Monday, April 26, 2010

The End...For Now

I hate it when vacations run out. They always end sooner than you're ready no matter how much you psyche yourself up for it. I knew the end was coming but I sort of lucked out this time...I was supposed to go to work last night but for the first time in about a week, the train arrived almost on-time and they called an extra crew about an hour before my vacation officially ended. I woke up in a panic sometime after midnight thinking I'd already missed a call but a quick check with CMC let me go back to sleep. Sometimes you're the windshield...
It means a couple of added days home but the downside income for it this time.

Oh well, it might take a bit longer to recover anyway. I overachieved a little this weekend, which is a good thing but not without cost. It all started Friday...

The Good Doctor and I planned to go to Shindagin for a little single-tracking so he swung by after work and picked me up. On the way we decided to invite another pal of ours to try out his new mountain ride in the woods. Dave hasn't pounded the trails quite as much as Doc and I but everybody has to dive in if they want to play and he was game to have a go at it. It all looked pretty good on paper.
We set out on the uphill side and quickly got into some tight stuff with roots, logs and creeks; the usual for Shindagin. I crashed within minutes trying to get out of my pedals again. I'll figure those things out eventually...if I live long enough. Dave had been sort of half-sick all week so he quickly started trying to cough his esophagus out in between the dry heaves while Doc operated on the bent derailleur he acquired on a log. We're really having some fun though.
I managed to crash four or five more times, with one (luckily unobserved) beauty that jammed my right bar-end nearly through my ribcage and felt like it collapsed a lung. Dave went down in a tangle on a stone fence crossing (which I did turn around in time to see) and banged up every anatomical part he has except his left big toe. It helped him forget about the coughing though.
But the epic failure went to Doc...He kept complaining that he had a squeak somewhere in the driveline every time he pedaled but couldn't figure out what was bent. He'd been down hard leaping a stump-jump and thrown himself flat off a stony creek bank already but that's not even noteworthy with us. He kept going for a ways further and I finally caught up with him after untangling myself from a pine tree. A close examination of his spiffy aluminum frame found it snapped off right where the seat post meets the bottom bracket, probably as a result of one or two of those hard landings. The squeak was the lower end of his seat tube grinding itself to shavings on the remains of the weld.
The Doc legend lives on! That guy is strong enough to destroy most bicycling devices with only Clif Bars and Muscle Milk for fuel...chains, tires, spokes, pedals, chain rings and now a frame have all succumbed under his assault. He should start another career testing bike parts. He'd have the R&D people earning their money the hard way trying to engineer stuff he couldn't break. So far, they've failed miserably.

With that kind of damage and the terrain we were in, riding most gingerly was nigh-on impossible so he mostly walked the thing out of the woods to avoid bending the frame irreparably out of true or worse, breaking it completely in half. A good welder should be able to fix it up but I'm afraid he's done with dirt for a while.
We eventually staggered out of the woods to the truck just after dark and since we were all showing assorted minor injuries and equipment damage of varying degrees, we deemed the outing a success.

The next day started with Ibuprofen and coffee before a long drive up around the St. Lawrence for Chris's sister's birthday. We made the trip and spent a few hours hanging around chatting but decided we'd head for home a little early to take the scenic route before it got dark. Turns out, that was the best thing we could have done. We happened on a small state park somewhere above Alex. Bay and just pulled in to have a look around.

The place was almost deserted (still off-season you know) and the only sound was the water. We walked a couple of miles of shoreline, poked under rocks and walked hand-in-hand like kids. It was one of the most relaxing things I've done in months. The sun set thought the clouds somewhere up in Canada and I think I could have stayed to watch it come back up. It's probably just another busy, noisy campground in the summer but was a little bit of quiet and calm. For once...I wasn't in a hurry. Isn't that what a vacation is supposed to be?

The rain settled in on Sunday and I spent the day gathering up my scattered stuff to load the grip, planning for a wee-hours call Monday morning and just mostly being still. It's been a good week and I hate to see it end but with luck, it'll be the pattern for more to follow. I've got a couple more to take in July plus the Tour de Cure and the Warrior Dash...but that's another story.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Vacation...What else can I say?

