* * * * *
March 31, 2006:
What happened to spring? Today dawned a humid 72 degrees. The air conditioners had to go to work last night. This morning, on Sarah's walk, the streets were dry, but Sarah managed to find several ditches with leftover rainwater from yesterday's showers. She makes her own humidity.
After we got back, I fed the girl, suited up, and headed for the garage. I checked the air in the tires. Both had proper pressure. The front tire still has its wobble on the left, however. My plan was to get a new tire on Saturday, but my week has been so busy I haven't had time to research the life expectancy of Rebel tires. I know I want a new front tire. The question is whether to go ahead and change out the rear tire at the same time. I have a sneaking suspicion that the labor costs for putting on a rear tire will be considerable. Oh well.
I had a reminder of the hot temperatures when I tried to start the bike this morning. I moved the choke lever to its "full on" position, as I have been doing for months now. The bike wouldn't start. I checked to make sure every toggle was in its proper position, and tried again. It still wouldn't catch. I slid the choke to the half-way point. Still a no go. I moved the lever until the choke was completely off. The bike started. Yes, summer has arrived.
I headed out on the famous post office run. I held my speeds to twenty mph. Although there was no traffic around, and I was moving slowly, I made sure the visor was down in case the front tire blew and I hit the ground.
After getting the mail, I made my way back home by a meandering route. By zig-zagging I managed to increase the length of my ride by a whopping fifty per cent. Yes, instead of the normal two miles, I added a big three miles to the odometer. It now reads 11,515. I really need to get that new tire. Ugh.
* * * * *
March 30, 2006:
No rain this morning, although the streets were still wet from yesterday's downpour. Channel 11 reported fog, but I saw no evidence of it during Sarah's wet walk. She is happy to report that the water in the ditches along our route was cool and clean. At least dog clean.
Because of the wet streets and the tire situation, I took a short ride this morning. I headed for the post office and picked up the mail. I then returned home. Speeds were around twenty mph. Nothing exciting to report. It was good to be in the saddle, but I miss my freeways.
The short jaunt resulted in a big two miles added to the odometer. I now have 11,512 miles. Climbing ever so slowly.
* * * * *
March 29, 2006:
This morning the fog hit. And hit hard. Even if I hadn't been worried about the front tire, today's ride would have been short.
Sarah indicated that she had no objections to a little mist. So I grabbed a light jacket and we headed out. Visibility wasn't too bad as we started her walk. Of course, she keeps her nose so close to the ground that I'm not sure she even noticed the ever-thickening fog.
I did, though. So, I quickly fed her and suited up for a short ride. The tire pressure was fine. I had to decide on a destination for today's ride. The thought of yet another ride to the post office wasn't appealing. And then it hit me. I could actually make the ride useful (in addition to fun) if I would run to the Krogers for milk. I grabbed my backpack and headed out.
I decided to take the back roads off of Sixth Street. It is one of my standard warmup routes, and I hardly ever encounter any traffic. Which proved to be the case today. I had the streets all to myself. The fog was getting worse, but I only had to wipe off my visor once on the trip to Krogers.
Once inside, my eyes grew larger than the size of the backpack. I got the milk. I got some yogurt for Sarah. Then there was a special on frozen vegetables. And a "buy one, get one free" special on vitamin C and on baby aspirin. And the Balance Bars I sometimes eat for lunch were ten for ten dollars. How could I pass up that bargain?
By the time I had paid for everything, I had over thirty dollars worth of groceries, and the backpack zipper would not close at the top. But it was close enough. So I carefully placed the pack on my back, donned my helmet and gloves, and headed out.
I was going east on 11th. I was passing right by the post office. So I whipped in and got the mail. It slid easily into the inside of my jacket.
The fog was getting worse. Visibility was down to three blocks. I had to wipe my visor three times on the way home. Fortunately, traffic was still light. I had no problems, and I managed to keep my speed to under thirty mph the whole trip. Which is both good news and bad news.
I got no speed rush on today's trip. But I had no blowout either. Oh well, so goes the art of compromise. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 11,510 miles on the bike. And heavy rain is expected by lunch. Keep dry, and don't forget to think.
* * * * *
March 28, 2006:
After a good night's sleep, Sarah and the alarm clock conspired to get me out of bed at the normal 5:30 a.m. Temperatures were warm, but rain was forecast. I turned on the TV, and Channel 11 was reporting rain in Conroe. Showers were expected along the entire length of Interstate Ten, but they weren't here yet. A quick look out the window confirmed that the streets were dry. It also confirmed that the skies were overcast. No time to dilly-dally.
I took Sarah downstairs, and we went for her walk. When we got back, I quickly got her food, and slipped upstairs to suit up while she was eating. No winter gear today. In fact, before leaving, I slipped my glove liners out of their winter home in one of my jacket pockets, and said goodbye to cold weather.
I grabbed my helmet. Leaving Sarah behind, I headed for the garage to check the air in the tires. Both tires were properly inflated. But tire troubles were coming, unbeknownst to me at the time.
I warmed up and headed out. I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was really heavy. Lots of trucks. Their size doesn't bother me as much as the view blocks they create. No problems this morning, however. At least not with the traffic.
I needed 35 miles to reach my next goal: 11,500. I decided to add the Highway 59 extension on both loops. The weather was great. Even with the heavier than normal traffic, I was able to get in some quality riding and quality thinking time. I just missed celebrating Columbus Day as the odometer rolled to one, fourteen-ninety two. It read 11493 before I caught it. That made me resolve not to miss mile 11,500. Still, the next time I glanced at the odometer, it read 11,499.
Close call. I renewed my attention on the milestone, and took the curved exit from Highway 59 onto I-10. This section often backs up, and today was no different. With less than a tenth of a mile to go, I was crawling along at around 20 mph. Then, just at the last second, traffic cleared and I was able to double my speed to 40 mph as I watched the odometer roll over to 11,500.
I continued on down I-10, and decided to take the Shepherd exit and get the mail. This decision turned out to be momentous.
For whatever reason, I happened to glance down at the front tire as I made my exit. This is not a recommended practice while traveling at speed. First, you take your eyes off the road ahead of you. Second, you usually go where your eyes are looking, and you sure don't want to go "down."
Third, it is hard to see the front tire, and that takes your concentration off other hazards.
All that said, I recommend you look at your front tire from time to time. When I looked at mine this morning, I noticed a wobble in the sidewall, worse on the left than on the right. It was like the tire was out of round on its side. Instead of the left edge smoothly spinning, it seemed to go in and out along its outer edge. Disconcerting.
Immediately, I began wondering how long this condition had been present. Because I had never consciously checked the roundness of the front tire, I couldn't be sure. On the other hand, every time I thought I had a flat, I had looked at the front tire, and I sure didn't remember anything like I was seeing this morning. And maybe it was the very weirdness of the wobble that drew my attention in the first place.
I decided to stay off the freeways until this problem is resolved. I will call Stubbs today, to see what they have to say. When I got back to the driveway I had mile 11,505 on the bike. And I could not see or feel a bubble in the sidewall. Still, something is out of round. Stay tuned. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
March 27, 2006:
Yesterday was a long day. And, although I got to bed at the usual time, the alarm came way too soon this morning. I got up right away, but I felt drained of energy. I forced myself to take Sarah for her walk in hopes that my energy levels would rise.
Things were improving by the time we returned. The temperature was 61 degrees. I still felt tired, but I was mentally alert enough to take on Houston's freeways. So, I fed Sarah and suited up.
The tires were fine. I headed for I-10. Traffic was very light. It is overcast today. I didn't notice that during my ride, but I just realized that I did not face the glare of the morning sun on this morning's trek.
I had a great ride. The temperature was nearly perfect. Just being on two wheels seemed a tonic. I got in some great thinking time, and I managed to get in some high speed time due to the lack of traffic. A good start to the week.
I have a out-of-the-office appointment this morning, so I kept the ride at the normal workday two circuits. I racked up a quick thirty miles, and was back home pretty fast. I now have 11,465 miles on the bike. Rain is forecast for the rest of the week. We'll see what tomorrow morning brings. We need the rain, but I need my morning ride. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
March 26, 2006:
Today I overslept. I had decided to not set the alarm, and Sarah didn't paw me awake until 5:54 am! It was another cold morning. I turned on the television to check the temperature. It was six o'clock, and 43 degrees out. I knew I was going to be away most of the day, but I decided to put off Sarah's walk as long as possible to give Mister Sun time to do his work.
That didn't mean putting off Sarah's breakfast, of course. We got up and went downstairs for the paper. I fed Sarah, fixed my own breakfast, then checked the email. Lots of activity there.
