Perfect weather for a bike ride . . .

May 23, 2019

One more year . . .

   Upon realizing how long it has been since I posted ANYthing in these pages, seeing a well-timed Facebook throwback, and the resulting recent revisit to a post I wrote a decade ago --- well, interestingly, NOTHING lately has inspired me to ride long again like basically reading a love letter about randonneuring addressed to my future self.  I'm not sure if it is "burn-out,", but I have not ridden a 200km ride since February '19, and my last distance beyond commuting was a gravel 104km ride back in March.  I let March slip by without a 200k ride, thus ending a streak of 10 rides toward the elusive 6th R-12 run, and I wasn't that upset about it when it happened.  I have been making really easy excuses to NOT ride long of late.  Reading that old post helps... and it's obviously been enough to get me out of the tedium of APA-format research paper writing long enough to get my fingers moving to a different drum.  Thus, this short post.  

Yeah, we're still here. 

So much has transpired since my return to the educational process over two years ago;  I have continued to ride, I managed to complete another R-12 (#5), rediscovered gravel with a rampant fervor, decided that "no, I'm not too old for this," thanks to my son taking up cycling and giving me, once again, someone to chase.  (He's difficult to catch, too ... yeesh...).  That got me losing a bunch of mid-40's body fat, and actually spending a lot of time really training this last winter, when not riding to work.  Strava has been transformative, personally, though it isn't the end-all, it DOES help me.  Fast is still not "everything," but it sure is fun to challenge oneself.  I spent too much of my life "settling" from a physical standpoint.  The work is good for me.    

I've successfully managed to be car-free (at least, to and from work) for over a year now, having the most "successful" winter of commutes since perhaps I first started trying to ride through all of the seasons.  I used Uber a few times during this particularly icy and nasty winter, but, I never drove myself to the office.  That feels good.  Still, in some ways, the mental baggage from such a winter has been a strong desire to pick-n-choose the rando events I want to endure.  Basically, if it isn't sunny with a double tailwind on tap for anything more than 30-40 miles, I haven't been interested.  I think, mentally, I NEED some sunshine.  Life has been busy, to say the least, and definitely challenging enough... which, tenders the desire to be mentally tested during that which should only exist to provide some much-needed personal stress relief.

As a result, I have skipped (or, justifiably missed due to my kids' graduation (or other) activities or my own homework) every single organized rando event in Kansas City this year, despite grandiose plans I made back in November when dreaming of Spring brevets.
 Depressing?  Perhaps... but, I also understand that enduring a massive amount of distance into a constant headwind may have only served to dig me deeper into the hole I've been sitting in, with regards to distance riding.  Commuting has been enough.

But, I'll only be in classes for maybe another year.  Just one more year.
One more year . . . 

This morning, however, I feel some hope.  I feel some sunshine amid the nearly constant potential for thunderstorms this week.  Sometimes, we see posts for a reason - considering I almost never hang out on Facebook.

Sometimes, a note we leave to ourselves, like the aforementioned post above that I just happened to re-read, is a good idea.  One thing I can suggest for randonneurs, even shorter-distance guys out there discovering themselves:  write things down.  Even if it is bullet points, or social media posts.  Save them.  Lock them away for later, or share them with the world... but, when you need it, they will be there.  The written word and a few photos transport us back to time and place unlike anything else - and we need the reminder.  Why are we doing this?  What's the point?  Man, I just can't do this anymore... do I still love this hobby?  YES, listen to your mind and body.  Take breaks.  Don't destroy yourself... but, when you need to get that feeling back, open those love notes to your future self, read them.  Read them twice.  Listen.  

Then you'll know it's time.  

We'll see you out there... and we may even see you on the longer distance stuff... 
Cheers, and - as ever - thanks for reading!

US-69, 2009... it's still out there, and I think I need to go find it.

"The woodpile", somewhere in Miami County, KS., on a personal gravel training loop I love.

Catching a pre-dawn training group while on the way to the office, for some unexpected and personally rare paceline time... which I promptly screwed up for everyone once I tried to go to the front.  Probably why I don't (shouldn't) race.

