28 September 2007

Slow, Hot, Painful

I rode the Gaul-422-Myerstown route again last night and just couldn't get into a groove, unlike two weeks ago. In addition to being 86-degrees and not being able to push beyond some heat lethargy, both my hands and feet were killing me as well. And by the time I arrived at the Kumm Esse in Myerstown, thunder and lightning began to roll in so rather than resting, I bolted out of there. Even still, I just couldn't hit a stride for the "time trial" back.

Gaul climbing is getting easier every time. And the bike computer clocked my descent at the top of Wooltown Rd: 42 mph. Total ride distance: 36 miles.

24 September 2007

Hello, Computer

I tried out my new bike computer on Sunday during a typical out-and-back to Stouchsburg. Average speed: a humbling 15.7 mph. Top speed: 35 mph. Total miles: 30. Total time: 1 hour, 45 minutes. On the 422 climbs, I was averaging between 11 and 15 mph, which I felt pretty good about.

The ride out took exactly 1 hour, but the ride back was 45 minutes. Guess which part of the ride had the wicked headwind? On the way back, I was able to cruise at around 22-26 mph on the flats.

No pictures this time, but if I had stopped for photo ops, I would've grabbed a photo of the Risser's Diner daily special sign: "Stuffed Pig Stomach, Beltbuster Burger." I sincerely hope the two items weren't combined.

21 September 2007

Floyd Landis Memorial Ride

Local eastern PA Mennonite Floyd Landis was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France win yesterday. And I had a crappy 30 mile ride to Stouchsburg and back. Same route as last Thursday (Gaul-Wooltown-422).

Felt pretty good on the Gaul climbs, but shitty after that until around Robesonia where I picked up some energy -- this is usually where my warm-up ends and the real riding kicks in. Then the return ride was fun. Big headwind gusts from the east. Until I realized it was a headwind, I thought I had flatted or that my rear brakes has seized on the rim. Pulled into the Conrad Weiser Homestead to check, and only then did I realize it was wind. I'm smart!

17 September 2007

The Perkiomen Trail

My first "away" ride. In other words, on Sunday, I actually drove to a riding location rather than riding from home. And the destination was the amazing Perkiomen Trail. It's a 20 mile stretch of gravel and pavement running from Green Lane near Boyertown, all the way down to Valley Forge where it meets the Schuylkill River Trail which, in turn, meanders all the way to Philadelphia. Unbelievable thing. It really is.

The trail was constructed on the old Reading Railroad tracks -- parts of it literally where the tracks used to be, cutting through hills with sheer rock face on one side and a 30 foot drop down to the creek on the other. Beautiful red rocks. The whole thing has an otherworldly feel to it. The way the world is supposed to be, almost. Clean, gorgeous creek-side villages, tiny road. Hell, the trail even has two roadside restaurants. Moccia's and Bethie's:

I decided to try the trail for a couple of reasons. First, I currently ride a cyclocross bike. If I don't venture off the road, what's the point? (By the way, I'm committed to learning my cyclocross dismount/mount process over the winter.) Second, this was one of the trails I read about last winter when I was eagerly awaiting the purchase of the Kona Jake.

Riding for 30 miles on mostly gravel and dirt was more than a little unusual and, of course, dusty. And it was cold. 58F standing still in the shade of the trail, and who knows what the temp was when I was riding. I wore my Specialized arm warmers the entire time and I needed them.

I celebrated the chillier temperature by exploring the small ski area called Spring Mountain. This only after riding up the only climb on the trail: a 12% grade which stretched for almost a mile over the mountain. 12% is just beyond my ability and I had to carry my bike the final 10 meters or so. On pavement, on a warmer day -- maybe later in the ride -- I might've been able to easily handle it.

It wasn't all gravel, though. The refreshingly smooth hum of macadam was more than welcome on the various trail bridges and near the populated areas. Unfortunately, I must've hit something weird because today (Monday) my rear tire is totally flat.

I can't really describe the Perkiomen Trail quickly on a blog and do it justice. But it's something good. I mean genuinely, surprisingly good and simple. A seemingly endless highway for clean, healthy fun. Next time, I'm bringing a better camera and my family.

15 September 2007

A Most Excellent Evening Ride

This post is a little late, but Thursday afternoon I left work early in order to ride. I figured an earlier departure would give me enough time to have a decent ride before sundown around 7:35-ish.

I hit the Gaul Rd. climb at around 5:45-ish , this time in a smaller gear (I've read that smaller gears and a faster cadence is better for the knees -- especially early in a ride). My legs felt great moving faster like that, but I was really gasping for air by the time I reached Wooltown, as usual. But I was satisfied that, yeah, it's getting easier every time. And I'm starting to work on conditioning my brain to ignore certain things. A pro rider once said that it's all about the brain -- the body can adapt to anything.

