Thursday, July 17, 2008

RAGBRAI Day -3: Winnetka, IL to La Moile, MN

Today's adventure was to go to Minnesota to inspect the 3/4 acre of land my Aunt Peggy gave me. But first I had to get past my niece and nephew to leave. They were opposed to the idea.

On the way I stopped off in LaCrosse, Wisconsin to visit the World's Largest Six Pack.

This is at an old Heileman plant, which is now making microbrews. The World's Largest Six Pack used to be Old Style. I'm glad they are keeping it up. I visited it in the mid-90's on a trip to Minnesota with my aunt who gave me the land. On that trip she gave me some furniture that belonged to my great-grandfather. His house was standing until about 10 years ago, when it got hit by lightning and burned to the ground. The land Peggy gave me was once part of my great-grandparent's land, and it's next to the site of the house.

In 2001 I rode my bike across the country, and camped on the site of the old house, then the next day, went to LaCrosse to watch the Ravens game on TV. This is the bar where I watched the Ravens. It's a blues bar frequented by Bears fans, who were the Ravens' opponents that day. It's three blocks from the World's Largest Six Pack.

Soon afterwards, I got to La Moile, where my 3/4 acre of land is. It's to the right of the house nearest the center. The drawings I have says that the access is at the end of the lane between the two houses.

But the end of the lane is fenced off, and behind it is a deep ravine, so there would be no practical way to get to this lot from the lane.

I became concerned that the land was actually all ravine, and therefore quite useless. I drove into Winona and visited the county offices. The nice lady there printed me out a detailed areal map with the property boundary outlined. It seems the property line approximately follows the bottom of the ravine.

It seems it does not have access from the end of the lane, but it does have about 300' of frontage on the section of old highway 61, which leads to the drive up to the site of my great-grandparents' house.

I hiked up the embankment, and found what appears to be a marker for the corner of the lot, and behind that a field of naturalized lilies.

Just behind that is a clearing with the overgrown foundation of my great-grandparents' house.

It's being overgrown by blackberries.

At the end of the lane was what was once the community's church.

It's now a gift shop.

I hiked up to the cemetery, which was on top of the bluff. Somebody is mowing the access path and maintaining the cemetery, but I did not see my great-grandparent's gravestones. Maybe they are buried in Winona. I'll have to ask my aunt.

I drove back to Winona to get some lunch on the other side of the river. Here is the view of the land from Trempeleau, Wisconsin. It's right behind that tree in the foreground.

Here's another view looking back from farther upstream. The church is the rightmost white dot on the left.

Now I'm eating dinner at a coffee shop with free wi-fi in Winona.

I was thinking about camping on the land, but it's supposed to pour tonight, and I don't think there is any parking on the access road, so I'm going to set out for Omaha. Tomorrow afternoon, I meet Jim, Suzanne, and Laura, at the Omaha airport, and we set out for RAGBRAI.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

RAGBRAI Day -4: Elkridge, MD to Winnetka, IL

I am on my way to RAGBRAI.

Tuesday, I said goodbye to Debra and Max, and my garden, which I spent the weekend getting in to shape.

I picked about 5 lbs of green beans, which Debra is going to freeze, and some Okra, which I have brought here to Winnetka for my sister Kate. We had it for dinner.

I also said goodbye to my tomatoes, which are a couple weeks away from the first ripe ones.

(More garden pictures)

I packed up Debra's Element. In there are five bikes, bags for five adults, a Burley Solo child trailer, and a bag of books, toys and amusements for a two year old. There is still room for me to sleep inside.

And I did sleep in it last night, just outside of Akron. I love the Element.

I got in to my sister's in Winnetka, IL, about 2:00 pm. The drive was 750 miles. It cost $165 in gas and ~$50 in tolls.

And then it was time for me to get my butt kicked by my four year old nephew Harry at Mario Kart on the Wii.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Spirit of West Virginia Comes to Race Road

For years, one of my favorite ways to torment my wife (a native of New York City) was to talk about how great it would be when the day finally comes and we retire and move to West Virginia.

I haven't had to do this lately, since living on Race Road might as well be West Virginia, even though the goat up the street (see here and here) is gone. I hear he was killed by the neighbors' pit bulls.

