Perfect weather for a bike ride . . .

December 27, 2006

from the depths...

MAN -- it's been over a month since I've written here, and what a month. Very little riding. I can't begin to describe for you what it means to lose someone you care about. Only those that have gone thru it before can know. It's tough...and that's a gross understatement of the truth. I've had little motivation to even get out of bed somedays, but I've still been doing it - thankfully. My health is good, I suppose, but my goals of losing weight have slipped by the wayside. I'm picking the pieces up, slowly. It's amazing how we "run back to momma", sometimes; I'm re-finding comfort in things I've learned to avoid over the years, like food. I guess they call it 'comfort food' for a reason. Other long-forgotten habits have made temporary returns, and have since been abandoned as well -- only human after all, I wish I could say that I'm stronger than all of this, but I can't. Fallable, for sure - but congnizant enough to recognize the reasons; more importantly the reasons to stop again. Time to lift myself up from the depths, and find the sunshine again.

I've begun Yoga classes, and I can honestly say that I had been sceptical, but am now - in only a short time - a believer. While this has not only helped with the obvious, like breath control and balance and flexibility, it has also refocused me mentally on my goals. I can see the pieces falling back into place; the jigsaw puzzle of my life that I'd had so carefully constructed and then let be tossed into the gale of life's difficulties over the last 40 days. I scoured the endless fields of my past for the pieces, sometimes in the darkness of my dreams, and have finally placed them all back in a large pile in front of me. I can see the patterns, and I can see the finished product coming together once more.

Bicycling is a large, easy to find piece - but it's been hard to get it to fit back into the puzzle. I find myself staring at the bikes - still upsidedown in their hooks in the garage, tires still holding on to the last bit of pressure, and a thin layer of neglect collected on the surfaces facing the ceiling. Often with a careful finger I've wiped some of it clean, only to sigh heavily and walk away again. Many a cold morning, where I knew that the path to a good day lay at the END of a nice, long ride, I've found myself still stuck at the beginning only half-dressed for the ride, collasping back into the chair and reversing the process by retreating to my every-day clothes again. I have found myself packing my Carradice for the next day's ride, only to unpack the next morning and retreat to the car. The voices of motivation haven't grown silent - they're simply drowned out under the growl of doubt and "blah". It's true what is oft said about getting back into something you've set aside. Despite the strength of my previous passions, simply STARTING again is proving harder than the act itself.

There is always tomorrow. Lately, while driving here and there, I've been catching myself once again regarding certain roads by their grade of "ride-ability" - and that's a good sign. Trainspotting the other evening, watching the action on the Emporia sub just west of town, I found a myriad of "new" roads that are ripe for a good gravel ride. When the mind starts leaning that way, it's time for the body to follow.

I have a clear vision of myself putting fresh air into neglected Pasela's, stuffing work clothes into a lonely Carradice, and warming up a shirked saddle. Surely it will do my soul some good, and provide the neccessary warm-up for New Year's Day, where I *am* commited.
I'll not let the shortcomings of late this year cloud the promise of the one coming.

Besides, it is only ten short months until 500-miles looms once again.

November 24, 2006

With head held high, we move forward

First let me say that I appreciate all the kind words and thoughts that were sent to our family during the last month - they mean a lot, and will be cherished forever. Having said that, it's time to move forward - as he would have wanted it; not to dwell or linger in the past for too long. So, I have removed some of the more personal effects from the blog - and we now, as they say, return you to our regularly scheduled programming...

Marching back towards regular cycling is one step I can now take, as the clock finally ticks down on my time as a member of the injured reserve list. With only four days left to go, and a lot of baggage to unload, I took the bikes down from the rafters last night, aired up the tires and took a few laps around the neighborhood. I'm happy to report that the pains of the last month are gone, and practically forgotten during daily life these past few weeks. Yard work, playing with the kids, lifting, stretching and general walking around haven't produced any tightness or flaring in the ankle or tendon area. While this injury had become FAR less important over the past weeks, it has popped back into importance as I've looked for ways to occupy myself, and maintain fitness.

While it will take some time to get back to a level of competitiveness, it should also be noted that I really haven't been at a competitive level for some years now. Since 2003, I have really taken a laxidazical approach to riding and eating and health in general. Only recently have I been motivated to do something about that, and by rejoining Weight Watchers this past month, I have lost a total of 10.2 lbs -- however I must admit that Thanksgiving was tough this year, for obvious reasons, and I may have slid backwards a touch; but I can restart and correct for that easily - which is the plan. A solid upper body program has turned into habit, and also while it's been hard to keep that up over the past week, I'm anxious to get back into it, and get more results - some of which have already begun to show. Looking back on HOW I made 2003 such a solid season, it's clear now what's been missing - hard work. It was NOT easy before, but sometimes looking back it seems so impossible -- this time, and for all of 2007, I'm prepared to do the work that delivers the results I have waxed philisophical about.

The first steps, however, are in the form of slow rebuilding. Cycling remains a strong passion, but jumping back into action with a metric century is NOT in the cards. It's almost December, after all, and big miles are really not in the cards -- even though as I write this it's nearly 65 degrees outside! Not bad for the day after Thanksgiving. As much as I'd LIKE to get right back into the thick of riding, I know that I can't, and it will take some time to build up even to a COMMUTE to work! Last night started with approx. 3.5 miles. Today, later this afternoon when the heat of hte day peaks out, I'll go for about 5-7 miles. Then, 7-10 miles. After that, 10-12 miles, then 12-15, then 15-20 -- after reaching a successful 20 mile ride, I'll be ready to start commuting again, sporadically. Rest days will be important, too. After commuting for a bit, the weekends will hold more distance. It will almost be like starting over: though I likely haven't lost THAT much, six weeks off doing ANYTHING cardio-related will certainly have some sort of consequence attached to it.

Reaching 30 miles on the weekends may have to come as early as NEXT weekend, however, with the last CommuterDude ride of the year - this will be a 34 mile ride, at a REALLY easy pace. Hopefully, nothing will prevent me from doing that ride, but I'll have to be cautious. Worst case, I can drive support for the ride, and let others enjoy it - but we'll see. I'm NOT going to reschedule it again!! Promise!

After the 35-mile marker, things will start to get easier, I imagine. Strength and endurance will come back, and hopefully with no reminders of the injury. Knocking on wood!!! The next goals will be the metric century, and that may well be the extent of mileage training until things begin to turn around in late February. After that, serious ramping up for the brevets will have to begin, and I may see my first full century ride in early March (pending the brevet schedule).

After that, a full schedule of 200, 300, 400 and 600K rides ensue - once again with the 600 holding up the scepter of "longest ride ever", since Tejas didn't go as well as planned. I still have yet to break the 300 mile mark in a single event, so I'm looking again at early May for the personal record attempt. With that in the bag, Tejas 2007 will likely hold far fewer surprises.

All in good time... Stay tuned! We're on our way back, baby!!!

November 3, 2006

Taking stock of the situation

I've learned a lot over the past week -- once injured or something happens, I turn into research-boy - scanning the net for clues, hints, tips... a glimmer of hope. It's been interesting. First off, it's REALLY hard to find CYCLING SPECIFIC information on Achilles tendinitis (or tendOnitis, which I learned is also an acceptable spelling in medical journals...) -- most of the information out there is for long distance runners. But, most of the information is adaptable. So, I learned some stuff on how to heal correctly.

Also broke down on Wednesday and visited the doctor's office - just in case. Each morning the pain and stiffness has been getting progressively better, and also it is taking longer into the day for things to flare back up again - so that means that it's probably healing well. However, I *AM* glad I went to the doc, because a set of x-rays put my mind (and his) at ease about the nature of the injury. No calcifications, no frays or tears, nothing permanent - which is good - but defintely a little stress.

Over-use injury -- no doy.

Let's see; number one was not riding a single weekend between the MS-150 in early September until Tejas in late October. Body not ready for the massive jump in mileage, ya think? Strike one.

Walking to the tent in the dark? Strike two - stumbled on SOMETHING, but not sure what. That irritated things and pushed it over the edge.... but what is "it", in this case? "IT" was saddle height! Strike three.

"What??? I thought the dude was all tape-measury and stuff????"

Well, I know -- I SHOULD be... but on the most recent of my builds I have been using the tape measure only sporadically, and the saddle heights were all adjusted on the trainer "biomechanically" -- specifically, the "heel test".
What's that?
Get on the bike, pedal a little to settle in, and then unclip one foot from the pedals and try to touch your extended heel to the pedal when it's furthest away from you, at the 5 o'clock position or thereabouts. The way it reads is, you should be "barely able to touch it, but are NOT able to plant your weight on it - if you can, your seat is too low." Okay, cake... so I got the saddles in a good starting place, and then took it from there. They always felt fine, no issues, no knee pain, etc.

HOWEVER, I forgot a critical thing: "barely able to touch it" is VERY VAGUE. Sure, I was barely able to touch the pedals with my heel - but compared to WHAT? Like, you can only MAYBE touch them, or you simply can't get your whole heel on there? And what if you drop your hips a little to one side? What then? We're talking full centimeters here, potentially!

Cut back to today, and my specific injury. Possibly caused by over-extending the ankle downward, putting undue stretch on the achilles tendon -- multiply by however many pedal strokes it takes to get to 220 miles. Yeesh... toss in a hobble on a rock or something on a dark walk back to the tent, and then ride AGAIN, yeah - that might do it. But were the saddles too low all this time? And if they were, how come I didn't notice any knee pain???

Well, there was no knee pain because I *WAS* able to "barely" brush the pedals with my heel... that only means that it's not too high OR too low for my KNEES. What about joints that don't have such a broad sweep of range like the knees do? Like the ankle? It's a pretty tight arrangement down there.

So, I dug into the toolbox and got out the old tape measure that I'd used in the past to get all anal about saddle height and handlebars and such. There, upon it's surface, was the old tick-mark that designated the seat-height on my original road bike, the orange Schwinn. The benchmark.
Lets see how close the "heel test" got me...

Yikes.

First, the Kogswell --- survey says...... >EAARRRRRNNNN!!!!<
WRONG! Close, but no banana. The saddle was indeed low - by about 3/8 of an inch!
That's a LOT, dude. So, I got out the allen wrenches and got it spec'd exactly how all my older bikes had been in the past. After re-centering the saddle and tightening everything up, I threw it into the track-stand and mounted up....and performed the "heel test"...

THIS time, I truly was only *BARELY* able to brush my extended heel on the pedal -- I mean **BARELY** --- maybe THIS is what they were talking about! That explains the mild, but manageable, knee pain after the MS-150 this year (done on the Kogswell).
DUDE, sometimes your dumbness amazes me... talking to me. Wow.

