Friday, June 29, 2012

Bicycling Magazing Photo Shoot

Kevin and I had the opportunity to ride our bike so  a stranger could take pictures.  The photog had a contract with Bicycling Magazine and needed some models. We had fun with the opportunity and rode from Hwy 80 on the Parkway up to Mitchel and back.  The 35 mile trip took 4 hrs.  We had to do the modeling thing, posing under the tree, facing each other, sipping on water........unnatural and at times creeping us out a little, but I guess that is what the masses want to see in a magazine.  What could have been a drag was made fun by having a friend along,  and fun was had!

Kevin, telling the photog how to take great cycling photos

Stephen and Kevin, trying to figure out what tree the phtog was talking about.  He told us to meet him at the overlook with the tree......

Kevin, trying to use the walkie talkie that the photo wanted us to use to communicate...

Stephen at the top.

Kevin, at the top

The photo, in the ditch....

The photo, standing on his car...look at the moon.

Sunset on the way home.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summer Rides

 This summer is a whirlwind.   When I finally pulled out my large summer calendar, the one where I can see the next two months in a glance, I realized that I had not left much downtime for myself.  But, its worth it, because a whole lot of kids will get to ride this summer.  This also forces me to be more creative and ride at times that I might not otherwise noon. 

I am also hoping that the theory of shorter harder workouts replacing longer workouts will be beneficial as well.   I am focusing on riding 1-2 hrs but packing those hours with some punch, and not the kind you drink.

So after a kid's ride on Tuesday, I set out on my own for a fast loop of Bent Creek.   Using gears that were a bit tougher than normal, I taxed my muscles and it was good.

 Wednesday was another short loop with lots of climbing.  Little did I know I would ride up a new road,  one I had always assumed was a driveway,  but its not.  I rode up Avondale to Beetree,  up and over Beetree mountain. Once at the gap, I stopped to take the above photo. It was then that curiosity got the best of me and I turned right, off the main road.  The road kicked up, then kicked up some more.  16% grade, and still climbing.   After a few minutes, it eased up and I realized that I was on top of Bee Tree Mountain.  I rode past the towers that I can see from my house and confirmed that I needed to make the hike up here this winter. 
 The air was still cool with a forcast in the mid 80's, I soaked it in.  The views were stunning and the downhill faster than I cared to go. 
Country Road

And at the end of the loop, I had to stop and greet this little dude,  chilling on the mountain side and soaking it all in. We could all take some "chill" lessons, take time to breathe and appreciate what is around us.  I did, for a minute, before I started pedaling again.  And I was thankful.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Weekend Fun

 After a great weekend I get to spend the day gearing up for six weeks of 4-5 rides per week, with Trips For Kids WNC.

Saturday was spent with a group of volunteers at the Biltmore Baptist bike safety rodeo, teaching over 45 kids riding etiquette, safety, and signalling.  It was blazing hot on the pavement but well worth it.

Sunday I headed up high, north on the parkway hoping to breathe some cooler air.  I did find some cool air, but with the high humidity, breathing was interestingly difficult.  I set an easy pace and ground the way up to Craggy Gardens.    
 On the way back down I got in with a couple of other guys.  We had a blast trading pulls and hammering downhill at 35 plus mph.

After getting home,  eating lunch, napping, watching the Formula 1 race with the kid, we headed out to Bent Creek for a creek hike.  Gotta teach the kid that there is more to life than simply riding through the woods.  We scrambled through Rhodo thickets,  post full bloom with the ground covered in bright white/pink flowers.  It was nice to be walking in the cold clear mountain water.  And then we found a mini rock slide that I did not know was there.  This might be a regular stop for me on my hot summer rides! 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Switchin' up

 I switched it up for the first time in 18 days and did not ride the Foundry.......gasp.   I went the other direction and mounted my beastly single speed, steel framed CX bike,  and enjoyed the ride.  I pedaled down the parkway to ride the big gravel Bent Creek loop.   35 miles of rolling hills.
A little pavement
It was hot when I left and a little less hot when I got home.  But coming home to grilled chicken, fresh veggies and rice made it all the better! 

