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".

The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Bike Ride Report - Fleche 2008

This weekend was Team Torque's third attempt at the Fleche, where we ride from Dewey Beach, Delaware to Arlington VA, a distance of 240 miles, in 24 hours. We Did Not Finish this year, making me 1 for 4 on fleches, and 1 for 3 on the Eastern Shore route.

This year, Team Torque was me and Scott and Kristin, a Bachetta-riding couple from just up the road in Linthicum. We are all recumbent this time.

Which makes for a great sight on the back of Scott's car.

Here is the T-Bone all ready to go the night before. The forecast called for a 50% chance of rain, with lows in the low 30s overnight. I have a rain suit, a complete change of riding clothes, and a down vest and heavy wool sweater in case of emergency, plus the usual snacks, tools, spare tubes and tire, lights, and batteries.

I was up late the night before going over the bike. I put on brand new tires, and cleaned and lubed everything.

Here we are setting off after breakfast at the Sunrise. It's 8:00 am. Retired Team Torque member and Fleche completer Jim MacAlister had breakfast with us and took this picture.

Here's Scott and Kris rolling into a pit stop at Ellendale, DE.

We made the first control at "NASCAR Al's" by 1030. That's 38 miles in 2 1/2 hours, which is what a nice tailwind will do for you. Look at the nice blue sky.

The next pit stop in Greensboro, MD. At this point, we turned north and the wind shifted from ENE to N, so we had a moderate headwind, but we were still comfortably cruising at 13-14 mph.

Here are Scott and Kris coming into Sudlersville, our lunch stop.

Here's where we ate, I can't remember the name of it. It's about a quarter mile east of downtown, next to the meat packers.

At this point, we were 70 miles into the ride, and we were done eating and on the road at 2:00 pm, which puts us an hour ahead of schedule, since we have to do 240 miles in 24 hours, and we've done 70 miles in 6 hours. At this point, we are way ahead of where we were on my two previous attempts at this route.

We came upon this cool old locomotive in Massey, MD.
Drew: "Look at that cool old locomotive!"
Scott: "Look at that RS-2!"

This is why I like Scott. It's not often I find that someone else is a bigger dweeb than I am.

So you might be wondering how it could be that we were making such awesome time even with a headwind, and yet we Did Not Finish. Now the tide turns.

I had pulled out of sight of Scott and Kris and Scott called me on the cell to make sure they were going the right way when our route crosses 301. That was only a couple miles behind where I was, so I pulled over at the next turn on the cue sheet to let them catch up. Which is here, in front of the "Alibi Inn" just before Warwick.

So I stop and have a goo pack and change the batteries in my PN-20 GPS, and start fiddling with the auxiliary USB battery pack for my Edge 305. And I'm waiting, and looking back down the road and it's as empty as ever.

I called Scott to make sure he made the right turn, and he did, but they stopped a mile back from me to adjust Kris's handlebars.

After quite a bit more later, they catch up. Kris has tendonitis in her knees and is dragging.

We pressed on to Cheasapeake City, where she dosed up on Advil. We pressed on.

It gets really hilly after you go over that bridge over the C&D canal. Especially there is a nasty hill with a 12% grade right after the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales in Childs, MD. Those are the people responsible for the "Our Lady of the Highways" BVM display you see from I-95 when driving to New York.

I stopped to wait for Scott and Kris to catch up at the Pennsylvania state line. This is looking back into Maryland. I stopped here to put my lights on last year, and the Fleche was two weeks later. This shows what a pace we were on. I think I was waiting here for 15 minutes or so.

The road into Pennsylvania doesn't look like much, and everyone always has questions as to whether this is the right road. So I thought it best to wait here for Scott and Kris.

Six miles later, we were in Oxford, home of the fabulous Octararo Hotel.

You just can't escape from the Octararo Hotel.

We had dinner at the Oxford Diner down the road a ways. Kris could barely walk. It had taken 5 hours to cover the 50 miles from Sudlersville, and we were going to use our 1 hour cushion on dinner. We would have to maintain the same pace for the next 12 hours to finish, and it was going to get dark and colder. We decided it would be more prudent to give it up for this year, since it was not likely Kris's tendons were going to go faster without a lot of pain and risk of injury. I am most impressed that she toughed it out for 50 miles to Oxford, which is the most strenuous part of the ride.

So Scott and Kris called a friend in Rising Sun, who came and got them and loaned them a car to drive down to Dewey Beach to get their car, which had the bike rack.

I called Debra to come up from Elkridge to pick me up. That call went something like this:

Drew: "We're done, I need a ride home. We're in Oxford."
Debra: "I'm entertaining."
Drew: "You're entertaining?"
Debra: "I have people over. We're making pizzas and drinking wine."
Drew: "I go away and you throw a party?????!!!!"
Drew: "Who's there?"
Debra recites a lengthy list of my friends.
Debra: "I didn't expect you to call...."
I suddenly feel a rush of warmth towards my beloved wife, who has such confidence that we will complete the Fleche.
Debra: "...until around midnight."

My friends ate pizza, drank wine, and babysat Max (who loves parties) while Debra drove out and got me. At least I caught the end of the party.

We moved to the fabulous Octararo Hotel Tavern to await our rides, where I had a slice of Rodney's custard pie ("Hillbilly Creme Brulee") and drank Yuenglings and tormented the patrons by playing country music ("Streets of Baltimore", "Six Days on the Road") on the jukebox. I love these jukeboxes that connect to the Internet. I can hear "Six Days on the Road" no matter what.

