Donate to support the National MS Society – My 4th MS150

33544421214_f0ffcb764d_bThis April I’ll be riding in my 4th MS150 – a two day cycling event where more than 10,000 cyclists ride from Houston to Austin to raise money and awareness for Multiple Sclerosis and the National MS Society. There’s no other event like it in the country.

For the last 3 years, with the support of my readers, friends, and family, we’ve raised almost $4,000 for the MS Society. This year I’ve once again set my fundraising goal at $1500.

So, if you’re in the giving mood, please head over to my personal page and make a donation to help support research to make a world free of MS.

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The evolution of my 1984 Raleigh SS commuter

In June of 2014, I had my parents send me my Aunt’s old bike. I was excited to dive into the world of single-speed cycling, and lots of people use vintage road frames to build them up. I chronicled the rebuild (my first time doing things on my own) in this post, if you’d like to see the full story.

Since then, it’s been through a number of iterations as I’ve continued to tailor it to meet my needs both stylistically and for utility.

When I took it out of the box it looked like this:
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When I was done with my rebuild, it looked like this:
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Since it was for commuting to work, I added a rear rack for my pannier:
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I eventually decided to ditch the rack, since it really took away from the cool factor of the vintage frame. I now use a backpack to carry my stuff to and from work. Around that same time, I decided I wanted to try pursuit bars. So I replaced the bullhorns, and got some regular brake levers. I also finally found a seat post that fit, since the existing old one was actually too short. So iteration #2 was a pretty decent overhaul:
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I liked this overall but got uneasy when I would really get down in the horns and my hands were very far away from the brake levers. Eventually I decided to go back to regular drop bars.

At the same time I decided to chop 2cm off my quill stem, and switch from an 18t freewheel to a 17t freewheel. So, here’s iteration #3:
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Then Hurricane Harvey struck, and our house and garage were flooded. The bike, along with all the other bikes, was half under water for almost 2 weeks. The frame was salvageable as were most of the parts, but after giving them a decent clean they started to exhibit signs of damage – especially the freewheel and the rear hub.

So, I ordered a new set of wheels, a new chain, and a new freewheel. I went back to 18t this time. I find it a lot easier to start with it, but I miss the speed I could reach with the 17t. Oh well.

So finally, almost 4 years later, we’re at iteration #4. It looks very similar to the above pic,  but the new wheels are the biggest difference. I had wanted to ditch the fixie-style deep rims for a while, so I was happy for the excuse. The regular wheels look better with a classic lugged frame.
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So we’ll roll with this for a while. I’m already contemplating moving to riser bars – but, we’ll hold off for a while.
I guess that’s the beauty of these old road frames; you can do anything with them, and they are so easy to change around. This bike was originally a 10 speed, but it was very simple to make it single, and would be just as easy to put it back.

If I win Powerball tonight (or ever) I’d buy a lot of bikes

You can buy a lot of bikes with 600 million dollars. After paying off my my house, and my parent’s house, and my student loans, and my wife’ student loans, and our car, I’d make a trip to the LEGO store, obviously, and then to a bunch of bike shops.

N+1 is the only mathematical equation that I’ve ever been able to remember. It states that the correct number of bikes to own is always the current number you have (N), plus 1 more. Because, let’s face it, every bike is a different ride, and offers different kinds of fun.

Here’s what I’d probably get. (Disclaimer: subject to change based on shit I remember)

Jamis Renegade Elite (for gravel and commuting)
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All City Pony Express (for commuting and errands – front and read racks added)
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Surly Karate Monkey 27.5+ (for commuting, gravel, and trails)
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Surly Straggler 650b (for commuting, touring, gravel, and around town)
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Just off the top of my head….

How about y’all?

2018 Cycling Goals

In 2017 my goal was 2500 miles – but after dislocating my knee, and the flooding from Hurricane Harvey – I came up well short. Though I will say a little over 1600 miles isn’t too shabby for a guy with a busted knee and a destroyed house. I may not have made it anyway, but, well…..yeah. Anyway.

