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Monday, November 30

Went somewhere. Did some things.

Maybe you member that The Pie and I were supposed to go on a most logistically complicated vacation to celebrate our 25th anniversary this past Spring... before the boomie booms fell and ruined everything. 


Not The Pie.  She's not ruined.  She's still fine after dealing with me as long as she's had to.

Anyways, she was going to run a half marathon, I was going to mountain bike all over the place, we were going to enjoy the "night life" (I'm fifty one, I don't really know what that means) in Hollywood, FL.  It seemed like only a couple hours after we booked all the hotels, we were canceling them.

So some time passed and "we the people" were told not to travel to visit family for Thanksgiving, so we decided to travel to not be with family.  I'd still get to ride, and she'd get to do a full marathon, her tenth one as a matter of fact.  No "night life," but I still couldn't figure out what that would be anyways.

We stayed the first night in a tiny town.  The Pie was going to wake up, drive thirty minutes, and run a marathon.  I was going to wake up (much later), ride seven miles to the Chuck Lennon Trails, get some time in the dirt, ride back to town, sit outside in the Florida sun at a brewery killing time and brain cells until The Pie came and picked me up.

We went to bed to the typical Florida forecast.  Slight chance of a little rain.

We woke up to rain.  Lots of rain... I mean she did first... and then I did hours later.

What to do, what to do.

I've only got what I planned to ride away from the hotel with.

Going down to get my double-fisted coffees in SIDIs.  I mean, I literally have nothing that wasn't part of a self-sufficient plan.

Single serve chamois butter going into a plastic wrapper from a single serve coffee I found in the garbage.

Well, fudge.  I got a vest, and a tiny hat, and a sleeveless T-shirt, and action jorts, and a sammich bag, and a pocket knife, and... a piss poor forecast for the rest of the day.  I don't wanna go trashing up the local trails, I can't sit in the sun and drink beer when there is no sun, and the hotel is kicking me out at 11:00AM.

I might as well ride in the pouring rain to go see The Pie at her marathon.  She was slightly worried about making the time cutoff.  Because since she signed up last minute, she was gonna get stuck in the last corral to go out on the course, and she only had three weeks to train up for marathon distance.  Mebbe I could find her and offer some support.  I know her.  She's not gonna quit just because they start pulling aid stations and course markings and finish lines and free beer.

I sat and scrolled my phone about on Google Maps trying to find a "bike friendly" route... since I only had a tiny blinky I hadn't intended to actually use for anything.  I pieced something together, and headed out.

Strip malls and gas stations to a run down neighborhood to this?

A road?  A path?  A trail?  Dunno.

I also found out pretty quick that even though my phone was in a waterproof case, for some reason, when it's mounted in a Super 8 Strap on my top tube for navigation purposes, it thinks the moist strap is the finger of a distracted two year old.  I kept loosing navigation.  Meh.

If my blue action jorts do this to my saddle in the rain, I wonder if they make my brown eye blue?

The rain went from pouring to drizzle, I got to the marathon, found The Pie's car, grabbed a beer, stuffed it in my fanny pack, and headed backwards on the course.  I found The Pie much closer to the finish than I'd anticipated... and she had a little friend. 

They'd been running together since mile thirteen.  The Pie was doing great, didn't need my gummy bears or beer, so I headed back to the finish...

And for my first time, I saw The Pie finish a marathon.  Her tenth.  In shit conditions.  Ignore that time, tho.  It's based on the first corral that went out for the day.  She did just fine.

Which was pretty cool.

Thursday, November 19

Taking a Brake

I'll be checking out for a bit.  Like a week or so.  Going on an adventure.

Adventure number eleventy billion for 2020, for those that lost track

This will more than likely cap off the adventuring for 2020.  Between now and January 1st, I still have three weeks off on our firm's every other week off for essential workers policy.  To be honest, I can only see that extending through at least the rest of winter.  

So there's that.

My turgid and also Minion DHR 3.0 equipped Vertigo Meatplow V.7 will be accompanying me.  I'm not headed to places that need a proper forking nor where the garvel will be calling my name (but mebbe, read on).  I'm gonna ride some new stuff.  I'm gonna see some familiar stuff.  I might stare at the sun.  No reason.  I heard good things.  I'm hoping to bump into a friend...

