Category Archives: Silver Comet, Chief Ladiga Video Project
This part of our website is dedicated to our current project, the videography of (we hope) weekly century rides covering the Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga Trails every week for 60 weeks to capture seasonal and trail changes over the course of a year.
I mean, we would drink water whether we were riding or not, right?
It’s the little things that kill your success, but not in the “Forego avocado toast and you can have a McMansion” way, in a more real way.
Yes, we drink water straight from the filter on the fridge when we’re home. Water on the trail has to be planned though. Hydration is critical.
The fountains on the Silver Comet are always turned off in the winter, from well before danger of first frost until well after danger of last frost. I don’t get this. It takes more than a frost to freeze a pipe, but that’s how it is. Since the pandemic, the water has been turned off year ’round.
When the fountains are on, I would likely fill at Tara Drummond, Cedartown and the Chief Ladiga visitors center on the state line. Water availability becomes more sketchy as you move west and, if you started on the east end, that’s when you’re tiredest.
What can you get for $992 on the trail? That’s a $4 allowance per rider per ride day*. That may be generous on average if the fountains come back on for part of the year, but the rest will come from some other bucket in the budget if they don’t.
Casual riders can decide on a ride to ride basis if the nominal cost of going out on any given day fits easily inside the resources they want to use. But, when making a commitment to ride twice a week every time it’s rideable for 62 weeks, accounting for all of the places where you will drop a grand is as critical to a successful project budget as hydration is to a healthy ride.
*There’s no allowance for training days because we can carry enough for most of those days.
The intro video is completely home grown and shot cell phones. I shot some footage, but Russ shot most of what we used, then edited it on Kdenlive. He is self taught with the help of instructional videos and learned it for this project. He learned Audacity for this project as well.
The intro video is all shot with one of three Galaxy S somethings. The trail ride base (or background ride) was shot using Russ’s Galaxy S10+ with a DJI OM5 gimbal stabilizer. I haven’t checked to see if any of what we used for other parts was made with my old Galaxy S8 Active. Anything I shot after July when I bought the S21 Plus that I wrote about here was taken with that phone.
Using the gimbal was interesting. It was useful to reduce the shakes and bumps and it looked cool and weird mounted to the handlebars with the phone attached. I was riding behind Russ watching it operate. The phone looked (and was) vulnerable sticking up from the handlebars. The gimbal looked slightly organic in its undulating battery operated movements. It was attached to a GoPro mount that was completely stable, but didn’t look like it. Later I shot some of my own and the movements look so much bigger on your own bike.
Riding through the puddles in Brushy Mountain tunnel was a bit scary. Not only do the device documents tell you not to drop the gimbal, they say four separate times not to get it wet, unless it catches fire. If it catches fire, you are supposed to put the fire out with water.
Riding through the tunnel, or any other puddles, I can slow down and reduce the chances of getting the thing wet, but other riders may or may not. After riding with it for a few miles, the handle had rotated and I was afraid it had loosened and might drop, so I took it off. I wasn’t able to get it to turn off though. I removed it from the handle bars and then took the phone off of it.
It wiggled at me as if to say “Where’s my phone?” The two clamps on the disc made it look like the face on a puppy or Grogu shaking its ears to get them dry. I shoved the handle in a pocket in my bike tights. I hoped the device would get separation anxiety there and shut down. The moving part was free, so I didn’t expect it cause any problems if it didn’t and It had shut off by the time I got back to the car.
We chose to shoot with the phones and gimbal instead of the equipment that we plan to use for the project because, even after buying the gimbal, it was the least expensive way to achieve a usable introductory product. We’ve made similar choices with other things along the way.
We will switch to GoPro Hero 10s for the project to get the rugged durability, better image stabilization, the ability to stream one camera and the weatherproof qualities. The GoPros and other equipment we plan to use for the project is not harder to use. Switching will not be difficult once more appropriate equipment is funded.
Most audio was recorded with an external microphone. I set the the Mic on a tall stool in my small walk in closet for the dampening, and set the laptop on a big box of fireworks (we’ll have to use them to celebrate when we get funded). The box was about as tall as the mic, so I was able to read the script I wrote without having it draw me away from the mic. I sat down in the doorway and leaned in and up. We wanted it all a little bit high so it helped my diaphragm and projection. As a set up, it worked reasonably well. Beside needing something written to keep me as brief as possible and on track, my untrained voice was our biggest challenge. Winging would have been nice, but the video would have been long and winding. Russ also took audio off some cell footage I took of Sandhill Cranes wheeling above.
