Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for March, 2008

Riding to Fairfax with Chris

Monday, March 17th, 2008

I fell behind in blogging, mostly because while I did ride late last week, I simply did my Mount Gilead Road route a couple of times. I ride that route frequently, and there wasn’t much to report. Then I was working from home, so I missed some commuting opportunities.

Anyway, on Saturday I called my friend Chris, who I’ve known since at least high school, if not middle school, to ask if he wanted to go for a ride on Sunday. We had only hung out once in recent years, and we used to ride together a lot in high school. He said he was available, so we planned to ride.

I rode over to Chris’s house at the appointed time, and he showed me his new bicycle, a GMC Denali-branded bike his brother got him for Christmas. It turned out this was going to be the bike’s maiden voyage. It’s a pretty sharp-looking bike, but a few features surprised me. It’s a road bike, but it has grip shifters — something I’d never seen. And it has deep section rims but schrader valves. I don’t see any inherent problem with this, it’s just unusual.

We headed out, at first intending to do my Water Works route. But then I learned that Chris’s work schedule had changed and he had more time than I realized, so we decided to ride down to Fairfax State Recreation Area instead.

Rolling hills on Snoddy Road

Chris hadn’t ridden a bicycle in about 5 months, but he works out regularly, and it shows. He rode quite well. We rode at a conversational pace and caught up during the ride. Chris has always been a walking trivia book, but that’s even more true now, since he has driven tour buses all over the country and worked as a tour guide in Las Vegas for a few years.

It was a beautiful day to ride, in the mid 40s or so, overcast, and breezy. We had the roads mostly to ourselves, although we did see some other cyclists and some light traffic. We rode really close to some turkey vultures on Snoddy Road and saw several deer frolicking by Harrell Road.

Some rain late in the week washed a lot of the sand off the roads, except for Strain Ridge Road which was in pretty bad shape and had thick layers of sand in parts. There’s a pretty long downhill section, and then a big climb. Chris and his new bike handled both pretty well, although he did have a few shifting problems. I’m sure that some derailleur adjustments will help there.

Strain Ridge Road

The bridge in the above photo goes over a creek, which was very high, and there was some flooding off to the left side. If we get the heavy rain that’s predicted in the next couple of days, things could get interesting in this and other low-lying areas in the near future.

Smithville Water tower


Before long, we reached Fairfax. The office wasn’t open yet so we got in for free. We rode down the big hill, nearly hitting 40 mph on the downhill. I’ve ridden this much faster in the past but with bulkier, warmer clothing 38.5 was as fast as I could get. We rode to the end of the road, which is on a small peninsula on Lake Monroe.

Lake Monroe

Chris’s GMC Denali bicycle

My bicycle

We saw a few boats, a houseboat, and we also saw a flying boat take off from the lake and fly by overhead, but very low in the sky. I tried to get a photo but it was out of sight before I could get my camera ready. We hung out by the lake for a while and caught up some more. It was a great day to be outdoors with an old friend. I’m used to riding being the primary focus of my rides but in this case it was something to do with a friend. Conversation and riding alternated as the primary objectives.

Chris checking his tire pressure

Chris and me

We stopped at another place near the lake and watched the seagulls, ducks, and geese, then rode back. Chris had some more shifting problems as we climbed toward the exit to the recreation area, but after that his bike did pretty well. We took our time on the way back and stopped a little more frequently.

It was a great day to be out riding, and cool to ride with Chris. We hadn’t ridden together in probably about 10 years, possibly more. Hopefully we can ride together again soon. At the end of the day we rode a bit over 30 miles. This gave me almost 90 miles of riding for last week, and I’ve already ridden more in March than I did in February. I can see my mileage increasing already, and it feels great.


Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

I started commuting by bicycle one year ago today. I’ve had a lot of fun, lost weight, improved my fitness, saved money, and decreased my impact on the environment. When I started commuting a year ago, I had no idea I’d be riding to work year-round.

I’ve ridden on beautiful days: I watched flowers bloom in the spring and enjoyed the rustling of leaves beneath my tires in the fall. I’ve ridden on hot summer days and arrived at work sweaty, but still smiling. I’ve ridden in 0-degree temperatures, days so cold condensation froze on my bicycle. I’ve ridden in rain, fog, mist, snow, sleet, freezing rain, and ice. I’ve begun to feel these are my streets.

I’ve also learned a lot, and made a lot of changes to my bicycles and my techniques in that time — and I continue to hone my commuting process. Today I rode in work clothes, whereas I normally change once I get here. This is made easier by the fact that this has been dubbed “casual week” at my company, but I’m hoping that when conditions aren’t too hot, or too wet, I can just ride in my work clothes, even when I have to dress a little more formally.

I haven’t ridden every day and I work from home sometimes, so things break down as follows:

  • 151 days of bicycle commuting
  • 905.10 miles

I’m looking forward to another year of commuting. Hopefully I can rely on my car even less in the next year.

Tying up a few loose ends

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

I’m back today from a brief vacation — I took Monday and Tuesday off. Sarah and I were supposed to go back down to North Carolina this week (it’s her spring break) but after getting engaged and being overwhelmed with things to do and expenses relating to that, we decided to call off our trip. Besides, this way maybe we can find a way to take a honeymoon of some kind. I’m mostly not going to write about our vacation because we didn’t do very much, overall. I didn’t even get to ride very much, just one brief ride around a neighborhood on Saturday and a 24-mile ride on Monday. We did hike yesterday at Yellowwood State Forest, doing the Jackson Creek Trail and part of the Lake Trail. Later, we got a flat tire; fortunately, it held air when I reinflated it.

I was having some networking problems last week and thought it was due to my Comcast cable modem connection. Comcast bought my ISP and things haven’t been working right since then. However, I replaced my router and things started working again. So I guess it was just a coincidence, but it seems a little weird that my router started having problems right when my connection changed to a Comcast one. Coincidence or conspiracy? We’ll never know. Another weird thing happened and the router that I bought kept resetting itself randomly. I had to take it back and get a different one. I seem to be having a string of bad luck.

Then yesterday we received a notice from Comcast saying our rates are going up. It looks like they’ll only increase by a few dollars per month, but I’m not thrilled. Our first week as Comcast customers has not been good.

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