Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Meaning of "Na"

Almost exactly a year after originally planned, Kathy and I finally did our overnight tandem trip to Inverness. This year we had company, our regular tandem partners, Steve and Debi.

Normally our tandem tours have been "light" organized tours, where we sign up with a bike touring company that transports our luggage from place to place, and we carry just what we need for the day on the bike. One reason for the trip was to see how Kathy and Debi might like travelling on our own, carrying our luggage. An overnight like this is barely an introduction, though, because there is no need to wash out your stuff in the sink each night, or to make peace with the idea that you are basically wearing the same outfit or two every day. For some people that adjustment can be hard.

Trip Details: November weather in Central Florida is somewhat unpredictable, but we could not have asked for much better. Temperatures while riding were between 60 and 80 degrees, making for very pleasant pedaling. There was a bit of head-wind on our return, but no big deal. Our plan was an out-and-back route of about 53 miles, according to the map. It turned out to be just a shade more than that, divided relatively evenly among rural back roads, rural highway, and paved bike trail. Even the highway riding was not bad, as the traffic was pretty light. As you can see, the route was pretty flat -- generally speaking, a good thing when on tandem.

As is appropriate for a trip of this sort, we rode at a comfortable pace, so each day we were on the bikes for about 4 hours. We made a convenience store stop in Center Hill after 20 miles, and a second stop at the shop just off the Withlacoochee Trail in Istachotta roughly 20 miles later.

As we approached Inverness, Steve suggested that we visit the trail-side Suncoast Cycles bike shop where he and Debi had purchased their tandem years back, and where we bought our previous one. The shop has changed hands since then, and everyone was curious to see whether for the better or worse. While there he picked up a very bright Serfas tail light that can be used in daylight for additional visibility. While it doesn't match up to our Dinotte 300R in visibility or battery life, it does an impressive job and costs a great deal less.

The guys at the shop recommended we try Mcleod House Bistro, just a couple of blocks away, for lunch. We all enjoyed our meals and agreed to get another meal to serve as dinner later. Our B&B for the night was located a couple of miles from the commercial part of town, so we would not have to figure out what to do about a night-time meal. We managed to strap the containers on top of our luggage, swung by Walgreens for a bottle of wine, and headed onto Gospel Island Road toward our accommodations for the night.

Upon arrival at the Magnolia Glen Bed and Breakfast, we were greeted warmly by the proprietress, Bonnie Kuntz. Spry and energetic in spite of her 80 years, Bonnie was a great hostess. We felt welcome in the cozy, pleasantly cluttered home. There was room to relax, a great view, and comfortable bedrooms with baths. Meanwhile, our bikes were safely stored in the garage. Here are some photos:

We spent the evening talking with Bonnie, having our dinner, and enjoying a game of Scrabble. Debi kicked ass, especially mine, although at the very end of the game we both made some last points through the questionable ploy of using the (apparently legal) word "NA". Symbols are not allowed, so it does not derive legitimacy by being the abbreviation for sodium. I could not find any other definition, so I hereby proclaim it to be a word meaning "bicycle trip with one overnight." I downloaded a scrabble app on my phone and found a number of other surprising two letter words as well, including "ZA" which is apparently an accepted (since 1970) short form of "pizza." Who knew?

The house has three guest rooms. The third was reserved for a young couple who were married that day, making the most of their time together before the new husband ships out on the USS Nimitz in a few weeks. They arrived after we were already getting ready for bed, so we did not actually meet them until breakfast. Speaking of which, in the morning we had a tasty, ample meal, with left-overs to pack and enjoy on our ride back home. 

On our way to Inverness on Saturday, I believe all of us noted the sign in Nobleton for handmade ice cream. Around the time we were all starting to think about a place to rest a bit on our way back, Kathy suggested that we stop at the ice cream shop for our first break.

The friendly woman running the shop offered up some local history while scooping out ample portions of the delicious cold stuff, and suggested that we enjoy it near the river out back. She assured us that our bikes were perfectly safe parked out front, so we followed her advice. It was a beautiful spot, as you can see below.

The remainder of the ride was pretty uneventful, but at least three of us (all but Steve the Spartan) were squirming a bit on our saddles by the time we climbed the last little hills and coasted back to our drive way. All agreed the trip was an exceedingly good way to have spent the weekend.

Conclusions: Touring on my single, a normal day is roughly 70 miles. On the tandems, however, we all agreed that about 40 to 45 miles would be a better riding day if we were doing several consecutive days. The shorter day in the saddle would leave more time and energy for exploring. Kathy is, by no means, ready to sign up for an extended bike trip, but it seems that a trip of maybe three or four nights would not be out of the question with this kind of mileage guideline.

The weight distribution on our Softride-equipped tandem resulted in some handling issues, especially at low speed and when standing on the pedals. I have some ideas, but the ultimate solution may require mounting a front rack so that the extra weight can be re-located to the front of the bike. On the positive side, however, the additional 30 pounds or so that we were carrying did not seem to hinder us on the few short hills that we had on this route.

Friday, October 28, 2011

First Test of My Commitment

In my previous post I detailed my commitment to do a hilly ride, including Sugarloaf Mountain Road (our most notorious local challenge) at least once each week for a year. I am now 18 weeks in, but today was the first time that I had to go out in weather that would normally keep me from riding. It was not really that bad, just some light rain, but I had already taken a pass on my normal Wednesday ride because the weather looked "gloomy." Today was the last day of the week, so I felt I had no choice.

The ride gave me a chance to try out the SealSkinz socks I bought after my adventure on Togwotee Pass in Wyoming last June. It was not much of a test, given that it wasn't raining very hard and it wasn't very cold, but so far the results are encouraging. The socks were comfortable and my feet stayed warm and free of rain water. Next time, though, I will wear a light pair of coolmax socks underneath for better sweat management.

OK, I agree that it wasn't much of a test. My reason for not riding on days like this has more to do with the need to clean the bike up afterwards than my comfort while riding. There are going to be days over the winter, however, that are going to be at least 25 degrees colder, and possibly wet to boot. Regardless, I am determined to ride and I've got plenty more new cold & wet weather gear to try out.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sweet Motivation

Almost always, about 15 minutes into a ride, I feel great and can't figure out why I ever have trouble getting off my ass and onto the bike. Yet, often, especially with early morning rides and when the weather is not perfect, making the decision to ride is a struggle.

I have found, however, that having a goal, such as preparing for a tour or a bike event, is enough to make the decision to ride much easier. Once the Geezer Geyser Tour ended, I was left with no motivator at all. We have a fuzzy plan to do a three or four day pannier tour in the fall with Steve and Debi on the tandems, but absolutely nothing has been decided beyond that. To stay on the bike in the meantime, I had to come up with some sort of goal.

I have no recollection how I came up with the idea, but I have committed myself (now publicly) to riding up Sugarloaf Mountain Road (arguably the most challenging climb in the area) at least once every week for a year. It is only a half-mile climb, with a gain of only 200 feet, but the grade is mostly 10%, and as high as 13%, on the way to the top.

Sugarloaf is very convenient for me, being only 4.5 miles away by the most direct route. I have worked out a more circuitous out and back route, however, that is just the right length for me to ride in the morning before work. It works out to 19 miles with 1,250 feet of climbing, total. The route is all back roads, with the exception of crossing US-27, so it also ends up safer than several other routes that I have tried since making the weekly commitment.

The year started June 29th, so I have a couple of months ticked off already. I am hoping that this goal will be sufficient motivation to keep me riding through my "slacker" months of December and January. Now that I have all the cold weather gear I accumulated leading up to, and subsequent to, this year's trip out west, there will be less reason to wimp out with the "It's too cold" excuse.
Here's hoping, anyway!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

June 10, 2011: GGT Day 11, Moran, WY (Togwotee Lodge) to West Yellowstone, MT

Given the excitement of the previous day, my continuing issue with my foot and shin, and the fact that another look at the route revealed it to be about 117 miles rather than the original estimate of 75, I decided not to ride. Kathy was flying into Jackson early in the afternoon, so it was not a big deal for her to pick me up on her way to West Yellowstone.

It was very sad to see my buddies ride off without me, but I wouldn't have gotten very far, and would surely have slowed them down for as long as I managed to hang on.

The other guys prepare for the final day of the tour. Notice Fred's get-up. It may look funny, but he was the only one who remained warm over the pass.

Off they go, without me (sniff).
Kathy picked me up at around 3PM and we set out, following the same route through Yellowstone that Fred and Ray were doing by bike (Mike was turning south toward Jackson at Moran Junction). The idea was that they could throw their bikes in the van when we caught up with them, if they wanted.

As it turned out, Fred's wife Pat was doing the same thing and got to them a few minutes sooner. After a beautiful day of riding, they were both content to accept a ride after pedaling 100 miles.

So, the Geezer Geyser Tour, now also known as the Survivor Tour, is a wrap. The route covered about 700 miles (though I rode less than 600 of those). We had more than the normal amount of adventure, encountered some very challenging riding conditions, met lots of interesting people, and made some new friends. We had only one bike issue, a broken spoke that occured within walking distance of a bike shop with an available mechanic. Otherwise we did not have so much as a flat tire.

At this moment, the soft plan is to finish the rest of the cross country route next summer, doing both Colorado Springs to Little Rock, and Yellowstone to Portland. That will mean that we will have ridden from Portland, OR all the way to Key West, FL, a distance of approximately 4,200 miles.

June 9, 2011: GGT Day 10, Dubois to Moran - Beaten by Togwotee Pass

STATS: 32 miles, about 3.5 hours, approximately 2500 feet or so of climbing.

First let's get it straight: I do not get along with cold weather and snow. I live in Florida, have made a solemn vow to live no farther north than Gainesville (FL), and wear the badge of Weather-Wuss among my cycling friends back home. If the thermometer dips below 47 or so, or the wind is over 15 mph, I quickly dive into my bag of lame excuses and find something other than bicycling to do.

To put it mildly, it is a mystery that I found myself pedaling toward Togwotee Pass in mid-thirties temperatures, a 20 mph headwind, and all but certain snow or freezing rain between me and the summit. My three companions (Fred, Ray, and Mike) were all Colorado residents who live at 6,000 feet and deal with this kind of crap weather most of the year, but this whole scene was foreign to me. 

You may recall that Jim, our Warmshowers host in Lander, had ridden with us from there to Dubois. At breakfast he agreed to make the ride over the pass by himself rather than slow us down. We all went out together, but after a while he dropped back and we continued without him. The plan was for him to meet us at the Lodge on the other side of the pass. 

Once Jim dropped off, I took his place at the tail end of the line for the remainder of the first 20 miles, at which point we pulled into the Lava Mountain Lodge and store. After a brief rest, my companions all started adding layers of clothing, gloves, shoe covers, rain gear and more. I did likewise, trying to mimic their preparations, within the limits of the stuff I had. In retrospect, I could have added another layer or two of socks and switched from my five finger gloves to the more waterproof lobster mittens at the bottom of my pannier. Maybe that would have made a difference, maybe not.

Up to now the skies had gone from clear to overcast but we were still dry. The top of the pass was 12 miles away and almost 2000 feet above us at an altitude of 9635 feet. We got back on the road and almost immediately a light snow began to fall as the road ratcheted up a couple percent. Ray quickly rode away into the distance. Fred, Mike and I stayed pretty close together as the storm intensified by the minute.

Soon the snow was thick and accumulating on bike and body alike. It took an hour to go six miles. I could no longer feel my fingers or toes and could see through only a tiny area of the right lens of my glasses. I could not imagine another hour-plus of climb, followed by an even colder descent to our hotel on the other side. I decided to quit while I still could and told my companions I was going back down. Mike and Fred were doing considerably better than I (though they had stopped to chip the ice out of Fred's rear derailleur) and said that they were going to continue. I made my U turn between the walls of snow flanking the road and carefully felt my way back down. I used my brakes liberally; the thought of overheating a rim was laughable. The brakes, especially the rear, made unfamiliar noises which I realized was due to a mixture of ice and accumulated road dirt on the rims and brake pads. (Later inspection showed the rear brake pads to have gotten severely worn in just that six mile descent, probably from all the sand deposited on the rim.) Nonetheless, they were still effective. After what seemed like a very long time, I finally made out, through my nearly occluded glasses, the Lava Mountain Lodge buildings.

I pulled up in front of the store and somehow got off the bike without falling. I had the thought that a photo of my snow-covered bike would be great for the blog, but when I tried to fish out my phone to take a shot, I found that my fingers were not working very well and I was too cold to stay outside any longer. Take my word for it. There was snow. All over the bike.

Inside, I peeled off my saturated gloves, rain pants, and shoe covers, and paced around in the store, shivering. I guess the store staff had witnessed similar scenes many times before and paid little attention to me. I did share the high points of my experience with them, and shortly one said, "Here comes one of your friends." It turned out to be Jim. Apparently he had ridden past the store, but saw me coming back down the mountain, even though I had not seen him. He soon decided to retreat as well. His wife, Julia, was due to be coming up the road pretty soon to meet him, though the planned meeting place was on the other side of the pass. There was no cell phone service, so Jim moved his bike to a location that he hoped would catch Julia's eye as she drove by.

As I thawed out I realized that my best move would probably be to catch a ride to our hotel on the other side of the pass rather than go 20 miles back to Dubois. I can't exactly remember the details of how it happened, but before I knew it I was happily sharing the back seat of Billy Snodgrass's truck with several huge bags of dog food, my bike equally happy in the otherwise empty trailer behind us.

Billy is a celebrity sled dog musher, having been the subject of TV documentaries, and a three-time Iditarod competitor. It turns out that he runs sled dog tours from the Togwotee Lodge (my destination) and was headed there to pick up some of his equipment now that his winter tour season was over. I coulda/shoulda gotten an autograph, but I didn't know who he was until it was too late. Shortly before arriving at the hotel we passed both Fred and Mike riding down the mountain. They didn't look happy, but I was very, very relieved to see they survived the pass. Later they explained that they had made a stop at a construction trailer to warm up. Mike spent the time with his fingers in the heating vent of the trailer. Amazingly, Fred was not particularly cold thanks to all his layers of clothing.

Before leaving Jim at the store, I had the good sense to get Julia's phone number. As soon as possible after arriving at the lodge, I got off a message to her with Jim's location and got a return message confirming that she understood, so Jim and I were both saved.

Shortly after entering the lodge lobby, Ray walked up and told me that there had been a snafu with the reservation, but that he had it fixed up. I was still euphoric about being rescued and delivered to the hotel, so, "Sure, Ray, whatever you say." I let him know that I had seen the guys a short distance up the road, and sure enough, they appeared a few minutes later. We had all survived, though Ray's fingertips are still numb 24 hours later. Hopefully that is not a permanent thing and nobody else has any physical injuries.

Togwotee Mountain Lodge, the reward on the far side of the pass
Our cabin at the Lodge (photo taken the next morning)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

June 8,2011: GGT Day 9, Lander to Dubois

STATS: 77 miles, 6 hours 55 minutes, 3200 feet of climbing

Beautiful morning.

Memorial to Chief Washakie at Fort Washakie on the Shoshone - Arapahoe Reservation through which we rode.
Again, all the action was in the last part of the ride. After a cool but sunny ride for 50 miles or more, the clouds joined together and darkened. Thunder boomed in the distance and I spotted a handful of lightning bolts flashing out of the darkest clouds. Eventually the rain started to fall, and we stopped to climb into our rain gear. Luckily the rain remained light and the road and thunderstorm went in different directions.