I stopped to photograph these flowers, not when they were fresh on the first day that I saw them, but several days later when they still sat there untouched.
The bench has a memorial plaque. It says that the person being memorialized and his grandparents spent many days experiencing joy on the trail. That speaks to me. The first time I got to spend significant time with my grandson, I was picking him up and taking him to the trails, first by the Chattahoochee River, later the Silver Comet and finally Big Creek.
At Big Creek there are mountain bike trails and he saw signs for RAMBO, the Roswell Alpharetta Mountain Biking Organization. In middle school (as soon as he was eligible) he dropped La Crosse, to join NITRO and mountain biking was the sport that stuck. Both are good organizations. He’s taught sportsmanship and to care for his bike, and he does volunteer work with the group too. He’s been on the team ever since. I enjoyed watch him try out all his team sports, but I felt good about taking him to the place where he found his thing. We don’t do the same kind of cycling anymore, but I take him to trails like 5 Points where I can walk while he rides. He just got his license and drives now. I don’t have to take him anywhere, but the connection remains, and I feel good about his thing being cycling.
One of the nice things about cycling is that it can start as soon as you get a sense of balance, and with recumbent trikes, it can last well after you lose it. I know riders in their 80s who are 20+ years older than me, and they ride standard road bikes for long distances. There are all kinds of cycling for all kinds of needs and wants, from motorized to hand powered with 1 to 4 wheels.
Cycling can connect generations like it did for me and my grandson, or the people on the plaque, for clubs or tours. It can help maintain health and increase longevity, even reduce health insurance rates. You can start at just about any age. It gets you outdoors and active.
One of the things I hope our video project will create is connection and inspiration between anyone willing to connect and for any good thing a person aspires to do. I hope that some of the people who see what I’m doing say to themselves that they ought to pursue riding, or something entirely different, especially the ones who never considered it before. And that people who were feeling old or depressed or isolated or powerless decide they can do whatever thing hanging around in the back of their minds that they aspire to do.
The only things that make me special enough to do this project are that I thought it up, I had the conviction to pursue it, and I have the determination to finish it. Anyone can do that.
I’ll be happy to give people some new exercise, health and entertainment options. I’d be honored to shift the perspectives of people who haven’t yet realized what is within their reach into the perspective of those who have.
I hope that your memorial, whether it is on a bench or in the mind of the people you leave behind, will come far into the future. I hope it says exactly what you’d want it to, and more than you ever dreamed it might.
The helmet I’ve had my eye on for a while is a Giro Vanquish. Skip down to the features if what you’re interested in is how those features are working for me. And here is one of the reviews I used when considering the purchase. FYI, Amazon didn’t have the price quoted/linked in that review at anytime during the months I was looking, (with the exception of a small size in and undesirable color, which isn’t what the link directs to).
Delays in buying the Vanquish sooner were… well, cost slowed me by about 6 months. I’m price sensitive. Moving to the point of purchase is an easier decision in the lower end price range, but there were other things that slowed the decision too. 1. Stores. 2. The search for other options with a visor/goggles. Was there a helmet with eye protection and additional features? 3. Reluctance to be seen as a poser. And, 4. Venting slits over the eyes.
No stores had the Vanquish when it first caught my eye, so I couldn’t check fit, and once they did, none of them were marketing to me. The sales rep at one store said “I don’t remember the name, but the only thing we have with goggles is for racers”. The name is actually on the box, which was just a few steps away. Another store told me the Vanquish and a commuter helmet with goggles that they also offered were both primarily for velodrome riding (wrong on both counts according to their respective manufacturers).
I’ve benefited from some articles that say “X product is for X rider”, especially in trying to make sense of group set levels as a less knowledgeable rider in the market for a bike that suits the demands of a high mileage project well, and at the same time isn’t more expensive than necessary. It seems to me though, that there’s little reason to keep the marketing or the perceived market for the Vanquish as narrow as it appears to be. People do have to make tough price quality trade-offs, but I think that a lot of people who are not racers and not terribly price sensitive would also find the appeal in this helmet, especially in a market that sells to Silver Comet riders.
The rider I first saw wearing a bike helmet with goggles was wearing a teardrop helmet (which put the idea of not wanting to look like a poser in my mind). Nothing would look more like a poser than to have a less aerodynamic body while sporting the most conspicuously aerodynamic helmet available, the one that few people have seen outside Olympic level training and competition.
