Saturday, September 04, 2010

Introducing others to randonneuring

So I know a guy new to cycling who I think would enjoy randonneuring, and I am working on developing him as a recruit to endurance riding.

Today, he was game for a bike ride, and we decided to try an out-and-back route he's never ridden, farther than he has ever gone before.

We set out, and we made our first break stop with no problem. We decided to go for the whole route. I told him to be sure to save enough energy to make it back. There is no cell phone coverage at the turnaround point.

Despite his enthusiasm, he was flagging pretty badly as we approached the turnaround. I wound up pushing him up the steeper hills. (I was on my trike, which is very stable when pushing.) He perked up at our turnaround point, which is very cool and scenic, but about 15 minutes later he was done. And so was my cell phone. And he doesn't have one.

What to do.

We wound up riding back with him riding curled up on my lap while I pushed the bike alongside me with one arm. As we rode back, most of the people we passed stood and cheered.

The ride was from home to the swinging bridge in Patapsco Valley State Park.
7.5 miles, about 2 hours. Max rode 4.5 miles, an all time distance record for him.

He turns 4 on Wednesday.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bike Ride Report - Solomons Century and the Dangers of Wal-Mart

Yesterday, I made my second attempt at a Crista ride this year. I finished, eventually. Here I am, after 10 hours and 102 miles, in 90 degree heat.

Most of the reason it took so long was because I got hit by a car. This one here.

Driven by her.

As it turns out, if I hadn't got hit by the car, it probably would have taken a lot longer. Here's the story.

So I started out fine, but after 10 miles I got a flat tire. The tube was the second of two new Forte (Performance Bike house brand) tubes I got for cheap last week. The first of the two went flat in the shed overnight, and then again after I patched it. So I decided these Forte tubes are junk, and I put on my last spare tube, which I got with the bike when I bought it off E-Bay a year and a half ago.

At 25 miles, I had some food (ham and cheese bagel) at the Wawa, which was tasty and delicious, and I'm feeling great.

At 35 miles, I'm riding through Prince Frederick on MD 2-4, in the marked bike lane, and the car above does not yield at the yield sign, and runs into me. She basically was going about the same speed as I was, and her front bumper hit around my rear hub and pushed me over. I think I was going about 15 mph, based on the GPS track. Down I went.

After I got done yelling at the girl, I examined myself with the help of another driver who acted like he had first responder training. I have some road rash on my elbow, hip, and knee, and bruise on my shin where the handlebar hit it, and a torn shirt (which was my favorite sweat-wicky Patagonia workout shirt). No damage to the bike.

The girl was very horrified, and profusely apologized, and explained how she didn't see me because her two kids in car seats were throwing stuff at her while she was driving. I took a picture of her and her car in case I keel over dead later. I told her it looks like I'm OK, and the bike is OK. The guy who stop and inspected me for damage agreed. I told her she could go.

So I get back on the bike and keep going. The bruised shin is a little sore, and the scrapes sting, but it's nothing major. Two and a half miles later, I have another flat tire. And I realize the tube is probably as old as the dry rotted tire that blew up on me last week, and I might have a problem since I have no more tubes. So I set to patching the tube.

A few minutes later, a Calvert County police car pulls up, followed by the Sheriff. I told the police officer I have a flat, and it's no problem. He asks if I was in an accident at the Wal-Mart. I said I was. He said an eyewitness had reported a pedestrian hit by a car. I told him it was me who got hit, told him the story, and showed him my various scrapes and bruises. He asked if I got the ID of the driver. I said no, because I think I'm fine, but I took some pictures just in case. I showed him the pictures on my iPhone, he took down the license of the car, and he took my information from my driver's license. I told him the driver didn't attempt to flee the scene, I told her she could go after I decided I was OK and the bike was OK. He asked me if I needed any medical assistance, or if I wanted to file a complaint, and I said no, I was fine. He said he had all the information he needed, and to call the county office if any injuries appear later. I thanked him for following up.

