September 27, 2014

Guest post! The Nebraska 400k - by Glen R.

The Nebraska 400k . . .

This is one of the most simple routes to follow: a cue sheet really isn't needed; yet, at the same time it is the hardest ride I have completed yet.  The route starts and ends in the same Nebraska town of Falls City.  Look on a map near the bottom right hand point of Nebraska move slightly to the East just above the Kansas border and you'll find it.  The route heads due west using primarily highway 8.  Ten riders started the trip, Spencer, Rodney G., Gary, Greg C., Joshua, Ron A., Jack, David M., Rod H. And Me.  Nine finished: Rod H. from Omaha had a pedal problem shortly after we started the ride, and turned back.

Check point #2 is in Pawnee city.  Two of America's greatest heroes were born here: Larry the cable guy and of course Me!  It had been a really good ride so far, with a cold start about 34°, little to no wind! ...But, dark with fog mixed in.  The group stayed together up to this point a little chit chat about previous rides and what was new with each other.

It's a long slog from CP2 to CP3 which is in Fairbury.  The group broke into smaller groups along the way with Gary leading by himself.  Greg also went ahead of the group.  Greg is a very strong rider and is working on his third series of the year, that's three sets of 200, 300, 400, and 600k.  Ron and Jack, who are working on their 50 states award and needed Nebraska, fell off the back but not by much.  As usual, I was in between the groups.  Everything felt fine but I couldn't help but stop and take pictures and look at the scenery.  There are several wind farms in this area, one we only see in the dark - the red warning lights flashing in sequence is freaky.  The second farm we see on the way out and back.  Riding in the rural parts you can get close to things.  One mill was right beside the road so I stopped to take a picture.  That's when I noticed the two workers repelling from the center portion down one of the blades.  Don't know how much they get paid but I'm sure it's not enough. 

On the way to CP 3 there are several small towns.  They're off the highway a bit and don't really have any services available, with the exception of O'Dell.  Today they were having an auction but I really didn't want to buy anything and carry it on my bike.  Ron and Jack came up the the store just as Greg and I were leaving.  None of the others stopped.

CP 3 Fairbury, NE.
The cue says stop at the McDonald's, so we stopped.  Some ate full meals, I had my usual fries and a coke.  Checking emails, calling wives to let them know everything's ok, then off to Deshler; Gary left before everyone else and road on by himself.

CP4 Deshler and the turn around.
  The group started to thin again as it always does, everybody finding their own grove.  I stayed close to David M and Joshua; Greg C was a mile ahead of us and the rest were not far behind.  The CP had changed this year instead of the small store in town we were using a C-store a little farther west just off the highway.  We saw Gary's bike parked in front of a fake-looking train stop which was really a restaurant/store.  Wrong stop: Gary never reads the cue sheet.  We rode less than a mile onward and found the right stop where everyone else regrouped for the ride back.

Back to Fairbury. 
As joshua pointed out, the route is all down hill from here, even though some hills remain.  Most of us used Wally's for the check point this time.  I had the grilled chicken sandwich and a Sam Adams seasonal, not much pumpkin or spice in this one; the rest had Wally burgers which are like sliders, with beer.  Once again Spencer asked for some kind of special brew, anything Red, and the waitress looked dumb-founded.  You'd think a bar in Nebraska on a game day would have red everything, but apparently not.  Gary ate next door at the subway then came in and sat down with us. We left as a group again. The wind held from the SSE so at times it felt like a tail wind but mostly it was a side wind.  About five miles out I started to drop off the back.  I don't really like riding in a group on small shoulder-less highways, and the pace was a little high.  Joshua started to drop off also and we held together for a while taking turns at the front, Josh most of the time.  The others continued to slowly pull away and I lost sight of them.  Miles later josh and I would separate also.  I found out later he was getting tired: he works nights and his sleep schedule was messed up on this ride.  He later said he had to stop several times and walk just to stay awake.  The sun started to set so we added lights.  I love riding at night, I should do it more often.  Some riders think it's more dangerous but I noticed that cars tend to slow down more and give a wider birth when passing.  At night you loose a lot of sight distance but you gain hearing and that fifth or is it sixth sense, of feeling.  I kind of feel things more: an approaching car, an animal, whatever, I just feel it before I hear or see it.  As I looked up the road I noticed red blinking lights, I thought theft might be windmills, or radio antennas, but they were really bikes.  I tried to judge the distance but in the dark you really can't.