I did find other options with visor/goggles. The commuter version had a much lower level of cooling airflow. The MTB version had friction fit goggles and I like the magnetic option better. It seems more durable. I didn’t look at any of the teardrop “coneheads”.
As far as other features in addition to the goggles go, I didn’t find helmets with any. Features I have seen in other helmets that would also be desirable are fall detection and imbedded earbuds. If I ever start to ride on roads, the turn signals and lighting that Lumos developed would be nice too. The Vanquish is very light though, and those things would add some weight, so it’s not a surprise they don’t add it.
It’s super lightweight, and I will likely notice just how light weight it is if I ever go back to something heavier.
It’s cool and breezy. It is supposed to be comparable to a teardrop helmet for reducing drag. Giro is pretty proud of it. I understand why. Some reviews do say that there are other helmets with more airflow. With my tendency toward overheating and the importance of temperature regulation through the head, I may look at some of the others if it seems like I need to when the Georgia heat season meets my century rides. This one is better than the last one though, so I’m expecting the goggles to still be the deciding feature.
The Goggles: The reason I bought it.
They’re everything I expected and I am happy. They do not rest on any part of my face and the lack of ear pieces feels pretty free, just like what I hoped for. The Zeiss logo is in my peripheral vision, just like reviews say. It would be nice not to see that, but I don’t always notice. The goggles do pop off fairly easily, but not so much in actual use, more as it is sitting it the car (unless I forget and try to scratch my nose).
It would be nice if the helmet came with a helmet bag, mostly mesh for evaporation and airflow, but a padded pocket for the goggles (or at least a goggles bag). It’s not something I usually care about, but after my second ride with it, I placed the helmet carefully in the back seat of the car. Later, a back seat passenger later put it in the floor where it got jammed into the seat adjustment rails. My new helmet that I finally bought had gouged lenses in the first week. Replacement lenses are $80. I could take it in between rides, but rides are quite frequent, and the more things that go inside, the more opportunities I have to forget to bring it back out.
I’d like to see the helmet come with more lenses. The darker ones are a bit too dark for the speckled lighting on a treed trail, especially near sunset or sunrise. They have made a lense that is mostly clear, and those new gouges would be less noticable if the clear one had been an option rather than an additional purchase. Polarized options would be nice too.
The eye protection of the visor/goggles is good enough that I open my eyes wider and relax my face much more than with sunglasses. The wider area coverage of the UV protection is a bonus too.
Air Flow Slits
The slits at the top of the goggles could prove to be an issue for me. The slits are there to wash your face in air. I’ve seen some reviews where the reviewer didn’t think the flow was enough. So far, I’ve just been using mine as the temperatures cool moving toward fall, but they do work pretty well for me. In fact, I have dry eye, so my concern is that they might work too well. My problem could be age related, or it could be the amount of riding that I’m doing. It may be manageable, but it’s something to pay attention to. The first time I built up to a century ride, we started in cold months. It caused some seriously dry lips and peeling skin that seemed way too serious to be caused by the riding. But, the dermatologist simply told me to use Aquaphor on my lips and skin. It took a while. I was doubting her, but it worked finally. I still use it.
Now I have drops from the ophthalmologist that I use before and after my rides along with some other treatments. Time will tell how well the drops work and whether or not the slits cause any more drying than I had with sunglasses. As a general rule, in the past, my vision has been better when I ride (with or without glasses). That’s probably the cardio benefit I’m experiencing. And, logically, it seems that if I’m relaxing my face and opening my eyes more, the air circulation isn’t causing a bigger problem than riding without the upper half my face covered. I looked for aerodynamic articles or video to see what the actual air flow of different configurations was, but everything I found was about reducing helmet drag for a competitive advantage and didn’t seem like information that illuminated my questions specific to air flow around the eyes. I do suspect that three slightly smaller slits, one over the nose and two over the temples might be better for me, maybe better for other people too.
The attached goggles, slits and all, provide another benefit that is, maybe, unique to me. I don’t personally like anything on my forehead, probably due in part to the sensitive skin. Since I was old enough to decide for myself, I haven’t even had bangs on my forehead. So, I tend to wear my helmet incorrectly. I’m not trying to be difficult, I’m just uncomfortable and I keep inching it up, then it seems to fit there in that wrong place. People give me grief about it, from strangers, yes, strangers, to my grandson. When they do, I fix it, a little, temporarily. Now that I’m wearing a helmet with attached goggles in a fixed location, it’s easy for me to know how far down on my forehead the helmet should actually go. My eyes go in the middle between the slits above and the bottom of the lens. If I wear it wrong, it doesn’t cover my eyes and now that feels as stupid as it looks. So, this highly advanced helmet does have an unexpected advantage for this challenged rider with user errors.
