Monday, July 27, 2015

First Bike Tour for Max and for the Campeur

Max and I did Max's first bike tour this weekend. We rode out a ways on the C&O Canal Towpath, camped, and rode back the next day.

Here we are after the first day's ride of 47.2 miles.

And here we are after the second day's ride, of 47.1 miles.

We started at the hostel across the river from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. The hostel is on the Appalachian Trail, and you can stay inside or camp in the back yard. We camped. The hostel is very nice and relaxing. It's an old favorite. There was a screech owl whinnying outside our tent as we fell asleep.

This is the first time riding the Campeur loaded. I have new panniers ordered to match the rando bag and the saddle bag. So for now I am using my old Ortleibs, which are about 10 years old. I had to take about a dozen luggage tags off them with Debra's name on them, from past trips to RAGBRAI.

To make this a good test of loading up the Campeur, I brought everything we needed and then some. I wasn't sure how far Max could go, so I brought full cooking gear and food for dinner in case we didn't make it to a restaurant. Also, sleeping bags and Thermarest pads for two. I think I had about 40 pounds of stuff.

The Campeur did great. It is very stable and comfortable, and the Velo Orange racks are rock solid. I have a touring triple crankset with a 24 tooth granny ring and a modern 12:36 triple so I had no trouble climbing anything, even the very steep road up to the bridge to West Virginia to Shepherdstown for lunch. That climb was at least 12%. Once we got to the top, we realized there is a nice easy bike ramp on the other side of the bridge.

Here we are crossing in to West Virginia for lunch.

Which was at the Blue Moon Cafe, and it was very nice despite how Max looks shellshocked. I think he always looks like this after a tough climb.

Here is Max at Dam 4.  We took lots of breaks and read all the signs.

Dinner was at Tony's Pizza in Willamsport. This was not great. Max is not happy. There are not many choices in Williamsport. Max is having a real bike touring experience. Food is not always great, and your butt hurts, which he pointed out to me about twice a mile.

Here is our campsite, at the hiker-bike site a couple miles above Williamsport. There was one other bicycle tourist there when we arrived. After we got the tent set up, a barred owl swooped into the tree right over our head. He hung out there for a half hour or so, then spent another hour in a tree in the center of the campground, before flying across the river.

Unfortunately, awhile later, two local couples showed up. The women were obese, the men were shirtless, bearded, and sporting mullet haircuts. In no time at all they were arguing and screaming profanities at each other. Then one of the women vanished into the woods, probably to check on her meth lab. This is what Williamsport is like. Max and I hid in the tent. This is sad, because he was having fun discussing bike touring with the other camper until then.

The next day, we had breakfast at the Sheetz, which is the only choice in Williamsport. Sheetz always hits the spot. Max and I were both very happy with our bagels, although Max's fruit cup was disappointing. We loaded up on snacks for the ride back.

It used to be there was a detour on this segment of the towpath, at an area above Dam 4 called Big Slackwater. The river runs right up against cliffs for a couple miles here, and instead of digging the canal, they just made the towpath, and built a dam so the river was deep enough for the canal boats to go in the river. The detour was necessary since the towpath had washed away long ago. 

But now, there is a nice new cement bike path along the river. I read on a helpful sign or pamphlet somewhere that it cost $19,000,000.

Here we are looking at one of the locks by Dam 4, I believe.

We ate lunch again in Shepherdstown. By this time it was hot and humid, and we were dragging, with about 15 miles to go. An then disaster struck. Somehow Max's foot bounced off the pedal and became entangled in the bike frame and he took a nasty spill. The only damage was a big scrape on the elbow, but there was about a half hour of ranting about how he's never riding that bike again, why didn't I pack any band aids, and I want bike shoes to clip into the pedals. And call Mama to come pick us up.

After about an hour he got bored and continued on the bike. We took more frequent stops to refresh ourselves from then on.