Or not.

It was all systems go, but then I got a message yesterday that threw a wrench in the works.  My little friend can't meet up with me.  This saddens me, but that just means I gotta make a choice.

I'll be without four wheels and an engine for an entire day, so I was considering bringing my garvel bike (in addition to or in lieu of) my mountain bike cycle.  Problem being, my flat bar SS conversion was being held up due to the tiny little bits I was waiting on from Rodeo Labs, with 95% of the blame on USPS.... which means 99% the fault of the Commander in Cheeto.  All I really needed was this:

Because I took out my rear gorilla wire, I didn't want the extra hole in my rubber frame plug.  I also ordered a no-hole plug for the opening in the bottom of my down pipe, but it was less important because the rear hydraulic line couldn't be attached to the lever UNTIL AFTER it was fed through the correct plug up top.  I also added a SS specific slider to my cart, because my vanity was worth the very small amount of money they were asking for it.  $12 for those that would care.

So I was slowly putting this thing together, not wanting to get the cart before the horse in case I needed to reinstall the noodle bar for the trip.  Last night, I just went all in.  Rooted my drooper (which I made harder than it needed to be and ended up with less than perfect results... because... reasons).   I realized that my one-hole rubber bit from low down looked like I could jam a hydraulic line through it, so it was time to no longer remain on the pot and henceforth commence with the shitting. Then I went ahead and hacked off the oh so sexy GRX brifters.  That was painful.  They were so... choice.  Pretty much the main reason I wanted to try noodle barring again. 

*sigh*

This morning, I woke up to the email that of course my Rodeo Lab bits would get here today.  Of course.  Of course.

So, in the theme of continuing the doing of things the wrong way, this is my morning today:

One bike, two cups.

Sorry not sorry.  The work stand I like to do brake bleeds on is mounted permanently inside my screened in front porch, and it's like 35° out there.  Instead of pushing happy mineral oil in from the caliper, I painstakingly added it one bubble's worth at a time.  Two cups is speeding up the process, so @ me.

At least now, I'll have options for this trip.

Which I don't know if I need, but as the guy who packs two pairs of riding shoes, two pairs of flip flops, one pair of slip on shoes, six pairs of glasses, and five tiny hats for a three day road trip, it's obvs that I like options.

I might have left late for work today when I realized that my garvel bike has sixteen steel bolts, of which twelve are extraneous.

Four in the fork, five for a rear fender, two on the horse poop catcher water bottle mount, and one on the rear gorilla cable guide.  I got plenty of ti rotor bolts doing nothing, so...


I mean, T 25 bolts never hurt anyone... except that time I lost the Shenandoah Mountain 100 by one minute and seventeen seconds because of them... but who remembers that?

Anyways... that's like twenty grams... and I just remembered that I have ti brake mount hardware in a baggie, so I just got that much faster for $0.

Had to ride it to work today... you know.... to make sure I tightened all the bolts and got rid of the air bubbles and such.

See you in a bunch of days from now with stories to tell.

Monday, November 16

Another Goodbye.

We euthanized Pester yesterday, and that's pretty much where my headspace is today.

Five years and seven months ago, he was just another foster.  They handed him to The Pie R.N. because he was crazy diabetic, and we needed to get his insulin figured out.  In short time, he became blind... and sorta kinda unadoptable.  

Which meant we ended up with another long term "hospice" foster animal from the Humane Society of Charlotte.

Nobody expected him to live that long.  Twice a day insulin shots after morning and evening meals that had to happen in sorta the same windows of time each day.  Thyroid pills.  Eye drops, two kinds.. sometimes three?  A lot of effort to save two eyes that didn't do much more than fill a couple holes in his head.  Pretty sure there was another pill in there for something or other at some point.  Such a train wreck, but not in his opinion.

He managed to find his way down the stairs of the back deck at our old place multiple times a day... well except mebbe that one time he wandered off the deck and onto the lid of the recycling toter... and then I had to build a mini-guardrail at Pester-height to keep him from going airborne.

We were so stoked to move into our tiny home with only one step out the back door.  I wasn't going to have to risk breaking another toe carrying another blind dog outside.

