Monday, September 29, 2008

Three Dogs and a Cheat

(The Fat Cat of Flanders continues to flounder in a sea of obligations. Thus, he has resorted to stealing. Phallose, otherwise known as The Misanthropic Cyclist has already given his version of the Thursday Grimp on his blog The Cat has lifted a portion of it and pasted it below with the addition of a picture or two.)

Since the Grimper Blog is broken...
I will cover the play by play of the last ride.
If I get things out of order or something, it is just because my brain is that foggy.
We left creepy square at 11:something heading out for River Road.
Immediately after crossing the river Styx,
we were halted by a retired porn star with a stop sign in her hand.
We stopped, we waited for 30 seemed minutes,
then we got the go signal and proceded to draftd a large dump truck up to the steeps.
We must have cleared 15mph a couple times there!
Then as we climbed, the rest of the string of cars passedand one by one,
Our pace was not that slow and also we had to dodge water being sprayed all over the place by a truck, of course it hit us and GOT MY BIKE DIRTY!!! GRRRR. I had not gone through a puddle in over a month! BULLSHIT... I have to clean that!! OK OK
As we approached the four way stop, I know my eyes got big...
That porn star and her redneck crew abandon us for dead,
Barreling right at us, a long line of cars (mostly big trucks) IN OUR LANE!
We slowed and got a little space and made it through...

My first plot was foiled...

This set the tone of the ride for the day, (NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES.)
Later, while a large truck was right behind us, a very large dog charged me at full speed.
I think I yelled "DOG!," (or at least I know I thought that (or "SHIT" or something like that)) and I sped up,
the dog could not change its path of attack due to its momentimum and I cleverly had dodged it.
Then I thought of the guys behind me and cringed thinking that dog was going to take someone out!
The dog skidded behind my rear tire, but recovered just in time to not take out the swerving guys behind me. (The Fat Cat felt the hot breath of the beast on his hirsute leg.)
Drat, My second plot failed! These guys had some skill...
(Phallose makes out like The Fat Cat was in his league or something. Thanks for the literary license. You'll notice that all the Fat Cat's rider photos are from behind because that's all he ever sees!)

Riding along, the conversation drifted back to more pleasant things...
The guys gave me some kudos and mentioned limited sponsorship from Grimper to represent in races starting with some sweet cleat replacements. Now praise, I have trouble with, when I am not worthy anyways, but yeah, could not handle, but an awesome gesture and a good compliment! But back to my sekrit plan!
Next, coming to a T intersection the girl in a car took a run at the guys in front of me and without that heads up play by the guys, seriously running out of the way, because that car did not stop... Serious injury was again narrowly averted.
(Can I tell you to never stop unless you have too? If we had been stopped, we would not have been able to move out of the way... and be not half as smug at the moment)
Of course we yelled something to the effect of "what is your problem!?!"
and the reply was "I DIDN'T SEE YOU!!!"
We all said in unison "That is our point!"
but she seemed intently pissed that she almost ran over bikers while driving on the wrong side of the road in an intersection. (Seriously, she came head on at The Cat- on his side of the road-and then when she stopped she got out of the car and YELLED that she didn't see the Fat Guy in a red and white polka dot jersey. Had she just had the decency to say sorry without any bluster, she would have been shown compassion instead of being skewered online. Then again, cyclists are somewhere between squirrels and dogs in the minds of some motorists.)

