Ben Wilson

Ben Wilson

ben wilson This is the blog of a one Ben Wilson, a Louisville, Kentucky native who enjoys baseball, beer, music, bikes, things that fly and good food. By day he pushes pixels and makes the Internet happen for a local advertising agency. His wife, Kelly is an Ironman, and his baby Amelia is the cutest thing ever.

On Sunday, in France, the legendary* Paris-Roubaix race took place. It is a near-mythical jaunt across the cobbled farm roads of previously-war-torn Northern France. Some 140 miles of bone-jarring Napoleonic stones that make legends of some riders, but breaking far more. It is truly “epic”.

Inspired, I got out on the two-wheeler Sunday morning to find and ride what pavé (French for cobblestone) still exists in the 502, for what could be termed a pathetic but pleasant meh-pic homage.

There are relatively few of these area left in town that I know of. I haven’t given a whole lot of time to finding them, but given my life spent in this town coupled with the wisdom that only Google Maps Street View can provide, I found these handful of sections. They fall into one or two categories: ridiculously steep or quaintly maintained as a curio. I prefer the former.

As do many cycling trips in town, I started from Cherokee Park, riding a lap of the Scenic Loop, before getting to the proper steep stuff. You can find my entire route, “Crescent Hill Cobbles” on

* legendary in cycling circles, anyway

Coming up after the jump, a pictorial of the journey and details.

Appetizer: Maple Road, Cherokee Park

Length: 2100 feet.
Altitude gain: 101 feet.
Gradient: 5% average, 11% max.

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Sector #1: Peterson Avenue @ Grinstead Drive

Length: 529 feet
Altitude gain: 65 feet.
Grade: 8.8%

Old, weathered, at times unruly.

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Sector #2: Bickel Alley between Payne Street and Bickel Road

Length: 700~ feet
Altitude gain: 50 feet
Grade: 6.5%

While not cobbled, it is a nasty stretch of uneven asphalt, concrete and gravel. Interesting collection of houses on the way up, as well.

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You might also be interested in slogging up the nearby Saunders Avenue, just east of there. Not cobbled, but concrete slabs on a straight silly incline.

Sector #3 – Sycamore Avenue between Keats Avenue and Jane Street

Length: 420 feet
Altitude change/gradient: Eh.

Here lies an interesting curio. One block, untouched by the hot wrath of the asphalt-layer. Mostly flat with tidy paving bricks that deal a 10% quaintness bonus to all houses nearby.

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Sector #4 – Haldeman Avenue at Brownsboro Road (US 42)

Length: 449 feet.
Altitude gain: 49 feet.
Grade: 11.1%

What makes it worse is that many of the paving stones on Haldeman are actually laid into the street in a stair-step manner, I assume to keep cars from hurtling down it in damp or icy conditions. Imagine attempting to bike up your stairs, if they were 1/8 scale, and jagged.

PS – Apparently so fearsome that the Google Maps Street View car wouldn’t dare it!

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Sector #5 – State Street between Frankfort Avenue and North Charlton Street

Length: 968 feet
Altitude Gain: 34 feet
Grade: 3.5%

At the bottom, a tidy selection of stones as seen in the photo above, but at the top there is a wonderful patchwork of new and old stones, as seen below in the Google Street View.

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After-dinner Coffee - Stevenson Avenue @ Mellwood Avenue

Length: 100 feet?
Altitude Gain: 23 feet
Grade: 23%

So this one isn’t cobbled, nor is it much longer than a baby’s arm, but it’s plenty steep.

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Dessert – Mellwood Avenue to River Road and Mockingbird Valley

No need to blather on about this stretch. It’s not cobbled, it’s mostly flat and it’s beautiful. Mellwood Avenue is a tree-lined avenue with low traffic that runs from Old Louisville through to the affluent Mockingbird Valley. Mockingbird Valley is a rolling, tree-shrouded tour that intersects with Brownsboro Road. Say hello to the Dancing Bears, if you can find them.

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filed under Cycling,Louisville and then tagged as ,
Apr 12 2010 ~ 4:16 pm ~ Comments (1) ~

It’s been a good winter. A long winter. Long days without the sun, cold early mornings hurting myself before many folks roll out of bed, and a early bedtime. Since October that’s been my regimen – 4 or 5 days out of the week. Our little baby Amelia has injected a bit of a much-need schedule into my life and it’s honestly been great. I only have 45 minutes or so each morning, but it’s my time and it wakes me, clears my head. I am fulfilled…and my time is filled. Might as well make the best of it.

And while 45 minutes isn’t my ideal – far too short! That’s what I’ve got and I have come to realize that it’s the small steps, consistently done do the trick just fine. So I build and build – keep building is what a good friend told me years ago.

But then it comes times to put what I’ve built – my fitness – to the test. The running season started in earnest last weekend – and I smashed my 5K personal record (PR) by almost a full minute. Something must be going right.

But maybe only with my fitness.  My biggest problem is fear. Lots of nerves usually. Like the kind of nerves and fear that make my heart race and the adrenaline going until it sours in my legs. And the funny thing is – it doesn’t happen to me for running races – only for cycling. It’s a little like young love – and I’ve definitely sold my competitive soul to cycling. I eat it, I sleep it.

