Saturday, March 28, 2009

Johnny Cake # 1

Today was the first race of the Johnny Cake training race series that my club ( puts on every Spring. We had good turn outs and exceptional weather. All in all, things went well, no serious crashes, and a good time was had by all. Race Promoter, Tom Butler, Race Director Tom Despart, and a host of CBRC volunteers did a superb job and started the season out on the right foot. Its been through these efforts that this race has grown in popularity and stature. Racers from all over the Northeast attended. Every year the race makes a donation to the David Brinkerhoff scholarship fund... a truly worthy cause for a NYS Trooper who lost his life in the line of duty. The scholarship will be given to an outstanding Coxsackie-Athens High School Graduate who is interested in majoring in criminal justice or the medical field.

This year, i filled in for our Club Treasurer and i handled non BikeReg registration duties. It was good to see a lot of familiar faces of folks that i have not seen for some months. I do have to make some purely biased comments and observations.... Please, racers, sign up on That's all i have to say. Well, one more thing.... bring your license to the race. And i will leave it at that. Well, maybe one more thing... i have a much greater appreciation for the hard work that our Treasurer and our registration volunteers put in for the numerous races that we run every year... including my own Schenectady Central Park Cyclocross race. Thanks again Harry and Margaret, and Deb, and Amanda, and Erica, and all you guys, you know who you are.

Chuck and i did a nice post-race ride... heading West towards Earlton and Catskill. Chuck knew of a nice road that a had a hill in its name that climbed up to a Christmas tree farm that he and his family had frequented. We found that road, climbed that hill and continued on. We had no plan nor destination other than to ride. We found some very picturesque roads and hills. Nothing is flat out there. We rode for a bit more and stopped to check the time... neither of us had a time piece, bike computer, cell phone, GPS device, heart rate monitor, or lap top computer with us, just a inkling to ride some. There was a soft voice (Jen) inside Chuck's helmet telling Chuck that he had house guests at home and he'd better not be out too late, so we turned to a more North easterly direction to find our way back to civilization, and to avoid the mean junk yard dog that chased some miles back, and to hopefully make progress towards returning to the school parking lot. After an unknown number of miles, we exited off a nice winding downhill gravely road onto Rt 81 which ran us right back to Coxsackie, almost like we knew what we were doing. Back at the parking lot... average speed? don't know... mileage? no clue.... maximum heart rate?... unknown.... What a nice ride.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Battenkill Pre-ride

Today, three of us old guys got together and made an hour drive north to Cambridge, NY to pre-ride the Tour of Battenkill course. Artie Gee, Q and I got an early start and left the Cambridge High School parking lot under brilliant sunny skies but bitter cold temps in the low 20's. The first hour or so, my toes and fingers were suffering from the cold. The sides of the road still showed some snow in the shadows and all the standing water was frozen, but there was hope the the strong Spring sun was going to warm us up. Q promised temps in the 50's. We'll see.

We made a stop at Stewarts in Salem and i sat in the sun and i fashioned some make shift booties out of duct tape. From that point on in the ride, i was fine. The route is different this year, but several favorite features remain, like the trip over the Battenkill River via a covered bridge, Juniper Swamp Road, and Meeting House Road and the usual collection of dirt roads. We approached Juniper Swamp from a different direction, which was OK by me as it somehow eliminated that painful pavement climb approaching Juniper. Going up Juniper was not as tough as i remembered from previous rides. Perhaps because the surface is nicely hard packed this year, no loose dirt to speak of, and the road seems wider. Are there road crews out here? or is everything just left to Mother Nature?
Another change in the route is a dirt road section around Willard Mountain which was very cool. There was opportunity here for a nice long big ring dirt road, gravel pinging downhill churn which was fun. Another change is doing Meeting House in the opposite direction. Towards the end of Meeting House, Q had a leaky front tire, so we stopped to fix that and Q got an opportunity to test out his fancy new tire pump which worked quite nicely. While we were stopped, several B-kill and Farm Team guys flew past, and Mark from Nav too. We got the flat fixed and were back on the road quicly and we connected with a bunch of other folks out doing the same thing as us.
Aproximately 5 miles from the finish there is new dirt section called Stage Road. Its uphill of course. It climbs and then false flats, then climbs some more and then a slight downhill to a low lying area that had been recently filled with 2 to 3 inch sized trapeziodal shaped boulders. More than one roadie had to get off and (gasp) hoof it. I had my old Redline 'cross bike with these big old 35 cc semi-road tread tires and i was able to pedal through, but it completely sapped what little energy i had at this late point in the ride. I limped back to town as back markers from the Battenkill and Farm team group blew past. It was a fun day in the saddle and we got to chat with some of the locals afterwards at the Cambridge Hotel. At the end of the day, i was pooped. I went home and took a nap. I was up way too late the night before watching the Siena game.