By the time I had caught up with correspondence, Sarah was more than ready for her walk. It was still in the forties, but time waits for no dog. I bundled up and off we went.
I gave her a full walk, which she seemed to think was inadequate. I swear that girl could walk all day without getting her fill.
When we got back, the temperature had climbed into the fifties. It felt even warmer than that. If I was going to get in a bike ride today, I needed to get going. It was 8:30 in the morning. I suited up, headed to the garage, and checked the air. Both tires were fine.
It felt good to be on two wheels for a real ride. With the time I had available, the normal "workday" circuit seemed most sensible. I warmed up and headed for I-10. I entered the freeway and quickly brought my mph up to the posted limit. There is no substitute for highway speeds.
Traffic was light. The temperature was warm. It was great riding. I had to restrict myself to two circuits. The miles rolled up quickly. I got in needed thinking time. I had no close calls. All-in-all, a great experience.
Thus refreshed, I exited the freeway, doubled back for gas, and headed home to begin the day's "away from the house" tasks. I had logged mile 11,435. My mind was clear and the ride would hold me till the morrow.
* * * * *
March 25, 2006:
I had a late night yesterday. Dawn came both early and cold. It was 39 degrees out. No early walk for Sarah, and no early ride for me.
I had lots on my plate for today. Most of it was away from the house. I fed Sarah, checked my email, had my own breakfast, showered, and rechecked the outside temperature.
It was still very cold. But Sarah needed a walk, and I planned to be away most of the day. So I took her for a short tour of the neighborhood. Then I headed out--in my PT Cruiser.
By 6 p.m. I was back home for a short visit. I let Sarah out, fed her, suited up, and headed for the post office to pick up the mail. The temperature was 71 degrees. The air in both tires was fine. It was great riding weather.
But I was heading out again shortly, and could barely squeeze in this short trek. It felt good to sit on the bike saddle after all the chair sitting I have done today. But I had other tasks, so I had to settle for a utilitarian ride. Even so, I managed to get the odometer to 11,404 miles. And the respite, however brief, was a tonic.
* * * * *
March 24, 2006:
Today it was really cold. As in 38 degrees. No walk for Sarah. And, as for me, I might have been tempted to skip a morning ride, except that I wanted to make my goal of 11,400 miles. So, after feeding the girl, I suited up in full winter gear and headed out.
Getting to the bike was not easy this morning. My parents had arrived yesterday, and their car was parked in front of the garage door I use for the bike. They are in town for a visit before they go on a cruise. Maria and I are going to drop them off at the airport today. That means I will have to deal with their car every morning for the next week.
Today, I grabbed dad's keys and backed the Buick to another section of the driveway. Behind the door for my PT Cruiser, if you must know. I was then able to back the bike out of the garage.
It was really cold. So, before backing the bike up, I checked the air while I was in the relative warmth of the garage. I was very relieved to see that the back tire had lost no air. The front tire was about a half a pound low, but not enough to worry me. I slipped on my gloves and headed out.
As I pulled onto the street, I noticed that the sun was glaring in my mirrors. It was 6:30 a.m. I needed to remember that cars would also have the sun in their mirrors, making it harder to see me when I was behind them.
As soon as I got on I-10, I began to really feel the cold. I had forgotten how unpleasant it is for all that cold air to hit my forehead after funneling up the inside of the visor. Ugh. The Schampa dickie kept my neck warm, but I have yet to figure out how to cover my forehead. I think avoiding cold temperatures is the only solution. Fortunately, this only seems a problem when the mercury is in the thirties.
The ride was uneventful. Plenty of traffic and plenty of lane changers. A typical workday morning. I had a blast, in spite of the cold.
Nonetheless, I headed home after one circuit. I was playing host (and breakfast chef) to my parents, and the cold wasn't all that fun. Plus, as I approached the Taylor Street exit on I-10, I had watched the odometer roll over to 11,400. Goal achieved. Long day ahead. Time to head home.
As I pulled up to the driveway, I noted the odometer now reads 11,402. Cold temperatures are predicted for Saturday and Sunday, but warmer times come back by Monday. Such is riding in the spring. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
March 23, 2006:
Yesterday I said I was within spitting distance of my latest goal. A very poor choice of words.
Sarah awoke a little after five. The radio was reporting that an unexpected line of thunderstorms had developed, and was in Conroe. The temperature was 47 degrees. No walk for her. I decided that I had better leave early, so as to avoid the showers. Also, I have an out-of-the-office appointment this morning, and I needed to be in my car by eight.
I got up to get dressed. A look out the front window did not tell me the condition of the streets. However, the sound of raindrops hitting the roof did. I may have let loose with a monosyllablic sound of exasperation. Maria asked what the problem was. I told her it was raining. She listened, and offered the two word opinion: leaves falling. Ever the doubter, I head downstairs to get the paper and see for myself.
Indeed, rain was falling. A light rain, a spitting rain, but enough to wet the streets. I picked up the (wet) paper and went back inside to feed Sarah. After she ate, I let her out the back and went upstairs to change into my riding gear. It looked like another trip to the post office, which is my usual rain route.
I told Maria my plans for the short ride, and headed for the bike. I let Sarah in on my way out, then checked the air in the tires. Both tires were down. It was just a little colder than yesterday, but the reading gave me pause. Especially the back tire, which only had 25 psi. It usually holds up better than the front. I added air to both tires, and brought the readings back up to 29 psi. Tomorrow is supposed to be another cold day, so I won't know if I have a problem until warmer times.
As I backed the bike out of the garage, I noted that the rain had stopped. The streets were still wet, however. I considered whether the freeways would be wet. I wanted that sixteen miles I needed to reach my goal.
But intelligent thinking won the day. I decided to stick to my normal rain route, which involves back streets and slow speeds. I headed for the post office.
After about five blocks, the rain came back, with a vengeance. My decision to stay off the fast lanes was proving to be the correct one. I made my way to the mail box, picked up three letters, and headed home. Because it was barely six, traffic was especially light. The trip was uneventful. And I wasn't too wet.
As I rode up to the driveway, the odometer read 11,386. I will make no prediction today about what tomorrow will bring. Stay tuned, stay dry and don't forget to think.
* * * * *
March 22, 2006:
This morning it was colder than yesterday. Channel 11 reported 45 degrees. Maria and I had decided that Sarah's cut off for her morning walk was 50 degrees. Not even close. Sarah did not seem to agree. This morning, by a two to one vote, we did not stroll down the street.
Nonetheless, I got up, and Sarah and I got the paper. I then fed the girl, and let her out the back. I went upstairs and changed into full winter gear. By a one to one vote, I was going for my ride.
Last night, Steve and Diane had come over to visit Maria. Steve asked me how many miles I had on the bike. I told him eleven-three. He seemed to appreciate the number. I don't get that many questions from non-riders about the number of miles I have racked up. I think Steve asked because he drives a Viper, and is, therefore, one of those to whom driving is its own end.
Anyway, my goal all week has been to get to 11,400. Because of weather and other events, I have had trouble keeping up with my normal steady pace. So, this morning, I decided to get back on track.
I told Maria that I would be back, and I headed to the garage to check the air. It was essentially unchanged from yesterday. Maybe a tad lower in both tires, but the temperature was also lower. I did not add air.
I warmed up and headed west on I-10. I am still getting used to the new interchange for I-10 and the Loop. The new exit lanes make a sweeping curve to the right, and they slope upwards while doing it. It makes a nice view from the top. Unfortunately, lots of eighteen wheelers use that exit, and they slow down during the upward thrust. Those truckers tend to get in the left-hand lane. That means cars behind them get impatient at the loss of speed and are tempted to change into the right-hand lane. The lane I was using. "Was" being the operative word. I decided to switch to the left-hand lane so as to avoid this problem. So far, so good.
In fact, I had no problems on this morning's ride, except for a fender-bender in the far left-hand lane of the North Loop, which slowed everything down due to rubber-neckers. The congestion was fairly short, however.
I wanted to add the Highway 59 extension on the first circuit, but the sun was directly in my eyes, and I don't feel comfortable riding that stretch without clear vision. By the second circuit, the sun was up high enough in the sky that I had no trouble seeing. I went for it.
Fortunately, traffic was light all through the extension. I made good time. When I hit I-10, I continued west to the Heights exit, and headed home. A nice thirty-five mile run. By the time I rode up to the driveway I had 11,384 miles on the bike. Within spitting distance of my goal. When I got inside Channel 11 was reporting an overturned truck on the entrance ramp I always take to begin my morning ride. I must have just missed it.
