Year-Ender

When I woke up on the last day of the year, this was my view. Because I got a late start on this year-ending S24O, I arrived after sundown, scrambled to set up camp before dark, and didn’t get any pre-morning photos.
I tried a new camp site, not far from my usual spot on the same finger of the lake, but a little closer to deeper water.
The early light on shoreline didn’t disappoint. I had this entire section of the park to myself, and the morning was quite serene until the day’s anticipated cold front blew in with a fury.
I had ample time for a relaxing breakfast and warming myself by the fire, but the wind began to accelerate as I was cleaning up. Taking down the tent and rolling it up proved to be a challenge, so I began mental preparations for the ride back home. It would be two hours into a fierce headwind.
Instead of focusing on the abuse of the wind gusts and slow pace, I just spun a low gear and took advantage of a little extra time today to be grateful for a nice year-ender S24O.

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Next Day

Yesterday, I posted a few photos of my ride around Florence, Alabama and my visit to Wildwood Park. It was sunny, crisp, and cool.
This morning we had a light dusting of snow, and I went back to the park. The ride under cloudy skies with light snow was substantially different.
Different conditions, but still a peaceful place.

Peace

I have observed that the idea of “peace” is on the minds of many about this time of year. I suppose much of that has to do with a certain tradition, and the Bible passage found at Luke 2:14.
Even those that do not care for Bible passages seem to embrace the idea of peace around this time of year. For various reasons, and in many ways, there is a call to peace. And most of us enjoy it.
The concept of spiritual peace described in the Bible is deeply important to me, but not just at this time of year. To be honest, the holidays provide me a different kind of peace. They are a time to step aside from the hectic routine, and enjoy a slower, more reflective time.
It is common for me to visit with my mother in Florence, Alabama about this time of year. That has its own relaxation rewards, but the cyclist in me enjoys a bonus.
When I’m in town, I visit Wildwood Park. It is a lovely area adjacent to a tributary to the Tennessee River. And on Christmas eve, it is usually empty and quiet.
So instead of working at a frantic pace, or even partaking of mall madness, …
…I celebrate my own personal seasonal tradition, and visit a place of peace.

First Day of Winter

Well, here it is. The first day of winter. Just three days ago, some of us were celebrating the late fall season (Fall Finale, if you will) on gravel roads. It was about 29 degrees at dawn, but it warmed up some before our 10am start. Still, we were wearing tights, jackets, and wool.
I’ve been diligently keeping up with my internet cycling buddies’ blogs. Their images of studded tires, icy roads, and snow piled by the wayside have told me that winter might have come early in some places…and maybe it was on its way here.
Well, it’s December 21st. So I guess winter is here. I mustered up my fortitude, stepped outside, and pointed my front tire into the north wind. I braced myself for the first day of winter.

But since it was 80 degrees for my afternoon ride, it didn’t exactly seem like it.

A Harvest of Friends

Those long solitary rides across the prairie, and through the creek bottoms, can sometimes get lonely. The sounds of the breeze and the crunching of gravel lull me into a state of calm meditation. I clear the clutter of modernity and finally see the beauty of my surroundings. And then I think how grand it would be to share my find with others.
So like last year, I invited a few friends to ride with me. In an attempt to make it sound like some kind of big-shot event, we called it the Second Annual Fall Finale Forty-Mile Country Path Ramble.
This year the harvest was bountiful. The official count at the start was 28 riders. When the ride was scheduled, I imagined that we might have about 10-12 participate. But thanks to the help of people that have a larger social network and internet footprint than me, the invitation spread pretty far. With such a diverse group, I was a little concerned that we’d be able to help everyone feel like the trip way up here in northern Denton County was worthwhile.
We had our share of misfortune. I am not aware of any injuries, but a few things made the day eventful. A couple of buddies had to drop out after about 8 miles when a hat fell and lodged in the rear derailleur, jammed the works, and broke a couple of spokes. I believe we had two flat tires. The event that affected the most riders was a missed turn. As I understand it, while I was dropping back to make sure we were all intact, the group at the front all thought “the other guy” knew where he was going. So they rolled straight off course.
Fortunately, I had mentioned that we’d be turning left on FM 922 to get to Rosston. So even though many folks took the long way around, we all ended up at the famous Rosston General Store at pretty much the same time.
Mrs. Pondero decided to drive up the Rosston General Store…just in case. That turned out to be a pretty good idea. Three riders had time constraints and didn’t really have time to “ramble” all the way back with the group. When you have someone as loving as Mrs. Pondero around, even a no-sag ride, isn’t entirely without some niceties.
Other than those minor complications, we rambled through the countryside…
…on mostly gravel roads…
…at a leisurely pace…
…in perfect, cool, crisp, late fall weather…
…across the windswept prairie hilltops…
…up a few climbs to keep it interesting…
…zig-zagging across meadows…
…accelerating into the creekbottoms…
…and stopping occasionally to take a breath and soak in nature’s bounty.
As the sun sank toward the horizon…
…things began to have a golden glow…
…and we rolled down the last hill…
…content with an outing awheel…
…with a wonderful harvest of friends.
Thanks for coming everyone. You made my day. I just might have to do this again next year.

Life’s Balance Beam

My oh my, life is a tricky balance. It seems that constant adjustments are required to keep from falling right off of it. Whether it is work/play, vegetables/dessert, or spend/save, without a little pondering, one could find himself anxiously teetering on the edge.
Some of you seem to be beautifully coordinated. For the rest of us, however, there is much flailing of the arms. Sometimes I think I have a permanent inner ear condition, and feel like I’m scooting along that 4-inch beam slowly on my knees, holding on with both hands. This week was kind of like that. No riding since last Saturday.

Probable Gravel Gateway

Today, however, I corrected my course a bit. Wanting to make sure that the beginning of the Second Annual Fall Finale Forty-Mile Country Path Ramble was “open” for folks on bicycles, part of my outing went to the first patch o’ gravel for the route. I might switch the start direction at the last minute based on weather conditions, but the photos in this post represent the most likely scenario.

Closed to motorized vehicles, but fine for bicycles

Unless things change drastically next week, things look fine. The bridge is still under construction, but quite passable.
So after a week that almost pushed me off the edge, I’ve now been able to restore some balance. Spending a few hours outside on two wheels can do that. Anxiety alleviated.

First creek crossing on the route

Balancing life can be tricky. Don’t forget to make a few corrections from time to time. Maybe for some of you it’s just about time to spend a few hours outdoors on a crisp, late autumn day, grinding gravel with a few friends. It might be the right life balance adjustment for a hectic holiday schedule ahead.

Ramble Forecast

I completely realize that we are still ONE WEEK AWAY from the Ramble rollout, but I just had to take a peek at the long term forecast. If we can get what the weatherman is guessing, we’ll do quite nicely.
By the way, if you are going to need directions to the start, I suggest you get those emails to me soon…like before noon on the 17th. Cuz I’m old and go to bed early. And I might be busy matching bags, or layering wool, or something on the morning of the 18th.