Season’s End

The road season just seems to get longer and longer every year, even here in Louisiana. With collegiate races kicking off in late February and cyclocross into mid-late December, there’s just a couple of months of generally uncomfortable weather in-between. It was kind of a long and busy weekend for me. Friday night was the annual Psychiatry party down at the Westin, so dinner consisted mostly of sushi, crab cakes, and wine.  Mostly wine.  That made me a little slow to roll out of bed for the GiThe road season just seems to get longer and longer every year, even here in Louisiana. With collegiate races kicking off in late February and cyclocross into mid-late December, there’s just a couple of months of generally uncomfortable weather in-between. It was kind of a long and busy weekend for me. Friday night was the annual Psychiatry party down at the Westin, so dinner consisted mostly of sushi, crab cakes, and wine.  Mostly wine.  That made me a little slow to roll out of bed for the Giro Ride on Saturday morning, but at least it wasn’t cold. In fact, the weather was warm and humid. The ride itself was nice, and the pace was mostly under control except for one stretch on Chef Highway on the way out.  We’d been rolling along at comfortable speeds in the general vicinity of 24-25 mph, when, for no apparent reason, things suddenly started to string out and the pace surged to around 29.  Katie and Sherri were ahead of me and I saw a gap starting to open as they struggled to find shelter in the crosswind, so I rode up there and got into the wind to try and pull them back, but by then the gap was getting too big for comfort. They never really got my wheel, so I put my head down and ramped it up to 31 or so but wasn’t making much progress.  Looking back under my arm I could see a few people coming, and so I eased up for a moment to catch my breath, then latched onto them to make the bridge up to the rest of the group. After the Giro, I headed over to Sears to get new tires for the car. There was a pretty good sale on Michelins, and since we are planning a drive to Orlando during the holidays I figured it was time to bite the bullet. So I drop off the car and wander over to the Clearview shopping mall to hang around for the expected hour and a half it was supposed to take. I get a call advising that the alignment was off and asking if I wanted them to do an alignment. I absolutely don’t want the Sears folks trying to do an alignment on the Volvo. I only barely trust them to change the tires without forgetting to tighten all the lug nuts. Well, of course the car wasn’t ready for over three hours, so I was already a little irritated when I went back over there and watched intently to make sure that they actually did tighten all the lug nuts. It took the very overweight guy three tries just to get one of the wheels properly aligned on the hub, and in general everyone there was operating in the kind of slow motion that would have made the Orleans Sewerage Board proud. Finally I pay the bill and get in the car and the freaking Check Engine light is on.  Obviously when they were doing their little courtesy check, otherwise known as hunting for other things to charge for, somebody had bumped a connector or left vacuum line or something open while the engine was running and the ECM had detected a fault somewhere. So I go get someone who comes over to the car and first tries to tell me that the Check Engine light just means I need an oil change. After explaining that I had not just fallen off of a turnip truck, he goes to Plan B and says it was on when I brought in it. I tell him not to give me that bullshit (I was tired and had been drinking way too much coffee) and to go find a real mechanic with a code reader.  So eventually this mechanic shows up and resets the code and tells me it is saying “O2S 1/2 Signal Stuck Lean,” adding that he does not have a clue what that means.  Obviously it was an Oxygen sensor code, but any way it did not reappear, so I finally got back home four hours later. As I’m turning the corner at the house I get a call from the wife that she’s finished with her conference, so I just kept going and picked her up from the hotel downtown. I still need to send in the stuff for the $70 rebate on the tires.  Naturally the website form wasn’t working correctly and didn’t allow me to select the Sears store where the tires were purchased, so I’ll probably end up having to send it by mail. Maybe I’ll see the gift card some time in March. Saturday evening was Robin’s annual Christmas party, so I headed over there around 7:00 for another meal of party food and red wine. I cut myself off after the third glass, but ended up staying until maybe 10:30. Fortunately, the cyclocross races don’t start until 10:00 am and the last one of the season was just 90 minutes away in Baton Rouge. Sunday morning I threw the old Pennine into the car, along with a bin full of officiating stuff, the computer and my bag. Somehow the weather gods had smiled on the final race of the Delta States Grand Prix of Cyclocross series.  Earlier in the week the forecast for that morning was worse than bleak — bad enough that Wes was seriously considering postponing it until the next weekend. By Thursday evening, though, it was looking like the approaching cold front had slowed down and probably wouldn’t make it to Baton Rouge until after most of the races had ended. As it turned out, we got the whole event done long before any bad weather came through. So I officiated all of the earlier races, and since the weather was obviously going to hold off, and the temperature was warm, and the Cat. 1/2/3 field was small, I decided to leave the officiating to the other two officials and jump into the race at the back to get some exercise. The course was essentially all flat with a lot of back-and-forth on a big grassy field, one set of artificial barriers, a bit of loose gravel, a little run up some stairs, three short sections of very deep playground type sand, and a little mountain bike singletrack through the woods. It looked tame enough that I figured I should be able to do it without hurting myself. A Coywolf.  Who knew? So at the start I took my time clipping in as the rest of the field raced off toward the first set of barriers. When I got to those, I dismounted, ran over them, and then somehow completely missed the handlebar with one hand when remounting and crashed myself in the most inelegant manner possible, whacking my head on the ground in the process. No major damage, though, so I continued on at a moderate pace, looking back after each lap to see when the leaders would be lapping me so I wouldn’t get in their way.  I waved them by as they came by (most lapped me twice).  So I was having a nice enough time, but was having a ton of trouble with the sand pits. They came immediately after a left turn from a short downhill at the top of some stairs, so I was never clipped back in early enough to get up enough speed to plow through the sand, which is really the only way to do that, especially with the super narrow cyclocross tires I have on the old Pennine road bike. So on the last lap I decide I’ll just carry the bike down the hill and run through the sand, since it will probably be no slower than riding and getting bogged down at the end anyway.  Well, that didn’t work out so well.  The bike started coming off my shoulder going down the hill and although I didn’t fall, the bike basically did a big flip in the air and landed really hard. I ran through the sand, put the bike down, and it didn’t roll. Somehow I’d whacked the rear wheel so hard it looked like a Pringle. I loosened the rear quick-release all the way and although the tire was still rubbing the inside of the chainstay on each revolution, it was at least rideable, so I limped in the last lap, finishing in my usual cyclocross slot, aka DFL. I guess A few spoke nipples must have stripped out.  I still haven’t investigated it. Anyway, that was the last race on the calendar for me, and lots of other local riders, this year. When I got home I changed shirts, put on a hat to
hide my helmet hair, and immediately went across the street to a little Latke Party at the neighbor’s house for the third night of party food dinners. Then  I posted the DSGP results along with the lap times from CrossMgr. Finally took a shower around 11 pm. This morning I was a little sore here and there from the fall, so I went out for an easy spin on the levee, taking some photos of what I was told is a Coywolf, which is a hybrid Coyote and Wolf, that I see all the time hanging around the stables where they have chickens and roosters. The cold front that finally came through New Orleans later in the night brought some rain and cooler temperatures, but nothing like the severe storms they had been predicting earlier in the week. There’s a second cold front coming through in a few days, so it’s looking like winter is finally almost here. Still haven’t broken out the shoe-covers or winter jacket, though.

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