Saturday, May 31, 2014


My brother called me yesterday and invited me down to the ATL to ride with him and Baldwin. Sounded good to me. I've been spinning my legs out on the Silver Comet all week, but I haven't put in any real effort in a long time.

Mark had to take his daughter to swim lessons at 11 though, so we needed to meet him at his place, ready to ride, at 8AM. When my alarm went of at 6AM I got a little flashback from the MTB racing days - alert and awake, ready to execute. It was a good memory. Someday I'll make more. I hope.

Breakfast was a chocolate iced honey bun and a 20 oz Gatorade. More good memories there.

I got to the ATL earlier than I expected and took some surface streets to Mark's place rather than the highway. I sort-of know my way around downtown, but whenever I try to get from 10th street to Mark's place, I inevitably end up confounded by one-way streets, dead-ends, or streets that start off looking good but then curve off to the left or something. Today I figured it out though. Woohoo!

John and Mark value punctuality and we rolled out punctually.


I had no idea where we were going.

No idea at all.

Mark called the route "Buckhead" and it was marked with all these little B's with arrows hanging off of them. It was apparently the famed "Buckhead Bellyache" route. I'd heard of it long ago. It was alleged to tear riders' legs off. There was a murderous group ride out there that I never managed to make. I feared it.

Some of the hills were good work. I was feeling good though. Mark struggled here and there, but apparently the last time he'd been on a bike was that Dirty Sheets ride we'd done a few weeks back. Ha! Yeah, that would do it.

The ride took us through Buckhead and Vinings.


A truck put a really close pass on us over the Depot Humps. Whoo! Close indeed. We caught another rider at the top and then got split up by another truck heading down to the railroad tracks. Me and Mark had to pass the truck and regroup with John and the guy we caught before the truck would finally pass us all. It sounds contrived but it felt intuitive at the time.

We rode back across the the Hooch...


...back through Buckhead and eventually into Atlanta. Somewhere in there a minivan pulled out in front of us and John had to dodge it. I kind-of suspected that it might pull out and had time to get into the drops but John was still on his hoods and it was sketchy.

Easy miles! About 30 of them as it turned out. It didn't feel like 30 though. We took it just the right kind of easy. I'm not sure it counts as "any kind of real effort" but now I kind of feel like doing more rides like that.

I'm riding with Billy tomorrow. Ought to be another good ride, unless he puts the screws to me too hard. Lets hope that he doesn't.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Ascension Parish

This past Tuesday I drove down to South Louisiana to visit the family.

It had just been way too long. Skype is great and all, but it's a far cry from being face-to-face.

The drive down is long, 8 or 9 hours, but I spent that time with the windows down, radio cranked, singing at the top of my lungs, so I rather enjoyed it. It's fun watching the world change as you head south too. The hills flatten out. After a while you don't see any more rocks. The woods get denser. The rivers get wider. The lakes get bigger and bigger.

Sunset on Lake Ponchartrain

I rolled into New Orleans just before sunset.


...right before Randazzo's closed...


..just in time to score some chicken parm. They even let me stay a little past closing to finish eating. The guy that ran the place was great and chatty and the whole experience just made me happy.

I rolled into Gonzales just after dark and spent the next few days having all imaginable fun with the family.

Among the highlights:

Kicking the ball around the backyard for hours and hours.

Sophie - Kickball

Throwing the softball around the backyard for hours and hours.

Iz - Softball

Connect Four!

Connect Four

Taking the tiny, angry dog for a walk, hoping she will realize that I actually like her and attack me less. (It sort-of worked)


And, riding bikes in the neighborhood.


Sophie looks totally pro in those glasses. Iz has unfortunately, completely outgrown her bike and couldn't ride with us. Kathryn has gotten strong and fast enough that it's just fun to ride with her now. Woohoo!

I did go for a couple of solo road rides too.

The roads in Ascension Parish are either dead quiet or jam-packed. There is no in-between. Some of the busiest roads have only an inch or two of pavement to the right of the white line too. I imagine a breakdown would back traffic up for hours.

So on my first ride, I basically balance-beamed for miles on that aforementioned inch or two of blacktop, before eventually making it out to Geismar (Gize-mur) where everything was a lot quieter. The route just happened to take me right by the plant my Dad worked at when I was a kid and I recognized the entrance. Ha! I couldn't have planned it better if I'd known.

