Smart Alec Software…

My Garmin 1000 died a a few weeks back. After 5 years and almost 1,000 rides, it was kind of like losing an old, familiar friend. I even wrote a blog tribute to it.

But all things must end, even ‘stay at home orders’, or at least so we are told. My new Garmin 830 arrived, and I got it configured and installed with only a few false starts and one call to tech support.

The 830 is quite nice. It is much smaller and lighter than the 1000. Since I am known to weigh everything that goes on my bike, I like losing a few grams here and there.

It also has some major software ‘upgrades’. If you wear a heart rate monitor and tell it your heart rate zones the device will let you know whether you are training enough or too much or too little. It will let you know when it detects a ‘New VO2 Max!” Which would be nice if I knew what a VO2 Max was.

During this panicdemic, I have been riding quite often, mostly from home. Sometimes I ignore the checkpoints at the county lines and take my bike up in the hills. I have been riding regularly enough and hard enough that the Garmin assures me my training load is ‘optimal’. Until yesterday, that is.

Steve and I headed south to Escalon to visit Dr. Carl. We did not leave the county in the car, but on the bike we did sneak over the Stanislaus River into the neighboring county a couple of times. The good doctor has had some health challenges which he is dealing with as well as possible. He is a very fine rider who has been advised to keep his heart rate below a certain number. He got an e bike (battery assisted) so he could still ride with his friends.

We did a very easy 23 miles, keeping social distance and watching for guards on the county lines. My Garmin was unimpressed.

This is the first time I have been informed that there was ‘no benefit’ to a ride. Usually if I ride easy I get a ‘recovery’ sticker to put on my refrigerator, but my Garmin seems quite judgmental.

Another thing the computer tells you after a ride is how long you need to recover before you are ready to make another effort. Usually I am advised something like 12 to 20 hours. One memorable day last year in the Pyrenees, after 75 miles and 12,000 feet of steep mountain roads, I was informed I needed 72 hours to recover. But we climbed Hautacam (5000 feet) the very next morning.

Yesterday my recovery time was ‘0 hours’. A new low. I need to get some software with better manners.

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The Ride Not Taken…

My calendar for May has multiple entries on it. Unfortunately, they are all for events that were supposed to happen in France. For example May 15 reads “Steve arrives”. That was when our friend Steve was supposed join us in Malaucene.

Today’s entry (May 17) says “Rich and Steve”. We had scheduled a long guided ride with 44|5. I wanted Steve’s first ride in France to be really special, so we planned to do a loop around Mont Ventoux.

Since that is not going to happen, I decided to write about this ride in some detail. I have been fortunate to ride my bicycle (or sometimes our tandem) on some incredible roads in some amazingly beautiful terrain. Someday I might put together a top 10 list. But I already think I know which ride will be #1: The loop Gerry took me on last year around Mont Ventoux. Let’s call it “The Malaucene Metric”

My Favorite Ride Ever? It Might Be…

The ride is a metric century, 100 km long (62 miles). None of it is completely flat, but the climbs are all manageable, and the total amount of climbing is 5,600 feet. The ride is also a true loop with no backtracking whatsoever.

The ride starts right from the front door of our rented house in Malaucene. Climb up the steep back street to the main road, and then 1/2 mile later turn off for the climb of the Col de la Madeline. The Col of the same name in the Alps is an HC monster, but this one is only about 1.5 miles long and is quite gentle. Descend to Bedoin where there are a few cars and probably a few thousand bikes, but most of them are heading up Ventoux, which we will save for a later day.

Head out of Bedoin on a quite country road towards Flasson. After we leave that village we start on the longest climb of the day on the old road to Sault. Ever since the ‘new’ road to Sault opened, this delightful 6 mile ascent has almost no traffic. And I mean NO TRAFFIC. I’ve done this climb twice, taking just under an hour each time. In 2018 there we encountered 2 cars, and last year there were none.

After the climb and a nice descent you have to join the ‘new’ road to Sault, so there are a few cars, but there is also a shoulder. After a mile on this perfectly safe main road we turn left and climb the steep hill up to the village. Sault is the coffee stop, on the veranda of café with a magnificent view of Mont Ventoux.

From Sault, the road ascends up a long false flat through lavender fields. We were too early for them to be blooming in all their purple glory, but it was still beautiful. When we get to the end of the climb far above the valley where the main road is, the view is simply stupendous. From here much of the ride is downhill, and sometimes downwind along the river. When we see the sign for Mollans we are back on roads we know well and are almost home.

False Flat Above Sault Through Lavender Fields

Gerry of 44|5 designed this ride. You can circumnavigate Mont Ventoux in many different ways, with the shortest being about 50 miles, and the longest as long as you want. I asked him for 100 km, and wow, did he deliver. I had done some of the roads before but the climb after Sault and back to Mollans was new to me, and well worth the extra 12 miles. When we did it in 2019 we were blessed with absolutely perfect weather. We finished in a state of euphoria. I could hardly stop smiling; it was an incredible day on the bike.

Somewhere Between Sault and Mollans: The North Side of Mont Ventoux

So that is what Steve and I were supposed to be doing today. Instead I spent the morning pruning shrubs. The ride not taken indeed.

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Recon Ride…

Today’s ride was pointless..which was the point. I rode hills on Monday, a long and very windy loop around Comanche on Wednesday, and some intervals/segments on Friday. Today I could very reasonably stay off the bike and do yard work. Again. Stoker is always finding something for me to dig up or cut back.

From the moment I got up this morning (at 4 AM; ‘Corona doth murder sleep’) I felt off. A vague mild headache, a stomach that didn’t think coffee was a great idea, and a listless attitude. At 6 AM I took the dog for a walk and after breakfast set out on my pointless ride. No power or heart rate targets, just ‘cycletherapy’ to try to improve my mood.

I decided to ride into Lodi to see how the town was coping with the panicdemic. Downtown was deserted. The parking lot at In Shape was empty. I headed over to Lodi Lake and rolled around the park. There were lots of walkers and a few people setting up blankets and chairs for what looked to be a long lazy day in the park. But it was very quiet. No laughter or shrieking children or music, just quiet dazed people.

And kayakers. Here is where I discovered my first pandemic paradox. The boat ramp was closed.

Danger: Virus Ahead

The kayakers were obeying the sign. Instead they were using the slippery, muddy and steep banks of the river 100 yards away to launch their vessels. I watched one woman almost trip and fall. She risks a broken ankle, but she follows the rules!

The somber mood on what should have been a delightful Saturday in the Park followed me as I started my ride home. But then at Micke Grove Park I was reassured. The park is still closed of course, but they might possibly open sometime this summer, or fall, and when they do it will be secure. Look at the protectors they have installed to make that deadly sport of disc golf safe.

Paper or Plastic?

Speaking of plastic, there is yet another pandemic paradox. For years we have been told that plastic is evil and we need to stop using it. Single use plastic grocery bags are ILLEGAL in California. Well it took a while, but I finally got used to the idea of bringing my own bags to the grocery store.

But a few weeks back I was standing in line to check out, on my designated spot marked by an ‘x’ taped on the floor. I was getting out my bags when I noticed a sign informing me that I could no longer bring my own bags. My jaw dropped in astonishment, although no one saw it drop because I was wearing my N95 respirator.

So now the same authorities who took our plastic bags away because they destroy the earth are telling us that our reusable bags are a deadly hazard and must be replaced with…plastic bags! The Circle of Life!

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28 and Counting…

No, that is not the number of weeks Stoker and I have been under house arrest. That would be 8, not 28.

Cyclist is a UK based website https://www.cyclist.co.uk/. They have compiled a list of the Top 100 cycling climbs in the world. Since we are stuck at home instead travelling in France, enjoying cycling and a demi rosé with savory crepes for lunch, we have plenty of time to look at frivolous on-line lists.

But this list is not so frivolous for me. I started to wonder how many of the 100 climbs I had ridden up. I was kind of surprised that I actually have ascended 28 of them. And when you consider that only 4 of them are in the US, that is pretty amazing.