This was a very, very disappointing fleche. We were doing great, and making incredible time. I didn't think to take a picture of myself when we abandoned because I wasn't at all tired.

Here's the MotionBased page.

Here's Scott's blog report.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Spring Tour Day 8 - Wild Times in Little Rock

Yesterday was our cushion day, so we set out to see how much fun we could have in Little Rock.

Here is the big city skyline from the freeway overpass at the airport. We're in a cheap motel way out here.

So many enticements.

The big event of the day was the St. Patrick's day parade, everyone was there! This is the Arkansas Search and Rescue Dog Society.

Here are some guys playing Irish music in the hay trailer.

Kids on ponies!

Weird bikes!

This group was called the "Results Getters". I'm figuring it's a weight-loss club.

An antique tractor!

While we were out, they cleaned our room, which was a disaster area with stuff strewn all over. What's great here is they restrewed the stuff on the newly made bed so everything was just as it was before.

After I packed my trike, we went back downtown for dinner. We spent some time at the Irish bar at the end of the parade route, which was mobbed, both from the St. Patrick's day crowd and from Arkansas game underway in the SEC semifinals. (Arkansas won in the last seconds, causing complete pandemonium, which was fun.) Then there was Irish music from the guys in the hay wagon and dancing.

We walked back across the river to find food, but instead there was Art.

We went to The Flying Fish for food, because we were impressed with the wall of adopted bass.

Yes, they are all Big Mouth Billy Bass, that sing "Take Me to the River" when you push the button.

I got a plate of crawfish, which was very disappointing, since they apparently were sitting in the boiler all day.

I suspect that the bar district in Little Rock is an attempt by developers to manufacture nightlife so they can sell condos. There is a lot of development downtown, for no discernible reason. It's kind of like the Inner Harbor, where they pay people to perform to create the impression that there is stuff happening there.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Spring Tour Day 7 - Hot Springs to Little Rock, AR

We're done! It's all over. Another bike tour has come to an end.

Sometimes when you ride your bike into a state, you can't help but be impressed by the natural beauty of the state and the rugged character and pride of the people. Montana was like that for me.

We are in Arkansas.

There was a tiny bit of Hot Springs that was scenic and interesting. There is a row of historic spas and an approach with a fountain that has been preserved as a national park.

There are lots of interesting shops and old hotels in the Hot Springs historic district. It's pretty cool, and you don't have to have breakfast at a Waffle House.

It was only 60 miles today, but the first half was very hilly, there was a big climb out of Hot Springs. By lunch, at Ed and Kay's in Benton, it was pretty flat and it stayed that way.

Ed and Kay's was pretty good, but there was some kind of dust in the air blown around by all the ceiling fans that did in my contacts. I put on my glasses, but I could still barely see. After about an hour down the road it went away.

The first half of the ride was scenic, but there was a lot more traffic. After Benton, we rode the frontage road on I-30, which was smooth and flat, but generally unpleasant.

Little Rock is quite a dump. We rode in through some serious ghetto slums, but we did get to admire all the nice rims on all the old beater cars. The south side of Little Rock is also very hilly, including a short hill just 2 miles from the end of the ride that had a 16% grade! Yow.

I can't believe people from Arkansas run for president. America needs to visit Little Rock more.

Today Jim is very excited to go to the St. Patrick's Day parade. We have already established that there will be a Shamrock Lawn Care float. I will bring my camcorder.

Here is the MotionBased page.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Spring Tour Day 6 - De Queen to Hot Springs, AR

Hello from the bar at the historic Park Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas!

I forgot to take a picture when we arrived because I was busy being soaking wet and trying to dry off. That's because of this hailstorm:

See? Hail.

We were only 6 miles out. The sky had been very ominous for the last 15 miles. There was lightning and thunder, but I rode on. When the clouds opened, I was right next to an Exxon station, and I scooted under the roof over the gas pumps and I was safe and dry while rain poured and hail fell.

At this point it was 6:00 pm, and there was nearly 2 hours of daylight left. Plenty of time to wait out the storm. But after a half hour of eating beef jerky and drinking Gatorade, impatience set in, and Jim and I set off in what appeared to be a break in the rain. After a mile and a half, it started pouring again, and we got soaked. I decided if we stopped we would just get cold, so we might as well ride it out. It was all uphill.

But now we are happy in the bar, which is also part of an Italian restaurant. The tortellini hit the spot. So did the Manhattans.

Today was the toughest day of the trip by far. It was 89 miles, but it was also very hilly compared to the previous days. Until the hailstorm, it was a gorgeous day. We rode US 70 all day, which was a two lane road with huge smooth shoulders and little traffic almost all the way to Hot Springs.

We started out at the Ranch House Cafe in De Queen, which was a half mile from our Palace Hotel. It was quite hearty and good.

This part of Arkansas is timber and chickens. Pretty much all the traffic on the road is log trucks, chicken trucks, and trucks carrying what looks like chipped wood. It looks like all the trees turn into wood chips and go on a train in Dierks, AR.

I have no idea what happens to the poor trees after that. Maybe they become paper? Plywood? Who knows.

There were few towns on our route today. We decided to shoot for lunch in Kirby, but the only restaurant in town closes at 2:00, and we missed it by 15 minutes. We had sandwiches from the deli counter at the grocery store across the street.

People like to fish in Arkansas. Check out the mounted bass behind Jim.

At Pearcy, AR, which was 15 miles from Hot Springs, we stopped for a break, and met this super friendly Noble Hound. She was great. Probably the only reason I got rained on today was because I had to play with this dog.

That's it for today. We had a great day on a long, tough ride.

Here is the MotionBased page.