Sunday, June 28, 2015

87 & 86 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

I started out strong on my 2015 Bike Commuting goal, even though I got a late start with the weather. By early April, I had ridden 12 times on the Bianchi San Jose but then came the announcement at work.  The company I was working for had decided that they didn't want to be government regulated any more and that meant that they have to sell off many of it's assets and businesses, one of those being sold is the one that I work for.  This was a crushing blow and really put me in a funk, so much so that I had barely the will to ride any more, let alone to ride to work. 

I managed to ride once, just once in May.  It was still cold enough in the mornings to warrant an extra layer but it was hard mentally to get into the groove to ride.


Riding home in the afternoon was a lot warmer so I was able to do so with a lot lighter kit. What I discovered is it's hard to enjoy riding when your future is so uncertain.  It almost seemed like another chore to do and I already had more than enough on my plate, complicated with the fact that I now have to find a new job.

Fast forward another month.  Things at work have gotten a little better and the anxiety has lessened to a certain degree which prompted me to get on the bike again for a commute.    

It really felt great to be riding again and I was admonishing myself the whole ride in that I should have just kept riding despite my career anxieties.  Two things kept me off the bike, one is that with the announcement there seemed to be a push to close many of the things I was working on sooner while there were still resources.  So while many others in the office seemed to be showing up for work for the minimal requirement I was working my ass off.  

On top of work being additionally busy, add looking for a new job, which is a job in itself.  Working a full day and then trying to spend time with the kids after work leaves mornings, which I should be been pedaling to work, sending out networking emails and registering on various company career portals hoping to hear back.  

Having been through a layoff before, with the same company, and then coming back and then having the prospect of another layoff on the horizon really sucks.  That anxiety makes it tough to enjoy the things that you really enjoy but after two months I have come to realization that you can't let it drive you crazy and that you need to find outlets, otherwise it will eat you up.  It ate me up for a month or so, and pushed myself to ride on the weekends just to stay in shape but now I am feeling much better and I am just going to keep riding as much as possible because it feels so much better when I do.

When I got home from my ride, Elliot wanted to do our a little L Tandem to the Lake ride that we do from time to time.  His first day of summer vacation was spent at home with his brother and older sister, who was in charge of the boys all day, and I think he needed to let off a little steam.

I was tired from the ride home because I really pushed myself despite my wonky speed sensor on the Garmin but when my son wants to ride it is my duty to answer the call.  The lake was like glass and the setting sun made it look really nice.  After the boat ramp we rode up Pond Brook Road to his friend's house where he hung out with one of his best friends for a half our and I chatted with his friend's father, who rides, too.  Only right now, he has a herniated disc and will be having surgery and won't be on the bike again for a couple of months.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Tandeming the Hat City Cyclefest

Elliot was a little more enthusiastic about riding the Hat City Cyclefest on June 14th, 2015, because we didn't have to wake up so early since it started in Bethel and was only 15 minutes from the house. No matching jerseys this time because he doesn't like zippered fronts.

We met Will and his daughter Julia at the start point and took off.  The course we were riding was the 23 mile route which headed south into Newtown by way of Route 302 and then over into Redding by way of Hopewell Road and then down one of my favorite roads, Newtown Turnpike.  Then it was back up Route 53, then cut through West Redding and up Long Ridge Rd, wasn't expecting that but it did take us off a busy road, then cut through Bethel and back to start. 

We started out strong but Julia, having ridden mostly in NYC, struggled on the hills.

From time to time we stopped so Will and Julia could catch up
and chatted with some of the other riders along the course

Will took this picture of us waiting for them.

According to Will:

One shouldn't drink too much in Redding Connecticut 
with the new Pee Limit law they passed last month!

Down at the Saugatuck Reservoir we stopped to marvel at full the reservoir was.  I haven't see this much water in the Saugatuck in 20 years!  

Elliot and posed for a Selfie

At the food stop, while waiting for Will and Julia to catch up we noticed that there were other riders from another event traveling along the same route.  Apparently the Bike MS ride from Sherwood Island was using many of the same roads that we were.  They also had a rest stop somewhere on Route 53 but it was up the road further.  Yet, quite a few people stopped here thinking it was for them.

After eating we hung out in the shade waiting for Will and Julia to finish their ride.  Elliot was extremely bored and famished because there wasn't much post ride gnosh that he could eat because of his food allergies.  Next time, I have to remember to bring another chain, some more snacks, and of course something to keep him busy.  Of course we chatted.  We chatted a lot while riding together, too.  I think that is why he likes to ride the tandem because it gives us the opportunity to talk about everything going on in our lives.  He has such a unique perspective on life.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Vision Quest Gravel Grinder

John Biehn's Vision:  "I invite you to dig deep and suffer with me during this ride so that our "vision" will help alleviate some of the suffering caused by ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). This disease has recently hit our family and 100% of donations received will go to MY HERO and friend as he bravely battles this horrible disease."

This ride was for Kyle Connors: "what you guys are doing is incredible, inspiring, humbling and oh so rad and gnar. Thank you riders for accepting this challenge."

At the corner of Rad & Gnar!