CP6 Pawnee City
The highway entering Pawnee city is well lit. At night you can see these lights for about 18 miles. How do I know?, because I checked!  This is the bad part about riding at night, you can't judge distance well.  Those 18 miles take for-ever, like the shimmering water hole in those old desert movies, you just never get closer.  I did keep seeing the red blinkies, and that was all the motivation I needed.  I closed the gap a little and arrived at the check point about 10 minutes after the lead group.  Josh came in later.  I let the group take off ahead of me as I changed light batteries and added some gloves to take the chill off.   Joshua sat on the curb drinking a red bull and shaking the cobwebs out.  Found out later he had been  hallucinating thinking he was riding on a wooded trail and seeing things that weren't there.

CP7 the finish:
The last 35 miles takes forever.  The wind was gone, the stars were beautiful, the windmill lights fascinating, the sounds and smells cool.  Traffic was a little heavier but not too bad.  The Nebraska game was over, so it was time to watch for those who had celebrated too much.  The miles tick off slowly, the hills don't seem so bad, and finally you're there.  The lights leading into Falls City are different than Pawnee: they just appear.  You're riding along wondering when you're going to see them, then you're there.  A short two miles later and you're at the CP.

A really good ride, almost great.  All 400ks are difficult for some reason: that's what everybody says anyway.  This one is... that's for sure.  Everyone should do this one however, and I hope Spencer keeps having it.  Everyone finished, no one got hurt, no flats, no problems; just a darn good ride with good people.

I look forward to the Nebraska 600k!!!

See you down the road . . .

August 22, 2014

From A to Z, Everything In Between, and Whatever Lay Beyond.

They call the route "The Hell of the North", a partial homage to the legendary Paris-Roubaix race in northern France held each April, yes, somehow still apt for the generally north-south oriented Liberty-to-Albany, MO. 300k of KCUC fame.  Infamous, perhaps?

I love this route, and I really - sincerely - hope that Bob brings it back for 2015, as preparation for P-B-P.  Selfishly, I must admit... with most folks satisfied sticking to 200k for their monthly rides (me included, if I'm honest), it's really, really difficult to ride this route as a permanent unless one enjoys being alone.  Finding anyone to accompany me on this route has proved difficult in the past . . . and, it's proved difficult for me to attempt it on my own.  Mental, nothing more.  It's a route map and profile that can creep into one's head, if allowed, and it's aptly-named.  So, too, is the Ride with the Devil 200k permanent route - which passes this same intersection from the opposite direction.  It's a different slice of "hell."  Tasty... but tough.


Whichever distance, whether alone or with someone else...  it beckons.  I cannot wait until I'm cleared for riding longer distances...and, thankfully, it's a personal clearance:  I've permission from the surgeon, so it's up to me as to what I can tolerate.  Knowing what I've been through, I'm not rushing it.  That may work out fine... doing either route in the fall?  Maybe with calm conditions yielding a northern wind in the

August 18, 2014

Omaha Newspaper Heralds one of KCUC's Finest

As human interest stories go, randonneuring must reside high on the list of leisure activities overflowing with metaphors on the endurance of the human body and spirit, and the rewards of "reaching."  A regional newspaper recently caught up with KCUC member Joe Edwards for just such a story, talking about our sport and its unique challenges.  Read the article here.  Congrats, Joe!

