Perfect weather for a bike ride . . .

March 24, 2008

200K Brevet - Saturday, April 5th

Come one, come all. Do it. 200K. Do it. Do it.
An excellent, time honored route up in the northland, touring Liberty, Plattsburg, Camden Point, and Platte City, MO. Contact the ride organizer for registration information and start location! Hope to see you there!

Full details and contact information available on the KC-Brevets webpage!

Hope to see you there --- it might be warmer, but I doubt it.
Gas might be cheap, too. Pfffffft. YEAH!

Do it.

March 19, 2008

Visibility, safety - the seasonal reminders

The season is coming on fast now, and there is NO REASON to have it begin with any tragic headlines of bicyclists down, etc. PREVENTING THIS STARTS WITH THE INDIVIDUAL:

Visibility is always something that is key during brevet rides & commutes. Sometimes, however, the weekend warrior, even the randonnuer, can forget some of the basics - or feel like they need to "look pro" and ignore some of the stuff altogether. I BEG you not to be one of these people.

Let me be perfectly straight here: I'm a DORK on the bike. Now, this is in direct relation to how people NORMALLY dress OFF the bike. Compared to OTHER cyclists, however, I don't consider anything I'm doing to be unusual for ANY cyclist. Compared to people in regular clothes, yes: but, let's face it: even if you are dressed in something you consider "cool", like a full Jittery Joes kit, or similar (insert favorite team here) -- yeah, it's cool, but compared to people in street clothes, you're still a DORK. JUST LIKE ME. EVEN messengers, people that DON'T wear cycling "gear", baggies, old cycling caps, ratty Misfits or Free Tibet t-shirts: ok, there are pockets of culture in urban areas where it's just as cool to wear this stuff on AND off the bike, and you get that edgy, hard-core, slave-to-no-one vibe going - but, compared to the rest of the planet? Sorry: DORK. Business types that wear an ankle strap to keep pants out of the chain, or tuck them into their socks on the way to work - ok, you're not in a USPS kit, and you don't look like a London traffic warden -- but still, sorry, you're on a bike? DORK.

Only exceptions: San Fran, NYC, Dubai, LA, Boston, Chicago: REAL, WORKING, MESSENGERS get a pass. Even if dressed in a full-body reflective suit with 150 watt safety strobes, and you can still get killed at ANY time by traffic, trucks, busses, back-hoes, potholes, bridge-joints, angry pedestrians, muggers, thieves, druggies, aggressive doormen, pissed-off mailroom clerks, cops, bad street-vendor burritos, and other messengers. In this case, it truly makes no difference what you wear or do, reinforced by the notion that your lock is worth even more than your bike so you don't have to buy a new bike after every job, if someone doesn't see you, swing your lock at 'em. Props to the workers, you don't have to read any more of this. Carry on.

Additional passes for: off-road: not dealing with traffic. Downhill: traffic should be afraid. Trials riders: everyone is afraid of you guys. Carry on.

For the rest of ya, let's get past all the fashionista crap, and focus on staying alive, since we're ALL gonna look like dorks ANY-ways, deal?

Ok -- I have the RUSA sash and RUSA ankle bands, which are GREAT in the dark AND in the daytime, and turns out are actually reflective WHEN WET, which was unexpected. Most fabric submilated reflective material is not reflective anymore when it gets wet, but this stuff is.
Very cool -- and quite a good deal, money-wise.

Second issue with the fashionista thing with regards to cycling - there is this nortion that taillights and stuff are "dorky", too. Refer to above notes. It's a bicycle - gear is cool, remember? - so get a cool taillight, too. Ok, point made there --- couple other things:

1) Make sure they are aimed right.
2) Make sure the batteries are fresh - use rechargable AA and AAA cells for best results if you can, to ensure this, but still save money.
3) Have some model of taillight that has a red rear reflector built in, and/or slather the back of the bike with reflective tape.
3a) worried about the finish? Stick black electrical tape to the bike, and then stick the reflective tape to the surface of the electrical tape. Works GREAT, peels right off - no mess.
3b) red reflectors: one of the first things you remove after getting your new ride home from the bike store, right? Leeave it on, or put it on for the brevet. Brighter than reflective tape. Unmistakably makes your bicycle a VEHICLE from the rear to drivers. Catches light during the DAY, too, and aids in marking your position on the road even if it's broad daylight -- cars with daytime running lights will see you sooner during the day, too, when some cyclists can blend with the foreground of a driver's sight-line, depending on the terrain. Sometimes we ride, and when seen from behind we are sillouhetted against the sky at hte top of a hill, perfectly visible. OTHER times, we are on a dim, tree-lined and shadowed street with mailboxes, parked cars, trash bins, etc. The reflective nature of the red rear reflector combined with the ankle bands and sash helps with this.
3c) from a RUSA perspective, many RPCs and RBAs are leniant with this is other safety features exist, like lights and the other reflective gear - but it IS in the RUSA rules to have a red rear reflector. Keeping in mind you are riding thru a lot of rural counties, many with different interpretations of State DOT laws, its FAR BETTER to be covered, legally, than to be told to get off the roads if you aren't by a stingy county sherriff. It's happened.
3d) taillights themselves: Don't use flashing mode unless the weather is horrible, or it's daytime. It confuses drivers and completely kills depth perception and ability to track a target while they are in motion in a car approaching you from the rear. Sometimes, that WIDE berth drivers give you doesn't mean neccessarily that they saw your very-effective taillight and are being respectful: sometimes it means they have been staring at it for 1/2 a mile, have a little purple-blur, camera flash syndrome ridopsyn blockage in their eyesight, and really aren't sure where you are. Sometimes it can mean both things. BUT: consider if the light is burning solidly, your position is easily trackable, there is no strobe effect to confuse or mesmerize anyone - fellow riders included - and you are again following local legal laws: after all, the ONLY thing on the road that should have a flashing red anything is an emergency vehicle. Flashing AMBER? You find one, and I'll use the heck out of it!