Man, these guys are good, I knew at this point I was going to have to call in "the Spaniel" to take at least one of these guys out.
I positioned myself for the ambush...
Spaniel, took its run from nowhere and was like a flash,
but by now Birdman was obviously on to my plan.
He saw spaniel running towards him with the kill look in its eye and calmly ran him down. (It is important to note that we were in a little paceline and traveling at about 32 to 36 mph. One wrong move up front would have doomed us all. Props to birdman for staying upright. He says Kim was looking over us)
It was a cruel thing to have to watch ladies and gentlemen,
the smiling birdman,
the crack of doggie arm,
the animal taking spinning flight down down to splat into the deep gully.
With the last great hope, Spaniel, splattered in a ditch, I knew now that my plans were foiled.
We went back to find the corpse but it had spontainiously cumbusted, no... wait, we heard it up in the woods running, so we knew it was getting around OK, so we went on our way. (The Cat was at the end of the paceline, of course, and did see the dog do a little whirly whirl and then scamper out of the ditch. The Grimpeurs were concerned and tried to call the little fellar in. The guy across the street didn't give a squat. "It's not my dog.")

This victory had given the guys some spunk.
They now took advantage of the Phil and stomped him on the remaining hills and hammered him on the rollers.
A great ride!

(Here's a gift for Phallose. He wanted to know about the Mason-Dixon Park but didn't want to take "his baby" on the gravel. The Fat Cat thinks adversity builds character-- in as much as an aluminum bike can gain any more.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Thursday, Tuesday and a Few Tidbits In-Between

I know, I know. I am lax in my blogligations. Gotta lot to do and if I had a boss, he’d be glaring at me for doin’ this. So, I glare from the inside out.

The Grimpeurs rode in Morgantown and the surrounding area on Thursday last. There was a nice turnout for Rachel who was visiting from the state of Washington and looking for a ride. She claimed to have done some racing out there, it showed. Even on her dads dysfunctional Trek, she was able to stay with Boyscout, Sandbag, Big Daddy Birdman and Luke— I’m your father—Charles. She CRUSHED the Fat Cat on the hills, oh well.

Rachel shall go down in the Grimpeur annals as Rainier. She claims to have never climbed that mountain but she sure rode like she had. She’s welcome back anytime she’s in town. Rainier is only the second female Grimpeur. Since this is a new season, she is the current leader in the female division, congratulations. No offense, but may your reign be short. The Fat Cat likes being beat up on by the ladies. In these parts, “girl power” is not just a lot of talk.

Since we’re handing out names that aren’t likely to be used much, Let’s move on to Luke. He has been threatening to make the Grimpeur ride all summer. He finally made it Thursday. Unfortunately, it was because he was done with workin’ for the man in PA. He’s moving to a new job in his ancestral home of Michigan. Being the Master of the obvious, the Fat Cat chooses, “Skywalker” as Luke’s Grimpeur name. He will be missed. The Cat suspects he may be back , though. After a few weeks of rolling along endless ribbons of pancake flat roads, Skywalker will be Jonesin’ for a roll in the hay with mountain momma.

Anyway, the Thursday Grimpeurs headed out of Morgantown on Dug Hill, cranked up Snake Hill (where the Fat Cat got distanced), went through Masontown, headed for Reedsville via Gibson and other nameless back roads, took Born Road just to add a few little climbs and subtract a few cars, and then flew down Summer School Road (the only time The Fat Cat contributed to any dropping). A short cool down on the Rail trail brought them home.

There was a surprising host of Grimpeurs at the base of Mud Pike awaiting The Fat Cat’s arrival Tuesday. Lord MonkeyButt, resplendent in Soviet era Jersey, made the trip over from Carmichaels PA. Goldfish, Phallose and Sandbag also circled the parking lot like sharks looking for fresh meat. The Cat hung around for about a mile up the Pike but, again, faltered. He was about 1 mile per hour slower than earlier in the year. Blame it on weight loss/diet, mucous, lack of miles, old age, genetics—take your pick. Regardless, He was far enough arrears that Goldfish came back down and paced The Cat up the final slopes. Let it be known that MonkeyButt tackled Mud Pike with gusto and removed his backside from The Cat’s sight well before the summit. This is only mentioned to counter a bit of razzing later on.