So, not low enough to hurt the knees, obviously - but low enough that the over-use injury itself was probably brewing a lot longer than just this recent Tejas weekend -- it was probably brewing all summer long on commutes on a saddle that was just about a centimeter too low - but, at only 11 miles at a time I would never have revealed it.

Not even on a century, perhaps. But it was indeed causing heel-drop at the bottom of each pedal stroke, and giving the achilles a slight tug. The twisted ankle probably sent things over the edge at Tejas, and then riding on it just made it worse.

But wait --- I wasn't ON the Kogswell in Texas... I was on the Weapon... the Cannondale. Could I have screwed up there, too?

Well, probably so, foolio.

I then took the tape measure to the Cannondale and found the same issue - just not to the same degree. The saddle was actually fairly close - but still about 1/4" too low. While this might not have been enough to cause the initial injury, it was certainly enough to make life a little less comfy. Still, it probably saved me from having to bow out of Tejas after only 100 miles, instead of 220. Who knows... but again, the revised "heel test" after adjusting the Cannondale proved the same as it had minutes before: It was much more apparent what *BARELY* meant in those instructions. The Cannondale is now the same as the Kogswell, and now BOTH bikes are the same as the old Schwinn had been - which was PERFECT at MV24.
I tossed C'Dale into the trainer next and spun for about five, pain-free minutes -- of course that's probably the ankle wrap, ibuprofen and Flexoril talking... I'm still taking the doc's advice -- no riding for 4 more weeks: but I can't WAIT for December 1st to get out and ride a short 15 miles and see how things feel - based on that short trainer session, the bike feels more "dialed" that it has since I bought it.

Why I didn't notice this sooner is beyond me, because it could have prevented a LOT of hassle and pain. I'm very glad I read that piece on saddle height relating to tendinitis: Otherwise I would've jumped on the bike on December 1st and started the injury process all over again on the Kogswell with too-low a saddle. Now, the position, and the way my legs are behaving in that new position, everything feels neutral, efficient, and fluid. I never felt like my knees were coming up too high before - but now, it's clear that something was "off" -- both bikes not only feel identical to each other, but they both also seem to fit me better now. I'm really disappointed that my stickler-ness didn't catch THIS important detail.... but, hey; at least all my crimp ends are color-matched.

Dummy.

So, there ya have it --- saddle height is not something to be messed with, and not only from a knee perspective. Now my heels don't drop -- my toes have to point a little to make it to the bottom of the stroke, and that relaxes that tendon nicely... this is how it SHOULD be. No hip rocking, no pain; nice and smooth.
The only reason I didn't have this issue at Tinbutt is likely that the Cannondale's saddle WAS closer than the Kogswells - but also, I didn't stumble on any campsite debris, either.

The mystery is solved: A combination of too much mileage on a bike with too-low a saddle all summer, the transition to a bike with a slightly different saddle height, a 12-hour drive in a car with no cruise control, a stumble/ankle-twist on a walk to/from the tent, a hilly course, and a jump in mileage from 110-per-week to 220 in less than 24-hours, and not ramping-up with weekend rides of ANY distance for over a month leading up to it.

All that equals a painful mistake that didn't have to happen. But that's life.

Man, this is gonna be a LONG month.

October 29, 2006

The Next C'Dude Ride - RESCHEDULED!!!

Pay attention, kids ... this is sometimes a neccessary evil:

I'm headed to Chi-Town on family biz on the 11th, so the widely publicized C'Dude ride that WAS to take place on that date has been moved out:

Please make a note of the new date:

Saturday, November 18th, 7:00AM!

Hopefully it will be dry, but there are never any guarantees this time of year, ya know? Dress warmly, and be ready to enjoy a brisk pace and some hot coffee and pastries, ya'll. It's the joint! Be there!

Ride details are available at the main webpage, so won'tcha nav that way?

Le Team C'Dude Page



PS: the ankle is healing... so, let's get back to the business of riding to work, why don't we? That is what this is all about, ya know?

October 26, 2006

IT'S HERE! Tune in!




Welp, this is it -- the culmination of years of preparation (without my knowledge), the training, the goofiness, the singing in the shower, the trials, the annoying my cube-neighbors at work, the cassette tapes, the endless miles of microphone wire stretched across the decades....

It's time...to audition - * LIVE *!

Tune in TOMORROW:
that's FRIDAY, OCTOBER 27th!
Starting around 6:30AM, or there-abouts... BE THERE!

LOCAL KANSAS CITY FOLLOWERS of DUDE: 99.7 Mhz on your FM dial!

INTERNATIONAL GROUPIES of DUDE: Streaming audio available at...
KYYS - LISTEN LIVE
(Don't be discouraged by the need to sign up - it doesn't spam you or anything)

Seriously, I appreciate ALL of the support from family and friends over these past weeks! It's been CRAZY, the voting, the hoping!

This is a rare, one-shot opportunity to do what I honestly believe what I was meant to do. Honestly, if every other day you have someone on your voicemail telling you that "you should be in radio", eventually one has to realize that it's probably a sign. Fingers crossed, kids!!!

October 24, 2006

Tejas Wrap-Up, Part Three

More ramblings, perhaps? Of course! That's what this blog is all about, really...

Here's some more details about the ride itself, for your reading pleasure...

It was a strange feeling, first of all, driving down to Texas in the middle of the night. My preferred method of interstate travel starts with a long, overnight drive to avoid traffic and the usual construction issues that usually happen along the highways. Unfortunately, this didn't do wonders for my sleep clock and personal awareness. Leaving at midnight Wednesday, and driving until I arrived in the afternoon the same day made it seem like it was Thursday already. All afternoon, even though it was only 4:00pm, I kept thinking it was 7:30pm or something - very odd.

I slept like a rock that night, on a comfortable bed.

The next day - race day - we rose and began to ready ourselves for the task ahead. Another weird thing about the Tejas ride was the fact it started in the evening. This was a first, at least for a ride of this size. I'd done evening rides before, but we're talking after-work rides of 20 miles or so - you ride at 6pm, and you're done by 8pm. In this case, we were starting a 48-hour event at 5:30 PM. One lap of daylight, and then it's lights-on for the next 8-10 hours. WEIRD! But, smart, on the part of the race organizers. In an event where sleep deprivation is as much a part of training as endurance rides are, having the riders make it through the first night right off the bat probably prevented a lot of sleep-deprivation-related issues, because the sun will come up before the sleepies have a real chance to take hold. 5:30 came, the whistle blew, and we were off and riding!

I started WAY in the back of the pack. Even though drafting was allowed for part of the first lap, I chose not to participate much. I eventually worked my way up to DT about halfway up to the lime plant at mile five, and stuck in with him for a bit, along with some other random riders. I figured, this was probably the only chance I'd get to talk to ANYONE for the rest of the ride, since a strict no-drafting policy was to ensue after the first stop-sign came. After reaching the first turn on the magnificent course, we enjoyed a nice tailwind to the first stop sign, and then turned southwest onto the back-side of the loop. Considerably less climbing here, it seemed, save for the steady rollers, I was really enjoying myself. Eating up hill after hill, and savoring the LONG downhills, this ride was gonna be a blast!

We passed by a new development called "The Retreat", an up-scale looking community that was still under construction - and the roadside construction barrels and such made it easy to call off the miles, as they provided the needed mental landmarks that helped pass the time. The bike was performing nicely, as I climbed and descended along the nicely rolling road - any doubts I'd had about the Cannondale being "neccessary" in my stable were quickly put to rest. This is a GREAT bike, and it would continue to prove itself comfortable and responsive mile after mile for the next couple days - which is something that one could never say about a Cannondale in the past.

In the last five miles of the course came my favorite section. All of the cumulative altitude we'd gained over the course of the loop was about to be paid back in full in the course of three miles. A curve, a split in the road, and then a long steady climb to the back ridge of the loop, and then finally a LONG, probably two-mile long downhill followed at a steep pitch. Any complaints riders might have had about the first section of climbing on the course were probably put to rest on this section, as one realizes things would be far worse if we'd been riding in the opposite direction. This was SOME hill. Only a short, 1/2 mile flat section separated this long hill from another long downhill that curved and plunged down to a bridge. Usually, speeds without pedaling would top out in the upper 30 MPH range, and then BAM - the momentum would be sapped up quickly as the road pitched back up after the bridge, and led riders up to the start/finish line. Numbers were shouted out, lap times checked, and then you'd start over again. It was deceiving at first glance, but this was a technical course. The nearly nine miles of climbing on the first section had some riders calling it "Colorado-like", and the constant rollers on the backside of the loop, though not as steep, were reminiscent of brevet season in Kansas City. It's truly a course with something for everyone.

After the first lap, which was clicked off in an hour and five minutes, it was clear that from here in we'd be in the dark for a while. The sun was dipping, along with the temperatures and jackets, warmers, earbands and reflective vests came out of bags and into service. Head-lights flickered to life, and tail-lights came aglow. It was a magical moment, and on this first moonless night we'd all learn the course details, inch by inch feeling our way along. I was once again extremely pleased with my generator set-up, not at all concerned with its weight and supposed "rolling resistance", as a clean, white beam of light shone brightly in front of me, lighting up the road, the signs, and any obstacles that happened to be there. Fumbling with battery lights just isn't worth the trouble anymore - even on long, fast downhills the beam was spectacular, allowing full-speed descents without fear of something sneaking out of the dark to dismount me. Again, my thanks to Peter White for bringing these fine systems to the states. Simply awesome!

Riding up past the Lime plant on Park Road 21 and then onto the longest part of the climbing brought me up onto a plateau, which was pretty neat during the day, but downright mystical at night. The lights in the horizon were so far away that they flickered and twinkled just like distant stars, and airplanes on final approach could be seen miles away, beacons flashing silently across the night sky. Only the rush of the occasional passing truck broke up the scene.

The trucks were truly driven by professionals, and it was hard to believe I was in Texas. Tales of beer bottles and close-calls flowed through my head, but really there was nothing of the sort - save for one solitary yeahoo on Friday afternoon. The heavy trucks gave a wide berth, and passed with true care. It was nice.