I have to say I think the Calvert County police are first rate, and I really appreciate their diligence, professionalism, and the way they take cyclists seriously.

So as soon as the police pull off, I'm putting the bike back together, and two cars pull over. The one who hit me, and another one. A woman gets out of the other one and says "I'M HER BIG SISTER WHAT WERE YOU TELLING THE POLICE!"

I told her an eyewitness at Wal-Mart had seen the accident and called it in. The police found me fixing my flat tire by the side of the road. I told the big sister what I told the police, that I was OK, and that I told her sister she could go, and wasn't fleeing the scene or anything like that. They both calmed down some, and asked if I was sure I was OK. I said I was, and I started pumping up the tire. They went back to their cars.

And I keep pumping up the tire, but the pressure is going down because the patch didn't hold. Now I am stuck.

Luckily, there were a couple girls nearby who owed me a favor. I explained my predicament, and how I don't think getting hit by the car caused my tire to go flat, but would they possibly be able to give me a lift up to Wal-Mart so I could get some more inner tubes?

They did, and I was back on the road in no time. The girl who hit me gave me a friendly wave when she drove off.

All this flat tire business wound up costing me an hour, so by the time I got to Solomons, everyone else was long gone. Here is the view of the mouth of the Pautuxent from the end of the land.

The rest of the day was very hot, in the 90s, and it was quite exhausting. I stopped for a Gatorade in North Beach, to prepare for the steep hills I remembered from when I did this ride a few years ago. On the way back the route goes up the very cool Leitch Road, through a huge horse farm estate called Tocaro. My GPS claimed at one point Leitch Road has a 28% grade! It was bad, but not that bad, and not for long.

Rooting around on the tubes, it seems Tocaro was for sale recently. It was $5M, but it was reduced for $4.3M, and it's no longer listed. No idea if it sold or they gave up. I'd rather buy Belmont, which is going for about that much, and is much more convenient to work.

Here is a real estate listing site for Tocaro, and a virtual tour. The house is 10,000 square feet, and built in the 1930s. You'd think it's older based on the ancient cedar trees that border the property. The Maryland Historical Trust doesn't have much to say about it.

Here is the GPS track for the day.

Bike Ride Report - DC Rand Croom and Other Delights

This was written a week after the fact. I decided to write a late update on this because I am annoyed that I can tour days on end with no difficulties, and then the first two DC Randonneur training rides I try when I get back turn into fiascoes.

So here I am after the first one, sitting in a park and ride outside Upper Marlboro waiting for Debra to come rescue me.

These rides are organized by Crista Borras for the DC Randonneurs, which is why I often refer to them as "Crista Rides". There is one pretty much every Saturday and Sunday, 100 miles, with short options. My goal is to spend Saturday on yard work, and do the Sunday ride. If I do the Crista ride on Saturday, I'm not likely to get off the couch on Sunday. We'll see how that goes. It hasn't gone well so far.

My first Crista ride this year was in the Prince Georges County, and described as an "easy cruise". (You don't want to know what the DC Randonneurs considers hard.) So I decided to try it on the Z-Bone, which is set up as a go-fast bike. It doesn't have really low gears for climbing up extremely steep hills, but it should have no problems with anything in southern Maryland.

The day started off very rainy. I dawdled at the start for a half hour, until the weather radar looked like it was going to clear, but that was just a trick. It wound up pouring a half hour later. I hid in a Dunkin' Donuts and ate some food.

After that, it cleared up, and I was rolling right along happy as could be. The halfway point was at Merkle Wildlife Management area, which was well worth the stop. They have lots of trails for birds (note for future reference) and a great nature center with displays of all the reptiles and amphibians that live in Maryland, with many of them crawling around in aquariums for you to look at and admire. Max needs to see this.

As soon as I left Merkle, and got through the closed road, which is not really closed for bikes, since you can lift your bike over the four layers of Jersey barriers, I started to hear this thump-thump-thump-thump sound when the pavement was smooth. I stopped for lunch a few miles later, and saw that there was a big lump on my back tire where the tread was giving way. These tires might be a little old.

