Road, Rain, Gravel, Dirt, Grass, & Countryside


On Monday last, I took a long ride out to a state park where there is a Native American ceremonial site at the convergence of two small rivers and an iron bridge across the larger of the two rivers.  On the main highway that runs past the park’s entrance there’d been a much larger iron bridge, but several years ago it was replaced by a modern concrete bridge and the old structure was torn down.  I liked driving over the old bridge on the highway; the smaller bridge inside the park connects the camping area to the rest of the property.  I rode over to the main site, then back down to the turn off to the camping area, rode across the green-painted iron bridge on planks, then through the campground where there is located a clean bathroom.  After using the bathroom, I discovered the great utility of full-zip jerseys, as opposed to the quarter-zip or half-zip variety, paired with a set of bib-shorts.  When I put the jersey back on, my cellular telephone fell from a jersey pocket and broke open on the floor.  Now I get it.  As I was riding back out of the camping area in order to leave the park, I got caught in a rainstorm.  I waited at the camper check-in booth during the worst of the downpour.  The pedaling across the bridge’s slick, wet roadbed posed a hazard even with my bicycle’s oversized Continental Tour Ride tires.  I was pleased that I did not crash.


Later in the week I took a ride through an overgrown area adjacent a small airport.  The last time I rode through there was early last November, when the Spring foliage had been dried out by Summer heat, and the property owner had bush-hogged some of the dirt and grass lanes.  Thursday, though, I found everything overgrown and rode in places through grass handle-bar high.  Grass got tangled in my bikes rear derailleur and sprockets, making shifts difficult at first when I got back out to a surface where riding necessitated shifting into a higher gear.  I must say that the Jamis Supernova, in its inaugural 2007 version, is a superb cross-country adventure bike, and my bike’s high-end but older Shimano components functioned superbly.  And those Continental Tour Ride tires?  Hard to imagine a tire better suited to conditions I encountered offroad.  As I pedaled hard enough in some places to produce grunt-like vocalizations to maximize effort, I at one point shouted, “I love this bike!”






Yesterday afternoon, I took a ride with a group from the local bike club.  I took the Jamis because riding it, I average about 14 miles per hour, and expected a casual group ride at about that speed.  Most of the folks who showed up, though, had higher end, racing type bikes.  I broke off and rode with a fellow who’d been expecting the same sort of group as I had and brought his Bike Friday, which is older and looks a lot cooler than the company’s current crop of bikes.  We took a less hilly route and rode about 25.6 miles averaging 11.8 miles per hour.  I enjoyed one fairly steep, winding, descent in need of resurfacing.  The route took us through country previously unknown to me and connected with a highway I know well.  Here’s the vista that greeted us near the intersection:


Winter Ride


Last Saturday, I was the only one to show up for the local bike club’s Winter Standing Ride.  The ride is so named, I think, because it falls on the same Saturday each December.  The season’s still Fall, though, isn’t it?  I drove to the meeting place, arriving about on time, and waited until about a quarter past the hour during which time I talked about cycling with a couple who’d parked next to my car and started asking questions about the bike, about the club, about cycling.

I realized that I’d left my water bottles at the house, on the floor of the garage beside the stand where I keep my bike.  The day was cool, but I’d worn enough layers to keep me warm and, anyway, my alpha-class mutant power is sweating.  With that in mind, I set out against an annoying 10-15 mph headwind and rode out to a nearby college campus – maybe seven miles distant.  On a long, straight stretch of country road, the side-winds once or twice threatened my control of the bike’s forward motion.  That’s a down-side to riding a lightweight, modern frame; I never would have been blown the least bit off course riding the Miyata 610, a bike that’s almost 30 pounds fully rigged.

At the school, I stopped in at the Baptist Student Union – seeing lights on and cars out front – to use the bathroom and get a drink of water from the tap.  Turns out a congregation was in there having a Christmas party.  They kindly allowed me to use the bathroom and gave me a bottle of iced water from their cooler.  I was glad I’d worn a pair of windpants over my indecent-around-non-riders, anatomy disclosing thermal tights.