A couple of weeks ago I rode up to Salem, IN (~60 miles) and felt real good. Good – at least I’ve got a little fitness. Last weekend I did a ride with my team guys and felt fantastic, whereas this time last year I was hanging on for dear life. I was flying up some seriously steep grades and feeling great, and my teammates were right there with me. Finally – I’m near their level! And today, today was the first road race of the new year here in the Ohio Valley – the Long Run Park Circuit race.

Last year (see reports here and here) I got my ass handed to me in almost all of the Category 4/5 mixed races I entered (I’m a lesser Cat-5). I had the FEAR and I had it bad. Nerves would knock me out of most races. I was determined to not be that guy again… and I wasn’t. Whereas early in the week I was having my typically-vivid-daymares about the race, this morning I got up at my 6AM. I am calm. I am eating my oatmeal. I am tending to the baby. I drink my coffee and get to the race, an hour early. I get warm and keep warm. I lined up and the whistle blows. The clicking of pedals to shoes and we take a left to the downhill. I fight for position and in one move I am near the front. I move to the front of the pack of 50. On the short climb I am still there. On the way down, I stay on the wheel of the 4 or 5 guys at the very head of the race.

This is it. I have done it. I am capable of this.

I stick on the wheels of a couple of guys at the front of the race for a lap and a half. I am overjoyed. But I am also running at my redline. I can’t contain this pace and I am doing too much work.  I blow up. I hit my threshold. I dial it back at just the wrong time and I get “shelled” out of the lead group of 15-20. But y’know, my goal has been reached. I have proved that my hard work is work-ing. I have shed that fear.

I group up with a handful of guys and we finish the race together. It was a good race, and I am proud of what I’ve done.

I was confident the whole day, and best of all – without fear. It was a good day.

Update: I placed 19th out of 44! Ecstatic!! I know I can do better – I blew up because I was trying hard to chase a lead group.  Shoulda just looked in my rearview and hung with the peloton… anyway, as Bobke says – “That’s bike racin’ for ya”

filed under Athletics,Cycling and then tagged as
Mar 13 2010 ~ 2:37 pm ~ Comments (3) ~

Cobbled together from sketchy footage and so-so photos from both days at the 2009 USGP here in Louisville. Enjoy.

Featured are a number of Rogues, some of which who Love the Pain, IronMan Michael, ‘Zanne, her crippled hubby, Molnar (whos baby girl gave me a dollar), those awesome little scamps from Red Zone cycling, and of course Jimmy the self-proclaimed “one-eyed drunken cyclops” from F* Where’s all the guys?  Well… my one and only teammate DNF’d in the mudpit at the end of the video on the first lap. Chapeau!

The kids in the yellow t-shirts are from Lionhearts Junior Racing – which I can’t find a website for, but I am totally a fan of them now. Root beer hand-ups for all!

Old Crow Medicine Show – Trouble that I’m In
Blizten Trapper – Gold for Bread
Old Crow Medicine Show – Tear it Down

filed under Athletics,Cycling and then tagged as ,
Oct 31 2009 ~ 9:26 am ~ Comments (4) ~

This weekend, the US Gran Prix of Cyclocross was in Louisville, my hometown. Cyclocross is a nutty mix of cycling and running on grass, dirt and sand. The USGP is a national race series that offers races in a number of different categories, based on experience level, gender and age. Here in Louisville there were some 300? 400? riders. The “big” races are the Men’s and Women’s PRO races… but the rest of them are comprised of folks like me.

Why is this man so happy?

Why is this man so happy?

The USGP is a well-organized, well-sponsored event. The USGP is a circus, and when the circus lands in your back yard, you show up and you have fun. Beer is a common currency, costumes are encouraged, muddy, pain-wracked smiles are the norm. This isn’t road racing, for sure.

The Long Stretch before the barriers

I raced in the Category 4 (the lowest level) race at 8:30 AM on Saturday and spectated on Sunday. I shot a lot of photos (and some video) of the non-PRO races, and I’ve been attempting to find the one photo that tells the story, like this one:

Muddy legs

My muddy legs after my race on Saturday

But I think the story is best told in a string of photos. I took a bunch (Day One, Day Two), and after the jump you can enjoy a little tale…


filed under Cycling and then tagged as
Oct 25 2009 ~ 9:43 pm ~ Comments (5) ~



Amelia sternly criticizes my performance at the 2009 Tour de Louisville cyclocross race. One of my favorite photos of her.

filed under Baby,Cycling and then tagged as
Oct 23 2009 ~ 10:49 am ~ Comments (1) ~

In honor of the USGP Derby City Cup cyclocross race this weekend, I give you this:

Look upon my works, ye mighty, and chuckle heartily.

Scattante XRL Cross Beast

What you see before you is my spring/summer waiting-on-the-baby project, a cyclocross bike. It’s a jumble of parts acquired from my basement, local sources, Craiglist and eBay. It is also my first from-the-group-up bike build. Finished in August, I spun it out the River Road Country Club cyclocross (CX for short) course to make sure it wouldn’t fall apart, and then… I raced it at the Tour de Louisville cyclocross race October 4th. The race and the bike were awesome. I even got a little bloody…


I’ll be racing this Saturday AM at 8:30AM in the Category 4 Open Men’s race. It’s gonna be NUTS.