There was the occasional night-time weirdness on that first night: first, the continuously dropping temperatures also made it hard to believe I was in Texas, as lap after lap I added layer after layer to keep warm. There wasn't much to see, but there was a lot to hear. On the upper two-mile portion of the loop, a bull hollered at two of us as we passed by, with a frustrated and confused "mooooouuuuhh!!!", seemingly coming right from the fence line as we rolled past. That was loud, and a little freaky. Then there was the late-model red Ford Escort that did a slow fly-by while I climbed the steepest and longest part of the climb on the next lap. With hazard flashers going, I assumed it was one of the officials checking on riders, but it was not. The Escort, complete with two teenage boys, had a flat rear tire and was slowly attempting to make it back to town. The smell of hot rubber was thick in the air as they slowly rolled past me, barely going faster than I was. Eventually, they gave up and ended up parking it on the shoulder a little later up the road, walking home from there. It was entertaining the next day to ride past this car over and over, and eventually see them back out, with a parent, trying to fix the flat tire. There was a spark of recognition from the driver as I rode past, nearly 12 hours later -- "yep. I'm STILL riding my bicycle." He looked confused, amazed....priceless.

Lap after lap I ticked off the miles, promising myself a rest after the first hundred miles were tucked away. During lap five, a real visual treat; as Orion began to rise on the eastern horizon I rolled up the last part of a climb on the back-half of the loop, atop the highest portion of the course. As I rounded off the top, I could see the next four miles of the course - marked only by the lonely taillights of the riders that were already up there. All evenly lined up, with little blotches of headlight beam visible in front of them, it was a beautiful sight: no cars, just bikes scattered along a perfectly winding road that merged almost seamlessly with the brilliant and cold night sky. As I began to descend to catch them, the super-cooled air near a lake snuck into my open jersey, and I pulled my zipper up quick to compensate for the 40 degree air. It was a fantastic moment.

Unfortunately, the demon of sleep crept up to smack my dreams down a little, as I took the promised sleep break at the end of my first century. My loose plan was to ride 100, sleep for 2 hours, and repeat. Plenty of time to do this -- unfortunately, I was tired enough to either sleep through my alarm, or at least smack the snooze button faster than I could reach consciousness. I slept for a full SEVEN hours instead!!! A full nights' rest!! Well, no sense getting upset about it -- it was what it was, and so I rose up in the REALLY cold 35º air of the early morning, and prepared to get back on the bike.

That's when difficulty started to hit me. Either on the way from the bike to the tent, or vice versa, I had twisted my ankle on a rock or branch or something, and upon getting back on the road that next morning, my right ankle had a slight twinge to it, out back by the heel and tendon. Uh-oh... but, similar to the ankle problem that hit my left leg during MV24 I decided that I could ride through it and it would work itself out. I started the first of my next set of laps, and rode as best I could.
Each lap, unfortunately, became more tense than the next as the back of my right leg began to seize up with sharper and sharper pain, and walking around while off the bike became harder and harder. This was not good! How much longer would I be able to "ride this off?" I began to think about my options as I popped two Aleve, and continued on.

This was frustrating: my knees, legs, arms, shoulders, neck, and will to continue were all fine; no cramps, no food issues, no stomach issues, no headaches -- just this one, nagging, one-inch by one-inch section of achilles/ankle pain was making things really nasty, and it was becoming difficult to do what I've become good at: climbing. Sitting or standing, the pain worsened, despite Icy/Hot rubs and Naproxen Sodium intake after each lap. After 120 more miles, and the beginning of another sundown, it was decision-time.

Knowing that I'd slept too long already, and that my average per lap was starting to drop because of the injury that would not yield, I began to realize that I was not going to have enough time to get 500 miles inside the alotted 48-hour cutoff. Frustrated, and saddened by losing the chance to ride into another mystical night, I wrestled with my options and eventually decided to NOT risk a permanent injury. I was already limping after walking only a few feet off the bike, and the pain was sharp and defining. Like a knife to the back of the heel, just above the ankle, my decision was being made for me, and I wasn't happy about it. I wanted to continue -- but at what cost, considering I might not even be an official finisher after it would be all said and done?

Gut check time - time to be the bigger, smarter person. I reluctantly unpinned my rider number from the back of my reflective vest, and hobbled over to the official's tent near the start/finish. It was a long walk/limp of personal shame - but perhaps the walk of a smarter man, a man that wanted to walk tomorrow, rather than finish just short of 500 miles today and perhaps not being able to ride for months afterward.

I handed my rider bib to the lap tracking team, and hobbled silently away.
The official reason for withdrawl read "injury" - a first for me. Hopefully the last.

For the next 12 hours I would sit by the roadside in the cold night air, watching rider after stronger-than-I rider pass by in the night. Occasionally, after a long while in the chair, I would get up and examine the notion of at least, after 220 miles, getting a new PERSONAL best -- what more could it hurt to just break 300 miles with four more laps??? Then I would walk ten feet, and nearly be brought to my knees with the reminder of pain. This stinks.

Like a shackle around my soul, the pain kept me lashed to the chair. I WANTED to ride, but something wasn't letting me - and I was sad. I felt horrible, guilty, mad, somber - all at once. But, sometimes it's like that.

Severe saddle sores for the Warbird once upon a 300K, a bum knee for DT once upon a 400K, and now my turn with this ankle/tendon issue. Every man has his turn - and true, I'm not getting any younger. Sit down, suck it up, and rest that leg. You'll live to ride again. Despite all my training, and my clear mental approach to this event, this is proof that sometimes it's just not up to me. Injuries can't be planned for, forseen, or sometimes even prevented. I just have to exercise caution next time, make sure that I'm taking every precaution that I can -- no more distant campsites, or long dark walks to and from the tent -- next year's site will be closer to the road, and clear of walking obstacles. That's probably the best I can do! Perhaps next year I'll rent a van, and that way I won't even NEED a tent to sleep and change clothes. Lot's of time to plan, but I've learned more valuable lessons, and more importantly how to deal with things that I don't have complete control over. It could have been a rash of flat tires, a frame failure, or heaven-forbid a mal-attentive motorist that might have caused a more serious injury -- there is SO much that hangs in the balance out on these long rides, and I can't control it all.

A simple ankle twist, and I'm out of the running --- but it could have been a lot worse, and I know that.

Time to get past it, and ride on.



Several days later, here I am feeling better, walking better, and already planning next year. It'll be a nice, long, steady winter - and spring will be here in less than 80 days.

I'll be back. Solo Tejas 500 in 2007, with no regrets!
The ankle will heal - and so will my constitution.

First things first --- as noted below:
- Lose 20 lbs., slow and correctly. Keep it off.
- Cross train - strengthen the upper core to help counter-act the lower body.
- More fast centuries during the summer.
- No riding until the ankle is healed. Then, start slow again.
- No rush - it's gonna be winter, after all. Look to spring, and the 200K!

Tejas Wrap Up - Part Two

Ok, more ramblings from the road...

A few more days have passed, and the ankle is getting better - at least I can walk on it now, and not have sharp shooting pain - the pain is more dull now, and there is a general tightness to it, but it's serviceable. I can walk longer distances now, etc. Not sure if my doctor needs to see this or not - I think if it's getting better, that should be good enough - but that's me in a nutshell: unless it's bleeding or has been seperated from my body, my doctor doesn't get to see me. This isn't life-threatening - so I'm gonna deal with it.

The REAL test will come this weekend, more than likely, when I plan on putting the C'Dale back on the road for a short recovery-style ride, with moderate climbing to see if the thing will flare up again. I suppose if THAT ride makes it WORSE, then I'll probably go have it looked at. It's a long winter, and hopefully there will be enough time for a rapid recovery. I remember a few situations during the ride where I was walking back from/to the tent, and I side-stepped a rock or something and might have twisted my ankle. I'm hoping THAT was the case, and not something on the bike that caused it.
Time will tell.

To confirm that suspicion I've taken the tape measure to the bikes again, and have made direct comparisons between the training bike and the racing bike.

Step #1 was to change out the pedals. Purchased in 2002, the Shimano PD-M959 pedals I've been running have worn a little and there is noticable play in the bearings - while they still spin smooth, I am able to physically manipulate the pedal body over the axles and introduce deflection of about 1mm - which isn't much, but when amplified to the ankle it might have at least exascerbated the injury. I swapped the pedals out because of this finding, to newer - but heavier - PD-M520 models that were previously on the fixed gear. They only have about 300 miles on them. The main differences are in the pedal axles, and seals, but they are generally pretty good. This might be a good opportunity to eyeball some pricier, lighter, beefier pedals from Crank Brothers, but not sure yet. These 520's will get me thru the winter and spring brevets for sure. That solves the pedal deflection issue!

The other fit issue I discovered was that the seatpost on the C'dale was about 2mm taller than the seatpost on the training bike. While this is not a huge margin, it IS a difference, and might also have exacerbated the injury in the guise of possible over-extension of the achilles and ankle. I'm now convinced, with this discovery, that the initial injury occured OFF the bike, because the seat height hasn't changed between the training bike and the race bike at any time, even for Tinbutt in July. After 12-hours in the saddle at Tinbutt, there were no injuries, no knee issues, etc, and certainly no ankle issues. That solidifes something I had read once about knee issues and tolerances between bicyclists running multiple bicycles; The training bike and the race bike should be within 3mm of each other to avoid any fit issues when transitioning from one bike to the other. So, having said that, I can drop the saddle 2mm and not experience any fit issues with knees or other joints, but may in the process improve recovery of the ankle by avoiding further over-extension. We'll see if that comes true or not, but it makes sense, and with that 2mm drop, the two bikes are nearly identical in fit now.

So, that takes care of the bicycle - I'm not changing anything else at this point.

The rest of the package HAS to change, however - 20-lbs. makes a huge difference, and so my personal weight-loss struggles continue. It's my winter project, for sure, and I should be able to come back in the spring lighter and stronger. That should make the brevets easier and make speed training more productive. No more t-shirt rides - just a few CommuterDude rides here and there to break things up, but other than that it's fast centuries starting in the late spring. The first 200K will be strictly for base-building, and after that I start the speed runs. Assuming I can get back to the 18 MPH average (with stops) centuries I used to be able to turn out, the first couple hundred miles at Tejas NEXT year should be easier to click off, which will buy me more off-bike time if I need it.

Of course, the ultimate off-bike time goal would be sleeping a full night AFTER I polish off 400 miles, so we'll be working towards that goal as well, likely with a 600K attempt without sleep next May. We'll see how that goes, too!

So, my personal best mileage still sits at 290 miles from MV24, but last weekend was the closest I've been in a LONG time.

I'm ready to get past this injury, and get on with getting ready for next year
already! That, and getting past the nearly 20 black-fly and mosquito bites I got while changing my only flat tire near sundown on Friday night. And that was WITH bug-spray applied. I think that stuff had expired or something. Bug bites are a pain. Literally. Oh well! At least it didn't rain!

