Yesterday, in Cleburne, Texas, I did my 13th bike rally of the year and my 507th overall. (My goal is to do 1,000.) This was the 24th edition of the Tour de Goatneck. I did my first Goatneck in 1990 and have now done 19 of the past 22. The 69.5-mile course is hilly and it's always hot. My best average speed on this course is 19.75 miles per hour. I've averaged at least 20 miles per hour in almost every other rally.
Many of my friends showed up, which was heartening. Some did 41 miles, so I was able to talk to them only briefly before they turned off. The official high temperature for the day, at DFW Airport, was 100º Fahrenheit, but fluffy clouds obscured the sun during much of the rally. This made a big difference to our comfort, because when the sun was beating down on us, it was scorching. Thank goodness for small favors.
I rode most of the way with Joe, Julius, and Harold. We stopped three times for a total of about 33 minutes. One rest stop (in Eulogy) had pickle juice, which is delightfully good. I need to find a source of this nectar from the gods. It's not only delicious; it wards off cramps and helps replace sodium that is lost through perspiration. Another rest stop (in Nemo) had long lines for water and Gatorade, but we needed a break from pedaling by this point. My final stop was at 55 miles, by which time the heat and hills were taking a toll.
Statistically, I rode 69.42 miles in 3:59:50, which is an average speed of 17.36 miles per hour. I rode 18.72 miles during the first hour, so my average speed thereafter was 16.91 miles per hour. It was officially windy (10.6 miles per hour, on average), though, because the course was so winding, we were never fighting the wind for long. Some of the hills near the end were long and steep. Julius, who is 64 years old, powers up these hills without getting out of the saddle. He's an amazing physical specimen. (He once played soccer for the Czech national team.) I can only hope to be riding at half his level 10 years from now, when I reach 64. Joe (the kid of the group) is also a good climber, so I was constantly racing to catch up to them. Friends push and inspire each other.
I burned 4,024 calories, according to my Garmin. My average heart rate was 117 and my maximum 153. I reached a top speed of 36.8 miles per hour on one of the descents. This was my 25th consecutive week of riding. Everyone is gearing up for the Hotter 'n Hell Hundred in Wichita Falls next month. It might live up to its name this year.
Regarding Henry Hitchings's review of Ina Lipkowitz's "Words To Eat By" (Bookshelf, July 25): The author and/or reviewer should perhaps eat her or his words. I seriously doubt that any self-respecting lover of ramps would celebrate the ramson in West Virginia (or anywhere else in the U.S.). It appears that there is confusion between ramsons and ramps. Ramsons (Allium ursinum), also called "bear's garlic," are indigenous to Europe and Asia, and wild populations are not found in the U.S. Ramps (Allium tricocca) are native to the U.S. and are found in the wild from the mountainous mid-Atlantic states northward.
Wild populations in the U.S., however, are in jeopardy due to the current trend of "local and fresh." Foodies and restaurants will stop at nothing to satisfy their cravings for something new or unusual. The indiscriminate rape of ramp populations, as seen in Sullivan County, N.Y., where the entire patch is harvested, is putting this gift of nature in peril.
Note from KBJ: This is a good example of persuasive definition. By applying the term "rape" to the harvesting of a plant, the letter writer hopes to transfer the negativity of the word to the thing. I'm not falling for it. Are you?
This photo of Anders Breivik is apparently one he posed for. But what is that on his chin? It seems too symmetrical to be some birthmark. Are the two dark patches hair? Is this a kind of beard, a variant of soul patch? If this is deliberately trimmed facial hair, I have never seen this before. What is it called?
Regarding Steven Rattner's letter of July 22: Did it ever occur to Mr. Rattner that the reason for recent productivity improvement is that businesses have shed both marginally productive workers from operations, as well as scaled back employment in research and development? Even the same output divided by a reduced work force calculates to improved productivity.
The problems here, and with the self-aggrandizing thinking of the likes of Mr. Rattner, are: (1) nothing additional was produced (and maybe less), (2) businesses have learned they can get by (at least in the short term) with smaller work forces, and (3) we lose our innovative edge.
Mr. Rattner says corporations should share profits resulting from increased productivity with the workers. One may argue they have: The workers still have jobs.