Photo courtesy of Rob Havemeyer

Friday, March 20, 2009

Back in Albany

The training camp has moved back home to the Capital District. Warmer temps and sunny skies lured campers back to the hills of southern Albany County. We connected this past Sunday and did a nice ride around the Alcove Resevoir. This is a favorite Spring ride of about 45 miles, depending on detours or deviations from the standard route, that heads south, then west on Rt 143 into the Town of Coeymans. The ride skirts the eastern edge of the Resevoir, passing by the dam. This area has an interesting history as told by our rolling on the bike historian Artie Gee. Back in the 1700's and 1800's the area was known for its brick making. At the intersection of County Route 111, we turned south heading out towards the dam. Just off the road to the left is the remains of a massive 110 foot tall smoke stack, left over from the Valley Mill that made wool then later on paper. It burned in 1892, but the stack remains.

The real destination of the ride is Featherbed Lane. A narrow, gravely, and sometimes muddy road in the Spring. Its 15 - 20 % steep for a very short distance as soon as you turn onto the road. So steep that your rear tire will skid if you don't turn a smooth pedal stroke. The steep part is only 30 -40 meters, NBD. Hidden along the way are two tiny county line or town line signs. Art and i always sprint for these. Don, who is along for the ride and does not know the area is at a distinct disadvantage here because he has no idea that these signs are coming up and he wonders why these two old guys are suddenly accelerating to such incredible speeds (like 15 to 16 mph) and pointing to tiny signs nailed to a tree in the middle of nowhere. He soon catches on to our tactics and starts marking every move, which is hilareous, because bozo the clown on a circus trike could cover any move i might make. The route passes briefly into Greene county (tiny sign, Art gets it) and then turns north back to Albany Co ( a huge green sign proudly proclaiming ENTERING ALBANY COUNTY ) and i have no clue who got that sign because i am so far off the back. Its a nice sceneic trip, with nice views of the Resevoir. Along the way back, Artie passes along more history.... a former mayor of Albany met his demise driving off road along the twisty hilly Onesquethaw Road that we sped downhill on. Yikes, thanks for that news.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Day 6... not really from Asheville… the Asheville weather forecast for Friday was cold...temps in the forties and a 30% chance of rain and 90% chance of rain for Saturday… yuck. The weather forecasted for Albany was sunny and the predicted temps were approaching 50, so we decided to hit the road in the Toyota and head home. We stopped along the way at the pawn shop and we got 175 bucks for Wayne's Look Carbon bike. The plan is to tell Wayne that it was stolen off the roof rack.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Day 5 in Asheville… We started the day with French toast, eggs, bacon, juice and coffee. That was my job. That was easy. I can do basic breakfast stuff. Wayne is the real cook. Wayne did a great pasta dish two nights ago which was excellent. This AM, Wayne surveyed the meager provisions left scattered about the kitchen and cooked up this warm apple concoction with fresh apple chunks, brown sugar, cinnamon, jelly, jam, and other stuff that topped off the French toast and provided the kick for the ride ahead. Today Wayne is due to fly back to Albany. We are going to miss our cook. Its gonna be the Waffle House and cheap spaghetti from this day forward.

Day 5 we took a conservative approach for the day’s ride. We chose to avoid the mountains and to ride out to Marshall along the French Broad River again. We visited the Zuma coffe shop there last Tuesday and enjoyed the stop and the town so much we decided to return. Plus, it was a known quantity and we were comfortable with the distance and the amount of time that it would take so we could get back to town in time for Wayne’s flight.

Today’s weather was cooler than what we had been blessed with earlier this week. Today was overcast and temps in the 40’s. Back to long sleeves, tights, and long fingered gloves. So the stop at Zuma’s would be for coffee and baked goodies. We started out at a reasonable pace and quickly settled into a nice four man pace line. The roads here are quite narrow with no shoulder at all. In fact, some spots the road can disappear near the right hand edge due to erosion. Everyone needed to be alert. Motorists are understanding and will hang back behind us and wait until the coast is clear to pass on the windy road. They also seem very appreciative when we scout the traffic up ahead and wave them on when we see that the road ahead is clear. No one has yelled or blown a horn at us for five solid days of riding. At one point in the ride, Wayne sprinted ahead for a county line sign. Obviously he had been holding back all week. Maybe because this was his last day, he was leaving it all out on the road. In any event, I chased and chased and came up short. It was a photo finish, though. It felt good to hammer a bit on a flat stretch of road. Soon we were in Marshal and we all piled into the shop anxious to get some warm liquid and fresh baked cookies. We sat in the lounge, read the paper, chatted with the locals, and sipped the house brew. This Zuma’s place is awesome. Friendly folks and tasty cookies.