I halved my ride’s distance due to lack of much to drink; the 8 or 16 ounce bottle I’d been given didn’t last long.  On the way back, I stopped and visited a good friend and my amazing mom.  The horse picture I snapped at my friend’s house.  His wife home-schools their many offspring, and I guess used the rebus painted on the back of an out-building to teach equine anatomy.  I rode over the bridge pictured on a greenway near where I’d parked my car.


Drive sides in – bike and horse

Friday Rain Ride


A pretty day for a ride – Gate 16

Friday 3 October 2014 – a blessed event occurred – a day of wind and rain without a thunderstorm.  I lost no time in getting out to ride the disused military roads at a nearby Air Force reservation.  The place has thousands of acres and has been in continuous use by the military since about 1926.  During the Second World War, portions of the base were used as P.O.W. camp that reportedly housed Axis prisoners taken in the North Africa campaign, and possibly Sicily.  None of the camp structures remain, that I have seen, beyond foundations and chimney stacks.  Some of the roads out there are concrete, others gravel, many have become overgrown with grass and scrub.  The Air Force keeps the grass cut on many of the roads.  I saw a hunter’s truck near the unexploded ordnance warning sign, so pretty much stayed on the roads after that.

Even though I’ve had some concern about the Bridgestone’s headset, I thought some easy riding on mostly graded, if rough roads and across some fields wouldn’t shake anything loose.  I was wrong.  The bike’s front-end shuddered and squirreled as I braked to a stop at the bottom of the third rough-and-washed-out gravel road descent near where the power lines cross overhead.  That was toward the eight-mile mark.  I didn’t bring a wrench, so I rode back to the car.

I’ll probably put the Bridgestone out to pasture – easy paved trail rides with my wife and son.  Doubt I can justify the expense of yet another headset, in addition to refacing the headtube, to my wife – at least for a while.  Here’re the pictures – click on them for full-sized images:





Stepford Saturday Rain

Saturday Rain 1-21-12

Stepford rain is falling – a squall line passed through here in the early hours of the morning.  I’m thinking about the things I can’t do today, not just because of the rain but because of the disorganized manner in which I have organized my living lately.  Sure, I do have legitimate obligations to fulfill each day, but there’re things I’m not getting done, and engaging in self-actualizing activities while failing to attend to various details of everyday life has the effect of a mildly narcotic recreational substance in terms of reality-escape.  Gotta quit that.


Windows 7, Rain, & Stepford Snow

Windows 7 Upgrade

Yeah, I know.  I’ve always been a Mac guy.  Build quality of the Apple hardware far exceeds anything I’ve ever seen on the PC side.  The Mac operating systems have always made more sense and offered more and better control of the computing environment. 

Well, as you know if you’re one of the people  who read this blog, I’ve recently purchased a factory refurbished HP laptop.  It shipped with Windows Vista installed, which I really enjoyed.  Sort of a monster the functionality of which was fun to discover.  But, because I purchased before 31 January 2010, HP offered a free upgrade to Windows 7.  Because free is where it’s at, baby, I signed up.

In due time the envelope containing the two-DVD upgrade suite arrived.  Disc One is a proprietary HP upgrade helper sort of thing containing a user interface and progs that evaluate the hardware and C-out reports and advice.  And here’s the thing – the advice printing to screen is worth following.  First time around, I ignored the suggestion to abort the upgrade then find and uninstall the program that uses “keyboard filter” before running the upgrade stuff again.  After what seemed like a very long time, with the actual Windows 7 disc running its install, the entire system and upgrade hung completely on a chkdsk countdown at 1.

After using the Macintosh to get online and research the problem, I rolled back to Vista on the laptop, found and uninstalled the HP Quick Keys program, and a couple of days later successfully ran the upgrade to 7 without the slightest hitch.

I have never had any similar problems upgrading Macintosh computer operating systems.

Anyway, I do like Windows 7, but it’s not as funky-genie-like as Vista.  Just pretty stable and functional using far fewer system resources.



What was it, a week ago, that we got all that rain.  Like Waterworld around here for a few days.  Got me thinking about the feasibility of installing a dry well out back and in front.



Got a bunch of snow here at Stepford yesterday.  Our offices were all closed at noon – I got home before the atmosphere began to really resemble a shaken snow-globe.