This dog never acted his age.  He would wake up grabbing squeaky toys and make sure that everyone knew it was time to get up.  He'd bark at your feet the whole time you stirred his food, occasionally tossing his toy in the air or directly at you... I'm not sure he knew what he was aiming at.  He'd play in the backyard with whatever foster dog we threw into the mix, and would chase Boppit all over the yard... mebbe sometime running into things... but mostly not.

We almost euthanized him back in August when we found out that he now had cancer, but his quality of live was still there.  We canceled the appointment and ended up getting a few more months with him.  

The Pie said this is dog number seven (or eight?) that we've had to say goodbye to.  I wasn't able to be there for all of them.  I was able to be there for Pester, and you should know that he went across the bridge eating mouthfuls of ham.

Sadly, that might be the last long term hospice foster for the Humane Society of Charlotte.  It doesn't seem to be happening anymore.  Dogs like Sizemore, and Wally, and  Pester (actually Lester), and Shiloh, and Sally, and... I can't remember them all.

So, one dog for now, but I do look forward to bringing someone home when we're ready.  For now, I'll just stare at that empty space where Pester used to sleep and dump more affection on Boppit than he's probably prepared to handle.

Back to bikes soon enough.

Thursday, November 12

Keeping up with the Bones's

I meant to get an early start, but the super awesome combination of a spring storm in the Fall with a bunch of leaves means flooded yards and clogged drains.  Idle hands are the devil's workshop, so NOT TODAY, SATAN.

We all knew the rain was coming.  I tried to make hay whilst the sun did shine and get as much trail time as I could.

Not all rides are in the mountains, but all mountain rides deserve pizza. 

Sometimes sour gummy bears because they require zero oven time.

A wonderful day in Pisgah when two joyful groups magically came as one.

Not all rides are in the mountains either, which is okay... I guess.

But there's no place that I'd rather be than right here...

Rednecks...

Low socks...

And a stop in Asheville for (pretentious) beer.

The leaves are pretty tho...

When they're up in the trees where they belong and not clogging my fucking drains.

Local solo rides back to back on Monday and Tuesday.

Decided I'd finally give that feature I built a long time ago a shot on my turgid bike since riding it squashed did not kill me.  I did not die (obvs).

I took a pause to look at the rock work.  I can remember dragging the giant "on ramp" rock a fair distance through the woods to its final resting place.  I love rock Tetris, but I don't know if all these years later I'd be moving such a large stone by myself again.  Being that there's shit all over town that I built with rocks that didn't pan out as well, it's a bit of a gamble. 

If you're ever riding USNWC leaving South Main heading to the Lake Loop and you wonder why there's a random pile of quartz-looking stones on the side of the trail... ?

Yeah, me.

It also seemed like it was time to do this:

I rode the Flaanimal 5.0 to work for an entire month before doing a cockpit and gear swap on the tarck bike and putting it back into action.  I immediately realized what I was missing.  I swear I can feel the drag of a derailleur, the 1.5 pounds of extraneous shifty bits pulling me to the earth's core, the desire to cut the sleeves off all my shirts waning...

I was day dreaming about Zwift'ing.

Gotta put a quick end to that.

42 X 20 based on a little more than an answer I farmed from social media and some guesswork.  One ride yesterday, and I'm pretty sure it's not enough.  Back home and mounted a 19 and...

Now it's raining in the biblical sense.  I guess Dog is pissed that his chosen one got voted out.

But hey, NC is going Red, so give us a break mebbe?

Tuesday, November 10

Forking Content

How long have I been riding with the 140mm Fox 34 with Grip 2 damping on the Vassago Meatplow V.8?

Since that first day in Moab... which was almost exactly a month ago?

It seems like four years ago and also a week ago.

Well, I've had enough rides on it to like, form an opinion, man.

Me.  That one time I wore pads in Pisgah in the last decade.  Trbl.

Ok.  So why swap from a 120mm Step Cast w√ľnderkind "racing" fork to its more trail-oriented cousin?  I really thought I'd use this bike to race once in a while, but whatever it is inside me that makes those decisions almost always grabs the turgid bike instead.  Almost two years after getting this bike, and I've only done the Pisgah Enduro™ back in 2019.  So, obvs I missed the mark buying the smaller fork...

mebbe.