Father's Day Weekend

 Saturday I attended Asheville Father's Fest spreading the news about Trips For Kids WNC.

Sunday quickly turned into  a funday as I stepped out my front door with the Ratchet in hand. I pedaled solo for about 30 miles, and returned home for some family time. 
Fresh, cold, unfiltered spring water

We loaded up the bikes and headed out to Bent Creek for the wife's second mountain bike ride of the year!  We immediately headed down some singletrack and rolled around on some gravel roads.  Slow easy pace for everybody,  with lots of stops and lots of laughs.

Stopping by the creek.


Ripping it up

Refueling with homemade pecan pie.
We came home, got cleaned up then headed to Jack of The Wood for some celtic music.  Back in the college days,  the wife and I would head to Sweetwater GA, and hang out at a coffee shop where there was usually celtic music playing.   It was good to relive that in a different location. 

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 15, 2012

NC Hwy 151

I invited myself to go ride with Kevin.  We tossed around ideas on where to go, and since I had only been up hwy 151 in my life, and it happened to be 3 days ago,  we decided that would be a good place to go.  
I felt pretty good starting off, my legs feeling a little heavy from the past week of riding, but I figured that if I was still turning the pedals, and keeping pace with Kevin, I was not getting weaker.  These days I get on the bike when I have a chance because the summer only gets busier.  
We went out through West Asheville and into Enka, entering the farm lands and steep rollers.  It takes a lot of work simply to get to the base of 151, but once there the road continues to rise.  Pretty quickly, the pavement takes us up out of the valley that today was filled with stifling heat and humidity.  

Higher up into the woody forest with the bright green of the trees and understory.  With every switchback, we felt a little cooler breeze greeting us.  We stopped briefly at the little waterfall for a breather and to drink.  The water was cold and clear and we both drank too much,  leaving us a little sloshy for the rest of the climb.  

Topping out at the parkway, Mt Pisgah beckoned but we both has things to do so we headed north, towards Asheville.  Then my legs decided they had enough and it was all I could do to keep up with Kevin  on the long downhill grades.  

The Foundry Ratchet smoothed out the corners and the DT Swiss wheel set had me gliding down the mountain faster than I have gone before.  Smooth and fast....

Once down to the French Broad river, we re grouped and took a mellow pace back into civilization.    

Hwy 151....

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Double 8's

I took advantage of my last day as a bachelor and headed out for  a long ride.  I am loving the Foundry Ratchet and I'm sure my mtn bike is jealous but her time will come.  The temps were forcasted to be 80 plus with a good chance of rain or thunderstorms.  Packing my jacket, arm warmers, Honey  Stinger foods and cell phone (not sure who I would call if I needed help), and a few other items, I rolled out around 8:30.  I had gotten wind of some old dudes doing the same loop that I had planned and was hoping to catch them and roll through the stretch from Old Fort to Marion together.  
It was a hot and steamy ride already, and sweat was pouring off of my body.  I kept a steady rythym and considered a stop at Dynamite Roasting, but chose not to.  Through Black Mountain, past Ridgecrest and finally into the woods.   The Point Lookout trail is a great trail but it is sketchy going fast as it gets pretty slippery.  I would find out later that two of the guys had gone down, sliding out on  a slick spot.  Parts of the trail don't see the sun during the summer and get a build up of slipperyness.

 I ended up catching the guys just past the Old Fort Picnic area.   It was great to be in the presence of local cycling gurus such as Wes Garby and Robbie Sweetser.  Super nice guys to boot.  We chatted away, pulling off the road occcasionally to allow the truckers to go by, commenting that you really do not want to make them mad!  We stopped briefly at the Coastal station for a refill.  I got a 360 cal honey bun and filled up with water. 
 Taking a left on hwy 80, I started to get antsy.  The group was planning on heading up to the top of Mt Mitchell and eating at the restaurant.  I had considered doing the same but decided to save it for another day. 

As we passed the lake and the road started to lift up, I bid farewell and picked up the pace.   I wasn't flying but I was holding a steady and it felt good.  I have been able to get some miles in lately and my legs were feeling heavy but my mind was compensating.   The mountains were awesome today.  Deep greens of old growth shrouded in light green of new growth.  The cooler mountain air, mixed with the heat from the sun.  Giant puffy clounds skimming the ridge as they were blown eastward.   I periodically sat up trying to absorb it all. 