[Photo and caption courtesy of Mike McLain] (l to r) Fred - "I can't keep calling you animal"; Ray - "If that guy [me] can ride to Lander [from Jeffrey City], so can I" (neither of us could); Seth - "Next summer, can we maybe find a place with summer weather?"; Jim - Three miles a day, seventy-five miles a day, same thing.
Closing in on Dubois, WY.

I had neglected to set aside some advil where I could easily get to it, so my foot and shin bothered me quite a bit during the last couple of hours, after my morning dose wore off.

When we reached Dubois (pronounced DEW-boys), we ran into Mike McLain, whom we had met as he pedaled into Jeffrey City at about 3 mph while we were there. It turns out that he also is a college professor at University of Colorado, but in Boulder rather than Colorado Springs (where Fred works). We had dinner together and agreed to meet in the morning for the ride over Togwotee Pass.

The weather for tomorrow looks ominous. We have been told about snow on the pass and it is supposed to be cold and windy even at the base of the mountain. We will see what it looks like in the morning.

For tonight, we are comfortably settled in Dubois (pronounced DEW-boys).

Published with Blogger-droid v1.7.0

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

June 7, 2011: GGT Day 8, Lander rest day

Fred and I had the day off, having escaped from Jeffery City and its other-worldly winds last night in a pick-up truck. We spent the morning having a leisurely breakfast and packing and mailing the pottery we had purchased from Byron.

Ray arrived in Lander at about noon, after getting a lift from JC to Sweetwater Junction and being spared about 20 miles of ridiculous headwinds. He still had to forcibly pedal on 6% downgrades to make any forward progress, and from time to time would be knocked to a standstill by gusts. The other touring cyclists in the area told a similar story. Everyone got at least some motor vehicle assistance to get to Lander.

After meeting up with Ray, we rode a few miles to the home of our warmshowers.org hosts for the night, Jim and Julia. Jim asked almost immediately if he could join us on our next two days of travel. He was eager to test out his new touring bike, carrying a full set of panniers. He hopes to ride from Paris to Athens in the fall and felt that riding out with us would be a good shake-down tour.

The remainder of the day and evening was spent in conversation with Jim and Julia, and enjoying a wonderful dinner that Jim cooked for us.

June 6, 2011: GGT Day 7, Rawlins to Jeffrey City - Adventures in (Nobody) Home on the Range

STATS: 68 miles, 4 hrs 41 mins, 1500 feet of climbing

The day started normally, even pleasantly, enough. Forty five miles of tailwind had us all in a good mood. None of us realized we were riding, blissfully unaware, straight into ... The Twilight Zone (da da daah).

We made the turn west at Muddy Gap Junction, and for a while it was not too bad. Soon, however, the wind began to toy with us like a cat with a cockroach -- ignoring us for a few seconds, then carelessly swatting us and leaving us reeling. This was a whole new level of wind-driven suffering, even by yesterday's standards. Finally we spotted the little settlement of Jeffrey City in the distance. When we pulled up in front of the Split Rock Cafe and saw a new banner declaring, "Bicyclists Welcome," we thought we had found our oasis. Inside we encountered a friendly enough welcome, though the decor, menu, and facilites closely matched the sparse, dry, windswept location in which the cafe rested.

After a while we decided to wander across the street to meet Byron, the owner of the Monk King Bird pottery shop, who had offered us a place to sleep for the night. I am not really sure what we expected, but what we found was a young man covered in clay dust, sanding a piece of pottery, in the midst of random assortment of vehicles, furniture, machinery parts, logs, and all manner of other artifacts spread out in a random fashion in front of his studio-gallery-home. In a previous life the building had been a service station. Byron bought it cheap a few years ago, but has since had to replace the roof and therefore is no longer sure it was such a bargain. While we were there, however, he found that he could raise up one of the ancient hydraulic auto lifts by connecting a friend's compressor. Though he has no use for the lift, he was quite excited about finding it in working order and might be re-assessing the value proposition of the property. Byron sleeps in the back of the shop, but because there is no running water, he uses the bathroom in the cafe across the street.

Byron, the potter, appears to lack anything remotely like ambition. He enjoys creating pottery, but has no interest in arranging for shipping his work or tending a web site to market it. He would not object if others were to do these things for him, but he seems fine with leaving things just as they are. From time to time he takes some of his work into Lander for resale by shops there, and that provides him with enough money to get by. Regardless, I found his work to be quite attractive and purchased two pieces, a mug and a pitcher that he pronounced "The best thing in the shop." It has a pattern that he has only seen in three of the thousands of pieces he has created, making it rare and special (the pitcher on the right in the photo just below). 

Next door to the Split Rock Bar and Cafe across the street is Otis's defunct gas station. You don't want to poke around over there because if Otis notices, he might take a shot at you (according to Byron). Down the street a bit farther is the bowling alley. Some say there are still pins and balls inside, but others say everything is gone. The real mystery is that there is any disagreement at all. Anyone can just walk over there and take a look, but for some reason they don't.

There are something like 50 people who live in Jeffrey City, though the town appears to have no government and legally is probably extinct. Originally there was a town on the site called Granite City, later given the picturesque moniker "Home on the Range." In the 50's and 60's uranium was discovered and mined there. An important personality during those radioactive boom years was a Dr. Jeffrey, hence the renaming to "Jeffrey City."