My fingers were beginning to thaw out. It was good to be back inside. I heard breakfast calling. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
March 21, 2006:
Today is the first full day of spring. Someone forgot to tell Mister Sun. It was 53 degrees on the house thermometer when dawn came. Sarah seemed to think that was no big deal. Maria and I weren't so sure. By a two to one vote, Sarah got her walk. I will leave it to you to guess who voted how.
The stroll wasn't as cold as I had feared. Of course, we dressed warmly. When we got back, I fed Sarah and suited up in full winter gear, including the Schampa dickie.
The front tire read 29 psi. Right on, but down two pounds from yestereday. Whether that was from the cold, or a leak, would be indicated by the reading from the rear tire. The back tire holds air a lot better than the thinner front one. If it also had a loss of pressure, my theory on the effects of cold weather on tire pressure would be supported.
Yes, indeed, the back tire was down one pound. I think the cold explains the readings. Anyway, I did not add air to either tire, and I headed out.
I warmed up, then entered I-10, heading west. It was cold. And crowded. I could see the sunrise in my mirrors, but those morning rays were not warming up the air. At least not at 60 mph.* And, although the freeway was crowded, the speeds were fast.
Sunday, when I had headed for Micro Center to get my new printer, I had noticed that they had opened a new section of the "I-10 to West Loop" interchange. It seemed nice, but it was a big change. Yesterday, because of the rain, I had not tried the new configuration. That was good, because it gave the four-wheelers a chance to drive the new route in my absence.
Still, I was extra cautious this morning. Until everyone gets used to the new lanes, I figured there is the danger from last minute lane changes.
I like the new section. There are shoulders on both sides for most of the interchange. And the lanes are wide. There seems to be a natural tendency in humans to resist change. But, on the whole, most change is good. It causes us to grow, and examining old routines is always worthwhile. I think I am going to like this change.
Some adjustments will have to be made. The old lane I am used to taking now feeds into the "exit only" lane for T.C. Jester. I saw a four-wheeler make a triple lane change to get to that exit. I was ready for him, but the fact that his blinkers weren't on tells me he was not prepared for his maneuver. Otherwise, the ride went fine.
There was plenty of time for thinking, and I put it to good use. I just wish the temperature had been about ten degrees warmer. My fingers did not appreciate the morning air.
I was tempted to add another round to the normal workday circuit, but I was running a tad late, and I wanted to see if the new route was the same thirty miles I had grown to know and love on the old route. It was. As I rode up to the driveway, I had 11,349 miles on the odometer. I was glad to get inside to warm my fingers and fix breakfast. I've a busy day. See you on the road.
* * * * *
March 20, 2006:
Thunderclaps woke me up a little after three this morning. The sound of rain accompanied the thunder. I went back to sleep. No morning walk for Sarah. And a short ride--at best-- for me.
I managed to put off Sarah's breakfast until a little after six. The rain had mostly stopped. We went downstairs, got the paper, and her breakfast. After eating, she explored the backyard and I checked the rain gauges. Two tenths of an inch. Not much, but welcome all the same.
After Sarah decided to come back inside, I suited up and headed for the tire pressure gauge. Both tires were fine. I declare the slow leak over. Of course, I intend to verify that pronouncement before each day's ride!
The streets were wet and a light mist was falling. I took my standard rainy day ride to the post office to pick up the mail. I was especially careful on the corners. Traffic was light.
It had to be around 6:30 when I hit the post office parking lot. There were more cars at the post office than on the road. I am not aware of any tax deadlines, and I don't know of a tradition of mailing letters on the opening day of spring (which this is), so I can't explain why everyone showed up so early. I know they weren't running a special on stamps.
I headed back to the house. By the time I pulled up to the driveway I had logged two quick miles. I now have 11,319 miles on the bike. And the thunder was back. In fact, I barely made it inside before another round of heavy showers hit the Heights. I was glad I hadn't decided to extend my ride.
* * * * *
March 19, 2006:
This morning, Maria and I took it easy. Sarah, however, was in no mood for taking it easy. She wanted to take it on the road. I fed her and we headed out. Rain was expected today, but it was pretty dry on our morning walk.
When we returned, I fixed Maria a breakfast omelet, bacon, grapefruit and coffee. We read the paper, ate breakfast, and watched the morning news. Then, sadly, I headed out to the garden to work on the roses. I say "sadly" because the weather was perfect for riding.
Before ten, I had finished with the roses. I grabbed a quick shower, and suited up. A check of the air pressure in the front tire showed it had not lost any air. Good. The back tire was also fine.
I decided to forego high speed freeway riding on the off chance that the tube had been pinched during the repair process. I got on I-10 for a short while, and took the downtown exit. Downtown Houston is neat on Sunday mornings. It is a huge, empty space. The streets, normally bustling, are deserted. Memorial Drive was likewise free of traffic. I had it all to myself. Even at the posted speed limit, it was a fun drive.
I took Memorial almost to the park, u-turned, then caught Allen Parkway back toward downtown. I was going to take the westward leg, but there was some kind of a fun run, and the westbound direction was closed off. I headed south to Gray. I took Gray westward to Waugh, then worked my way to the Half Price Bookstore on Westheimer. I decided to look check out the philosophy section for the book I could not find yesterday, on the off chance I had confused the location where I had last seen the offering.
Sadly, there was no copy at this Half Price either. Oh well. As a consolation prize, I did manage to find a few books of interest. After packing them inside my jacket, I worked my way back to Memorial Drive, and took it eastwardly to downtown. I then got on Louisiana, and entered I-10, headed home.
It had been a short ride, even with the bookstore stop. I turned mile 11,300 as I passed over Heights Boulevard. I exited at Shepherd, and u-turned back to get gas. After filling up, I could not bring myself to head home. It seemed the freeway was pulling me like a magnet. I was drawn to the lodestone of high speeds. I entered I-10, took I-45 north to Loop 610, and did the circle. It felt great to be on the road, dodging traffic and thinking about the problems of the world. Moving meditation.
I stopped after one circuit. I could have ridden for another hour, easily, but I still had lots to do. I headed home, changed clothes, bought two new pairs of shoes, a printer for the office, checked my office email and was back at the house by a little after three.
And, oh yes, I now have 11,317 miles on the bike. Not bad for a day with so many things on the list. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
March 18, 2006:
Rain is expected any time today. Stubbs opens at 9 a.m. Sarah wanted her walk. Maria had a sewing class that lasts all day. The roses are demanding fertilizer. I need a new pair of shoes. And I, foolishly, passed up a book at Half Price that is all the more tempting because it is still at the store. So go the demands of life.
Sandra, one of Maria's sewing buddies, picked her up at 8:30 a.m. I figured Maria would enjoy a day of sewing classes, and that the break from gardening tasks would be just what the doctor ordered. As for me, somebody had to feed those roses.
I had already suited up and checked the air in the tires before Sandra had arrived. The back tire was fine. The front had 17 psi. At least it wasn't completely flat. I waited until Maria departed and then made my way to the garage. I added air to the front tire, bringing it to 29 psi. I grabbed the can of aerosol air and headed out. It is ten miles to Stubbs, using the back roads.
I was a short distance down the road when I realized I had forgotten to take the tire pressure gauge with me. Oh well. I was left with visible inspections to make sure the front tire was holding its air.
I stuck to the back roads. I took Montrose to Dallas, and Dallas to Leeland. My plan was to take Leeland all the way to Telephone Road, and on to Stubbs. It is the route I have used before. Maximum speed is 35 mph. That way, even a blow out is not necessarily disastrous. I knew there was a St. Patrick's Day parade in downtown Houston this afternoon, but I figured I was navigating the roads early enough to avoid street closures. Several police officers, both in cars and on motorcycles, were in place. Luckily, none of the streets were closed yet. It looked like I would make it to Stubbs without "imperial entanglements."
Unfortunately, the police had other plans. As I approached the place where Leeland changes into Telephone Road, I saw a cop car with its lights on and its hood up. The cop was standing near the car. There were orange cones placed across the intersection. They were spaced widely enough apart for a car to go through easily. I slowed down. The cop stood by without concern. I stopped. When I started to cross the intersection he started yelling at me. Didn't I see the cones? I guess it was a rhetorical question. Of course I saw the cones. But I sure didn't figure out what they meant. The cop, who had made no effort to stop me before I started through them, and who couldn't even be bothered to stand in the intersection, suddenly became agitated because I hadn't figured out why he put the cones there. I had stopped, saw no reason for the cones, had gotten no direction from the cop, and continued my path. That had gotten a reaction. Still puzzled, I made a u-turn. Only then did some bicyclists come on the scene, headed in my direction in the opposite lane from the one I had been in. Apparently, here in the middle of nowhere, there as some kind of bike ride going on.
The cop seemed content to yell at me. I escaped without a ticket for failing to read his mind. I turned to the south on some side road. I briefly considered backtracking to a major street so I could get on I-45. I vetoed that idea because of my worry about a blowout at highway speeds.
As I traveled south, I was gradually herded to the University of Houston area. All streets to my east were blocked by police. These police, however, were standing in the intersection with their hands out in the "don't come this way" stance all motorists understand. Understanding, I continued south, looking for a break.
I ended up on Scott Street. Scott was two lanes in each direction at that point. What was weird was that the bicyclists were using the right-hand lane of Scott, but the police were letting other traffic use the left-hand lane. I continued down Scott for some miles, until I reached another intersection where a female officer was standing in the middle of the road, blowing her whistle repeatedly. No hand motions. Just lung power. By this time I realized that I was going to have to be a mind reader. I guess she didn't care if I went left or right, and that is why she wasn't using her hands to indicate what I sould do. Remembering the earlier short-tempered cop, I hooked a left and headed in a new direction.
The skies were overcast, and I had lost all sense of direction in my many detours. I felt in my pocket for my compass, but couldn't find it. I continued on down a road whose name I can't recall in a direction I don't know.
Eventually, I ended up intersecting the South Loop. I clearly saw the sign pointing to the West Loop and one pointing to the East Loop. I knew I needed to get to the Telephone Road exit on the Loop, but I couldn't figure out whether I was east or west of it. I sat at the intersection for the longest time, trying to orient myself. No luck. Finally, I gave up and headed west.
Bad choice. As soon as I entered the freeway, holding my breath all the way, I realized I had headed the wrong direction. I took the first exit I came to, u-turned, and got back up on the South Loop, heading east. I was still worried about a blowout. And chagrined that I had ended up on a freeway in spite of my best efforts.
None to soon, I came to the exit for Telephone Road. I took it and pulled into the parking lot for Stubbs. My odometer indicated that I had traveled 31 miles to make the ten mile ride. Oh well. The tire still had air, and I had arrived in one piece.
David was standing outside the repair bay when I drove up. He seemed surprised to see me back so soon. I explained the problem, and he wheeled the bike into the repair area. I sat down at began reading the paperback book I had brought. It was John Holt's How Children Learn, if you must know. Last time, the tire repair had taken an hour, but that time I had arrived at Stubbs before nine in the morning. Today it was around 10:15.
Still, they were pretty fast this morning. In barely an hour, the manager was out to ask me about the leak. Was it slow? Yes, I replied. They could not find a leak. Had they replaced the tube, anway, I asked. Yes they had. And no labor charge, since they had fixed the tire a few weeks ago. They had found a little rust on the tire rim, sanded that clean, and put in a new tube. I got out of there for the cost of the tube, which was under eight dollars. Things were looking better. And my admiration for the great service at Stubbs continues to grow. They take pride in their work, and have always treated me more than fairly.
I suited up and rode the bike over to the Harley parking lot. The Rider's Edge course was in progress. Five attendees. They looked like they were intent on learning the basics. It brought back memories.
I checked out the bikes and the gear in the Harley wing, then suited up again and headed out. I got on Loop 610, and headed for the Kirby Drive exit. I thought I could hear a book at Half Price calling my name.
I headed directly for the Philosophy section. I was looking for a book on epistomology by Anthony Flew. You know how they say you should never pass up an antique, because it might be gone when you come back. That saying was proved correct today. I checked the shelves three time, but could not find the book I wanted. Someone smarter than I had already snatched it up. Oh well. I did manage to find a neat book about the Salem witch trials. It is called Judge Sewall's Apology, by Richard Francis. It is the story of this evil event as told through the eyes of Samuel Sewall, the trial judge. Sewall was wracked with guilt over what he had been part of, but at least he had the courage to recant the guilty verdicts, and beg for forgiveness. It should make an interesting read.
I slipped the book in the back protector pocket of my Vanson jacket, and headed for the Skeeters on Bissonnet for lunch. The hamburger and fries were excellent. Thus fortified, I headed back to the house to get on with my gardening work.
I managed to fertilize almost all the roses. I would have finished, but I used up all the Mills Magic Rose Mix. I may get some more tomorrow from Southwest Fertilizer. I have at least two days worth of honey-do's left for tomorrow.
Maria made it back around 4:30 p.m. She seemed pleased with my gardening progress. I checked the air in the front tire before we ate dinner. It had 31 psi. Tomorrow will tell the tale as to whether the slow leak is behind me. Stay tuned.
* * * * *
March 17, 2006:
Last night it rained hard. We got eight tenths of an inch. This morning it was a warm 68 degrees. The streets were a little damp, but mostly dry. Sarah enjoyed her morning romp through ditches filled with rain water. During our walk I kicked up a roofing nail in the street. Yesterday I had also found a nail. Both objects were in the direct path I often take on my morning rides. I decided to closely examine my front tire to see if a nail was letting the air out.
We finished our walk. Unfortunately, the bike's front tire had not healed itself overnight.
I fed Sarah, suited up, and went to check the air. When I got home after work, the front tire had 21 psi. This morning it had 18 psi. At least it wasn't flat. The back tire was fine. I filled the front tire and rolled the bike out to the driveway. I slowly inched the bike forward, closely examining the front tire. I stopped for a closer look several times, but I never found anything that was the cause of the leak.
I still had my resolution to not take a long ride. So, to make today's short ride interesting, I decided to clock our morning walks. I figured the route was about a mile long, and this would be a good opportunity to test that hypothesis. I noted the tripometer reading, started the bike, and headed out on the same streets we take for Sarah's walk. I kept the bike in second gear for most of the trip.
Nothing exciting happened. Before I knew it, I was back at the driveway. The tripometer registered 1.1 miles. The odometer registered 11,233 miles. I registered chagrin that I had a flat tire to deal with tomorrow. Stay tuned.
* * * * *
March 16, 2006:
The rain predicted for overnight had stayed away. And the thermometer read twenty degrees higher than yesterday morning. So, with clear skies and warm temperatures, we headed out for Sarah's walk. During that walk I planned my morning ride. Because temperatures were so warm, and the streets were unexpectedly dry, I mulled over the idea of going for three workday circuits. But, at the back of my mind, was yesterday's problem.
When we got back, I fed Sarah. It was still pretty early. Plenty of time to sneak in an extra loop. I suited up and headed for the garage.
On March the 9th, an eighteen-wheeler carrying a load of metal shavings had tipped over at the junction of I-45 and Loop 610. That intersection is on my normal workday circuit. For five days I had stayed away from that section of road for fear of a flat tire. Tuesday, figuring that other drivers had picked up any remaining pieces of metal, I had gotten back on my routine route. Wednesday my tires were low. But so was the temperature.
This morning would be the test. Temperatures were near normal, and a low reading on the tire pressure gauge would mean a trip to Stubbs for tube repair. Sadly, I'm headed for Stubbs. The back tire read 29 psi. No air loss there. However, the front tire read only 21 psi. Ugh. Double ugh. Clearly, I have another slow leak.
I rolled the bike out of the garage and sat on it for long minutes. Last time this happened I had cut my runs back to the couple of miles it takes to go to the post office. But, by the time I could get in to Stubbs, my front tire was completely flat in the morning. It had held its air for the entire trip to the shop, but I didn't want to risk that again. But I didn't want to go a day without riding, either. A dilemma.
I decided to limit my ride to around the block. I would not risk even the two miles to the post office. I kept my speeds low to stretch out the time in the saddle. Still, I was back at the driveway before I knew it. I noted that the odometer now read 11,232 miles, even though I had ridden only about six tenths of a mile.
As I was putting the bike away, Maria came out the back door. She had heard my early return, and was wondering what was the matter. I told her about the flat, and came on inside to write up the sad details. Unless you live very close to me in the Heights, I am fairly certain I won't see you on the road before Saturday.
* * * * *
March 15, 2006:
This morning was even colder than yesterday. Today it was 46 degrees out. I could feel it even while we took Sarah for her walk. But that didn't stop my morning ride.
I suited up in all my winter gear, including a Schampa dickie that John got me for Christmas. I especially like it because it keeps my neck warm. It came in handy this morning.
After feeding Sarah, I suited up and headed for the garage. A check with the tire pressure gauge showed the front tire had 24 psi, which is five pounds light. Yesterday the reading was just above 28 psi, which I wrote off as due to the cold.
Of course, it was also yesterday that I rode over the freeway parts where the eighteen-wheeler spilled the scrap metal. Ugh. I hope I don't have a tire leak. I aired the front tire back to 29 psi and then checked the rear tire. It usually holds air better. It was also low. It read 26 psi. Weirdly, that made me feel better. Of course, I could have slow leaks in both tires, but I think it just as likely that the cold temperaures caused the low air pressure readings. Tomorrow's reading will provide more information on this.
After airing both tires, I headed out. Traffic was light except where I-10 joins the Loop. On both circuits I had to make "quick slows" at that point. It seemed like the front brake lever was connected to an IV that shot adrenaline into my system on both occasions. There is nothing like realizing I have to brake hard at highway speeds for flooding the system with adrenaline. Even when it's not a close call. Oh, the thrills of riding.
Otherwise, it was a very pleasant run. The light traffic provided plenty of time to enjoy the road. And plenty of time for quality thinking. I have an out-of-office appointment this afternoon, so I contented myself with two quick circuits. When I pulled up to the driveway, my fingers were frozen, and my odometer read 11,231 miles. Time for work. Don't forget to think.
* * * * *
March 14, 2006:
Boy was it cold this morning. At least colder that it has been lately in Houston. Channel 11 said it was 51 degrees out. And it sure felt like it. Sarah was happy, but we bundled up in thick coats for her walk. She already had on her thick coat.
When we got back, I decided to bundle up for my ride, too. I donned all my winter gear, and headed for the bike. Maria had some stuff to take care of in the garage, so she walked out with me. This is not part of our normal routine. Usually, I grab my jacket and helmet and go. I tell Maria that I'll be back, and I lock the back door as I leave.
This morning, I grabbed my jacket and helmet, then helped her in the garage. Once she was done, I checked the air in the tires and headed out. I was glad I had worn all my winter gear. As I was heading for I-10, I heard an insect of some kind hit my helmet. I thought it rather cool for insects to be out, but didn't think anything more about it.
As I got on the feeder road for I-10, I heard another insect hit my helmet. Logic took over. There could not be two bugs wanting to commit suicide on such a cold morning. As I traveled down the feeder, I leaned to my right, and looked into the mirror. There, instead of bug guts, I saw a little flap of helmet strap. I quickly felt under my chin. I realized that the disrupted routine of this morning had caused me to forget to tighten my chin strap. By this time, I was entering I-10, heading west.
I took the first exit, pulled off the road, and slipped the strap through the D-ring. I gave everything a pull, and off I went. It just goes to show you how easy it is to break a habit if the circumstances are right.
It had been a while since I had done my regular workday circuit. Last week, an eighteen-wheeler dumped a load of scrap metal on the freeway, and I had avoided the route until other tires had picked up all the little pieces of metal. I figured that it was now safe to roll over the disaster area. So off I went.
Today's start was a little delayed because of the garage adventure, and because of the strap stop. So, I was underway a little later than normal. One consequence of that was that the sun was just peaking over the horizon when I started eastbound on the Loop.
Boy, that orange globe is hard on the eyes at sunrise. I could barely see the road. In fact, all the traffic slowed down (to about 55 mph) because of the glare. I figured the problem would cure itself soon enough, as the sun rose.
I encountered the twin of the problem when I turned westward on I-10. I no longer had the sun in my eyes because it was behind me, but my mirrors were almost useless because of the glare. That was bad enough for me, but I also realized that the other vehicles probably had the same problem. That meant they could not see me behind them . That meant I had to leave more room between me and the car ahead of me in case that driver decided to change lanes. He surely couldn't see me, even if he checked his mirrors.
Fortunately, no problems arose. It was a great (albeit cold) ride. Lots of nice thinking time. I decided to go for three loops since I had been absent from the circuit for so long. On the third loop, the sun was getting higher in the sky. I considered adding the Highway 59 extension onto my route, but there is always debris between I-45 and Highway 59 on the Loop.
As I was debating what to do, I came upon a big plastic bag at least four feet by four feet. Stark white. I'm not sure what was in it. I was happy to note that it was in the lane next to me, and not in my lane. Still, what an early morning obstruction. Just as I was congratulating myself for missing the bag, a pile of road junk appeared in my lane. I eased around it and decided to stick with the regular route.
As I got back on I-10, I noted I would be about a mile short of my morning's goal. So I took the Shepherd exit instead of the Heights exit. I went north to 11th Street, the east toward home. As I crossed the intersection of Heights and 11th, the odometer rolled over to 11,200. Eleven-two. That has a nice sound to it.
I headed on in, and had 11,201 miles on the bike when I pulled up to the driveway. And a great ride under my belt. See you on the road.
* * * * *
March 13, 2006:
This morning dawned warm, but misty. When we took Sarah for her walk, the moisture that was present last night at ten was still present. My glasses act as my standard. They got wet enough to cause me to forego my freeway riding. No fog, just mist.
When we got back, I fed Sarah and suited up. I checked the air in the tires, and cautiously headed out. I made sure my turns were gentle arcs at low speed. I also kept the transmission in second and third gear so the engine braking could keep me from going too fast.
Because we have not had any significent rain in weeks, I was worried that the streets would be very slippery with the light moisture. Fortunately, I did not have to test my theory this morning.
I rode to the post office, got the mail, and rode directly home. It was early enough that the streets were mostly deserted. And it was early enough when I got back that I used the spray lubricant to spray the bike's chain. It is recommended that one does this every 500 miles, and I was a hundred miles behind schedule.
When I got back inside, the weatherman on Channel 11 was confirming that the mist was a general problem throughout the viewing area. And the traffic man was reporting traffic accidents all over town, including a motorcycle/truck accident on I-45. I don't know if moisture contributed to that incident, but I was glad I had stuck with my decision to stay off the high-speed roads. And I was glad to rack up mile 11,154 miles on the bike. Stay dry.
* * * * *
March 12, 2006:
Today was another gardening day. But I figured out a way to get in a ride. A gardening ride.
We got up at regular time. I fed Sarah. We took her for a walk. We ate breakfast. Then, I spent the rest of the morning working in the garden, along with Maria. Sarah helped move sticks of wood. We all did our part.
Around 11:00 a.m. I grabbed a shower and headed for Southwest Fertilizer. I was signed up to help John Ferguson of Nature's Way Resources on a product promotion. The Houston Rose Society worked with Mr. Ferguson to develop a Rose Soil Blend. And Southwest Fertilizer has begun carrying the Nature's Way products by the bag. Randy Lemmon, of GardenLine fame, was also to be there.
At the end of yesterday's ride, I got to thinking about how the Rebel's odometer was fast approaching a milestone. So, before leaving the house today, I stuck a digital camera in my riding jacket.
And I stuck a regular shirt in my back pack. I didn't want to scare off all the customers when I greeted them, so I thought it wise to have clothes to change into once I arrived at Southwest Fertilizer. I added a little air to the front tire, donned my back pack, and headed out.
Because of all the freeway construction, I took Shepherd south to Kirby, and Kirby south to Highway 59. I then got on 59, heading west. I took the exit for the West Loop, and headed south. I then exited at Bissonnet and headed west, toward Southwest Fertilizer. It was early. I was observing both my watch and the odometer. I traveled around the neighborhood, continuing to watch the odometer. At one point, I thought the magic event was about to take place. I watched the odometer roll over to mile 11,100.0. It was then that I realized I needed eleven more miles before the real milestone.
I headed back to the Loop, and took it south to Post Oak. I wanted to have ten miles on the odometer before looking for a special spot to take a picture. I u-turned on Post Oak and got back on the Loop, northbound. I then took the Fournace exit, u-turned and once again got back on the Loop, southbound. This time I exited at North Braeswood, heading west. The magic mile was getting closer. I took South Rice north. Then I got the brilliant idea to take Beechnut east to Myerland. Which I did.
I entered the parking lot for the mall, and made my way to the southwest corner of the mall's parking lot. That section was empty. I took about six giant circles around the lot, running up the miles to the exact point I wanted. I then parked the bike and got out the camera. I snapped a few pictures of the odometer. It read 11111.1 exactly. Of all my mileage milestones, this one was the neatest. And I was sitting still while observing it. All those "ones" across the odometer were impressive.
After preserving the moment on film, I put the camera away, started the bike, and headed for Southwest Fertilizer. I made it with about fifteen minutes to spare. I parked the bike, and walked in, helmet in hand. No do-rag this time, though.
Randy and John were already at their stations. Both saw me walk it. Randy had seen me in my biker gear before. He didn't seem surprised. John looked a little relieved when I slipped my jacket off, put the helmet away, and put on my regular shirt, complete with name tag. I looked professionally presentable. At least for gardeners.
