Friday, October 23, 2009

A TREND, A PATTERN, A THUMP

The American Heritage Dictionary defines trend as “a general tendency or course; a direction or movement; flow.” Wikipedia defines pattern as “A pattern, from the French patron, is a type of theme of recurring events of or objects, sometimes referred to as elements of a set. These elements repeat in a predictable manner.” Both of these words are resonating with me today as we enter another weekend with wet weather moving into the area. We certainly have had a trend or pattern develop over what subjectively seems like the entire summer but, in reality, is probably something less enduring. For several weeks now, we seem to have been trending toward clearing skies on Sunday afternoons followed by pleasant Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. On Thursdays, precipitation begins forming and by Friday and Saturday, we are under high percentages of rain forecast. In fact, the weather prognosticators have gotten it pretty much right the last 3 weekends in a row. Rain, followed by rain, leading to more rain… This weekend appears to be no exception to the rule.

In anticipation of this pattern of wet weather, I swapped my typical riding schedule around and hit the road on Wednesday this week instead of the usual Thursday. Both Tuesday and Wednesday were gorgeous days here in the mountains of Western North Carolina. We’ve had a bit of a warming spell as we head to Indian Summer. (Wikipedia lists I.S. as “Indian summer is a name given to a period of sunny, warm weather in autumn, not long before winter. Usually occurring after the first frost, Indian summer can be in September, October, or November in the northern hemisphere, and March, April, or early May in the Southern hemisphere..”) In fact, we had a couple of heavy frosts early in the week and even had the first snowfall of the season last weekend.

Wednesday’s ride was another solo event. The “Wood-man” and I had a sort of “well, I’m riding then – may see you on the road” understanding. In this case, “two needles didn’t find the same haystack”. In post ride discussion, I determined that “Wood-man” was coming around the bend below my office about the same time I was accelerating into traffic on the other side of the building with the result being my solo excursion for the day.

As I’ve written before, I’ve moved my starting time up slightly to avoid failing light as the sun sets earlier. One advantage to this has been that I manage to avoid a lot of the traffic associated with end of work day travel. I’m usually off the main drags now by 5:00 p.m. As I started my ride on Wednesday, the skies were a beautiful blue with the fall colors now peaking at the lower elevations. Temperatures were a very pleasant upper 70’s.

My route this date was along Howell Mill Road out to Business 19 and then connecting to NC 209 for a journey down into northern Haywood County. Howell Mill is a two lane surface road that is narrow and carries a moderate amount of traffic from the east end of town to the busy neon-sign sector of Waynesville  on the north side of town. There is one short descent to a railroad crossing over the Richland Creek. On this day, I found a bad point to cross over the RR track and immediately began to experience a THUMP, THUMP, THUMP. I feared that I had flatted but that turned out not to be the case so I kept riding. Clearly though, the THUMP, THUMP, THUMP was going to join me for awhile. I kept surveying my wheels and couldn’t see an overt problem and I did so want to ride… Shortly, it seemed my THUMP, THUMP, THUMP had become a thump, thump, thump and my anxiety levels about having a mechanical issue eased to the point I became involved in the ride again.

I broke off of NC 209 at the intersection with Iron Duff Road and headed for the “triangle” where Iron Duff goes right and Coleman Mountain Road goes left. I wanted to climb so I headed left just past Frog Holler.

FrogHoller2

I rounded a couple of curves before starting the ascent and had the chance to “holler out” at my friend Bo, who was on his tractor fluffing his hay. He too was trying to beat the trend of weather and get his 3rd cutting of hay in the barn before the end of week rains returned. Bo has managed to put up 300+ bales of hay during this wet summer!

We exchanged the usual social niceties: he from his John Deere saddle and me from my Fuji CCR3 saddle. Both are made of leather and both suit their function well. Form is a whole different matter though!

My ascent of Coleman was beginning in earnest at this point so my attention was turned to riding smart, trying to relax and rest while climbing as the “Wood-man” has coached me to do. In short order, I topped the mountain and began a nice long descent to the intersection of US 276. It was at this point that I had a decision to make.

My earlier plans had included the possibility of turning north on US 276 to Rabbit Skin Road and climbing the mountain two lane road before dropping back to Iron Duff and a return to NC 209. I haven’t ridden this stretch of road before other than on my Harley, which is not turning out to be the best scouting vehicle for my bicycle rides. It seems that having 1500 ccs of engine under me on the Harley somehow misrepresents the energy required of my legs to get over 10%+ grades.

Being unfamiliar with that road and still being aware of a thump, thump, thump co-rider paired with a clearly setting sun, led me to decide heading home on US 276 south might be the wiser move on this date. I determined that I would be more easily found on a major highway than a narrow 2 lane mountain road should my thump, thump, thump return to THUMP, THUMP, THUMP  status.

So, some 12 miles later after enjoying the muscle building advantages of a headwind, I  and my thump, thump, thump returned to my office as the sun was setting behind Eagles Nest Mountain. My ride was complete and I had successfully beat the trend.

Thursday turned out to be equally beautiful but riding was out of the question as the “Wood-man” stopped by my office and agreed that I still had a thump, thump,thump to resolve. He relieved me of my front wheel after a short test ride and is now exorcising my thump, thump, thump.

Oh yeah, it’s raining…

Until later,

- Zeke

(Note: you may view this route on MayMyRide by CLICKING HERE!)

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