Saturday, June 16, 2007

This Ol' House

Pass this house quite often on one of my routes. Each time I do, I'm struck by the third story dormer.

Cycling distance: 39.29km
Max speed: 43.0km/h
Time: 1.41.36
Average speed: 23.1km/h

Friday, June 15, 2007

Blue Ridge Parkway III

Had to spend part of the day in Roanoke for business and nabbed some lunch at Mill Mountain Coffee and Tea on Market Square. I was in some serious need of a bagel and iced tea.

Unfortunately, the last bagel they had left was sun-dried tomato. Yuck! So I substituted a blueberry muffin.

What's more, the only iced tea they had was peach flavored. Peach flavored?! Man! That's not even tea as far as I'm concerned. But when I expressed my desire for just some plain ol' sweetened black tea, the lady behind the counter was kind enough to make some especially for me. Now that was. . . well, sweet.

Roanoke strikes me as a lot more bike-friendly than most cities I visit in Virginia. The first thing I noticed were lots of people on bikes--probably students from nearby colleges, but it looked like there might be some commuters as well. I even spotted a cop on a Raleigh bike. Where I live, the police ride Smiths & Wessons. Go figure!

Roanoke seems to favor these U-shaped bike racks. I saw them both on the streets in Market Square and in the parking garages.

After lunch, it was on to the Parkway for a ride. Question is, which will it be? North or south today? I think I'll head north.

I vaguely remembered something the woman at the Visitor Center told me about the elevation change heading north to Apple Orchard being significant, but only after I began. After a brief ascent and descent to the Fallingwater trailhead, there is a long, steady ascent to Apple Orchard Mountain.

We're talking about some serious elevation change here, folks! Nothing like you might experience in the mountains out west, I suppose. But certainly something to behold here in the east. I stopped at every overlook on the way up just to take a breather and drink some water.

I also stopped to talk to a couple from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania at the Onion Mountain Overlook. They were taking turns peering through a spotting scope at a distant tree. When I asked what was interesting them, they mentioned a fungus-like growth that had apparently taken over the tree and killed it. Most likely the result of gypsy-moths, the man told me.

The gypsy moths have taken their toll on the trees along the Parkway. It appears to me, though, that the toll has lessened in recent years for whatever reasons. I certainly didn't see any evidence of them being active on this trip.

From the Onion Mountain Overlook, it was on to Sunset Field where I pulled over again for another breather. Must be getting higher here, because just beyond Sunset Field you begin to see rhododendron still blooming along the sides of the road. I wished I had stopped to take pictures of these, as they really were beautiful. But around the next bend, I ran into the beginnings of another thunderstorm.

Did I tell you that weather changes here on the Parkway can be sudden and even freakish? Well it's true. So rather than run the risk of getting caught out in the open in another thunderstorm, I quickly turned the bike around and began what was unquestionably the most thrilling and rapid descent I've ever made on a bicycle! The drop was only broken once in several miles by the short rise back up from Fallingwater Cascades to just before the Peaks of Otter.

After another night's rest, it was time to head back to the flatlands and dreams of future return trips to the Blue Ridge.

Cycling distance: 28.09km
Max speed: 59.5km/h! (Okay, I'm a chicken. I could have easily achieved 70+km/h!!!)
Time: 1.44.22
Average speed: 16.1km/h

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Blue Ridge Parkway II

Not sure it would have made any difference. But when I set out on the first day to ride along the Blue Ridge Parkway, I had no plan but to ride as far south from the Peaks of Otter Lodge as seemed practicable considering the mountain terrain and an approaching thunderstorm. What I discovered after passing the Peaks of Otter Visitor Center is that the Parkway almost immediately makes a winding 900 to 1000 feet descent in just 2-3 miles to the Upper Goose Creek Valley Overlook! Never having faced a descent like that before on a bike, I played it safe and held the bike back to no more than 51.5km/h, because, let's face it, I'm riding on top of an entirely untested new tire and inner tube with some slight damage to the wheel rim that might possibly cause some rapid brake pad wear. Even at that speed, though, the trip down was a BLAST! Wind rushing past your ears, bugs splattering against your eyeglasses and forearms (ugh!), trees whipping by in your peripheral vision. Wait! What's that in the middle of the road? A tree branch?! Oh no!!!

Once I got to the overlook (which didn't take long, by the way, at the rate I was traveling!), I heard thunder and so knew I needed to head back up the Parkway the way I came. That's when I discovered what real CLIMBING is all about. The words that came to mind were granny gear and baby ring. 9-10km/h sounds pretty pathetic to most of you, I suppose. But for 10 kilometers or so that was all I could muster for an uphill climb all the way back to the Visitor Center.

Fortunately, the serious rain started only after I pulled into the Visitor Center parking lot. There I hid out in the museum and gift shop until the storm subsided. It was a worthwhile detour, though, because while I was there I fell into a conversation with the woman behind the desk who gave me a handout for persons cycling the Parkway that listed the elevation changes between mileposts. That's when I learned approximately how far I had descended to the Upper Goose Creek Overlook.