So I tempted the setting sun and rode the 18 miles all the way out to Myerstown: the tiny village along 422 with the big water tower next to the road, and a diner called "KUMM ESSE". By the time I reached Myerstown, it was about 6:50. Less than an hour to darkness. As such, I decided to "time trial" home. In other words, go as (steadily) fast as I could for the 18 mile return.

6:55. The goal: try to get as close to Dave Zibriskie's first place US PRO time trail result of 18 miles in 39 minutes.

This was the best I've ever felt on a bike (other than my sit bones which were KILLING for some reason). Seriously. I felt like I was flying. Even on the steeper climb at Womelsdorf and the steady climb into Wernersville, I was able to keep a faster pace and really move. I'm not at the level yet where I could time-trial-pump continuously, but I did the best I could. A couple of traffic lights forced me to stop entirely and I slowed for a hundred meters to watch a group of genuine Amish guys build a produce tent along the road. Other than that, I really felt like I was moving. I don't know how fast, but in comparison to other rides, this had to have been the most consistently fast I've ever cycled.

I reached the steady climb into Wernersville at the Zibriskie time: 39 minutes, and I still had another 5 or 6 miles to go. I hit the climb and concentrated hard in order to keep up my cadence -- which I successfully did. But the weirdest thing happened. When I reached the top and entered the town, my feet felt like they were literally on fire. I mean, hot burning sensation. It went away quickly but it was a hell of a thing. Anyway, yeah, I came up way short on my time trial goal but I figured -- hey -- I'm doing pretty good considering he's the American time trial champion, and I'm a 36-year-old, 6'4", 230 lb. rookie on a cyclocross bike.

At this point, however, it was officially night and I began to really worry about, you know, being killed. I have reflectors on my bike, but what driver is expecting a giant man on a bike to go flying down the road next to -- or perpendicular to -- his or her SUV? With adrenaline pumping, and with some refreshingly chilly evening wind, I booked as hard as I could towards home.

I pulled into the garage at exactly 8PM. 18 miles in 65 minutes. 26 minutes short of my goal. Ride total: 36 miles. I don't know if this "time trial" was fast or slow (probably really slow) for my level, but it felt really fast -- and more importantly for why I ride... it felt really good.

10 September 2007

Homecoming Ride

Not much to report from Sunday's ride. 30 miles to Stouchsburg and back. I hit some kind of boulder or asteroid in the road about half-a-mile from home and flatted. Carried my bike over my shoulder for the rest of the way. Before that, I stopped at the Conrad Weiser Homestead historical park. The poop there is that it was definitely Weiser's property, but the "home" probably wasn't his home. That's weird. More on Weiser here.

Also, I'm still monkeying with my saddle height. For almost the entire season, my patellas have been killing me after riding, but only after riding and only when I stand up from a deep crouching or sitting position. My saddle is plenty high enough. I think it's time to call in an 'expoit, although my chiropractor, Dr. Wolf, said it's patellar-femoral syndrome and that I should wear jumper's straps. I've been wearing the straps, but they aren't working -- other than to look silly. My brother the chiropractor said it could be tendonitis. More later...

08 September 2007

Three Cool Things In Burbank, CA

I'm in Burbank, California on business and couldn't resist seeking out some items which I would've tried to collect had I been in the saddle. And there are certainly many other interesting attractions in the San Fernando Valley, but the following items made me smile.

First, the Chandler Boulevard Bikeway:

This two-lane concrete cycling roadway runs down the median strip of Chandler Blvd and is so (rightfully) beloved that city planners have added a bronze statue of a family of bike riders -- the little girl, by the way, is riding with her hands in the air, and the adult in the scene appears to be smacking her right hand:

The bikeway, however, used to be the historic Burbank Railroad which bisected the former ranch lands of the Valley.

The above photo was taken just a block beyond the eastern end of the bikeway where the railroad tracks remain intact, though unused. Another relic of a time before the car culture.

Second, one of the few publicly displayed F-104 Starfighter jets from Lockheed's secretive Skunk Works facility:

From The Valley Observed:

Burbank Airport was home to Lockheed's secret Skunk Works, where the U2 spy plane and other war birds were hatched. Residents in the 1950s and '60s had to put up with sonic booms that shattered windows ands frazzled nerves, the product of test flights. Read more here.

The Starfighter was first tested here in Burbank in 1954 and was used by the military between 1958 and 1967.

And finally, my perpetual LA motel of choice:

The Safari Inn is my definition of a classic American motel. The '50s era theme and signpost. The breezeway check-in area with the cement deck above. The pool. The outdoor walkway on the second floor. The Safari was also used as a location in True Romance -- the hotel in which James Gandolfini brutally assaults Patricia Arquette. Fortunately, the interiors of the rooms are very different now. No bloody mirrors and no mosquito nets (I'm fairly certain a different location was used for the interior scenes of the movie, but the exterior shots are all Safari).

I could spend an entire week here photographing classic motels. They're living monuments to mid-20th Century America, and, in my opinion, are historic locations, worthy of preservation. More on this in later road tours, but they're truly one of my obsessions.