One really cool sight was this dual train bridge at Harpers Ferry. The left span is now a walkway for hikers to cross the river to Harpers Ferry. It is part of the Appalachian Trail. What is really cool is we have a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle of this exact bridge with two giant B&O steam locomotives on the bridges.

And while we were there, a train came, so here is our picture of modern locomotives on the bridge.

The bridge is only three miles from the hostel, which includes a giant climb. Max went right up the hill and beat me to the top by about 5 minutes.

Here he is at the end with his wound. The hostel gave us some Neosporin. I bought him some toe clips this afternoon.

So this trip was a great success. I am pretty stiff and sore today. Max says he feels great and is not stiff or tired at all, despite us having to drag him out of bed this morning.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Campeur Pics with Commuting Bags

I've got the bags I ordered for commuting now. They are made to order from Swift Industries in Seattle. It wasn't them who decided they should be purple.

I think the bags look fantastic with the honey leather and grey frame of the Campeur.

I tested them out riding to work this morning, they work great. My work clothes and tools go in the back, and my lunch goes in the front.

I didn't get the decaleur attached until this evening. If you look close, you can see the decaleur is for show, and there is a bungee cord doing the actual job. 

It seems you need a soldering iron to do the job. I don't use a soldering iron very often, and after spending a couple hours looking around for it, I gave up and went to Home Depot and bought a new one. Then there was a huge thunderstorm and the power went out. It was still out when I took these pictures.

Here's a picture of the Campeur on the Fourth of July. Notice how much better the new bags are compared to the nasty old trunk rack I dug out of the basement.

I have 125 miles or so now on the Campeur. It's not as fast and comfortable as a titanium recumbent or anything, but it's really nice. Gun Road is no biggie, I didn't even need the lowest gear.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

New Bike Day - Velo Orange Campeur

I got a new bike! It's not a recumbent!

The bike is a Velo Orange Campeur, with as much available bling as I could attach to it. It has a kickstand, a bell, shiny stainless steel racks, three bottle cages and a frame pump.

I'm going full retro with this. Note white wheels, downtube shifters, fenders, mud flaps, sprung leather seat, and non-aero brake levers. This is my old man bike. It's geared super low so I can climb up anything, loaded with panniers.

The saddle bag and decaleur bag will be here soon.

I finished putting it together yesterday, and did one short test ride.

 Now it's time to take a bike ride! I'm going to restrain myself and not head for the Pacific coast.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Spring 15 Tour Day 9 - Biscoe to Oakboro NC

The great Spring 15 Tour is over. It was a grand total of approximately 645 miles over 9 days.

It was only 43 miles today, and it was another beautiful spring day. Even more hills, but no biggie. Most of the day was riding through a national forest.

I've found Google Maps on Android to be very effective at plotting bike routes. You tell it where you want to go on your bike, and it gives you two or three choices, with an elevation profile and total climb for each. What's interesting down here is the slightly longer routes tend to be the better choice. The more direct routes are newer roads that have more traffic, and the older roads follow the contour of the land better, which means you are doing less climbing in and out of valleys. I spent a lot of the day on meandering roads with no traffic that follow ridge lines.

Breakfast was at the Waffle House across the street from the Days Inn.

Lunch was the Wayside Family Restaurant in Oakboro, two miles from the bluegrass festival site. It was fantastic. Jim and Suzanne ventured forth from bluegrass for dinner, and it was closed, so they went to the Italian-Chinese place up the street. I think I made a better choice...

Here is the bluegrass festival, which is at an old farm which is now a campground/auction house/festival site. It was very low key, and comfortable, with great music.

There was a rooster hanging out in the barn my bike is leaning against. I wonder if anyone knows he lives up there?

One of my favorite performers was the Bass Mountain Boys. They spent most of their time on stage telling bad jokes and talking about how old and fat they are. They would do a song once in awhile, while claiming they couldn't remember how it goes because they haven't played more than 10 shows in the last 10 years.