We left the warm confines and fresh baked smells of Zuma’s and headed south. Again we settled into a nice unhurried pace line. This time though, I was on the lookout for the same county line sign going in the opposite direction. I carefully timed my duration at the front of the line so that I could be at the back when we were going to approach where I thought the sign was. Of course it worked out just the opposite. The sign came into view after a corner and I went off the front. This time I surprised Mr. Triner and I think the photo will show that I took that sign. We got back to the car in plenty of time for the drive back to the house, a quick bite to eat and then off to the airport. We will miss the cook.

On a side note, and off topic just a bit, special mention goes out to to “Carmen” Garmin Nuvi. This piece of technology has won me over. Its no toy. If you drive lots anywhere in unfamiliar territory… OMG it’s the hot set up.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tunnels and Mt Pisgah

Day 4 in Asheville.... Yesterday (Day 3) while we were relaxing mid-ride in the town of Marshall, we ran into a nice man (Mike) who said he was going to do a bike ride with some of his local friends and invited us along. We agreed so this AM (Day 4) we met up with Mike and his posse at a lookout along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We had a group of nine. The plan was to was to pedal up Mt Pisgah and then back down on Rt 151 and then meander through the valley back to town. An easy 40 - 50 miles. A rough estimate. Loosely planned. We'll see where we end up after we drop down into the valley. Sounded good to all of us.

The start of the ride was straight up the mountain for about 15 miles. The road (BRP) is awesome, very quiet and well maintained. The incline is never more than 6 - 7 percent, it may bump up a bit in some spots. The views are incredible. What was most interesting this day were the tunnels. The first time through was scary. In the middle of the first tunnel it was pitch black and after entering under bright sunshine, it was a bit disorienting. There were a total of 7 tunnels to traverse to get to the top of Mt Pisgah.

Along the way we regrouped and snapped some pictures. The weather continues to be brilliant sun and warm temps. Today was high 60's. (sorry about that...for you upstate NY folks that may be reading) The climb to the top was a blast, with spectacular views on both sides of the road.

We did some sightseeing at the top and then we descended approximately 3 miles to the intersection of Rt 151. This road was wicked cool... steep descent with about 50 switchbacks to navigate. The road was banked nicely too so that you could sweep through the corners. I had to ride the brakes for nearly the entire trip to the bottom. Some of the corners had sand from the snow storm from ten days ago and were a little sketchy. At one corner there was a massive dead tree that appeared to have fallen into the road from way up the Mt. We all had to pick our way around the branches and debris. This was a hoot. After the ascent and descent of Mt Pisgah it was some more of tooling around the NC countryside .... lost. Even the locals get lost. No matter, it was a great day to be lost in the hills of NC. Another successful 4 + hour ride. Here is our official photographer with most of the crew in the background, taken at the start / finish on the BRP at the FBR overlook.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Day 3 in Asheville. Well let's first rewind to last night.... where we went to a vegan restaurant in town, recommended by our good friend Frank from MHCC. The food was excellent. The beer was an English wheat porter served cold and especially tasty. It also packed a good kick at about 9 % alchohol. Good fuel for Day 3.

In the AM, Wayne started us off with some oatmeal ... not instant oatmeal, the real deal with apples and brown sugar too. This was important fuel for today's ride.

Today's ride was 50 mile ride starting just outside of UNC Asheville. This ride was called Roundabout into Marshall.

A pattern has developed for us when we start the rides. We immediately get lost. I'm sure that the local clubs and those familiar with the area don't ever have this problem, but for us out of towners, we need to have better directions on how to get out of the parking lot! and where are the first two or three turns. Anyway, we eventually find the route after exploring a bit. Plus, these rides are all about saddle time and enjoying the scenery and the weather and not so much about covering miles at a predetermined speed or average speed.

And let me tell you about the weather...absolutely beautiful... sunny and temps in the 70's. We covered the first 20 miles or so meandering up and down hills. Relentlessy up and down hills. The only flat surface here is the ocassional pond. The terrain and rural feel of this part of the state was decidedly different from the forest from yesterday's ride. The hills were never more than a couple hundred feet of elevation for any one hill but we went up and down about forty of these types of hills.

The real treat mid-ride is the stop in Marshall, Madison County, NC. This quaint little town sits along side the French Broad River, nestled up against the mountainside. We stopped and spent a good amount of time at this cafe and ate cookies and chatted with the locals. We met this young man who invited us to join himself and others on a ride tomorrow. We agreed. I hope we can keep up.
The ride back to Asheville was flat, along side the FB River. The views again... stunning. The head wind however was brutal. Towards the end of the day, we were all toast. I suspect it was a combination of the hills, headwind, and the ultra healthy vegan dinner from last night that did us in. No matter, we had 5 hours in the saddle, exploring the hills and enjoying the sunshine.