Anyway, to make it more and more like West Virginia, I went to the garden store yesterday (Valley View Farms) and bought some shrubberies.

I got a rhododendron. I don't like fancy varieties. I got one that will get nice and big, and have traditional purple flowers.

It was tough to dig the hole. The ground there by the edge of the bank is bricks (I dug up 5) and slag. I suspect my lot is built on fill dumped off the side of the mill race. (Race Road was once the race feeding the Elkridge Iron Furnace. They filled in the race around 1920.) You dig down, and you get slag. The bricks are a puzzle. Maybe they are from the actual furnace? They don't look that old, though.

Next, I planted a mountain laurel at the edge of the perennials. I was delighted to find an actual, native, non-mutated, natural variety mountain laurel.

Last, I got a new Crepe Myrtle to replace the one that died and fell over. I know, crepe myrtles aren't in the West Virginia theme. There are lots of them all over my neighborhood, though. Note the lilacs are blooming on the other side of the fence.

After I got it all planted, I was sitting in my chair with Max, looking at the birds and showing him the blue jay. He knows cardinals and chickadees and woodpeckers. I saw a bright flash of black and white and red fly into the cedar tree next to the shed. I reached for my binoculars, and told Debra to come look, I think it's a red-headed woodpecker (which I've never seen here) or maybe even a....

Once again I lose the opportunity to prove my birding skills by hesitating, because just then it flew down to the feeder.

A Rose-breasted Grosbeak!

Right off the West Virginia license plate!

He hung around awhile and we got some pictures. This is another new bird for me on Race Road. They don't breed here, he's just passing through. But you never know.

As it happens, I have an Audubon print of the rose-breasted grosbeak on my wall.

I bought it in an antique shop in Fells Point years ago. It inspired the purchase of several other Audubon prints that are hung around the house.

While I was walking around the yard with the camera, I took some more pictures.

The herbs are coming up nicely. I pulled up a ton of mint that was taking over yesterday.

Here are the tulips and daffodils along the road. Max has to go out and inspect the tulips several times a day.

The hyacinths are about done. Max can't say "hyacinth". He calls them "smell nice". He has to go smell them several times a day. I showed him today that the lilacs smell nice too. He can say "lilac" (and "magnolia", "tulip", "daffodil", "dandelion", "phlox", and "more coming", which is what he calls tulip buds.

The daffodils in the shady bed predate me. There are a lot of different varieties, most of which are done. I should have taken more pictures. This one is especially nice, and just now blooming.

Octopus Hat

Sometimes it's fun to wear an octopus hat.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Spring bulbs

My bulbs just came in the mail. I can't plant them for a couple weeks, though. So all I can do is figure out where to put them.

Here's what I have:

Atom red small
Friendship pink
White Goddess white
Fidelio purple


Jersey Beauty 6-7 Pink
Old Gold 5-6 Gold
Kaiser Wilhelm 4-5 Yellow-Burgundy small
Arab Queen 4-5 Yellow-orange-bronze big
Juanita 4-5 Red big
Blue Danube 4-5 Lilac small
Winsome 4-5 Pink-yellow-orange
Nutley Sunrise 4-5 Pink-orange big
Deuil du Roi Albert 4-5 Purple-white
Mrs. de ver Warner 5-6 Lavender

C. Indica 3-5 green small red
Musifolia 8-12 green tiny red
Robert Kemp 6-7 green red
Florence Vaughan 4-6 green orange,yellow
Firebird 2-3 dk. grn red
Bangkok 3-4 striped yellow,white
Wyoming 3-5 bronze orange

Pictures are at Old House Gardens.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bike Ride Report - Lost River 200k

I rode the Lost River 200k yesterday. I finished 26 hours ago, and I have now sufficiently recovered to make a blog entry.

It was quite a challenging ride. 127 miles and 9650 feet of climb according to the Garmin Edge 305. We had to go over Wolf Gap both directions and Mill Gap (near Lost River, WV) both directions. Westbound up Wolf Gap has 2 solid miles at 12%. The rest of the climb is not quite so steep. Inbound on Mill Gap has a section the Edge reported at 22%.

I drove out with Scott the night before, and we shared a room at the Super 8. I decided not to sleep in the Element because the lows were going to be in the 20s. It was around freezing when the ride started, and it got up to the mid 40s during the day. There was a light wind from the northeast.