August 17, 2014

Boredom stinks

Granted, I have plenty to occupy me - but, boredom when it comes to the bike.  I think this is what got me into trouble with the "fit phase" where I had problems.  Hide the tools... the dude is bored.

It's been an interesting 24-hours in the stable, all on the same bike - the Kogs.  Boredom first led me down a pathway which began with a dream of riding single-speed again, as I'd done successfully for several years about a decade ago.  Alas, the vertical dropouts on the Kogs presented obvious problems - but, after finding a photo online with a 'magic gear' (a combination of cog and chainring which creates perfect chain tension on a bicycle with vertical dropouts, and ideal without the use of a half-link).  After some tinkering, I found that gear - and, miracle of miracles, it happened to provide the exact same gear-inch result as my "old standby", the 42x17 (about 66") combination.  I'd successfully slayed Bob's old Liberty route and the Appleton City 400k on that ratio, without any major issues recorded.  In fact, I ended up catching and passing people.  It was magic time again!  

Then, I took her around the block.  First, the

August 12, 2014

July from the pit lane, what-the-heck is "rundonneuring", and gears... who needs 'em?

It's a good thing I did, pulling the plug on the two streaks I'd had running back in late June.  Ambitious; in the past I'd woven my plans from the most hopeful of textiles - only recently have I learned the patience necessary to weave only when practical.  'Using my head,' as it were, often seemed like some sort of excuse not to attempt a ride or event; now, (though no easier) I find myself able to make more intelligent decisions.  That doesn't always mean that will be the case, of course:  take Dirty Kanza.  I don't really have "the bike" for the job - but, that's really the only excuse, and it's still pretty shallow.  It's just a tool, after all, and most successful events don't have much to do with that part of the equation.  I'm - oddly - not worried about that bit.  But, fighting the doctors and surgeon when it comes to injury - that's nothing with which to mess.  June became July became August, and as soon as the extent of my shoulder injury revealed itself to those who had fixed it, I knew I'd made an intelligent choice.  R-12 #4, complete, it was time for a good, extended rest.  I can already see the benefits, and I know I will come back stronger without much ramp-up time.  When the

July 23, 2014

The Injustice of Speed

It happens to me at least once a year.  The need... for speed. 

"Talk to me, Goose."   Shortly after that, I find myself in the garage, starting silently at my bike and some of the old frames ​resting in the storage room.  Blast.  
Here we go again.

Stuff that hangs from my bike suddenly looks out of place, heavy, as aero as a​ fallen​ log, bulky as a bag of leaves.  Why does this happen?  Why is the bike the first place I look for speed?
I think we all do this, as cyclists, once in a while.  For me, the goal is to get out of the garage before I get the tools in my hands.  At the worst of times I had managed three complete bike builds in one weekend, the last one being the re-rebuild of the bike I'd started with.  See, Ieventually listen​ed​ to reason... b​ut only after swapping parts across three frames. 
 Exhausting... and time better spent riding, instead of thinking and lamenting.

I find myself, however, at a unique crossroads now.  The Kogswell has been static for a while now, as I've managed to calm the restlessness of the past.  The repeating cycle of winter bike projects has, meanwhile, freed up the old Trek 450 frame set​ (again)​ - which IS fast.  As I think further about my plans for Dirty Kanza next year, I begin to wonder if I'm asking too much if the Kogs...

July 10, 2014

Guest Post: Glen R. - "The Ride From Hell"

The Central Iowa 300k - a.k.a. The Ride From Hell
By Glen Rumbaugh 

Ok it wasn't that bad at all; I only listed as the Ride from Hell so you'd read it.
It was a dark and stormy morning, or so they said it would be. It did look like we would get wet Saturday when we were receiving our ride safety briefing from Iowa RBA Greg Courtney.  Yet, as we rode east out of Ames toward the dark rain clouds, the rain ultimately disappeared and, later, so would the clouds. 