This is my Pisgah bike, so it only makes sense to make it more betterer for biggerer stuff. 

PROS:  More travel means more smashing into things and coming out alive.
             More travel means a slacker head tube angle.
             Longer lowers means more orange paint.

For getting down the mountain, this fork has been nuts.  It follows the terrain so well, which I can only assume is due to the Grip 2 damping.  That's good... and it's bad?

CONS:  No lockout.

But also...

PROS:  No lockout.

I do miss the lockout on the Step Cast, but only some times.  Going up long climbs, I look down and see the fork moving and think to myself, "unnnnggghhh."  Then I look away and forget about it.  Then the magical thing happens.  I start to go down hill and guess what?  I never forget to unlock my fork because it was never locked to begin with.  How many times did that happen with the Step Cast?  More than I'd like to admit.

Basically, Grip 2 is idiot-proof (Dick-proof).

I was worried that it would be more difficult to set up correctly, what with the high/low speed compression and rebound damping ("dampening" for those of you with a moist forks mentality).  Fortunately, either I got lucky or just followed the directions or intuitively clicked with all the adjustments.  I still need to drop the air pressure a scoche, but I only remember that when I'm out in the woods, far away from a shock pump.  I type that as I sit with my bike right behind me, the shock pump in the other room about fifteen steps from the couch.

When does my new fork suck?

Ok.  That's a bit harsh, but I'm noticing the slower handling while Charlotte woods riding.  It's like "mountain biking," but slower, twistier, and flatter.  The bike does handle slower, but that was to be expected.  It's just noticeable, and I guess something I'm going to have to get over.  I've got another bike (also hanging right behind me) that's totally fine for Charlotte woods riding, so I shouldn't bitch if I picked the wrong bike for the day.  It does feel super bueno whenever I can actually get the bike up to speed over some rough stuff, but if you happen to be a Charlotte Woods Rider, you know those moments are few and far between.

Also, this:

I can ride like a total idiot with 140mm of travel.  Bill Nye let me take the lead on the "pedaly" descent down Upper Spencer.  He was closing the gap when things started getting chunky, so I let 'er rip... despite knowing better.  I slammed my way through one of the many rock piles on the way down and totally heard that bad and all too familiar rim strike noise.  I crossed my fingers, but slowly I could feel the rear end loosening up.   A slow leak releasing pressurized air from my tire and a sense of bravado from my being.

Dammit.

On the upside, I got to test my new plugger tool, and it was buenos.  On the downside, both bikes are now rolling around on a plugged rear tire.  I'm now looking into tire inserts so I can continue to ride haphazardly without tearing shit up.

All in all, this fork is the absolute cat's meow.  I don't know when I'd ever put the 120mm Step Cast back on, but despite my reluctance to use it again, I'll have to hang on to it for another few months to watch it collect dust and regret before I can unload it.

As Obama said after sinking one from the three point line in business attire, "It's what I do."

Tuesday, November 3

The Gentleman's Ride '20

Race day... I mean "ride day."

Dr Mike arrives at my house to pick me up four minutes late, but that's six minutes early for Dr Mike.  We get to Rocky River Trail about a half hour before the race... errrr... I mean the "ride" starts.  Chase and Nick aren't there yet.  There seems to be a vibe in the parking lot that there's no way this thing starts on time, right?

It's a good thing I practice being in a hurry for those moments when it becomes necessary.

Nick and Chase show up, and somehow everyone is ready just in time for the socially distanced riders meeting.

For the first time (for us) we hear the rules.  Four person teams.  One rider can be lost, "Mulligan'ed" as it were. 

I confer with my team mates.

"Are we really gonna leave someone behind, like if they get a flat or a mechanical or something?"

"No," was the general consensus.

I am pleased.  I'd rather have a fun day in the woods than leave a man behind to fend for themselves.

One thing missing from the rider's meeting was the route from one trail to the other.  I kinda wanted to assume someone else knew where to go, being that this was Chase's idea, Nick got me into it, and Dr Mike did way more research on this event than I knew was even possible.  I thought it was just a flier on Instagram.  I did look at google maps the night before... just in case.