The next two and three-fourths hours went without incident. I answered lots of questions, and some people even recognized my name from my website, with appreciated compliments.
When it was time to leave, I shucked the shirt, placed it in the back pack, and put on my jacket, helmet and gloves. Thus attired, I headed for the bike for part two of my ride.
As reported yesterday, Half Price Books is having a twnty per cent off sale. Sunday is the last day. So, since I was out anyway, I headed for the Half Price off Kirkwood. I took Chimney Rock north all the way to Memorial Drive. I took Memorial westbound to Kirkwood. I would like to claim that I knew what I was doing. But the fact is that I forgot that this particular Half Price is on Kirkwood at Westheimer, not Kirkwood at Memorial. A phone call to Maria confirmed my mistake. So I headed south on Kirkwood to the proper location.
Once inside the store, I wandered around, checking out the merchandise. I guess they were pretty picked over due to the sale. For what ever reason, I only found one book and one book on tape. I called Maria for a traffic report. She informed me that I-10 was clear from Kirkwood to Studemont. So I worked my way to I-10, and headed east.
At Studemont, I stopped for gas. I then headed home. When I rolled up to the driveway, it was barely 5:30 p.m., and I had 11,152 miles on the bike. Not bad for a gardening day.
* * * * *
March 11, 2006:
I awoke at five this morning. Or, I should say that Sarah awoke and made sure I did too. In fact, she got up for the first time about 3 a.m. She was much agitated. I took her downstairs and she tore out the back door, barking all the way. Whatever the problem, she returned shortly, none the worse for the wear. And she managed to go right back to sleep.
Maybe it was that adventure, but I just didn't feel like getting out of bed before dawn today. So I waited till six and fed the girl. Then I came back upstairs and took a bath. And read. And didn't go for my ride.
By 7:30 a.m. Maria was also up. We started our Saturday tasks (mainly in the garden), and it wasn't until six in the evening that I got the chance to hit the road. I quickly suited up, checked the air, and headed out.
I was fast running out of daylight. But I hadn't been on the freeways in a couple of days. And Half Price was having a twenty per cent off sale. I told Maria I was headed for the Half Price off Highway 59 and FM 1960, and that I would be back by 7:30 or so.
I topped off the tank and headed east on I-10. There was road construction on Highway 59, but only on the section that fed into the North Loop. I chanced it. And lucked out.
Traffic was light, as is usually the case. The weather was warm. Great riding conditions. I made good time to FM 1960, and decided to continue on northward. I was having a great time thinking about things, and I was having an even greater time being back in the saddle.
I added about five miles to my northward journey, then u-turned and headed back for 1960. I took that to the Half Price, and spent about thirty-five minutes wandering around the store. I recalled a bumper sticker I had seen on a ride recently. It said: All who wander are not lost.
I was not lost. I found three books I could not live without. I paid for my treasures, stuffed them down the front of my jacket, and headed home. The ride back, although in the dark, was uneventful. In fact, I had a blast. It was just after eight when I rolled up to the driveway. That counts as "or so," doesn't it?
I now have 11,087 miles on the bike. And an interesting adventure planned for tomorrow. Stay tuned. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
March 10, 2006:
Today was weird.
When we took Sarah for her walk it was 54 degrees, according to Channel 11. For the first half of her walk, all was fine. Then, on the return home, fog began to appear drifing through the tops of the street lamps. I commented to Maria about this development. As we continued to walk, the fog got thicker and thicker. By the time we we home, visibility was reduced to two blocks.
I fed Sarah and suited up. I told Maria that, because of the fog, today's ride would be a short one. I decided to warm up on the back streets off Sixth, do the twisties on White Oak, and return home.
I checked the air in the tires. The front tire read 28 psi. Down one pound. I let it go, opting for the added traction. I knew I would not be hitting any high speeds this morning. The back tire was fine.
When I started up the engine I immediately noticed that the fog was very visible in my headlight. The individual drops were thickly drifting around in a way I had not experienced before. And this was while I was sitting in the driveway!
I pulled out and noted that I still had two blocks of visibility. Good enough.
However, at the second stop sign, after coming to a real "full and complete" stop, I felt the rear tire let loose as I turned left to get on Oxford. I was making the turn in my usual manner. The fog must have wet down the streets just enough to cause them to slicken up. I did not go down, but it certainly caused the adrenaline to flow.
Change of plans! No twisties today. I decided to head straight to the post office box, get the mail, and return home. That way, my speeds would be low and traffic minimal. However, as I continued down Seventh Street, problems developed.
I had my visor up. That was a mistake. The fog clogged my glasses in short order. In fact, when I pulled up to Seventh and Heights, I realized I had made three mistakes. First, I was about to enter busy streets. I should have taken a back street to Tenth so as to minimize the time I had to be on major arteries. Second, the visor should have been down. Then, I could have wiped it clear with my gloved finger. Third, I had taken off without a tissue in my pocket. That mean I had to clear my glasses on my shirt. Which was under my jacket. Which meant I could not get to it easily.
I couldn't see enough to cross Heights. Fortunately, no one was coming up behind me, so I slowly backed up the bike until I could get on the side of the road. I then put the kick stand down, turning off the engine. I left the light on so I would be as visible as the fog allowed. I took off my glove, unzipped my riding jacket, and use my Kevlar shirt to wipe my glasses clean. Much better.
I replaced my gear and made a u-turn back to Harvard. I then worked my way north to Tenth Street. I kept my visor down, and I had to wipe it clear from time to time. I traveled slowly.
At Tenth, I crossed Heights and turned north on Yale. In two blocks I was in the Post Office parking lot. I got the mail and headed home.
Unfortunately, the only way to do that was on Eleventh Street. Eleventh is always a busy street, and it was busy this morning. I used the old ruse of turning into a parking lot at a 45 degree slant to get off Eleventh without having to make a hard right-hand turn at speed. I then used the back roads to make my way back home. I also used my finger to wipe the visor, more than once.
When I (slowly) pulled up to the driveway, I had 11,027 miles on the bike. It had been a long two miles. Valuable lessons were learned. I still love the fog, but I like it best to walk in, not ride (or drive) through. I had been out for about fifteen minutes. It had been an intense learning experience. And the most valuable lesson I got was that there is still a lot to riding bikes that I have yet to learn. And that's why I say: Don't forget to think.
* * * * *
March 9, 2006:
Last night the weather forecasters predicted rain for this morning. By morning, when Sarah woke me up, the radio said the rain would come later (if at all) but that we had other problems. A truck had lost its load of scrap metal on the westbound portion of Loop 610, at I-45. That is a section of my normal workday circuit. Little pieces of metal were everywhere. Flat tires were predicted. That was enough for me.
We took Sarah for her walk and I planned an alternate route for my morning ride. Thus, it happened that I ended up back on Memorial Drive, for the second day in a row.
After walking and feeding Sarah, I suited up, check the air in the tires, and headed out. I got on I-10 and headed east, toward downtown. Just as I did yesterday, I took the downtown exit and got on Memorial Drive, heading west. Just as yesterday, there was a white car in front of me. This time, however, it was a police unit. That kept my speeds down, but it didn't stop the cop from speeding away at over 60 mph. Fortunately, he exited at Silver, so I had a clear shot at the road.
I took Memorial to the Shepherd exit at a nice clip, then worked my way over to Allen Parkway for a tour of those curves. The Parkway was almost deserted. The morning was cool. And there were no metal shavings on the road. It was a good ride.
I did both legs of Allen Parkway, then I headed back for Memorial and took it toward downtown. At Louisiana I headed north and got on I-10. I had resolved not to get anywhere near the congestion on the Loop. Unfortunately, another trucker had lost his load on I-10, and I got caught in that. For a mile or so I was traveling at a very low speed. Once past the debris, things picked up again. I noticed that inbound traffic on I-10 was bumper to bumper, and I decided to take the Heights exit and get back on city streets. Which I did.
I took the leisurely way home, enjoying the warm morning. I was happy to note that the rain clouds were still absent. I was also happy to note that I now have 11,025 miles on the bike. Stay away from those metal shavings on the freeways. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
March 8, 2006:
Sarah woke up early today. She made sure I woke up early, too. I lay there, with the radio on, planning my morning route. Today was a celebratory ride, and I felt like something different from the normal workday circuit. I was ten miles short of mile 11,000.
It was about five in the morning. I had decided to take a roll down Memorial when the radio reported that I-10 West was a mess. Apparently, a car crashed, then some eighteen wheelers stopped, but another one didn't, with disasterous results. That sealed my choice of routes.
When the alarm sounded, we got up and took Sarah for her walk. The weather was great outside. The temperature was 68. The skies were partly cloudy, and the streets were dry. After serving Sarah breakfast, I suited up and headed for the bike. I checked the air and took off.
I made my way to the eastbound lanes of I-10. They were not clogged from the wreck. I headed to the downtown exit, and then took Prairie till it changed into Memorial Drive. I had selected Memorial Drive because of all the great rides I have had down this road during my first 11,000 miles. I thought it only fitting to be on it when the odometer rolled over.
I got on Memorial Drive, heading west. I like this section because of the curves and the speed limit of 50 mph. Unfortunately, I got behind a white car that was only going 45. After a few curves, I passed the car and headed on out. I was watching the odometer. I wanted to be sure I was going fairly fast when the big event came, and I knew that Memorial dropped down to 35 mph just after you pass over Shepherd Drive.
I was about two miles short of my goal as I passed over Shepherd. I rode a little farther west, the u-turned and headed back downtown. My timing was perfect. I got behind a red Corvette, and used that as an opportunity to keep pace with the eastbound traffic. In this case, that traffic was going at a good clip. I was doing about 60 mph,* and working my way through a nice curve, when I watched the odometer roll over to mile 11,000.0. It was a great moment.
Once I reached the end of Memorial, I headed north on Louisiana, and entered I-10. For a moment, I considered adding one workday circuit to my ride, since it was only 6:45 a.m. However, I remembered the eighteen wheeler wreck, and went ahead and took the Heights exit on home. When I rolled up to the driveway I had 11,005 miles on the bike. And, once inside, I saw Channel 11 reporting that traffic on I-10 was a total mess, starting (or stopping, really) at the Shepherd exit.
I was glad I had taken the Heights exit. And I was glad I hadn't pushed yesterday to get in the ten more miles. This morning's trek was a great ride and, hopefully, portends many more great miles to come. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
March 7, 2006:
Life returned to normal this morning. Well, almost normal. Sarah and I had been getting up around five in the morning while Maria was gone so I could sneak in some extra riding. Apparently I didn't adequately explain to Sarah that the schedule had reverted to normal. At 5:00 a.m., she was up on the bed, pawing me to take her for a walk. I kept her occupied for twenty-five more minutes through judicious scratching of her belly. Then, I gave up the effort and got Maria up so we could take Sarah for her walk.
It was 67 degrees this morning. The fog was around, but it was high fog. The streets were dry. Visibility was good. Sarah was happy.
When we got back, I fed Sarah and changed into my riding clothes. I added air to the front tire, and headed out.
The ride was great. No close calls. Plenty of thinking time and plenty of actual thinking. Before I knew it, I had completed both of my normal workday circuits--without any stop and go! When I pulled up to the driveway I had 10,990 miles on the bike. And even with the rain that is forecast for the next two days, mile 11,000 should be here soon. See you on the road.
* * * * *
March 6, 2006:
Today Maria returns. Sarah and I got up extra early so I could pick up the house, take Sarah for her walk, and get in a sixty mile run--all before Maria gets home at 7:30. That's 7:30 in the morning. Maria took the red-eye from Spokane. 7:30 was the time she predicted she would arrive at the front door.
Sarah and I enjoyed her walk. It was 66 degrees out this morning. Since we were up extra early, we were walking at the exact time the final assault on the Alamo took place, just after 5 a.m. on March 6, 1836. This battle has always had a hold on my heart. To visit my page dedicated to the Alamo, click here.
When we got back, I fed Sarah and went upstairs to change into my riding clothes. I then headed to the garage, and cranked up the Rebel. It was foggy out, but the clouds were fairly high up. The streets were dry, and visibility at ground level was good. I headed for I-10.
My plan was to do three workday circuits, with the Highway 59 extension thrown in on each. It was before six when I left, so the plan seemed doable, unless there was bad traffic.
Traffic was heavy, but fast moving. More than the normal number of double lane changers were out. These are drivers that realize at the last moment that they need to be in another lane, and that lane is two lanes over from where they are were the realization strikes. They move fast, and usually without looking. When you ride a bike they are a special danger.
Like I said, the double lane changers were out in force. Fortunately, none got too close to me. Still, I don't think I saw a single blinker used by any of them during all their maneuvers.
I didn't run into stop-and-go until the last leg of the journey. The exit from Highway 59 onto I-10 was clogged, as was I-10 itself. I never saw the cause of the problem. By the time I hit the congestion, I was on my last lap anyway. I just rode with the stream, and continued on home.
When I pulled up to the driveway I had 10,961 miles on the bike, and Maria was not yet home. Time to give the house a second check. See you on the road.
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March 5, 2006:
I worked all day today to get my ride in. Literally. Of course, Sarah wanted (and got) her morning walk. Then I fed her, gobbled some breakfast of my own, and head out the door. The back door, that it. The door to the garden. Where I spent the day.
Maria had left an extensive honey-do list. Oh, she would tell you she left no such written record, but the questions I got from her each night when she would call from her conference made it clear that I needed to spend large parts of today in the back yard.
I won't bore you with the details of how I got all the scratches and blisters that come with garden work. Or even with a tally of the garbage bags filled with garden clippings. Suffice it to say, I did more than enough to insure domestic tranquility.
My goal was to be finished by 4 p.m. I almost made it. I was in the middle of a water system project when the magic hour rolled around. I decided to finish the project. How long could it take? Well, it took me till 4:20. And then I put up all the tools, grabbed a quick shower, and suited up in summer riding gear.
Yes, you read that right. No winter gear today. Temperatures were in the 80's. And the sky was overcast. It made for perfect riding weather. I fed Sarah an early supper, checked the air in the tires, and headed out by 4:45 p.m.
I decided to ride to the Half Price Bookstore on FM 1960 off I-45. But I also wanted to get in some seat time. FM 1960 is just twenty miles from the house. Too close. I continued north on I-45 all the way to Conroe. I then turned around and headed back to FM 1960. I had everything planned so I would get in mile 10,900 just as I arrived back home.
Once on 1960, I headed west. It is about five or six miles to the Half Price, once you are on 1960. I had the fun of being beside a Ford Cobra for a lot of the trip. Talk about a throaty growl. I haven't read any reviews of this modern version of the Shelby Cobra, but it had a great look and sound.
I had good luck at the Half Price. I bought six books. Three were large paperbacks, and three were hardbacks. I enjoyed the visit tremendously. There are few places more pleasant to pass the time than a used book shop.
As I was leaving the store, I took off my riding jacket and slipped the three smallest books in the pocket for the back protector. I then put my jacket back on and stuffed the three largest books down the front, and zipped it up. Thus encumbered, I headed for my bike.
It was full dark by the time I left Half Price. It had been dusk when I arrived. My belt watch said it was 7:00 p.m. At least Maria was not at home wondering where I was. And Sarah would never tell!
The ride back was uneventful, just as the ride up had been. I got in some great seat time, and had plenty of opportunities to ride and think. I watched the odometer roll over to mile 10,900 as I heaed east on I-10, just after the T.C. Jester exit.
I took the Studemont exit, and stopped to top off the gas tank. Maria is due back tomorrow morning, and I didn't want to delay my morning ride by having to fill up. With any luck at all, I can get in a nice ride and be back in time to great her at the door. That's the plan, anyway. Stay tuned to see if I bring it off. And please make note that I now have 10,903 miles on the bike. Mile 11,000 looms ever closer.
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March 4, 2006:
I got up and took Sarah for her walk before 5 a.m. this morning. OK, just a little bit before five. But still.
I got up this early because John and I scheduled a ride for six this morning. The theory was that I would plan a nice ride that would get me back to the house by nine, so I could work in the garden for the rest of the day. Maria is out of town, and I am sure she is expecting to see progress upon her return.
Anyway, that was the plan. Things started out well. Sarah enjoyed her walk and breakfast. I grabbed a shower and suited up. I went out to the garage and opened the garage door. It was 5:48 a.m. My plan was to check the air in the tires and move the bike outside the garage so I would be ready to roll once John arrived.
John walked up as the garage door was opening. I had only checked the air in the front tire by the time he was at my bike. His bike was parked in front. Who knows how long he had been sitting there. Oh well. A quick check of the rear tire pressure, and we went inside to go over the route. We were fired up and on the road by 5:58 a.m. Not bad.
On the other hand, the weather was cool. Make that "cold." The house thermometer read 56 degrees. If felt a lot colder once we got started. John was wearing his new Shoei three-quarter helmet. He and Nadine each purchased one. John said they went with the 3/4 face so they would be cooler during the summer. Today was a day he should have stuck with his Shoei full-faced helmet.
By the way, I have no experience with the "coolness" argument. My Arai helmet is a full-faced one, and it is not hot, even when full summer arrives. The only time it is uncomfortable is at stop lights. And then, all I have to do is flip up the face shield and I am cool again. Shoei is a top brand of helmet and, although Arai is well know for their ventilation system, I am surprised that a full-face Shoei would fall short in that area.
Back to our ride. We entered I-10, heading west. We had left so early that the Chronicle had not yet arrived, so I could not make my usual check of road construction sites. I had to leave it up to the Harley gods to make sure we made it out of town without encountering the dreaded orange construction cones.
Which we did. We headed west on Highway 290, and exited at Highway 6, heading south. I was in the lead. Before I even knew it, we had passed Cynthia's apartment. I didn't even have the chance to toot my horn, so she can't blame me for waking her up.
We turned west on FM 529. Our first goal was to get coffee and donuts at Newman's Bakery in Bellville. During most of the time we were on FM 529 it was still dark out. And it was definitely cold. My hands were especially frigid. I have not had to use glove liners for the past month. This morning I paid the price for that decision. My fingers didn't warm up until they were safely curled around a hot mug of coffee.
Otherwise, the ride to Newmans was nice. I saw a hawk, and a night heron. The heron was landing as I passed it. Boy, are those birds big. I also watched the sun rise out of my mirrors. The sky turned bright orange, then the sun came up. It was also orange. No yellow tint at all. It hurt to look at it, even in the mirrors. Watching the sun rise behind you is something you won't see when traveling by car. At least I don't remember seeing anything like it.
Newmans was warm. And smelled like donuts. We each ordered coffee and a glazed donut. John and I discussed gardening while we sipped our coffee. John and Nadine have purchased a new house, and I can't wait to offer my two cents on how to whip the landscape into (organic) shape. But gardening was what I was escaping from on this ride, not what we planned to occupy our morning with. So, off we went.
We took FM 1456 north till it intersected with FM 159. We took that on in to Hempstead. At Hempstead we caught FM 1488 north toward Navasota. Fourteen-eighty-eight is a nice road. However, at the Grimes County Line, we caught FM 362. Maintenace on 362 was simply awful. There were pot holes everywhere. There were tree limbs on the roadway. There was even a landscape brick in the middle of the road. The road was so hazard-strewn that I had to focus full concentration on avoiding disaster. It was not fun riding. I was glad when we hit FM 105, and better roadway.
From FM 105 we took FM 2445 to FM 1774. We took that south to Plantersville, Todd Mission and on to Magnolia. My main tank went empty about a mile before we hit Magnolia. We pulled into the Exxon/BurgerKing station at the corner of FM 1774 and FM 1488 to fill our tanks. Then, we headed inside to warm up again.
But no donuts. Or hamburgers either. We each ordered a cup of the fancy French Vanilla coffee you can find in the better convenience stores. Delicious. With hands warm again, we headed toward I-45, via FM 1488, FM 149 and FM 249.
We had lots of chances to practice quick stops, because we seemed to hit every light on yellow. This last leg of our trip before breakfast seemed to take forever. I watched the odometer roll over to 10,800 as we took the I-45 exit onto I-10. And, because of our extended coffee stops, it was near noon when we took the Shepherd exit off I-10 and headed for Taqueria Arandas.
The original plan had been to have huevos rancheros at Arandas. They have a breakfast special of $2.29. But that price ends at eleven. So we each ordered Carne Tampequena. It is a special skirt steak dish they serve. Delicious.
Along with the famous Aranda's green sauce, we had more conversations. This time about future rides and World War Two museums. We also talked about sugar cane fields in Lafayette. I told John I had something for him at the house. We paid, and headed home.
When we arrived, John demonstrated his newest acquisition. He had an air horn installed on his bike. It is as loud as any trucker's horn. I was glad he hadn't sounded it at six this morning!
We went inside and I gave John two bottles of the special Dr. Pepper our of Plano. It is made with Imperial Pure Cane Sugar, not corn syrup. His story about the sugar cane brought it to mind. I had purchased the Dr. Pepper last weekend from Martha's Bloomers in Navasota. I had tried one Thursday night while watching LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring. It did taste better. Or at least like I remembered Dr. Pepper tasting when I was growing up. I can't wait to hear the reports from John and Nadine on what they think.
Well, that's the story of today's ride. We covered 189 miles in about six hours. Those coffee stops really cut your average speed down. But I wouldn't elminate them for the world. I now have 10,805 miles on the bike, and several bags of garden trimmings to demonstrate to Maria that I didn't goof off the whole day. See you on the road.
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March 3, 2006:
I got up a tad earlier than usual to get in a tad longer ride than usual. Sarah didn't seem to mind, because she got in her normal morning walk. When we got back, I fed her and changed into my riding gear. It was a warm 66 degrees. Some fog was in the area.
I checked the air, and headed out. Traffic was heavy on the Loop. It was barely six in the morning. I guess the fact that it was Friday accounts for the congestion. My goal for today's ride was to get in three loops, with the Highway 59 extension on each of them.
The ride went without incident. The fog was just out of reach. You could see the clouds in the big lights that illuminate the freeway, but it didn't make it all the way down onto the road. The streets were dry, and visibility was fine. I watched the odometer roll over to mile 10600 as I passed the TC Jester exit on the North Loop. I watched the tops, and middles, of the skyscrapers disappear in the increasing fog. It was a neat ride.
Even though there was lots of traffic, I didn't hit stop and go until the last loop. I did, however, make a detour after the second loop to fill up with gas. I wanted a full tank in case I take out really early tomorrow morning.
When I pulled up to the driveway I had met my goal. I now have 10,616 miles on the bike. And, although the weekend is, by necessity, reserved for spring gardening chores, I still hope to get in some miles. Stay tuned to see if I manage to juggle all my interests.
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March 2, 2006:
Maria is out of town on business. This morning was my first test to see if I could keep to our workday schedule, or if I would get lazy and sleep in. Unsurprisingly, Sarah voted for keeping with the normal schedule. In fact, she wanted to get up even earlier than usual. I vetoed that idea, but we did get up at 5:30 and go for her walk.
When we came back I fed her and, while she was eating, I trudged upstairs and got dressed for my ride. I checked the air in the tires and headed out.
When I had walked Sarah it was full dark. By the time I headed out it was first light. Although I had not noticed it when walking Sarah, I could now see that fog was everywhere in the sky. It wasn't ground fog, but it was thick. It made for neat riding. The road was clear, but the tops of the downtown skyscrapers were obscured. The air had moisture in it that I could taste, and the temperature was 64 degrees. Very nice.
Traffic was thick this morning, but moving fast. I opted to add an extra circuit on the morning ride so I could get 50 miles in. Which I did, with ease. No big congestion. No more crazy drivers than normal. And no road debris.
I had lots of nice thinking time. My mind roamed. One idea popped up that was interesting. Yesterday, John and Nadine had come by the office on business. As they were leaving, John asked me if I had any long rides planned. Sadly, I informed him that I was going to be spending most of my time in the garden until after the rose tour on the 22 of April. He had also been busy at work and hadn't gotten any big riding in since our last outing. Then it hit me. I could get in a medium length ride this weekend so long as I was on the road by 6 a.m. Even with breakfast, I could be back slaving over the roses by 9 a.m. I am going to see if John is interested. Stay tuned.
Before I knew it, I was headed home. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 10,555 miles on the bike. I took a moment to lubricate the chain, then I headed inside to resume my normal workday world. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
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March 1, 2006:
February is gone, and with it the cold mornings. Today it was 60 degrees when we took Sarah for her walk. Maria left on an out-of-town business trip this morning, so my morning ride was delayed until after she departed.
Even so, it was barely 7:30 a.m. when I headed out. Traffic was pretty light for that time of day. There were a few backups, but not many. I made good time. Sadly, one of the backups was when I exited the North Loop for I-45 on my second workday circuit.
I say "sadly" because it was during that turn that I rolled over to mile 10,500. I was going about four miles per hour at the time. Oh well. Otherwise, the ride was uneventful, and great. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 10,505 miles on the bike. More to come.
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For the February, 2006, blog entries, click here.
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For the January, 2006, blog entries, click here.
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For the December, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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For the November, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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For the October, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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For the September, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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For the August, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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For the July, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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For the June, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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For the May, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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*Note to Law Enforcement:
All statements of speeds on various streets are simple estimates, and solely for novelity purposes. Actual speeds vary, but are always lower. I'm sure that legal speed limits are never exceeded, anything in this blog to the contrary nowithstanding.