Why would I be willing to share this embarrassing fact with people I hope will support my project? Well, partly because I hope you’re laughing with me, partly because someone might benefit or learn from my mistakes, and partly because I’m just a 60 year old grandma who’s not trying to be anything except who she is. I started riding a bike before riders were expected to wear helmets (and survived the resulting concussion) and now I’m a little better at meeting safety norma than I was before I got this new helmet. I don’t so much think there are many people out there making the same exact mistake as me, but I do hope that someone looking at me doing this will say “You know, if she can do that, I can do this thing that I want to do.” and that’s more likely if I don’t pretend to be something I’m not.
Now that I’m wearing the helmet properly and lower on my forehead, I’ll need to revisit the headbands I’ve been using. I had a variety for experimentation with my other helmet to relieve the pressure and related acne I was getting along the hairline. I don’t really want to wait to see if that also happens lower down where everyone can see it.
My goal is to choose a single best option to use always, so that the only times I will need to change the helmet fit adjustments will be in the winter when I need heavier fleece cold ear protection. I bought a huge supply of Buffs and Smartwool neck gaiters for riding masked early in the pandemic (before they were found to be the least effective mask to wear, and before masks outdoors were deemed unnecessary). Worn as headbands they are helping to reduce that after ride red spot on my forehead, and they are very easy to move forward of where a normal headband would go. Yesterday, the weather was cool and breezy. It was easy to move the buff down over my ears because I don’t have earpieces anymore. I wouldn’t normally have been looking for ear protection at this temperature, but I was more comfortable having it. The neck gaiters are so versatile, but I expect I’ll be hoping to find something breezier when the summer heat rolls back around.
We took our grandson to a Saturday practice for his mountain bike team on Yonah Mountain. Rather than wait, we went over to the hiking trail and did as much as we could in the seriously limited amount of time we had before returning to pick him up. The walk reminded me that one reason building up my cycling mileage was easier the first time is that I was hiking regularly at the time. I had been thinking about the negative reasons more, like aging, but that’s not the whole story.
Sometimes my lightbulbs are a little slow to switch on, but while hiking up Yonah mountain the lack of shoulder issues and the attitude of my saddle free hips brought this decision clearly into focus. The recovery cardio needs to be a true recovery in several senses of the word, and the focus needs to be physically and mentally restorative, not the opportunity for additional video footage I was thinking of at one time. One or two centuries a week will really provide quite enough video, and we need to vary more than just our body positions on the bike. We’ll get significant benefits that keep us riding if we vary the activity as well. Recovery should be the primary purpose of recovery cardio, and with the amount of time we’ll have in the saddle, cross-training is the way to do it best.
There is a pleasant no drive option, so making the switch is not just ideal physically, it’s easily doable.There is a park with a trail near my house. Walking there and doing the loop inside then walking back is just under 5 miles. We may venture out to other places for some variety if there is available time. We live in the Georgia Piedmont Region with reasonable access to Lookout Mountain and Valley, the southern terminus of the AT and the the Blue Ridge. Some of those trails might be doable before or after a photography day which would open up some location options for the still photography.
That was the easiest decision I’ve made for the project.
Sometimes I chide myself for focusing on the wrong thing at the wrong time. I have to get funding before camera decisions decisions matter. At the same time, I need credibility as someone who has what it takes to get the job done. My blog pictures need to start looking better. So now is not too soon to make instant hand camera decisions.
I’ve spent some time now and then over a few months considering what to carry instead of the Nikon DSLR for expected stills while riding the trail. Once there is a recumbent, I may take the Nikon from time to time, but as a rule, it’s just too risky, and you know those amazing things will happen too fast on the days I have it, and there will be really glorious moments on the days don’t have it. For that quick access I’ve thought of a point and shoot or a better phone camera. I wasn’t sure. The phone cameras keep getting better and you’re more likely to have your phone handy when something happens quickly. My decision was partly made for me.
I love the Samsung Galaxy 8 Active that I had, but it was tired before I ran it through the washer and the dryer in my yoga pants pocket. The $9 a month I’ve been paying in insurance since it was new was going to get be a Galaxy 9 (not active). After the deductible, it was going to cost half the retail price to get a dated phone. The only reason I have the cell phone carrier that I do now is that it has good signal coverage in rural south Alabama where my mother lives.
I’ve mentioned my luddite tendencies, but that’s just because the budget is king in my life. If I had a more well funded lifestyle and didn’t avoid dealing with my current carrier like the pandemic, I’d update at least twice as often, probably. The current Galaxy phone is a S21 Plus. It seemed like the thing to have for a project that needs a good quickly accessible camera at the touch of a whim. A lot of the tech savvy people who participate in funding crowdsourced projects won’t relate to this, but buying the Galaxy S21 Ultra was a leap of faith, especially since the reviews said it wasn’t even as rugged as the S20. My last 2 phones were active models because I AM going to drop it. The temptation to get rid of the overpriced and useless insurance was tempting, but the phone was really expensive. I couldn’t quite make myself do it.
One of the things I love about this phone is that you can turn on “Make a RAW copy” (actually, I found out that I could have done that on my 8 Active too). That means that you can use the .jpgs for all those things that .jpgs are good for, but if you want to play around with RAW, you have that option. I haven’t bought the software for that yet. I’ll probably go with Lightroom because it is widely used, but I did see some software that was rated higher and was a one time fee, not subscription. Decisions! And, miles to go…
I hear that the next Galaxy will bring Active models back. It’s not the first time I waited through model after model to update, and finally hit critical mass just before the model that suited my uses better.
It’s not just hot, it’s been hot long enough that people are tired of it, especially here in the south. and in some places we are breaking previous heat records for highest (“reliably measured”) temperature on earth, and other extremes regularly, including highest lows.
Locally, there’s been a small respite. Hurricane Elsa, the fifth named storm of the season passed south and east of us bringing rain and some cooler temperatures, a bit of an irony, because warmer ocean temperatures favor storm formation. Elsa was the earliest named 5th storm in history.
The weather made riding hit or miss, with a few good hits. The knee pain was medium to mild, but still around, then almost gone by the time I posted this. It turned out not to be caused by the strength training. I didn’t see how it could be, but the timing made me wonder and I couldn’t think of any other reason at the time. I discovered it was actually because we didn’t get my seat height and angle properly adjusted after the musical bikes. That’s all better now. I’m still liking the new flat bike shoes and pedals, but they’re not 100% at taking care of the tingle and cramps I get in the right foot. I got rides four days in a row. After giving it a rest for a bit, it could be that no shoe would help. Irregular activity levels irritate my problem.
On one of the earlier rides, I saw a newborn fawn. It was the first time for me. As I was approaching, I thought it was a thin sick dog, but then I saw the wet, vibrant dark red brown fur with the bright white spots and thought “Oh dear, where’s Mama? I hope she knows I’m not gonna hurt her baby.” Then the fawn ran away more awkwardly than Bambi on ice. Just afterward I bought a new “flagship” phone. It might give me some better options for getting the unexpected images while riding pre “official” project start time. It’s definitely going to give me better stills without having to carry the Nikon.
I’ve been writing a lot, mostly some of the (not yet finished) posts that should be up when I launch the kickstarter. I’ve also been applying to jobs. It’s not that I can do both the project and a job. I can’t. The project is more than full time for both of us and I’m still trying to get my expected project hours per week down much closer to 40. And, it’s certainly not that I have given up on the video project. Doing something that fits my need to make a difference could be the most important thing I might do next. And, Russ could use a break from his current life to do that as much as I could. What he could really use is about 20 hours a week when he gets plenty of exercise and doesn’t have to manage the expectations of a dozen people in an hour. Really, the reason I applied is that some of the jobs I once wanted very much came floating across my laptop. They did that now. I don’t know that I’d even get an interview for any of them, but back-up plans are pretty important, especially when you’re chasing a long shot, and I may have and answer on this project before any of those companies are ready to interview, so it’s not irresponsible to apply for a job I might not be able to take. If I ever get myself into consideration for the positions in the first place, I can responsibly take myself out as soon as appropriate.
In fact, some people, people who care about me might ask why I’m even thinking of spending another year and a half pursuing unpaid work. It’s really hard to explain. Money is important. Everybody has expenses, and the more money you have, the more options you have. Options are good. I’d like more of them. At the same time, money isn’t what motivates me most in life. It’s the pursuit of whatever I’m following at the moment that lights my fire. I get it. In the world we live in, that takes money, which is why I’m planning a kickstarter. But, my great pleasures are thinking and doing and giving. I don’t get so much pleasure from earning money, I get pleasure from earning opportunities. The distinction may sound trivial, but I’d be a happy clam in a Star Trek Universe where money isn’t really a thing and science, discovery, connection and truth are not just valued, they are the whole point.