Jinx for next year! ;)

October 22, 2006

Tejas Wrap-Up - Part One

I don't have time to type much, but here's a few points - mainly for myself, for next time:

MINUSES:

1) need better time management between laps - need help waking up from sleep breaks
2) have support work in shifts - support each other as well as rider
3) Two-Man team? not a bad idea, considering the mileage DT and I massed ALONE.
4) More REAL food & Carboplex, not SE anymore (need something cheaper, more flexible)
5) Training, training, training:
a) more speed work at the century-level, to keep average consistent
b) commuting is good, but need distance on weekends, too, even if it means a break from riding during the week.
c) fewer miles this year is NOT what killed it - it was just SPEED & time management.
6) Figure out what happened to the ankle/achilles tendon - and prevent it.
a) right pedal on Cannondale is loose at bearing - replace it!
b) avoid campsite where it's a long walk from car to camp - avoid ankle twists
c) get cruise control for the car, or rent a van w/ cruise - ankle in one position like that for 12 hours might have been a factor.
7) Buy DT some better tires.




PLUSSES:

1) it was FUN!
2) I learned more stuff - always good.
3) I was never fatigued or sore, and never cramped!
4) only one saddle sore
5) the sky at night ALONE was worth the ride.
6) I *LOVE* the course
7) the injury was the ONLY reason I stopped
8) The support we had was tremendous!
9) the fireplace
10) a single halogen lumotec is PLENTY of light - LOVE IT
11) Only one flat tire, and it happened at the start/finish line - no field repairs
12) IT WAS FUN!
13) the super-car caravan on Saturday AM (16 (no lie - SIXTEEN cars) ferraris porsches and lamborghinis on the way to a morning golf game?)
14) IT WAS FUN!
14a) MUCH stronger riders than me ALSO went home as DNFs.
15) IT WAS FUN!
16) VERY well run event - EXTREMELY well run!
17) cruise control for the car. that drive sucked.
18) only ONE jerk on the road.
19) the training I HAD worked well - had I not slept so long, I would have been on a perfect pace for 500 miles - (but, again like MV24, the sleep monster gets me in the end.)


There is a little of a been-there; done-that feeling about Tinbutt and Tejas now.
Thinking next year I might host DT up this way, and try Iowa 24-Hour for something new - but that's still open for discussion, too.

BUT, it comes back to vindication - if you can't read between the lines, I was NOT an official Tejas 500 finisher this year, so part of me looks to next year, and how to get one of those nice trophies. DT and I have talked, and it looks like Tejas again next year for sure -- he wants to get a finish, and that's good enough for me! Heck, *I* want a finish, too. There is no reason I can't do it.

Much much more to come about Tejas - stay tuned! I had to get this stuff down, tho, before too much time passed.

October 17, 2006

The beast is upon me.






It's HERE!!!


THE TEXAS TIME TRIALS!


The full write-up, coming after the big ride wraps up!
See you on the road around Cleburne! WHOOO!!!

The shape of things to come!

HOLY MOLEY!

Well, kids -- in a previous post, actually the one JUST before this one, I had all but given up hope of becoming the next "KC Radio God". The voting was over, the polls announced, and I hadn't even made the top ten. Oh well... I just don't know enough people, that's all! I still appreciate all the support I got.

Life was about to go on....

Then the phone rang! I got an official invitation to come into the studio at 99.7 KYYS and audition ON AIR with the morning show, regardless of my voting status, because they liked my tape and style! DANG!!!! REALLY???!!! YES! I'LL BE THERE!!

So, Next Friday, October 27th, besure to tune into 99.7FM in Kansas City to hear how horribly I lock up and collapse into a pool of my own drool at around 7:00am central time. Or, you can soak it up on the web with streaming audio at www.KYYS.com!

Either way, it'll be good for a laugh -- I won't say WHY you'll be laughing, but, you know!

Wish me luck!

October 10, 2006

Vote for ME! Please!!!

To everyone that voted for me, thanks for all of your support -- the voting is in, and (sadly) it wasn't me in the top-three -- this time.

However, I'm still pursuing this - this was an excellent opporunity, and a great chance to be a part of a radio station that I grew up with! Officially, the final votes don't create a final decision, so I'm still fighting!

Thanks to all of you that put me here!!

Stay tuned for more bike stories!

October 7, 2006

The Tejas Countdown begins!

Welp, less than two weeks between me and 500 miles of fun!

And, to be honest, I'm not even really that concerned about it, which is REALLY out of character for me. I guess lately I've been putting things more in perspective - it is, after all, JUST A BIKE RIDE. That may be a slight over-simplification, but after this last weekend with my father being in the ICU at the hospital (still there as I write this, actually - but getting better) , and various other family things happening, this huge bike ride is nothing to get anxious about. If anything, it should provide me a WHOLE lot of "me time", to continue thinking about the big picture, and such. In the process of figuring things out, I'll get a major dose of self-worth when it's all said and done. I plan to finish - nothing more. I make no promises about how fast I'll finish, or how I'll eat, or what my off-bike strategery will be -- I just plan to finish. There is a 48-hour cutoff, and I'm treating it like a brevet - because that's the kind of ride I am. And, taking the math into consideration, with 48 hours to work with, I only have to average slightly faster than I would on a traditional ACP brevet to complete the task. I think I can manage 10.4 MPH for a couple days. Of course, I'll be faster than that ON the bike -- what it means is I'll have plenty of time to sleep if I need to, eat when I need to, and ENJOY the event. There are far more talented people there that will finish ridiculously fast, with crew and all helping along; and that's FANTASTIC for them -- I look up to them -- but I'm no longer trying to BE them, or BEAT them. All I have to do it beat MYSELF at the mental wresting match that will, certainly, have me up against the ropes of self-worth and consititution at least three of four times during the course of the journey. No biggie. I have a LOT to pull from that will keep me moving. I won't bore you with it here: I'm saving it for the road around Cleburne, Texas.

I'm also following these basic packing techniques:

I owe this one to the Warbird: how to pack for a REALLY long ride:
Step 1) open duffle bag.
Step 2) insert EVERY last ribbon of cycling clothing you own.
Step 3) close bag.

That oughta cover it.

Food? Bring EVERYTHING. You never know what you'll be hungry for. Just have stuff to eat and drink. Good stuff. Slow-burn stuff. And some SE. Don't pre-mix ANYTHING.

Bike? Just ride it. Bring some tools, and some spare tubes, maybe an extra tire. If things get THAT bad, it wasn't meant to be anyways - and it's just a bike ride.
Don't bring a spare bike - don't stress the small stuff. If you maintain your bike well enough, you know what you need to know, and you've seen what you need to see. Ride. That's it. Just RIDE.

The entry fee is paid, the check cleared, and the T-shirt is waiting for me.
Time to get this thing DONE, so I can go on some coffee rides and stop training.

Next year -- brevets ONLY. It's a Paris year, baby. I don't know if I'm going yet - so don't ask me - but I'm at least gonna qualify. If I can pull off 800K in 48 hours, certainly I can pull off 600K in 40 hours next May.
And if I can't make Paris -- there's a lot of 1200K's stateside I can hit, and I'll feel JUST as good about things!

So, wish me luck, and we'll see you in the Lone Star State in 13 days!!!
Roll the 500, baby!!!!

October 3, 2006

Radio Needs Me.

I NEVER BEG, but now I HAVE to:

A local radio station, one that I've been listening to since I was a CHILD, is holding open auditions to fill an open spot on their morning show! I *HAD* to try out, and I did, and now the entry is posted for YOUR VOTE!

Please go to www.KYYS.com and click on the links to the "Next KC Radio God", and then look for "group 5", and vote for that familiar face, PLEASE!


Only one vote per person, so tell a friend!

AHHH! I can't stand it! It's nuts!
It's crazy! People have been telling me for years taht I should be in radio, and this is a legitimate shot -- it's not a contest, it's the real deal, contract and all. Help a Dude out! Put me on the air! Make me ride my bicycle to Fairway, KS every morning! I'll do it!

Ok -- plea complete. I appreciate your vote!

September 28, 2006

Transition

With three layers between me and the elements I part the rainy air, leaving nothing but a thin line of raised water and a ghostly balloon of mist behind me in the twilight. Only a dot on suburbia’s landscape, I carve my own tiny bubble of utopia – I might be in Olathe, but in my minds-eye I’m on a secluded rural byway outside Nausthaugen. It’s late September, and my sleeves are long.

Mallard ducks – about seven of them, huddled on the waters surface near the pier of a small wooden bridge that crosses over Indian Creek. I don’t even know exactly where I am, in relation to the world around me – which I’m sure is only ¼ mile away in any direction – here, I am alone with nature. There is a rustling, a breeze, a few raindrops fall. This ½ second slice of time, as loose boards rattle and shake under my tires, seems to last an hour – but it’s come and gone in the blink of an eye as I whisk along the trail towards home. The familiar, but long absent, crunch of fallen leaves underneath rubber – the occasional buzz of a twig flung through my fenders – the scurry of busy squirrels gathering for the months to come. This magical couple of weeks cannot be missed if you ride a bicycle.

This is the BEST time of year to be a rider. Gone are the oppressively hot days of summer, but the real cold weather has yet to arrive. The harsh, burning sunshine of August yields to a comforting blanket of thick stratus and a cozy grayish-blue hue. The final songs of birds in the trees are in perfect concert with flapping nylon vests and the gentle hum of a freshly oiled drive-train. The song of a north wind, not stinging quite yet but definitely awakening, whistling past spokes and cables – maybe pushing you along if you’re lucky – is comforting, cooling, and commanding all at once. Only recently too hot to wear at all, rain jackets finally have a chance to stretch again over wool warmers as the skies let loose and wet the ground and clean the air of summer’s stagnant pollutants. It’s a crispness that I can taste – slicing through the air, a lick of salt from my moustache and the taste of clean rain that chases it. I can’t help but smile. Some find misery here, and hang up the bike – I find my roots, my heritage, my bliss – all on these hard fall days. It’s time to let the beard grow, and pull the socks high.

Gone are the “goals” – well, nearly – but even the one, large goal that’s left is seldom thought of. The training is done, and now all I can do it count the days until I head south for another challenge. I have to remind myself that it’s coming – but I’m so occupied with other things that it hardly seems real. It’s a good attitude to take, considering how I’ve handled things in the past. It’s nothing to panic about – so I refuse to. I can’t wait for it to be here, but I don’t find myself looking for a change of scenery with all that surrounds me on such trivial rides as my commute home. Instead of focusing only on the heat and the misery of fresh blacktop, I now enjoy and look forward to the rides home – the daily grind has become something more than utilitarian. Late spring, and early fall alike – these are the days of the bicyclist.
These are my days – not even traffic can spoil them.

