Sunday, January 31, 2010

Winter Pleasure

This week was especially hard. I drove nearly 500 miles each day in my truck. On Saturday I drove 477 miles on snow packed slick roads. Because I leave at 3:00 each morning, the roads had not been plowed yet. I drove for 4 hours on mostly unplowed roads at 35-45 miles per hour in the dark. I kept the speed as high I my nerves could stand it, because like the song says, "we got a long way to go and a short time to get there...". I had an appointment to make to get unloaded and the weather wasn't going to change that.

Today, I had a lighter day and got home with time to ride. It was only 25 degrees outside, and many roads were still snow-covered, but I hadn't been on my road bike for three days; I had only been using my commuter bike to get to and from my truck. So I suited up, saddled up and rode.

Looking at the pictures, you can see why I ride in the winter. There is something about a winter vista which calms and restores a soul made weary by too many miles in a truck, pushing too hard to make appointments. Despite the road salt and slush which soaked my booties and covered my bike with white spots, today's ride was re-creating. I feel born anew.

There's another reason why I ride in the winter. Some day, I will no longer be here. Either I will have passed the century mark and therefore will be ready to go, or perhaps some stupid teen-ager will have flattened me while texting his girlfriend at 60 miles per hour. I don't want anyone to pour my cremains into a Mountain Dew bottle and duct-tape a twinkie and a TV remote to it, putting it on the couch so I can be comfortable and happy for eternity.

I want my cycling friends to take my cremains to the top of Williams's Hill. I'd like someone to say something nice about me. The rest of the riders can tell the truth. Then I'd be pleased if most of my cremains were scattered at the top of the hill. I'd like a small portion to be reserved and put in the battery compartment of a bicycle headlight. Then I want Mike McKee to mount that light on the front of his bike and take me for one last long ride. That would make me happy for all eternity.

Until then, I'll keep riding, especially in the winter.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


This is Rob Landes. He is a friend of mine. In fact, Rob is a friend to many cyclists in the area. He's always ready to ride with you, always ready with a word of encouragement, always ready to give you great advice to enhance your cycling experience. He's a good friend to have.

Rob owns Nature's Answer Health Food Store in Marion Illinois. He gives local cycling club members a discount on Hammer Nutritional Products. He gives me deeper discounts beyond that. I couldn't afford to use such a quality product without his discounts. Sometimes I worry that he's not making money on the things he sells me, so I try to buy other things with a better margin to make up for it.

Much of the cycling equipment I have has either been an outright gift from Rob, or I've bought from him at pennies on the dollar. I owe a large debt of gratitude to Rob.

Friendship is the only thing that brings sense to bicycling. None of the men (or women) that I ride with will ever set national or international records for cycling. Most of them won't ever win any races or awards that amount to anything. Riding just to win makes no sense. It's just not that likely.

I have several cycling friends. Mike McKee rode with me on the coldest day yet. And we rode for over 9 hours to finish a 126 mile ride for credit - for me. The only thing he got out of it was a big toe that went numb for nearly 2 weeks.

Jordon Graf rode with me on what was probably the hottest day last summer. The roads were melting and both of our bikes were covered in tar. We had to stop to scrape the tar off of our tires when it became too heavy for the wheel to pass through the forks.

Michael Schoenecke rode with me on my longest ride last year. I rode 223 miles on a day last August, but Michael was my companion for 110 of them. Without him, I probably wouldn't have been able to finish what was my biggest goal for the year.

Matt Gholson drew the logo I use for my randonneuring group. It's completely professional (he is an art teacher) and was completely free. In fact, he does all of my "computer stuff" pro bono as well. (I'm only slightly computer literate.)

Kevin Turner and Dale Moore have a usual lunch time ride during the riding season. They included me several times when my schedule allowed. These two friends made room for one more. In fact, for the last couple of years, Kevin, Dale and others have included me on an annual bike camping trip to Cave In Rock that they make each June.

Chris Whitley gave me an indoor trainer. Larry Sanders has included me in the Tour De Hope ride which takes place in Marion each year. Mike Dunaway helped "pull" me for many miles last year during my big August ride when the road turned uphill and against the wind. Joe Schmitt helped me start and promote our bicycle club a couple of year ago.