I’m thinking about these things at the same time I’ve reached that place in this project where I sometimes give up on myself. That’s not related to those back up job applications I just mentioned. Those were just the choice to have backup potential. It’s related to refining an idea so well, while at the same time keeping most of it in my own head, (and some of it here in these posts). I believe in this project strongly, but I haven’t shared many details, even among some of my closest people. Part of that is because I’m accustomed to caring deeply about more things than most of my people are even interested in knowing exist. I have written 40+ Tuesday updates, but not even Russ has read many of them. When I tell my granddaughter I need some time to work on the computer, I suspect my children assume I’m typing furiously in a FB group (which is only true sometimes :).
The isolation I feel is partly because it’s my MO to be self contained about my ideas, and it’s partly because things are so busy and stressful too. All that stress I mentioned in one of those Tuesday updates? So here’s the thing. I’ve both applied to jobs and hit my wall, both at about the same time. I probably understand my strengths and shortcomings fairly well, and I’m still spending all the time I can pursuing this project. It must be what I am supposed to do next. So, for right now, I’ll just keep plugging along and make it work.
I ended up buying new shoes just before the century. My go to pair is getting worn, making my tingly toes worse. Breaking in a new pair of shoes is not something I’d normally do for a big event, but it was time and I don’t really remember noticing a “break in” period on bike shoes.
I don’t like clips. I’m afraid I’ll forget to release in an emergency and wrench an ankle. My MTB riding grandson had mentioned I might like flats a while back. Then when we stopped by the recumbent store, the owner showed us extra large flat pedals and said that that they were good for preventing tingly toes. I hadn’t even mentioned that was an issue for me. They look a little clunky. Apparently he recommends them often and his customers love them. They’re not sleek, but I’m all about functionality and plan to follow his advice.
I was already thinking about flats when I ended up using my spare shoes. I keep my, new old stock Keens that are too narrow for me in my car for emergencies and noticed that they are wide enough in the summer with no socks. The stiff sole feels good too, but if I wear them a few times in a row without socks, they’ll start to leave rub damage on my skin. All signs were pointing to flats.
I asked the REI sales rep for something stiff and wide. I expected him to show me flats, but I was leaving the door open to learn something new. Flats it was. I needed to buy the pedals as well. These are much more comfortable to walk in too. Ask me how I know!
Training and the Hospitality Highway
I decided early in the week before the century (link is not my video) to give the Y a shot. I was riding down the Greenway thinking about driving to the Y nearest the house when I got home, but I was almost at the Y on the Greenway. So I parked my bike and went in. It was time to start going, or to stop paying for the membership after a year and a half of not using it. (It did open back up months before I decided to go.) Under current conditions (the crowding level I experienced this week, combined with the risk level of the current Covid variants status locally and my status being fully vaccinated) I plan to go weekly, hopefully 2-3 times. And, I’ll try not to get too burnt out on the chore keeping up to date with current conditions (has a variant blown through the vaccine?). I’m looking forward to getting back to strength training. It should help my shoulder, back, knees and hips, and keep me riding through more adverse circumstances. I was surprised that my knees hurt after the workout, I didn’t push it at all. I wondered if strength training after so much time without it was part of what made me feel so bad through the rest of the week, but I think it’s more likely that I took my opening to ride almost every day all month in climbing temperatures without having managed to reach an optimal weight. I’ve been busy too. I hardly know which thing to write about.
Highway 400 is apparently called the Hospitality Highway. I learned that when we picked up our t-shirts. The ride (link is not my video) was fun, the week leading up to it was not. I had a flat on Tuesday, a really difficult and draining ride on Thursday and felt bad Friday and Saturday. It wasn’t my best training week at all. I had spasms in my leg, which according to the internet could have been stress, exhaustion, dehydration or the beginning of rare and horrible things. I’m leaning toward stress and exhaustion because I’m pretty good at hydrating.
I was a bit nervous at the start of the ride. It was raining just enough to make the roads slippery. This crowd was full of energy, but crowds in general aren’t my favorite riding situation and the busy roads in areas with high population density aren’t either. I was having a little bit of that nervous feeling I had just before that time I was getting ready to rappel off the side of a waterfall. “Am I really going to do this?” was floating around in my mind, and I was remembering the time I flipped over my handle bars. Flying through the air, I wasn’t scared, I was angry. I thought I was about to miss things I had planned to do because I did something stupid. If I were to have a wreck in this pile of 1650 people, how hard and long would it be to recover? That’s the thing. It’s not the immediate pain, it’s the time you loose.