Here’s my ride calendar from 2017
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The gap at the end of March is after my knee injury, and the gap at the end of August until October is from the flooding.

So, barring any more natural disasters, or god knows what else, I’m setting my goal for 2018 at 2500 miles again. According to some simple calculations, if I bike to work at least 3 days per week, for at least 40 weeks, I’ll hit 2280 miles just commuting alone. Throw in the MS150, and regular Saturday morning miles – I should easily be able to crack 2500.

But, its January and fuck knows what’ll happen during the year.

So….let’s get rolling?

2017: A year in [brief] review

Now seems as good a time as any to start writing again. 2017 really kicked the shit out of us. I suppose it’s best to just get it all down on paper. Err…

Does anyone even read this anymore?

It wasn’t all bad. Here’s the Good:
-Despite all of my quirks, my lovely wife is still by my side. Going on 18 years…
-After raising nearly $1500, I completed the BP MS150 for the 3rd time, riding nearly 160 miles from Houston to Austin in support of the National MS Society
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-We spent over a week in coastal Maine, showing our friends who’ve never been what it’s like to relax in cozy cabins and devour copious amount of lobster while watching fishing boats troll by. We split the time between Bar Harbor & Boothbay Harbor.
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-My sister-in-law married her best beau, Josh, and it was an absolute blast.

-Jess & Tom welcomed their daughter Ainsley into the world, while Mohan & Ponnarasi welcomed little Manu.

-Chainsaw’s recovery from his back paralysis has been incredible. Last December he couldn’t lift himself off the floor of the emergency vet. Now, he’s hoppin’ & boppin’ like the old man he is. Speaking of which – he turned 17 this year. Dude is mega old!
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-I finally got to see U2 – and it couldn’t have come at a better time: their Joshua Tree 30th anniversary tour. One of my favorite bands, playing one of my all-time favorite albums ever. It was blissful.
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-Our friends, family, & complete strangers came to our rescue, our aid, and helped us get back on our feet after losing almost everything in Hurricane Harvey.

And now for the shit—–

-In March, I dislocated my left knee, badly. It took over a month of walking with crutches and a cane, getting fluid drained, and lots of bags of frozen veggies, but I was finally able to move about. Because I’m stubborn, I still completed the MS150 even though technically I still should have been walking with a cane. But, it still hurts. It still hasn’t fully healed – and may not ever.

-Hurricane Harvey: Yeah, we got a fuckton of rain, but interestingly enough that wasn’t what flooded our entire neighborhood and put over 40″ of water in our house for 2 weeks.
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We were only expecting [hoping] for a few inches of water if any at all, but, the Army Corps of Engineers had other plans for us.
For the full album of photos, from the first few drops of rain to the complete tear out and demo, check out my Flickr album HERE (it’s depressing, FYI)

-If being flooded out of your home wasn’t bad enough, the apartment we had to rent for 6 months was broken into after a month. The fuckers stole both our computers (which we had saved from the house), some money, and some sentimental antique jewelry. None of it has been located. Fuck those guys.

-My wife lost her job (after the flood, so, double the impact).

So, overall, 2017 was a tough year to gauge. The negatives were huge and devastating. But the highs were also pretty awesome. Let’s just say it was a year that will leave a lot of memories in its wake.

Hi, 2018. Let’s be friends.

First week commuting on my old Trek 820

I’ll post some pics of her up close later – I still need to re-tape the rims, switch out the grips & bar ends, and do a little maintenance on the cassette. All in all though, I think it’s definitely a keeper. I love riding on the thicker tires – so much smoother on these terrible Houston roads and paths.

The 2015 BP MS150

Last weekend was our 2nd BP MS150. Unfortunately, weather cut the event in half – the MS Society and event coordinators canceled day 1 of the ride due to bad conditions. It had been raining and storming heavily on and off all week, and we got nailed again Thursday night and Friday night. This caused the campgrounds at the half-way overnight point in La Grange almost completely flooded leaving no place to put 13,000 riders and their tents. With the threat of more storms Saturday night, having a bunch of tents in a soppy field isn’t the best in an electrical storm either. This was only the 2nd time in the entire 31 years the MS150 has been going on that one of the days had to be canceled. But, it is what it is.