Exceptions: reaction time is everything in nasty weather -- I find that this is the exception to the flashing rule, and I personally use a Dinotte HEADlight, mounted on the rear rack, pointing backwards and angled slightly down towards the pavement in a steady flash mode. This creates a VERY distinct WHITE blob of extremely bright "HEY -- DON'T HIT THIS" scenario. This last Saturday, in the driving sleet, it WORKED. During the day on US-69 highway, it WORKED: drivers passing me were in the far center-median lane, instead of the right lane, even though I was on the far right shoulder. So, as a daytime take-notice light, the Dinotte is TERRIFIC - the only thing better would be the amber version, but I can't afford two of them, so my headlight version does double duty, and if the Schymidt generator light ever fails I have a fully redundant backup headlight system with me. Not the cheapest option, I know, but I know a lot of you guys out there have the Dinotte headlights now, and for brevets - especially solo events - they are great daytime markers for that narrow shoulderless highway. Turn em off, or take the back of the paceline if you run it, tho, when riding with friends. For those Dinotte users, I have the included helmet mount zip-tied to the top of the rear rack - works perfectly.

I think this covers it. The other obvious stuff like staying off the sidewalk, taking the lane with respect, staying to the right, breaking up the 16-wide echelon when someone yells car back the EIGHTH time, doing AT LEAST the RAAM-Legal stop at stop-signs and lights (I never said you had to put a darn foot down, people -- just TRY to look like you are obeying SOMEthing, and if there is a question about the right of way, the heavier vehicle wins unless they wave you through - after all, if neither of you slowed down, they'd win anyways so why make an issue of it?)
Idealism... yeah, it's a grand concept, but some of you freaks just AREN'T gonna stop. Hey, if your kharma is paid up and you're good with it, more power to ya -- but don't give me ANY lip if you've been sucking my wheel for 15 minutes and I decide to obey a stop sign. I'll warn you once.

Ok, we're covered. It's warm. You are, too. Ride smart, stay alive. Get out there!

March 17, 2008

R-12 pt.2 -- For Honor, and Glory.

After wussing out on the regular Brevet on 3/08 last weekend, I felt pretty darn good about myself. I felt like I could still get my mileage for an attempt at the R-12. I felt like I had dodged winter’s last big bullet, dodged the single digit temps and the frozen water bottles and the stinging numbness of that midwest bitter cold. I thought I was pretty hot snot: I’ll just ride a permanent next weekend – SURELY the weather will be better.

Silly boy.

As the weekend approached, I had already announced my intent to the perm coordinator, Spencer, so the date and time was set. If I was gonna bow-out, it was gonna be a DNF, officially. It’s probably not THAT foreboding, but honesty and integrity are irreplaceable: if I said I was gonna ride it, I’d better ride it. As the days progressed, the forecast changed and by Wednesday the first mention of snow entered the Saturday AM forecast. I was doubtful, watching the maps and getting opinions from TV forecasters, the rain/snow line was going to be well to the north, it’d rain for a short time and then the sun would come out to bring upper 40’s to the air – and upper 40’s is downright perfect for me after this winter. Not warm, but not cold – almost t-shirt weather. I was actually a little excited: I’d don the rain-jacket for an hour or so, and then dry out and enjoy my first permanent.

But, forecasting ANY weather is difficult – the variables are unfathomable to the layperson. Forecasting late winter weather in the midwest is nearly impossible, and it changes hourly. It’s a good-guess scenario, always. Sometimes, I swear the weather services update the webpages as quickly as they can, so they don’t look like they’re getting caught. So begins my tale.

