Rock Sculpture Bonus

I didn’t know this was going to be a rock sculpture expedition. Sometimes these micro-tours surprise me. I think I’m going for a bit of a ride and some coffee, and then something else just as amusing is piled on top.

(early start)

(dark and windy)

(arrival)

(coffee prep)

(sculpture in progress)

(balance)

(clouds like ships sailing)

(bridge)

(first class accommodations)

(early summer color)

(resisting small waves)

(cruising the beach)
(friendly T-Rex)
Some things are planned. Some things are anticipated. And some things are unexpected added bonuses that come to those to make the effort to put themselves in good situations…like, for instance, a micro-tour.
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Reader Help Reconn

The question is, “If I try to give you my point of view during a reconn ride, would you help me evaluate the route for suitability?”
“Suitability for what?” you might ask. Good question. Especially, since I suspect that some of you might have already PEDALED this route.
This route is basically the Second Annual Fall Finale Forty-Mile Country Path Ramble without the Rosston spur. So it’s the 36 mile loop without the 4.5 mile out-and-back spur to the general store. Those of you that participated in the Ramble last December have done this route, but not in the summer…which transitions us back to the suitability question.

It didn’t take me long this morning to realize that it is summer out there. Now that Memorial Day weekend is here, triple digit temperatures are almost upon us. That means old curmudgeons like myself seek adventure at times more pleasant…like in the dark. So the question is whether this route is suitable for a group ride in the darkness.

As originally conceived, the plan would be to leave my house at 8:30pm on a Friday night and return sometime after midnight. I was thinking of naming it the Midnight Ramble. Mrs. Pondero argued against that plan, mentioning the combination of things like kids, pickup trucks, and alcohol. So maybe I’ll consider an extremely early start. Maybe it’ll be the Sunrise Ramble. Maybe it would include a dawn coffee brew stop. Either way, the question is, “Would this route be suitable for a mostly darkness shrouded gravel grinder?”
The following photos should give you some sense of what I enjoyed this morning…


















There are no “city lights” out here on these gravel roads. I expect some of these areas will be just a little spooky. That, of course, has nothing to do with me trying to get someone to join me for this adventure. Let’s just say I like to share the fun.
I think the idea has some merit, but the real question is whether others agree. Because I’m not afraid, and I could go out wandering around in the darkness all by myself, but you know, that would just be selfish of me.

Skunk!

When it was all over, I was astonished by the lightening speed of my thought.
I had an encounter with a skunk today, and it was a short one. Forgive me for not stopping for photos of the critter.
I was on a pleasant patch of gravel, and it came ’round the corner on the edge of the road opposite me. It was traveling south, I was traveling north. In one pedal revolution, I evaluated my options.
(1) I could stop and hope that it would wonder OFF the road, but he was coming toward me with purpose. I’ve heard that seeing a skunk, normally a nighttime critter, in the daytime is a possible sign of rabies. (2) I could keep going along my edge of the road and hope for the best, but unfortunately I was going downwind. Bummer. (3) I could turn around, but I was getting hungry. Besides, I’ve encountered skunks before sitting in my tent watching them sniff around inches from me. I was rock still in that tent, but never got the fragrant treatment.
I chose option (2), hugging my side of the road, and surging with slight acceleration. Not too abruptly, mind you. When we got even with one another, I glanced left and saw the tail shoot straight up in the air. Oh no…
At that point, I was becoming a perfect downwind target.
But it wobbled on down the edge of the road with it’s tail straight up, and I pedaled north with my heart rate up. It was all for show this time.
So that one pedal revolution process of alternative identification, evaluation, and decision-making, worked out okay…this time.

Lingering in Louisville

It was going to take bigger obstacles to keep me off the bike. David went to the trouble to bring his Dahon folder for me to borrow while in Louisville. I didn’t want to let him down.
So the cloudy, damp, drizzly weather, and my lack of traditional cycling attire, didn’t stop me. Finally, even my employment responsibilities didn’t stop me. With a mix of determination, and eager anticipation (emancipation?), I pulled on my boots and rolled the folder out of the hotel lobby.