So, riders had to find their way out to La Grange to begin on day 2 if they wanted to. I was lucky enough to be given a ride by my wife – who was originally going to be riding with me. But she decided to not ride, and instead gave me a lift out there.

Turns out most of the registered riders wouldn’t let the weather and a distant start line deter them either, as upwards of 10,000 still showed up. The day’s route was slightly altered, giving us about a 70 mile route from La Grange into Austin.

Me & Chainsaw after getting suited up in La Grange

Me & Chainsaw after getting suited up in La Grange

As far as the ride itself – the hills get pretty rough the closer you get to Austin, and this time there was a pretty stiff headwind for pretty much the entire 2nd half of the ride. Plus, it was approaching 90 degrees in the afternoon so that hurt as well.

Pics w/ captions below. Click for larger versions.

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The long flat parts are breakpoints. You can see my long lunch break right in the middle lol

The long flat parts are breakpoints. You can see my long lunch break right in the middle lol

Caught some good speed on a few of the descents as well.

Caught some good speed on a few of the descents as well.

It took almost an hour for me to filter around the village square to the starting line, so I got out a little later than most, and I rolled across the finish line around 4:15pm.

The starting area was the village square in the heart of little La Grange. Riders wrapped around three sides of it and extended down a few of the intersecting streets.

The starting area was the village square in the heart of little La Grange. Riders wrapped around three sides of it and extended down a few of the intersecting streets.

Still going...

Still going…

Looking down finally to the start line all the way to the right.

Looking down finally to the start line all the way to the right.

Almost our turn to set off.

Almost our turn to set off.

Looking behind me at the start line before heading out.

Looking behind me at the start line before heading out.

Once we got rolling it was a blast (duh).

Thankfully, everyone did a good job and rode pretty safely.

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Rest stop #2 - I skipped rest stop #1.

Rest stop #2 – I skipped rest stop #1.

Looking behind me up the hill at the line of riders waiting. There was a rider who went down at the bottom of the hill (about 50 ft in front of where I was standing). They stopped us all, and called in the ambulance. It happened just before we got down the hill. They hauled him out braced up on a stretcher. The bike looked to be in OK condition so I think he maybe got clipped by another rider and went down, which is better than having an incident with a motorist. We waited about 30 minutes and then we were off.

Looking behind me up the hill at the line of riders waiting. There was a rider who went down at the bottom of the hill (about 50 ft in front of where I was standing). They stopped us all, and called in the ambulance. It happened just before we got down the hill. They hauled him out braced up on a stretcher. The bike looked to be in OK condition so I think he maybe got clipped by another rider and went down, which is better than having an incident with a motorist. We waited about 30 minutes and then we were off.

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Sherman resting at the lunch stop. Thanks to Jason's Deli for providing the much needed nourishment!

Sherman resting at the lunch stop. Thanks to Jason’s Deli for providing the much needed nourishment!

Lots of bikes on the rails at the lunch stop.

Lots of bikes on the rails at the lunch stop.

And lots of riders at the lunch stop too.

And lots of riders at the lunch stop too.

Back out on the road.

Back out on the road.

Back out on the road.

Back out on the road.

The mascot for the Houston Dynamo made the ride too! In fact the mascots for the Rockets and the Astros rode too. I don't know they do it without dying of heatstroke but, much respect for them!

The mascot for the Houston Dynamo made the ride too! In fact the mascots for the Rockets and the Astros rode too. I don’t know how they do it without dying of heatstroke but, much respect for them!

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Rocket!

Rocket!

Pulling into the last rest stop. Needed the rest - my legs were killing me. Too bad there were more - worse - hills to come! There was only about 9 miles left.

Pulling into the last rest stop. Needed the rest – my legs were killing me. Too bad there were more – worse – hills to come! There was only about 9 miles left.

The Austin skyline appears. A fabulous site to see.

The Austin skyline appears. A fabulous site to see.