As the season wraps up for some, I look forward to the harsher days to come – the promise of hot drinks and soup at their ends. A fireplace, a wool throw, and a good book about cycling through interior China, perhaps. Tiny icicles tangled in the long hairs of my beard, and bites of cold pastries on a cold morning twenty-miler. AHH! I shudder not from the coming cold, but from the thrill of transition into another gorgeous fall season. Give me a big saddlebag to dig through to find that extra layer. Give me an all-night café to serve up hot griddlecakes and coffee on a freezing morning. Give me a road and a gentle grey sky, and I will ride.

September 20, 2006

Fixed Gear Revelations

It's a sad thing, really -- but I think the sun is setting again on my fixed gear time. Something has changed, and I feel lately that fixed and single speed has lost some of it's luster - at least with ME. After a near-injury, I've hung the Steamroller back in the garage, and have mounted up on the geared bike again. No sooner than I make this change, I get confirmation that is was the right choice.

I'm sitting here, logging in the blog, listening to David Bowie drone out the early verses of "Space Oddity", and I have visions of riding home last night and encountering another rider at 83rd and Mission Road --

ok, don't ask me what I was doing THAT far north on a Tuesday night...

Anyways... this guy was MONEY.

There he was, backwards ball-cap on, jeans, polo-style 3-button shirt, messenger-style bag slung-up close - and a gorgeous, no-name-on-frame blue fixxie - with a noticably huge gear. He was in the left turn lane, coming off of 83rd onto Mission Rd north-bound at about 7:15pm - and while he waited for the light he was performing the most perfectly-still track-stand I've ever witnessed. Even the traffic in the lane next to him took notice with jaw-gaped stares, as he floated above the tarmac without even a visible motion or twitch.

He was a complete ROCK, standing on the pedals, and balancing perfectly.

This happens only a day after I've decided that commuting to work on a fixxie was "killing me". First, a botched skid messes up my left quad a little - which has since healed, but hey - it happened. Downhills were becoming a "chore". Seeing riders like him puts in perspective what kind of rider *I* am. While I was nervously trying to get my own fixxie zen back this week, practicing the nervous track-stands again, hoping the light would stay green so I wouldn't have any stopping "issues", and the like, I see THIS guy on the road.

I can track stand, so long as I don't actively THINK about it.
I can hawk thru traffic with the best of them, I can even skitch - I just don't make a habit of it. But I see riders like this guy occasionally that SO totally fit the fixxie-rider mold, that I feel horribly inadequate. Anyone would!

Everything I lack in fixxie-zen, I suppose I make up for with endurance and climbing ability on geared bikes. A good friend said it best: jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none. If I picked fixed-mode and stuck with it, I suppose there are certain things I WOULD pick up: but I float too much; away from gears, and back again. My goals dictate "training". Fixxie for me leans more towards the BOB-ish, touring fixed-gear rider; not the skilled, stripped-down, messenger-style, urban-soldier like this guy at Mission road appeared to be. The Steamroller as it's built-up now, with full fenders and Carradice bag, doesn't quite hold the same kind of fascination as this guy's bike did for me.


Still, the experience made me smile and nod-with-approval more than it made me self-aware and introspective - despite the comments above. Watching him perfectly parked on the pavement like he was, effortlessly propelling himself forward once the light changed - pedalling silently northbound, blinky lite flashing away - it was a gorgeous moment. As I stood opposite him with my foot down, easily rotating the pedals backwards into the optimum position for my next move, in just-the-right-gear to start up again - for a moment I felt like a slacker, envious of his skill.

If we *ALL* could do what he was doing, it wouldn't be NEARLY as cool... and that's why we need people like him: the standouts, the rebels. Me, riding to work with my fancy bag and my fenders and my gears and helmet - it's "safe", it's almost "normal". Fixed gear is a different breed. If there is indeed a picture dictionary out there, THAT GUY needs his picture next to "fixed gear".

THAT is how it's done. The rest of us are just pretenders.
Peace, bro -- if I run into you again, the beers are on me.

September 11, 2006

The 2006 MS-150, in brief

After one last warm-up ride to get the legs REALLY loose this last weekend, I was really ready for the MS-150. K-man, BB and I rode to the Louisburg Cidermill via the new 287th Street route, and I took the fixxie. Riding fixed after a long hiatus, I was a little leary, but all the technique quickly came back and I was able to forget what I was riding. Still, 65 miles or so without coasting was a good enough reminder the next day! So, after a restful week, I was recharged and ready to take on whatever challenges the new MS-150 route had to offer.

Rain, rain - go away!

Well, actually, as weird as it sounds I was actually HOPING for some rain! To, you know, make things interesting. I decided at the last minute to ride the Kogswell, which has since been dubbed "monarch II", after my late Trek 720. BOY, was it the right choice! Sometimes the right bike can make all the difference: the larger tires - but not TOO large at 28mm wide instead of the usual 23mm. The frame-pump: It was amazingly easy to get people back on the road with it, rather than with the scary finite-ness of CO2 inflators, or the arm-jello-ing mini-pumps. The frame itself was a joy to ride and, combined with the tires, made the horrid rural Missouri pavement smooth-out nicely. It was a GREAT ride!

I'm being brief here, mainly because of the weather. I know that sounds weird, but because of the steady rain at the start line, I decided against bringing the camera - so this won't be the usual photo-document that I normally enjoy posting. Sorry about that! Still, the terrain: you simply HAVE to come ride the MS-150 now, if you never have. Some parts of the route were similar to year's past - but the majority was pretty much brand new. After last year's problems, the committee REALLY put their heads together and gave a really good route. Scenic as all get-out; moderate challenges here and there, but not too hilly; it was perfection!

With tire spray fizzing about and rain jackets and ponchos flapping, the first part of the first day was terrific, in a backwards sort of way. LAST year, temperatures had already approached 90º just an hour after the starting gun! This year, by contrast, if never got above 78º anywhere along the route. Things like sunscreen were forgotten thanks to the thick could deck, and even the headwind was met with approval! The best part was the overnight - after libations and good conversation, we retired to cool tents and gentle, soothing breezes that lulled me to the best tent-sleep I've had in YEARS. I was OUT! We rose to a chilly, wet morning that reminded me of waking up in Colorado -- close the tent vents! Put on a warm cap! Save that heat! It was exhilerating getting dressed for day-two's ride! Brrrr!

Day two dawned with storms threatening to the west, but overall clear skies. The team, all recharged, headed out into a terrific day, and a brand new day-two route! Another home-run by the MS-150 route committee! This ride was one for the books! Simply gorgeous scenery, and very, very few cars out. The rest stops were fabulous, and the support was top-notch! Our little team leap-frogged from stop-to-stop, fueling up and winding down the roads up north of Knob Noster... even got a rare fly-over from a B-2 stealth bomber near the AFB! VERY cool - but dangerous, as EVERYONE on the road had their eyes skyward as we rolled along!

It was a good time for all - Atul, K-man, Phil M., Mike T. and me, rolling along the Missouri highways for two days and over 150 miles - simply an awesome time!

Join us next year - seriously! New custom jerseys are in the works!!!

August 28, 2006

The Larrytown Time Trial

With thunderstorms and lighting filling the night sky, I was a little trepidatious about riding at all, but I knew I was well equipped. After the mental and physical failures of late spring’s 400K attempt I had a few demons to put to sleep, and today was an opportunity to ENJOY a rainy ride. I hitched up the saddlebag, attached the long mud-flap to the rear fender to make it more enjoyable for my riding partners, and headed out into a rain-less morning of fog and cool temps.

Yes, the rain indeed was lulled a bit, and it was nice to start out a little dry, knowing what lay in store. I made my way to Oregon Trail Park to the west, getting lucky with my timing as a few trains passed behind me only a few minutes after I’d crossed the tracks. I arrived at the park to cloudy skies and the smell of rain still in the air from the previous night. It was a nice morning, as I sat down on the curb and waited for other riders to show up.

First to arrive on the scene was Victor, and almost immediately after were John and Rosemary. A little while later D3 showed, followed by Martha. At this point, the rain began – but it was simply sprinkles, nothing more. Discussions about who saw what on which forecast began, as is typical in Kansas on any late summer, or early spring morning. The weather here is hard to pin down, and even I whipped out the PCS phone and dialed up the Weather Channel’s radar for a quick peek at what was in store. It didn’t look good, but I wasn’t really able to tell. All I knew was I was going to ride, no matter what the group consensus was.

The votes were cast, and the “official” ride was cancelled – some others – Bill and CCRider – hadn’t even shown up, anticipating the conditions wouldn’t be favorable. It wasn’t the rain, it was the threat of lightning that was the real risk, so it was probably a smart thing to do. But I was going to have none of this “smart” talk. No sir. I’m an idiot, and I announced my intentions.

Partly banking on the fact that I needed to get SOME sort of workout in this weekend, and Sunday’s Tour De Shawnee being a ride I’d decided to pass on for the first time in three years, I was GOING to ride somewhere, solo or otherwise. The big goal was to be Lawrence, for breakfast. We’ll see… the weather might have other plans!

Sadly, D3 elected to depart (at least I got to see his gorgeous old Fuji touring bike!), but one-by-one the other riders decided to “give it a go”. The sprinkles began to slow, and there was even a hint of blue in the distant horizon as we rolled out of the parking lot towards the west on the familiar Lone Star Century route. I love this route! We flew down the many hills towards Lake Olathe and the morning weekend fishermen trying their luck.

Looking around, this was an excellent bunch, and the 2nd time in a month I’ve had the opportunity to ride with some really nice people on some really nice and interesting bicycles. Martha was looking comfortable and perfectly at home on her Acme Bicycle Company sport tourer, with S&S couplers, custom Acme racks front and rear – COLOR MATCHED! – and Nigel Smythe handlebar bag laced up to wide moustache bars. John and Rosemary had magnificent matching Fuji touring bikes, only a year or so old, it seemed, but very smartly built. Racks and full fenders, they were purposeful, and attractive with their light brown color with beige panels. Very good looking bikes! Victor seemed to be the only one that wasn’t completely “rivved-out” today, on his handsome Giant TCR-2 road bike. Still, it didn’t matter – it was turning out to be a great day to ride ANY bicycle, as we chatted it up and exchanged places in the pack.

It’s strange how forecasts work out – numbers like 100% chance of rain were tossed about only hours before, yet the roads were only wet, and the skies were looking increasingly inviting as we grouped up and rode together along 151st Street, past the New Century Air Center and points west. We passed the Sunflower Army Ammunition plants’ fence-line, and continually contemplated what the morning would bring. There was little to no wind, and the day was simply calm and inviting with a decidedly spring smell about it.

We turned north towards Eudora, and I enjoyed a chance to stretch the legs a little bit as our next stop was set at the convenience store on the north side of K-10. Victor and I paired up, him in the draft, and we spun out the long uphill taking us over the highway, enjoying a little aerobic recharge. It was just HUMID now, and as the skies continued to look more inviting the sun was making it downright steamy, even though the temps were only in the middle 70’s.