I could go on. (In fact, if I didn't mention your name, you're probably hoping I will go on.) But you get the point. I don't bring any special gifts to the table. I don't bring any money to the table. I don't even bring much leadership to the table. But all these people are at the table, and have been most kind to me. They have treated me as if I were their friend.

They are my friends. And that is the gold at the end of the cycling rainbow. Not high mileage. Not fast times. Not epic hill climbs. Friends.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Humble Beginnings

This is how it began. Mere perception - no real substance. I often said WE when talking about the bike club. People thought there really was one. Unless they specifically asked. Then I had to admit that the WE was me. I kept moving forward. I created a web site and posted pictures. I made brochures and business cards. Forward. Always forward.

Now there is an Illinois not-for-profit corporation. River to River Bicycle Club. A really cool web site. A new club jersey with optional arm/leg warmers, gloves and socks. There will be window clings and bumper stickers. Mere perception - no real substance. Forward. Always forward.

Perhaps this year, perception will become reality. Maybe this year.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It's a daily (or nearly daily) thing.

I decided to go out for a ride today. There were three main reasons. 1. I need to. I'll get fat if I don't ride. 2. I need to. I won't reach my goals this year if I don't ride. 3. I need to. I really wanted to stay inside with Rinti and eat candy while looking at pictures of fat people shopping at WalMart. But if I do that, I'll lose the desire and the ability to ride.

Now that I look at those reasons, it occurs to me that there is only one reason I ride: I need to. It's true that bicycle riding is fun for me. Although it takes longer now for the happy brain chemicals to kick in. Sometimes I have to ride for an hour and a half before I start to feel happy. But I need to continually push myself out the door. The alternative is dying a slow death indoors. A death so slow that no one, not even me will notice that it's happening. Just a gradual loss of flexibility, a gradual loss of muscle tone, a gradual gain in weight. Then one day - boom. I'm dead. They'll say it happened suddenly, but I will know as I lie there in my grave waiting for the resurrection day that it wasn't sudden at all. It was gradual. It was slow. It was because I didn't ride my bike every day, or at least nearly every day.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

New Year - More Goals

Happy New Year. This was how 2010 started for me - on my bike and frozen. True to my last posting, I did delete all the mileage on the League of Illinois site. I stopped competing with those unknown other riders for collecting the most mileage. In fact, I was scrupulous about not checking at the end of the year to see how they did and compare myself to them as a lurker instead of a poster. Gotta exercise that willpower somehow, don't you know.

Last year (and continuing on to this December) I started an effort to obtain the RUSA R-12 award, . It will take 12 months of disciplined riding, much of which will be over the same course. And you know how much I love riding the same course. I'll post the lies and pictures here .

I also have an annual mileage goal for this year. I managed to hit 9000 miles last year. However, I had 42 days on which I logged no miles. 42 No Ride Days! That's a month and a half! So one of my goals this year is to have NO no ride days. I want to log 365 days of riding. I decided that since my commute is only 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), that will count as a ride. So even if I have a project to work on, or family coming over for a visit, or am in the bed with pneumonia, if I can get out for 10 kilometers (about 25 minutes) then I'll count it. By doing so, and by increasing my mileage a little each week I plan to ride at least 10,000 miles this year.

Let's see - 9000 in 2009. 10,000 in 2010. Hmmm. What about 11,000 in 2011? 12,000 in 2012? Wow! The future could be really awesome!

Anyway, I do plan this year to focus on long-distance riding with RUSA. I will ride a 200 kilometer ride each month (some months more than once) for the R-12 award, then I'll pursue the Super Randonneur award by completing all four standard brevets in March, April, May, and June. I also have been given the opportunity to organize and hold two brevets - a 200 kilometer and 300 kilometer - in May and June, respectively. I'm hoping to find a way to find riders willing to come and ride here, and thereby develop a cadre of long-distance riders in Southern Illinois.

Finally, despite all of this cycling, I plan to continue to develop into the fine husband, father, grandfather, and friend that I have been and am becoming (if there is time left).