Because we were all running on empty, mondo fueling was in store for tonight. Wayne and i went to the local super and bought pasta, beer, bacon, whole cream, cheese, and more beer. Wayne made a delicious pasta dish and we inhaled food at an alarming rate. Soon after, food coma set in. Ah, life is good.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Creeks in NC

Day 2 in Asheville... Most important task for Day 2 was to get to a Waffle House. Art had been chatting up this Waffle House thing for about 800 miles of drive time in the car trip down. Every Waffle House sign was a major scenic attraction. Each siting brought forth another story about a Waffle Hose visit or a how Debby made the best waffles and generally if we are not eating waffles, we could never reach our true cycling potential. I googled Waffle Houses....8 bazillion hits. Strangely enough, there was a Waffle House just 1.3 miles from the rental house. We're off to eat waffles. We get there and immediately i'm reminded that we are in North Carolina. The folks are quite friendly, but folks smoke in eating establishments. Something we will have to get used to. Well Art announces that we are from New Yaawk and that we traveled all the way down here for waffles. The waitress seemd impressed because we got some pretty decent waffles soaked in warm syrup plus a care package of Waffle House calendars, Waffle House toy footballs and all sorts of Waffle House stuff. Cool.

But we are really down here to ride. We decided upon a relatively easy ride of 43 miles called Ben's Ride 43. It starts at the Liberty Bike Shop, where we go inside and again announce that we're tourists from New Yaawk and we show the nice young man at the desk this map... he smiles and says, " this is a great ride and i'm Ben". This too is very cool. We chat some and then we are off.

The weather is warm and sunny. The roads are busy around Henderson but as we progress further out of town the roads become quiter and always rolling. First we pedal along side Avery Creek, then Bent Creek. The scenery is interesting, with the woods just starting to bud fresh greenery, yet the tress are all still without leaves providing great views of the hills and we can spot houses tucked into the hills everywhere. Then its Hoopers Creek, then Powder Creek. Somewhere mid-ride we connect with a couple of guys from Cane Creek out on their lunch break. We learned that Cane Creek is located on Cane Creek Rd not very far from where we are staying. Towards the end of the ride we are treated to a stepped climb up Rose Rd. This climb was not too tough but it made us all work and sweat. It felt good to sweat some under the warm sun. I learned later that it snowed at my house back in NY. Oh well.

There are Awesome views everywhere. After about 3 and half hours we were back at Liberty, which is a very impressive shop. I love my LBS ...CK Cycles, but that Liberty shop was neat. I'm sure i'll be back there and i understand that they accept credit cards.

Back at the house, Art and i decide to traverse one more Creek... Cane Creek, the same Cane Creek that builds wheels and components. Plus, we wanted to scope out a ride that we could do from the house that would get us out of the busy area that we were in. We made it out to the shop but the roads were not all that great and we turned around to get some food. We did a good 4 and a half hours today. It was all good, no problems, mechanicals, or aches and pains! pretty good for a pack of old guys.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Oh its been so long since i've updated this thing... well i've finally got something to report. Art, Skip, Wayne, and i decided to get away from this bone chilling cold Northeast weather and go some place warmer and ride. I was originally hoping to go the Spring camp in Majorca, Spain, but i couldn't get anyone to go along with that. Instead, Skip organized a training camp of sorts of his own down in Asheville, North Carolina. Skip found a nice house to rent and a web site loaded with dozens of maps and rides. So Saturday we loaded up four bike and four guys into my little Toyota and off we went.

We drove down Interstate 81 which was a beautiful trip, great scenery, and excellent roads. I got periodic text message updates from my wife and daughter from the America East Men's Basketball tourney. UAlbany beat the number 2 seed Vermont in OT!!! That's AWESOME BAAAYYYY BEEEEE!

We arrived in Asheville mid afternoon, Sunday March 8. House is beutiful. We unloaded and suited up for a short easy ride to shake out the bikes and the old bones. I felt naked with shorts and a short sleeve jersey. We headed out onto a busy four lane highway, Hendersonville Rd i think and we headed north to the Blue Ridge Parkway. We made it to the parkway and we headed north. The Parkway is most interesting. The two lane road is decent, but no shoulder. The traffic was moderate but very considerate to cyclists. The climbs are gradual and the viwes spectacular. The weather is wonderful... 70 degrees and sunny.

Tomorrow we are planning to start easy... a 40 miler called Ben's Ride 43. It starts at a bike shop so perhaps we will do some shopping at the end of the ride. And we should have enough time to pedal out from the house to explore some more later. That's the plan anyways. Check in tomorrow to see how it goes.