I was 60 miles into the ride. If I abandoned the ride, and headed straight back to my car, it would be 20 miles. Or I could try to finish the route and do 40 miles. I decided to be an optimist.

I made it 5 miles.

I walked a couple hundred yards up MD 4 to the park and ride, and called Debra to come rescue me, and watched the thunderstorms come.

Here is the GPS track.

On the way home, I went to the Performance Bikes in Columbia, and bought some new tires and tubes. The new shoes I bought there last week are awesome, and were definitely a couple years overdue.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Post RAGBRAI Day 9 - Frederick, MD to home.

I'm home.

There is not much to report for the last day. The ride home from Frederick is one I've done plenty of times. It was hot, humid, and hilly, with temps in the 90s, a heat index near 100, and Code Orange air pollution. Welcome home.

I stopped off at Mt. Airy to take a break and look at the bikes. I got home around 2:30.

I ended up doing over 1000 miles in 10 days. Mission complete.

Here is the track for the last day.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Post RAGBRAI Day 8 - The C&O Towpath mile 175 to Frederick, MD

It was only 100 miles even, but it was a hard 100 miles.

For starters, yesterday was a very long day, which ended in a primitive camp site with no shower. Then there was 40 miles of very bumpy towpath. Somewhere in that, I lost my camera, which devastated my outlook on life, because it was full of cool pictures from yesterday. Last, I went on regular old roads from Big Pool to Frederick, which means no nice flat rail trails or canals. It's very hilly, and there are two big ridges to cross west of Frederick.

It turned out to be 3500 feet of climb.

But I have completed my 9th straight 100 mile+ day. I got in as the sun was setting, and I'm beat, but I did it. This will be the last century day of the trip. I am only 45 miles from home.

Here is where I had a tasty burger for lunch in Hancock.

This place was very entertaining. The crowd was half coming from church, and half bikers. The waitresses were tattooed. I enjoy western Maryland.

Here is the track for today's ride.

Post RAGBRAI Day 7 - West Newton PA to the C&O Towpath

This is where I spent the night.

I don't see any wifi. I'm posting this the next day.

This was an absolutely awesome day of riding. I did most of the Great Allegheny Passage trail. It was 116 miles of unpaved, but very smooth trail to Cumberland, MD, where there were no motel rooms to be had. So I ate dinner, and rode 8 miles down the towpath, and stayed at a primitive hiker/biker site.

I can't say enough about how cool the GAP trail is. I took tons of pictures, and today, I lost the camera. So no pictures.

The best way to tell the story is to look at the elevation profile in the GPS track below. It was uphill at a gentle 1/2 to 1% grade for 92 miles. Then you cross the continental divide, go through the 3000 foot long Big Savage Tunnel, and then COAST 22 MILES TO CUMBERLAND. According to my GPS, the grade is between 1 and 2%, it never changes, all the way from the tunnel to downtown Cumberland. With the crushed stone surface on the trail offering some rolling resistance, I basically rolled along at 16 mph without moving a muscle for over an hour.

I was awestruck by this feat of engineering. If they needed a tunnel, they built one. If there was a valley, they just built a viaduct. Most impressive is the Salisbury Viaduct, which is 1900 feet long, and a couple hundred feet above the ground. But the grade does not change. 2% westbound, when the hopper cars are empty, and 1% eastbound, when they are full of coal. It makes a great bike trail. The surface is smooth, it's very popular, and there are lots of towns with services for bikers.

I will definitely do this ride again. It was fantastic.

Here is the track for this ride.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Post RAGBRAI Day 6 - Austintown, OH to West Newton, PA

Howdy from West Newton, Pennsylvania!

I'm 20 miles down the Great Allegheny Passage Rail Trail, where my "Bed and Breakfast" is 500 yards away, and the wifi is conveniently located at the Trailside Pub.

Where it's Hurricane Night. I AM SO HAPPY.

This B&B thing could be weird. It's $85. That would be a lot, except the alternatives are primitive camping (the "shower" is called the Youghiogheny River.) or climbing a bunch of hills for a motel off the exit for 79. So I called the B&B place number this morning, and I woke up this woman who said something like "I'll leave the door unlocked and your invoice taped to your door. I'll leave some food in the kitchen for breakfast." OK. Well then. I'm supposed to go up to an empty house and make myself at home.

The ride today was pretty great. The weather was perfect, temperatures in the 70s, partly cloudy, frequent tailwinds. At my first stop of the day I ran into a nice couple out for a ride on their new trikes. I think this is in New Palestine, OH.

It was very near the Pennsylvania line.

It's not exactly what you would call flat getting to Pittsburgh. I decided to follow the river as much as possible, but there was still a lot of climbing to get to the river. Here is my first view of the Mighty Ohio at Beaver, PA.

I got to ride on Big Beaver Road today. Hehhehhehhehheh.

20 miles of heavy industry, trains, mills, and no shoulder, there is Pittsburgh under the railroad bridge.

Pittsburgh is quite an experience to ride through. Everything is severely constrained by the geography, and roads are a lower priority than trains and factories. I spent a lot of time riding against a stone wall in the right lane of two lanes of 55 mph traffic.

Here is mass transit in Pittsburgh. It's one of the inclines. I'm not holding the camera crooked.

Pittsburgh just screams "industry". There are bridges over bridges. There are railroad bridges and freeway bridges, and there are no flat roads anywhere.

I think the Gorilla Lawyer looks just like Jim. McA. wearing a suit.

This is the start of the Great Allegheny Passage trail in McKeesport, PA. There are still bridges and bridges. The GAP is a rail trail along the old Western Maryland right of way.

The visitors' center here in West Newton is a preserved train station, and a decaying heavyweight baggage car.

The rail trail is very relaxing. It's not paved, but the surface is crushed stone which is smoother than most of the roads in Pittsburgh. I am very much looking forward to tomorrow.

Here is the track for today.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Post RAGBRAI Day 5 - Milan to Austintown, OH

Tough day today. There are now hills. I did 107 miles anyway, but I didn't get in until 7:30.

Part of it was I got off to a late start. I fixed a slow leak in the front tire before I left (and destroyed one spare inner tube in the process). Also I had to stop at Maw's Place for breakfast.

It seems the Cuyahoga River is in the bottom of a deep gorge. All I knew was it used to catch fire. Not only is it in a gorge, a bunch of its tributaries are in their own gorges. I had to walk the bike twice because it was so steep (over 11%). I discovered that I can climb 9% comfortably today in my bottom gear. I can climb 9% all day. But over 10% and eventually I'll be walking. I think it was way over 10%.

At the bottom of the gorge they have this nice bike shop. After a lot of digging around in the back, they found a couple inner tubes that fit my very obscure tires. Which is great, because I was down to one spare, which has a slow leak.

Look, hills. That's a nice restaurant across the street where I had lunch. They run excursion trains from Cleveland out to here. This is in the middle of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Since it was getting near dark when I got in, and since I was very beat, I stayed at a more expensive motel than is my custom. It's a Sleep Inn. $100. Ouch. But look, all the furnishings match and are tasteful.

The Econo Lodge was booked. I think there is some kind of big dog show here. Everyone has a dog.

Here is the track for today's ride.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

POST RAGBRAI Day 4 - Holiday City to Milan, OH

Here I am at the 6 in Milan (pronounced MY-ln) Ohio. It's brutally humid, and 90 degrees out.

I rode 116 miles today. It was actually a pretty nice day, because around noon there was a massive thunderstorm, which was very refreshing. That blast of wind right before the rain hits was at my back, and I kept it that way for about 10 miles.

It was flat flat flat all day, lots of corn and soybeans. Then, for no apparent reason, there is a big steel mill.

