classic Cars, (5) Lunch Outside, and (6) A Dog Agility Trial.

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PART SIX OF SIX – A DOG AGILITY TRIAL

The plan to meet up with Mrs. Pondero and watch  part of the dog agility trial was a great excuse for a mini-tour. I think we both like it when we can combine our respective hobbies in a way that allows us to spend time together. I enjoy watching her run the dogs. The only thing I know how to do is pedal a bicycle. But she knows deep secrets of animal behavior and can somehow teach these dogs to do things they would not naturally be inclined to do, and have a great time doing it. The other reason I like to attend these events occasionally is that I am reminded that bicycling aficionados are not the only geeky odd folks out there.

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I arrive at the agility trial venue. I can pedal a bike, and stand around and watch stuff.  Big deal.

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The area includes a dirt floor, and there are two separate areas in which courses will be set-up…and re-set-up for different types of runs throughout the day. There are obstacle course paraphernalia and dog crates everywhere.

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A slightly closer view of one of the courses. There is a wide variety of obstacles (jumps, tunnels, A-frame, an elevated dog walk, teeter, weave poles, hanging “tires”, fabric chutes, etc.).  Each run is unique and the dog has no advance awareness or practice on that particular course. The dog is entirely dependent on the handler to guide it through the course. The handler does “pre-walk” the course in advance.

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Mrs. Pondero putting on her game face?

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Or maybe simply socializing.

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Ah…this must be game face time. She’s got Ferris Bueller there with her. Maybe a pep-talk?

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What dogs do between runs. Ferris Bueller (lower right corner) and Oliver share a crate this time.

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Bad photos. I’ve got my camera on “auto” because that’s how I roll. But a manual camera adjustment for low light and the speed of the competitors is what is needed. I wish I knew how to do that.

The photo above show Ferris coming off the teeter. He runs up the opposite end, crosses the balance point, rides the teeter down to the ground, and dismounts. Training required.

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Ferris runs the weave poles. Dogs are supposed to always enter the weave poles with the first pole on the left shoulder.

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Ferris dismounting the A-frame. Some dogs aren’t too keen on climbing this thing, but Ferris flies up and over the top like is the greatest fun.

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Ferris rockets out of the tunnel and attacks the dog walk. Because it is narrow and elevated, it takes a fair amount of work to make some dogs comfortable with this obstacle. I don’t think Ferris was ever too bothered about it.

Above is a video that shows Ferris running a jumps and weave course (no A-frame or dog walk). He made a mistake that caused him not to “qualify” or be eligible for a ranking. Dogs that run the course correctly qualify for ranking, and the fastest dog wins.

…and finally, here’s a video that shows handler doing the “zombie walk”. Dog agility people are truly odd folks.

Spring Mini-Tour (5 of 6)

This is one of a six-part series documenting my spring 2016 mini-tour from my house outside of Sanger, Texas to Wichita Falls, Texas. My route consisted mainly of gravel and dirt roads, and I covered about 130 miles over 2.5 days. Although this was a “credit card tour” which included meals and lodging purchased along the way, I did bring my coffee gear and had a roadside lunch on the second day. There were two reasons for this. Firstly, there were no towns or services along my route on the second day, and secondly, I’m a coffee snob. Documentation will be mainly in the form of photographs with a few captions or comments to relay something that might have caught my interest.

The series will be presented in six themes; (1) Flora and Fauna, (2) Roads and Rambles,(3) Little Texas Towns, (4) Classic Cars, (5) Lunch Outside, and (6) A Dog Agility Trial.

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PART FIVE OF SIX – LUNCH OUTSIDE

There were no services of any kind along my second day route. As mentioned in a prior post, this day also included an unanticipated detour. It was a good thing that I had planned ahead and brought food along for refueling along the way. It was also a good thing that the kind construction worker offered me two bottles of water to keep me hydrated. With provisions in hand, all I needed to do was find a suitable (desirable) place to stop for a break.

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As a part of my planning process, I had identified a spot on the map that seemed to have potential. But you never really know how things will work until you arrive. In general, my research was spot on. The place was good. It was the weather, however, that I failed to factor in well. It was sunnier, warmer, and windier than I imagined in the research stage. So when I arrived, I needed to spend a few minutes to locate a shade and a wind break. I was ultimately successful, but still had to manage some sloping ground.

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A brief site rummaging effort yielded a few flat rocks that were used to level my Trangia stove stand and allow my pot to hold its contents.

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A mail delivery vehicle drove through during my time searching for a shade and wind break. After that, I saw no other vehicles during my hour long stay. I ate, rested, cooled off, and brewed coffee. I listened to the wind whistle across the prairie, the rustling grass, and the birds chirp. It was more than lunch outside. It was physical and mental refreshment, and it was a celebration of what makes bicycle touring such a blessing for me.

Next up – “A Dog Agility Trial”…

Spring 2016 Mini-Tour (4 of 6)

This is one of a six-part series documenting my spring 2016 mini-tour from my house outside of Sanger, Texas to Wichita Falls, Texas. My route consisted mainly of gravel and dirt roads, and I covered about 130 miles over 2.5 days. Although this was a “credit card tour” which included meals and lodging purchased along the way, I did bring my coffee gear and had a roadside lunch on the second day. There were two reasons for this. Firstly, there were no towns or services along my route on the second day, and secondly, I’m a coffee snob. Documentation will be mainly in the form of photographs with a few captions or comments to relay something that might have caught my interest.

The series will be presented in six themes; (1) Flora and Fauna, (2) Roads and Rambles,(3) Little Texas Towns, (4) Classic Cars, (5) Lunch Outside, and (6) A Dog Agility Trial.

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PART FOUR OF SIX – CLASSIC CARS

Nocona, Texas is host to Horton’s Classic Car Museum. I had time available and decided to visit. Beside the fact that I drive over 100 miles/day, five days each week, I’m not a “car person”. My 2008 Honda Civic is simply a tool. I spend way more time with a car than I want already. But I was there, and I do enjoy the design and aesthetic aspects of the automobile. So I might as well have a look.

As you can see in the photo above, the “Open” sign is lit. But the door was locked when I arrived. I peered into the windows confused. Nobody anywhere. Walking up and down, I looked for other doors. I tried the actual front door again. It was then the lady in the pick-up stopped in the street behind me and asked if I wanted to go inside (funny how things work out). After responding in the affirmative, she made a phone call, and said someone would be with me in a moment. He was, and that is how I toured the entire museum completely alone. Well, not entirely alone because my host checked on me occasionally, making sure I was behaving myself with the owner’s fancy cars.

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I was told that there is a single owner, and the museum includes 133 “cars”. I guess the 133 number includes the trucks, but I’m not sure whether the bicycles and scooters were counted. The owner has a thing for Corvettes. In addition to the “only one ever made” Corvette station wagon above, he owns at least one for each year they have been made, except 3 or 4. I was told which years (in case I had a lead on a new Corvette for the collection), but I don’t remember the years. I’m not a “car person”.

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I don’t recall seeing any motorcycles, but there were a few beach cruiser bicycles (I assume more as decoration than as collectibles), a scooter, and the bicycle “taxi” shown in my following photos, and several trucks. The collection spanned many years. A few modern classics and some from the early years. I think there were more of the tailgate benches similar the one shown above.

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It was fascinating and visually stimulating. I guess there good reasons why these cars are considered “classic”. Aesthetics is probably one of those reasons. I kept asking myself why so many cars in use today are so ugly. It isn’t like we don’t know what an attractive automobile looks like. Many of the cars in the museum were pleasant to my eye. I could imagine actually enjoying owning and driving a few of them.

Here’s the other fascinating thing. After reviewing my photos, I realized I didn’t really provide comprehensive representation of the collection. I lingered admiringly plenty alongside Mustangs, T-Birds, Novas, and Camaros and other cars from the 60s and 70s. Apparently, however, it was the big, round, swoopy curves of the 40s and 50s cars that compelled me to get the camera out. This was completely unintentional. Maybe that tells me a little something about myself.

Next up – “Lunch Outside”…