Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Anti-Social Randonneur

Well, that's what it seems anyway. I missed the Lone Star Randonneurs 400K this weekend because of business travel. Add that to missing last months night brevet, and it's starting to look like I don't want to ride with anyone. That's not the case, of course. I would prefer to have spent all of Saturday and part of Sunday morning riding from Cleburne to Mineral Wells and back - especially since we had a nice detour to avoid a closed bridge. But, duty called and I couldn't make it. So, here I am doing another solo permanent. It was a last minute thing so I had to do another of my routes. I don't have many left in the 200K range that I hadn't done this year, so I did the Marko Polo Permanent Populaire. Only 170K, but it was close to home. I really didn't expect to get any riding in this weekend, so these are all bonus miles so to speak.

The route is named for a fellow Randonneur who passed away earlier this year, named Mark Sachnik. Mark, who liked to go by Marko Polo was an enthusiastic cyclist and was a popular ride leader with the Plano Bicycle Association. The route is on bikely here.

I really wasn't too happy with my riding today. Felt like a slug, though I really didn't have a bad finish time. Just never felt like I had any power in my legs.

I did get a few pictures along the way. I've ridden this route three times now this year, but the first two were scheduled Populaires. I've also ridden these roads many times on other rides. But today was the first time I recall seeing the buffalo along FM-455, so I got a couple pictures of them. This guy was just standing around waiting to have his picture taken.

This group was part of the main herd.

Here's Yet Another run down old shack/barn.
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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Kickapoo Joy Juice 200K Permanent

Hurricane Ike was on it's way to Houston, so took off work on Thursday before to get a 200K in before the weekend. I rode the Kickapoo Joy Juice permanent route from Canton, TX to Palesetine, TX in an out-and-back route using mostly county roads and very low traffic FM roads. The route is a bucolic celebration with some steep hills, a little rough road, lots of rural scenery, and a few dogs just for fun. The route can be found on Bikely.

I only got a couple pictures because I forgot to put the memory card back in the camera after the last ride!

This picture is just a little past the turn onto the county road south of Martins Mill. Tree canopied roads are common along this route. Just ahead a bit I came to the first of several dogs. The northern county roads were pretty doggiefied this day. I suspect that lots of folks just let the dogs out when they go to work hoping they'll protect the property from wayward cyclists like me.

Another shot along the roads north of Athens. Unfortunately, without a memory card, two pictures filled up the tiny internal memory of the camera, so that was it. But, here you can see some of the typical rough roads encountered along the way. It was pretty variable. Some of the roads were very smooth. Some stretches quite rough, but most had rough patches that were easily avoidable or minimized.

The southern section of the route, as it gets within about 10 miles of Palestine, gets very huilly with numerous short, but steep climbs one after another. Then, after reaching Palestine and have a bit to eat, you turn around and do it all over again the other direction. By the time I get back to Athens, my legs are pretty trashed, so the gentler hills from there back to Canton are a welcome relief.
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Sunday, September 7, 2008

This post might be called, "Interesting Things along the Permanent".  I rode the OK is OK route out of Greenville, TX looping up through very southern Oklahoma.  It's a nice route that I've done a bunch of times previously and uses lots of low traffic roads.  I was really just looking for an easy 200K and have been saving this route for such a time.  You can see the route here although the route may be reverse.  I rode clockwise.
Anyway, I took the camera along and found a few interesting things long the way.
This isn't the most interesting though it does show some of the typical scenery along the route.  I took this picture after climbing the "Leonard Hills", a series of short, but steep rises between Leonard and Randolph

This is the Carpenters Bluff Bridge.  It was built in the the very early 1900's as a railroad bridge across the Red River separating Texas and Oklahoma.  Years later, a cantelevered addition was built onto the side of the bridge and a toll was charged for wagons to cross.  More years later the railroad that built the bridge went under, the bridge was given to the county on the Oklahoma side and it was converted to a one-lane auto bridge.  This is the oldest bridge between the two states I know of that can be crossed by bike (or car) and is way-cool to ride across.

While crossing the bridge into Oklahoma, I looked down and saw an old pickup truck stuck in the sand.  How this truck got here, and whether the folks on the right have anything to do with it (I doubt) I have no idea.  But something tells me that alcohol was involved.
The Silver Dollar Cafe is a little convenience store/eatery just north of the bridge.  It looks like a real dump, and, yeah, it is.  but they have nice weekend lunuch buffet that is small, but has excellent fried catfish.  I didn't stop today as it was still kind of early.  Maybe next time.

There wasn't much to photograph elsewhere in Oklahoma.  I did pass a huge dairy butit was about a quarter mile off the road and they didn't accept visitors on Sunday.  It looked like it might be worth a look on a Saturday if I can get there before noon.  So, back across the Red river on a different bridge.  This one is quite a bit newer than the other, built, I think in the 1940's or 50's.  It's still got a lot more character than the newer bridges.

This is always a welcome sight.  Riding through Indian Territories is all very nice, but it's good to be home.

I found this old barn just south of Gober.  Kind quaint in a rustic run down way.  Sort of like most of Gober.