There was a young man in a Georgia Tech jersey going over safety rules with a man I soon learned was his father, saying things like “Go across the seams between lanes at an angle, don’t let your tire get a tire stuck in the crack).” I was tuned in to hear what ever I might have forgotten to think about. It was a family activity. The parents were celebrating their 39th wedding anniversary, on the day of, by participating in the ride with their sons.
The ride was good. Were were in a midlin’ good position. As we went under the overpass that was in about the middle of the freeway section, there were already large numbers of riders crossing it, and by the time we got to that place ourselves the police cruisers were pulling up the rear, one to each lane. I didn’t see this effect in any of the videos I watched, but, where I was, there were large numbers of riders with bright tail lights ahead and, from a bright red lights standpoint, it looked much like rush hour with cars on the road. I heard other cyclists remark about it too.
We crossed the Chattahoochee River twice. It was beautiful. The rain wasn’t falling at that exact moment and the early morning fog was rising from the water. I didn’t feel at liberty to give it more than a seconds worth of attention, but I made sure to appreciate that it was there for longer. There were plenty of cool sights to file away. At least one person did wreck. Russ saw a cyclist who had an accident and said there was a lot of blood coming from her head. That really surprised me because helmets usually keep that from happening.
I went up some hills with confidence building ease. We loaded the instructions for the 43 mile ride. It would pass nearby our house at the 30 mile point and we could stop if we wanted, or ride it on in if we didn’t. The last hill before the nine mile route ended is called “Mother-in-Law” (no, none of these named hills were named for men). I walked half way up Mother-in-Law and asked Russ at the top what he wanted to do. The conversation took a little longer than necessary because neither of us wanted to say it, but, we were wiped. I stuttered around and said “I only got 4 hours sleep last night.” We went home and showered and napped, then went back to listen to bands and cheer the 100 milers in. Like most things I start thinking “Am I really going to do this?”, I was glad that I did. After I work my way through this video project, it would be fun to look for some other challenging centuries to ride. I’m sure this particular century will have a new home by then.
“Crickets”, people say that to indicate a lack of response. Shortly after moving back home for a bit, my son asked me if we were playing cricket sounds in the bedroom. I laughed. We are. I’ve been falling asleep to the sound of crickets for months now. At our old house, only 8 miles away (and almost every other home I’ve lived in) the real crickets outside were really loud. We had an exchange student once, she asked what the noise was. The background noise was so constant that she had to take me outside and point at nothing in particular before I understood her question.
At our current house, where the phrases “front yard must be bermuda or zoysia grass” and “open like a golf course” are in the HOA Guidelines, the neighbors use yard chemical services and the crickets are now faked on a meditation audio. (The reasons I moved here were good, but the fit wasn’t a natural one).
Russ and I have been skipping around with guided and unguided meditations. His default often goes to unguided abstract music, but as I’ve read more articles about the benefits of nature sounds and coming across articles about forest bathing I thought about crickets. They are the background music of my life. And, I have been sleeping better.
I’ve been riding at Big Creek because the streambed is cooler and it allows me to ride at more different times of day. The leftovers of a tropical depression are drifting by though, and the weather service flood warnings started 2 days before the rain actually got here. Urban flooding is a problem in Atlanta and the surrounding areas. Really it’s a problem in all places where there is a lot of impervious pavement. It’s a problem for Big Creek too, and, while many people who walk short distances will get to use the Greenway there sooner, I won’t ride there or even check the conditions again for at least a week after the rainfall stops. It takes that long for the waters (which during flooding sometimes contain sewage overflow) recede in more places.
Watching the weather is something I didn’t come by naturally. I’ve alway been the “Yes, there’s weather.” girl who didn’t pay much attention, but it’s something Russ and I both do frequently now. Russ does it for his work. I started when I got into ballooning, continued through a few Georgia droughts, and I do it now for the bike rides. Often the local weather forecast will be for more rain or greated chances of rain when I look the day before a ride, and by the morning of the ride, things have changed enough to meet my parameters for a ride. I recently had a week when I didn’t think I’d be able to ride at all, and rode nearly every day. They weren’t all dry rides, but it was fine. Not getting rain that was in the forecast has been something I’ve noticed frequently over the years. Forecasts that that always seem to change in the same direction make me wonder if Heat Island effects on precipitation are being fully accounted for in the model.