So that's it, it was a great week and a half. Here is the track on Strava:

Friday, April 10, 2015

Spring 15 Tour Day 8 - Cary to Biscoe, NC

Yep, 80 more miles today with hills and headwinds, and I'm still handsome. That yellowish tinge to my skin is pollen. The air is so thick with pine pollen it looks foggy sometimes.

I rode by myself today, since Jim is now doing the family vacation thing since he has ridden 502 miles already and that's enough he says. I feel like I'm just getting started.

It was a pretty grueling day. Mostly nonstop hills. Big headwinds in the afternoon.  Temperature in the mid 80s. I had to go 80 miles to get to this Days Inn I'm at, which is the only motel for 20 miles in any direction. The online reviews for this place (two stars) are quite humorously bad. I was giving the highlights of them to Suzanne at dinner last night, who is amused by where Jim and I will stay when we are on our own, because she isn't there.

"I'm pretty sure something bit me"
"There are footprints on the walls"
"There are more pubic hairs than I can count with my fingers and toes."

Honestly. THIS MOTEL IS JUST FINE THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH IT. None of those things are true. RDOQ. Those reviews are probably all from people who are sad they can't spend $100 more on the Hampton Inn or something and have it come with a blow dryer and clothes iron.

It's right off the exit to I-73, behind the Food Lion and the Family Dollar. It's on the opposite side of the street from the giant sawmill. There is a Bojangles, Hardees, Waffle House, and Chinese place across the parking lot. I did the Chinese, and washed it down with a Mello Yello from the vending machine in front of the Food Lion. It hit the spot.

The real highlight was Mrs. Wegner's Restaurant back in Sanford. Tasty homestyle Southern cooking, and dirt cheap. Lunch was $7!

Just don't make them mad.

It's mostly "forests" now, which are really tree farms. There are lots of log trucks on the road, and saw mills. Occasional big ugly clearcuts. And incredible amounts of pine pollen. Giant yellow clouds everywhere.

I was on US Bicycle Route 1 for most of the morning. This route is the East Coast Greenway, which runs right by my house on the BWI trail and the Grist Mill Trail. Yesterday's trails through Raleigh were part of it. This section southwest of Raleigh was once US 1. The current US 1 runs parallel to the old road here, and is a freeway.

Despite the hills and headwinds, today was magnificent. I feel great, the scenery is great, and springtime is in full force down here.

Here is the track on Strava:

Spring 15 Tour Day 7 - Rocky Mount to Cary NC

I made my after-ride picture today extra big because I am so handsome.

We did 68 miles today. There are hills now, and the high was around 80. It was a very scenic ride, with back roads for the first half, and bike trails through Raleigh.

For the most part, the bike trails were really nice, although the trail through Raleigh was a bit of a mud pit in places, and we had to walk through a construction site at one point. I think they build the trail on top of the main sewer line in town, which is a clever thing to do if you are going to need an access road for maintenance anyway.

Jim's bike looks really tough after the ride today.

We are in Cary, a planned community which will suck your soul and leave you a lifeless husk. However, they do have an REI here, where I borrowed a floor pump and a staff member to pump up my tires, and got some electrolyte powder and some oil for the bike.

They also have a nice microbrew pub across the way. Suzanne asked what the rating was on the Internet. I pointed out that it is in between a Panera Bread, Red Robin, and Golden Corral. That tells you more than any Internet reviews, in my opinion.

We are staying at a fancy Holiday Inn. It has a pool for the girls. It also has a sad little bar, but that is better than nothing. They could not make a margarita, but they could manage a double Jack and Coke.

Lunch was at a Mexican place next to the Wal-Mart in Zebulon. It was yummy.

After the bike trail, we rode through the campus of NC State, which could have been a road through any office park. There was the humongous hill final hill of the day on that road.

Jim is now done riding, after doing 502 miles in one week. This is the RAGBRAI equivalent. I'm going to continue on, and meet them at the bluegrass festival on Saturday afternoon.