I see that the Super 8 has been letting people bring bicycles into their rooms. Look at those scuffed up walls!

Here is the scene at the start. I believe there were 14 of us.

The horses were intrigued by my bike when I stopped for a Goo Pack at the end of Back Road.

Here is the scene at the top of Wolf Gap, which is the first and worst of the four ugly climbs. I never realized it before, but there is a restroom in the campground across the street from this sign. I rode with Scott for most of the ride, and waited for him to catch up here. He was having problems shifting into the low gears all day.

We had lunch at the Lost River Grill, which is the first control. We didn't get out until the official control closing time. I was very close to missing the cutoff for the next two controls due to the ginormous hills between them.

For example, at the next control, only 19 miles away in Wardensville, I only had a cusion of about 20 minutes.

That's Matt Settle, our RBA, in the doorway.

Besides Scott and I, there was one other recumbent rider, Dana, who unfortunately chose this horror show of hills as his first attempt at a brevet, attempted it on a Gold Rush, with a faring and Aerospokes. That would not be my first choice of a bike for 2 miles at 12%. He was done after going over Wolf Gap the first time, and was trying to figure out the easiest way to call his wife for a ride. There's no cell phone service in the valley past Wolf Gap.

So while Matt is going in the door there, there is a nice yuppie couple walking across the parking lot to the store. Matt tells me Dana is going to ride in to Wardensville, and call from the pay phone at the 7-11 up the street. I told Matt, "Oh, I remember that 7-11, I was throwing up in the parking lot there during the 300k last year." The yuppie couple pretends very hard that we don't exist.

I always like to do my part to promote the pastime of randonneuring.

Anyway, I got out of the control, five minutes before the close, because I was very worried about making the next at Edensburg, since I was feeling a bit spent, and there was the big, big climb back over Wolf Gap to contend with. At this point, I stopped waiting for Scott and taking pictures.

I made the control at Edensburg with 11 minutes to spare. I passed Matt on his way in about 2 miles from it 5 minutes after it closed, and I passed Scott about a mile later. I desperately wanted a break going up Wolf Gap, but it's a good thing I kept the pedals turning.

From then on, the terrain is more mellow. (It takes a lot to make Back Road seem "more mellow".) I got my cushion up to a half hour at the last control at Mt. Olive, and took a little break at the Clary Store to put on my lights and reflective gear. The 305 battery was dead, and I finally got the USB battery pack Scott told me about to work while I rode. I got it set up at the Clary Store, and then had to fiddle with it for the next couple miles to get it working. This is a great gadget. I cruised into the Super 8 with a half hour to spare.

This brutal ride took me 13 hours, the longest and hardest 200k I've ever done. Scott and Matt arrived together at 8:27, just three minutes under the limit!

Here's the MotionBased page.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Getting Going on the Garden

Since I only rode half a fleche, I could do stuff the next day besides lying on the coach sleeping.

So I planted my potatoes. This meant finding straw, which is not something you realize is hard to find until you need some. After driving all over creation, I got lucky at Watson's in Towson. It was $11/bale though, which seems outrageous to me.

The potato varieties I planted are (left to right)
Yukon Gold
Rose Gold
All Blue
All Red
Red Cloud
Island Sunshine

The seed potatoes came from Wood Prairie Farm in Maine.
I got three seed potatoes of each variety, and I cut one of each in half, so if all goes well I'll have 32 plants.

Tonight I planted my tomatoes.

This year's varieties are:

Black Krim
Cherokee Purple
Anana's Noir
Suddith's Strain Brandywine
Greater Baltimore
Australian Giant Oxheart
Livingston's Honor Bright
Amana Orange
Lillian's Yellow
Green Moldovan
Hank (a bonus from Tomato Bob, from whom I bought beets)

These all came from Victory Seeds and Baker Creek.

I also planted these varieties from some leftover seeds I found in the drawer from last year:
Kellogg's Breakfast
Aunt Ruby's German Green
Green Zebra

If any of these come up, I'll try and make room.

Here is the first tulip.

Max is crazy about flowers. He insists on walking around the yard every morning and afternoon inspecting the flowers. This is apparently genetic. He can say "crocus", "tulip", and "daffodil". But mostly he just shouts "FLOWER FLOWER FLOWER".