I gulped down a chocolate milk and snarfed a banana, plus got a quick water refill and I was then ready to take on the rest of the journey to Lawrence. Eudora was to be the middle-ground, the decision point for my day based on the weather – and at that point there was no reason to question the weather’s intentions. We mounted up again for the final leg into Larrytown. Unfortunately, I was turning into a clock-watcher, as the noon-deadline was beginning to loom.

“Naw.. I’ll be fine…” I thought.

After a little canine adventure and a few railroad crossings and hills, we were closer to our goal as we followed old K-10 into the eastern portions of Lawrence. I remembered a drive I took with Shorty a few years back, and how much fun of a ride this road would make, and I was right – as I crossed the final set of tracks on the outskirts of town and climbed a nasty little pair of hills, I was in Lawrence by bicycle!
Unfortunately, the clock was not going to allow me much in the way of respite, so I stopped at the first “state street”, which was Maryland, and waited for the rest of the group to catch up so I could bid them farewell. I was going to have to time-trial my way back if I was going to make it. It was ten-fifteen. Lawrence to Olathe in under two-hours?? Uh-oh.

Thankfully, the two dogs that slowed our progress on the way out were somewhere else, so I didn’t have to deal with that activity. I rode in a reasonable gear, and started feeling my way along the edge of aerobic capacity, taking in a little hammer gel and water here and there. Before long, I was back on old K-10 headed straight towards the Wakarusa River and the edge of Eudora once more. Up the big climb, I was feeling pretty good, and the road was sliding by fairly quickly. Unfortunately, the only training tool I had at my disposal was a wrist-watch, so things like speed and distance remaining were only guesses. I flew thru Eudora southbound, back to DG-458 and the leg eastbound towards Edgerton Road on the way to Gardner. At this point, I was enjoying a fantastic rhythm, and despite the slight headwind that was developing, I was maintaining pace quite well. I was especially pleased, considering this was on the “big bike”. I had the big saddlebag and the large mud-flaps slowing me down, not to mention the additional weight. It wasn’t making any difference, however. I was all smiles… this kind of versatility AND speed?

I checked off the streets as I passed them – Evening Star Road, Edgerton Road, Dillie Road – I don’t remember THIS climb! – and finally back to 151st St. Still a ways to go… and it was approaching 11:15 – I’d been riding solid for over an hour now, and the hammer gel and water input was keeping things on the level. I was feeling great… and things started flowing through my head: the upcoming MS-150 personal-record attempt for day-one… Tejas… I was beaming confidence into my own psyche… if I was able to turn out this performance today on THIS bike, there was no reason not to feel prepared for my next two goals. The whole “less-is-more” training philosophy was beginning to show it’s fruit. With some rest and careful planning, I was no longer nervous about the big rides ahead, or my ability to complete them.

Finally clear of Gardner near the northern horn of the lake, I proceeded to take on the last portion of 151st Street, and the final run back to New Century. No sense trying to get back to the parking lot, only to have to pass it and head home from there… again it was time to use the shortcut to home that I’d used for the Lone Star Century, via 159th Street. Of course, this is one of those moments where I was glad I hadn’t brought the lighter, skinnier-tires of the race bike… 159th between Lone Elm and US-56 is not exactly in prime shape, but it takes less time to ride it than it would take for a two-mile detour around it.

I pointed the bike east and hammered down the choppy pavement, dove over the railroad tracks and onto the nasty, rutted excuse for pavement on the other side. Yikes… especially when trying to keep the speed up, and with already rubbery legs, this road was a nightmare! Not even realizing it, one of my waterbottles was ejected into the ditch during an especially herky section of chuck-holes and ridges, but I wouldn’t even notice it until I reached for it later on!
It was 11:45! ACK! Still five miles or so to go, and a typically long traffic light at 169 highway yet to cross through! I pushed the tempo up another notch, past the hurt, and got to the light – thankfully there was a multitude of cars already there to trip the sensors, and after a couple minutes we were through. Just one more big obstacle that might have stood in my way was then checked off, as I crossed over the RR tracks near where Woodland Road would be, if it came this far north or south.

Enjoying what seemed like a slight tailwind, I hammer the big ring all the way back east to Murlen, smiled as the light turned green just in time for me to not even have to lift pace, and I turned fast north onto Locust. 11:55pm! PUSH IT!!!

Tossing another log on the fire, I ignored the fact that I was already feeling whipped and stood on the pedals on the last couple streets leading home, and pulled off some wicked criterium-quality turns as I huffed and puffed my way finally into my driveway… 12:01pm! I’ll take it!!! Yeesh!

And all the while, under varying skies, not a drop of rain.

Whew…an excellent two-part ride… one part gentle cruise with good riding partners and new friends, and one part 32-mile time trial. I’m all smiles, and ready to tackle my 2nd-to-last goal in two weeks time!

MS-150 number seven, here I come!

The Metro Metric - a taste of everything



Outside the Dillon’s parking lot is the old trailer marking the location of the Olathe Plywood and Carpet store, which has been in operation for many decades. Once the only thing out here, it’s now fairly hidden from view behind old growth trees and a multitude of shops and housing developments. It marks the beginning of our journey today.



Showing up first to the ride was Karen, from Chicago, whom was in town visiting family and took some time out to come ride with us after seeing the ride announced on the webpage. We had a good conversation while waiting for the other riders to show up, and I made a memorable blunder while we talked: she had asked if very many women showed up to the rides, and based simply on past experience the answer was an unfortunate “no” – the CommuterDude rides in the past had drawn a largely male crowd. About fifteen minutes later however, Liz, Michelle, Sue, and Terri (on the tandem with Dave) showed up in the parking lot, making Dave and I the only men in attendance. So much for that theory! Karen showed up on exactly the right day!

A few minutes later, Jerry showed up on his Cannondale tourer, and we were ready to head out. A brief review of the map, some rules and reminders, and we were off into the cool, humid morning. The skies looked threatening, but it was a welcome change from the heat-wave that had recently broken. With temps in the mid 70’s, it was downright pleasant!

This is the kind of ride start that I like most – a slow pace, and people milling about from bike to bike, chatting it up, and discussing the day to come. The chatter mixed perfectly with the sounds of freewheels clicking, brake levers engaging and releasing, and the crumpling of route maps into jersey pockets, while tires of all sizes crunched against the pavement below. Ahhh… nothing quite like a good group ride!

We made our way north and west, crossing under I-35 via the roundabouts on Sheridan, and then crossing the RR tracks and Santa Fe, on our way to Woodland Road for the long push northbound.




Backwards from me on the road; Michelle on her Trek; Liz on the gorgeous orange Orbea; tied for position on the road are Karen waving and smiling, riding her rare (in these parts) Independent Fabrication Club-Racer in bright yellow with pink accents, and Jerry on his Cannondale CAAD3 touring bike; Dave and Terri on the Santana tandem, and Sue on her Schwinn hybrid; We’ve just turned north on Woodland, with murky skies above us.

It was a strange day, as we made out way north; we encountered a rag-tag bunch of bicycle riders on a morning ride as well, older folks and younger kids pedaling away the comfortable morning – and, sadly, in obvious need of some of Spinman’s help in the form of Road I certification classes, as they dodged from sidewalk to street haphazardly, some blowing stop-signs, some without helmets! Still it was good to see “non-cyclists” out for a ride – one was even riding a little piece of history in the form of a Free Spirit 3-speed, which looked to be all original. Still, its apparent that there is still a lot of work to be done in the realm of bicycle education, at all levels.



A nice mixte, complete with front basket (maybe a Wald?), and high-rise handlebars – but no helmet. I love the jeans, camera and wide tires – Grant at Rivendell would LOVE this scene! Kudos on the properly-aimed reflector, too! Further up the road are Dad and kids, all wearing helmets quite nicely, and just a little further, just above the kid’s blue helmet, is the white ballcap and suspenders of the gentleman riding the burgundy Free Spirit 3-speed, complete with full steel fenders – very nice! Behind me are at least 10 other assorted riders of all ages, but I didn’t get the camera out of my pocket in quite enough time to capture them all.

We continued up Woodland Road, and near K-10 highway we started picking up a few more riders! Waiting for us on the bike path were Robert on a borrowed, and fantastic, Raleigh Technium from the early 80’s – all steel, and a stately blue color, with new Brooks B-17 mounted. Also in the group was Bill on his fine Rivendell Atlantis with moustache bars, wood fenders, and bags.




Also in the mix was Tim on a terrific Motobecane that he’d converted to a fixed-gear.



We made our way a little further north, past K-10 and up towards Prairie Star Parkway where we picked up another handful or riders, including Badgerland on his Rivendell Atlantis (making instant friends with Bill, or course!), CCRider on her new Cannondale cyclo-cross bike with racks and bags, and Nan on her Trek hybrid complete with rear rack and satellite radio! With now 13 riders in the group, this was a record turn-out for a CommuterDude ride – a thrilling morning!

Now peloton-sized, we continued our trek northbound on Woodland towards the big downhill, and the first big reward of the day’s riding as we’d plummet down into the big valley of Mill Creek near 83rd Street. As we flew downhill at upwards of 40 MPH, we caught up with a train that was running north on the tracks parallel to the road, eventually regrouping at 83rd street for a little climb up to Woodland’s continuation up the other side of the valley.

With new development once again scarring the landscape nearby, I looked at this as an opportunity to ride this road the way it has looked for largely 40 years. Woodland road climbs and twists its way north on the eastern edge of the tiny community that used to once be Monticello. Long since faded into history, however, the only remnants are the name which its former main street carries through a newly developed park area only a mile west of where we were.

The ride gets interesting, as the road sharply pitches downward and dives into a series of curves, first right, then left, and suddenly we find ourselves looking UP at railroad tracks, and an odd vision. Parked stationary on the rail-line is a train with a most unusual cargo:





With a strange greenish tint, these look like older, possibly decommissioned Boeing 737’s, maybe 707’s – maybe something else entirely. Stripped for transport, the other parts must be inside the oddly-shaped cargo boxes between each fuselage. The large frames at the front and back of the railcars are likely for supporting a tarp or cover of some kind, which makes me think these are indeed for decommission, as newer or military stock would more than likely be covered up. There are at least four of these identical planes on this train, as far as I can see. Very unusual!

UPDATE: 10/2007 - browsing photos on another webpage, I came across THIS picture, which - unless this happens a LOT, is the SAME TRAIN earlier in the summer, up in Montana! Pretty cool!