I climbed then climbed some more. For once my mind more focused on spinning circles than on struggling with life issues,  it was a good change.   I am at one of those places in life where it seems things are stable,  its a good feeling. 

 The miles ticked by and I ignored the time,  I knew I was keeping a decent pace and so I focused on form.  When I'm tired, I focus on form,  it gets me through and saves energy.  Its amazing how much better I feel when I focus on a full circle, than when I simply mash the pedals. 

 As the last climb to Craggy appeared, I got that good feeling, knowing that I had some left to cruise the long decent into Asheville.  After a quick stop at the Craggy Visitors Center, and a chat with some preachers on Harleys,   I pedaled into the pavement covered wave.   Carving down,  swooping around the wide turns,  grinning......

And then it was over.  2 small climbs left,  through the woods and down the hill.  I was beat but happy.  88 miles, 6.5 hrs,  it was a good day.  

Thursday, June 07, 2012


This is going to be vague, but I hope to convey the point without too many details.  The details are not what matter at this point in my story, only the results. 

Yesterday, I cried.  It has been a long time since I have cried.  I over the past 3 yrs, I had the privilege of forming a bond, a deeply unique friendship, with two special people.  Yesterday, I said goodbye to both of them.  They are each going their own way,  following what life has offered them and I wish them well.  I will see them again, but I had gotten used to and even looked forward to seeing them almost daily. 

Why do I tell you this?  Two years ago, I stood up for myself,  and found a freedom that was worth the fight.  But the fight left me lacking in trust, and admitting that it might be impossible to form a bond as strong as I did since.  

I cried for sadness and then for joy as I realized I still had the capability to feel in that area of life.  I do still have the capability to trust and to form lasting friendships. 

For those of you who struggle,  keep struggling.  Challenge yourself, question yourself and replace your negative thought patterns with positive ones.   There is hope and healing is a part of that hope!!

Keep your head up and choose to make the world a better place.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Fletcher Flyer Training Program

9hrs and 23 minutes after the ride started at 8am, Sunday June 3rd,  the trainees in the Fletcher Flyer Training Program finished riding the 100 miles for the first time in their lives.

Determination, grit and good humor is what got Sandra and Elizabeth through this ride.  Thanks to Chris Despard and Sparks coaching,  for providing the training plan and heart rate info.  Thanks Liberty Bikes for donating the time for tune ups and fittings.  Thanks Fletcher Flyer for letting us be a part of the ride.

It was amazing to watch as these women set a personal record almost every weekend as they added mileage to their long rides.

On the morning of the ride, I was just as nervous as they were.  I was confident in their training, in their dedication,  but I also know how quickly the tides can turn.

I set out for my ride, and when I got back to Fletcher Park, I ate, changed and drove back onto the course to cheer them on and send them some encouragement.  I ended up waiting at rest stop 5, 18ish miles from the finish.  One of the SAG people said they were not far back.  When they rolled up, they were chipper and looked great.  The filled water bottles, grabbed some snacks and headed out without wasting much time at all.  Very impressive.

I hopped in the truck and headed to the next rest stop about 9 miles away.  It was good to chit chat with some Asheville on Bikes people: Rachel, Steven and Matt.  I didn't have to wait long for Sandra and Elizabeth to ride up.  They were still looking good and maintaining a steady pace.  Again, they filled up with water/gatorade, grabbed some snacks and got back on the bikes.

I drove to the finish line to wait for them.  Meanwhile other riders were still finishing so I joined the small crowd at the finish line to welcome them home.  It was there that I realized it really doesn't matter how fast I finished.  We are all in this together, we all feel the same pain,  we all have similar goals.  And without helping each other, our goals will be mostly impossible. 

As they rounded the last bend, my eyes teared up and my chest filled with joy.   I am proud to have been able to take part in such a huge feat.  I am proud of Sandra and Elizabeth for sticking with it: the hot rides, the doubts, the sprained ankle ( that Elizabeth was not going to tell me about).

And on top of the ride, the trainees raised over $800 for Trips For Kids WNC!!

I cannot wait to do this again next year.

Monday, June 04, 2012

109 miles on The Ratchet

 Friday evening around 5pm  the UPS guy finally brought the bike.  Thanks to all of the people who helped me win this bike that I would not have otherwise.   Now I had a decision to make.  Get it built up and ride it for the Fletcher Flyer on Sunday,  or ride my Bianchi.  I had a goal of a sub 5 hr ride, and was concerned about the myriad of things that could happen by riding new equipment.  You just never know.

So, I took the bike to Liberty Bicycles and we set to the task.  Some heckled and some helped, but thanks to the guidance of David Wood, we got the thing build and ready to roll.   When I got home at 7:30pm, it was still light so I kitted up and rolled out.  4 miles around the neighborhood, some minor adjustments, and I was feeling good.  I go home and put it out to my FB friends.  The Foundry or the Bianchi?   100% said the Foundry, so I rolled with it.  It is what I wanted to do deep down anyway, and I tend to live on the edge.  Par for the course. 
So, after another short ride on Saturday, I rolled out Sunday with 900 friends to ride around the flattest course in WNC.

I kept a steady, mellow pace and was surprised that the fast guys/gals in the front were not going hard yet.  I was within reach of my goal but still had 85 miles to go.  We rolled past Smiley's Flea Market and the down Rugby road.  When we made the turn past rest stop two,  I made a decision that would make my goal more difficult to reach.  I stopped for water.  But, I drink a lot of water, and knew that if I ran out, I might not finish, so I stopped and the group rolled on. 

I got a quick refill and pedaled on, fairly soon a small group caught me and though there was some surging, I decided to stay with the group to conserve energy.  While friendly, this group was just below my personal skill level, so I would pull for a while, drop back while our pace slowed, rest up, then pull the group up to my pace again.  At rest stop 3,  I filled up quickly and pulled out.  That is when I met Mike.  He moved here from Idaho last March and is getting used to riding in the mountains.  We didn't talk much as I was on  a mission, and he was convinced that if we pedaled faster, we could catch the fast group..... he didn't know the likes of Wes Dickson, the Pisgah crew, and Chris Strout were in that group.  It was nice to be riding with someone of similar skill level and we put our heads down and pedaled.  We traded pulls evenly, each taking long pulls until we found ourselves back in downtown Brevard. 

Crap, we missed the turn.  We wasted about 5-10 minutes trying to figure out where we were, and finally got back on course.  I would later find out that as we had been in no man's land for a while between fast groups, the fast groups behind us, got past us while we were lost.  We finally got back to rest stop 4, filled water bottles and got going. 

After a few minutes, we were joined by a handful of other guys, again, a group that was just below my target pace, but better than being alone.  I ended up on the front a lot, spending more valuable energy, but I went with it and conserved energy when I could. 

The weather could not have been better, ok,  maybe 5 degrees cooler,  and the service at the rest stops was excellent.  I was able to get in and get out, and by the end of the ride, only accumulated 9 minutes stoppage time. 

Rest stop 5 I filled one bottle with Claudia's sweet tea, found a tree, then got going again.  The group I was with lingered so I sat up for a few minutes so I would have some help on the flats coming up. 

The group was starting to get tired and it showed.  People would sit up, not pull through, look around as if setting up for a sprint... grrr.    Such a simple concept of pulling through, yet so difficult to execute. I guess it is easier to take a free ride. 

Rest stop 6 came up and I stopped for a handful of potato chips.   Combined with the sweet tea, the salty chips and being on part of the Thursday night ride loop, I put my head down and went for it.  A brief draft behind a motorcycle some green lights and I was on the home stretch.   I put my head down and pedaled hard.  I had paced myself well and felt good enough to drop my riding buddies and head for the finish alone. 
At the finish, Rhonda and the kid were waiting for me, the kid riding across the line with me.  Fun times.

My total time as 5h 20 m,  with only 9 minutes off the bike.  I'm sure with some more help, I could have broken the 5 hr mark.  Maybe next year!