Here is the Strava track for today:

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Spring 15 Tour Day 6 - Plymouth to Rocky Mount NC

Hello from the fancy Country Inn and Suites in Rocky Mount, NC.

We are staying here because Suzanne and the girls have left Virginia Beach, and now traveling with us in the van. I think they are here, they had not shown up yet when I fell asleep last night.

These fancy places have all the special touches that you wouldn't expect. Jim figured out that the nightstand where the bible is has a drawer handle that works as a beer bottle opener.

Anyway, yesterday was 72 miles. It was hot out! I didn't expect that! It was in the mid 80s all afternoon, mostly sunny, wind from the south, which was not a big deal since we are headed west.

We started with 20 miles on US 64, which was a divided 4 lane road with a very narrow shoulder. This was not great, but there wasn't much traffic. On the other hand, what traffic there was was mostly log trucks. After that it was all two lane roads with no shoulder until Rocky Mount.

The terrain is not completely dead flat any more, there are easy rolling hills sometimes. I have shifted gears today, but no need to shift the chainring yet.

Since it was threatening rain all morning, we did the "If it's not raining, we should be riding" rule, and did 20 miles before breakfast, which turned out to be an early lunch. Delicious North Carolina Bar-B-Q in Williamston.

I was negligent about taking pictures today. This is because the phone was back in the trunk rack, and I would have to get off the bike. It was mostly agricultural fields. Cotton mostly.

Here is the diner where we had dinner up the street from the hotel. This is nothing special, just food off the exit ramp.

Here is the Strava track for today:

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Spring 15 Tour Day 5 - Nags Head to Plymouth NC

Hello from Plymouth, North Carolina, Plymouth is 76 miles from Nags Head. The wind was a cross wind from the south, which is why we got in two hours earlier than yesterday, which had tough headwinds. Temperatures were in the 70. All in all, a beautiful day.

It's been sunny out, so I've got that bike tourist tan going. You can tell I always wear my helmet.

There isn't much on Nags Head compared with our Maryland and Delaware beach towns. You can tell there used to be even less, and they've built lots of big houses along the beach in recent years. You can still feel the little bungalow and bait shop vibe sometimes.

Here's the approach to Roanoke Island, you can see a bunch of new townhouses in the distance. Roanoke is the site of Capt. John Smith's lost colony, Pocahontas, and all that.

 Here is a picture of my leg that I took by mistake. I decided I like this picture, so I'm keeping it and putting in on the blog. If I meant to take this picture of my leg, there would be a "No cell phone use while driving" sign in the background.

Breakfast was on the mainland, 10 miles down the road and over two long bridges, at this country store. Nothing was open in Nags Head. There was a diner on Roanoke, but I was ahead of Jim when I turned off the main road to get to it, and Jim kept riding.

The route today was way better than I thought it would be. We were more or less following US 64. I expected to spend most of the day riding the shoulder of 64, or on frontage roads, but it turned out 64 has little traffic and goes through crazy wild swamps for the first 30 miles. There is a progression of ever more alarming warning signs:


Jim does not like signs about dangerous wildlife, which I learned when we rode across the Everglades where there are signs about panthers. I found some news articles about mountain lions in Iowa to reassure him before RAGBRAI after that.

There were lots of pileated woodpeckers flying over.

We had lunch at the Good Times Tavern and Restaurant in Columbia, NC. Barbecue, corn nuggets, and fried okra, just like you would hope.

After Columbia, we had 30 miles of back roads. This was your classic rural south in the springtime. Lots of decaying buildings, collapsing barns, flowers, and trees in blossom. There were tractors tilling cotton fields.

We are staying at the immaculately clean and spacious Sportmans' Inn, a classic old roadside motel. RDOQ at it's best. There is a Holiday Inn Express next door, where you can spend more money for no reason. There is also a Bojangles, so we ate tasty chicken while watching the Orioles game in our room. Cable systems in North Carolina have MASN, so you can chalk one up in the WIN COLUMN for that!

Here is the track on Strava: