Posts for Category Bicycling

Something inspiring for a change: bicycling from Washington, DC to Austin, TX

In which Bill meets an interesting guy. Also there may or may not be an Octopus Slide.
Aug 132012

When I go out for a bike ride on the weekend, I often go with a group. It’s nice to have people to talk to and to know someone’s there to help out if I get into trouble. But on the other hand, I have to get out of bed and show up on time to start the ride, and at the end of it all I sometimes feel like I’ve just passed a lot of beautiful scenery that I forgot to look at because I was too busy looking at the back of the person in front of me and worrying about maintaining the pace. Partly this is due to the nature and riding style of this group, and partly it’s my own fault.

When I go out for a long ride on my own, I sometimes end up feeling like I’ve had an adventure. This is especially true when I ride in an area I’m not familiar with, or improvise a route. I slow down to look at the scenery. Sometimes I stop to take pictures. If the ride ends up taking far longer than I expected, that makes it feel even more like it was an adventure. It’s a nice feeling even though the “adventure” quotient is actually fairly low. Even if I’m on a new route, I’m generally in an area I’m roughly familiar with, and if something catastrophic were to happen I could always call a friend or family member to come rescue me.

On Sunday I was out on my own for a moderately-difficult 60-mile ride. I hadn’t set out to do anything too ambitious because I wanted to get home with time and energy to deal with some chores. By the time I came into Front Royal after 25 miles, though, I was enjoying the ride and the slightly-nicer-than-it-has-been-lately weather. I had already made one brief detour in search of the “Octopus Slide” (which I never did find, so clearly their idea of “all day!” did not include the middle part of the day). So in search of further adventure I decided I’d extend my ride by getting on Skyline Drive, riding uphill five miles or so to the end of the first big climb, then coming back to continue on my way.

Five miles along Skyline Drive I stopped at the Dickey Ridge visitor center for a food break (and a crappy cellphone picture that I won’t bother posting but I will bother mentioning). While I was there I saw a guy with a loaded-up touring bike (my favorite part: the solar panel strapped across the rear panniers for charging his phone and computer). I asked him how far he was headed, expecting to hear that he was riding the length of Skyline Drive, or maybe Skyline Drive plus the Blue Ridge Parkway. Instead he said (with a distinct Scottish accent) that he was riding to Austin. As in: Texas. This was day three of his 10-week, 2500-mile ride.

I learned that he lives in Brighton (England) and is a fan of American music–country, blues, folk, etc. He’s also a fan of bicycling and felt like he needed an adventure, so he decided to combine the two interests and come tour the parts of the country where the music was born. There isn’t a well-documented and -traveled bike route for this tour (by comparison, there are lots of resources to help you plan a coast-to-coast ride), so he pieced a route together as best he could using Google Maps. He couldn’t tell on Google Maps which roads are paved and which aren’t, so he’ll have to take his chances. He doesn’t seem to know many people in this country, so he doesn’t have much of a support network to draw on if something goes wrong.

After we talked for a bit my own ride for the day was seeming decidedly less adventurous. Rather than turning back as I had planned, I rode a few more miles along Skyline Drive first to make sure I was getting as much as possible out of my day. It even occurred to me to just keep riding until I couldn’t go any further and then figure out what to do next, but that seemed more stupid than adventurous, so I headed back to Front Royal and resumed my original ride, turning in a respectable 75 miles for the day.

As I rode on I realized I hadn’t even gotten the guy’s name, much less asked him if he had a blog where I could follow his progress (everyone has a blog for everything, right?) Fortunately there aren’t a lot of people cycling from Washington to Austin this summer, so 45 seconds with Google was all it took for me to learn that his name is Iain and his blog for the trip is here. Go follow along while you’re waiting for me to do something interesting with my life and write about it.

Oh, there was one bit of extra adventure for me on my ride: toward the end I was shot at by some jackass kid with an air rifle or paintball gun or something like that. No doubt he’ll grow up to be one of those people who thinks it’s funny to throw beer bottles at cyclists or try to run them off the road. Here’s hoping Iain is spared this little part of the American experience.

May 242010
Bicycle with doughnut wheels
I know: it doesn’t really make sense

I’m generally a pretty healthy eater, but I do have a weakness for doughnuts. I often say that “bicycling season” is also “doughnut season,” because nothing says I love you like getting up the morning after an 80-mile ride and gorging yourself on doughnuts, putting those calories back in the most unhealthy way possible.

The problem is that when I wake up and want doughnuts, this means I want to go downstairs, pour a glass of milk, and eat doughnuts. I do not want to walk, bike, or drive to the store and buy doughnuts first. It’s just too much effort. If there are no doughnuts in the house, I will just eat oatmeal, no matter how strong the doughnut craving.

Therefore I have to plan ahead. I have to think that “tomorrow I might like doughnuts for breakfast,” and then go buy some. There are several problems with this approach:

First, and most obvious, I may not know in advance that I will want doughnuts the next morning. So I wake up, and I want doughnuts, and there are none.

Second, sometimes I think I will want doughnuts the next morning so I buy some. Then I wake up and I don’t really feel like eating doughnuts after all. But I have to eat them anyway so they will not go to waste.

Third, the doughnuts are no longer fresh by the time I get to eat them.

Fourth, when I go to get the doughnuts I can’t be sure how many I will want to eat the next morning, or what kinds will appeal to me. So I have to buy too many doughnuts, to make sure I have enough choices. This means there will be leftover doughnuts, which I will have to eat on subsequent days—whether I want to or not—so they won’t go to waste.

What the world needs, obviously, is a doughnut delivery service. It stuns me that no one has started doing this yet. The local bakery or doughnut shop (if there are any of those left) could get a huge competitive advantage over Dunkin’ Donuts, Krispy Kreme, or Tim Hortons (never understood why there’s no apostrophe in there) if they offered this service. Takeout Taxi already has the infrastructure; they could add a new revenue stream with little marginal cost. The drivers who deliver pizza and Chinese food in the afternoon and evening could pick up extra work doing doughnuts on the morning shift.

So please, all you budding entrepreneurs in the audience, make it happen. I am hungry.

Colossal donuts

Though Bill’s Head does not have an Official Doughnut, I’m fond of the Colossal Donuts from Shopper’s Food. They are satisfyingly colossal, though you cannot tell from this picture.

But you can see in this picture that Colossal Donuts are “Made From Scratch,” which has always puzzled me. Are the other stores creating their doughnuts from some sort of box mix that I don’t know about? Because if so, I want that mix—it would solve all my problems. Instant doughnuts! Just add water!

Presumably what they’re meaning to say is that the doughnuts are made from scratch right there in the store, as opposed to being made from scratch somewhere else, packed with preservatives, and trucked in. But who knows.