September 12, 2018

Guest post - The Mac & Cheese 1,200km Grand Randonee

     Randonneuring is all about pushing one's limits and exploring far-off places... and a lot of our local randonneurs have made very good on those goals this year - as they do each year.

One such event was the recent Mac-&-Cheese 1,200km, which takes place in Michigan and Wisconsin -- more information on this event can be found here.

Gary D., whom I've been lucky enough to share a fair number of miles with, put together this particularly good tale from his experience, and I asked for his permission to re-post it here with his photos.  Please enjoy this sweeping tale of lucky stones, mythically-large cinnamon rolls, and bike mowers!

Thanks, Gary!


The Mac and Cheese 1,200k is done, and we’re left with stories, memories, and new friends. I took a few pics for the FB page, with some summary, and pasted them into the document below. 
We had a few hiccups regarding sleeping arrangements for Sara, a volunteer and myself, but things smoothed out. Sara got to bed at 6:30am after the first night-not the easiest vacation ever. 
I had a great time, got plenty of sleep, and always had sufficient food and water. I carried an energy bar that Peter took down the JMT and ate half of it. I made a PB sandwich for day two and carried it home. 
The ride had a nice mix of new and old rando’s, although most of us are over 50. The old randos had a paceline and sang karaoke songs. It was a fairly large group for me, say 8-12 riders, so I eventually abandoned them. There was a joke about whether this was a brevet or a pub crawl. 
The ride had an international flavor with a rider from the Netherlands, Ireland, and several Canadians. From the US, we had riders from Washington, NJ, FL, CA- all over the US. 
I am apparently one of the few mortals that rely solely on a cue sheet and wrist watch for navigation, and that was tested when I went off course, thinking it was a cue sheet error. I made a greater attempt to ride with others at night, or be sure others were nearby, after that. It makes me rethink this strategy, although in the end, following is cue is part of what I love about the sport.  
Thus, the first story:

Lucky stones

On day 1, leaving Petoskey after dark, by myself, I mis-read the cue and expected to turn at Harbor Springs Airport Road just 0.3 mi from Division, at the first paved road. I had skipped the line about riding another 3.3 miles on the trail. I rode a mile or so, then doubled back. As I passed a park shelter, I heard a voice coming from the darkness. I braked and directed my light towards to shelter and asked for help. 
From the back of the shelter came an old hippie-looking man, about my age. I asked if he knew where the Airport road was, and he assured me I was heading the wrong direction. (He was right.) He asked where I was heading, expressing disbelief at the answer, Mackinaw City. Studying the next few lines on the cue sheet, he exclaimed that, no, there was a much better way to get there. I explained that I needed to follow this route, regardless, but was afraid that I had missed a turn. He then offered to take me up the trail and started walking. “Come on”, he said waving for me to follow. I pleaded that no, it would take forever to get there walking. 
“Do you smoke marijuana?” he asked. I’m unsure of where this line of questioning could take us.  I tell him that I will continue to backtrack until I either get my bearings or encounter other riders, and as I prepare to leave, he asked me to wait and let him give me some lucky stones. Arrayed on the shelter handrail was about a dozen small stones. He studied them intently, then selected these four small stones, and handed them to me. I dropped them into my handlebar bag, thanked him, wished him well and said goodbye. 
The opportunity to meet new people, even so briefly, is one of the things I love about randonneuring.
It’s also why I love to navigate via cue sheets and a wrist watch instead of GPS navigation.  

River Rd

River Road, on Day 3, along the Menomonie River, was one of the most beautiful parts of the course.
Shady and well paved, with glimpses of the river near sunset. 

Stop CX

I’m not sure what they have against cyclocross up here. (Stop XC). I was amused about the road work being behind, not ahead. I wish that I had noticed the old log shelter barely visible to the left of the frame when I took this. 
We rode about a mile on this lumpy stuff, and I recalled Michele’s words “If you are riding more than 30’ on gravel, you are going the wrong way. Stop and go back!”

Don’t jump

This red-head was finishing her breakfast when we came down to eat at the Econo-Lodge. Yes, we know most people ate across the street, where they make real food, or around the corner, where they make great coffee and pastries.  Let’s just say we are suckers for free waffles, scrambled eggs, and cold cereal.  
Anyway, I didn’t think to engage this lady in conversation, and she disappeared as riders swept into the breakfast nook. After departure, when we saw her looking back to shore, we recognized her from the motel, but still didn’t approach.  
Looking back, I wonder what her story could be, why she was travelling alone across the lake. If she had jumped the rail, would anyone have noticed? We were swept up in the group of riders, organizers and volunteers, and I never saw her again. 

Bike mower

Now here is an answer to that age-old question, “Why would I want a bigger yard?” I’ve wanted one of these mowers since I read that that old guy, Chuck Harris from Ohio, who made Harris helmet mirrors, had made one. Genius. I just wonder how many randos stopped to take this picture. 


Jack’s, in Rapid River, Day 3, was well placed for second breakfast. Our neighbor has roots in the Upper Peninsula and recommended this place. It was awesome. As I was getting ready to pay, I spotted some of the largest cinnamon rolls I have ever seen. With frosting. Sorry for no picture. I will be dreaming about these for as long as I live. Can something so large and beautiful still be tasty, in equally excessive proportions? These are things I wonder about when I ride. 


The last few miles of any long event are always special. Here we were treated to some intense displays of power by Mother Nature. Up by the Nuclear Plant, we were treated to bolts of lightning and thunder, with near-torrential rain. The temps would drop 10 to 20 degrees, then immediately climb back towards 80. Waves of mist would roll towards us. 
Coming south from Two Rivers, the storm settled out from shore, and as I headed in, I tried to capture the intensity of the waves crashing against the shore. 
This lake-front trail has a number of well-kept gardens and memorials. I snapped this picture to capture the ship (visible above the flowers) which appears to be going down. I suspect it is really just partially embedded in fog. There were many people stopped along the trail taking pictures of this ship, so who knows? 
I grew up just a few hundred feet from Lake Erie. This ride reminded me of the power and intensity of wind and water. My sincere thanks to Michele, Jeremy, and the army of volunteers that made this experience possible.

August 26, 2018

Summer 2018 - An Exercise in Brevity

I'm not about to go on a 25,000 word rant...

 And yet, here I am again.

In our modern, truncated world of social media and short attention spans, here I still am.

I won't get into my disenfranchisement with social media... because I still put stuff out there, just not on "the big one."  I prefer Instagram.  It feeds Twitter.  Twitter is visible here, on the right (look, look!).  Yeah, follow that, instead.  Far fewer words, far more pictures, far more subtext; which is sorta my style anyways.  Subtext.  Subtext on everything.  The point I've learned from all of this writing for years and years is that perhaps the subtext should remain unspoken.  I've spent a lot of time here trying to convey it, but it remains very intangible.  It's a look between friends, the vague colors of a landscape at dawn, or the moments behind the perceived motion caused by lines blurred by too-long of a camera exposure.  It's the long pauses, the spaces between the words, and the impulsive chortle of agreement that sneaks past your breath when something resonates.

The sun may be setting on this little project of mine, if for no other reason than a complete and utter lack of available time.  The sensations and subtext, however, are indeed available at least once per week on Instagram ... @rusadude.  Just go do it ... (please, and thank you) ... and then go for a ride, for cripes-sake.  THAT is where "it" happens ... not here.

...for now... here's a few that didn't make the feed (but likely should have and may still) from the last few randonneuring adventures.  Yeah, it's a "streak" again... time to go for R-12 #6.  Why not?  

From the June 2018 edition of the rare Aliceville Twister 200km permanent.  It starts a bit out of town, but, for that very reason, offers a change of scenery and a chance to see the Flint Hills of Kansas - if only briefly.  Starting in Garnett, KS., and heading generally west to Madison, KS., there are miles of sky and field to enjoy.  Under clear skies, and really high humidity and eventually hot conditions, Terry B. and I had a really good time knocking out June - just in time.  Taken with the 400km ride back on May 5th, this was #2 for this latest run at the annual R-12 goal.  Here, the utility poles have disappeared and we're approaching the edge of a big ridge which drops into the valley containing Lamont and Madison.  With the haze and heat, it looked like the entire west was opening up - like looking out over the ocean.  Amazing, and something the camera simply cannot convey properly.