Most of the ones I’ve done are quite famous and well known to cyclists as part of the Giro d’Italia or Tour de France. Mortirolo, Gavia and Passo Stelvio (rated #1, deservedly IMHO) in Italy. Alpe d’Huez, Col du Galibier, and the Col de la Madeleine in the French Alps. The Col du Tourmalet, Aubisque and Peyresourde in the Pyrenees.

And of course the ‘Giant of Provence’ that little hill right next to our Malaucene rental house, Mont Ventoux (#2). I’ve been up that one 6 times, in all kinds of weather fair and foul.

So if we ever are able to travel before my legs get too old for this kind of thing, I started thinking about which climbs I could conceivably add. South America and Asia are not on my cycling radar, at least not in this lifetime. I suppose I could consider Switzerland and Austria, where there are several I could do. Even though I’ve been to the Pyrenees and done many famous climbs there, the list contains others less famous, but no less beautiful or difficult, that I missed. I really loved riding in the Pyrenees and would be very happy to return.

There are also climbs in France that I’ve been close to but never done. The Col d’Eze and Col de la Madone near Nice. And then there’s Belgium…

“Mountains in Belgium?” you ask? Yes and no. The Ardennes are called mountains but compared to the Alps or Pyrenees or Dolomites they look like little foothills.

But these foothills have some of the steepest and narrowest COBBLED climbs anywhere. And these climbs are all famous because they form part of the Ronde van Vlaanderen, also known as De Ronde. The ‘Tour of Belgium’ is a one day road cycling race held every spring, unless world wars or virus panicdemics intervene, as happened this year.

De Ronde is Belgium’s Super Bowl Sunday. 750,000 spectators watch the race in person, most of them on the Bergs or Cotes or Murs which are the short steep cobbled climbs that break up the race and determine the winner.

5 of these climbs made the list’s Top 100. None of them is very long, and they are all close enough to each other that you could conceivably do them in a single day. But they are so steep and narrow and the cobbles so uneven that you might have to walk to the top. This even happens to the pros occasionally, when someone falls or stalls and the road gets blocked. Once you put a foot on the ground there is no chance you can get pedaling again.

My friends at 44|5 have had a tough year, obviously. They had to cancel all their tours through June. So far that is…they have July and August and September trips that they ‘hope’ will happen. Many of the people on the cancelled tours accepted full credit for a trip in 2021 instead of asking for a refund, so 44|5 will be back next year.

And they are thinking about a trip in Belgium, for the beer and the frittes and the Murs and the cobbles. If they make it happen I intend to go. And add 5 more of the Top 100 to my tally. They count even if I have to walk to the top.

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Sign of the Times

From the San Joaquin County Order:

Now since exercise is also an ‘essential’ activity, a clever attorney should be able to argue that we can travel with our bikes wherever we want as long as we are doing it for the ‘essential activity’ of cycling exercise.

I can see from following my Strava friends that this is certainly the way many of us are choosing to comply with the order. Go ahead, drive to Diablo or Ione or the Boathouse and ride. I’m not doing that but other people are.

A few weeks back I did a long loop from my house (legal, apparently), and passed out of the county for about 10 miles. The sign let me know I was violating my parole from house arrest.

I put the photo on Facebook and started a minor firestorm. Did I break the ‘law’ or not? I started from home and I was engaged in an ‘essential’ activity. The storm evolved along predictable lines, although no one addressed the question of how it benefits public health if I stay on one side of this line riding my bike.

Scofflaw that I am, I did the same loop yesterday. I came to where the sign was, looking for the checkpoint and prepared to show my passport to the gendarmes. But the sign was gone! The pole was still there, but someone had removed the marker.

I’d like to think it was ‘borrowed’ by a citizen who has read the Orders from counties on both sides of the line and who has a sense of humor. And no, I didn’t do it.

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If a Ride Is Not on Strava…

…did it actually happen?

My Garmin Edge 1000 quit yesterday. The power switch broke and there is no way to turn it on or off. I used a small screwdriver to press the switch tab, and the Edge tried to boot up, but immediately shut off again. And when I tried to use the USB cord to connect it to my PC, the device refused to communicate.

Funeral for a Friend: RIP Edge 1000

Since my Garmin Edge is almost 5 years old, and has been with me for 944 rides and about 33,000 miles of road vibrations, I’m not disappointed with the quality of the product. I called Garmin Tech Support and learned that they no longer service this model. But they have a trade in program. I could get a refurbished Edge 1000 for $200, or a new Edge 830 for $320, an $80 discount from retail. I opted for the new one.

By the way, I have had excellent experiences with Garmin Tech Support. Over the years my Edge got confused occasionally, but I was always able to get the issues resolved with their help. Once we had to delete a file and then turn the device back on, and I would never have been able to do that on my own.

I actually was a little late to adopt GPS cycling technology. I purchased and used cyclocomputers almost as soon as they came on the market. All of these devices worked by attaching a small magnet to a spoke and mounting a small sensor on the front fork. Every time the magnet passed the sensor the computer would register a rotation. You had to program the wheel diameter when you set up the device, and the computer would combine that information with an internal clock to show your speed and distance and elapsed time.

Over the years, these devices got more clever and more complex. They added features like heart rate monitors, power monitors and altimeters. But they all still relied on the magnets. You could get faster by reprogramming your device with a slightly exaggerated wheel diameter. In fact, a friend of mine once installed a new device, but accidentally left the old magnet on the wheel when he put on the new one, so the computer doubled his speed. He thought he had a defective device until he discovered the error. And no that wasn’t me.

But with GPS technology magnets and wheel diameters are unnecessary. These amazing devices follow you from space and record speed and distance and elevation. If you wish you can easily add power sensors or heart rate sensors. And they have built in maps so you can navigate, and they will even suggest a route to a destination you choose.

You could also move the device from bike to bike, without any need to set up additional wheel magnets or sensors. Since I have 4 bikes this was a really nice feature.

When I finally decided to go GPS, I got the most expensive one I could: The Garmin Edge 1000. Touch screen, color display, maps built in, current temperature, everything I wanted and lots of stuff I didn’t need put there to confuse me. Actually after a very helpful tutoring session with one of those Garmin tech people, I discovered the device is pretty simple to operate and customize for your needs. No more difficult than a cell phone.

With GPS technology you can upload your rides to Strava, where your friends can see them and laugh at how slowly you are riding. Strava lets you keep your information private and not on display, but I like to entertain people, so I make everything public. You can see just how slowly I climbed the Stelvio or what the temperature was at the top (42 degrees and raining, delightful!).

So I’m sending my old Edge back to Garmin, where they will either refurbish it or recycle it. The Edge has been my cycling companion for quite a time, measuring every heartbeat and kilojoule of work or mile of road. Today Stoker and I plan to ride, but since I am temporarily without a Garmin I’ll have to guess at distance and speed. And the ride will not be on Strava. So did it really happen?

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Getting Clipped

Stoker cuts my hair, what little there is of it. I keep it short, attempting to make a virtue of necessity. So she sets the trimmer as low as it will go and gives me a buzz cut.

Stoker’s Handiwork. This is a pre-pandemic photo.

Stoker is not so fortunate. All the salons and barbershops are closed for the duration. The indeterminate duration. So her hair is longer and lighter in color than it has been in years.

“Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety”. The Bard may have had Stoker in mind when he penned those words. But the truth is Stoker would like a little help in the ‘withering’ department , at least in the area of her coiffure.

No such help is forthcoming for the foreseeable future. I would do anything for Stoker, but she recognizes that giving me a scissors and turning me loose on her hair would be a disaster.

But we all must make sacrifices in a pandemic. Which brings me to Gavin, who closed the salons and barbershops as ‘non-essential’.

You would think Gavin would want to set a good example for the rest of us. But somehow his hair looks exactly the same as it did 5 weeks ago. Unless he is wearing a wig, or has some magic follicle freezing gel, he is risking life and limb and virus spreading by letting someone break social distancing rules to give him a trim.