After that, it looked like the rain had settled in for the rest of the evening, so I went and got something to eat at the Lodge and sacked out.

Speaking of sacking out, here's the view from my room. Nice! Good end to a full day.

Cycling distance: 20.02km
Max speed: 51.5km/h!
Time: 1.15.48
Average speed: 15.8km/h

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Blue Ridge Parkway

Well, everybody, I've got good news and bad news. The good news is that I took my bike with me to the Blue Ridge and got the tire fixed by the good folks at Cardinal Bicycle Shop in Roanoke, Virginia. If you're ever in the area and need something for your bike, check them out. David took my bike right in, threw it up on the stand and replaced the rear tire and tube while I waited. I was in and out in probably less than thirty minutes.

The other good news is that I finally figured out what the problem was with my rear tire. As many of you and I suspected, it was the rear tire. New as it was, it still had those two holes in it from the wood screw that went through it and that was enough, apparently, to cause the THREE inner tubes I tried to put in it to blow up. Let THAT be a lesson to you Revrunner!

Anyway, on to the bad news. When I left for my trip? I forgot my camera. Aw, geez! I was probably underway for about a half hour when it came to me and by then it was, of course, too late.

But as I was heading up to the mountains, it occurred to me to buy one of those cheap Fuji throw away cameras and see what kind of images it could take. You can judge for yourself how well they work as you see these images over the next couple of days. I wonder which is worse--the camera or the operator? But, hey, two of them (27 exposures apiece) set me back only $6-$7 AND I've got pictures.

By the way, I was really impressed by the layout at Cardinal Bicycle. If you look closely, you'll note that they have racks for bikes in front of the service door. Nice! I wish my LBS had them.

Another thing, the service door opens and closes automatically. Awesome! At my LBS I have to always go through this gymnastic act in order to open the front door, keep it propped open as well as at the same time try to fit my bicycle through it.

And the service center? Three or four stands lined up in a row, two of which had mechanics on-duty when I arrived at lunchtime. Behind the row of stands was a work bench running the full length of the row of stands with every conceivable bike tool hung on a pegboard above and behind it, all lined up in perfectly logical order and with generous space between each. Somebody's dream come true, I reckon.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Biking Friends

Well, I slept on the problem overnight and had some email discussions with some biking friends and I've come to at least the tentative conclusion that the problem I'm having with my inner tubes might be the result of the damage done to the interior walls of the new tire. It might be that the two holes in the tire caused by the wood screw are just too big to properly contain the tube as it inflates.

That certainly sounds reasonable to me, even if it does mean I pretty much flushed $50 down the drain. On the other hand, if that is the problem, then it's easily fixed.

Can't do anything about it today, of course, since I've exhausted my supply of inner tubes. But maybe over the course of the next couple of days, I can rectify the matter.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Scuttled Plans

Well, my great plans to take my bike with me to a conference so that I could ride it on the Blue Ridge Parkway have been scuttled. I tried replacing the inner tube with a new one, not once, not twice, but three times, and all three times the tube burst. Blast! Well, it was more like, poof!

Don't know what's going on. Could be the tire rim, although I inspected it carefully all three times. There is some minor damage to the outside edge of the rim, but nothing that I can see would interfere with the tire or tube. It could also be I'm somehow over-inflating the tire, but I have no real reason to doubt the pressure gauge on the pump I'm using. Or it could be that I'm just screwing up every time I work the tire and tube back onto the rim.

Whatever is going on, I'm resolved to take both wheels to the LBS next week when I get back and ask them to replace the tubes and tires themselves and see what kind of luck they have. The worst that can happen, I figure, is that they'll show me what Ive been doing wrong or they'll figure out what kind of damage has been done to the rim. I mean, no matter how good you think you are, you can still make mistakes and even repeat the same mistake multiple times. I've proven THAT more than once! So it's probably best to get another opinion.

Sorry folks! I know some of you were looking forward to some pics from the Blue Ridge. Oh, I'll still take some pics and post them. But it won't exactly be the same, will it? Who knows? Maybe I'll run into some other bikers who aren't having tire problems.

Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side, keep on the sunny side of life. Pssssst!

Hmm. I've just found out that there is a bike shop where I'm going that carries Specialized bikes. I wonder. . .

Friday, June 8, 2007

Flat #3

On the way back from a nice, long, slow ride. It's hot and humid, so I'm intentionally taking it easy. And I'm again within a kilometer and a half of home when--BAM!--my tire goes flat. This time it's a nice fat, rusty, inch-and-a-half Phillips head wood screw right through the center of the tread and out the sidewall, scratching the rim.

What gives with all the flats? And this after I just got the LBS to tune my bike up beautifully for the trip to the mountains.

Man! As the old saw goes, if it wasn't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all.

But, hey! At least I got most of the way through the ride this time, right?

Gotta "keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side, keep on the sunny side of life"--just like yesterday's snakes. 8-)

Cycling distance: 33.63km
Max speed: 43.5km/h
Time: 1.39.56
Average speed: 20.1km/h