Other than pedaling around the downtown area, I had no plan. I just wanted to spin the cranks and feel like the luckiest conference attendee in Louisville.

Mission accomplished.

Within an hour, drizzle grew into drops. Since I had Mrs. Pondero’s new camera, the smart thing was to seek shelter.
Besides, it was dinner time. And tomorrow, it’ll be time to head back home.
But it was good to linger a bit here in Louisville for one more night. Thanks again to my new friends for making a work activity much more pleasant.

Bicycle Bloggers Meet-Up

Based on such positive experiences I’ve had meeting DFW bicycle bloggers (such as Chandra, Steve, Myles, and Paul) in person, I figured I’d expand my social horizons a bit further. When my plans were set to attend a conference in Louisville, Kentucky, I contacted David and Tim to see if we might meet for coffee. Even with high expectations, they both surprised me.
We agreed to meet at a coffee shop across the street from the Performing Arts Center (where David works), which was a 3-minute walk from the conference hotel. To accommodate my schedule constraints, they both went out of their way to meet me early.

David, Tim, and me

Tim, in the middle of a heinous workload spike, was especially tired. But he got up early on his day off to allow me to meet him.

Knowing of my fondness for his Quickbeam, he rode it to the meeting place. I didn’t have much time to inspect it closely, but I am an experienced bicycle gawker. I assure you that I did a fairly complete inventory on the fly, and was quite pleased.
David went out of his way to bring me a bike to ride. He folded it, loaded it up on the rack of his LHT, brought it downtown, unfolded it, and pushed it toward me just in case I have a chance to ride while I’m in town.
The visit was far too short. I just wanted to buy these guys a coffee and say thanks for all the encouragement as internet friends, and yet they honored me. When the clock said that I had to report to duty at the conference, I stuffed my right pants leg into my sock, and pedaled away.
Sharing the experience with guys like this is what I often think about when I’m out there alone on the north Texas prairie. I hope they can come to Texas someday. I have a favor to return.

S24O Kit Evolution

Steve commented on my last post about my most recent S24O. He asked about my what my kit has evolved to include, and what it has evolved to not include. It hasn’t really changed much, but I’ll attempt to provide a brief overview. If anyone would like more details, just let me know.
In above photo, you can see that my camping bike is my Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen. It includes front and rear racks so I can pack all the luxuries that make my overnighters comfortable. The front rack holds my sleeping bag. The rear rack holds small panniers, and supports the largish saddlebag.
If I were a better planner, I probably would be a “bag matcher”. But since I’m not, I just do the best I can at organizing a somewhat tidy load.
The next photo shows things that are not clothes and food. Clothes and food are variable, so I won’t spend much time on them unless asked. I’ll simply say that for my short camping trips, I’d rather be hungry than cold. So I tend to overpack warm woolies in cold weather, and “make do” with sparse/simple food. I am, however, beginning to think in terms of trying more extravagant meals (especially in warmer months since I can replace rainfly and warm clothes with food without wondering were things will go).
The top row (front left to right) are sleeping bag, tent, tent poles, rainfly, and pillow. As mentioned above, the sleeping bag straps to the front rack, but all other top row items are stuffed into my largish saddlebag. The tent isn’t exactly “in” the bag, but is under the top flap, and buckled within the leather straps.
The next row down includes windbreaker, tool roll inside homemade windscreen, stove/fuel/matches/coffee, and cheap Walmart mess kit. Mrs. Pondero picked up the mess kit for me. I thought it looked a bit fragile and wouldn’t last, but so far, I’m happy with it.
The bottom row has bungie cord for sleeping bag, coffee maker, water bottle, fancy coffee cup, tent stakes, large and small battery powered camp lights, and sleeping pad. The two bottom row items usually are carried in the panniers with various clothing items stuffed strategically to minimize rattles. My food ends up at the top of panniers and/or saddlebag.
Camera, wallet, and cell phone fit in the small pouch that attaches to the exterior of the saddlebag.
It is probably apparent that I am no minimalist. Camp is usually only about an hour and a half away, so I don’t obsess over another few pounds. In fact, I often will bring a book.
Regarding “evolution”, the main thing is that I’ve decided that I prefer the alcohol stove to the Kelly Kettle I was using earlier. The Kelly Kettle is bulkier, heavier, and requires more attention during use. I’ve also been using my Bialetti coffee maker lately, instead of my REI press/insulated mug combo. The press works fine, and I will probably use both in the future, depending on mood. One item I don’t have, but might add soon, is some minimal first aid kit. Up until now, I’ve depended on my cell phone and the gracious Mrs. Pondero if I need medical attention. But after camping with Chandra, who was better prepared, in the fall, I’m rethinking that.
So there’s the overview. Nothing really complex or high-tech, just reasonable comfort for one night outdoors. However, having racks and bag options does make it easy to carry the primary comforts of home. And that kind of convenience does require something of a financial commitment. Even so, I’m confident it could be done simpler and cheaper by someone more resourceful.

Fall-in-to-Place S24O

shady spot on a gravel road

This weekend was not a target. For the last three weeks, I’ve just been trying to make it through each day. I couldn’t plan ahead for the work that was choking the life out of me, much less for any leisure time. But sometimes things just fall in to place.

just arrived at the campsite

Michael and I happened to be able to get Friday afternoon off. We both had our reasons, but each needed to get outdoors and clear our minds. Since circumstances allowed, and the weather couldn’t be better, we pulled together a last minute campout.

barn swallow excavation crew in action

By mid afternoon, we had arrived, oriented ourselves to our surroundings, and set out for a walk. We ambled toward the lake shore to enjoy the sunshine and the cool breeze. We sat on a picnic table and watched a large number of barn swallows. At first their flight seemed chaotic, but we soon noticed a circular pattern. Then the “pile” of barn swallows at the water’s edge.

excavation pits

We moved closer to get a better look. Apparently, they swoop down in huge numbers, scoop up moist soil, and use it to build their nests. Judging from the location of the excavated areas, it seemed they were selecting soil with a “just right” moisture content.

barn swallow handiwork

Then we made our way to another point in their circular pattern, and we could see the construction in progress. Their skillful aerobatics is matched by their clever construction.

evening fire

It was an unseasonably cool evening, but ideal for camping. Michael and I were joined for dinner by another friend who had his own reasons for spending a little time in the woods. We discussed lofty topics, tossed sticks in the fire, and challenged one another to more noble living.

pre-breakfast campsite

Our friend had to leave us, so Michael and I continued the discussion. We stared at the fire, warmed our hands, and watched the moon rise. When yawns appeared more frequently in our conversation, we retired to our respective tents.
Compared to my winter outings, the night seemed quite short. I slept better than usual, and the sky was light at 6am. It was morning and delightfully brisk. Just right for coffee.

morning fire

Michael found a few glowing embers from last night’s fire, and soon brought them back to life.

boiling water

While Michael tended the fire, I prepared the oatmeal…

coffee is ready

…and the coffee.

toasting poptarts

Then we supplemented our more nutritious breakfast with poptarts, toasted the cowboy way.

baggage shadow

Then we both needed to be somewhere else. So we packed our things and headed out. But we were grateful for such a convenient location for these kinds of S24O getaways, and we anticipated the next opportunity. Then we went our separate ways.

rolling green hills

On a cool refreshing morning in mid May, I pedaled my bicycle with a warmed heart, over gently rolling hills speckled with wildflowers. I realized that sometimes fall-in-to-place events can top those that are carefully planned.