I could observe that’leaders’ who tell people how to behave exempt themselves. Our consciences are supposed to keep us from getting our hair shorn, for the good of society. But Gavin is getting shorn. And so are we.

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The Best Laid Plans…

I doubt anyone is interested in my opinions regarding societal and governmental reactions to the Corona Virus situation. And since I only write for the entertainment of my readers (all 10 of them, if you count our dog Luke) you won’t find any rants here.

I do think people might be interested in what Stoker and I are doing. We are under house arrest, with a few exceptions. We are following all the rules. We are practicing social distancing. I read San Joaquin County’s stay at home order and discovered that conjugal visits are not expressly forbidden, but we try to keep them to a minimum in both duration and frequency.

Stoker has not left Casa Brumby at all in over 5 weeks. The one exception is on the back of our CoMotion tandem. Which does not count as a conjugal visit. At least we hope not.

I do all the marketing. I have been to Raley’s (a local grocery store for all my out of state fans) 6 times. Also to Costco (a warehouse store) three times, where I scored some toilet paper before we got down to our last roll. Lately all of the staff and most of the customers are wearing masks. Me too, and mine is a genuine N95 respirator, courtesy of my farm lessee. I’d sell you one on the black market, but I’m pretty sure that violates some rule.

And when I’m not riding with Stoker I ride on my own from home. Sometimes I meet a friend and we ride together, or together/apart. No drafting of course.

If you live in San Joaquin county you are not supposed to leave the county for non essential purposes. And several neighboring counties, that normally welcome people seeking diversions such as lakes and hiking trails and campgrounds and Indian Casinos, are telling people to keep out.

So I ride from home. Flat, straight, boring roads. I know for a fact that some riders, including some of my friends, are putting their bikes in their cars and heading for the hills. Scofflaws! I will not judge and I certainly wouldn’t tattle on them. In fact, I admire their act of civil disobedience.

On Both Sides of the Atlantic

Flat solo rides aren’t doing much for my fitness level, but that really doesn’t matter since our planned trip to France isn’t going to happen. The flights are cancelled and the hotels and restaurants on both sides of the Atlantic are closed. No May in Malaucene this year, and no week long tour in the Cevennes (my 4th time, and Stoker’s 2nd) either. And this year’s Cevennes tour was going to be special. It was sold out, and even had a waiting list. My friend Steve was going to join us, after years of persuasion. Jack, who I have toured with many times, was going to come back for the 3rd time. And John, a guy I rode with in the Dolomites back in 2011, was also going to come. I have been sending John e mails with all my plans for cycling trips for years, hoping he would join me on a tour, because he is a really nice fellow and a fine and enthusiastic rider. Also he enjoys a nice glass of wine.

I got everything organized for Steve and Diane and me. Airport transfers, flights, a TVG for Steve to Avignon, B&B for Steve close to our lovely rental house, bike rental for Steve and a return engagement with Modestine for Stoker and me. Day trips with 44 5, some non cycling, including a visit to Pont du Gard and a private guided tour of Nimes, a city dating back to the Romans. All organized. And paid for…

44 5, the touring company, would have given me my money back. Instead I felt so sorry for them that I transferred more money as a retainer for future travel. My next several trips are paid for. 44 5 is losing so much business it is tragic. They tell me that they probably will not be able to do a ride with clients until August.

France Bike Rentals is going to apply the full amount we paid to rent Modestine to any future trip. I didn’t ask for a refund from our Malaucene landlady, and she is nice enough to apply our entire payment to rent the house to in May 2021. Air France gave us a voucher for future travel for the full amount of our fares. Since they cancelled the flight, after one year the voucher can be redeemed for cash. Which we will not do…

Because we are going back to France! As soon as it is possible. Which doesn’t look too soon.

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Put not your trust…

… in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

Obligatory cycling content: I’m doing another flat ride from home today. Following all the rules. But I’m not happy about it.

When I went to college I was rather naive. I thought I was going there to learn something. But I quickly formulated my own version of The Uncertainty Principle. Call it Rich’s Rumination: For every PhD, there is an equal and opposite PhD. In what I came to call the ‘fuzzy sciences’ (Economics, Psychology, Sociology, History etc.) it was almost impossible to come to a conclusion about anything, and it was easy to find a source to support almost anything.

Being naturally adverse to confrontation, I decided to study mathematics. There isn’t much debate in this field, at least not at the undergraduate level. You solve problems and prove theorems. I came to love ‘non- Euclidean geometry’. It seemed so radical and outré. I also learned a lot about probability which has convinced me to stay out of casinos except to see a show.

I am inclined to question experts, especially when they are trying to tell me what to do. Ben Franklin said “It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority”. Well I certainly want to be a good citizen!

The authority I wish to question is Dr. Fauci. I would like to ask him about what he said about the Corona Virus numerous times in numerous forums in late January and early February. To wit: that Americans shouldn’t worry about the virus and that its impact here would be small.

A mere 5 weeks later the same Dr. Fauci thought the virus was a big enough problem to shut down the U.S. economy and trash personal freedoms. So I would like to ask him this “If you were so wrong 5 weeks earlier why should we unquestioningly believe you now?” Put Not Your Trust….

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The Gavin Game

The rules of The Gavin Game are simple. You take a glass and a bottle of your preferred libation and pour yourself a large ration. I use Cote du Rhone vin rouge, but you can choose your personal favorite. Then settle in front of the TV for the Governor’s daily briefing. Every time Gavin says “meet this moment” or “in real time’ take a sip. Better make them really small sips. You will certainly need to refill the glass and probably uncork a second bottle. But that is nothing to worry about since you are not leaving the house anyway. Siesta time…

Let me say that here on Brumby Road we are following ALL of Gavin’s and SJ County’s rules. ALL of them. Stoker has not left home at all for weeks, except on the back of the CoMotion. I have only ventured out for groceries, prescriptions and bike rides. I only ride from my house, because to drive with my bike to where there are some hills to climb would be ‘non-essential’ travel. Mount Diablo is closed to cars but somehow they are allowing hikers and bike riders. The idea of driving over the Altamont to take advantage of this is incredibly tempting, but as I say I’m following ALL the rules.

Aren’t They Ever Going to Leave?

The rules are a real irritation, but at least I have a few distractions. First distraction is Luke. Luke cannot understand why his quiet time home alone has disappeared. His people normally vanish for long stretches of time during the day so he can get some of the 22 hours of sleep he needs in solitary peace. Now they are always around and he kind of mopes through the house looking confused and sleepy.

Also Luke cannot figure out why he is getting walked by Rich every morning. Rich makes him start his walk earlier than that lay-a-bed Stoker, and Rich also walks him about twice as long. Luke loves this, but every day? Should’t Rich be off riding in some hills getting ready for France?

Ah yes, another distraction to keep me entertained during this crisis. Watch our planned trip unravel in stages. This trip has several components all booked and paid for long ago. To make things interesting I have to deal with Air France, a tour company, a landlady, a hotel owner, an airport transportation company and a good friend who was going to join us for part of the journey. So far the only official cancellation is Air France. Our April 28 departure flight is grounded. We were planning to stay until June 7, and I doubt any part of the trip is going to happen, although the Cevennes tour scheduled for May 30 to June 6 hasn’t been officially scratched. But it likely will be.

Yet another distraction while stuck at home: watch a magic show. The trick is called ‘The Great Net Worth Disappearance”, and you can watch it ‘in real time’ (Thanks Gavin!) 6:30 am until 1 PM, Monday through Friday. Spare the jokes about 401 K’s turning into 201 K’s.

So as you can see, I have plenty of entertainment during this home confinement prison sentence. I even got out my pressure washer to clean the brick walkways and the siding of the house.

I’ve said we are following ALL the rules. But on the CoMotion Stoker and I are breaking the 6 foot rule, although we are trying to apply it to ourselves at all other times. Well, almost all other times…

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