The summer Iowa events are run on a single weekend, allowing riders to pick their preferred distance, and allowing those same riders to share miles with other riders doing other distances.  Twenty-two riders started: eleven doing the 200k, five for the 400km, three for the 600km, and three for the 300km.  You can see the benefit of the multi-ride instantly:  three people tackling 600km makes for a lonely day...but being able to start the ride with over seven times that number is neat.  

We all began together riding in a nice line East from the hotel. The faster riders, doing both the short ride and the longer rides soon pulled away. Some would be caught later as they burned their energy early on.  When the routes split in the town of Nevada I met a rider from Minneapolis who was also attempting the 300k.  His name was Vincent D. and he spoke with a definite Minnesotan accent. He reminded me of

Two streaks buried - for the right reasons

It bears mentioning that the shoulder surgery I underwent this week - as expected - created a welcome 'reset button' for me to press, despite some bullheaded notions about keeping a streak of streaks going.  The June visit to the Archie Bunker route marked the completion of my fourth R-12 run - but, these four were not achieved back to back, so the importance of keeping a month to month run in play sorta lost its importance a while ago anyhow.  There aren't any points for that sorta streak, even when it comes to the new Ultra R-12 prize RUSA.  I'll likely get started on run number five later this year, instead of my original plan of riding a July 200 sometime during the first three days of the month and then foolishly trying to continue it with another 200 by the end of August; and risking injury.  The personal pressure 

July 9, 2014

Reprise: A Last Chance Story (feat. Mark Jilka)

By Karen Winterhalter; 
The Last Chance at 1,200 & 1,000 kilometers
  We left at 3:00 am in the only rain Denver had seen for 2 months. I was very cautious of the white painted stripes on the road; they attract oil, and can be very slick. My goal was to get out of town without getting lost. The rain continued off and on all day for the first 250 miles. At the first checkpoint (70 miles), we were already losing people. Having a support car is not always a good thing.  See car, get in car, quit.
The front group of riders had 6 in it, and of them 4 already quit. Leaving the checkpoint, my feet were cold even with produce bags on them. I lost my balance and fell in the driveway. With blood running down my leg, I rode on knowing the rain would wash it away.
The car pulling the trailer with our drop bags in it was at the next checkpoint. I quickly got my rain pants out of my drop bag and put them on. The volunteers even made hot chocolate for us. Many of the riders bought gloves at the store. I put a grocery sack on over my new wool KC Randonneur jersey, then my rain coat and reflective vest. Ralph Rognstad and Dan Pfaff from

June 28, 2014

Multi-Ride Late Spring Wrap-up Mega-Post! (w/ June 200k report!)

It's too big!
That's what SHE said.  huuhuhuhuhhuhuhhhhuhuhuh.

I couldn't possibly keep putting off what has now become ... let's see ... at least seven rides now that at least deserve some sort of mention, and probably three that would warrant full-on posts, lavish and thick with metaphor and literary magic (right, let's not get carried away).  I had planned on waiting until my shoulder surgery to sit down and click away to publish a ton of new updates and ride reports, but, I'm told - in this instance, as well as in regard to many other 'plans' I have - that I'm fooling myself:  in fact i just tried to type one handed with my right hand, and simply the drop in words per minute has me frustrated and uninspired.  So, typing is added to the stuff that I'll likely get a break from.  So be it...

Spring is here!  Spring is here!  Life is Skittles and life is beer!  
But, there's one thing that makes life sweet for me... 
and only one thing that makes Spring complete for me...  

Riding.  Apologies to Tom Lehrer.

While I love nature, I have the unfortunate distinction of not really being able to able to nurture and control it the way - say - a professional landscaper or gardener.  Animals are one thing... plants and I sometimes have a misunderstanding.  Still, I have a few hearty flora here and there courtesy my home's old residents and the magic of deep bulbs and perennial growth patterns.  When this beauty blooms, I know the good weather is finally here to stay.  

- Family Training - 
Late May, 2014

My son is quickly growing,

Perfect weather for a bike ride . . .