Sunday, October 30, 2005

Hot Springs, now that's a good climb

Saturday started like no Saturday I've had in a looooong time! I got up and had coffee and slowly eased into the morning. No bike ride or training to do! What a weird feeling. Sort of like skipping work or something.

Terri and I went down to Hot Springs and stopped to visit my folks in Benton on the way. They were telling us about that my sister Donna and her husband had taken them down to Hot Springs the day before and had gone to a WWII airplane exhibit and was interviewed by the newspaper. We picked up a paper in Hot Springs and low and behold there is my Dad and several WWII airplanes on the front cover of the paper!

We returned from Hot Springs a little while ago. Get quick trip over and she visited with the hotel staff regarding booking a convention and she did the spa thing. We had a nice dinner at Brick House. Terri's steak was great and my prime rib was the pits! Plus a guy was walking through the place at dinner time with a ladder and turned and hit me in the back of the head. I couldn't help but laugh.

After dinner we went up to the top of West Mountain and caught the very end of the sunset. What a beautiful way to end daylight savings. HA!

I got up early this morning and showered and got ready to ride before Terri got up but realized I didn't have anything to eat. I snuck out into the room and got a cookie that was part of the welcome basket and made coffee in the little coffee pot in the bathroom and sat on the side of the tub in my cycling gear eating cookies and drinking coffee. Hey, ya gotta do with what you have. Right?!

I slipped out of the room around 7 and headed to West Mountian. Beautiful morning with a hint of fall all around. The hickory trees are turning yellow and the dogwoods deep red. White tail deer gazed along the side of the road keeping their kids close by. It was a great couple of climbs.

Then got on Central Ave and turned by the Arlington Hotel and up to East Mountain. I like it better because the road is one way. No that there were hardly any cars anyway. Passed a couple of runners challenging the mountain as well. Got up to the lookout tower and then down and back up again then when around the north loop.

Got back to the hotel and Terri was up and getting ready. I showered and got into weekend clothes and we headed over to Perkins restaurant to eat. Great breakfast!

Terri said that Emily had talked to Tyler earlier and sounds like he is staying in Denver after graduation. She said she still expects him home for Christmas every year still. I do too!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Happy 50th birthday Wayne!

The Fast Girls and Slow Guys had it's last after work Tuesday/Thursday ride yesterday. It was actually sort of sad that the summer is coming to an end. But as predicted we went out in a blaze of glory!

We tinkered around till almost six rather than starting at 5:45. Rolled out and right off the bat there was hammering going on. No warming up tonight. Stayed at around 20 through the woods and slowed for a moment to cross the short wood bridge then up again. Wayne, the birthday boy, pulled. Yale attacked. Chris then pulled and got us going around a steady 22mph. I took the pull next and took us on down to the river park and then do as I always do and that's pull over to the left and watch as they try and kill each other in a sprint to the bridge. Lord help any walkers that see this train coming!

We stopped for just a few and began the 7.5 mile ride back. Everyone was talking and having a good time while rolling along about 21mph. Open to the open road and Chris cuts loose and takes us to 24. I really need a drink due to dry throat. Chris pulls off and his wife Jennifer (very strong rider) takes us on and bam... Mark attacks. Bro, we are already at 24!!!! The breakaway group slows on up the road as we catch them. Once again we are all bunched up. No real order, just good time. We get just below the cliffs and I pull us around, down and across the long wooden bridge to Burns Park golf course. That's it, need a minute to recover. We all group together and fly down to the river and across by the soccer fields, the hay field and then the small wooden bridge. It's dark now and even darker as we gear up to hammer the last of the path to our cars. "Deer ahead!" the shouts come. The herd run over across without bothering us and the break away group start to crank it up. Mark... Bill... Chr---- DEEEEEEEERRRR!!!!! AHHH!!!! The deer fly out to the right of Chris and he barely dodges. Oh crap another runs between Chris and I. I lock it up and lean to try and slide off the path and feel a slight shift of my back tire. It felt as if the deer rubbed the back tire or maybe I hit a crack in the road or a stick. Then the laughter started. Chris and I laughed so hard and so loud mainly because of our good fortune that we were still on our bikes rather than bloodied on the path. What a rush!

We all got back to Cook's Landing where our cars were parked still laughing and cutting up. Bikes get loaded and we all head over to get pizza, chips & salsa and drinks in Maumelle. Jennifer had gotten the table all set up for Wayne's 50th and made him wear a pink boa, Mardi Gras beads and a funky hat that's a big birthday cake. What a hoot! We give him cards, goodies and a gift certificate from Chainwheel.

We talk about what we'll do now. Winter's coming and we want to continue the fun and friendship we've built throughout the summer so we're going to try and spin in the fitness center on Tuesday/Thursday nights. There's never anyone there after 6:30 so it shouldn't be a problem. This way come the return of daylight savings in 2006, we'll still be is pretty good shape.

All in all it's been an incredible summer of riding! At the moment I'm 117.63 miles away form knocking off 5,000 miles for 2005 and I still have 2 months left! Never in a million years would I have thought I'd do something like this. It's the first sport that I have ever really had a compassion for and excelled in.

I'm not patting myself on the back, just stating a fact about myself and sports. Ask me about who is the current quarterback for Seahawks? I don't have a clue. How many points did Kobe shoot in the last game? How should I know? But ask me about bike racing and, yep, I can tell you about Basso, Levi, Ullrich, Mayo and Lance. I can tell you that Hunter and Donnie are the strongest Carve riders locally. I can tell you that Brice Jones lives in the heights and rides for Jelly Belly. I can tell you that Healthnet ruled the bike race world in the US. I can tell you that Colorado has the best collegiate cycling team.

I think I like this sport because it gives you freedom. Pick a road and go ride. Go explore. See the sights, feel the air, smell the smells of autumn. You can go in a group and laugh and cut up or get serious and work on skills. You can go solo and think about life, set goals or just unwind. You can ride on flatland or you can challenge a mountain.

Yes, it's been a wonder cycling year ... so far!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

It's the same as jackhammering your head

Friends, about once a year I get a migrane. Yesterday my lotto number was drawn. About lunch time I started getting tunnel vision then about 3 the monster unleashed the fury! At 4:15 I left the office and drove home with both hands on the wheel and white knuckles. At 4:45 I walked in, kissed my wife and crashed on the bed...still with suit jacket and wingtips on! I'm so glad I only have these train wrecks about once a year and I really feel for those that get them often.

Tonight will be the last "Fast Girls and Slow Guys" club ride at least after work version. With daylight savings about to hit the after work rides will be very limited. This is sad because our little club has had a blast this summer. I've learned a lot about group riding and being an inch off someone's back tire without killing us all. But the last ride will be one of the best no doubt. Wayne is 50 today and we'll go out in style... mad man hammerfest to the finish! But we've all opted to let Old Wayne finish first, even though it's against the hammerheads code of unethics! HA! And I have a new back tire so I'm sure that will make me go faster!

Oh yeah, we are really having fall now! It got cold the past few nights. Terri will push me to build a fire in the fireplace very soon and is already after me to buy wood. I have to admit, I love the fireplace too!

Also Terri go the kitchen table refinished and it looks brand new. It's been nice to eat at the table again. I'll go though the "No, we're not eating in the den in front of the TV" withdrawal now.

Terri and I are going to Hot Springs Saturday afternoon and I hit my buddy Gary up for best places to eat. He's from there and still keeps a place down there but also bought a place in LR when the gas went through the roof.

I finished reading a book called A Walk through the Woods by Bill Bryson. It's a hoot! It's a journal of a guy that hikes the Applilation (sp?) Trail from Georgia to Maine. A friend of his goes with him named Katz and what a pro-hiker he is ... not! It's also one of my neice Shannon's favorite books. I see why!

I received word that our ACH jersey order is heading our way! There were a lot of folks that wanted to get ACH cycling gear so we got all sorts of stuff! I'll be able to have the whole ACH kit as it's known (Uniform). Socks, gloves, long sleeve jersey, shorts! All custom for us! I can't wait for Bike to Work next May... we'll look snappy if I say so myself!

Well y'all go have a good day and don't forget to laugh at yourself because we're all laughing at you! :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Planning for the big graduation in Denver

The clock is ticking and Tyler will be graduating in just a few weeks but right now he is in a heavy load! He has classes, plus a job, plus an internship, plus the decision of staying in Denver or returning to Little Rock. What a load on a young man. We'll know in a few weeks if he will be staying. Either way, he'll move out of the apartment he's in.

I've recooped from the Austin ride so I'm good to go but got an earthquake of a headache today so I'm heading to the house instead. I must ride tomorrow, I must ride tomorrow, I must ride tomorrow!!!

I finished my annual hospital physical a little while ago and was ticked that I weigh in at 172! I've been at or below 168 for a while now. With winter coming and less rides I'm going to really have to watch it. If I keep eating like I am now, I'll be whale biker.

Now what's up with those Astro's? Come on guys!

Terri and I are going to Hot Springs Saturday night. We're going to stop by my folks house in Benton and visit a little before going on down. If Terri sleeps in Sunday morning then I'm going to take my bike out and go ride up by the Arlington to the lookout tower. Heard it was a good climb. I need it!

In general, life is good...

Monday, October 24, 2005

I want to be a TEXAN!

Austin, Texas! What a town! I would move there in a heartbeat if the weather was like it was this past weekend. My nephew Jim lives just outside of there and I’ve heard him talking about the heat but still what a town! Everyone was very friendly and laid back.

We got to Austin about 6 and got checked in to the Embassy Suites and it was a really nice hotel! Super staff! After unloading we got directions to the Oasis restaurant. Now that’s a cool place if there was one. There are 40 decks and it’s where Austin goes to watch the sunset and now I know why! What a view! I had fish taco’s that were the best! I ordered mind without peppers and Rance didn’t. He also didn’t have any liquid in front of him except a rum and diet coke so he had to suffer until the waiter returned. It was worth it! The boy was sweating! We got back to the hotel and Rance has what’s called Papaw syndrome. He goes to bed very early. 9 o’clock on Friday night in Austin Texas and he’s ready for bed. It gets worse too! Saturday night he was in bed by 8:30 and Sunday night by 7:30. I kid you not. I played nice and watched TV and read a book.

Saturday morning we watched some of the crit races going on downtown and in the shade with the wind blowing through the buildings it was a little nippy but I love the races! We then went over to Livestrong village and picked up our packets and wandered through the expo. Lots of cool stuff.

Saturday evening was carb up at Macroni Grill. I had some chicken and portabello dish that was great!

Sunday was up early and out to the ride. Austin is at the late end of central time zone so it wasn’t sunrise till 7:30. It was really cool because when we were going out there you could see the event way off from the interstate. I told Rance it reminded me of Field of Dreams when they finally see the lights of the baseball field. What made it funnier was after we turned off the interstate it was a hill and a single file line of car lights. They built it and we came!

So Lance Armstrong spoke for a minute and then the ride started. My group didn’t get released for almost 30 minutes after the start. It takes a while to get 7,000 bikes out on the road safely. The first 20 miles was just a trail to see if you hit anyone. I was never really by myself until about 75 miles into the ride. Even then I could always see people.

I had a couple of flats. The first one at about 60 miles and the second around 82. I was working on the second when the support assistance crew came by. They were everywhere and always ready to help if you needed them. I really bummed out mentally on the second one because I was working toward a time to finish and I was going to go way over. And all the people I worked so hard to pass were all passing me while I changed the tube.

I made it to the almost to the end and then we had to turn and go up a hill into the area where the finish line was and as I turned a gust of wind, which I heard was 30 miles per hour, was hitting me directly head on! A hill and the wind!

But after the flats and the brutal wind there was a welcome that I’ll never forget! As I turned the final turn I heard a lot of folks cheering and I thought to myself that there must be a cancer survivor coming through but when I looked around, I was the only one there! All these folks were cheering for ME!!! They were holding their hands out for high hands, ringing cow bells and really making it a memory ending!

… and for that I say, THANK YOU AUSTIN!

Monday, October 17, 2005

And it's a good day to ride!

Ok, I admit, I stayed off the bike yesterday. Y'all know I've done that a day here and there. It was Dad's birthday so I spent the day with him. Ride before church? Yea, I could have but didn't. Ride after Dad's birthday party? Yea, could have but I didn't. Serious, I woke up feeling really good after the Ride for a Better Life ride on Saturday. That was one of those rides I really enjoyed.

I did mean to mention the "hill" on the ride. It was funny! We started going up a hill and there was writing on the road that just said "Hill" and a smiling face. My first thought was there must be a long hill or something you couldn't see coming up. I watched the guys in front and noticed they really weren't holding back to much to have done this hill before or no one was local. The next thing I know there's a note on the road "You made it". I snickered as well as the others as we all saw it. The folks that put on the event had a sense of humor and that always helps!

Also, I heard this morning that a rider had gone down along the way and was airlifted. He had broken ribs and liver laceration as well as collapsed lung but reports were that he was stable now. This must have happened after I left the ride. I hope he continues to recover.

I'm starting to get excited about Austin, TX!! Everyone has told me about all the cool stuff to see and do. They've told me about a pancake place to go to, about the bats, about how everything is orange, about 6th street, about some world grocery store where you can sample all this weird stuff, and about that I was going to have a blast! Rance and I are leaving about 9 Friday morning to drive down and should arrive in Austin about 6. Saturday is packet pick up day and there is a great crit race through downtown and rumors of some pros racing! Sunday morning is the ride.

I will be riding in celebration for a friend from church named Kathy. She's a real sweetheart and has beat cancer! Yep, she went through the whole deal and she won! She will be here in LR on Saturday walking in the Komen Race for the Cure with the other about 40,000 ladies walking. It's a cool thing to just go and cheer on the gals! We have a deal where the guys line up and it's called "Three Miles of Men". As the week progresses everything in downtown LR turns pink! It's really a cool way to honor, celebrate and remember those who fight cancer.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

For a better life

I came across a flyer for a ride in Jonesboro some time ago for the counseling center there that's part of the Southwest Church of Christ so I thought it would be fun to go back to Jonesboro and ride some of the area I'd ridden before. This was the year's best ride goody bag! We got gym bags (rather than the usual plastic bags) with a t-shirt, bandana, first aid kit, a book, pens, electrolytes replacement packets, cups, CD holder, and another bag filled with all sorts of stuff I haven't opened yet.

I got to the church about 8:20 after leaving my house a little after 6 a.m. The sunrise out on the fields was a beautiful way to greet the day ahead. Lots of riders there. The unusual part was how many Specialized brand bikes were there. There was even a Specialized tent! I rode around the parking lot a few times to loosen up and a few other guys came out and joined me. 9 o'clock came and they got us all together and made announcements and the "road is not closed for the ride so be careful" speech.

We take off and straight out of the gate I see we have some strong riders. We go through the downtown area and there are these brick pavers about every half block. They were rough but I didn't see anyone fall. There were people on the sidewalks cheering us one as we rode through. That was cool! We then head out through the subs and to the country.

We were challenged with wind and train tracks! Every since my wreck, I hate train tracks. I still pull out of a paceline when we come to the tracks. We have a small break away group of about 20 guys and going along at a nice 21-23 mph pace. I will tell you that these guys were competing for spots. There were times when I really thought I would have to pay someone to get back into the line.
So anyway, we are moving along and I realize the group is getting smaller and smaller. We are dropping guys like flies. What's up with this I wonder?!

I pass a rest stop and then take a curve and then I was solo except for the few folks about 50 yards ahead of me. They just hit the field crossing and the wind is popping us hard cross ways. I feel my bike leaning into the wind. That's always a strange feeling. Another guy comes along and we ride together for a talking as we start to gain a little on the 2 guys up ahead. We finally catch up and make a group of 4. There is a guy that was wearing a red jersey and this man could pull like Rob Carr does. The guys just seems to push the wind out of the way and rides right through. At one time when I was behind him I noticed he was starting to have salt lines across the top of his shorts. Pulling like that would do it.

So we are moving along good and we catch up with a couple other men. Ok, I have to tell you about these next two guys. When the ride first started there was this older guy on a Rock Hopper mountain bike. Had the VW/Rock Shox jersey and all. I thought ok, he'll drop before long on that fat tire bike. But here's the deal. No one would pass him at the start. He was someone special because I could tell easily from the way the local riders were treating him. So here we are about 50 miles into the ride and the guy had gotten way ahead. He was somebody alright! I hope I'm like him when I'm his age! We all took turns pulling and stayed together and took it on home. Even though it was not a competition we were the first back and I was number 6 in! Not bad!

I blew every rest stop today since I had my own food in my jersey and a water and Gatoraid Endurance in the bottles.

I said my goodbyes and thanked the volunteers and called Terri to let her know I was safe and on my way home.

Got to the house, showered and had a bite to eat. Asleep on the sofa for about an hour and when I got up my leg said "cramp baby!!" Ouch ouch ouch... I can hear it now..."Geo, if you would have stopped at a rest stop.."

I watched some of the TX vs. CO game. TX whipped the Buff's. I really like CO for there cycling team. There have been some star riders come out of that school. What's going to be fun is to read Jim's blog about them going to the TX game. I hope Trae got to go and cheer.

Friday, October 14, 2005

You did what??!!!

I had a "meeting" this morning. Man, it was a great "meeting" too! I was so stuffed with "knowledge" by the time we left Ozark Smokehouse... uh, I meant our "meeting". Actually I met with a recruiter from another firm and we ate and talked business. Ok the honest truth was that Rance, Kim and I met and had breakfast.

I rode with the guys last night and Mark was riding strong to have had surgery 3 weeks ago. I really wanted to work hard for the team so I pulled for long stretches at 21-23 mph. My new cleats work really well. When we were coming back Mark and I broke away from the group and cut loose! When we got back to the parking lot and didn't even see the crew coming up the road yet, we gave each other the smashing fist high five! Mark is a great guy that goes to Fellowship and rides for Carve too (I think). I hope I can keep my level up to continue to ride at his pace.

Tonight is Sylvan Hills homecoming. I hope the guys pull a win tonight. they need one! One of Emily's bud's was at the house last night . Boles is a terrific baseball player and an all around good guy. He came by to show us his senior photos and they are great. Anyway, he was going on about how the football team gets this that and homecoming, etc. I looked at him in the eye and said but Boles, you guys got a 5A state title and that's worth at lot more than homecoming. He agreed. Maybe this year we can find some stuff to help them like some sort of event like homecoming. Try outs are 1st week of Jan and games start in Late Feb. Ahhh yes, those baseball games where you freeze to death. I'm proud of our Bear Baseball!

I'll probably miss tonight's ballgame due to Terri working a booth selling these really cool bear blankets and Emily will be down in the student crowd. I've got to be really to ride in Jonesboro.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

October baseball

All I can say is ASTROS!!!! I always pull for the underdog and I've got a really bad feeling that I'm about to be tossed from my family. The Card's are an Arkansas team. Well we used to be part of their "farm" but we belong to the Angels now.

One of my favorite childhood memories is getting to go to an Astros game in Houston. Astros vs LA Dodgers. I was 11 and it was a part of a trip to Astroworld in Houston. Sometimes parents have no idea that some small is a huge memory.

My son Tyler told me once that he loved it when we went to Disney one spring break because we all acted different and had a blast. Actually it was when we were all going through a hard time and Tyler asked me why I didn't act like I did when we were at Disney... "we were friends that day." That statement broke my heart but like I said, we were doing hardtime. I try to make better memories for my kids now.

I got replacement cleats for my bike shoes and Bruce (owner of the Chainwheel bike shop) said I had worn those cleats completely down. It took me an hour to change them out due to the wear was all the way to the screws. Now they are probably so tight that I'll be locked in and fall when I stop.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Therapy: Laughing with friends

It's officially over the hump for the week! Yep, It's one-o-three so that means it's time to start getting ready for the weekend...ain't I right?! It's funny how certain things in the middle of the week make you get a little bit more happier that it's inching closer to Friday afternoon at 5 p.m. (My favorite part of the weekend!). For example, on Wednesday morning I have to get the trash to the curb for pick up. That means it's getting close to the weekend! When they have triple meat pizza in the cafe, that means it's closer to the weekend! If I sat and thought about this somemore I could probably find a few more!

I got to ride yesterday afternoon with the team. We rode strong and kept a good 21 mph pace. Just a fun workout. We only have a couple more weeks and the daylight savings will change. I'm hoping to get permission to use the spin bikes on Tues/Thurs so we can keep up the level we are at now. Mark went back out for a few more miles after we finished and almost hit an armadillo on his way back in. When the sunsets there are all sorts of critters that come out and walk along the bike path. I've had to slow for deer more than I could count.

They (Team Yale) are going to be a part of the Mud Race in a couple of weeks but I'll be out of town. The team name is "Dirty Dad's and Wild Wives!". I really wish I could be there to see this! I might just have to get the t-shirt anyway! Now that would turn some head's in the fitness center huh?!

I have the whole side of the building to myself today since the others are at ASU. I didn't have anything from them that I needed to recruit for so I'm catching the calls for the others. I've gotten a ton of work done! Very quite over here.

Hey yesterday I was helping load the car for their recruiting trip and one of the handles on the suit cases broke and as I pitched it into the back the metal caught my finger and gave me a cut. No biggie I just squeezed my finger then went on with what I was doing. Lo and behold I look down and there is blood dripping off my hand. I put my other hand under it and walk across the parking lot to employee health. I now have a puddle of blood in my hand. Got it cleaned off and it looks like a long paper cut but man did that thing bleed. They put a butterfly on it and give me a LOT of grief but all in good humor. Those guys (Jason, Juanita, Becky, Linda, Barbara, Mary) are all bud's of mine anyway. They are all as different as night and day but it's a good mix.

Sunday I will be out at the 4H Center to celebrate my Dad's 81st birthday! He and Mom are doing good and plugging right along. I think fall is their favorite time of the year because they know that the holidays are coming and family traffic will pick up around their house soon. They live for family.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Beautiful weather and snowstorms

I heard that Denver was going to get snow and it looks like they did! Terri talked to Tyler and he was in his "the weather changes by the hour and I've got a cold" mode. He gets one every year at this time due to the drastic weather changes out there. 85 one day and snow the next.