Unfortunately for J.C., once the first wave of nuclear power plants had been built and stocked in the U.S., nuke fuel recovered from decommissioned Soviet warheads could be purchased for less than the cost of mining and refining raw material. The town had nothing else to offer, so the people moved on and the businesses closed. In short, it is a modern ghost town.

Our plan for the night was that one of us, probably Fred, would spend the night on an old sofa in the shop -- if the cat sprawled out on it was willing to share. Ray and I would sleep in the camping trailer parked out front, which is just a place to sleep out of the wind; it has no water or electricity. Standing inside was like standing on a small boat, except the rocking (provided by the wind) was far less rhythmic. It did not take much imagination to believe that the trailer could actually be blown over by some of the gusts.

In the foreground, Ray's accommodations for the night. Notice the flags.
You can't see the trailer rocking back and forth in this still photo, but it was.
Considering the challenging accommodations and the predicted winds for the next day (significantly higher than the day we just finished), I decided to see if maybe I could get a lift to Lander, the next stop on our itinerary -- preferably that night. That way I could actually get a day to rest my foot and leg, which were still aching, and avoid the predicted winds of 30 (with gusts to 50) that would be directly into our faces. A young man named Kyle, who is Byron's roommate at present, was quite willing to drive me the 60 miles into Lander for an unspecified compensation. Fred quickly signed on as well, but Ray, always up for an athletic challenge, opted to stick it out. We later gave Kyle $40 each and he acted like he had won the lottery. Considering he drove about 120 miles round trip in his V8 pickup on our account, just refilling his gas tank would eat up a good portion of his windfall, but I guess he wasn't thinking about that part of it.

Kyle turned out to be an interesting young guy -- kind of a free spirit who likes the solitude of rock climbing and backwoods hiking over the complexities of a traditional lifestyle. He dropped us off at a real nice Best Western at the edge of Lander. The wind was really blowing by then, and Fred and I got sand-blasted just crossing the parking lot to a nearby fast food restaurant to get something to eat.

Published with Blogger-droid v1.7.0

Monday, June 6, 2011

June 5, 2011: GGT Day 6, Saratoga to Rawlins (aka The heaven to hell ride)

We started the day with our first actual sit-down breakfast. We then got on the bikes in pleasantly cool weather and fairly flew along in front of a substantial tailwind. I was frequently moving along at 25 mph with a heart rate of under 100! That was the first 20 miles, the "heaven" part of the ride. Then things got interesting.

The middle 15 miles of the route is on Interstate 80, believe it or not. It is simply the only option, and therefor perfectly legal. Well, from the moment we made the left onto the I-80 ramp until we arrived at our motel 24 miles later, we had the previously helpful wind in our faces. It was a struggle and my plan for a recovery day went out the window. High winds are predicted to continue for the next couple of days. We have been considering various plan B's for Tuesday, which is supposed to be especially bad.

We had a very good dinner tonight at Michael's Big City Bar and Grill, just a couple of doors away. Afterwards Fred rehearsed a couple of songs (using a borrowed guitar with a broken string) that he is planning to perform tomorrow night at The Split Rock Bar and Cafe in Jeffrey City.

Riding time: 3 hrs 39 mins
Distance: 44.4
Avg speed: 12.1
Climb: 1220
Wind: SW 25 - 30 mph

Published with Blogger-droid v1.7.0

Sunday, June 5, 2011

June 4, 2011: GGT Day 5, Walden, CO to Saratoga, WY

Stats for today: 68 miles, 4 hrs 57 mins, 2000 feet of climbing.

Today we finally crossed from Colorado into Wyoming. In spite of the fact that we were being blown along at a near-effortless 25 mph, we stopped for the obligatory state line photo op.

Back on the bikes we flew the next six miles, all the while closing on a large mass of white smoke rising into the sky. The fire itself was nothing much, but there was an awful lot of smoke being blown directly at the road we had to climb to get out of the basin in which we had been riding. I knew it was going to take me quite a while to work my way up the two and a half mile climb and I did not want to be sucking all that smoke into my lungs. I ended up using my balaclava plus a couple of additional layers of stuff as a makeshift breathing mask. Ray, on the other hand, did nothing special and says that he didn't even smell any smoke! I sure as hell did. At any rate we all seem fine tonight.

A shift in wind or road direction later in the day slowed us down quite a bit. We took a rest break in front of the store in Riverside, just across the street from the famous Mangy Moose bar. While there, we were joined by a young couple, Jessica and Chris, on fully loaded bikes, including camping gear. They are 50 days into their cross-country trip. After talking for a while I took a photo of them, which reminded Jessica that she had not re-packed their camera when they stopped 8 miles north. Given that we were headed up that road, we promised to look for it. We traded contact info and off we went on our mission. We found the spot easily enough, but we could not find the camera. I left that sad news on Jessica's cell phone voice mail. Hopefully the camera will turn up in their gear or the camera case contained some ID that will allow it to be recovered.

We are unable to visit Saratoga's hot spring. The river has already risen so much that it has overflowed into the spring, making the latter unsafe to use. As I write this post, sandbags are being deployed to defend the low-lying property from flooding as the river continues to rise with the melting of this year's extreme snowfall in the upstream mountains. Flooding is a real danger for many of the towns on the rest of our route.

Tonight Fred initiated a change in our dinner plans after we were seated in the Wolf Hotel's restaurant. (We were staying at the Wolf Hotel for the night.) On his way back from the Kum-n-Go convenience store (no, I am not making that up, and Fred was there to buy a store logo t-shirt) Fred spied a Thai restaurant up a side street. He promised the proprietress that he would return for dinner. This behavior is similar to the time on the original Tour de Fred trip when he disappeared to have lunch with the Indian hotel-keeper.

He insisted that we were not bound by his promise, but we decided to go along with him. We were the only customers. All cooking, service, prep and cleanup was handled by the new Thai wife of a guy who talked our entire meal about his four marriages, his experiences in the military and how he learned to cook many styles in his travels around the world. Nonetheless, his wife does the Thai cooking (and serving and cleaning, we noticed, in spite of their "equal" marriage).

Fred paid for all the meals and added a 40 percent tip, which clearly had nothing to do with the meals or dining experience. Ray and I agreed that it was one of the strangest restaurant experiences we have ever had. Fred, on the other hand, was happy because his mouth was burning "in a good way," which apparently made up for everything else, in his view. Oookaay then.

Tomorrow we have a short ride of about 40 miles. I am planning to do it in a very easy, rolling recovery mode. We'll see what happens.

Published with Blogger-droid v1.7.0

Saturday, June 4, 2011

June 3, 2011: GGT Day 4, Kremmling to Walden

I took some Nyquil last night, slept well and woke feeling much better. Maybe it is allergies after all. My remaining issue is continuous pain in my right foot and shin. I can neither walk nor ride in comfort.

Anyway, we left Kremmling at about 8, when it was still chilly (low 40's). It stayed cool enough that I left my jacket on for the whole ride. We rode 61 miles in five hours, including about 2700 feet of climbing. The miles coming down from Muddy Pass were among the best I have ridden. Imagine a quiet, nearly empty road, slight downhill grade, new asphalt, lines of snow-covered mountains on both sides, and periodic sightings of elk, antelope, and hawks high above. It was spectacular. I have included a couple of photos of that stretch, but they can't really convey the experience.

Whether related to the altitude, my allergies/cold, leg pain, or inadequate fitness level, I cannot comfortably keep up with Fred and Ray. They pull over to wait for me every so often, and they claim that it is 'no problem', but it is not ideal. Nevertheless, as an introvert, there are some benefits for me to ride by myself, so I am making the best of the situation.

Published with Blogger-droid v1.7.0

Thursday, June 2, 2011

June 2, 2011: GGT Day 3, Breckenridge to Kremmling

Yesterday I woke with a sore throat and worsening 'allergy' symptoms that got worse through the day. As a result I got very little sleep last night. By this morning I was pretty sure that I have a cold. I am just trying to manage the symptoms in hope that it doesn't get much worse.

Today's ride was just the ticket under the circumstances -- a reasonable 60, mostly downhill miles, with a strong tailwind. In fact, there was only 1120 feet of climbing and the wind and down slope combined to give us relatively effortless speeds of up to 40 mph from time to time.

At about 21 miles we had to make an unscheduled visit to a bike shop in Silverthorne when Ray broke a drive-side rear spoke. We were very fortunate that we were in this fair-sized town and that a good shop (Mountain Sports) was in walking distance.

We are over-nighting at the historic Eastin Hotel. It is old but adequate, and very inexpensive. The town itself is one of many in this region that is just fighting to survive.

Me (Seth), Fred, Jean-Paul, and Ray in the lobby of the Eastin Hotel in Kremmling, CO.
While we were waiting at the door for the proprietor to return from lunch, a French gentleman walked up with a big smile and immediately drew us into a discussion of bicycling and touring in the US and France. Jean-Paul is in the midst of a planned two month solo bike tour, including many of the places on our own tour. In fact, he was in Fairplay the night after we were there, and he is staying the night in our hotel. Of course we invited him to join us for dinner. It turns out that the cold, windy conditions in the past month have taken their toll and he has decided to cut his trip short. When we head north in the morning, he will be heading to Denver to make arrangements for his return to Marseille. If you read French you can learn more about him and his adventures at http://patacycliste.over-blog.com.

Jean-Paul's dinner selection was.... chicken-fried steak! I guess all his travel in the backwoods of the US caused him to go native.

While we were at dinner, a plump, mentally-challenged young women surveyed the people in the restaurant and walked right up to our table to get help setting the time on her new digital watch. Ever the knight for damsels in distress, Fred quickly volunteered his services. Apparently this is one of his special talents, and her special talent is to pick the right person in a crowd to help her! He had her all set in just a few minutes.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June 1, 2011: GGT Day 2, Fairplay to Breckenridge

If you are ever in Fairplay for an overnight, check out the Hand Hotel. We were the only guests last night but we got the impression that the hospitality we were shown is typical. The property is old but nicely refurbished and maintained. Richard, the owner, recommended dinner at Millonzi's, a few doors down the street, which both Fred and I enjoyed greatly.