Emerging into southern Shawnee, we continued north via Martindale Road and eventually crossed old K-12 highway, er… Shawnee Mission Parkway, and continued our trek for the Kansas River on Woodland Rd again.



Martindale Road, paralleling the RR tracks headed north.




On Woodland Road, in Shawnee, KS, approaching 47th Street. From the left, Bill on the Atlantis with wood fenders and moustache bars, Jerry, Robert (waving), Badgerland, Michelle (behind Badgerland), Liz, CCRider (over Liz’s shoulder), Tom, Nan and Dave & Terri on the tandem.



We turned east at the top of our loop onto Holiday Drive just south of the river, and crossed the RR tracks, where a guy in a Santa Fe RR service truck waved out the window and shouted “good luck on the MS-150!” – a welcome surprise, compared to what COULD have been shouted to us out a car window.

We continued through the wooded area on Holiday Drive, with a few large trucks from the quarry nearby to deal with, and eventually passed under I-435 and onto smoother pavement. The real test of the day’s ride was coming up, at Quivira Lane! This is the “alpine section” of Johnson County, with steep rollers and long, challenging grades following the natural terrain of the river bluffs in northern Shawnee. Always a challenge, even for racers, these hills were met with a couple grumbles and a lot of shifting chains, as we curved south and up, up, up, up, up the first long hill. Eventually, Quivira Lane becomes aligned with Pflumm near 51st Street, and begins another, steeper climb to rise up to 55th Street.




Michelle makes the grade – with the tandem close behind. You can see how steep this hill really is by noticing the street-lights and telephone poles, and how each subsequent one gets shorter and shorter as you go into the backdrop.
The quote of the day, as Michelle passes me after the climb: “sweet murder.”




CCRider, Jerry and Nan make their way up the beast a short while later.



The pain continued afterwards when we turned east on 55th Street and began another long, steep climb – the last of the day. Here, the group really got split up as chains were dropped and mis-shifts caused complete loss of momentum. Michelle, and I and the tandem managed to get up the road a bit, and then waited near the Sonic on Merriam Drive for the others to catch up. Back together again, legs pulsating with the remains of the climbing, we made our way northeast on Merriam Drive, which was, thankfully, flat.

It was another example of how rare a day it was becoming, as we passed a local car dealership to the sounds of a car-alarm blaring. Inside the car was a man fiddling with something on the dashboard. Hmmm… I wonder….but we just assumed all was well and minded our own business. Very strange, don’t you think?!

We get a nose-full of lunch being prepared at one of Merriam’s long-standing hidden treasures, the Wood Yard Bar-B-Que. They just happen to make BBQ here, the main business being sales of lumber for fence and patio building. If the smell was any indication, the $11.00 slab of ribs is a winner!



We passed the House of Rocks, to which I pointed with much amusement, as we crossed under US-69 highway atop a rise that looks down onto Mill Creek’s northern branch.




Trash and treasure; Karen’s capable legs and pink polka-dot socks powering her Independent Fabrication bicycle, past all manner of roadside trash and dangerous drainage grates as we approach the urban core.


Stopped by a train near Rosedale, we rest a spell and enjoy the shade supplied by I-35’s overpass – the heat of the day was coming up, and the clouds were beginning to burn off in the high sun. Next stop was The Coffee Girls at 20th and Southwest Blvd, and we made it there in good time, propping up our bikes and getting ready for a break with some good coffee and breads. It was a welcome rest, and the chairs inside were very comfortable. Unfortunately, with only one person working the counter, some of us didn’t get as long a rest as others – but it was all good…and the coffee? Great!

We continued our trek north, and curved east towards Oak Street and ACME Bicycles, to stop in and say “hey” to one of the most unique bike shops in the country, and certainly the city! The gals adjusted the handlebars on Robert’s Raleigh, and fixed a brake issue on Bill’s Riv, while the rest of us browsed around and marveled at the bikes, the gear, the clothing. This is the only bike shop I’ve been to where you can find a single-speed townie for $100 made from a hodge-podge of good parts, all the way to a $2000 dream road-sport bike with lugs and the finest appointments – there are $50 bare frames for those looking for a project bike, and there are custom-made mixtes created IN HOUSE, complete with custom-made racks with wooden inserts. If you know what a Maxi-Car hub is, and value stuff from manufacturers like Nitto and Stronglight, you NEED to visit this place.
I bought a “Rivendell-style” brass bell, and borrowed a screwdriver to mount it up, and eventually we regrouped in the parking lot and were ready to roll south again.


We head back south, out on Oak and up a good climb near the hospital as Oak becomes Gillham Road and follows to Linwood. A little urban riding ensues, as we handle the traffic on Linwood and transition to Wyandotte for the jaunt south into historic Westport. We make our way through the busy district, and pause at Pennsylvania to try and true Robert’s rear wheel, which was getting wobbly after a pot-hole encounter or two. We leave the hussle and bustle of Westport down a big hill, and then slide onto Bridger Road and finally Broadway, where we hit the Country Club Plaza in grand style, riding the brakes down a REALLY steep hill, which – thankfully – we didn’t have to climb! A few bell rings for the shoppers, and some waves and curious looks, and we are out of the Plaza almost as quickly as we entered it. Next feat, since the Plaza sits in the Valley of Brush Creek, was climbing OUT of it. Up Wornall Road, we heaved and shoved our bicycles once again, and the accusations of my preference for hills start to fly in conversation! We make our way up the scenic drive with it’s tall stone walls, and eventually turn right at 55th Street near the northern edge of Jacob Loose Park. A scenic stroll around the park’s western edge down Summit street, and the mood softens – the major climbing of the day is behind us finally!

We make our way south and west through some magnificent old neighborhoods, with the tree-lined streets of Summit and Valley Roads take us past Brookside (anyone remember WHY it is called Brookside?) and down to 69th Street, where we cross into Kansas and roll past some of the palatial estates of Mission Hills – this is a GREAT route, I’m thinking, despite the challenges! We make our way to Prairie Village, and begin the last part of our southern run on Lee Boulevard and into Leawood, KS., past some more great homes, and down another lane of history towards Leawood Park, where we all stop for a rest again.

The day is getting HOT, and the hills have taken their toll. With faces long, and waterbottles getting empty, a rest is well deserved. Even as ride leader, I’m not too anxious to round-out the complete metric century today, so the decision is made to cut the route a little shorter. Instead of heading all the way south, and towards more hills and a long session in the now-blazing sun on 175th Street, the group started to split up. Our little splinter group containing Michelle, Robert, Jerry, Karen and Sue started westbound on College Blvd, which on a Saturday morning is not a bad ride at all. At this point, many folks were riding on damage control. We passed up Bill, hoping he’d latch on to us, which he tried to do but ended up bonking pretty hard – he called for backup, and we rode onward. After some long, steady climbs, we made it to the BP station at Antioch, and pulled off into a shady rest area with picnic tables for another break.



One for the books – Karen and I pose for the camera at the BP station, after getting refreshed for the last push back to the Dillon’s parking lot, and the end of our day.



Karen and Michelle bought a bag of ice and demonstrated some neat cooling techniques, and I tried to follow suit by stuffing handfuls of ice into my back pockets – suddenly, things like Carradice bags and handlebar storage made PERFECT sense for a hot day like today. If NOTHING ELSE, they keep items out of your back pockets, to allow for ice. IT FELT GREAT!!! I wished I’d though of it at Tinbutt! Argh!

Some snacks, and finally realizing that Robert’s wheel issues were from a broken spoke, which we remedied with a zip-tie, and we were ready again. Back pockets and other clothing items filled with ice, fresh water bottles, and a few phone calls made, we were back on the road. We traveled down the monster hill after Antioch, reaching at least 45 MPH, and then started climbing up to Switzer, where we then cut across and started heading south. Switzer has a good, long climb, but we took in stride because we knew we were getting closer to home with each pedal stroke.

Eventually, we had made it back to the Dillon’s, and the end of our ride – whew! What a DAY in the saddle this had been, with nearly every conceivable style of terrain and riding environment on tap, it was a great time! Looking forward to reprising this route sometime, with a few tweaks, and maybe some shortening for a winter version – stay tuned!

August 15, 2006

Metricus Metropolus!

This is just a preview, a ride-report from Karen, who came all the way from Chicago to ride with us!! (ok...she was visiting family, too.)

Thanks for coming out Karen!

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Hi All:
Just wanted to send in a report about my cycling adventure in Kansas City this past weekend. As some of you know, I connected with a group there via an article in September's Bicycling Magazine ("The Commuter Dude," p. 45).
I drove down to see my family with Sydney Cycle relaxing in the back seat.
KC is a pretty hilly town, but I was absolutely dumbfounded at the climbs we did on our 60 mile tour Saturday a.m. From suburban Kansas sprawl (rivaling Buffalo Grove) to quaintly rundown older neighborhoods to urban skylines to the hustle and bustle of the Country Club Plaza (a beautiful outdoor shopping area) to graceful Missouri-side mansions, we did it all. "All" included a hill longer and as steep as the climb into Williams Bay, Wisconsin. I lost my chain twice! The rewards included amazing downhills. I clocked over 40 mph -- first time since riding in Montana in '01. And it was hot, hot, hot. The general pace was slower than what we usually do, but the hills more than balanced out that average mph.
The 12 riders were mostly 30-40 somethings, but the biggest surprise was that over half were women. I found everyone to be really interesting to talk to and interested in why I happened to be there. There was Michelle, a tall Amazon who is an editor at the KC Star newspaper; Bill, the burley guy on the wooden-fendered commuter bike, foster parent for two handicapped individuals; Dave and Terry zipping by on their tandem; Sue, slathered in zinc oxide trailing behind us, yet never giving up; a guy on a fixed gear bike who had the fastest cadence I've ever seen -- no, wait -- he had his feet off the pedals while spinning downhill; Nan, consistently passing me on her hybrid, then stopping to check her blood sugar level; and Jerry who looked and sounded familiar and WAS
familiar: he is a recent immigrant to the KC area from Evanston! I've ridden with him on my forays with the Evanston Bike Club. Finally, there was the goofy Commuter Dude himself, Keith, a skilled and generous rider who made me feel totally at home with my adopted team.
Other highlights of the ride included a stop at a funky bike shop: Acme Bikes in downtown KC (bike tubes covered with Persian carpets, bikes made by Dr.
Frankenstein, bikes on drugs). We passed a store called "House of Rocks" where they sold . . . . rocks . . . just rocks. No llamas, unfortunately. We covered lots of territory that produced flashbacks from childhood. And not a single motorist honked at us or threw firecrackers (though Nan told me that she's been hit by milk shakes).
I had a really good time!
See you Saturday?
Karen L. (as in "cyKLing's up to date in Kansas city")


-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-


My ride report is coming soon, I promise -- as well as the conclusion of the ride LAST weekend, the Tongi Tango -- which somehow got cut off due to user error, I think. I need to hit "SAVE" every once in a while, don't ya think? Ugh.

kG:)

August 10, 2006

The Tongi Tango - a chain-poppin' good time!