Heading back east after the halfway, Terry B. dishes out the pace while we work toward the sanctuary of Colony, KS., which promises water, air conditioning, and a rest.  As you might see here, the route offers no shade - and at this point the temperature is well into the upper 90's, with a heat index far higher.  Not pushing too hard, staying hydrated, and keeping a good mental outlook are critical.  "It's only a few more miles," on repeat.

Part of the experience are the murals of artist Jim Stukey, which can be found in Le Roy and Gridley, KS. along the route.  Sadly, the one in Gridley was on a building which was recently razed (unsure why), but this one (in Le Roy) survives.

Again, the camera tries, but fails, to capture the breadth and emotion of this vista.  Heading west, the entirety of the valley opens up in front of you and invites you to find the opposite ridge.  It's amazing... I struggled with including it here, but it really isn't a spoiler:  the real thing is far, far more amazing... especially from the saddle of a bicycle.

Similar to last year, yet this time not really wrapped up in a competition -- possibly, and rightfully, due to some backlash from the Strava-heavy nature of last year's National Bike Challenge and the practical motivation of the challenge compared to what it turned into -- I decided to try again on a solid, summer-long streak of commutes to work.  After all, that's sorta what I'm supposed to be doing anyways;  it's what I prefer.  I don't like who I am when I drive, not really a fan of other drivers, and my personal and mental health are more important to me than saving a handful of minutes transporting myself to and from wherever I happen to go.  So, there's a good streak happening there, also.  Feels pretty good; you should try it!

Ah, July...

Another route I hadn't ridden in years, the Left of Centerville route includes a handful of cool, old bridges, a lot of railroad track parallels and crossings, and plenty of long, open stretches of road between towns.  Once more creeping up on the last part of the month, Terry B., and (here, on the Potawatomie Creek Bridge on old K-7 (er, old US-169, also, I think)) along for the fun are Drew and Ryan, the Rando Bros. (tm); a couple of genuinely nice dudes, and strong, strong riders.  The day was loaded with good tempo work and lots of great conversation.

Due to a hilarious miscommunication, Terry B. was actually at least 15 minutes ahead of us here, as we take a break at Centerville, KS.  We thought he was lagging behind at Parker - yet, he quietly managed to sneak past us there.  Not a control, but low on water already - we had to stop at Parker - and Terry, ever the constant rolleur, just doesn't need to stop as much.  Joke's on me... the rest of teh day would be spent trying to reel him back in.  Not many cares, we hang out for a bit.

And if we hadn't hung out in Centerville, we wouldn't have met "rando-cat."

Later in the ride, an unexpected detour.  Sometimes the road construction web-pages are wrong, and the result creates a gravel detour of exceptional quality with outstanding scenery.  We ended up with almost identical mileage to the official route, despite almost none of it being visible on a map.  It was nice when a local happened by, otherwise we might have ended up with a long backtrack.  Instead, we rode across a couple more interesting bridges, through an honest-to-goodness forest of some kind (the trees in one particular section, I swear, don't look like they belong in Missouri) and we saw some wildlife along the way.

Adding to the fun of the July ride, I elected to ride to and from the ride start in Paola, adding about 50 miles to the day and capping off the month nicely. 

And I feel a little old... sometimes.
I remember the 10th Anniversary RUSA ride back in 2008.  I remember it being brutally, brutally hot.  I remember it being a pretty good day, and I have the medal. 
This time, the 20th Anniversary RUSA ride, for 2018... yes... new faces, old faces; new bikes, old bikes... it was great! 

Mile One of the Princeton Roundabout route takes riders up and over I-435 on Renner Rd. and generally makes me question lots of things about myself ... like what I ate the night before, or a few minutes before, the start.  It's not a brutal climb, traditionally-speaking, but it does continue for quite a while and provides a nice warm-up.  If you are thinking of winter permanents to continue your streak, this is a good route for this reason -- if nothing else, you get right up to operating temperature in almost no time at all.  Here, "everybody" gets down to business;  Adam, Drew, Ryan, Karen, Greg, Terry, Paul, Jack, Ron, Carl, Dave, Steven, Gary.... gads, I'm losing track already.  It was a great turnout!

An honest-to-goodness Cannondale CAAD3 Saeco Team Edition, with actual Spinergy Rev-X wheels and Shimano Dura-Ace 7700.  So much cutting-edge tech for it's day, and still a wicked awesome example of the bicycle racing arms race which continues today, being a fan of the exploits of Cippolini and the Saeco squadra, I wanted one of these - bad - back in the day.  So cool to see one.  Some great gear showed up in the parking lot for this ride, including a terrific Litespeed, the cutting edge of gravel-tech from Lauf, two stunning examples from Colnago, and the rest of our usual randonneuring squad's always interesting variations of "how we do this crazy stuff."  Showing up early in the parking lot of ANY rando ride is a treat - plus, it's a big help to the organizers.

I'm happy the bag didn't get in the way... the under/aft shots seldom turn out; but, this time we get Adam resting after a pull along John Brown Highway, which runs east-to-west between Osawatomie and Princeton, KS.  We had a decent day on this outing, and while we didn't break any records and certainly fell off the pace of the fast folks off the front, we demonstrated a terrific amount of consistency for what (for me, anyways) is normally a brilliant start, a shaky middle, and a death-slog ending.  Instead, we actually managed to improve on our rolling average speed over the last half of the route - without any tailwind assistance.  In fact, if anything, we had a slight headwind for the last 20 miles, but, we managed to finish quite well.  That, honestly, feels really, really good.  It means the dietary consistency I've been exercising has translated to better performances on the bike - which, along with obvious health benefits, was my goal.  Let's keep it going!  By the way, Adam is a strong rider ... I'm happy to be here.  We're talking about a guy that RUNS 50km events, on trails, for fun.  He's one of those good dudes that makes the miles easier; good vibes, good discussions, and solid attitude.  This sport is all about good people, and good, long rides.  Perfection on the lonely roads of east-central Kansas.

Happy Anniversary, RUSA!  See you in 2028... or 2023... will there be a 25th Anniversary medal?
Who knows ... let's just ride it.  

More to come, yes... but in smaller chunks like this.
We have a good streak going... stay tuned!  Oh, and seriously... look for me on Instagram for the rest of the story. 

As always, thank you for reading! 

Let's go ride.... allez, allez!

August 9, 2018

Milepost 1445

via IFTTT:
Full selfie from yesterday's ride home, hopefully to-be-featured on our corporate wellness vendor's annual calendar. Working to get more awareness for commuters and the benefits of riding to work! #rideyourbike #commuteharder #milepost1445

August 2, 2018

Milepost 1445

via IFTTT:
Built in 1932, the Pottawatomie Creek bridge on old K-7, with The Rando Bros. @tri11ionaire & @evans6302 on tempo, dawn patrol, Left of Centerville 200km permanent, 7/27/18. #rideyourbike #AudaxKC #bridgehunter #milepost1445

August 1, 2018

Milepost 1445

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Happiness is an old barn at sunrise. From the Left of Centerville 200k, 7/27/18 #barnhunter #rideyourbike #milepost1445

July 30, 2018

Milepost 1445

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The old US-69 sentinel remains. Its smaller twin to the south, sadly, looks to have been replaced; so, not sure how much longer this guy will be here. On Ungenhour Rd. near K-52. #bridgehunter #rideyourbike #milepost1445 #AudaxKC

July 28, 2018

Milepost 1445

via IFTTT:
Gettin' after it in the early hours, on the road to Centerville. 200km permanent, 7/27/18, with The Rando Bros. & Terry B. #AudaxKC #rideyourbike #milepost1445 @tri11ionaire @evans6302

July 11, 2018

Milepost 1445

via IFTTT:
The faces of Randonneuring. Terry B. and me, from the June 29th 207km ride. Approaching 95F in the shade, 35 miles to go, at Luther's, Leroy, KS. July ride is only gonna be worse. #rideyourbike #RUSA #milepost1445 #AudaxKC

July 6, 2018

Milepost 1445

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Terry takes on US-75 during the Aliceville Twister 207km permanent, 6/29/18. Getting closer to the Flint Hills! #AudaxKC #rideyourbike #randonneuring #milepost1445