We rolled out of Fairplay at around 9 AM in cool but fair weather. Fairplay is at almost exactly 10,000 feet. We were headed for Breckenridge, on the other side of the 11,539 foot Hoozier Pass, the highest point on Adventure Cycling Association's Trans America Route. A couple of summers ago I rode up Hoozier from the steeper Breck side, so I wasn't too concerned. Of course, I didn't factor in my noodle legs and raw ass souvenirs from yesterday's ride. The climb started almost immediately at about 3 percent, but after 6 miles it pitched up to 5, and it stayed at 5 to 7 for the remaining 7 miles to the summit. My speed was stuck at 5 as well. By the top I was puffing like a steam locomotive in the thin air.

At the top the road was dry, but there was snow everywhere else up there, as you can see from the photos.

The high speed plummet down to Breck was cold, but still fun. There was one set of switchbacks that snuck up on me, requiring two fistfulls of brake to scrub enough speed to get through safely. (Sorry, Kath!)

Tomorrow is only 60 miles and downhill, so we hope to be at our destination by noon or so. The afternoon winds are supposed to include gusts up to 60 mph, so that is as good a motivation as anyone would need.

Published with Blogger-droid v1.7.0

May 31, 2011: GGT Day 1, CO Springs to Fairplay

We left Fred's driveway at 7:49am. We arrived here in Fairplay eleven hours later. 

Start line for the Geezer Geyser Tour
Actual riding time was 8 hrs and 58 minutes to complete today's 87 miles (avg speed 9.7 mph). The weather was mostly great, other than a 30 mph cross-wind for about 15 miles late in the ride. Nevertheless, we climbed somewhere between 5600 feet (my measurement) and 8,200 feet (RideWithGPS's calculation). Most of that climbing was in the first 53 miles, after which we had to deal with that cross-wind, so there were long stretches of 5 to 6 mph. I am really, REALLY tired. Tomorrow is an easy, short day --just have to get up the 13 or so miles to the top of Hoosier Pass (11,500 feet), then coast down to Ray's cabin in Breckenridge to relax the rest of the day.

Here are some photos of today's beautiful scenery, and of Fred with today's pass markers: 

Pikes Peak in the background
Ute, the first pass of the trip

Wilkerson, pass number two
Fairplay, our destination for the day, is right at the base of that snowy line of mountains in the distance.
Hartsel, CO (the entire town). Our re-fueling stop before the final push to Fairplay.

Fairplay, where we overnighted. Our hotel is on this street, but there are several others!
By comparison to Hartsel, it is a bustling metropolis!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Bags arrived in Colorado Springs this morning!

I was pretty concerned when I checked the airline's baggage site early this morning and there was still no indication that my stuff had been located. I decided to call, and after some digging the clerk told me that my bag was in Houston and would arrive in CS on the 10:35 flight. She had no information about a second piece of luggage.

At about 10:20 we were on our way to the airport when I got another call from baggage claim that my bag was there in the office. At first I thought that the plane had arrived early, but it appears that the first bag must have come in last night or earlier in the morning. When the 10:35 flight arrived, my second bag, the bike case, was on it. Happy day!

I got the bike assembled this afternoon, and other than the rear wheel needing a bit of truing, everything was fine.

Tonight Pat cooked up a wonderful feast for us, and after dinner Luna, their sweet Malamute, treated us to a little serenade, with Fred and Pat doing backup vocals.

The weather for tomorrow actually looks pretty good. Ray is going to get a very early start (he is planning to do the entire 110 miles to Breckenridge in one shot), but Fred and I will probably start around 8. We will be riding 84 miles with about 5000 feet of climbing.
Here's a shot of Luna after her concert.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Arrival in CO Springs

I am at Fred's in Colorado Springs. Unfortunately, my bike and gear apparently missed one of the connections. The folks at Continental seem pretty confident that the bags will show up soon, and they will deliver them when they do. Here's hoping!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What, me worry?

For the past several years, my riding buddy, Professor Fred, has been studying, theorizing, and writing about cognitive evolution (see The Rise of Homo Sapiens, Cognitive Archaeology and Human Evolution, and How to Think Like a Neandertal). One of his theories includes the premise that the appearance of modern human cognition required a subtle genetic change that gave humanoids the ability to engage in "what if" thinking. Well, if that's the case, there is no doubt that I am a modern human, with a "what if" specialization in catastrophic fantasies.

Consider our upcoming Geezer Geyser Tour. Here is a short list of potential catastrophes (er, I mean adventures) that have come to mind:
  • hypothermia
  • flash floods
  • snow, rain, freezing rain, sleet, ice
  • unpleasant encounters with wildlife such as bison, moose, bears, packs of hungry wolves
  • every possible mechanical failure
  • all manner of crashes and nasty bicycle vs motor vehicle mishap
An advantage of such thinking is that I tend to be better prepared than most. For example, I can pretty much guarantee that neither of my companions will have any meaningful bike tools or a first aid kit (not that a few bandaids are likely to be of much use patching anyone up after being mauled by a grizzly or gored by a buffalo). More practically, the clothing I have packed should serve pretty well for most of the likely weather conditions. I couldn't figure out any packable talismans to protect us from sudden floods, unfortunately.

I quite realize that our little trips hardly measure up to REAL adventure cycling, such as that planned by my young friend Dominic (http://onebikeoneworld.com/). Still, it is a total mystery why someone like me, with my acute awareness of everything that can go wrong, would not just DO trips like this one, but absolutely LOVE doing them! I guess it just comes down to the fact that overcoming the inherent challenges, added to the fun of the thing, is worth the risks.