Elite riders?  I don't fall into that category but I love a good challenge and I love riding my Surly Cross Check in a variety of terrain so I accepted the challenged.  I made a donation the night before and then headed down to Madison, CT for the ride Saturday.  About half the riders were on mountain bikes and the other half on cross bikes and some specifically tailored Gravel Grinder bikes, but it was John recommend to not ride the course alone I new I was in for a solo adventure.

There was talk of an A, B, C, and even a D group but I think we all started out in the A Group.

Riding through Madison, we were pulling an easy 15 mph

Eventually we came to the first trail at the end of this road

Then there was some more road and then the real fun began because before long I found myself way in the back with no one behind me and no one in front of me, and thus the adventure began.

I did come across this guy changing a flat but once he was done, John and his posse blew past me like I was standing still.  I was being overly cautious on the trails.  By the time I hit the first rest stop/water break, I learned I was fourth from last but I really didn't care because I was on my own quest at this point.

Heading into the Rockland Preserve Trail System I came across some interesting trail to say the least. Each walk around was killing my average speed by I figured I could make time up on the paved sections.  Riding through Rockland was a blast on the cross bike.  I have ridden there so many times on the mountain bike that everything was pretty familiar, bone jarring, but still familiar.

I think the steepest climb was in the Deep River section of Cockaponset State forest.  The gravel had a reddish brown color that reminded me of the brownstone cobbles mined further north of here that built many of the houses in NYC.  Once at the top of the hill, it was a blast bombing down and trying not catch air off the water bars.

Finally I hit the Bacon Stop!  By this point, I was really looking forward to the bacon because I had forgot my beef jerky and even though was doing fine without it I just knew that a couple of strips of bacon would give me the final boost I would need to complete the quest.

Nothing tasted better than bacon at that point.  I chugged a whole bottle of water and slammed down a banana for good measure and then headed into the next cauldron trails and gravel roads.

After riding through Chatfield Hollow, it started to sprinkle, which lead to a light rain and then full on rain.  My rear fender wasn't doing much to keep the crap off my back.  I just need to get fenders! Eventually the trail I was on turned to single track and some really gnarly hike-a-bike. I just kept thinking about beer at the end of the ride and persevered through everything.  I had thought about throwing in the towel at Route 1 but since I had gotten that far I decided I might as well finish it and I did!  What a ride!

3 Lake Dirty Century

A couple of weeks ago I headed back to the foot hills of the Berkshires for an unscripted ride to north.  This time I hit the lower section of the Shepaug Railroad right of way, only from Minor's Bridge. 

Taking the single track in was tough but ride able.  There was some hike-a-bike on the steeps ups and a rock garden or two, but it's worth it once you get to the railroad bed.

I rode Mine Hill and descended down Judds Bridge.  I prefer climbing Judds Bridge but coming in this way means overlapping my return route and that goes against the grain for me.  Descending Judds Bridge then puts you at the start of Walker Brook which is a 7 mile gradual, gravel grinding climb.

Not a lot of cyclotourist at this time of the day at Waramug.  I am sure earlier in the day the road looks like the Tour de France, however, until Soccer season ends I have to ride when I can and right now that means later in the day.  

I did have one goal and that was to ride the Shepaug Railroad ROW from north to south starting in Rumford, CT.  I stopped off at the halfway point on Whittlesey Road to recharge and enjoy the views.

The Cross Check was riding nicely.  The Schwalbes are the best tires for this kind of riding.  While I wasn't riding with my handlebar pack on this ride, I have to remember not to use it when I am going to be riding singletrack because everything bounces around too much.

On the ride down the Shepaug Railroad right of way, I tried to stay true to the rail road bed but I ended up losing it and started climbing the yellow trail only to find that it was closed because of the bridge construction.  It looks like they are building a suspension bridge and they are anchoring the cables on the yellow trail.  

Looking down towards the river there was this huge snapping turtle sunning itself on this rock.  

It must have some sharp claws to get to the top of that rock!

I hit the Shepaug Railroad tunnel at 5 PM and this was the latest I think I have ridden through it.  The cool thing was the setting sun actually lit the southern portal in such a way that coming out you are bathed in the light of the setting sun.

I ended up getting home around 7 PM

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Thursday night shop ride with the Bicycle Center

I have been trying to get a lunch ride organized at work for the past week and so this Thursday I bring my bike but no one else brought theirs.  Leaving work around 5:15 I checked in with my wife to see what was going on and I wasn't really needed at home so I turned around and headed over to the Bicycle Center in Brookfield for their shop ride.

Besides some of the shop employees, like Will and Shawn (below) the only other person I new from doing one ride last year was this older gentleman from Belgium, named Louie.

Ironically, today's route was exactly the same route I rode with the shop last year, and the only time I rode with them.

We headed towards Route 25 in a round about way because Shawn didn't want to take everyone up Silvermine Hill because it's steep and winds and would be bad for a group of cyclists at rush hour.

At the intersection of Wewakama there were some nice Dames Rocket flowers

Technically an invasive there are still really nice to look at and very fragrant

Of the 20 riders starting out, about half made it to the intersection with Wewakama.  From here an A Group took off and I stuck with B Group.  By the time we got to Clapboard Road in Bridgewater, the B group had dwindled down to 5 riders!

We were really running late and the sun started to set by the time we got back to Route 25

I think this was the 3rd ride this year on the Cannondale this year.  I am so behind in my riding and the year is almost half over and I haven't even broken 1000 miles yet!