Probably the seventh or eighth time I rode my bike wearing my stretchy underwear super hero outfit in 2020.

We line up for the rolling road start.  I get right to the front.  I see Chase a row or two behind me.  Dr Mike and Nick halfway back in the pack and way off to the side.  I call them up.  As a single speeder, I prefer to start where I don't belong, fall back through the pack, and then work my way up later on the trail.

The start certainly feels less like a "ride" and much more like a race.  My heart rate is pegged... and I'm quickly losing Chase's wheel.  Look back... see Nick... further back... Dr Mike.  Single speeds are stupid.

Chase gets to the trail first... waits.  Finally, we all get to the trailhead, wait our turn to enter, and in we go.  Obviously, we can't stick together if we don't start together.

It does feel like a group ride... a sixty to seventy person group ride... which is as fun as it sounds.  Being the three lone single speeders in such a large group...  trying to keep momentum, blast up the steep climbs behind the Eaglers, I see my heart rate going from "chillin' on the couch" to "run for your lives."  Dr Mike, as promised, is slightly fading.  We stop at the top of a climb.  Wait.  Drink.  Pee.  Eat... whatever.  Gonna have a good day.

We get through Rocky River Trail generally unscathed.  Not the cleanest run through ever, but no wrecks or mechanicals.  Back in the parking lot, it's a ghost town.  Most of the riders blazed through.  Not us.  Take our time, grab bottles, wardrobe changes, eat, pee.

Out on the road and it's obvious that one guy on gears and three on single speeds do not a cohesive group make.  Chase is out front, I'm on his wheel letting him know what my max speed is... look back... Nick and Dr Mike are riding side by side having a chat.  It's apparent that we are not in a hurry.  Also apparent at this time, somehow I'm the one that's most familiar with the route, although I was hoping for at least one person to tell me I'm right.  I don't wanna add miles or end up on Highway 27.

"Just remember the way back.  Left at the Trump sign, right at the Trump sign, left at the Trump sign.."

Nick adds, "If you see a Confederate flag, you went too far."

The roads are busy, especially for people who spend most of their saddle time in the woods or greenways or neighborhood streets.  We get coal rolled.  Hard not to laugh a little.  

FREEDOM and all.

We make it all the way to Sherman Branch without seeing any riders coming back at us on the road... which means we're not an hour behind the leaders so okay?  We take our time in the parking lot.  Eat, pee, drink, a multi-tool gets broken out for the fourth or fifth time to adjust something or other.  A loose bottle cage, a slipping seat post, a popped-out fork seal.  Had I not rode the Vertigo Meatplow V.7 four days ago, I'd be tightening my chain and straightening my stem, so this is a judgment free zone.

We're in the woods and Dr Mike's legs aren't agreeing with him.  Cramps are knocking on his front door.  Give him a chance to stretch... I see the multi-tool come back out.  Whatever.  Suns out and I'm not on the couch.  Sherman is in perfect condition, we're just enjoying the ride... except Dr Mike.  He's fighting the cramps.

At one of our stops, I ask Dr Mike if he wants to skip one of the three loops.  We're all down to stick together, but I also would hate to see him in a pile of cramped muscle tissue.

"I'm good."

I'm glad we decided to stick together at the start.  

We finish the trail, stop in the parking lot, more stretching, peeing, eating, talking, the opposite of hurrying.  The sun decides to hide behind the clouds and the temperature drops enough to be noticed.  Meh.

Back out on the road and we're joined by a solo rider.  Chase is leading out the train of three single speeders and the loner.  Only nine miles to go...

I sense a disturbance in the force.  I look over my shoulder.  Dr Mike is gone.  As in, not even visible in the distance.

Uh oh.

"Chase, stop.  We lost Dr Mike."

Nick and Chase wait in the ditch, the solo rider rolls on, I go back hoping to find Dr Mike not a cramped up pile of human at the side of the road.

I get back to him, and yeth, it's totally happening.  His quads are locking up.  Oof.  Hard to spin a billionty RPMs when your quads are stuck.  He gets rolling again, we catch back up to the others... and s-l-o-w roll all the way back.

On the way back, Dr Mike says, "I would totally do this again."

That's the spirit... I think.