I didn't get a picture of crossing the finish line, so I took this after dropping off my bike and walking back up the hill. Lots of riders still coming across the line, and tons of folks cheering them all on. Incredible experience.

I didn’t get a picture of crossing the finish line, so I took this after dropping off my bike and walking back up the hill. Lots of riders still coming across the line, and tons of folks cheering them all on. Incredible experience.

Facing directly opposite from the previous picture - looking at the Texas State Capital Building. Lots of people take finishing photos holding up their bikes in front of it.

Facing directly opposite from the previous picture – looking at the Texas State Capital Building. Lots of people take finishing photos holding up their bikes in front of it.

We ran into some pretty crazy weather on the way home - rain, lightning, hail, and a tornado watch!

We ran into some pretty crazy weather on the way home – rain, lightning, hail, and a tornado watch!

I want to extend my sincere thanks to the folks at the MS Society for scrambling to give us the ride we were hoping for, and to all the volunteers who helped at the rest stops, the start and finish lines, and everywhere in between. The SAG support along the route is 2nd to none. Y’all helped turn a potential disaster of a weekend into a half-event that was just as fabulous.

And thank you to everyone who donated to our fund raising efforts for the MS Society. Fund raising continues through the end of May, so please donate if you still want to!

And thus ends another MS150 season. It’s started with the Ready2Roll training rides in the beginning of February, and ended last weekend in Austin. And…I can’t wait to do it again next year!

Texas Hill Country: Groundroll 8

A few weeks ago, our company’s EVP invited the wife and I to participate in an invite only small gathering of folks from the E&P industry in the Texas Hill Country. Every year, they get together and bike different routes Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We’ve never been out to Hill Country before, so we were really excited – especially since it’s such an elite event. We knew we wouldn’t do as well as the regulars because we aren’t super strong cyclists and we’ve never biked in hills like that before, but we were pumped anyway.

It’s held in the little town of Fredericksburg, TX. It’s about a 3 hour drive west from Houston. It’s a fabulous, old, little town with tons of great shops and restaurants nestled into some marvelously nice landscapes. Perfect place for a getaway weekend.
IMG_0962 IMG_0964 IMG_0966 IMG_0967Our group was nestled into a little spot around the town’s few hotels – we had our own tent and basecamp. Meals were catered and we also had a guy from a Houston bike shop for maintenance. The whole setup was pretty awesome. Side note: everyone was endlessly fascinated by my bike and how heavy it was. They couldn’t fathom how I was riding a steel bike that weighed about 30 pounds. About 4 or 5 people picked it up and were flabbergasted lol. But I love my Surly!

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We skipped Friday’s ‘warm-up’ ride since we only took a half day at work, but Saturday and Sunday awaited us.

Saturday’s ride was absolutely brutal. 60 miles of some of the biggest hills I’ve ever been up on a bike (not to mention some absurdly fast descents as well). The wife and I both went the fastest we’ve ever been on a bike before (nearly 40mph). Here is the ride map and the speed/elevation graph for the first day:
Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 9.53.31 PM Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 9.52.50 PM IMG_1010 IMG_1009As you can see from the terrain map, we definitely we’re in the flatness of Houston anymore. The two pics from my Garmin are to show my top speed, and the ridiculous total climbing amount we did.

Here are some pics from the first day (captioned with descriptions!)(and as always, click for larger versions!):

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Gearing up to go!

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The starting line. Tradition is to line up front to back by the # of years you’ve been to the event. So, naturally, as first timers, we were last in line – but, not alone! There were a lot of newcomers this year.

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It’s a small event – only 30 or so riders maximum, so once the group spread out you didn’t see many other people at all. It was a quiet, beautiful ride.

It looks flat out in the distance - but it's not.

It looks flat out in the distance – but it’s not.

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The roads were a mix of good and shitty pavement, but they were all back country roads winding through beautiful areas and farms. I lost count of how many cattle grates we went over.

The roads were a mix of good and shitty pavement, but they were all back country roads winding through beautiful areas and farms. I lost count of how many cattle grates we went over.

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Bike selfie!

Bike selfie!