I picked up the bike lights at JVP's church yesterday. What a huge crowd! I was hoping to run into to him but I was actually on the other side of the building in the office area. We got out before they did.

I took the bike out and rode a little at the end of the day Saturday and it was a nice ride but as I was leaving the house it became overcast which dropped the temperature. I had on a short sleeved jersey and shorts and it was cold! Just down the river and back. When I got home Terri had made chicken tortellinni soup! My favorite! Saturday night was low key.

Sunday: Went to church then later Terri and Emily went to pick up stuff for Sylvan Hills Homecoming week. I was planning to go riding and Connie Ross called and asked if I could help them with their bikes and tires. Her and Lee (her husband) got new Cannondales just before Labor Day and they needed to get the tires aired good. So they stopped by and we actually ended up changing one of Connie's tubes. No biggie. They were going down to the river and asked if I'd like to join them. I met them down there and rode a nice ride. Tons of folks out enjoying the fall weather. We saw a little boy ride right in front of a car coming into the park. Man, it was so close. The little guy was the son of a ACH employee. She was running to him and I'm sure cried a little. Yep, it was really THAT close.

When we finished riding, Connie said Kyle was just around the bend at the other end of the parking area. They left and I rode over and we rode the river (me riding it again). We stopped and watch Arron Childress soccer game for a few minutes. The Childress's are really good folks! They're one of those families that will do anything for anybody to help them. Kyle and I talked about church and rode back.

It was a good ride and the weather was the best. This coming weekend takes me to Jonesboro for the Ride for a Better Life. A fundraiser for the Southwest Church of Christ counseling center. And then next weekend (10/23) is Austin for the Ride for the Roses with Lance Armstrong! I'm excited about that!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Thanks for the ride guys!

What a day it was! An early 5 a.m. wake up call came and the race was on. Up, shower, shave, down stairs to meet the rest of the guys. Coffee and a biscuit and sausage. Good to go. Nervous energy! Outside is dark, cloudy and windy. We load the van and head over the bridge to Oklahoma. This time I went over the bridge on purpose! We unload, air up tires and put on warm riding gear and have a prayer. It was a very moving heartfelt prayer by John (JVP). Amen and over he bridge we go into Arkansas on our bikes.

We ride through downtown Ft Smith and head toward Van Buren. The wind is blowing and but the daylight is appearing over the hill. I think it'll be a good day for riding. As we go over the river into Van Buren there are these releif girders on the bridge that you have to ride over. I've always been spooked by them a little and that one was open more than any I've gone over before. Rob was leading the line, I'm second with JVP and Paul behind me. Rob bunny hops the girder, no problem. I hop and back tire hits and tube pops. Man, I was bummed. This is way to early in a ride with a new group to have something like this happen. So I look down and sure enough, flat. I tell the guys to go on over and I'll walk the bike (otherwise the rim and tire will ruin) to the other side. That was one long bridge to walk a bike over. Paul stayed back and we got the tube changed and off we go again.

We meet up with Rob and JVP and get going again. Through a beautiful part of Van Buren downtown. Then on out to Alma. We actually stopped at the same light Vince and I stopped at before we turned to head up into the moutains back in the summer. I sat there at the light looking towards the mountains and saying yet another prayer of thanks for that ride in July.

We head on down the road a ways and the rain is light and seems to be off and on. Next stop is Goose Creek at a little mom and pop grocery store. What a great little place! The lady running the store was very friendly and the produce section was really nice for a little store. I say this because the restroom waiting line was close to it. They even had carmel apples as well as apples grown in the area. There was a retired couple that came in and bought some apples and then the lady running the store and the couple went out to a tent on the corner of the lot and came out with 2 watermelons! The tent was the local produce section and those were the last two watermelons of the season. If I'm ever in that area again I'll stop there. Just a warm friendly place on a cool wet autum morning.

We load up on gels, fig newtons and water out at the van in the parking lot and get going again. Psssssss, Paul's turn with a flat. We make a quick change of tubes on the side of the road and off we go. We look to be feeling warmed up and ready for milage.

We get out into the quiteness of the country and get to draft behind the van for a little bit! What a vacation! I could feel the warmth of the van and the draft was the best. We make sure JVP is drafting. Got to take care of the leader man. I could see the five of us working together as a team. I could sense the desire to help make this first leg of the trip as painless as possible for JVP. We all wanted him to get to the other river! Here's what I observed: Rob and Paul were the main pullers. Yes, I did pull but Rob and Paul seriously went the extra mile when it came to pulls (being on the front of the line and cutting through the wind). We kept JVP in the middle as much as we could. The guy rides so incredibly strong at times he would pull us to get the speed back up. I sat on the back end with my screaming lime green wind shirt with a neon orange and yellow safety vest over it. Between that and blinky lights, I was a little hard to miss. Although I was the slowest of the group and the oldest, I felt good being in the back and feeling the job of protector. It was really setting up like a team dynamics of a pro team. Sure, we were far from it, at least I was, but it was looking very organized.

We started climbing a few long hills and I go into my "zone out, don't look up at the top of the hill, just pedal" mode. One thing I learned this summer was that I can ride hills just fine as long as I just watch the road directly in front of me and pedal. Steady good climbs. Not the fastest but conservative climbing. I noticed too a few times that I had to remind myself that our goal was to get JVP to his destination. We weren't touring as in sight seeing. Yes, this was basically a race against time. I wanted to ask him to slow down and notice what is around you. Look out over the valley, notice the birds, just enjoy the ride but it's not really my place so I tell myself to ride as a race not as a tour. And so I do. I did however mention to Rob that I was worried a little about JVP and the speeds we were going. What I wasn't expecting was that he was going to be able to hold level all the way to Cook's Landing. And he does!

Next stop is Altus for a quick lunch of sandwiches. Of course they were the best I'd ever eaten and served by Mike on a platter (ok, maybe it was a top of a cooler but the Food Network would have been proud of the presentation! HA!). Still raining but we are doing good.

As we get close to Clarksville there has been a wreck. A log truck has lost his load on a tilted curve. The truck cab was still upright but the trailer had gone over. My first thought was maybe those flat tires we had had been a blessing of protection? What if we had been on schedule. Where would we had been when the logs came crashing down across the lane we would have been in? Sometimes I really wonder about how events fall in place.

We arrive in Knoxville (Yes, Arkansas not TN) and the air seemed so cold when we stopped. I walked into the c-store and it was warm! Now I usually don't talk about the men's room but this was really nice! It was the work of a local artist that must have sent a couple of days in there. Serious, it was really pretty. The walls had that scrubbed looking faux look or whatever they call it and there were some of the words to the national anthem painted on the walls as well as an American flag. It got my vote for best cared for public men's restroom. HA! There was a guy at the store that was walking to DC with an armed forces agenda. I think he was a vet that had something to say about the war so he was making his point by walking to DC. The others changed clothes and it crossed my mind but my shoes were wet and dry socks would have gotten wet but I was so cold. Onward we go. Feeling good to move again and the rain has stopped! Wind still blowing cross but it's livable.

Next stopp is Russellville. We stop at a Burger King for a moment and then got moving again. I wanted some fries really bad but I knew better! We're riding good once we warm up and continue on to ...

Morrilton. As we were riding along I keep thinking I had been here before and then I saw three green arrows painted on the road. I had been here on my bike before just a month or so ago! It was part of the route for Tour de Oink as part of the Great Arkansas Pig Out Festival. A fun ride. Seeing that gave me comfort.

As we get going our next stop will be Conway. As we are riding along I begin to feel a little tired but that was to be expected. The bad part was that I would ride good then slow down. Catch up and then slow down. I didn't fall back enough to be considered dropped but back enough to make myself start having the mental games happen. I finally heard someone say the word "bonk" and then I knew. As much as I told myself no, I knew I was about to go down. Bonk is what happens when you run out of fuel. It's only happened to me one other time in my riding and it's now happening at the worst possible time. Paul rode up beside the van and called him over. I loaded, feeling completed defeated and we continued. Mike made me feel good about myself and the Pepsi and Snicker Marathon bar restored my energy stores. I was just down from the turn off to Conway.

We stopped in Conway for Rob's wife to pick him up since he had a final exam. He would go to Jacksonville, take his test and return to the ride on the other side of Little Rock. We loaded his bike into the van and go out to find JVP and Paul.

We stopped in Mayflower at the Sonic for a few moments. I played the role of team support this stop refilling Paul's bottles and checking on him. He was sitting on the parking lot with his shoe off. I got out of my comfort zone and asked him if he wanted me to rub the stiffness out of his foot for a moment. There comes a time when you have to do stuff like that for the team. It's just part of it. Paul's toes would not bend at all. I knew he must have been hurting. We fianlly got them moving again and he felt better. Onward...

Funny story: Just before getting to Maumelle there is a line of cars behind us and this car comes on around and honking. I told Mike that the driver better not yell the the riders. He laughed and said, "That was my wife." It was a funny moment!

Mike and I went on up the road a bit and I got out and starting riding with them again. We go through Maumelle and as we got to the road to Cook's Landing I moved out of the pulling position to give it to John to allow him to take the leadership entrance since it was his ride and his church would be waiting. They were happy to see him!

We moved things around and took a few photos and then my Thursday night buds (Yale, Chris, Wayne come riding up finishing their ride. We talk for a few and then we head to Gator's were Terri is waiting to pick me up.

The ride is done for my part. As Mike, JVP and Parick head out into the night to ride across the fields toward Memphis, I say a silent prayer for their safety and well being.

I got home, showered and had Backyard Burger that Terri had picked up for me. Still thinking and praying for the guys. Wondering if Rob had met back up with them.

Later, as I'm laying in bed I'm still in prayer. Please get them there. Zzzzzzz......

3:25 a.m. wide awake and wishing I knew what was going on out there. Wishing I could load up and go help take them to the end. Wishing I had never stopped and came home. Praying for them. Why is there something that seems out of balance? I worry too much!

4:50 a.m.: They are due to finish at 5. JVP is a driven man. Praying he is where he wants to be.

6:35 a.m.: Wake up on the sofa and get up for the day. Still praying and wondering. I realize I don't have anyone's cell phone numbers...

I realize JVP should be at the river.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

In less than 24 hours

In less than 24 hours I will be in the middle of riding at least 150 miles. Ft Smith to Cook's Landing in North Little Rock. We start at 6:30 a.m. and should be at Cook's about 5 p.m. I hope that I feel great and want to continue to ride on to Memphis under the cover of the night.

John Van Pay is the leader of this group and an outstanding rider. He is the Student Minister at the North Little Rock Assembly of God church. Yep, the big glass one over by McCain Mall. Emily loves to go over there on Wednesday night to a program called Reality. There are tons of teens that go over there and they are from a lot of different schools so it's a great expereince for her. Anyway, here's our schedule.
3 pm – Addison and JVP load vehicles
5 pm - Rob Carr, Paul Britt, George Cobb take the white van to the Hampton Inn, Fort Smith
9 pm – Brian Lee, JVP, and one more volunteer driver will leave the church to the Hampton Inn, Fort Smith

5:30 am – wake up/breakfast
6:15 am – leave the hotel to the Oklahoma/Arkansas border
- temp will be in low 60’s with a 30% chance of rain; it clears up by 9 a.m. to be in the upper 60’s and sunny.
6:30 am – start the ultimate ride, Brian Lee will be driving the support van
5:00 pm – meet up with the rest of the team of riders at Cook’s Landing on the river trail
-Take 430 south from highway 40 and take the Maumelle exit, go back over the freeway. Go through the red light and take your first right on road. It may be called North Shoreline road. Take another immediate right going down hill and it will take you to the Cook’s Landing parking lot. This is on the river trail by the IH 430 dam. The easiest way to get there by car is to take the Maumelle Highway (100) across Highway 430
-Brian Lee brings the white van back to the church
5:30 pm – meet up with Michael Winslow and Mike Mitchell at the Gator’s parking lot on the river trail.
6:00 pm – Steph picks up the white van up at the church and follows the group
-temp drops to upper 40’s so dress warm and bring all lights you have access to
9:30 pm – Shelby takes over for Steph and she drives his vehicle back to the church
5:00 am – Ultimate ride is finished.

Phil and Shelby, Patrick will email you your mileage after the offering on Wednesday
John Knott (George Cobb will also be riding for your class so you only have to ride 6 miles)

Keep reading for tales of the ultimate ride...

Sunday, October 02, 2005

I rode with the big dogs when I should've stayed on the porch!

I had to work at a job fair this morning over at the hospital so I missed getting to ride the Tour de Cure for Diabetes. I thought about it off and on and the weather was outstanding for a morning century! Guess I'll try again next year. I missed the MS 150, the Arky (due to hurricane Rita), Tour de Cure (due to job fair).

I did ride with Van Pay and friends (the Big Dogs) yesterday. Get this, the email he sent said something like it would be a non-agressive tapering off ride. It wasn't! These Carve guys just flat out smoke the bike tires on every ride. Van Pay is a very strong rider and will be doing the River to River ride on thursday. Myself and 3 others are riding along. 300 miles in one day. Across the state of Arkansas. From Oklahoma (Arkansas River in Ft Smith) to the Mississippi River in Memphis! I'm going along for support and to tell them to slow down and not attack hills. I'll be a long adventurous day! The ride is a fund raiser for the First Assembly of God in North Little Rock. They are raising money for a missionary in China to buy him a van.