Frank Patterson’s Art Comes to Life

I am a huge fan of Frank Patterson’s bicycling drawings. When I study them, I am inevitably drawn into the scene. I long to be there among those enjoying a bicycle outing in the countryside. Occasionally, I am fortunate enough to actually ride through areas that remind me of his scenes.  So I smile because I realize that, for a few moments…and in a small way, I’ve become Frank Patterson’s art come to life.

While playing around with Picasa’s photo editing tools and a photo taken from today’s Sunday afternoon ride, I accidentally stumbled on an effect that reminded me of Mr. Patterson’s style. A computer doctored photograph is no substitute for a master’s art. But it does provide me this opportunity to honor his work, and perhaps lead someone new to enjoy it.

Quickbeam Exploration Micro-Tour

On the way to Culp Branch Native Prairie Recreational Area for a micro-tour. Goodies in the bag, and micro-blanket to keep things civilized strapped to the outside.

The gate seems to encourage foot traffic, but not much else. A bicycle oriented vertically on its rear wheel rolls through with no difficultly.

At the start, there was a well-defined single track. It was smooth and pleasant to follow.

In a short time, the trail became less obvious among the vegetation. As I was forced to watch the ground closer, and nearer my front wheel, I was reminded that this was once private property. Aerial photos show remnants of old home foundations, and a grid pattern to the trail system that was probably once roads. Patches of severely worn asphalt was observed on a few short sections of the single track I followed.

My trail led to the lake, and lake access is one of the reasons I wanted to explore this area. Today the north wind blowing over the water made for a bit of a chill, so I retreated to a protected low area for my first coffee stop.

There was evidence of abandoned homes for more than just people. As shown in the photo, this former bird’s nest is only about saddle height on a 56cm frame. I’m guessing this home was built after the road became a footpath.

Here’s a quiet, wind-protected spot, to spread out the micro blanket and enjoy a couple of pop tarts and some hot coffee.  

It doesn’t really look like a road in this photo, but there are visual clues in abundance of what once was. My blanket sits just on top of what appears to be a graded slope from natural ground level down to a lower roadway.

The eager explorer waiting to get back on the road and head to the next destination.

But not so fast. I’ve got a couple more sips left, and I am moving purposefully slow today.

What single track through a north Texas native prairie looks like on a chilly, late October morning. I’ll take this directly south to the highway, meander a few back roads, zip through Sanger, cross the Interstate, and arrive at my second coffee stop in about an hour.

Duck Creek Road, on the south side of Sanger, is a low traffic road. There is a new bridge over Duck Creek, just west of the pecan orchard, with concrete side rails that include a nice flat sitting surface.

Sitting and sipping, and watching the wind carry a few leaves away from their trees.  Probably in the low 40s by now, and with the sunshine, time to shed a layer.  Just ask me if this is better than 95 degrees.

Duck Creek Road turns left just past the bridge here, and climbs a short steep wall. Then its just a few miles of low traffic county roads, and one more short patch of gravel before arriving home.

Single track prairie souvenirs stuck in my drive train.

Bikes and Barbed Wire

Sometimes I think I should have named this blog “Bikes and Barbed Wire”. It seems like 90% of my photos involve one of my bikes leaning against a barbed wire fence. I apologize to those who long ago grew bored with my primary subject matter. But until I get tired of it, I guess we’re stuck with it. Perhaps there is more to be done with a bike and barbed wire, and I’m just the guy to figure it out.  

I’ve been seeing this guy a lot lately on one of my frequent routes. He’s hard to miss. Maybe when I’m too feeble to ride a bike, I could get a fine, strong horse like this one to pull me in a wagon down gravel roads. Maybe I’d pose the wagon against barbed wire fences in four counties.

In addition to bikes and barbed wire, I seem to have developed quite an appetite for fixed gear, mixed terrain metric centuries. I’ve got a nice, geared randonneur bike with plush 650b x 42mm tires, but I’ve been grabbing the Quickbeam lately. It’s slower and harder, but I do it anyway. I’ve been pondering this, and have a few ideas. But, honestly, I can’t explain it.

Small gravel and early morning sunshine making thousands and thousands of tiny shadows that gives one of my favorite roads a visually interesting texture. Note how there is no barbed wire in this photo.

We are beginning to see a few colorful signs of the autumn season in north Texas. We’ll never have the gaudy, over-saturated red or yellow forest like other locales. Instead, we have a tree here and there with stand-out color. Even then, the bright colors are mixed in with a more tasteful balance of tree trunk for strength, and variations in color for a more interesting texture. We love our fall foliage just like the rest of you. There’s probably barbed wire in this photo, but no bike.

And sometimes you come around the corner to see the sunshine highlight a stark passed-from-this-life tree with no leaves at all. It has an interesting shape, and can still be admired.

The gateway to Greenwood. Several photos have been posted of the outside of the Greenwood Grocery and Grill, but never the entry way into this lovely settlement. The Grocery and Grill is just around the corner in the shady spot. Note that the bike is leaning against a guard rail, and not a barbed wire fence.

Across the street from the Grocery and Grill. Can you imagine a bunch of bikes parked here, leaning up against all kinds of things that are not barbed wire when this year’s Ramble passes through here? And all the cyclists enjoying the camaraderie of pedaling rural roads. I can, and it looks delightful.

North Texas is flat. But occasionally, I have to stand on the pedals, pull on the bars, and gasp for air. I don’t know why. I must be old or something. Did you notice that this fence is not barbed wire?  Yeah, a crazy experiment, and it caused me a little discomfort. I think it came out okay.

This is the first place I can see the Wise County courthouse, sitting on top of the hill in Decatur, Texas. It’s that little spike on the horizon in the opening between the trees (behind the barbed wire fence). In a little while, I can stop at the donut shop, buy a fresh sausage and cheese kolache (wikipedia says technically what I had was a klobasnek, most of us Texans aren’t so technical), and look across the street at that same courthouse.

Well because I know you’ve been missing the bike and barbed wire, I close with two classic Pondero photos.  This one has some of that awesome, thousand shades of brown, shoulder high prairie grass blowing in the wind.

And finally, just another bike, leaning against a barbed wire fence. Because, …well…I guess that’s just what I do.

Tour Delayed

Today was the day I was to start the 3-legged credit card tour. Nice day for it. The first stage was the journey to Henrietta fictionally described in a prior journal entry. But sometimes things don’t work out. 

I’ll get over it.

Maybe later… 

Schwalbe Marathon Dureme

These 700×40 Schwalbe Marathon Duremes have several hundred miles on chip seal, smooth asphalt, gravel, and dirt. Just look at the little rubber nubs (is that the right word?) still standing there proud as your cat at the back door with a bloody bird at its feet. There’s a ridge nub running down the center of the continuous middle tread, and amazingly it is still there.

I agonized over the purchase of these tires because I thought they’d feel lifeless and horribly slow. But I eventually pulled the trigger because I thought they looked right. I wanted some wider tires on the Quickbeam than the 32mm Pasela tires I had. I needed some volume for comfort and control, and wanted some tread because I thought it might help on the gravel climbs a little. I also thought they would make my gravel-leaning, fixed gear all-arounder look a little more ruggedly handsome. I might as well just come right out and admit it. Looks are important.

They might not be as supple and fast as a Grand Bois tire, but they don’t seem dead or horribly slow either. In fact, to my senses, they feel good on gravel. They have what I’d call a comfortable, stable feel. These Duremes are also tough, and probably just as important as anything else, they LOOK tough. Because when you are no longer a slave to performance, you can enjoy looking cool.

"Are you lost?"

Stopped right here, I pull my camera out to show you all this road.  It is a new one for me, and part of a new 60+ mile loop northeast of the house.  As the camera comes to life, the slow moving pickup slows to a stop beside me.  I glance up, see the passenger window is down, and wait for the rancher to say something.  When I decide the silence is bordering on awkward, I say, “Good morning!”

He returns the greeting, and adds, “Are you lost?”

Cautiously, I wonder if he is sincerely concerned or a little suspicious.  After all, why would a goofy-dressed bicyclist be out here on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere?

I tell him I have a map, and think I am where I hope to be, but that some of these county roads are not signed.  He confirms that I am on the correct road, and asks another question that could be interpreted as either suspicion or genuine helpfulness.  So I tell him my plan to make a left turn, head west, and take a few other county roads back to North Shore Road.  He pauses and processes that information, and says, “You are nowhere near North Shore Road”.

I think he underestimates the comfortable range of a bicycle.

So I pull out my map, and recite the sequence of roads that leads back to North Shore Road.  Either his suspicions are satisfied, or his understanding of a bicycle’s range is expanded.  Then he asks, “Oh, so you live over there?”

“No, I live in Sanger.”

Another pause to process information.  I think his understanding of the bicycle’s range is significantly expanded.  Then he wishes me well, and drives on at about bicycle pace.  So I decide to go ahead take that photo of the road, and include the back of that pickup before it fades out of sight.

Cygolite Metro 300

This little light surprised me. I’m not a bicycle lighting authority, and this wasn’t written to convince anyone that they should scrap their current lighting set-up and use this instead. This post is simply a story about how surprised I am.  It appears technology leap-froged over me again.

I wanted an easy on/easy off light. I’ve been enjoying the simple Quickbeam lately, and wanted to take it out in the dark. But I didn’t want to spend the money for a special dynohub wheel and light combo. I also didn’t want something permanently installed or as heavy as a generator hub. I didn’t want the clutter of wiring. And for the intended use of the Quickbeam, I can live with less than Edelux performance.  

I went first to the Rivendell Bicycle Works website. I knew there had been a lot of technology improvements in the bicycle lighting world, and I knew that Rivendell sold lights. Maybe, I figured, they’d have some kind of basic commuter light that would be acceptable. What I found was the Cygolite Metro 300, and that it has a built-in rechargeable battery that plugs in to a USB port. Cool. I also found that it would easily last long enough (actually much longer) to cover my 1-2 hour typical light/dark fringe ride. The Rivendell folks suggested that it was a good value in a light. So it probably would have enough light for me to be visible to others and find my way down the road without hitting the larger obstacles.

I rode for an hour this morning using the low, steady mode. It was much better lighting than I expected. The beam filled the road with plenty of light for my moderate pace. As I approached home, I switched to high, steady mode. I believe this compares favorably with my Edelux. I didn’t expect this much performance from such a small, light weight, easy on/easy off, conveniently rechargeable light. 

Since I am not an everyday bicycle commuter, or a ride-all-night rando freak, if I were a first time bicycle light shopper, I’d probably skip the dynohub thing and use something like this. Why? It’s less expensive, it can be used on multiple bikes, it weighs less, and performs similarly. For an hour or two in the dark, a couple of times a week, this little light is surprising.

Of course, I think I was the last one on the block to get a smart phone.  So consider the source.