OK, so here's the wierd sigting of the day.  Just north of Wolfe City on TX-34.  As far as I can tell, the victim sits in the chair and gets spun around every which way imaginable until he, or his tormenter, have had enough.  Bodily fluids then are ejected from the mouth at a high velocity.

How the owner happened to come into possession, or why he would want to own a device with the sole purpose of making people vomit is beyond me.  But, you could own it next.  I'll pass on taking a twirl.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Homemade Generator Taillight

Several months ago, I built my own generator taillight. I wanted something very bright but that won't blind riders close behind me. One of my pet peeves is randonneurs who mount bright taillight pointing upward as if they're signaling UFOs.

My taillight is made from a red CREE LED emitter and a fan-beam lens. the lens is oriented to give a wide beam from side to side, but very narrow in the vertical direction. the intent is to help keep the light from blinding other riders close behind me.

To house the emitter, I used a 1 inch copper pipe cap and cut it down to the length of the emitter and lens holder. The LED came mounted to a "star" plate with solder pads for the power wires. I mounted the star to the bottom of the pipe cap by tapping two holes in the cap and screwing the star down with some thermal grease for heatsinking.

The lens holder wasn't made specifically for this LED so I had to cut way at parts of it to fit. I then used silicone adhesive to hold it in place inside the pipe cap. The power wires come in through a small hole in the back that is sealed with more silicone.

Here you can see the finished light with the lens attached. The domed shape of the lens and the internal ridges give it the desired beam pattern. The light is ready for mounting on the bike.

I didn't make a mounting adapter for the light. Instead, I used a padded adele clamp (basically a large P-clamp) that was attached to a Cateye taillight clamp sized to fit the bike's chainstay. the wires are zip tied to the frame and run up to an LED headlight that provides a rectified current from the dynohub to the taillight.

Here's another shot of the mounted light.

So, how bright is the light? Very, very bright. Other riders have told me that they can see the light a long way off even in full sun. The LED puts very little extra load on the generator and I have it, and the twin LED headlights operating day or night. By the way, the generator light is brighter than the Planet Bike SuperFlash on the right chainstay that I keep for backup.

I Agree

Sort of says it all, don't you think?
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Emergency Supplies

One of the main tenats of randonneuring is to be self-sufficient and prepared to fix problems along the route. But, more than once I have seen randonneurs who sacrifice preparedness in favor of reducing weight. But, being prepared for common problems really requires very little extra weight. Here's the contents of my emergency kit:

As you can see, everything here fits into a small seatbag. to be fair, I also carry a spare tire in my handlebar bag or, sometimes in a larger seatbag, a pump attached to the frame, and some duct tape wrapped around my seatpost. But aside from that, what you see is what I carry. There's a spare tube, of course, tire levers, multitool, zip ties, and some miscellaneous items in the Altoids-sized tin. Let's look inside the tin.

Here you can see inside the tin. Everything packs fairly neatly within. It's pretty full but everything is pretty light.

Opening up the tin and spreading out the items, I have the following:
  • Patch kit (cement, patches, sandpaper
  • FiberFix emergency spoke and instructions
  • Lacing tape (useful for lots of repair jobs)
  • Small bag containing a spare PowerLink, Presta to Shrader adapter, and a few "instant" patches
The presta to schrader adapter is there only in the event I forget to bring my pump.  Sad to say, this has happened more than once on a solo ride.  In such case, at least I'll have hope of inflating a tire if I can find my way to a gas station.

The lacing tape, used in the aerospace industry for tying wire bundles, is a flat string that doesn't easily tangle, is very strong, and is quite useful when neither tape nor zip ties are a good solution.  A reasonable substitute would be dental floss.

I also carry a couple tools on my keyring. I have a folding pair of pliers and a knife. Each of these also has a few screwdrivers for good measure.  I use generator lights so the pliers and knife are to help repair a broken wire.  Of course, they can come in handy for other repairs.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Wylie to Yantis 230K Permanent

One of our Lone Star Randonneurs members, Shellene, manages an easy, enjoyable out-and-back permanent between Wylie, TX and Yantis, TX.  The route is pretty flat with no real climbs to speak of.  It's mainly east/west so, with our prevailing north or south winds, it's usually reasonably wind neutral.

I rode this route Monday, 1 Sept, with one of my LSR buddies, Jeff.  Neither of us was able to do the night brevet the previous Saturday, so we made up for it with this route.  We were fortunate to also ride with Shellene and her boyfriend Bryan part of the way.  They were doing a different permanent that shared our route for the first 20 miles or so.

The ride went quite well.  We had a bit of headwind on the way out, presumably due to the distant hurricane Gustav, which was coming ashore in Louisiana.  It was pretty muggy with an expected high temperature of 97 degrees.  As we got closer to the turnaround point in the tiny town of Yantis, the wind got progressively stronger.  This was a good sign.

On the way back, the wind continued to increase so we came out ahead on the headwind vs tailwind.  It's nice when that happens though it's all too infrequent.  It even clouded up fairly well so the heat wasn't nearly as bad as it normally is.

Today was also the opening day of Dove season so for about a 10 mile stretch near the beginning of the ride we saw (and heard) countless hunters in the recently harvested corn fields.

No pictures from the ride.  I did bring the camera, but it forgot about it and didn't take any photos.