From there, I hung a left on the River Road and headed south.

Long stretches of the River Road are dotted with industry.

River Road - Industry

And long stretches are rural and desolate.

River Road - No Industry

I didn't get to see the Mississippi at all, but I was within a few hundred yards of it for a long time. There's a gravel road on top of the levee that I might have seen the river from, but it was cordoned off with fences and no-trespassing signs.

No luck.

After heading south for an interminably long time, I started to wonder if I'd missed my turn. It was getting late and I didn't want to miss dinner so I turned back and nav'ed my way back by dubious recollection of the relative orientation of a few main roads and the sun. It was late in a summer day, so the sun was west-southwest of me, and I was generally southwest of home. No problem right?

My route home took me right by Ashland Plantation.

Ashland Plantation

...and a good many more chemical plants.


It always seems weird to me to pass over or under an interstate on the bike.


Soon enough, I was home. No problem at all, as it turned out.

Looking at the map again later, I'd apparently failed to pay good attention to the scale. The route I'd planned out would have been like 120 miles if I'd ridden the whole thing. The roads out there are sparse and there are enormous tracts of private land between them. In Georgia, you could fit entire cities into tracts that size.

The next day I went out for another, less ambitious ride, basically just wandering around town.

Just down the street, there's a calf-roping farm. They buy cattle, keep them there while they're a good size for roping, then sell them to larger farms. They've got plenty of horses on the property too, and a small rodeo arena.

Calf Roping Farm

The cows are often lying down near the road, watching the cars go by. Sometimes they stick their head through the fence to eat the weeds on the other side too. I knew that the grass was greener on the other side of the fence. I guess it tastes better too.

I saw plenty of dem crawdad, or at least the mounds them dem crawdad make.

Dem Crawdad

I mean, they were everywhere. I'd forgotten how prolific they can be. Later that day, Me and Kathryn and Iz ate some at Sammy's too.

Kathryn had pointed out this awesome fence earlier in the week and I rode by it too. It's made out of the fronts of old washers and dryers and dishwashers.

Awesome Fence


There were also a bunch of awesome farms along some bayou that I failed to take photos of. For each one, you had to cross an old wooden bridge to get on to the property, and there were no fences along the front, except at the bridge. The animals were just hemmed in by the water itself. Giant live oaks shaded the road there too. I really should have taken some photos, but I guess I just found myself enjoying the moment too much.

That was it for the outdoor adventure.

Worth mentioning, but not really the point of the trip.

The drive back was less exciting than the drive down. I drove through New Orleans again...


..and had lunch at Semolinas which I thought had long gone out of business until I saw the sign from the highway.

Somewhere in Mississippi I stopped at this gas station.

Cheetah on Methamphetamines

It seems that if you travel certain routes often enough, you'll end up at the same gas stations over and over. I've been to this one before, long ago. I remembered the giant, not-especially-threatening-looking cheetah. It definitely looks excited, but that's not exactly a predator stare. Ha! Anyway that stood out on the trip back.

When I got home, I had a voicemail from Billy, asking about doing some easy miles on the Silver Comet. Yeah, I could go for that. I'll have to give him a call.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Dirty Sheets

My poor, neglected mountain bike...

The Sled

I'm relegated to the roads these days, and though I've put an ungodly number miles on my road bike, my mountain bike has been lying in a dismembered heap in the corner of the garage. It cries when I walk by. Or maybe it's me crying.

Either way, something had to be done.

Down south of Douglasville, in general vicinity of Chattahoochee Hills, there's this set of roads called the Silk Sheets. I've ridden there a lot. Now and again, I've noticed dirt roads leading off to the left or right, but being on the road bike, and especially being on roads so smooth and luxurious that they're called The Silk Sheets, I had no interest in said dirt until recently.

A few weeks back I drove out there, applied my superior mapping skills and found more than 35 miles of dirt roads. It probably cost me $60 in gas, but I had a route, and I named it the Dirty Sheets.

John and I rode part of it on the road bikes a few weeks ago, but yesterday he and I and Mark B. rode the whole route. John's mountain bike is completely disassembled, waiting for a fork rebuild and a new spoke in the rear wheel, so he just put 28's on his road bike. Me and Baldwin were rocking the full-on fat tires.

