Tuesday, November 15, 2011
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
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
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.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
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).|
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.
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.
|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
|Memorial to Chief Washakie at Fort Washakie on the Shoshone - Arapahoe Reservation through which we rode.|
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.
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.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
|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.
Monday, June 6, 2011
Riding time: 3 hrs 39 mins
Avg speed: 12.1
Wind: SW 25 - 30 mph
Sunday, June 5, 2011
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.
Saturday, June 4, 2011
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.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
|Me (Seth), Fred, Jean-Paul, and Ray in the lobby of the Eastin Hotel in Kremmling, CO.|
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
At the top the road was dry, but there was snow everywhere else up there, as you can see from the photos.
|Start line for the Geezer Geyser Tour|
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
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
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Consider our upcoming Geezer Geyser Tour. Here is a short list of potential catastrophes (er, I mean adventures) that have come to mind:
- 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
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
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
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
Sunday, March 20, 2011
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):
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
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: