More cake, rides, and pies

August has come and gone and Labor Day is right around the corner. Covid is still impacting everyday life – work from home, on-line education, mostly virtual cycling events, etc. and there is great uncertainty as time continues its forward march towards cooler temperatures and less outdoor activities. However, cycling and food continue to remain a constant in my life. The Missus recently celebrated her naming day and naturally received gifts of both flavors. From me she received a new bike, a Woman’s Cannondale Quick1 (and yes, we discussed the purchase prior to executing and she rode several models before the final selection). The bike was an early birthday present as she’s been riding it for a couple of months now. She finds the upright position much more comfortable than the traditional road bike. She enjoys her rides as it also improves her running.

Our son and his girlfriend prepared a Nordic-themed four-course dinner: cucumber salad; fish (cod) soup; halibut, mussels, gratin potatoes, and barley, and; Nordic potato mud cake. All truly delicious.

cucumber salad
apples and raisins (not to be eaten yet)
fish soup (now they can be eaten!)
halibut, mussels, gratin potatoes, and barley
Nordic potato mud cake with homemade whipped cream

On the following evening, our daughter brought a chocolate cake.

chocolate birthday cake for the Missus

On the cycling side of the ledger, finished the structured portion of the year on a truly disappointing note. As mentioned previously, primary focus for the last part of summer was on achieving a PR on a local, very flat 40K time trial course. Twice each week was spent on the trainer creating massive puddles in the garage doing SST intervals ranging from 8 – 15 minutes. Had good workouts and not so good ones. Attempted another taper for the week leading up to the planned day but legs never felt good during the final 10 days. Weather forecast was crappy – remnants of Hurricane Laura were threatening to make a complete washout of TT day. The following day was supposed to be mostly sunny but the wind was going to be unfavorable. Monitored the forecast constantly the day before and it appeared there was a good chance of being rain free for a small window early in the morning. The window would be just long enough for a warm-up and the TT effort. Cool down would likely be in the rain. Obsession won and woke up early and departed before 0500 for the 110 minute drive. Roads were mostly dry enroute to the course but drove through rain about 20 minutes away from the course. Weather gods smiled upon me, again, and moved the rain away.

Roads stayed dry, wind was favorable, humidity was high but legs just didn’t have it. Power numbers were on target at the mid-way point but just unable to maintain. Finished a disappointing 25 seconds slower than best time although it was second best time. There’s always next year and I will return to once again attempt to reach my goal.

In preparation for my next cycling adventure, Labor Day weekend was dedicated to century rides. Saturday was 102.85 miles and 4780 ft of elevation in 4:56; Sunday was 101.46 miles with 7940 ft of climbing in 5:38, and; Monday was 100.5 miles and 5335 ft of elevation in 5:23. Legs were extremely fatigued by the end but the weekend should prove more than adequate to complete my next cycling Bucket List item – Natchez Trace Parkway.

Maybe as a reward, or maybe just because the Missus enjoys baking, lots of pie was available.

mixed berries pie
mixed berries pie a la mode
peanut butter pie

July updates

Hard to believe that July has passed and it’s been nearly a month since the awesome Epic Empire Adventure concluded. Have returned to the local roads and routes with a few forays out to Shendandoah and Skyline Drive. Two primary cycling goals took precedence and continue to be a primary training focus: crazy Gran Fondo and 40K Time Trial (TT). Motivated by 100 mile+/10K+ elevation rides posted on Strava by a former local rider who is now across the pond, decided to emulate long days in the saddle. It certainly wasn’t a competition – afraid that would end badly with very disappointing results. Completed a couple of preparatory rides and then scheduled the big day. A group of five of us started together but only three planned on covering the entire route. The others had time constraints (or weren’t quite as obsessed). The weather had been brutal leading up to our CGF, mid 90s with equally high humidity. We started early, 0700, in an effort to beat the heat and the goal was to cover the distance. There would be plenty of PRs without making it a race. There were three primary climbing efforts, Blue Mountain (Southside), Skyline (Front Royal – Thornton Gap), and Tanners Ridge Rd/Fire Road to Great Meadows. We had tackled the first two climbs the previous week. Crossing Blue from the south is certainly the easier route and I’ve ridden to Thornton Gap dozens of times. Last time on Tanners Ridge was 4 years ago. It’s probably the hardest, sustained climb in the area. It’s about 3.5 miles long with the first mile averaging around 15%. Tacking on the fire road extension (gravel) makes it nearly a a 5-mile climb averaging 8.1%. Since Tanners was part of the CGF, put the 50/34 chainrings back on the bike and kept the 11-30 cassette. The pace was steady, but easy. One rider turned around at Dickey Ridge Visitor Center, one rode east on 211 from Thornton Gap while the 3 of us headed west. We hit Tanners Ridge at the 84-mile mark. It was every bit as brutal as I remembered – there’s no lead in or gradual slope. Once you make the right onto Tanners Ridge, the wall starts immediately. My first experience on Tanners Ridge was demoralizing – had to stop about 2/3 of the way into the first mile. Legs were exhausted. Restarted and paper-boy’d up the remaining steep section. No mid-climb stops the second time and now the third time. Wasn’t 84 miles into the ride either of the two previous times and the goal this time was no paper-boy-ing. Ha, success! Made it to the end of the paved section first and had an opportunity to recover. Temperature was noticeably cooler compared to the base of the climb. Regrouped and continued the climb, on gravel. It wasn’t a terrible surface but it did require more concentration. Arrived at Great Meadows for a well-earned rest/refueling stop. Thankfully, most of the sustained climbing was behind us although there were a couple of inclines until we reached Pinnacles. Then we had a nice 8+ mile descent into Sperryville. The rest of the ride was generally flat but the heat was more of a factor. We returned to the start point just shy of 150 miles so naturally a continuation was necessary. Ride summary (all PRs): 150.56 miles, 13,665 ft of climbing, 9:04 moving time. What a day! Link to actual route is below.

Surprisingly, the legs recovered well over the following days. The next goal was the annual cycling fund raiser for autism awareness, Bike to the Beach (B2B). It’s a 103-mile ride from DC to Dewey Beach, DE. It was the first organized cycling event since Covid cancelled everything. Numerous accommodations were made to increase physical distancing: multiple start times and locations, color-coded rest stop areas and even grab-n-go options. Weather forecast predicted nothing but wet the entire day; from DC all the way to DE. Fortunately, they were wrong. There was a fair bit of wet pavement along the way with the some light rain in spots but most of the ride was precipitation free.

The other cycling focus is a 40K TT effort on a pancake-flat course. According to Strava, 0 ft elevation change over the course. Climbing is easiest to maintain a higher percentage of my FTP, then road bike on flats, followed by TT. Completing two TT sessions on the trainer per week, gradually increasing intensity and duration. Goal is to average ~ 300W for the effort which should lower my current PR of 57:02

Now for the culinary portion. Since I was only able to enjoy one slice of the peanut butter cake my daughter made before I left to cycle the PNW, she made me another one. Not nearly as rich but just as delicious.

peanut butter cup cake

While not a contest, but differences in culinary efforts between my son (restaurant worthy) and me (peasant fare). You be the judge.

data molasses glazed chicken drumstick w/roasted cauliflower, raisins, pine nuts, and goat cheese
risotto Milanese and mustard coated rainbow trout
chicken, beans, and rice
sesame mango chicken

A delayed birthday meal prepared by my son and girlfriend

deviled eggs
roast port, potatoes, beans, and leeks

Not to be forgotten, the Missus had a busy peach week – both cobbler and pie

peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream
peach pie

A cake for many reasons

Due to the continued modifications forced upon every day life from Covid-19’s continued presence, Father’s Day celebration with my daughter was delayed by a week. In truth, one of the most significant impacts to our regular routine is the disruption to our regular Sunday Family Dinner. Family dinner was always a staple of maintaining quality time for a military family with two very academically and athletically active children. We’re fortunate that our adult children still live close enough to continue family dinner, although limited to a weekly occurrence. For most of spring, our Sunday dinner was the same as the rest of the week – just me and the Missus. Certainly not a bad thing but also not the same as having both children and their significant others join us.

This time my daughter showed off her mad baking skills with a peanut butter cake. Peanut butter is a favorite of mine and when she offered to bake a cake, I was looking forward to it all week. The cake did not disappoint! Peanut butter is in each of the layers as well as the frosting. The recipe actually calls for 3 layers. Dare I say that might be too much. The two-layered cake was just pushing the limits of “too rich” but 3 would have crushed it. Naturally it was served with Breyer’s Reese’s ice cream.

peanut butter cake

Father’s Day dinner

It’s a couple of days past Father’s Day and it’s also day three of no cycling activity. Pulled a back muscle and it turned in to back spasms while attempting to complete an every day domestic chore. It’s slowly improving but no where near comfortable. Laying down aggravates it the least followed by standing then sitting. Anti-inflammatory meds and muscle relaxers haven’t done much to alleviate the pain. It’s my first experience with a muscle spasm and I always naively scoffed when professional athletes were scratched from a game due to spasms. Ignorant no longer and there will be no more “suck it up, buttercup!” attitude. It is truly an unpleasant experience.

The real entry is about the fabulous dinner my son prepared for Father’s Day. It was a cassoulet (French casserole) that would have been welcome at any restaurant in Toulouse. It was quite the undertaking that required multi-day preparation. He used duck, pork shoulder, homemade sausage made from pork shoulder, white beans, a hearty ragout, and various herbs and spices. He accompanied the cassoulet with fried duck skin. For dessert he served poached pear with homemade syrup and whip cream. I’m not a big fan of pears but that was a truly delicious end to gastronomic delight.

cassoulet with fried duck skin
poached pear with homemade syrup and whip cream

Excellent meal

The cycling continues with more of it being in the garage on the trainer. The weather forecast is just dreadful: rain for 12 out of the next 13 days. I’ll survive, especially knowing the next Bucket List item will be front and center in just over two weeks. No spoiler alert. All in good time. Today’s entry isn’t about cycling but a meal prepared the other night – ravioli lasagna, sunny Mediterranean bread, and raisin rum bundt cake for dessert. A great feature with the ravioli is that it can be different every time it’s made. Depends on the types of fresh ravioli used – mushroom, sausage, cheese, etc. Ingredients for the bread include dried tomatoes and olives. Only used the bread machine to make the dough, then baked it in the oven. Naturally the bundt cake includes California sun-dried raisins and Goslings Bermuda Black Rum.

ravioli lasagna
sunny Mediterranean bread
raisin rum bundt cake

Skyline in its entirety – Bucket List

I’ve ridden on Skyline Drive dozens of times but the furthest I’ve ever gone is to Skyland, the highest point on the route and around the 42 mile mark. One of my non-racing goals for 2020 was to ride the entire length of Skyline from North Entrance in Front Royal to the South Entrance in Waynesboro. A total of 105 miles and nearly 11,000 feet of climbing. I’ve completed numerous century rides that included lots of elevation but never that much climbing. Even the vaunted Mountains of Misery (MoM) near Blacksburg didn’t have that much. Granted, the grade of the two primary climbs of MoM are significantly steeper than those on Skyline but the total elevation change is less than Skyline.

The original plan was complete the ride in mid-April. Then COVID-19 entered the picture. Initially I thought I was still going to be able to ride it as planned as it was still opened to cyclists and hikers. Well that changed and it was closed to all. It reopened the last week of May and I set a new date, Friday, June 5. Turned out my SAG support (The Missus) had a work conflict and I rescheduled for Monday, June 8. Turned out Monday was a much better day. Weather was fantastic, temps in the low 60s at the start and the oppressive humidity that was present for the previous several days (to include Friday) disappeared.

Started the ride a little after 0830 with the intent to meet up with the Missus at Panorama, a little short of the 32 mile mark. When riding Skyline solo or during Phase 1 of ‘re-opening’ in Virginia when many of the park’s facilities were closed, I carry 4 water bottles; 2 in frame cages and 2 more in a behind the saddle cage. Yes, it adds weight to the bike but I don’t like to conserve fluid intake during a ride. I want to be able to take a drink whenever I want and not have to worry about always keeping some fluid. Since I had SAG support, only 2 bottles were necessary. I’m a big fan of Science in Sport (SIS) products and use their gels and GO electrolyte powder. The gels are isotonic which means consuming fluids with the gels isn’t necessary to facilitate digestion and absorption. My preferred gel flavors are vanilla and apple. Back in the day I was a fan of the PowerBar energy bar and gels but the bars became too dense and it became a challenge to find the gels. I was also really like GU peanut butter gels but they stopped making them. Too many folks with peanut allergies and it affected the production lines of other flavors. On long rides I also bring Smucker’s Uncrustables, a peanut butter and jelly pre-made soft bread sandwich. Today I only needed to have a few gels with me along with the GO mixed water.

The goal was to keep the climbing efforts within Z3 (roughly 250-290 watts) and everything else easy spinning. Since I started the ride inside of the North Entrance gate and mile marker 0 is outside the entrance, I knew my Wahoo ELEMNT Roam wouldn’t reflect the full 105 miles of Skyline. It was a shortage I could accept. As mentioned above, the weather was spectacular and there wasn’t a lot of vehicular traffic on a Monday morning. I made it to Panorama in a little over 2 hours. Not my fastest time but it was a marathon, not a sprint. About 30% of the distance and 36% of the climbing was completed. After a quick bio break, topped off water bottles and a additional gels, and a brief chat with the Missus about her run starting from Elk Wallow, I was off to the next stop – Big Meadows.