The beginning of the route is road-heavy.


There are little scraps of dirt, but it's mostly pavement.

Then, when you turn off on Garretts Ferry, it gets good and rough, and stays that way.


It reminded me a lot of the Madison Dirt Ride we did a few months back, and it was a bit like the Huracans and CFiTTs I've done in years past. It would be good training for those kinds of rides, at least.

The roads seemed rougher and looser than when John and I last rode out there. It's funny what you forget. Not having been in the mountain bike in a while, I forgot how much gravel and little holes shake you around and work your core. It didn't wear me out, but I definitely feel it today.

The hills out there are mostly short and steep or really long and really shallow. A few start off steep though, wind around a corner, get shallower, but still keep climbing. Not knowing which were which, I kept punching through the steep sections, assuming the road would level off. Ha! Nope. It reminded me of climbing Buchannan Hwy a few weeks ago. Ugh.

John wasn't in love with the 28's either. They were boat anchors and the rear tire kept rubbing his cadence meter too. Before we got riding, he was talking about how strange his road bike felt with the tires and the little bit of extra gear he was carrying. Before I started doing any bikepacking, I'd really optimized the gear that I carried during an average ride. It was really light, consistent and predictable. I'd gotten really comfortable with that. When I started doing longer rides that required varying amounts of gear, or ride-specific gear, it really threw me. Around that time, I was watching Ice Road Truckers on TV too and I learned about how completely different each load that a trucker hauls can be, and about what they do to stay consistent and manage each load. It inspired me to start working on being able to do the same kind of thing, though to a substantially lesser degree, on the bike. He'd done that same kind of thing on the mountain bike, but hadn't really translated it to the road bike yet. It's definitely strange.

Some of the roads out on the route feel remote and others feel quite residential.


Or at least residential by rural standards.

There was an equestrian event going on off of one of the side roads. Plenty of signs, but we didn't get to see it.

I think we only passed one two other guys on bikes. One was an older guy on a hybrid, and the other guy appeared to be riding a bike because maybe he couldn't afford a car. It's just as well though. We might have gotten some confused looks from real roadies.

We stopped twice for water. Once off of Sardis Road and again near Hwy 92. Mark was down to half a bottle each time. I had only consumed half a bottle each time. Hmm... I've always seemed to need less water than most, but perhaps I would perform a little better if I drank a little more.

At the second stop, a guy driving around asked us if we knew how to get to Serenbe. John gave him directions. It's funny. I know where it is, but even with all the driving around and mapping, I still don't have a super-good mental picture of the area.

A lot of the roads on the second half of the route are dirt in the sense that they were once blacktop, but nobody has bothered to repave them in 20 years. When I drove them in the car, I didn't notice, but it's apparent on the bike. You can see little bits of the yellow center-line here and there, still hanging on.

All-in-all the ride was kind of uneventful. It was fun, but nothing crazy happened. There were no knocked out bridges, deep ruts, fords, large animals... I did see a rabbit and a turkey, but that was all. I miss the crazy sometimes. I guess that's the difference between road and trail, or maybe between roads in more vs. less civilized areas.

Hey, what are you gonna do though? We still had a good time. The route was fun, especially for a semi-local route. I suspect it would be equally fun on a road, cross or mountain bike - different challenges on each. So, go ride it. You go ride it now!

Monday, May 12, 2014


Man, the other day I saw this mockingbird going all crazy in the backyard, flying back and forth, making noise. At first I thought it was just showing off for the ladies, but then it just flew away and appeared to have pulled a big long rope out of the ground, which now hung down over the edge of one of the landscape timbers.

What the heck...? Ohhh. Not a rope...

Rat Snake, I Think

It was harassing this snake. Really giving it the business. Big time.

Black rat snake? I've seen a lot of black rat snakes. Kind-of looks like one. This one looked a little grayer than most and hasn't even the faintest markings, but I'm not sure what it is if it's not a rat snake.

Definitely a friendly snake though. It might be the same one I saw at the end of last summer too. Maybe he's just getting old and grey. Heh, heh.

Carry on buddy, go eat mice or chipmunks or whatever you eat. I wish it would eat the voles that are tearing up the backyard.