More details on the bike after the jump…


filed under Athletics,Cycling and then tagged as
Oct 21 2009 ~ 5:43 pm ~ Comments (4) ~

Kelly and I wanted a bit of a “last hurrah” before the baby came in July, so early in the spring I reserved a cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains.

A view of the city

The weather was so-so with rain often, but enough sunlight and wonderfully cool temperatures to make it all very spring-y. We didn’t have any serious plans early on, save for relaxing and making pancakes and looking for bears. Soon after I made the reservation, Doug suggested that I try riding from the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountain Nat’l Park to the tip-top of Clingman’s Dome – some 5,000 feet of climbing in a single 20-mile bike ride. This was initially met coolly by Kelly, but after a few heart-to-heart discussions, she agreed to let it go off.


filed under Cycling,Photography,Travel and then tagged as
Oct 4 2009 ~ 4:55 pm ~ Comments Off ~
A man, a dirty man.

A man, a dirty man.

The Louisville Short Track mountain bike race series kicked off tonight, and it was a total hoot. Seriously – if you’ve got a mountain bike in the garage, get out, pay your $8 and have a good time. I don’t care if you “don’t race bikes”, this was fun.

The intent, say the organizers, is to put on a series like the Portland Short Track Racing series – a laid back, open to all comers race series that focused on fun and getting people into the sport.

Late last night I threw some new tires purchased at Mountain Bike Depot (they sponsor this series) onto my Kona Smoke commuter/mountain bike and pulled out the clipless pedals (which, uh I had never used to trail ride with). A quick ride-check at lunch today and I figured I was a good as I’d be that day.


filed under Athletics,Cycling and then tagged as
May 28 2009 ~ 10:34 pm ~ Comments Off ~

Let me begin this post by recapping my brief bicycle racing career so far:

Race #1, Long Run Park Circuit, 45 minutes + 1 lap – I am in the pack for about 1/2 mile, and then am “spit out the rear” or “shelled” or “blown” by the sheer speed of it. The rest of the race I ride alone or with small groups, but feel pretty good. By the way, the “staying with the pack” thing is critical in bike racing – you’ll gain a significant speed advantage. If you don’t stick, well…

Race #2, Lexington Circuit Race, 45 minutes + 1 lap – I managed to stay in the pack the entire time, save for the very last lap. I am both extremely terrified as there were 100 cyclists in a large group all together, and a couple of gnarly crashes.  I finish squarely in the middle of the pack (51st). Huzzah!

Race #3, Shelby County Road Race, 30 miles – My first “long” road race on country roads. I last hardly a mile or two into the race in the peloton. My heart-rate goes to the redline and it takes me literally 10 miles to calm down to the point at which I am not considering throwing up or quitting the race (…and I have never consider quitting before). The rest of the race I am alone or with small groups.

I’ve come a long way since the fall of 2008 when I was asked to join the Cycling team. I’ve put in about 600+ cycling miles in those 5 or 6 months plus maybe another 400 “miles” in Spinning classes or on the trainer. I’ve lost about 10-15 pounds and gained a level of fitness I’ve never had before.

So, here I am, in the “best shape of my life” (BSOML) and I am getting my ass kicked in these “entry-level” cycling races… and you know what? I am loving it. I am eating it as you would relish a delicious slice of pie.


filed under Athletics,Cycling and then tagged as
~ 3:36 pm ~ Comments (2) ~

Ben in his new TwinSpires cycling kit

Yes, this is just what I’ve gotten myself into.

Last fall, my Power Creative colleague Doug O asked me if wanted to “give racing a shot”. Not knowing any better, I said “uh, sure?” and that was that. One new recruit shakedown ride later and I had become a member of the Cycling Team. This would mean that I’d be competing against other riders on other local/regional teams and would have to do at least 5 races in the next year. I would also get a snazzy-as-hell team outfit (see above).

I never envisioned myself a “real” cyclist (whatever that means) – but I do and have always enjoyed it, and spurred on by Doug’s invitation/challenge, I started training harder and more consistently than I ever have in my entire life. Lifting weights, riding during the cold months, eating better and  losing weight (almost 15 pounds in 2 months!). As a result, I’m in the best shape of my life.


The last two weekends, I’ve participated in my first two cycling races as a part of the KYANA Series, with the first race being a literal wash – 40 degrees and a steady rain (yay!) and me being dropped from the main group almost immediately ending in 48th place out of 50-something. The second, just today in Lexington, went much better with me hanging with the main group the entire time, only getting dropped at the very end. (PS – I am blaming my lack of energy at the end on a serious lack of peanut-butter-and-jelly sammiches). I ended 51st out of 90-something! For my second-ever race I am totally jazzed.

So yeah, I’m a bike racer now, and I think I like it.

filed under Cycling and then tagged as
Mar 21 2009 ~ 11:23 pm ~ Comments Off ~
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