The traditional route along Skyline, down Jumonville and back across Coolspring-Hopwood-Fairchance road was taken, but with a little mustard on it. During the Bullfeathers post ride cool down and carbo load, one rider commented that The Grimpeur ride had been turned into the Wednesday hammer-fest (which had its last hurrah for the summer last week.) It wasn’t that bad but it sure wasn’t sightseein’ pace. That was great, because, apparently, The Cat has been seeing too many sights as of late.

Of note:
54.6 mph was attained on the way down the mountain. Sandbag flatted at the bottom of the mountain with only MonkeyButt there to escort him back to the waiting group. Goldfish and Phallose lit it up between Hopwood and Fairchance. The Cat grabbed a wheel and hung on for dear life. Goldfish kept making sure The Cat was on. What a guy! Not so attentive, The Cat, less than a mile from home, noticed the rest of the train had become unhitched. Out of the goodness of his heart he let go the two engines and slowed. With no sign of the trailers, he telephoned MonkeyButt, thinking they may have had another mechanical. “No! We did not get another flat— smart-ass,” was all the Fat Cat got for his concern. It was really quite comical.
You can read another point of view at He also has a lnk to his gps data that is very cool.

Several Grimpeurs raced the Mountain State Classic road race Sunday. Phallose (Phil), who is improving all the time, put in a great ride, finishing close to the holder of the Stars and Stripes jersey, VeloBetsy (who won the female division but has never graced the Grimpeurs with her exalted presence.) Slider(Marc G.) was in there mucking it up. Even Big Daddy Birdman(Don D.) braved the race which included two major climbs. Congrats to all. Here’s a link to the results

Big Daddy tried to entice The Fat Cat into bringing up the rear of Sunday’s race, but The Cat had more important things to do. The grimplets accompanied the Fat Cat on a Sunday rail trail ride. The whole crew stayed together at speed on a tandem (Courtesy of Big Daddy) with a trail-a-bike behind. Got in 30 miles and no one got too tired and no one didn’t get too tired. It was great! Even the two flat tires weren’t that annoying. The first came as a result of an old corroded screw. The tire was holding air but the offending object was hitting the fork. It had to be excised and the act was accompanied by a rushing exodus of air. We had to flag down a rail trailer because we forgot a pump. Those people are unexpectedly intense and it’s hard to get their attention. Thanks to Paul on a mountain bike for you help. The two tubes we had were dry rotted but we were able to patch the original tube. Later on we saw Mrs. Talks-With-Legs just before a whoosh of air issued from the rear tire. A large piece of glass was excised this time. The Grimplets figured someone wanted us to walk so we sauntered along the last half mile instead of bothering about for a pump and a patch.

The only regret The Fat Cat had about not "competing" Sunday was that he would have finally beaten Aerobinator, who DNF'd.

Talks-With-Legs has been Grimping around the Alps and will be at the Worlds in Italy this weekend. A full report is expected upon his return.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sunday blow

This came from the Dominion Post Monday morning:

An unexplained explosion Sunday left trees flattened for hundreds of yards just north of Mt. Morris PA. Windows rattled in buildings as far away as Waynesburg PA and Morgantown West Virginia. Airborne photography shows the area of downed foliage to trace out two spoked circles with an amorphous blob like shape between. Local fire chief, Dirk Dermol, said, “We don’t know exactly what happened here. We’re looking into it. About the only thing we’re sure of is that something blew up here, big time.”

The Tuesday Grimp was uneventful, just me tooling around through Preston county WV and coughing up quart after quart of mucous. It was a nice day and, aside from the copious discharge, it felt good. But who are we kidding? You don’t wanna hear all that lollipops and rainbow stuff. You want to suffer vicariously. Thus, I give you a bit of the Sunday supernova.

All had been going along just fine. The Cervelo was back on the road with her brand new Ultegra upgrade. Despite the fact that I had done the work myself, she shifted crisply. She was wearing her big Hed carbon shoes with a 23 bottom end because I hadn’t fixed her regular wheel yet. Even so, the hills didn’t pose any real problems. For forty miles or so I thought the pace was pretty laid back.

Then it hit me. It was really that sudden. Everyone was regrouping and I sorta drifted through and soft pedaled until they caught up. Trouble was, once I started, I couldn't stop soft pedaling. On the next hill, which is really of no note, I felt like an octogenarian on the freeway; everyone—and I mean everyone—motored on by me.

Again at the regroup, I rolled through and tried collect myself on the downhill. Sensing blood, the peleton took its serpentine form and flew by on the flat section of rt 19 before Mt. Morris Pa. Not quite willing to accept the bonk, I grabbed for the tail. After being dragged along like an unseated knight behind his horse, my foot mercifully slipped from the stirrup. I watched the paceline slowly pull away. All I had left was not enough. With 10 miles to home, it only got worse from there.

To backtrack just a bit—I did this to myself, almost by intent. Earlier that morning I had a bag of feed ready and in my hand. For reasons only known to God and one long haired fellow on a Tibetan mountain top, I put it on the counter and walked out. It may have been the weight loss kick I’m trying to be on or it may have been some inner need of punishment, I don’t know.

Back to the road. Rounding the corner and literally limping into Mt. Morris, I saw a line of bikes outside the grocery store. Ah, my compatriots taking on food and water. My mouth was a Saharan dunescape and my stomach was a gaping, groaning hole in my torso. So, what did I do? Thas right, I rolled on through.

The reasoning was that I had to get home, no time for stopping. I was so far gone, anyway. There was no way I could keep up. No sense in making everyone drag my heavy ass along the seafloor. I’d be like a guy on a recumbent going on a mountainous group ride. Better to just grope along on my own, without witnesses. They would probably catch up in no time anyway.

Underneath all that, though, there is a fascination with the bonk. Honestly, when it hits, I like to wallow in it. I like to blow out all my air and sink to its dark and rocky bottom. It’s fascinating really, one second you are rolling along and the next you can barely turn the cranks. It’s as though a cork has been pulled and the life blood funnels down and out of your body. In a time when men need not wrestle sabertooths, defend themselves in close combat with highway robbers or joust for a lady’s honor—what an opportunity to test your mettle!

A couple of miles later I could feel what little breeze I was generating whistle through the growling hole in my gut. I searched my jersey for any forgotten foodstuff.
A lint battered jelly bean, the shriveled rind of an orange, anything would do. I thought of sucking on the pockets for any trace remnant of melted Power Bar or the crumb of a Fig Newton wedged into the weave. However, I knew if I stopped to do it, there was no starting back up. I had become my old 1964 LeMans.

I passed myself countless times; sitting on the roadside, head in hands, off the bike, free the source of my pain. All I had to do was pull over, dismount, cry for mercy, and it would be granted. The inquisitor sorted through my innards and torqued on the rack. The bike wobbled towards the burm. The inquisitor lowered his ear to the gasping soul. “The prisoner wishes to say a word!” he pronounced. Head hanging loose on its tendons, foot half unclipped, bike nearly stalled, the last effort was summoned. “FREEEDOOOM,” rang out from scorched lungs. The spine stiffened with resolve, the center-line was taken up again. Once more into the breech, dear friends, once more— Well, I did say that I was hallucinating just a bit, didn’t I?

By the time I reached Morgantown, the wounds of the Stigmata were upon me. Palms and soles burned as though the centurions spikes had been driven home. Breaths came in short pants, even as I sat in the car. My only consolation was that I did not get overtaken by the group. They did not have to nurse me home. As I skulked down a side street, I saw the leaders shoot through town. Ahhh, nary a sole knew my predicament. Perfect.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Making Nice

There has been a lot of talk this year on rides about the inhospitable nature of motorists lately. Aggressive passing, finger waving, dirty looks and verbal confrontation seem to be the norm if you listen to the chatter. But, riding along my mountain roads and those in Morgantown, I don't see it that way.

Cranking the four miles up Mud Pike, I will often see a driver giving a thumbs up from his little cubicle (when I have the strength to raise my head). One Sunday group ride I made it a point to look at all the motorist as they passed our little peleton, a tricky feat indeed. More often than you'd think, someone in the car was giving a friendly wave, especially if the group went single file or if someone in the group waved them through.

Don't get me wrong; I acknowledge that there are assholes out there, full of rage. In any population there are going to be fringe elements that fall outside the norm. On our four climb epic a few weeks ago, some wing nut in a Red Pickup laid on his horn as he passed us. This despite the fact that we and he were the only ones on the road. He had absolutely no impediments to passing. Slider called him out and he slammed on the brakes. Turned out it was some disgruntled old man. Slider just said, "be nice," and sent the gentleman on his way. Don't you think a person like that has other issues? That reminds me of a similar incident involving Slider. I was not there but I hear the confrontation ended with the road rager telling stories of a life gone bad and wanting to buy Slider a beer. They might have even hugged.

Now, you may want to generalize, as humans often do, that it's always the whoopees in pickups-they are the problem. Those types need some edjamacation and we are just the spandex army to give it to em'. Before you grab your front forks and torches, ask me who picked me up when I was thumb out and carrying my bike on my shoulder. It wasn't the numerous SUV's, family sedans and even Prius cars: they left me clomping along the roadside in silver clipless shoes. You guessed it. A red pickup with some poem about killin' deers with arrows emblazoned across its back window went 15 miles out of its way to take me to my front door.

So, here are some of my rules for living a happy life on roads filled with cars:

1. Remember, share the road goes both ways. I don't know about you, but when I am in a car, passing a bike is a slow and dicey prospect. We have to give motorists all the courtesy we would give a nervous rhino. This means moving to the far right 90% of the time and getting into a tight single file when a car is behind. When someone in the group yells, car back! What he means is, get over! It is just arrogance and inconsideration to continue doddling along in conversation with your buddy when you are called to share the road.

2. You can "take the lane" when it is unsafe for a car to pass but make sure they know what you are doing. Look back so they know you are aware of their presence. Give them a "wait" type hand signal and make an exaggerated effort to look ahead. Get around the blind curve, or whatever the obstacle, as soon as possible and wave the car through as soon as you can see it is safe (which will be before they can see it). This usually gives the driver the idea that you are looking out FOR THEM. When they see this effort on their part, they will almost invariably give you "the wave."

3. I like to ride toward the center of the lane in a low traffic situation so that when a car comes, I can tack to the side of the road. This lets drivers now I am aware of them. I think it makes them less nervous about my possibly darting over into their path when they pass. I also think it shows an effort to accommodate them.

4. When there are cars behind, always look like you are busting your ass. There is nothing motorists hate more than seeing some skinny fool noodling down the road when they are packin' plenty of horsepower with someplace to go. Stand on the pedals, suck in air like a vacuum, hang out your tongue, whatever it takes. I have never had a motorist impart any ill will when I have been giving max effort.

5. You may know all the laws regarding bikes and cars, but make sure you keep in mind the laws of physics. Prominent among these is: force= mass x acceleration. It means that, no matter what laws a man writes on a paper, if you go against a 1 ton automobile- you will lose. Ride accordingly.

6. As Slider would say, "Be nice." Cars are not the enemy. Have some empathy. Put yourself in the driver's place and take a moment to think how you would feel all cramped up in a metal box with a bunch of care free people bopping around in front of you on kids toys. Jealousy might just boil right out your ears if you are running on empty with 2 dollars in your pocket towards a dead end job and away from a nattering spouse. As a biker you could either be the only person to have shown that person any courtesy in weeks or you might be the last straw.

My little list is by no means comprehensive. It doesn't address advocacy issues, road improvements, driver education and all that other important stuff. What it does do is allow me to take as much control of the situation as I can while I am riding. Yeah, people in cars can be self important jerks but that is beside the point when you're out there on the road. The point is getting back alive and, hopefully, promoting a little good will along the way. That way the next guy on two wheels will have a better time of it when it comes to the metal monsters.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Avenging Larry

Killer Bee came out of his mountain cave to take on The Fat Cat on his own turf Thursday last. The roiling remnants of hurricane Wolfcry set the stage for his dark intent. From the relentless circular assault the Bee was about to deliver, it can only be assumed that he had come out to avenge poor Cubby. You will recall that Killer Bee brought his unsuspecting pal out for a first Grimpeur ride a couple of weeks ago. Little did he know it was to be an irresponsible five climb nightmare that would pound his young ward into the ground.

The mountain was angry, said The Bee. High winds and dangerous conditions unsafe for man nor bike prevailed on Mud Pike by his account. Outside The Cat’s window there were dark clouds and spitting rain, perfect conditions. Given the weather, Killer Bee thought it best that he come over to Morgantown for a nice little ride. The Cat thought he heard a little Snidely Whiplash snigger from the other end of the line just before he hung up.

Some of you might think The Fat Cat rides hills for fun, but it is more of necessity. For mere yards from his front door, a steep 1/2 mile pitch called Tyrone Avery blocks any thought of easy passage. It is either learn to climb or be shackled to bike paths. The reason for this revelation is so the reader can better understand Killer Bee’s obvious ill will.

As soon as the duo hit Tyrone Avery, Killer Bee cranked it up. There would be no warm up. The gentlemanly nature to which the Grimpeurs had evolved (or devolved) was cast asunder. Bee pulled right away leaving The Cat standing on the pedals, eyes boring holes in his partners back, just to close the gap. At the top Bee said, “You were really riding easy up that hill,” then he took off again. The Cat was left to ponder the possible meaning of the enigmatic phrase. Did he mean that the pace was brisk, the hill well ridden? Did he mean that he thought the pace was easy?

The intent became clearer as the two Grimpeurs started the climb up Snake Hill. After keeping The Cat tantalizingly on his wheel for about a half a minute, just long enough to hear his heart start pounding like a kettle drum, the filthy insect spun up a sizable gap in short order. The only thing that saved Killer Bee from the laser-like gaze of the Cat upon his back was the stream of stinging sweat that forced one eye closed and the other into a slit. In the midst of the struggle, nay—the beat-down, The Cat began to smile. Two guys kicking each other in the nuts; that’s just the way it should be.

The Cat smiled again when he said the next hill wasn’t too long, good to sprint. He made a measured effort and watched his fellow grimpeur blow about 25 yards from the top. Heh, heh.

More of the same followed—Bee cranking up hills with superior form, the Cat reaching into his bag of cheap tricks on the rollers and down hills. The trip up super steep Mt. Zion was a challenge on wet roads, no standing please. Bee, of course made a point to come back down after he summited and tease the Cat. But, he didn’t have to come too far down.
Killer Bee clearly established his superiority Thursday and had done his friend justice. The Cat definitely was dealt a share of what he had dished out. Still, a rising rain storm and a downhill profile on home roads was just what The Cat needed to make a desperate break and put a bit of a scuff on The Bee at the finish. It was great fun. Now, the Cat’s got a mouse to chase.

Since I am slack on the ride reports, I’m just going to tack a short report of today’s ride onto the above.

Killer Bee and The Fat Cat met again at the bottom of Mud Pike on a blazingly hot day in September. Bee’s blood lust had apparently been satisfied last Thursday. He put on a good lead pace but always kept an eye back for The Cat. He amiably offered his wheel whenever the Cat was flagging. In the end they averaged 15 mph over the Pike, Skyline north, Jumonville, and across through Hopwood and Fairchance. The Cat made it to after school pickup with 40 minutes to spare.