Ahhh...time off. It's been a good week. Just that's been a good week. I'm tired, my knees hurt, I've got a kink in my shoulder, the lawn is rough, the house is a shambles and it all doesn't matter. I've had a whole bunch of time with the kids and Chris and that's been the best part. We did manage to wipe out a fair chunk of our to-do list and to top it all off, nobody's been to the ER. It doesn't happen like that too often.

Even though it's been pretty chilly, I've put 130 miles on the pedal bikes this week including one 77 mile jaunt on the 1400 and a yesterday's rail-trail hop on the abandoned D&H. Rough but fun...

View Interactive Map on

Unfortunately, it's coming to the weekend which means the end is near and I'll have to start thinking about getting back into the on-call groove again. The good news is that as planned, I'm saddle-sore and sunburned but still looking for a couple more rides. Gotta keep training for the Tour de Cure (that's as good an excuse as any). Check in once in a while to see how it's going on my Tour de Cure page. We're still looking for people to join our team and/or help out with donations so don't forget about it!

I'm headed out to do something vaguely productive (cut grass) but then I'm hoping for an evening bout of single-track pain and suffering with the Good Doctor. More to follow so hang tight.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tour de Cure

Well, here we go with another project. Chris and I just signed up as the NS Thoroughbreds team for the American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure in June. One thing always leads to another and our new-found biking habit led us to look into this ride just for fun. Turns out, NS has teams down south that are among the top fundraisers for Tour de Cure and we decided to jump on the bandwagon and see what we could do.
We each set up a personal page to help with donations and we're still sort of figuring out how everything works. ADA provides web pages and links to help with donations so here's a link to my page.... The title line up above is a link too so you've got two ways to find my Tour page.
Anybody who wanders by the Wayward Home should surf on over and see what's going on with the Tour. All you lurkers out there, quit lurking and help me out.
There'll be more to follow soon as I get more of this stuff hooked up so hang we go again!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Home At Last

The last trip to the north for ten days has been made. I got in late last night and immediately pigged out, drank three beers and collapsed. It seemed so nice to know there's a few days ahead without the railroad that I kinda overdid celebrating my arrival at 'Old Drafty'. Everybody needs a break and my turn is finally here. The trip home took forever as expected and the carriers did just about everything they could to make it seem even longer. When you're trying to get home, nothing goes right. We finally did manage to stumble into the terminal, made our pick-up and handed off to the outbound crew just about as the clock ticked on our legal hours. Fun and adventure to the bitter end but now, for a few days anyway, my time is my own.

To start the week (or end it, depending on how you look at it), I was up at 5:30 prowling around the house and making coffee. I'm so programmed to be awake at that time that it'll take a couple days to get out of the groove and actually sleep in. Besides, I had all kinds of plans swirling in my head and a cramp in my calf that would win prizes so further sleep was out of the question. Got the brood off to school and work and then started in on the stuff that got me out of bed.
First order of business was to swap out the pedals on the 4500 mountain bike, trading the stock spiked platforms for a set of used clipless types I got from the good Doctor. I'm not even sure what they are but they fit my Shimano cleats and I figured I'd give them a whirl in the dirt.
I guess I should mention that Chris finally talked me into buying a set of SPD pedals and Garneau shoes to use on my street bike. They were the reason I did 70 miles last Tuesday; sort of a break-in, test-ride, leg-burn kind of thing. Being able to pull up on the pedals as well as push down is quite a change as is the concept of having your feet locked in place. It made quite a difference as I doubt I could have gone that far that fast without them. Much different than regular pedals but I decided I liked being locked in on the road and everybody has been raving about how much I'd probably like them on the trails. Giving in to peer pressure, I threaded them on and headed for Shindagin Hollow for a try-out.

Unfortunately, Shindagin was probably not a good first choice. The last time I was out there with Doc, he managed to hit himself in the head with his own rear tire, I half fell, half crashed, all lost control down a ravine and wound up the morning's festivities with more thorn slashes, contusions and general abrasions than I care to think about. The place is all single-track trails with a vast assortment of rocks, roots, drop-offs, stumps, mud pits, logs, climbs, knuckle-bangers and head-knockers. Great fun but not exactly the place to learn about having your feet firmly in the upright and locked position. As I should have expected since I'd already embarrassed myself by toppling over at a stop sign on the road bike, the first charge up a dry washout resulted in a stall and a fall which probably would have hurt less if could have put my foot down instead of catching myself by artistically banging my shoulder on a sapling and breaking the landing with my forehead. The cleats released nicely after the bike was laying on top of me. I can't believe I wasn't impaled by the underbrush.

Note to self: Bring someone with you next time you do something this stupid; preferably someone with first-aid skills or at least a satellite phone since regular cells don't have a chance of hitting 9-1-1 down in the gullies.
A few minutes of frustration and profanity later, I wound up hoofing it out of the wash since all attempts at getting clipped in and rolling in the rocks proved futile. The learning curve appeared to be a bit steeper than the creekbed.

A few more swan dives into the weeds eventually led to a realization; one of those eureka moments that usually happen only AFTER you've mashed your thumb with a hammer or slammed the cat in the door; almost an epiphany...
Clipless pedals are the reason really good riders get really good. They'll thrash any vertical pitch, sail off any ridiculous jump, bunny-hop, wheelie, pivot, teeter, leap tall buildings at a single bound...anything to avoid looking so foolish as to not be able to get their foot down. It's all desperation brought on by the certain knowledge that in the event the crash fails to actually kill you, someone will probably be doubled over holding their sides in hysterical laughter at how idiotic you look as you are pounded sensless by the 50 pound sledgehammer attached to your shoes. Those guys are good because they HAVE to be. I know this to be true because by the second hour, I was banging away at the woods and spinning up the hills like my life depended on it. Which, in a way it did since I still couldn't get out of the pedals fast enough to avoid knocking myself out on a tree trunk if I lost my balance. Desperation does wonders.
At the end of about 3 hours, with the weather closing down into rain and wind, I finally made it out of the woods and back to the van. Not exactly a wildly successful outing but since nothing got broken that won't grow back, it's all good.

If this is the beginning of the week's gonna be a good one.

In one last attempt to get me, the railroad just rang my phone trying to get me to go on an extra train. They just won't let up. My official time off starts in 2 hours and dedicated or not, they're not going to have this warm body to fill a seat tonight. Out.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Quick And Gone

Here I go on the last 'round trip before I drop off the railroad radar for about ten days. It's a late, late call for the train but all it means is we'll be in the hotel a little less and home about the same time (I hope). There'll probably be some changes when I get back but more on that when the time comes.
For now...I managed to get in a ride yesterday while the sun was shining. Made 70 miles on the dot which is a single-day record for me. If I wasn't pressed for time whenever I go out, I could probably make that century. Trouble is, I'm trying to get home to get ready to go to work and get to bed so I tend to hammer the last 20 miles or so and burn out by the time I get to the driveway. Maybe this week while I'm not subject to cell phone abuse, I can get it done. We'll see.
In the's the ride. Are you seeing this, Doc?

View Interactive Map on

I think I'm killing the 1400 with this stuff. The bottom bracket is noisy and the driveline is sounding like a meat grinder but it's still holding together. The shoes and clipless pedals made a big difference too but I need to tune them up some to get the most out of them yet. More to follow...

It's off to the races and another go at the Saratoga Express. I'll be back.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Just In Case...

...someone is actually reading this thing. I sort of dropped off the radar since that last post. Must be writing that much wore me out. Well, maybe not. It's just that time flies when you're having they say and suddenly a week has gone and I can't find it. The days seem like they're disappearing unless I'm thinking about my upcoming vacation. If I do that, they slow to a crawl and it seems like the time off will never get here. Just keep my head down and get there. If all goes as planned, I'll only have to make a couple more trips up north before I get away. Man, do I need it.
It's been a long haul since I've had any significant time off. Because of the way I schedule things, it always is. I try to take my weeks in the spring and summer when the kids are out of school and we can actually do stuff. Someday, when I get four weeks built up, I might try to get some time around the winter holidays but for now it's all sunshine and warm days. Trouble is, it makes for a tough pull from July into April with no real breaks (unless you count last year's little hiatus to have surgery. Now that was a real blast!). I'm pretty steady most of the time as far as work goes so I don't take off a whole lot of unscheduled time. Keeps the income going but burns out the old guy after a while. A week away from the cell phone will be a much needed recharge.
I'll be here a little bit during the week but plan on putting some miles on all three bikes, doing some day tripping and I might even get a little work done around the old money-pit. No matter what, I won't be on a train and I plan on thinking about it so little, they may need to re-qualify me on the territory when I get back. Now that's what I call R&R.