Regardless, today I’ve got the weather when it wasn’t expected, so, I can write about everything else later. It’s time to stop writing and start riding.
There is the matter of that century I signed up for… the 400 Century. The first 3 miles are on a large limited access divided highway. That’s what even the 9 milers are signed up for, to get to go faster down that stretch of concrete on their bikes than they do in their cars. Those who finish the whole ride will also do 97 miles of local roads that I choose not to ride on under any other circumstances, after having made a few exceptions over the last 30 years. If getting chased by the Great Dane was the worst of it, I might ride these roads normally. It’s more the near misses and the times I got yelled at because drivers don’t want to share the road (and you know the kind of profane ugliness that comes with the road rage of the frustrated American driver). I only signed up for the century because it was the last time there would be a ride on 400 due to construction and it’s on that pesky bucket list of mine. It’s so hard to watch a bucket list item go away and do nothing.
In truth, conditions have improved with the advocacy of groups like the ABC, Bike Cobb, Bike Alpharetta, Bike Roswell, and others, but it hasn’t been too long since I went to a town meeting where a planning official was being abusively berated at length by an angry driver that didn’t want bike lanes. We still have far to go. Rage is a dangerous thing, more dangerous when you’re not the one in a 3000 lb vehicle. I’ll be safer in a large group activity with support, but riding these roads is not my comfort zone.
To prep for this discomfort that I not only willingly signed up for, but also dragged Russ into, I decided that on days when I don’t ride (the trail), I should go out and practice “the sisters”, those challenging hills on the century that are right out my back door. So, I went over to Big Sister. Usually when I’m on that hill, I’m walking and it’s easy to forget how long the hill stretches out. I ride flat rail trails and stream beds. I deal with hills by building momentum. But, you lose momentum at the stop sign, and even if there wasn’t one, momentum doesn’t last through a long slow grade.
After walking up Big Sister with my bike, I came home to check published elevations to see if I was initially wrong when I guessed the Big Sister was not a higher climb than Trash Mountain (The biggest elevation change on the Silver Comet, graced by the scent of the adjacent landfill. It’s built in a place where railway right-of-way wasn’t available during construction, so it’s the “real hill” on the Silver Comet). The Big Sister and Trash Mountain are comparable in elevation gain, the whole difference (to me) is in the distance the incline is spread across on Big Sister.
I noticed something else while I had the elevations up. The Sisters didn’t really stand out so much on the graph. There are a lot of hills on the ride. It’s just that the sisters come nearer the end when riders are tired.
When I first started to write this piece, I was talking about needing to train a lot and maybe even completing the whole century. I haven’t really done that level of training. I kept riding through the family trip and the musical bike repairs pretty well, but it turned out to be maintenance, not century training. In most ways, this century is irrelevant to the video project. The timing and requirements are different, but I thought throwing it into the mix would make me a stronger rider. Now, I’m looking at the ride being next weekend, and it’s taken a lot of effort just to ride at all. On top of that, there’s time of year. If you look at a temperature graph of Atlanta, the highs peak right about when the ride is scheduled, stay high through July and start to break around the first week in August. Heat is not my comfort zone either.
Of course, I knew this, and was remembering this, when I signed up. Awareness doesn’t keep it from being a pretty big deal though. I can’t just ignore it. My biggest limitation in riding is heat tolerance. When I get overheated, I get a migraine (unless it’s actually heat stroke, IKR?). I have a tell. When my face looks red, I’m still fine, but when it feels red, when I feel intense heat on my face, that’s when I need to quit and take aspirin, or suffer. I got right up on the edge during a ride a few weeks ago. I stopped when I needed to. It happened to be at the end of my ride. I didn’t take the aspirin though. My face had just started to feel red. I didn’t feel like the terrible symptoms were coming. They didn’t. That made me feel pretty good. I hope it was because I’m more fit (or maybe I just stopped at the right time).
Regardless, I’ve been pushing my heat tolerance all month because the century will be hot. That push is beginning to wear on me. Some days I’ve been tired enough not to do anything very physical except my ride. It’s time to go back to riding in the cooler temps and quit pushing the heat limits. This century will be cool at 7AM when it starts and will heat up later when I’m tired. I’m going to have to treat this as a fun diversion and make sure I don’t stress my body on a level that will cost me in the end. It would have been nice to make this last (and my first) 400 Century Ride a full century for me, but as I look at it from a week out, I’m having to face that for this ride on this day, that’s not going to be the smart choice. That’s ok. It will still be a glorious day.