Tennessee Democrat Party Summit

Occult conventioneers cars and van at Jim Oliver Smokehouse

Occult conventioneers' cars and van at Jim Oliver Smokehouse

Two pols who ought to be behind bars

Two pols (Ford & Obama - see window stickers) who ought to be behind bars

Here's a Democrat who obviously cares about the environment

Here's a Democrat who obviously cares about the environment

Someone who should know better.  "Just back up until you hear glass, honey"

Someone who should know better. "Just back up until you hear glass, honey" Nothing like auto-loan debt to induce poverty.

No, I didn’t attend or otherwise infiltrate the event held last weekend at Jim Oliver Smokehouse, Monteagle, Tennessee, although my wife and I spent the weekend with three other couples who’d also rented cabins at the Best Western property. Some kind of providential coincidence, although I don’t pretend to understand the divine intent implicit therein. Most of the Tennessee communist party members present behaved with surprising decorum and without the Clinton-era excesses one tends to expect of them, as a group.

People, that bit about ‘Tennessee communist party members’ is partisan hyperbole.  In case you didn’t recognize it as such, I’m telling you.

The rain falling on our cabin’s tin roof sounded like the wash-cycle on our Bosch front-loading washing machine. Caution-Lady said she awoke Friday night wondering, “Who’s doing laundry at this hour?” Ours was one of the newer cabins – spacious, well lit, nicely appointed, but with an enormous amount of wasted space under the roof – room there for a large loft. The Smokehouse restaurant itself was reasonably priced with decent service.

Caution-Lady, Seventy-Six and I visited with some brothers and sisters who initially came into contact with one another through the informal auspices of a radio ministry rooted in the Calvinist teachings of grace. John and I met Mrs. Millsaps, whose husband presides as bishop over a breakaway conservative Episcopal Missionary Church, in the parking lot of Mountain Outfitters, where she had gone to deliver yellow handbills advertising a jewelry and craft fair to take place nearby the weekend of 9 May. We discussed conservative politics and the recent presidential election, in addition to ministerial integrity and the necessary choices its possessors are sometimes called upon to make to their own social and financial detriment.

Puny pond not even big enough for turning a seakayak

Small pond not even big enough for turning a seakayak

We brought the fat-free Hebrew National franks on the grill - they weren't very good.  The high-dollar spiced sausages grilled then boiled in beer, however, were fantastic

We brought the fat-free Hebrew National franks on the grill - they weren't very good. The high-dollar spiced sausages grilled then boiled in beer, however, were fantastic

I’ve only got a year to burn off everything I overate this rainy weekend past. One of our number brought a variety of spiced sausage (I don’t recall the brand name) that was unbelievably good. Boiled in beer they were on the grill. Two whole chickens cooked on the grill using the internal beer-can flavoring method. Hamburgers, hotdogs, sides, cookies, pies, coffee, pop, wine, mint-juleps and beer for those who consume alcoholic beverages. It was a great visit.

Say a Cussword & the Other Hand

I’ve about cussword had it with WordPress redirecting my expletive browser every time I come to this site to edit or check blog stats. Yes, I cussword know I can have as many WordPress blogs as I mild expletive well want. I curse the excrement for gray-matter fool at WordPress who made the decision to implement the laughably stupid redirect “strategy,” as well as the equally half-witted yesling who suggested it.

On the other hand, I’m pleased that we’re getting much needed rain here at Loathsome Stepford. My neglected lawn has been crunching, of late, as I walk upon it. Even more rain would be welcome.

LATER: They fixed it.  No more redirects, and all I had to do was make an angry, somewhat rude, blog post!  Thanks WordPress!

Duck River above Normandy Lake

This shallow vista greeted me as I approached the place I'd have to wade
A shallow water vista

My photos from this trip are here.

This part of Tennessee has had no appreciable rain this month. The grass in my yard has been crunching when I walk on it. Yesterday evening, after a quick supper, I mowed the front yard. I really shouldn’t have, but the grass was growing too high in places. Then I loaded the car with gear still ready from last weekend’s aborted mission, and put Campsis Radicans on the 850’s racks.

I left the house not as early as I wanted, but by about 6:20 am. I got stuck behind a cement mixer at a four way stop near Toliver Lake, but managed to get on the water by about 7:00 am.

00 am this morning
Fire Lake Boat Ramp, a little before 7:00 am

Almost as soon as I started, my shoulder hurt, and I thought I would make no more than four miles before having to turn back. Since I wasn’t going to be on the water long, I began experimenting with forward stroke. Remembering my lesson from the Elk River, I made conscious effort to hold the paddle farther in front of my torso than is my tendency. I tried an almost side-to-side stroke, plunging the paddle deeper while keeping my hands relatively low, maybe chin-level. To my surprise, that stroke resulted in forward motion. With a little torso rotation, footwork, and ab-crunching, I was able to make speed without pain. At a couple of points, I felt my elbows tug, so I adjusted my stroke until I lost that sensation I figured would become tendonitis if left unchecked. I worked on sitting up straighter, and leaning slightly forward from the bottom of my spine. Forgotten was any early turnaround.

My goal today was to put in at Fire Lake boat ramp on Normandy Lake, and paddle as far upstream the Duck River as I could get. I hoped I’d make it as far as Old Stone Fort, but really knew that was unlikely. A year or two ago, my friend Andes and I made the same trip, but didn’t get as far. At the time, we reckoned we’d made it as far as Cat Creek, but comparing my observations today with a topo map, I think we gave ourselves too much credit. Cat Creek’s as far as I think I got today. Maybe an 18 mile roundtrip, possibly a little more distance. Dunno for sure, as I don’t have a GPS, and rely upon the distance tool on the Tennessee Landforms website.

Washboard Waterfall
Washboard Waterfall

Past the bridge I drove in over from Highway 55 I encountered no other boats. At a waterfall that appeared to drip flat on washboard surfaced rock, I saw two small yellow birds that might have been hummingbirds, by the way they moved, but looked the size of small finches. We have some yellow finches hereabouts. I saw a gar swim past me, break the surface, then swim away. The water rapidly becomes shallower there, and stumps, logs, other hazards make it difficult for power boats within about a mile and a half upstream from that bridge. Not much past that, my paddle began scraping bottom. At one point my rudder scraped rocks making a metal-clanging, grating sound.

White wading birds fed on things I could not see along the muddy, gravely water’s edge. They had a body type like Great Blue Herons, but were smaller, and tended to stay in groups of two to six. I saw a flock of black-headed buzzards, as I was coming and going.

Like the Elk River, exploration of the Duck required me to get out of the kayak and tow it behind like a child’s red wagon. Once past the wading, I was able to get back into the boat and paddle a part of the river I’d guess rarely gets any waterborne traffic. I saw large, maybe foot and a half long fish in shallow water beside a partly submerged stump. It hung like an airplane shaped helium balloon hardly moving as I paddled past. I saw dirt tracks used, I’d guess, by locals riding four-wheelers.

Rain fell as I paddled up the channel of the Duck, and as I waded with Campsis Radicans in tow. Even in a downpour, the E68 doesn’t fill up with water, and compared to the last time it rained while I was on the water, today’s shower was a gentle mist. Still, it was pleasant, and the area needs rain.

Looking upstream, Duck River
Looking upstream, Duck River
Looking upstream Cat Creek

Looking upstream Cat Creek

I paddled to a fork – what I now believe was Cat Creek lay too shallow for paddling on my right, and the Duck, like a long, low staircase ran swift and shallow over slippery rocks to my left. I waded, towing the boat, up each branch as far as seemed reasonable. Cat Creek first (although at the time, I thought both streams were part of the same with an island between them), then the Duck. I sat on a chair-height rock on the Duck using Campsis Radicans’ foredeck as a table, and ate my lunch. Then packed up and headed back downstream.

Lunch Stop

Lunch Stop

At Crumpton Creek, I thought about turning left and re-exploring that branch. It has been probably three years since Mike, his son Jesse, and I paddled the strange green, then clear waters there, below Rutledge Falls.

As I neared the boat ramp, I encountered two or three jet-skiis. That just doesn’t look like fun to me. And the expense. You never stop paying for something like a jet-ski. Spoke with a man launching his jet-ski at the boat ramp. He asked how far I’d gone, and I told him. Talked about the rain. About burning gas, burning calories. He said it was about 1:30 pm. The clock in my car said it was more like 2:20 pm. Another long day, and home.

Life in the stream

Life in the stream