This was the first 'rest stop' - an old schoolhouse. Even though it was a small ride, we still had awesome support with SAG drivers and refreshments.

This was the first ‘rest stop’ – an old schoolhouse. Even though it was a small ride, we still had awesome support with SAG drivers and refreshments.

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If you like, you can take an 8 mile segueway to Enchanted Rock. I'm told the road down to it is an insane downhill where you can reach upwards of 50mph, but the climb back out is agonizing. We skipped it this year. But here are a few pics of it.

If you like, you can take an 8 mile segueway to Enchanted Rock. I’m told the road down to it is an insane downhill where you can reach upwards of 50mph, but the climb back out is agonizing. We skipped it this year. But here are a few pics of it.

Panorama of Enchanted Rock and surrounding area. Click for larger size.

Panorama of Enchanted Rock and surrounding area. Click for larger size.

Cacti!

Cacti!

While most of the herd crossed the street as I was approaching, this one sheep just stood there and stared me down. He finally moved. Cheeky bugger.

While most of the herd crossed the street as I was approaching, this one sheep just stood there and stared me down. He finally moved. Cheeky bugger.

Rest stop 2 - at the top of a big hill at an old church. Perfect spot for some rest and some food.

Rest stop 2 – at the top of a big hill at an old church. Perfect spot for some rest and some food.

After the lunch break we were back into the hills.

After the lunch break we were back into the hills.

The wife!

The wife!

It looks like flat open road, but in fact it was about 4 miles of gentle incline that killed my legs.

It looks like flat open road, but in fact it was about 4 miles of gentle incline that killed my legs.

This was the final pic I took on day 1. There was probably still 20 miles left, and my legs were killing me. So. Many. Hills. LoL. But I can't complain - it was an absolutely beautiful day and a beautiful ride.

This was the final pic I took on day 1. There was probably still 20 miles left, and my legs were killing me. So. Many. Hills. LoL. But I can’t complain – it was an absolutely beautiful day and a beautiful ride.

So after day one, the tradition is after dinner in the tent, everyone tells a story about their ride from the day. It was a lot of fun. I talked about being the last person to finish (I was), and about how being in the back and slow had its perks because we got to see three separate groups of amazing cars drive past us – must have been some sort of rally weekend, or groups out to just enjoy the awesome back roads in their slick machines. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pics of them – but first we saw about 30 Porsches – all makes and vintages. Then a little while later about $15 million in Ferraris went by. It was like, whoa. Again, all makes and vintages. And bringing up the rear of the rally line was my dream car – a white Ferrari Testarosa – yes, Sonny Crockett’s car in Miami Vice. It was beautiful. Lastly, and less impressive, we saw a bunch of BMW’s in rally form go bounding by.

So the first day was brutal and amazing. Day two was supposed to be an ‘easier’ ride – but it wasn’t! Ha. This ride took us down to the tiny town of Comfort, TX, where everyone traditionally stops at a little cafe for some food and drinks. So, the thing about this ride is that apparently the towns of Fredericksburg and Comfort both sit in river valleys – and between them is a big ridge. So going out, you have to climb up out of the first, then enjoy the descent down to Comfort. Easy, right? Nope. It was windy as hell. So windy in fact, that on my ride down the back side of the ridge, I had to pedal to hit 15mph. Yes, after crushing it down hills yesterday at 40mph, I had to pedal to maintain 15mph or the wind held me back to about 12-13. Ugh.

A lot of the folks only ride half of the ride to the cafe, then get rides back – I decided to do this as well. Still managed to get a little over 20 miles though. Here are the maps and some pics!

Check out that terrain, baby.

Check out that terrain, baby.

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It started out looking alright...

It started out looking alright…

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A shot from the top of the ridge, looking down toward Comfort, TX

A shot from the top of the ridge, looking down toward Comfort, TX

Made it!

Made it!

So that was that. We loaded up the bikes and came back to Houston. An incredible weekend in a new part of the state we hadn’t been before. Also probably the most beautiful riding we’ve experienced since leaving Knoxville.

I hope we get invited back next year!