We finish to the cheers of the crowd that's still there.  Apparently, we're the second to last team that was still out there.  Who knew?

We didn't.

I had a good day with my friends.  I'm glad that Chase was patient with all his gears.  I'm stoked that Nick dragged me into this.  I'm certainly happy that Dr Mike got to do "a thing" in 2020 and didn't pull the plug.  I'm sad that the pizza was gone already, but happy that we were the last team tending to the keg in the parking lot.

This is (most of) my NBA bubble.  It's been a strange year of picking and choosing who I can spend X amount of time with in Y scenario at Z distance.  So many conversations had with people while the whole time in the back of my head I'm wondering where this person has been, what's their stance on science and politics, how long have we been talking, which way is the wind blowing today, would this person coal roll me on the open road?

I'm crazy.  We're all crazy.  Well, except the people yelling "I'M NOT CRAZY," because they totally are.

Speaking of crazy, mebbe go vote today if you haven't... mebbe?

Monday, November 2

The Gentleman's Ride '20: Preamble

Just so you understand, The Gentleman's Ride is not a race.  Some people will try to go faster than others.  There will be a podium.  A trophy will be lofted high into the air by the team who gets back first.  Each four person team's time will stop when the third rider on the team crosses the line... you can totally leave your fourth person in the woods or on the open road like a discarded gel wrapper.

But it's not a race.

A short one mile road loop to space out the racers before entering fourteen of the most challenging single track miles in the area.  Then an almost nine mile road ride over to Sherman Branch for close to twelve miles of fast and fun single track... and then nine miles of road back.

Like I said before, I'd never done it before.  It never meshed with my schedule, or I was too lax about the idea of trying to find three other people who wanna do something so... stupid?  Hard? 

But Chase had entered and he was doing it with Nick who in turn knew I had nothing to do... so obvs, I was in to suffer along with them.

But our fourth man?

I asked Dr Mike.  Pretty sure his answer was no a few weeks ago.  Something something... not riding much lately... something.

I carry some guilt for the time way back in April(?) when Dr Mike and I were trying to kill all the unexpected free time COVID had foisted in our general direction.  We were riding mountain bikes a lot, but when the word was out that hospitals were filling up and people were being fun-shamed for safety reasons, we took to tooling around neighborhoods in Charlotte. 

That's when Dr Mike touched my back wheel, went down in the road... and broke his collarbone,  So much for "playing it safe."

Anyways, one of the first things Dr Mike said when he started limping towards a guardrail was, "What about my season?"

Of course that was back when we all thought there was still a shred of hope that 2020 was going to get back to normal.  Then it never did.

So I wanted Dr Mike to have one more shot at... a "season."  I dunno.  Those who understand the desire to test themselves on their stupid bike cycling machines get it.  Those who think it's stupid to pay money to ride their bikes are also right tho. 

So, I pressed Dr Mike a little harder.  He sorta reluctantly agreed... as long as he could ride his geared Evil. 

"What it everyone else gonna be on?"

Chase was solid on his choice of a Kona trail bike... with no drooper?  Don't judge.  He's a cyclo rosser.  They're weird.  Nick was still on the fence between his Waltworks single speed and his Stumpy.  No matter what, I was gonna be the anchor on the eighteen miles of road, spinning a 32X19 at a maximum seventeen miles an hour max.  

I later see that Dr Mike is already on the race roster.  I let him know he's in unless he's not in, but he's totally in.

He finally completely agrees to join us.

Friday evening before the race, he sends me a text.  Asks me if I have any spare Shimano four pot brake pads.  I don't.

Riding one lap at Rocky River Trail has always been "enough" for me personally on a single speed.  Eighteen miles of road would have its own challenges when Dr Mike might not have swapped his 32X20 gear since the ride in the Virginia mountains... almost two months ago.  I've got my fingers crossed that Dr Mike will get the dust knocked off his Evil and those brakes back to being stoppers by the next day.

I wake Saturday morning to see that there are no miracles.  His brakes are still broke.

At least mebbe on a positive note, Nick has also chosen single speed, so Chase is gonna have to drag three dumb asses over eighteen miles of road at much less than optimal speeds.

At least the weather looks good, right?

Gonne be a good day.