Then it's back to corn and soybeans. I have no idea why this steel mill is there. It's about 20 miles southwest of Toledo. There is no body of water nearby. I doubt there is a bunch of iron ore or coal buried beneath the crops. It's just a mystery.

I had Subway for breakfast. I don't know why. This was in West Unity. I went looking for a nice long rail trail (The Wabash Cannonball Trail) that was on the Google, but it was not paved and very overgrown. So I had a tuna sub at 8:30 am.

I didn't take any other pictures because the camera was backed away where it was dry. I spend a lot of the day riding on US 20, and I should have taken some pictures of that so I remember not to do it again. It's a divided highway with a narrow shoulder. They put rumble strips in what shoulder there was. It was very bad.

Here is the campsite for tonight.

I feel much better physically today than I did yesterday. My stomach is good, my knees and ankles are good. All is well. I stuffed myself at the Italian restaurant in the Super 8 across the street. I had fried perch (yum!) with a bowl of pasta on the side. That should be good for major miles tomorrow.

Here is the track for today's ride.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Post RAGBRAI Day 3 - Niles, MI to Holiday City, OH

Here I am after my fourth straight 100+ mile day in Holiday City, Ohio!

Holiday City (pop. 49) is probably the last place you would ever want to spend a holiday. It is an exit off the Ohio Turnpike, with a car auction, a tow garage, two gas stations, a diner and three motels. I'm in the Econo Lodge, which appears to be the middle in quality.

Today started bad, but turned out well. When I woke up this morning, it was raining, and the radar showed a huge area of heavy rain stretching all the way to Chicago. Then I found out my laptop was dead. The power cable has been iffy for awhile because Max like to pull it out and plug it back in for fun. I used to be able to jiggle it to get it to charge, but no more.

Luckily, Google Maps on the iPhone showed a Best Buy in South Bend, Indiana, just 10 miles away, which would only add 4-5 miles to the ride. I decided to ride there, and get some breakfast while waiting out the rain. I got there by 9, and hung out in the Starbucks in the Barnes and Noble across the street until the Best Buy opened at 10. As a special bonus, I got my prescription sunglasses fixed at the Pearle Vision next to Best Buy. (I had rolled over on them while napping after one day at RAGBRAI and lost the screw that held the lens in.) I got a new power supply in Best Buy, and since it was still raining, I spent another half hour fiddling with the seat on the T-Bone. It had started to slide back again, and it seems the old inner tube that acts as a cushion between the seat and the frame was wadded up under the seat, so it wasn't gripping well. I think it will hold now.

All in all, I didn't get riding until 11 am, and I had 95 miles to here in Holiday City, which is where I planned to stop. I was going to shorten the day, but there was a nice tailwind, and the rain had cooled it off, so I hammered it out and got in at 7:30, eating dinner on the way. All in all, I had a productive morning and a good ride.

Here is the grim rain as seen from inside the Barnes and Noble.

This is my fourth consecutive century day. I'm starting to have a lot of aches in my knees and ankles, and my digestive system is still a mess. I started eating meals today. But I think I'm going to have to slack off soon and take a couple short days, or a day off, to recover some.

I crossed three state lines today.

Michigan to Indiana, I didn't get a picture because it was in suburban sprawl for South Bend and was unmarked.

Here is Indiana to Michigan, and Michigan to Ohio.

The area at the juncture of Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio has a lot of kettles. A kettle is a type of lake formed by remnants of glaciers as they melted at the end of the last ice age. A bizarre feature of a kettle is that you invariably have to climb a hill to get to it. My GPS shows me I'm coming to a lake, and then I have to climb a hill. It's very bizarre.

Here is tonight's camp site, in the fabulous Econo Lodge.

Here is the track for today.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Post RAGBRAI Day 2 - Lisle, IL to Niles, MI

Today was a day of obstacles.

The obstacles were:
* My digestive system is better, but still a mess.
* I discovered it wasn't my legs getting shorter, but my seat has been sliding back.
* The fabulous route.
* My rear tire exploded.
* The pavement on the road went away with no warning.
* There are no motels in Buchanan Michigan.

All obstacles were overcome, resulting in a very long 113 mile day.

The Digestive System
It's better, but not good. My food intake for the day was
1 cup of coffee at Murray's
1 McDonalds Sausage McMuffin, hash brown, and 16 oz orange juice.
1 small bag corn nuts
1 apple pie flavor Clif Shot
8o oz Cytomax mixed from powder
20 oz Blue Gatorade
80 oz water

Basically, I sustained myself on liquids. I threw caution to the wind when I got in, and had takeout Singapore Rice Noodles for dinner. I'm either going to be over the stomach bug, or I'm going to really regret it tomorrow.

The McDonalds for breakfast.

The Chinese food (down the strip), your basic deal where there are pictures of the food over the counter. It was actually pretty decent.

I wanted to do the Home Plate Restaurant, but it was closed when I got there. I lost and hour entering Eastern Time today.

The sliding seat

It's the little things that creep up on you that really cause problems. Normally, the T-Bone is incredibly comfortable, and a perfect fit. I have no aches and pains. But the last couple days, my butt has been sore, my legs have been achy, and the idler wheel has been pinching my leg. Today I finally realized the seat was sliding back. It was about an inch and half behind where it should have been.

Before and After, in the McDonald's patio.

As soon as I fixed this, I picked up 2-3 mph. My legs had been stretching to reach the pedals, and I was not in the optimal power position.

The Fabulous Route
In just one day, I got to ride through all these extra-special places:
* The south side of Chicago
* Calumet City, Illinois
* Hammond, Indiana
* Gary, Indiana
plus 40 miles of heavy industry on the Indiana lake front, with all the railroad tracks, truck traffic, and beat up roads that implies. This was the industrial wasteland tour.

I did get to see a lot of cool trains.

The Exploding Rear Tire
Riding 60 miles of industrial wasteland on the shoulder of a major highway is a problem waiting to happen. I was almost to Michigan when the rear tire exploded. It sounded like a gunshot. The tire and tube both had a half-inch gash.

I was very sad, because I was riding these obscure Hutchinson 26x1 racing tires that have a fabulously smooth ride. I don't think they've been made for years, but I found a pair at Mount Airy last fall. I put them on the bike for RAGBRAI, and hoped they would not fall apart from age. My previous experience with these tires was they wear out after about 1000 miles. I got 900 miles out of the rear one, so I shouldn't complain I guess.

It took me about a half hour to fix the tire. I am carrying two spare tires and four spare tubes. I'm down to one spare tire and three tubes, which should get me home no problem.

The Vanishing Pavement

I headed inland from the lake, with 23 miles to go to get to Niles, my chosen end point. I had a nice back road that was a straight shot. First, though, it started to get surprisingly hilly. Then I came to this:

This is only one lane wide, and it's totally bumpy. Why bother to pave it at all? After four miles of this, they didn't pave it at all, the road became dirt. It cost me two miles to find a paved road, plus about a half hour fighting that mess. So I decided to shorten the day, and stop in Buchanan, and be happy with 107 miles. But wait...

There are no Motels in Buchanan
I swear there was one when I looked at the route last night. But no. The iPhone says no motels in Buchanan. The nearest motels are six miles away in Niles. Starting with a steep climb out of Buchanan.

But here I am, in my room writing blog updates with a happy full tummy. Obstacles are overcome.

I crossed two state lines today, into Indiana and Michigan.

This is my first time riding my bike in Michigan.

I went by a giant nuke plant in Michigan City, Indiana.

And here is my very cheap and ugly but perfectly satisfactory motel room at the Nile Motel and conference center, run by an Arab guy named Jamal, who apparently just sold off the camel herd a couple weeks ago. He's trying very hard, and he's a really friendly and nice guy, but he's obviously new at this, and this motel appears not to have undergone maintenance since the 60s.

Here is the track for today's ride.