September 27, 2008
September 22, 2008
First order of business:
This is perhaps the last chance to ride a NICE permanent this year, so I'm opening invitations to anyone in the area that would like to give another 200K a shot!
This is when, as Spencer tells me recently, becoming the time of year where you start to EARN your R-12 award - at least in the midwest. We've already seen 40 degree temps here, and it's barely begun. So, come one, come all -- all five of you, haha!!! No seriously, if you've been thinking about randonneuring, this is a great chance -- hot too warm, not too cold, and the smells of fall and some early changing leaves. It's going to be a fantastic ride if you can gut out the early start time:
Saturday, October 4th, 2:30 AM start
The Free State Border Patrol Permanent
217 KM from Olathe to Pleasanton, and back.
Lights, reflective gear, helmets and a sense of adventure required - email me ASAP to reserve your spot and get direction to the start location, a waiver, cue sheet, etc. In order for the ride to "count" you must be a pending or current RUSA member. Again, email me soon if you're interested! firstname.lastname@example.org
More information on membership and complete rules for riders available at www.RUSA.org
I'd love to have you along!
The early start time sounds like a downer, but trust me: It's worth it.
Lower traffic, the magic of the pre-dawn ride, sunrise on the road, and finishing a really long ride early enough so you still have some weekend left over are all good things, and your spouse and kids will appreciate it!
Other than that, well let's see whats been happening in the world of commuting.
Same old grind! This is a good thing: as of this writing, and it's only a big deal because of how the last couple of years had been going, I have ridden to work every day since July 8th.
I'm still hard-set on the car-free thing, although a LOT of challenges have come up here and there since making that bold statement. Those hard choices have found me, sadly, retreating to the car for a few errands that would have otherwise been impossible with the bicycle. At least in its current incarnation, there are physical limits to what I can carry, and whom. What is good is that only on two occasions did the family have both cars in service at the same time; once for the KCK brevet in August, and once for the big MS Ride and Permanent weekend earlier this month. Aside from that, we've only been using the one car - and my car has been resting quietly with the same tank of gas that I started the summer with. Automotive pundits will scold me for not starting it regularly, etc., but I have - it's fine. And it's still under warranty. I still plan to take good care of it, so no worries --- of course, if you ARE really worried, we can make a deal -- it's still for sale, ya know!
The commutes have been fun, but there isn't much to write about, really. It's the same route, day-in-day-out, and there haven't been any major changes since the flood back in July with the remains of hurricane Gustav blowing through. Since then, however, many of us have wondered openly where summer had gone. That notion really hasn't changed much, as the highest temperature recorded since then is probably 83 degrees, officially. The lowest low temperature so far has been 47 degrees, and the winds have been largely calm and cooling. Humidity seems to have been cut off, as well, so it was a comfortable end to summer. Now that fall is officially here, the leaves have started to slowly change - the NW component to the wind has a little more punch and clarity to it, and there is that unmistakable smell of fall creeping up. It's nice, the favorite time of year for many cyclists - including yours truly. Ahhhh....wool, hot beverages, Oktoberfest brews, oatmeal and soup, gentle rains, pulling the collar a little higher. The crunch of leaves under rubber, the trails a little less busy.
Also adding to my car-free agenda and helping pave the way for an easier seasonal transition is the completion of a new bridge over US-69 highway at 132nd Street. This is a bridge I have dubbed "Lamar-style", after the one that passes over I-435 a little farther north and east. No interchange, simple two-lane bridge to get over the highway. Awesome! After a little experimentation with some routes here and there, it's not exactly fool-proof yet since it doesn't connect to much on the west side, but it's a good start which provides me an "overland" route between jobs and home - as opposed to the bike trail which regularly gets choked with snow and ice during the winter. I have a beater bike in progress, also, an older Trek 900 mountain bike in blue that has defintely seen better days - but it'll fit the bill nicely. I rebuilt the rear wheel & hub, giving it new spokes and removing the dish. The original freewheel hub will take a fixed cog, and I'll end up with "Sheldon Brown's" snow-bike gear preference of 28x15. Fenders, a rack, and I'll be ready for conditions nastier than I want to subject the Kogs to. Ought to work well, and if I have to toss it onto the front of a metro bus, I won't worry too much about it getting thrown under the wheels, although that doesn't seem to be a problem in this city. I was thinking about finally ponying up for some decent Nokian studded tires for the job on this bike, but honestly I'm not sure if I'll need them now. Rutted junk on the trails, maybe so -- but now that that bridge is open and I know the salt trucks of Johnson County usually only need a day to catch up.... well, I don't know how much black ice and such I'll actually see. Of course, I haven't done a millimeter-level lie study of every intersection I'll cross to see if there will be issues with road treatment wash-off or brush-off and/or water retention and run-off collection, but you know. Over the many seasons and years I've commuted on these streets, I really don't know if studded tires will truly be wasted cash for me. I have only a handful of instances occur where I wished I'd had them, but it was usually an avoidable situation and I stayed upright in each case. It depends on how anxious I am to stay on the bike trail and out of traffic when winter hits. I'll see how it goes, but I think I can save some money in that regard...but the verdict is still out.
Lighting, some changes are coming. After a lot of movign back and forth between LED headlights that run on batteries and halogen generator lights, I have leapt into the future and purchased a generator-powered LED headlight finally. Well, I say "finally"; more like "again".
When it first hit the U.S. shores back in 2004 or 05 (can't rememeber exactly) I purchased the Busch und Muller DLumotec Oval Plus headlamp, which was one of the first generator powered LED headlights to emerge on the market. It was good at the time, not great, but quite good. They still make it, but I have a feeling with this latest generation that its days may be numbered. I gave it a good shot, but in the end it just didn't reach far enough down the road to be safe on really fast downhills - at least not what I deem safe. The halogen lights at the time still had the upper hand with optics and light control, so I went back to the Lumotec halogens, and eventually the Schmidt E6. After a few years of terrific success among randonneurs, Schmidt hasn't made any improvements to the E6 - simply because with 3 watts and 6 volts, and such a tight beam pattern, there's nothing else to improve. It's THE best halogen generator light, and that's probably all we can expect. While I'm sure they'll still be made for a while now, LEDs are fast replacing halogens on the commuter and brevet scene. Schmidt took what B+M were doing and made it even better with the EDelux, a company called Supernova released the E3 model this year which makes even battery-powered LED headlamps look weak, and B+M has several new models that are miles ahead of what they were doing even six months ago. It's time, finally. A ton of light, all where you need and want it, and almost no hub drag. It's a fun time to like toys and gadgets, and also be a cyclist. So, after being spoiled by the light quality of my Dinotte battery light, I've decided the dynohub needs an upgrade. I'll let you know my thoughts once I get it installed and tested.
That's all I've got for ya for now, kids --- stay tuned and thanks for reading!
September 11, 2008
September 7, 2008
Oh well -- still, you can probably gather that the 200K plus MS-150 weekend was a success -- there were a few low spots, but really it was very good overall, a smiling experience full of good times and great riding in some weird-for-early-September weather. From Friday evening at sundown it never got above 70 degrees until about 7 miles to go to the finish line Sunday, today. Weird. Also, the cloud cover was remarkable. I've never ridden SO LONG in the summer without having to apply sunscreen. I saw my shadow for about 20 minutes on Friday evening, about 20 SECONDS Saturday, and for a little bit on Sunday, again about 7 miles from the finish. Sad thing is, I still got a mild sunburn on my neck and the area of my legs where the knickers didn't cover. That looks HOT, lemme tell ya. Nothing says "check ME out" like a couple of inflamed reddish-colored 4 inch wide rings around each, otherwise blazing white, leg. Nice. Finished the 200K at 1:56 AM Saturday AM, drove (yeah, drove) to Peculiar, MO. and attempted to sleep in the car (unsuccessfully) until about 3:45AM, afterwhich some volunteers arriving prompted me to go inside and have the locker room unlocked, showered, and hung around until pancakes were ready, and then the MS-150 party began. Oh, and they stopped calling it the MS-150, because it's really "up to" 182 miles now, if you choose the century route on day one. So, I opted that way, and made it 228 miles in 24 hours between two events. Seventeen beers and six strawberry ice-cream bars later -- ok, not really -- I had the BEST tent-sleep since RTR. Riding over a double century and being awake for 32 hours will do that. Thud, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Just a random shot from the garage, lit only by the LED nightlight that I created from spare parts. Bordom at its finest, but it helps me get ready for night rides without ruining my night vision. The pedal is a old OLD pedal from a vintage kids bike that needs to be restored. Another project for a friend. The big shadow is created by my helmet, hanging above the shot. Weird, blue, spooooky.
Cut to Grandview, MO, 4:45pm Friday afternoon. With US-71 buzzing in the background, I have unpacked the (gulp) car, and am ready to ride. I figured I'd be riding enough this weekend, so I got the car out of mothballs again. For some reason, it's not selling -- but that doesn't mean I'm giving up on the car-free thing -- but for now, it's pretty much car-free unless I'm doing a big bike event somewhere more than 25 miles from home. Variable elimination. This weekend was gonna be run pretty close to the clock, so I had to ensure that I was ready to go right at 5pm for this ride. It worked out. Here's the Trek 450, splendorous, ready for the next 300+ miles.
Note the double Pearl Izumi tailgate seatbags. My solution to carrying too much, and exactly enough. I can still carry along everything I used to have in those huge Carradice bags of a few years back, but I don't catch nearly as much wind or sway - and I don't OVERpack by consequence. Dale from Iowa on the brevet scene said it best once on a 400K -- he said the only bad thing about a big saddle bag is the desire to fill it. In retrospect, he was right. Back pockets do just fine, and if it doesn't fit, do you REALLY need it? This setup has proven very successful and minimalist. Perfect.
Me, the ultimate "before" shot. Willing, rested, fueled, and dressed for the evening temps. Summer, for the time being and ever since Gustav came to visit, has been on hold. It's currently barely 70 degrees and will drop into the mid 50's by the time I'm done. Perfect wool weather. The RUSA colours flying, and reflective gear at the ready. Time to check in at the 7-Eleven, and get this show on the road already.
On the road -- this is probably 40 minutes into the ride, on Kenneth Road. Previously, the traffic was so thick that I didn't feel safe snapping any shots. I don't know if I'll ever consider starting a permanent - especially this one - right at rush hour on a Friday. Getting out of Grandview, thru KCMO, and navigating State Line at 135th Street from Blue Ridge Road... yeah. I've gotten pretty good at this game, but holy stuff dude. This route was defintely designed to be started on a quiet weekend morning. Surprisingly, no close calls, no fingers, no garbage tossing, no honking. Correct behavior on the road benefits everyone, I really believe that. Stay to the right, look confident, and don't be stupid. Like pulling out the camera in traffic -- so, again, this is the first road shot. There are still cars behind me, tho.
As evidenced in this next shot.
Kenneth Road, on top of a ridge between 143rd and 135th streets. Nice day! Green fields, blue skies, some clouds. Nice. A little tailwind, too, I believe.
Downhill on 199th Street - and a blur of color from the thousands of sunflowers that have bloomed over the last couple days. I love this time of year!
Another great view, highlighting the very slight chance of rain that hung about all weekend. Not exactly benign cumulostratus - but not a thunderstorm, either. I'll take it. The shadows are getting longer.
South of Paola, KS., about 45 miles in I think, and the sun is getting lower. To the tune of "Going the Distance" by Cake: "The sun has gone down, and the warmers come up..."
This is one of my favorite pull-offs, too, littered with debris and sunflowers coming up thru the cracks, this is part of old Hospital Road that used to connect to Old KC Road before US-169 was moved. Off the road, and hidden, a good place to park and add layers out of sight of traffic.
From the same location, despite the dramatic forelighting that makes it look almost like afternoon in the leg warmers shot, this is only a few minutes later. The sun behind clouds, and the moon and some bright stars (maybe a planet?) coming out to play. A good one to zoom in on, IMHO. The car is turning off of Hospital Road and onto 311th street, which is where I'm standing.
Some more, sun dipping shots from Hospital Road near 343rd Street.
The Dinotte comes on, lighting the way -- I wish I hadn't jiggled the camera quite so much or this would be pretty striking, but there you have it. I still think for commuting and longer brevets and RUSA stuff, the generator lights are the way to go, especially the Schmidt hub set-up. But, for "shorter" stuff, and the occasional night ride on the "good bike", the Dinotte is superb, flawless really. Light, stupid bright (I kept getting high beams flashed at me from other cars, which tells me it could only benefit from better optics), and long lasting. It's worth every dime. This is the first generation model, notable by the green status LED on the back -- the new ones have blue. I still haven't found reason to upgrade yet -- this is plenty of light, but the new ones are even brighter. This is Hedge Lane near 367th Street, with a just-passed-me set of car taillights just ahead. It got dark FAST.
Here's an under the leg shot off the bike. A Cateye TL-600 blazing into the night attached via the rear rack mounts on the dropouts. No silly plastic clamps for the Trek 450. Not that there's anything wrong with them -- but it's a vintage Trek for gawd-sake. I couldn't brimg myself to clamp something to the gorgeous seat stays. Besides, there wasn't any room left on the seatpost due to the double seatbags. Why am I explaining this? It's bright, aimed right, and a very good taillight. Note the reflective ankle bands. My former love for reflective tape all over the bikcycle has morphed into a love for reflective stuff on me, instead. Same reason, really. It's a red Trek. Why would I put reflective tape all over it? He,he.. Bike snob, you betcha. The last hint of light barely glows in the sky.
Several miles later, at the Casey's in La Cygne, KS., my most-oft visited C-store on bike rides. On a first name basis with the girl that always seems to be working when I show up, and they know the brevet card drill without even being asked. I love this place. Again, a little shakey with the camera. I'm not acclimated to the chill of the night air lately... I'm layered up for March here, and it's still technically summer. It should be in the 70's right now, but it's about 55 instead with a slight north wind. Plus, it's wet -- and about 7 miles out from here the fog was getting thick. A good night to have good lights, and pray for light traffic -- a prayer that was being answered. A great night for a ride, but it's dark and lonely out. I enjoy a hot cup of coffee to speed away the chills and warm the soul for the ride back - this is the halfway today. I can't imagine how dark and cold it would be having to ride down to Pleasanton, which is something I'd have to do had I chosen the Border Patrol route for tonight. Pretty glad I hadn't, even though the Olathe start might have been easier.
Casey's and La Cygne at night - weird. Feels like one of Bob's 400K's! This shot was taken between trains, which were running nearly constantly north and south while I was here. Since the floods last July washed out a lot of tracks, it seems that a lot of freight is STILL behind, and the trains are nearly constant. Another good reason not to be riding Border Patrol, as the approach from the east would have resulted in a LOT of waiting. I was here for 15 minutes, tops, and I counted four trains.
This shot might look like a mistake. It's not. This is to give a slight idea how flippin' DARK it is out on these roads. I have stopped, the Dinotte is off. This is on top of a hill on Hedge Lane, looking due north towards Paola, at I believe approximately 367th Street. I'm still about eight miles away from turning into Paola on Baptiste Drive, about 8.5 as the crow flies from here. dead center in the shot is a little blink of light - and again, it's wiggly - I apologize. It's so dark, the CCD sensor on the camera is scattering light, so even on what should be a dark road surface are little pixels of white, making it look like a bunch of stars. Above the center line of the photo, however, some of those pixels ARE stars, as the clouds have moved east. The moon has already set, but it was only a sliver to begin with. It's so dark, the only reason I can see my hand in from of me is from spill light from my taillight. This is why I ride at night with a small LED light on my helmet. Try to change a flat when you can't even see your own hand. Now, with the Dinotte, that's not a really issue, since I can remove it and keep it lit while I work -- but the generator light only works when I'm moving, and even the newer LED generator lights with a standlight only stay lit for a few minutes. Helmet lights are good. Mine has a red LED that you can switch in, also, to preserve night vision - handy. Anyways, click on this and zoom in if you like. you can't even make out the road, or where the horizon line is -- but you can see Paola. I LOVE this hill, because it means I'm getting close to something. Staring off into a headlight beam for hours on end while moving, all while getting a little sleepy -- this is why rando riders sometimes hallucinate. While I didn't have it too bad tonight, it's happened, and it's weird. I stop occasionally like this, not for pictures, but to kill the lights and stretch my neck up to the stars for a little break. Marvelling at the heavens without the annoyance of light pollution is a rare treat these days as expansion around Olathe is rampant. This was a great night for it. A few minutes, and I'm back on the move.
I stuck to the business of riding, since the light conditions were SO good for pictures. He,he.
This is later on, just north of 135th Street on State Line road. Completely deserted, a complete change from hours earlier when I had to navigate this stretch amid frantic soccer moms and cubicle dads on their way here and there. I'm smiling, helmet light blazing -- smiling for the camera. The usual thing -- makes me look like I'm having a good time, which I always am while on the bike -- well, most of the time. It's not ALways easy rolling, as you all know. But still, it's 1:30 AM, and I'm about 10 miles from being done, and I'm TIRED. The Perpetuem (giving it another shot lately) was working wonderfully, as at the halfway point of the ride I was averaging 17.7 MPH. By the time I've gotten back here, into a slight north headwind and the steeper side of some of the hills, it had only dropped to about 16.8 MPH - but I was starting to get tired.
Much later in the ride, after chatting with the local police in Spring Hill -he,he- nothing BAD, just the only people that were there at the gas station when I pulled up. On the hunt for drunks on a Friday night, they had all paused for a break there, and then I pull up looking like a highway construction worker that stole a bicycle and put on tight pants. Reflective gear, etc. A real sight. We talked briefly, and I kept getting cues that the way one of them was asking questions was more to check my mental state at about ten till midnight, rather that being prompted by a genuine interest in what I was doing. As ridiculous as having ridden from Grandview to La Cygne and now being on my way back sounded, I must have passed the tests. The all just sipped coffee and watched me mix up my drinks for the next leg back to Grandview. This is always fun. I always feel a little weird yanking fresh baggies of powdered energy drink from my back pockets in front of the authorities for some reason. Too much crime drama TV, I suppose. But when I pull out a big bag of compressed drink mix and drop it to the pavement, it always reminds me of those bust scenes on Miami Vice when so-and-so drops a big fat kilo of coke on the hood of the car. Bright white powered drink mix, eh? Lemme see those hands, cyclist.
Upon reviewing the above shot, I decided to turn on the flash to get a better-lit headshot. I did, but when I extended my arm to get the shot I hit the button too early - and in that moment of time you get a very clear picture, un-posed, un-prepared, a shot that, when *I* reviewed it, made me say "holy crap, I look like...." I guess I just unplug my head and pedal, but sometimes a persons face can really tell the tale. I was having a good ride, but near the end I was getting tired and chilled, eyes were running from the cool air, and jaw was relaxed, as I stared down the road to the next turn at Blue Ridge. This is sometimes the face of randonnuering, and the best "after" shot I could hope to get of myself. I look toasted.
So ended the 200K, at 1:56am Saturday morning.
I packed up and drove to Peculiar, and parked at the start line for the MS Ride, only a few hours away.
What a difference a ten minute power nap and a long, hot shower can make -- again, horridly lit, but this is me at about 5:00AM, slappy and ready to go, mugging for the camera again. Dork.
Unfortunately, that's where most of the pictures will have to wait. My old Sony digital camera is not kind to batteries, and this was the last shot I squeezed out of it before they died, and I didn't have another set or a charger. SO, those will have to wait -- but I'm promised a LOT of shots from McJuicy and K-Man, whom were both busy with the shots during the MS Ride. I did get a few from my half-good camera phone later Sunday, however:
Bike farm at Knob Noster State Park rest stop, mile 30.
Another head shot, the subject being the porta-john line. He,he.... find a bush!
McJuicy with a mouth full of a Clif Bar. Gotcha! Note the rider number of "63" -- he's our fundraising MACHINE. This year, he did even better!
This is Anmee and Amber after arriving at the rest stop -- posing happily for the forthcoming "Girls of Team CommuterDude" calendar, available for sale this winter. The guy between them won't be on it. Kinda looks like one of those little shoulder devils, tho, doesn't he? By the way, it's a little foggy - but not as foggy as my camera would have you believe. It just sucks.
That's all I've got for now -- gettin tired again. Work tomorrow... ACK!!!!
But, a chance to slowly spin out my legs and get back into the commuting thing. WIth more pics will come more ride details from the MS ride, no doubt -- it was a GREAT ride this year!!!
September 6, 2008
September 2, 2008
This will be my 8th MS-150, and my 8th 200+ km ride towards the R-12 award -- all in 72 hours time. Yeah, I could have made things easier on myself I suppose - but why? Life is short, and I'd rather have something interesting to talk about. Ok, that's the dumbest excuse ever! Honestly, this month is nuts, and only a few months back I got talked into doing the MS-150 again by my old teammates, and it sounded like fun - which it is, but I had no idea September was gonna be stacked up so tight. Can't back out now, so heeeere we go - challenge time!
So, this coming weekend I'll be setting out Friday evening to get 200K number eight, heading to La Cygne again, but this time on a different route that is a whole, whopping 7 kilometers shorter than the Border Patrol route. Wow, what a relief I won't have to ride those last seven K. But, this new route does get me closer to the Missouri side for the start/finish of the MS-150 itself, so after the 200K is complete I'll head to the start line for the MS Ride and catch a few ZZZ's pending the time. Once the volunteers open up the school, I'll head in for a shower in the locker rooms, dress in fresh cycling gear and then wait for the pancake people to make me some food. That's gonna taste gooooood... Then, at 7:00am Saturday I'll head out on the long route of the MS-150 for another 100 miles, finishing in Sedalia probably just before the sweeper car gets sent out. Yikes. You know, this shouldn't be any more challenging than a 600K weekend, really -- I know that sounds ridiculous to the non-rando person, because I have to agree: a 600K, yeah, that's getting kinda ridiculous -- until you've finished one. But, knowing that I have finished one, I can look at a 300+ mile weekend and almost call it "easy". We'll see how it pans out!
First, I have to commute to work a couple times - today and tomorrow - likely this afternoon and tomorrow in the rain, which will be a nice change. Then, I'm on vacation, baby! Time to rest up, pack up, and carb up. Awesome good times coming -- and I am bringing the real camera along for the ride this time, so I hope to have a nice post for you with some night shots and some random MS-150 activity with my team. Should be great! Stay tuned ---
Now, scroll down and read about Spencer and Danny again! At last check, they were just about to cross into Nebraska! GO GO GO!!!