Vitamin D…in November?

It was a tough day of synthesizing vitamin D from sunlight. Hey, you think it’s easy – sure, it’s easy in July, but much harder in the November sun, especially when you’re also running the Krebs cycle and synthesizing ATP as fast as you can.

Check out the stats from today’s ride on my computer readout. If it’s hard to read, net mileage was zero (I ended where I started) gross miles zero (none of the miles were gross – they were all fun). Net climbing zero again – I started and ended 856 feet above sea level. Gross was just enough to reach the top of every hill. Average speed – yup, average. Total miles exactly equaled the distance from my house back to my house. Heart rate was non-zero throughout.

The plan was to ride north, but there was a strong southern breeze so I rode east and south so I could ride home with a tailwind. It actually worked. At each junction I rode whichever way looked best. Hope, Cottage Grove, Deerfield, Stoughton (where even the cheese (kaese) is Norwegian) and various points in between. No maps, no apps. I rode enough so that I drank the last of my water on the last block coming home. The important statistic was 70 degrees (21 Celsius) and sunny – not at all normal for November in Wisconsin, but I’ll take it. The corn is dry and this may be the last week to get it harvested in good weather.

Hope is the word of the day. I woke up to the first full day with a new President-elect. Democracy may survive this. Be on the lookout. The rash of lawsuits contesting election results being filed by the Trump campaign is a misdirection. Watch for a slew of Executive Orders attacking environmental protection, healthcare, worker’s rights, and education in the next 10 weeks. His minions will be working overtime in the shadows to inflict maximum damage. Civil rights will come under attack, except for that second one about “an unregulated militia” – oh wait, that says “well-regulated militia”. One man’s militia is another man’s domestic terrorist group.

AP Photo

This photo accompanied an article quoting a Dallas evangelical pastor calling Trump “the most pro-faith president in American history.” The smirk on Trump’s face says it all – “I’ve really put one over on these dupes.” With his history, one can only assume he is sleeping with his spiritual advisor (the one with her hand on his right arm). I’m surprised no one is kissing the hem of his garment (or would it be the end of his tie?) or his ring.

Her oratorical skills are unmatched.

Primož Roglič of Slovenia entered the penultimate day of La Vuelta a España with a 45 second lead over Richard Carapaz of Ecuador. By the end of the day the lead was down to 24 seconds, the final margin after more than 72 hours of racing.

From NBC TV – Richard Carapaz, Primož Roglič, Hugh Carthy (left to right)
Possibly the last ride of 2020 just for fun. I don’t usually do selfies.

Roxbury

The Roxbury Tavern to Crystal and Fish Lakes is a long-time favorite loop. It works better on a kayak than a bike this year.

Photo by Pam Fornell

Notice the speed limit sign just right of center. This is a road. A detour was required for the ride this week.

The Roxbury Tavern was not your typical country roadhouse. When Tom took it over, he wanted to change the atmosphere and the clientele. He banned smoking, back when banning smoking in a bar was like banning singing in church. He threw out the TV sets, the juke box, and the pool table. He wanted people to sit at tables, eat, talk, and drink, probably in that order. When the kitchen closed, the bar closed and he went home. It closed earlier than any bar I’ve seen.

On tap was Esser’s Best, from nearby Cross Plains. Bud Light and Miller Lite were gone. He served Sunday brunch, with live bluegrass on the back porch. He had nightly specials – his pasta night, with Italian sausage and garlic bread was a favorite (and it was on Wednesday nights, when we ride). He made his own spiced ketchups and served homemade pickled vegetables as appetizers. Burgers and fries were still available, and better with garlic ketchup.

If we stopped for dinner after a ride, we called ahead so Tom knew he’d have a bigger crowd and keep extra staff on hand. He didn’t like surprises. Tom has retired and I haven’t been inside the place since the new owners took over. I’m kind of afraid to, wondering if it looks like a typical country roadhouse again. When the new owners took over, the headline on the newspaper story said “New owners… trade tradition for game day crowds”. They brought back the TV, juke box, and pool table.

P.S. I forgot to mention the car that played chicken with me that evening. I was riding down a flat, straight, open stretch of road when an oncoming small black sedan drifted into my lane. I was riding as close to the edge of the road as a I could. I thought about dismounting and running off the road. I checked the edge and saw that it was grassy and level so I could escape on the bike if necessary. We made eye contact and the driver continued to aim for me. She was clearly not on her phone or distracted. Her left wheels were about three feet off the edge of the pavement. If she kept going straight I would survive. If she swerved further left, I’d head off road or die. I didn’t think she really wanted to kill me, just intimidate me. Just in time, she eased back into her own lane – late enough for intimidation, early enough for it to be a smooth move. I guess you could say, as a game of chicken, I won. It did not feel like a victory. My pants stayed dry.

Madison Blues

A Republican governor once called Madison, WI “30 square miles surrounded by reality”. Thirty five years later the mayor proposed that as the city’s motto, updated to “77 square miles” because the city had grown. The city council rejected it by a single vote.

The council did, however, adopt the plastic pink flamingo as the official city bird in 2009. The pink flamingo became important to the city thanks to the Pail and Shovel Party, which ran for, and took over, the student government at the University of Wisconsin in 1978. The party got its name from a campaign promise. The student government controlled a large chunk of student fees. They promised to turn those fees into pennies and dump them into a campus fountain. Each student would be issued a pail and shovel and be welcome to whatever segment of those fees they could get into their pail. They failed to keep that promise, though they did keep their promise to bring the Statue of Liberty to Madison. Unfortunately, it sunk. (Image from UWAlumni.com). They also placed 1008 plastic pink flamingos on Bascom Hill one night.

Morning of September 4, 1979 at Bascom Hall, 1979
Photo by Michael Kienitz

San Francisco has its 49 Mile Scenic Drive (which fits with their 49er theme). I decided it was time for a 77 Mile Square – 77 miles of that “reality” that surrounds Madison. The plan was to start at my front door (which is why I won’t share the route, in its entirety, with you), and then get quickly out of town and ride a (more or less) square route in the reality surrounding it.

The first iteration failed to get me completely out of town. The west side has grown tremendously and I found myself riding on the very unpleasant Pleasant View Road. The route needed some tweaking. Pleasant View was a nice road back in 1978 when the motto was “30 square miles surrounded by reality”; not anymore. The second attempt was a good ride, but too short. For the third version, I’m including an outline of the route as a loop – you can essentially start anywhere, and then I don’t show you my house. The length varies depending on how long it takes you to get to the loop. Don’t drive…that would miss the point. Here is a map approximation. Cue sheet on request. So far, mileages are not recorded. Maybe I’ll bring a pencil next time and write them in. Not quite a square; but then again, the city isn’t, either – being oriented northeast to southwest along an isthmus. The bulge in the northeast corner is to get around a shopping mall, an airport, and a marsh. Maybe it still needs work. Oh well, I’ll have to ride some more..;)

(Part of) Epic Systems from Northern Lights Road

Dancing at Lughnasa

We generally acknowledge 7 of the 8 major solar holidays. The current one gets short shrift. Since today’s ride is in celebration of the holiday, the midpoint of summer, it gets a little ink.
Autumnal Equinox – when day and night are of equal length
Samhain/Hallowe’en/Day of the Dead/All Saints Day – halfway to the winter solstice
Winter Solstice/Christmas – Shortest day of the year
Imbolc/Groundhog Day/Candlemas – halfway to vernal equinox
Vernal Equinox/St. Patrick’s Day/Ostara/Easter – day and night are of equal length
Beltane/Mayday – halfway to the summer solstice
Summer Solstice/Midsummer’s Night – longest day of the year
Lughnasa – halfway to autumnal equinox (Why this is not called midsummer’s night I don’t understand, as it comes in the middle of summer. “Midsummer’s Night” is at the beginning of summer.) I only learned the name of this holiday from the play “Dancing at Lughnasa”.

For the Lughnasa ride, the temperature was ~60 degrees (16 Celsius). The sun peeked out for a few minutes around 11:30 AM. Riding in a long-sleeved jersey and knee warmers did not seem like the middle of summer.

Ain’t that peculiar?

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I’ve ridden past this corner many times. Tonight I finally stopped for a picture.

I startled a pair of deer on a recent ride. Rather than run uphill away from me, they ran along the shoulder of the road for about 100 feet, then dashed across my path and headed down to the wooded creek bank. Trying to think like a deer, I imagined that they figured that if they were going to be pinned down somewhere, they wanted water and shelter. Either that or they’re just stupid, running across the highway in my path, instead of away from it.

I came around a bend quickly and encountered a pair of sandhill cranes. I braked and swerved to give them space. One paid me no mind. The other, with a few graceful wing beats, rose a few feet off the ground and soared 20 feet down the road, coming to rest in the road again. I was enthralled by how such a big bird could get airborne so quickly and gracefully, and come to rest so smoothly. Apparently it had realized I wasn’t a threat. Its partner was still strolling. Thinking anthropomorphically, I imagined the flyer was trying to be cool and pretend it hadn’t been startled. “I just decided to fly a few feet. It’s cool…”

Another red tailed hawk flew over head. I managed to keep both wheels on the road this time as I watched it soar by 15 feet off the ground. It helped that it crossed just ahead of me, rather than directly over head.

In my continuing Wednesday Night‘s Greatest Hits tour, last week I rode from Lodi to the Baraboo Bluffs, crossing on the Merrimac Ferry and climbing Devil’s Delight Road – short but steep enough to require switchbacks anyway. If any of you remember biorhythms (a popular schema in the ’70s), the theory posits that we have three rhythms that follow sine waves at different periods. If all three line up at the top of the wave, you have a great day. If they all line up at the bottom of the wave, it will be a bad day. Last Wednesday was one of those days. I had no energy. Every climb was a chore. Even going down was hard. There seemed to be headwinds in all directions. After climbing Devil’s Delight, I turned around and headed back down, short of the ridge and cutting at least ten miles off the loop I had planned. At least I got two ferry crossings in.

Luckily I saved the ride that is usually that week and did it tonight. The ride starts at Black Earth; if you see the ground being turned in the spring the reason for the name becomes obvious. The Black Earth Creek watershed contains incredibly rich, black soil – even after 150 years of farming. The route crosses the ridges multiple times, with five steep climbs. The person who wrote the cue sheet for this ride illustrated the climbs with evil grinning jack o’lantern demon faces. I felt much better tonight and the five climbs were great fun, as was the 5 miles along Blue Ridge Road, staying on the ridge until the 40 mph downhill. One of the ridges is occupied by the Camp That Must Not Be Named, where my daughter spent many summers and some winter weeks – and I was a counselor-in-training there 51 years ago. The route includes the “easy” side of Sutcliffe Road, meaning that the downhill side is the one where I have hit 50 mph on my steel bike. Tonight as I approached 50 mph I felt a little oscillation in the frame. Rather than just squeeze the top tube with my knees, I feathered the brakes. Either this bike feels less stable at that speed, or I’m just getting old.

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One couldn’t ask for a better late July day for a ride…85 degrees (30 Celsius), dew point 59 (15 degrees Celsius), winds less than 5 mph, just enough clouds to give the place atmosphere, and the smell of corn ripening in the fields.

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My post-ride beer was a timely one. I’d seen it in stores but hadn’t tried it. Since I forgot my church key tonight I needed something in cans, and voila!

While my guitar gently weeps

The song could have been written (but wasn’t) while listening to Peter Green. One more round from his guitar gently weeping. First is this BB King song, with an opening that sounds like Mose Allison could have written it – “I’ve got a mind to give up living/And go shopping instead”:

There is also a great 1968 live recording of BB himself available on YouTube; BB being the other great guitarist who knows it’s not the number of notes you play, but the soul you put into those notes. That recording also contains a great organ part and a horn funeral dirge. I’ve been listening to Peter Green all week. Slow blues may not be your cup of tea, but he and his guitar continue to weep with his own song:

It almost hurts to listen to Peter Green. He doesn’t play notes, he draws beauty and suffering from the instrument. His voice aches. But when the song is over, I feel at peace.