Two weeks after Tinbutt, and I was ready again to enjoy a weekend ride. I’d been commuting again since the Tuesday afterwards, but it was a slow progression to get the feeling back in the legs, get the tolerance for the heat re-charged. It’s been really, really hot here – hotter that I can remember it being. I recall when I was working near College and Lamar a couple years back, it was like 106º, and a fully frozen water-bottle I’d brought along for the afternoon portion of my ride was literally completely thawed by the time I made it the 7 miles to my second job. It’s been nearly that hot these last couple of weeks. I’ve since upgraded to the newer “Polar” bottles, which are insulated to keep drinks cooler, longer – but even in this heat my drinks are still lukewarm by the time I reach the house in the afternoons.

Heat. It’s gettin’ OLD.

I read back at some of the older posts, from last fall, and autumns-past, the rides in 50º weather seem like a memory – like magic. I’d give nearly anything for a cloudy, 55º day, with a slight north breeze, 30% humidity, and maybe a slight chance of drizzle…at sunrise…on a Sunday with no traffic…maybe on Hedge Lane, just north of K-152. Mmmmmm…..

Too bad, Dude --- I pull up to Badgerland’s house, and start unloading the bike, and I’m sweating already. I snap back to reality, and realize that unless I get really good with umbrella modifications, I’m not gonna get any shade today. I’ve got the sunscreen on so thick that I leave smear marks on the car as I pull the bike out of the trunk. Yep, I broke down and drove up here – I don’t need another 100+ mile day in this heat. Talk about burn-out!

It’s a pleasure to ride with Badgerland – always has been – but more-so now that he’s mounted-up on some really nice eye-candy; a gorgeous Rivendell, complete with bags, lights, racks, and good tires. I feel slightly less fancy on my Kogswell, even with the saddlebag mounted, and frame-pump secured with a leather toe-strap – riding next to something from Walnut Creek’s premier bicycle shop makes anything else seem plain! His bike is CLASSY. Polished aluminum gleaming and leather mud-flaps waving, we head out into the northern expanses of Shawnee.

As we make our way, we start to talk about the usual things that cyclers like us end up talking about:

“When I moved here, there was nothing out here!” He chimed as we pass yet another residential ground-breaking site. “That road we just came from used to be the runway for a small airport out here, used to be Johnson County Agricultural Airport!”

We share the same frustration with over-building and shoulder-less 6-lane super-thoroughfares that seem to be popping up around here lately – today’s ride will take us far away from such things, and provide a taste of what we like to ride for.

The first turn leads us onto K-7, near the Kansas River. It’s a great road, with a good shoulder, if you can catch it early enough in the day, that is. Not for the weak of heart, perhaps, but still one of the only ways to get across the river, without taking a major western detour first. We head down the ramp just after the northern levee, and down into Bonner Springs, and K-32 highway. This is more of a rural bypass anymore, ever since I-70 took over. Mainly local traffic, and not much of that even, awaits us, as we pedal thru the outskirts of town and along the railroad tracks that parallel the river banks. We head out of town onto Loring Road, and follow the river on a flattish section of road with endless fields on one side, and the mechanized sounds of locomotives to the other. I’m something of a railroad buff, so I spend time looking left, then right, then left again – just to see what’s passing by.

We notice that the cars become fewer and farther between, as we approach the point where Loring Road bears north, and Golden Road takes over to the south and west. We turn north, and face the fist hill or the day, a real grunter. This is the same route, since Bonner Springs, that the 200K in March took, and I love just about every inch of this route. It’s challenging, and the scenery makes it easy to forget that you’re only a few miles from a shopping strip or two. I love it up here. With the first big climb behind us, the heat of the day becomes more apparent. My back is already soaked thru with sweat, and it’s barely 8:00AM!

The glorious road transitions to another one, even MORE glorious; we approach the payoff for the climbing so far, and slide down a long, shady descent, back into the river valley near Desoto, KS., and motor along a terrific flat as we cross the county line. The shade helps, and a slight tailwind doesn’t hurt our mood – we’re making good time so far, even though that’s not the goal. We pause near an intersection to check out maps, and head west towards Linwood.


This is one of the best parts of the route so far, as the road gets shaded over by a canopy of trees, and the houses become quite palacial in nature. A long, stone fence lines the road near one of the great homes, giving the surroundings a decidedly northeastern feel. The road pitches uphill, and curves north back towards K-32 again. We transition onto the good shoulder of K-32 and spin away on the smooth pavement, passing a field of sunflowers and an old guy and his truck, complete with farm dog. With a rousing "hello" and a wave, we exchange good-mornings - enjoying the gentle breezes and scenery as we approach Linwood proper.




Linwood is quite a small town, almost forgotten along this since-bypassed route to Lawrence to the west, and it's reflected in the near lack of traffic. Most of the traffic here is carried by I-70, which is both good and bad. Linwood will likely stay untouched by time, and this is a great highway to ride on - things that you'd find me hard pressed to complain about, but it's a little piece of Americana that is typical leftovers from the Interstate highway push of the 50's. Still, at the very least, they didn't rip up this pavement - it's still here for people to discover.

We rolled on, past Linwood, and further west on K-32 towards our next turn at 222nd St, or LV-1 northbound towards Tonganoxie. We finally turned north, after some long, steady highway-style climbs, and with a tailwind at our backs we enjoyed the first section of 222nd Street's long downhills - we flew down, slightly up again, and then down again into a big valley with rolling hills and scattered farms. This was another great piece of forgotten road, with almost NO traffic -- I think we saw three cars in an hour, and two of those were headed south in the opposite lanes. The chip seal was giving a little buzz to our frames, but big tires and steel always handle those conditions well. We smiled and spun along in the sunshine, taking in the sights. So far removed, visually, was this place from the usual Kansas backdrop that it was easy to breathe deep and invision ourselves in Wisconsin or the Dakotas - Leavenworth county, as I've been taught in the last couple rides up here, is very scenic, and nothing like the image most people have of Kansas.

Eventually, we came to our next turn, which took us on a dog-leg to US-24. This is a Federal highway, mind you, and there were absolutely NO cars today. Very odd, but nothing to complain about! We took off farther north on the wide, glass-smooth shoulder and made our way into Tonganoxie, turning again at Washington Street for the trip back east towards Kansas City, and the Speedway, about 6 miles away.
Washington Street was another chip-seal adventure, with rolling hills, and lined with older homes, one of which was complete with older Tongi resident, with a hearty "good mornin'" and a wave and smile, we made contact with the way life has been in this small town for decades. This is how life SHOULD be.

After scaring a jogger half-to-death with my obnoxiously loud brass bell, we rolled onward towards salvation - the Casey's Store. Nearing State Avenue, and the return to the 200K route from March, we stopped in for a much-needed break. The heat was still there, just in the background, and I was starting to feel it - plus the pangs of hunger. Over halfway done, I had not been eating enough - and Badgerland was at the rescue with a full sleeve of Fig Netwons, and Casey's provided the fresh water and ice. A 20-minute break, and I was starting to feel good again, ready for the next part of the ride! One thing I found interesting, people's looks towards us had changed. Instead of disdain and confusion at our spandex and racy bikes, we were getting nods of approval from folks as they milled around and in-and-out of the gas station. With the large, traditional-looking baggage, and purposeful looking machines we had propped up against the side of the building, I think people looked upon us as tourers, instead of traffic-blockers. Hard to tell -- maybe it was an off-day for them. Curious, just the same.

We packed up our supplies and headed back out onto State Avenue, and a long downhill that Ort might remember (oops.) - this time it WAS the correct path, and it led us down some good road -- although there was a good shoulder, there was a fair amount of trash and automotive debris strewn about, but our sturdy tires shrugged it off. We climbed some pretty good hills here, too, making our way east - and that's precisely when it happened: PING!! skee, skee, rattle!!!

What the??? My chain, for the first time since I'd first started riding, had broken! Uh, oh. I called out to Badgerland, whom was already stopping to see what had happened. We surveyed the damage, and lo, the SRAM Power-Link that was holding the chain together had popped off during my latest move from big ring to small ring. There was no finding it, as it was likely deep in the grass, or in the traffic lane -- or being two-pieces, maybe both. This is another example of the RIGHT way to ride - preparedness. The extra space and weight (in this case, less than 2 grams) of certain spare parts can save a lot of headache, a lot of gas from the ride home you'd otherwise need to get, and a shameful phone call at the very least. Badgerland and I were both equipped with extra Power-Links -- HIGHLY recommended. You might be asking how I could trust it after what had just happened? Well, what's my alternative? In this case, I knew that I had previously RE-used that link, who knows how many miles ago, or chains-ago - so much that the gold anodiziation had worn completely off in neat, circular patterns. It was simply time for it to break! I pulled a nice, shiny new one out of the saddlebag, and less than ten minutes, and ten greasy fingers later, we were back on the road again.
Beats walking!!!

Back on the road, we approached the Kansas Speedway, getting a neat view of the complex as we rolled up from the west. We bypass the complex to the south, and enjoy a REALLY long and fast downhill, which vaguely reminded me of Colorado in some ways. Deep in a semi-tuck, I let gravity do the work for over two miles of tree-shaded bliss, tires singing, and - again - practicaly no traffic to contend with!
I came to a slow stop back at K-32, near Bonner Springs, but this time to the east of K-7. Another C-Store beckoned to us here, and we stopped again for more cold water and a quick refreshment. We were almost done, but there was no reason to rush today! Even with the heat coming up even more, it was a great day to ride. With the loud blast of a passing freight train behind us, we pedaled out onto K-32, headed back towards the birdge that would take us back into northern Johnson County.

A great view of the river and a few good hills on 47th Street, and we were back in Badgerland's neighborhood, and soon after that back at the house. Whew! Nearly 50 miles, some quite hilly - but nothing horrid - and our day of riding was complete!
Badgerland ran inside as I packed my bicycle back into the trunk of my little car, and then returned with two Mason jars filled 3/4 full with some familiar golden liquid. AHHH! Now you're talking! Always the gracious host, Badgerland and I raised glasses of cold honey lager and toasted the day's workout. I don't know if it was the heat, the hard ride, or the flavor itself, but that was the tastiest beer I've had in a while. Smooth, and refreshing to the core, we were all smiles as the jars became empty. A excellent day! Thanks for the ride, Badgerland!