I leave for Colorado Springs early on Sunday morning, and we start riding on Tuesday. I can't wait!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Riders waiting for start of today's ride at GTR 2011

The bar has been set a bit higher in the Road Kill Sweepstakes

This weekend Kathy and I, along with a bunch of our tandem-riding buds, are in Macon, GA for the 2011 Georgia Tandem Rally (http://www.georgiatandemrally.com). This event is our favorite of the year. and one we have attended for the past eight years. We have enjoyed great riding in the rolling terrain in this area... except for the part where we rode past a dog happily tearing vennison steaks off a small deer carcass lying just off the road. OK, yeah, yeah -- circle of life and all that, but it was still pretty unnerving to see man's best friend chowing down on Bambi.

So, after two 45 mile-ish rides through the hills, we expect to do a short finale of about 28 miles in the morning before stuffing our tandem into the back of our Prius and heading home. The rest of the week I will probably do a couple of easy rides near home, but the training is done for the Geezer Geyser Tour. Next Sunday I will be on my way to Colorado. I am still hoping for Spring to hit the Rockies by the time I arrive!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

One month until the Geezer Geyser Tour

Training has gone pretty well this month in spite of two weekends that other commitments prevented me from riding at all. I rode most weekday mornings, usually 17 to 20 miles over the hills on Cherry Lake and Villa City Roads. These hills are not terribly steep, but approximate the grades that I will be riding between Colorado Springs and Yellowstone, starting on May 31. I did 20 rides in April, totalling more than 450 miles and including one 75 mile day. I did another 75 miler today, May 1.

Next weekend I will be able to do my own thing and I plan to do at least one more long ride. The two weekends after that, however, will be taken by the MS ride (two 50 mile rides on the tandem) and the Georgia Tandem Rally (another 100 or more tandem miles). I have this idea that I will increase the level of my weekday rides during the month by strapping on the panniers and putting ten pounds of gear in each one.

My buds in Colorado are still dealing with very cold weather and even snow! They have been gleefully reminding me that it is going to be pretty cold on this tour, at least in the morning hours. The result is that I have been obsessing about the clothing I should take on the bike. I will be taking just my little 7 inch Archos android tablet, a little folding bluetooth keyboard (on which I am writing this post), and my android  phone, rather than a "real" computer. That should work out fine for blogging, internet access, and photos, and should reduce the weight of my electronics by about two and a half pounds, but it looks like the additional clothes will eat up that weight savings.

Within the next week I plan to finalize my packing list and I will share the list and weight here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bicycle Science Friday

Look what showed up on one of my favorite podcasts, Science Friday, this week:

A new look at bicycle physics and how even very unlikely looking bikes, without riders, can stay upright and steer themselves.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

CO Springs to West Yellowstone in 9... er, 11 days

Last night, in response to an email from Ray, I purchased my second plane ticket to Colorado Springs for this summer's tour! Somehow or another, I thought the trip was going to be 9 days on the bike, so I bought non-refundable tickets for May 31. Well, Ray pointed out that the itinerary calls for 11, not 9, days on the road. In fact, reviewing the route, that was absolutely correct. After a couple of hours of research and talk with people at United Airways, the cheapest alternative turned out to be simply purchasing a second ticket, this time for May 29th. Jeez! To make matters worse, the lowest fare also means two plane changes and an extreme early morning departure. Hopefully my bike will make the plane changes along with me.

This experience convinced me that it is past-time that I start attending more closely to the details of the trip. This evening I carefully put the route into my GPS mapping software, exported to GPX, converted to Google Earth (KML) format, and displayed the elevation profile (below):

The tick-marks are our planned overnight stops. That high peak on the second day is Hoosier Pass, approximately 11,500 feet. Having ridden it from the other, steeper, side two summers ago, I know it is not quite as bad as it looks. Regardless, the first two days will, clearly, be the most challenging, especially lugging 20 pounds of gear, and with little opportunity to acclimate to the altitude. The next six days look great, though, and we should all be in fine shape by the time we tackle the long climb into the Jackson/Yellowstone region at the right end of the figure.

I have gotten a decent start on my training, having ridden frequently over the past few weeks. So far so good.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Visitors from the Euro-Tourist Zone

Say hello to Kleis and his daughter, Ina. Kleis is from the Netherlands and Ina just graduated her studies of theater in Belgium. They decided to spend a month touring the US and picked the Adventure Cycling route most likely to be warm this time of year (people after my own heart). WIth that in mind, they flew into Houston and have been roughly following the Southern Tier route across the southeast. Their destination is Miami.

Ina found me listed on WarmShowers.org and sent me a message asking if I would be willing to put them up for a night or two. This was the first time that we have hosted anyone through WarmShowers, and I admit that I was a little uneasy. The web site provides members the ability to leave "recommendations" for one another, but Ina had little information about herself in her own listing, and there were no recommendations. I asked her for more information and she told me more about herself, her father, and their trip. After talking it over with Kathy, we decided to take a chance. One look at them when they arrived was enough to put my mind at ease. We had a wonderful visit, and they seemed to appreciate the hospitality that we were able to provide. The next morning I rode out with them and guided them out of town.

It was the next best thing to being on tour myself. If you are a cyclist who enjoys touring, check out warmshowers and consider joining.

 Ina's hand-drawn "Thank You" card: