Friday, November 4, 2011

A Ride Report In Three Parts: Part Four

A Century is A Lot
I got sidetracked halfway through yesterday's Blog and started telling the heartwarming tale of the Family Life of Old Tim Joe, for what it is worth...but I also left myself stranded without beer or succor way up in Ponce Inlet, about thirty miles from the Whispering Pines Trailer Park. The ride did not end there. I had Miles to Go and there was a certain darkening to the sky that made me think I better go those miles pretty quick. The day was getting late and my business and reminiscing about Days Gone By was done and I was more that ready to leave the past behind and hustle on South to yet another little Market where there would be beer and peanuts and a quick sprint home.

Florida Climb
Florida ain't much for hills but we do have these artificial hills called bridges and the big ones are pretty big and I am on one now, climbing and spinning and going pretty quick considering how many miles I have traveled today, but it has been a segmented journey so filled with good moments and swift riding and short breaks that I don't feel a thing. I'm riding Me Little Darlin', a 1981 Schwinn Super Le Tour that I got from Coyote for twenty dollars, but there is considerably more money in her now. Early last summer, I installed a Mavic 36 Spoke Open Sport rim with a Tiagra hub. I also put on a Sram cassette and a new Sram chain and listen, those Were Dollars So Well Spent that I wish I could spend them again, but it may never happen. After 1500 miles or more they look and feel the same as they did the day they came off the truck. The Kenda Kwest tire I put on is showing just a little wear and all things considered I can only report Absolute Satisfaction with these products.

But right now I am descending on the down hill side of this big bridge and going pretty fast and there is something happening with the road surface. It is pretty rough and I just remembered that this is the original 27” front wheel with the rusty spokes and Kmart tire and is this safe?

Something New, Something Old
Sure, why not? I retained the big old wheel because I liked the way it looked and I get a kick out of doing things that might shock the purists; but also my brain tells me that this big thirty-six spoke rim is probably doing more than a little to create this super smooth ride that I get when out ramblin' about on Me Darlin.' Whatever the case, I made it just fine and cut left onto the river road again and it is only ten miles to the beer store and that blessed wind that has held steady out of the Northeast all day has cooled now in the late afternoon and has shifted slightly to the North and this will be a sleigh ride home with a cool, hard tailwind and a heart full of memories and joy of life.

Mumbles the Clown
I put the hammer down and blast those ten miles like nothin' and there it is, the Nova Road market and I dash inside to grab a Foster's and some more honey roasted peanuts. I really love those things. At the counter the cute teenage girl clerk wants to chat. I notice my hands are shaking a little and that I find it hard to speak. I am in Long Road Mode and I realize that I have not spoken out loud in hours and suddenly I feel the effect of almost ninety miles of pedaling my bicycle. I nod spasmodically and mumble at the clerk who now thinks I am a Challenged Person (which I am, sometimes) and then I step outside and I go over to the bike. I stash my peanuts and my beer into my messenger bag and I look at the sky. It is clear enough for now; there are only twelve easy miles left to go and I have a beer break coming up so it will be alright.

The Afternoon Break
I swing a leg over and hit a couple licks on the pedals and once again I am gliding. On days like this I feel more natural while pedaling than I do when I am standing and walking. The bicycle is part of me, or I am part of the bicycle;  it is a thing that is hard to define. I'm pushing hard, stroking steady and smooth in front of that following breeze and now I am crossing these three little bridges that will take me Home. Just on the other side of the third Little Bridge is a secret Creek-Side Clearing that houses the Homeless on occasion and sometimes serves as a Break Room for a certain Trailer Park Cyclist when he is Homeward Bound from a Journey to the North.

 Here it is a Quiet Spot and only six easy downwind miles to the Whispering  Pines Trailer Park and listen:  it makes all the difference,  stopping here.   Stopping here to stretch, fuel up on beer and honey-roasted peanuts is just what I need to get me through to the end. One  Hundred Miles Is A Lot.  One hundred is a lot of miles,  but not really;  today one hundred miles is hardly enough.  Right now  I'm sitting here At Peace and In the Moment;  right now I'm sitting here by Side of Stream: sitting here in the Here and Now  and being the good Zen Monkey I one day hope to become.  I am  Stopping By Stream, I am breathing, sipping the cold Foster's Beer and chomping on peanuts. I am  chewing them really good, so that they can  get in there and do their job. I need that juice now! I am  having a staring contest with a small school of fish that are just a few feet away, wondering who I am and what I am doing.

No Getting Out Of the Philosophizing
Which brings up a point that has beleaguered my brain for Lo These Many Weeks. What is a Century? It finally soaked through to my sometimes almost impenetrable conciousness that what I am calling "Riding a Century" is actually “Riding a Hundred Miles.” An actual Century is a group ride, and organized event. I guess. I really don't know. Nor do I care.

They Came From Outer Space
I saw some comment somewhere saying something to the effect about trying to finish a century ride in five hours, which of course is an average of twenty miles per hour. Now, in a group, working together, why not? But it sounds stressful to me. It makes me think of Responsibility and Concentration and a certain Regimented Procedure and it sounds like trying not to crash into the other guy's wheel and having to watch where you blow snot and worst of all, trying to “chat” and be a Good Fellow.

Not that there is anything wrong with all that. I've never done it, although I suppose it is inescapable and some day I will find myself in a group of guys wearing space-man suits and saying manly things and talking about stocks and hedge funds and carboluminum, even though I don't have any of those things and never will, by plan and design.

But What About Tim Joe?
But what I call a Century is something else. I may have to rename it. The Homeless Century. Those Homeless Guys you see out there on their bicycles are not out riding for exercise. They are not really riding to get someplace, either. What they are doing is Living On Their Bikes. They have no where else to properly be, except to sit in some stand of trees where their tents are and where they sleep. So they spend most of their day on their bicycles because once they stop moving, sooner or later they will encounter the police.

Don't ask me how I know all this.

How I Do It
 This is not a Homeless Rant. I know a lot of those guys and most of them know what they are doing, they know what they are doing and why they are living the way they are living.  It might surprise some of you to know that they like it just fine and that they see some of you as the victims of society.  But for now, let us set that aside. What I am trying to say here is that over the last few months I have fallen into the trap of being a Conscious Cyclist, of thinking about speed and cadence and carboluminum and Shimano and Sram. And while all of this thinking was made necessary by the many long miles that I have been riding in the Year of our Lord 2011, I fear that it has caused me to think of Me Darlin' Schwinn as a machine and myself as a cyclist. She used to be my Easy Chair where I would relax on Long Summer Sundays while I lounged about the countryside that surrounds my home. The casual observer would see a rather bedraggled old guy out pedaling around on quiet roads alone, but I was never alone, as you can see. I was riding with old friends who are gone and thinking about friends who are here. I was sneaking up on wildlife to whom I was no threat. I won't be making any road kill today.

The best parts of my long bicycle journeys are the moments like this one, where I pull off on my stealth machine into a small clearing at creekside and enjoy a well-earned beer and reflect on the day.  Many, many  times at this spot I have wanted to keep going.  I did not want the Ride to Stop. But the Ride never really stops.  The Ride never really stops if you are doing it right.

I think I will call it a Free Century.

And Then,  Home
So that's it! Six easy miles and I will be home. Slightly more than a hundred miles, but when you ride a Free Century, nobody's counting. I will pedal on back to the Park and hopefully Uncle Bill has stoked the fire in the Quasitron 6000 Steam-Powered Search Engine and hopefully he left me a couple cold ribs and some of the potato salad in the fridge. Remember, it is still Sunday Afternoon at Whispering Pines Trailer Park,  Where Time Stands Still. And I know those ribs will be there and I know Cold Beer will be there too, because that is how Uncle Bill (one of the friends still here) Rocks and yeah,  that is How I Rock Too.  Thanks for staying with me,  my friends!

By the Way:  Happy Birthday Uncle Bill!

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Rib Shack


  1. Bro you have really been spoiling us with the frequency of posts recently, and all of them excellent as usual. As I was reading your musing about what to call your 100 mile ride the thought "casual century" came to me but it seemed to some how cheapen the effort. Kind of like the rare occasion when I would beat my eldest brother at a game and he would remark he "wasn't trying my hardest" (LOL). And then I got to the end and read "Free Century" and it made me smile, it sounded so right. About 3 years ago I realized that "Training" so I could go faster was sucking the fun out of riding and that pissed me off. So I dropped the training, ditched the heart rate monitor, made a point to ride for no reason, to stop when I saw something worth stopping for, to not worry about riding clothes, and finally to ditch the alum-carb too small road bike for old school steel. My smiles per mile went through the roof and I worry a whole lot less about my MPH. Keep them Centuries Free Velo Brother.


  2. TJ,

    Yes. Never really put it into actual words, but you did - "I feel more natural while pedaling than I do standing and walking". When my heads in the right place and all cylinders fire I get that feeling. Even though I have the grace of a concrete block, on the bike I can lean into that turn, lift out of the saddle a bit and lift over those roots - and I feel like a gazelle, pulling away from the last burst of speed that bad ol' cheetah has, coursing away, fluid.

    And I love the Free Century idea. Makes it seem more worthwhile to spend 100 miles on the road. I get what Roady Ryan says too, about getting that "training" mindset and having it suck the fun out of riding. What makes it really worthwhile in the end, is it makes me feel like a kid again - just about the only thing that I can still do that brings it back.

    Ride on guys. Pedal a mile for me while I'm grounded.

    Steve Z

  3. training and racing does suck the fun out of pedaling. great post tj...

  4. Steve Z: I just want you to heal up so one day we can slam around together on two wheels. Give yourself lots of quiet time now, 'cause there ain't nothin' quiet when I'm around.

    Judi: It is always an honor when you drop by. Paypal me 5 bucks and I'll shoot ya some life changing Uncle Bill's Sauce.

    RoadieRyan, My Brother: Without you, The TPC would still be a voice crying alone in the wilderness. Anything, anytime, anywhere.

  5. TJ, I just wanted to say how much I thoroughly enjoy reading you posts. I've gone back and read them all to catch up with what you've had to say. While I'm no where near able to do a century now, I get the same feeling on the bike. The freedom, the feeling like a kid again. Keep pedaling and keep writing - you do both very well.

  6. TJ, I loved this post. I'm the other side of the coin. I love structure, training plans, and analyzing my results. I just ended my race season and have been riding for fun for the past couple months. I've had loads of fun, made new friends in the group rides, and felt super fast compared to the folks who don't race (which really stokes my ego) ... but I can see my fitness is diminishing. It drives me crazy. I long for the structure of working toward a goal again. As I begin training for my 2012 season, I will keep reading your blog and see if it illicits a need for fun rides. I know there will come a point when I will stop training and racing, and go back to just riding my bike. That was what I did when I fell in love with biking, and I know that's what I will return to.

  7. It goes both ways, Angie. You are an athlete and that is what makes the difference. By the way, have you been to Judi's place, Miles and Madness? I think you might like some of the things she has to say. I know I do. TJ

  8. I like it! Thanks. I'm starting at the beginning.

  9. Gotta catch up with you TJ! I just started a post in parts without even seeing yours. Great minds must think alike! LOL
    I see I've got reading to do from the 'park. I'll keep ya posted.