Poplarville Mississippi to Biloxi Mississippi
“Climbing is akin to love. It’s hard to explain; we endure pain for the joy that comes with discovering ourselves and the planet.” -Cory Richards
Substitute the word “cycling” for the word “climbing” and this describes how I feel better than I can. I’m not comparing an average joe cyclist with a world class mountain climber. I’m just saying these two groups share a very similar view of their experience, even though those experiences are very different. He also uses semi-colons very well.
If you asked me to give you a pithy quote to describe the joy and meaning of cycling, I would give you the following:
“Ride eat sleep wash rinse repeat.”
My editor (my support team back home that reads these posts daily) has been working very hard to get me to stop over using commas. Perhaps I took that advice too literally when I wrote the quote above. You can’t tell from the way it is written if I ride, eat, and sleep day-in day-out; or if I ride, eat, sleep, and do laundry day-in and day-out. I will leave the insertion of commas in this case up to the reader. Have fun. Hint: I rarely do laundry in the morning.
My host here at the cottage left an assortment of small boxed breakfast cereals on the kitchen counter, as well as a good selection of other items. This morning for breakfast I had two bowls of Fruit Loops with milk, coffee, orange juice, a muffin, and some apple pie. The kind of apple pie that comes in a small box, individual serving size. The best part was probably the Fruit Loops. It reminded me of my Grandmother. She had two miniature poodles and she used to feed them Sugar Smacks as doggie treats. I don’t know what shape their teeth were in, but it was great fun as a small kid to feed that cereal to her little dogs. I remember one day grocery shopping with my Mom and asking her to buy us some Sugar Smacks. She explained to me that there was no way she was going to serve her family dog food. My Mom was ahead of her time. She wouldn’t buy any kind of soft drinks for us and all her dinners were cooked using real food, nothing canned or boxed. I realize now we ate well compared to other kids I knew. At the time I just thought it was strange. For the record, I did have a bowl of Sugar Smacks along with my Fruit Loops this morning. It’s great to be able to eat crap on tour, you can burn it off before lunch.
Dogs can be a real problem when cycling. For some reason they love to chase bicycles. Unlike cars I suppose, they can actually catch them. It must seem like good sport to them. I solved the riddle today about how to handle dogs on the road. When a dog runs out, stop immediately and get off the bike. Present yourself full on to the dog and say “go home,” and phrases like that. I like the phrase “you don’t want to mess with this.” Say it with authority. Usually the dogs will bark a few times then back away sheepishly, trying to preserve some dignity while remaining tough. You’ve won. Walk the bike past there “domain.” That’s would be their driveway or fence line. After that you are home free. I have not had to deal with a truly vicious dog. Hopefully I never will.
So what about shifting? With all the miles I have accumulated over the years commuting to work and pleasure riding, I’m still a shifting novice. By that I mean I look back to see what ring on the rear cassette I’m on. I sometimes even look down to see what ring I’m on in the front. (I know that doesn’t say a lot for my I.Q., but you all know I’m a just a hard working 81.) One thing about riding across the country, you have a lot of time to think about things like this. After much thought and analysis, I have arrived at a solution. I will always start out with the rear cassette on the 5th ring (middle ring). I call this the “zero” position. When I shift “up” on the cassette, I will say to myself “plus 1.” When I shift up again I will say to myself “plus 2.” When I get to plus 3, I know it’s time to shift down to the smaller chain ring in the front. I only have two chain rings in the front, fortunately. If there were three, I would have no idea where I was at any given time. The same applies in reverse when I’m shifting “down.” Down one I say to myself “minus 1.” Down again I say to myself “minus 2.” When I get to minus 3 I better be on the big chain ring in front. The bottom line is this seems to work pretty well. It is really handy at night when even if you look, you can’t see where the chain is in the front or in the back. It works most of the time for me. I do have lapses. If I get distracted I will forget my “count.” When that happens I have to look down to get reoriented. Not surprisingly this happens a lot. I’m probably the sort of guy that needs to have only one chain ring in front, and something like 14 rings on the real. Keep It Simple Stupid. I believe they call that a “Roloff Hub.”
Quick observation. The number of columns you have holding up your front porch roof is a sign of wealth in this part of the country. Four seems to be the norm for middle class abodes. If a house has nine columns supporting the front porch roof, the owner probably has a large and well diversified investment portfolio.
This is my last night in Mississippi. Tomorrow the great state of Alabama.