I covered the next 19 miles and 2800 ft of climbing in 82 minutes. I was approaching the 50% distance mark and exceeding 60% of the climbing. First time to Big Meadows and the furthest I’d ever been on Skyline. Now, every pedal stroke would establish a new PR. Still had over 53 miles to go so the ride wasn’t over. Refueled with a banana, Uncrustable, and water and the Missus provided fresh water bottles.

Next stop was Loft Mountain at mile marker 79. Another 92 minutes and 28 miles with 1900 ft of elevation were behind me. Scenery, even on poor visibility day, is impressive and today was no exception. Only took pictures at the stopping points. The Missus had the camera and could stop at any of the overlooks she wanted.

Refueled and covered the next 26 miles and 1500 ft of climbing in 82 miles. Mission complete: Roam reflected 104 miles with 10,666 ft of elevation gain in just under 6 hours and 21 minutes of moving time. Total time was 7:11. Time to go home and eat – Chipotle was providing the evening’s meal.

Skyline – 30 May 2020

Second time this week I was able to head out to Shenandoah National Park and ride Skyline Drive. Really a must ride location for those who haven’t had the opportunity. This was a solo effort of just over 80 miles with nearly 8500 feet of climbing, starting at the most northern entrance in Front Royal, VA. The goal of the ride was threshold efforts (Z4 around 300 watts) for all sustained climbs. Reasonably successful and finished with 85 minutes in Z4. To make the ride more interesting, I play time games for the out and back. Since the climbing is more prevalent on the ‘out’ portion, I always negative split the ride. Total ride time was planned for 5 hours so I turned around at the 40-mile mark, a little short of Skyland which is the highest point on Skyline, at 2:46. I made it back to the car in 2 hours. Better than expected. Efforts were the same, Z4 on sustained climbs, and easy on the descents. Scenery is spectacular and today was exceptional as visibility was perfect. No mist or fog to disrupt the views from any of the overlooks. Granted, today was a no-stop day. Farthest I’ve ever ridden, both in terms of time and distance, without unclipping and putting a foot on the ground. Anyways, scenery was great and many folks were out enjoying them. Even saw a couple of folks I knew riding as well.

A long ride always makes dinner taste better. Tonight’s meal was baked rigatoni and sausage. We always make our own pasta sauce using canned diced tomatoes, tomato paste, a little sugar (brown and white), and spices. Freshly sautéed mushrooms, garlic, and onions usually accompany the sauce. The Missus prefers less cheese on hers which explains the difference in the picture below. We also had fresh, homemade bread. Yes, we use a bread machine but not pre-packaged bread mixes. Tonight was onion and cheese bread.

The following day was out the door by a little after 7 am for an easy 3.5 hour ride. French toast after any ride is most delicious.


To start any new adventure always requires an initial step. So here we go. Wanted a way to record and maybe even share (providing anyone else ever reads these posts) the pleasure I experience from cycling and good food. No real agenda, overarching message, or hidden purpose. Frequency of posts are unknown at this time. A lot of wait and see.

Where to start? At the beginning is inappropriate; too long and not really very interesting. Stay focused on the topics – cycling and food. Started cycling in my late teens and early 20s in college. Competed in the early days of Triathlons – yes, even met a few of the big stars like Mark Allen, Dave Scott, Mike Pigg, Scott Tinley, and Kenny Souza (really a duathlete). Was a decent age grouper back in the day. Life happened; marriage, children, work, physical limitations that greatly reduced the joy of swimming and running. So now I just cycle. My family thinks I need an intervention. I cycle nearly every day now. Not because I have to but because I want to and I continue to derive joy from the activity. Don’t understand others I pass along the way with miserable expressions while exercising. Contemplative I understand, pained I don’t. Why do something on your own time that you don’t appear to enjoy?

Yes, I have multiple bikes: Cannondale SuperSix Evo Hi-Mod E-TAP; Cervelo P5 E-TAP; Cannondale SuperSix Evo (indoor only – Wahoo Kickr), Cannondale mountain bike, and a Schwinn SuperSport converted to a single speed bad weather bike. I subscribe to several cycling tools – Zwift, TrainerRoad, TrainingPeaks, Strava (free version), and RideWithGPS. I belong to a local cycling club and am a member of a local cycling team.

Enough of me. More will come out along the journey. Should be interesting.