There is something of a double-edged sword when it comes to permanents and brevets. Upon organizing such events, the rule book sets aside time constraints on the ride, based on mileage. These constraints are usually just a detail, a formality for most participants that have been riding for a while, long enough to consider doing a distance event. The long end of the clock is such an average speed that you could almost take your sweet time, and the short end is pretty fast – but not as fast as some riders I’ve ridden with, which is to say if you really worked at it, you could arrive at a control too soon for the checkpoint to be considered legal. I was lucky enough to have performed this on one occasion, having to sit on the curb for ten minutes before getting my card signed. Granted, conditions were perfect and I’ve never repeated it – but it is possible. Along with this time window, there is the start time to be considered. You set the ride time, in this case 6:00AM; the time chart works out that you have an HOUR to leave the first control. This avoids the “mass start” mentality, and allows a little room for getting stuck in traffic on the way to the event, forgetting your gloves and having to run to a store, etc., or, in this case, waiting out some particularly nasty weather. The other edge of the sword swings around when one considers that the official clock IS ticking, whether you are riding or not, so it’s not often you see people dawdling around at the first control. Most brevets are long journeys into the unknown, and every minute you can save the better off you’ll be if you get flats, mechanicals, bonk, crash, explode, burst into flames, or your helmet melts. Time is NOT your friend in the world of RUSA. It truly waits for NO-one.

I begin my morning rising with my alarm clock, and walking out to the back deck. I swing open the door and stand outside, facing the north, to size up my conditions. It was raining hard with stiff north winds, as expected, and the temperature at 37 degrees. Not horrid, and again: expected. I went downstairs and fired up the computer, punched up the National Weather Service radar, and took a look. The back edge of the rain was not too far away…Hmmmm… I knew no-one else was showing up for this one, and I knew I had that hour buffer for just such a thing – I’d never used it before, though, so I was a little leery. Something in my subconscious was obviously looking for some excuse to forestall this wet morning ride, because – after all – I was “done” with winter. Yet, here I was after skipping the seven-degree start temperature of the brevet the weekend before, trading it for cold north winds and steady rain. In typical late-winter fashion, I was starting to waver a little, mentally. If it rains LATER in a ride, I put on the jacket and keep going – but there is something a little bit harder about starting out into it. I formulated my plan, and after looking at the radar loop for a while, I could see the back edge of the system was approaching, and did some quick math – I can use that hour, snooze a little, and then I won’t have to ride in the rain for too long, right? Made sense, so I set my alarm and went back to sleep. 45 minutes later, alarm sounds, I rise, I stand on back deck – still raining, still 37 degrees. I head downstairs, wiggle the mouse and watch as the screen saver gives way to the radar shot, and I smack the F5 button… refresh, and the back edge of the rain is indeed closer to Olathe now. Perfect. I step into a hot shower, and get dressed. Let’s do this thing. He latest forecast text indicates rain will end by 7:00AM, and it’s 6:15 now – this shouldn’t be a bad day after all, as they’re still saying upper 40’s for the high and partly cloudy. I can deal with that.

Anyone that is here in town, reading this, is laughing their butts off by now.

I am warm, refreshed and awake after my shower, and I slug down the last of my Sustained Energy breakfast and get dressed up. Wool base layer, wool RUSA jersey, wool gloves, cap, ear band, knee warmers, tights, double socks – this is one of those rides, rain or dry, that wool just shines, and I savor the snuggly feel of my prized rando-gear. It’s one of those things; after ten years of riding consistently I’ve gotten to a point as a rider where I’m done buying neat trinkets and upgrades for the bicycle itself, and have concentrated on things that make riding itself more enjoyable and comfortable – that cool looking cap, those plush arm warmers, that cool seatbag. This is a day where I get to wear a lot of “toys”. Rare closet gems for that rare cool-ish, wet-ish ride that make the difference between enduring, and enjoying. I’m ready, pulling on the rain jacket and snapping the helmet closure home.

It occurs to me that it’s awfully quiet outside the garage door – maybe the rain stopped already? Knowing the forecasters often get the timing wrong this month, I push the garage door opener button:

Snow. Maybe sleet, too? Holy…. I recall mentally the text of the forecast mentioning snow, but well north of here… north of I-70, maybe even north of US-36… not HERE!? They’ve been wrong before, but like THIS? NOW? Common!!! Silently, I ran all this through my head, and in about 15 seconds I flashed forward to see myself on the road, hours from then, riding in the partly-cloudy sunshine, on drier roads. This wouldn’t last. Just do it. I exited the garage, and closed the door behind me.

To clarify, the ride start is only a mile or so from my house, by design – this is the “Free State Border Patrol” permanent, my first route to be approved, and this would be my first time seeing it on a bicycle. The obvious problem with that arrangement is the location of my decision point is not at some far-off parking lot or truck stop – it’s my own garage, with my own bed still warm from residual body heat only a few feet above my head. Getting myself out of that garage is NOT easy, where getting out of the car and realizing that you came all this way, packed the car, etc., and are likely surrounded by other riders – it’s easy, even in the rain, to get going. Today, in the dark, in the snow, solo – this was the hardest part, just leaving the house for the first control. Another thing; my route is designed largely from past experience on familiar roads, route I have culminated over years of exploring, driving around sometimes wondering “where that road goes”. I don’t always have the time to spend a day on the bike with a notepad, pre-riding everything – I just don’t have the time. It’s far easier and faster to get a rough idea from maps, then get in the car and zip down the interstate to check out that remote section with the question mark, and return home fast. This is how this route’s farthest sections came into existence. It’s not often the BEST way to design a route, I’ll grant you, but it’s what I did in this case, and at the very least I had seen it in person and my regional permanent coordinator and another rider had ridden it the month before without issue. Even though I can’t always RIDE it first, I make every effort to ensure the distances are correct, the turns are clear on the cue sheets, etc. This route was no exception. It was already proven – but today would be my first look at it from its intended perspective – a bicycle.

I arrived at the first control, and looking at the clock I had already cut myself too close – I ran inside, grabbed a coffee drink, swiped my card and nervously took the receipt from the cashier to verify the time – 6:57AM… I had made the legal start with three minutes to spare. Don’t ever do that again, dude! Back in the elements, I slammed the coffee drink, mounted up and started out. The sleet/snow mix was HEAVY, and the wind solid at 18-20 MPH from the northeast. This was ridiculous, but I’m out here! Let’s go get that March 200K! Smiling at myself for at least taking the first difficult steps, I pointed the bike south on Mur-Len and headed out of town, taillights screaming into the snowfall behind me, and headlight blazing my trail. Fenders alive with water and thin slush, but layers and wool working great, I was not feeling too bad. I was awake, and ready.

Only two miles south of the start, I wanted to be done.

As I approached 167th and Mur-Len, I reached the old part of the road, an old one-lane bridge that has definitely seen better days. After steady rain since probably 1 AM, it was covered with watery puddles – big ones, and having ridden this section a lot of times in the past I knew that at least two of those puddles were covering rim-bending potholes – but I couldn’t remember which ones. Never ride into a puddle that you can’t see the bottom of. You never know what it is hiding. Seeing no good line past ANY of the dark puddles, I slowed down – WAY down – too slow, really. As I reached the bridge, my front wheel dug into the sloppy silt right before the puddles and slid a little, which engaged my automatic response: unclip and put a foot down to avoid falling, right? Normal move for any cyclist when the front wheel slides; but with that move I found the bigger of the two potholes with my right foot, which plunged with a splash into a one-foot deep lake of ice cold, muddy water. Instantly, my warm wool socks and half my tights were soaked. “Grand,” I muttered, clipped back in shaking my head, and pedaled on past the bridge and up the hill on the other side. “That’s gonna feel awesome in a few miles!” I grumbled, but it was already feeling pretty “good”. At least it was wool – another case for the natural miracle fiber: it still insulates when wet, as I’ve said before in this blog – but now, since that wetness came on instantly, it would take a while for my body heat to start warming up that water. And, the feet don’t get a whole lot of circulation when riding – at least not for me. So it was going to be a while. Could be worse… keep riding… Even with that, I never once considered turning around, even though warm, dry socks were only two miles away, back at the house. I was already an hour under… keep moving.

The sleet/snow was coming down quite hard as I reached 175th and Mur-Len and turned into the crosswind. Though most of my skin was covered in clothing my face was still exposed, and as I began to fight the crosswind and keep the bike stable my face began to sting. Despite my cycling cap being fairly low to protect my forehead and eyes, my cheeks and neck were taking a beating from the driving precipitation – which was like a sand-blaster on low setting, someone pointing it at me from about ten yards away: not anything that would peel off my skin, but it FREAKING HURT. I could feel my skin swelling from the combination of icy nails and cold air, and my nose began to run uncontrollably, as it usually does in this weather. I looked like something the ladies would REALLY like, lemme tell you. Imagine a raspberry and coconut Zinger snack-cake, but with a thin, clear glaze all over it. Mmmmmm. Yeah. I continued on, because basically what ELSE was I gonna do? I arrived at Antioch Road and 179th Street, but not until passing the entrance to the Kemper Farm; and a silent, dark Johnson County Sheriff’s car, waiting for that early-morning speeder, no doubt. As I passed, I could see him look up, and make a face like, “MAN, I should arrest you for your own good, moron.” He didn’t flash the lights or say anything over the PA system, so my hybrid, super-SUPER bright taillight must have passed his approval, too. Side note on that later on.

The first challenge of the ride – really of the entire year so far – was upon me after turning south on Antioch, as I approached the mother of most Johnson County hills, at least southern Johnson County. It’s 40+ MPH without trying in downhill mode, and quite a grunter on the way south. Today, it would help warm things up, so I stood out of the saddle and proceeded up the grade. It worked, and I felt a little better after leveling out and spinning for a bit. Instead of looking quite so grim, it was interesting – the snow/sleet at my back again wasn’t nearly as painful as the past five miles had been, and it was interesting to hear how confused the birds must have been that morning. The sun was coming up (but was still not to be seen through the clouds) and the birds were greeting it in usual spring song, but the snowfall happening while birdsongs were in the air, it was weird. Snow was collecting on the shoulders and in the fields, and it started to feel colder, despite the growing light of day. Yeesh. This HAS to get better. At least the snow should stop soon. I had my phone handy, since I’d been recording mileage at each turn for some cue sheet tweaks, so I pulled up my quicklink for the local radar, and the back edge of the precipitation WAS indeed coming soon. It should get better – press on!

I kept on, turning east again at 199th Street to head over to Metcalf, and got another dose of sandblasting from the relentless wind-driven sleet, and a quick glance at the bank time-board confirmed that it HAD gotten colder, down to 34 degrees now! Wow. Welp, at least my seat-o-the-pants thermometer is working! I stopped at the Stilwell Grocery, and took a nature break. This would be one of those days where outdoorsy nature breaks just weren’t going to happen – every time I’d get the notion, there would be a car – even if I hadn’t seen one in 30 minutes, bang – car. I’d be “holding it” a lot today. I know – you needed to know that. Sleep well. Another bunch of “poor bastard” looks from the gas-gettin’ locals at the filling pumps, and I was off to the south. The wind seemed to have picked up, too, and now that I was on a good flat headed south, I realized I was getting propelled along at 22 MPH without much pedal input. This is not going to be good later on, dude… but the wind is supposed to die down, too. Even as I thought that very thought in my head, I damned the idea that I ever considered pursuing that particular profession. Out of all the variables they could have tossed in my lap, so far they’d been wrong on every count, so as far as I knew the wind would pick up to 70 MPH by the time I would turn around at Pleasanton, KS. Sitting up to take advantage of the tailwind while I could, with a song from Spoon stuck in my head (Rhythm & Soul, specifically) I puttered along the perfect road, free of cars, with flying snow and sleet all around me. Despite my feet slowing turning numb, and feeling like lumps of dead meat at the ends of my legs, it was a magical morning, even for a ride. I reached down and loosened the fore-straps on my cycling sandals, hoping to maybe eliminate some of the numbness – maybe it was pressure-related – but the more I rode and the more snow collected on the tops of my feet and tights, I was clear that it was just 34-degree water doing the work. Next time, some sort of Seal-Skinz or other waterproofs for the feet would be REALLY nice.

The clouds were just thick, and the sun just would not come out, nor would the sleet and snow let up. I was beginning to really drive home the notion that weather forecasters are just wrong. Logging the mileage at K-68 and Metcalf near Louisburg, I pulled off the road and checked the radar again. Well, well. That’s forecasters one, dude zero. The line of precipitation WAS moving clear of Olathe. The problem was, I was NOT in Olathe anymore. In fact, driven by the tailwind and as a matter of timing on my part, my decision to try and wait out the weather at the start resulted in me staying in perfect unison with the line of weather creating the precipitation. As I moved south, the northeast-to-southwest oriented line of storms advanced to the east, and I was managing to stay right on the intersection of my north-south road and the center of the weather. If I had left an hour earlier, there was a slight chance that I would have managed to stay just AHEAD of the rain/snow line, and might have been completely dry after advancing to the east a ways – the exact opposite of what I had figured out in my head a few hours earlier. This is like Kharmic payback for skipping the KCK brevet, isn’t it? Crud…nothing to do but keep on riding. What could have been largely avoided I had managed to keep myself stuck in the middle of – and what might have been subconscious waffling might actually have been subconscious gluttony for punishment! After all, I’m the sick puppy that decided to ride in the first place – no one held a gun to my head – perhaps I’m REALLY just TRYING to make it harder on myself, yeah… that’s it! That’s the ticket! Eureka!

The Monty Python quotes echoed across the lonely highway as I pedaled on – DO YOUR WORST! HAVE AT YOU! Energy drink slugged down like warm meade, I would triumph over this paltry weather. Build a bridge out of her!

They call me…… Tim?

FINALLY, the sleet began to lift as I reached 335th and Metcalf. FINALLY. I turned back west into the crosswind to jog over to the next southbound section of the route, which to my delight was shaping up nicely from the saddle. Coming up, however, was the road that had already gained a reputation as a benchmark for toughness incarnate. This far south, in Linn County, KS., the nature of paving begins to walk a fine definitive. “Paved” could mean anything, really – anything other than rutted wagon roads – and being quite literal, SOME of these roads *ARE* old wagon roads that have NEVER had pavement laid upon them. They are marked “Minimum Maintenance – Travel at Your Own Risk”. They don’t fool around down here, and you have been warned: you don’t DRIVE those roads unless they lead to YOUR field, because they won’t come to tow you out – they will let your car get sucked into the muck to join the other fossilized remains of cars that have foolishly trod here before yours. This is part of why this route was titled the “Free State Border Patrol”, as a lot of the land you ride across is marked with these roads that were originally sectioned off around the mid 1800’s, right when the border ruffians and abolitionists were getting mad enough to trade 50-cal. ball ammo, one round at a time. Under all the mud and slop, there is a lot of blood and history. Very little outside the current highway cooridor has changed much in over 100 years, so if you find a paved road – you take it. There are no other options. In the case of this route, when I designed it there was only one road that joined the northern and southern sections of my ride together, and it’s this single one-mile section of Jingo road. Coming from the north, it’s just a road – but coming from the south, there is a sign that reads “Pavement Ends”, and it’s apparent WHY as soon as your front tire hits it. It’s ROUGH. Now, it *IS* paved, so don’t ya’ll start getting’ skeered and thinking you gonna skip my ride. OH, no. Do it. 700x18’s might have a problem, so if you ARE running 18mm tubulars and super-light climbing rims, you might wanna stay home. Other than that, do it. It’s not that bad. It’s not gravel – which I qualify as any road improvement medium that consists of pea-sized up to 2” broken rock, spread evenly to an average post compression depth of 1.5 inches. I’m not a civil engineer, but I play one on TV sometimes when CSI: Olathe needs stand-ins:

“It looks like this one was bored….to death….” .

Anyways – this road was indeed PAVED with an actual lay-over of aggregate held in place by asphalt or bitumen of some kind – problem is, that was done in 1995. So, today, it’s a LITTLE choppy. It’s only a mile, though, and the butter smooth pavement on the other side is worth the trip. It’s one of those Kansas curiosities, however. The road that you come off of is a major county route connecting to points east and west: 359th Street – east takes you to Drexel, MO., and west takes you eventually thru Block and Paola, kind-of the back way. So, why not just continue the pavement another mile north and just connect the two? I mean, it’s 2008! Well, it’s not Linn County’s problem – they don’t take responsibility until you hit 407th Street. In Miami County, and you can see this as you approach the “questionable” section of Jingo road from the south, 359th Street used to be a 4-way stop with OLD US-69 highway – now it’s an overpass. The resolution on Google Maps doesn’t have (sadly) the resolution to see this, but one of the last pieces of Old Route 69 is actually what is Jingo Road today, and as soon as the “pavement ends” at 367th street as you approach from the south, you can see the old concrete two-lane road arcing gracefully to the northeast, barricaded off long ago, as old Jingo road continues north – since this particular portion of road was NEVER part of Route 69, it was never paved. Never needed to be – it just continues north and becomes Switzer Road and meanders north towards Louisburg before stopping short – and the “pavement” up there is REALLY bad. The highway was extended down from Kansas City, MO to Fort Scott, KS in 1935, and this part of the road dates back to that particular expansion. It was abandoned when US-69 was moved to its current alignment to the east circa 1957, part of the highway improvement acts Eisenhower signed. Eisenhower was paranoid, and the main highway interstate system was put in place with wide lanes and high overpasses for larger military equipment migrations and/or mass evacuations – something the need for which, thankfully, never arose. Some of the major Routes were given new federal funding on the new US Highway program, and 69 being one of the few complete north-south routes (1150 miles long at the time), it was given straighter runs, wider lanes and the hills were either bypassed or blasted out of the rock to flatter grades. This old section, now named Jingo Road, was bypassed – and Jingo, KS, for which the road was renamed, faded into oblivion. The road here was originally part of the 1926 overlay of the old military routes that ran from Ft. Scott up to Ft. Leavenworth. “Border Patrol” indeed; as you travel on Jingo Road you are travelling on the very longitude that Union troops were using to move supplies to the frontier forts. Later on in the route, culminating at Pleasanton, you pass very close to the Mine Creek battlefield site, where – in short – the last major Civil War battle in the west was fought, and the only Civil War battle fought on Kansas soil. The results of the battle likely saved Fort Scott from a direct attack, as the confederate wagon train that was headed south attempting to cross the Little Osage river was cut off, forcing a retreat back into Missouri. Timed closely with other battles in the east at the time, the Mine Creek battle - having taken place in October 1864 - was one of the battles that began to reveal the confederate army's fading momentum, and barely six months later the war was ending at Appomattox. Nearly 150 years later, the thought of riding over a mile of questionable pavement seems to sit easier, knowing how good we have things today. Imagine it: only 50 years later, the first automobiles began to show up on Kansas roads. 70 years after the battle, concrete showed up over the old military road. Today, a half-mile east, four lanes of 70 MPH traffic blasts past all the history – and yet the same ruts are back there in those hills, the same stone foundations of barns burned by raiders, the long-rotted wooden grave markers of the lost, faded forever. Riding this land on a bicycle, it is truly something – keeping the history in your heart – to experience. It makes me think, and it makes me proud – and makes me forget for a few moments that my feet are numb, and my legs are tired.

After nine miles of this old road, however, you come to the top of a ridge and a tee intersection in the road where you turn west towards La Cygne, and the 2nd control; the first one since leaving the start line 45 miles earlier. More evidence that this used to be the main road, the giant expanded steel "Welcome to La Cygne" sign still stands proudly on the ridge, having never been moved into view of the new highway. I’m hungry, tired, and wet – still. Even though the rain and sleet has stopped, the wet roads and humid air keep me quite wet – but I’m still comfortable in my wool cocoon. I stop in for a donut, a card signing, fresh water and hot coffee which tastes REALLY good. This part of the route I’m pretty familiar with, and this Casey’s store is probably one of my favorites of all time: it sees a lot of business in this small town, and a lot of cyclists. Two permanent routes pass through here and use the Casey’s as a control, and Bob’s 400K and 600K south routes roll right past it, making it an unofficial – but often essential – stop along those rides. Today, I feel right at home, sipping coffee and talking briefly with a National Guardsman that’s as disappointed in the weather as I was, that being his only weekend off in a while. After he left, and my coffee cup ran dry, I was ready to get this next part over with – a big unknown: the whole southern section of my route, the first time I’d see it from the saddle. I knew what to expect, having pre-driven it for review – but from the saddle, it’s all different. Here we go! At least it’s not raining/snowing/sleeting (whatever all that mess was) anymore, but there is still a bite to the air that makes me keep the rain jacket on just as a wind breaker. The crosswind was still waiting for me as I traveled west on K-152 to the next turn south.

Ahhh, the Linn County highway system: another Kansas curiosity – but not so much after visiting Texas. For my readers to the south, picture this as any of the FM roads down there. Chip seal, no real way-lines or divider-lines, not really straight, not a whole lot of signage – just a road between two places. Linn 1095 and 548 are much like this, highways that date WAY back, to towns that time hasn’t been so quick with; towns with brick Main streets, corner cafés and unlocked doors. It’s also roads that some in the northeast would call “B.C.” roads; Before Caterpillar. If there’s a hill, you’re going UP it. If there’s a creek, you’re lucky if you don’t fall in. It’s kinda neat, but after the rainfall all night down here I was worried I might have come all this way only to be turned back by floodwaters. Fortunately, that was not the case – the road was actually well protected and most of the fields were indeed dry. I think I saw a total of ten cars in 44 miles in this section, so it was right up my alley as far as ideal ride conditions, even if the weather wasn’t cooperating. Still no sunshine – not even a hint of it, and the tailwind was increasing. The first of the hills came up, climbing the spine of a ridgeline, and steeper than I remember it being in the car. Figures, but the Casey’s donut sits right, and I stand up and deliver the climb, enjoying a fast descent on the other side. The next few miles are rolling, mostly flat, passing a lot of land, a few houses, some livestock, and then the 2nd hill comes along climbing another steep geographic feature, with a nice curve in the middle of it. Another fast descent to enjoy, then more flat, a few more curves, and hill number three – just a bump. Finally the left turn for Pleasanton, but a sign that I hadn’t noticed before: Pleasanton – 6, with an arrow pointing left; Mound City – 3, with an arrow pointing straight. I sat for a second, and thought to myself --- what was I THINKING with THAT one? After all the riding, all the planning, I had ended up with a 217km ride…and here was Mound City, just sitting out there, 3 miles closer… 6 miles shorter overall… for 205km’s total? Dude….there must be something really special about Pleasanton that I couldn’t seem to remember at that moment, but I felt pretty dumb for some reason. To the point where I’m actually considering changing it or creating another permanent that goes to Mound City instead! It really doesn’t seem like much, but when you’re done – you’re done, and six more miles might as well be 6,000. Even with the tailwind, the road here was taking its toll on me. Ok, fine – six miles until food and rest. Let’s go.

I turned left. Same kind of road, and as I looked right, I was glad that I’d done what I’d done as opposed to some other route that would have me headed west from there instead – to the west, within ½ mile, was the biggest wall of a hill I’ve ever seen; it went straight up the ridge, instead of curving gently around it. Thankfully I would not have to climb THAT today…but it might be featured in a future ride, probably that one to Mound City, KS. I rode on, and came upon another short roller, and then the biggie of the outbound section. This is one of those hills that reminded me of Colorado, smack up against a rock face on the left, and a guardrail on my right – steady 7% uphill for at least ¾ mile, I think. UP, up….UP!!! WHOA! It levels off for a short time, and then there is a sign; “HILL”. Really? NOW they call something a hill? And instantly I was doing about 50 MPH. Holy……..ZOOOOOOOOM, and I was at the bottom. That was fun! Past a field of cows, and around another bend, and then there was Pleasanton – that was a fast 6 miles! Finally, I’m at the halfway – all home-ward from here! Oooo, but that last little bump into the parking lot of the Pleasanton Phillips 66 station felt a little “off”… huh? I dismount, record mileage, and reach down to feel my rear tire, which is now soft and squishy… must’ve picked up some glass or something… well, this will be interesting. I walk in and take care of business, buy a six-pack of tiny donut gems, and some water. Looks like I’m fixing a flat and eatin’ donuts!

These tires, I tell ya – even though I’d gotten a flat, I don’t know WHERE I picked it up. I did a spit-test on it after finding the puncture, and the bubbles were small and grew slow. The rubber around the hole was well sealed. And after 67 miles in the wet, where-in cyclists are 50% more likely to get a flat at ALL, I had only found this one puncture after safely reaching my destination (well, this halfway control, anyways) None of that catastrophic POW hsss, hsss, hsssssss, hsssssss…. Flat. I had barely noticed it. Who knows how long I’d ridden on it. So, with pleasure, I got the flat kit out, pulled out a really gnarly looking oblong shaped hunk of razor sharp glass. Well, that’d do it. I check the inside of the tire for leftovers, and elect to save my tubes and patch this one, since I can see it. Patch on, tire on, inflate. Spit test…. You know: slob some spit on your finger, rub it across the hole where the glass used to be, and look for bubbles; no bubbles, no more leak! So, I do it…. Oh, crud…. BUBBLES!? Must not have gotten it… what did I miss? This was after repacking the seatbag, etc., convinced I’d only the one puncture. Wrong-o! I rotate the tire about 6 inches around, and there it is; a little bump about as big around as a penny nail, blackish in color. Great. Deflate the air I just worked my arms to put IN, extract offender. Glass again, this time a roundish shard of REALLY sharply pointed glass about ½” long! Dang! Straight into the tread. Round two, patch it, reinsert tube, remount tire, reinflate… spit test….. NO bubbles… whew! Success! These tires are indeed great – which is a hard thing for me to say after a double flat like this; in the past I’d be shopping for new tires when I got home, but today it made sense. The roads themselves, 3 miles on a US-highway shoulder, “pavement” on Jingo road, and the Linn County highways – decades old chip seal probably riddled with years and years of Saturday night beer bottles, AND it was all wet. The rest of the tire surface, front and rear had no rips, no cuts, no slashes of even the smallest nature. Just two perfect punctures that probably would have gotten ANY tire – because, based on kinetic energy and such, the way these punctures went in, and my body weight – it’s essentially like taking a finish brad at point-blank range from an air-nailer. There isn’t ANY tire out there that is flat-PROOF. Considering the way the rest of the tire looked, and how slowly the air leaked when it did flat, they did really, really well – and from what I’ve replaced before, the Pasela’s would have taken more damage, for certain. Plus, unlike the old Continentals I used to run, these didn’t blossom out and just deflate instantly – I was still riding along safely when I noticed the pressure had dropped, so the sidewalls were never compromised, and I wasn’t at risk of ruining the tube. Not bad. Second flat repaired, kit repacked, donuts in tummy – time to get outta Pleasanton! I had arrived and had my card signed at 11:45, so it was time to try and make good on the time the tailwind bought me on the way down.

There’s that tale of the brevet control time warp – I wonder if ya’ll have heard or experienced it? You’re at a control – usually the halfway of any ride – it’s lunchtime, you’re with friends, times are good – so we all pick up some sidewalk and sit a spell. Talk about the ride so far, what’s coming up, that one ride that one year, etc. All while chowing on c-store eats and deciding which layers to leave on and which to take off. Pretty soon, hours have passed, and someone says it “uh, we better get movin!” Been there tons of times. Today, I knew I was in luck, because I was solo – no-one to chat with, no-one to wait for. It’s good AND bad, because I was mumbling to myself a lot more than usual, but I was moving. Even with the double flat, my card was signed and I ate while I worked, never sat down, was quick about things – no dawdling. I knew I couldn’t because that tailwind all morning was about to take its toll from me. I rolled out onto the route, and glanced down at my computer. 12:47 PM…. Ok….. whoa, what? 12:47?!? I pulled out my cell phone, absolutely CONVINCED my bike computer was wrong – there was NO way I’d been there THAT long – I ate six little donuts, mixed a drink, fixed my rear flat with two quick patches, didn’t talk to anyone, didn’t even put my backside on the sidewalk! My cell phone display read 12:48 PM!!! WHAT WAS I *DOING*??!!?? The time warp is REAL, friends… I honestly was thinking 20 minutes… maybe 30 tops… I was ALL business…. But, there it was .. over an HOUR, blown. Combined with the hour I blew at the start of the day, the math was still in my favor, but it was really not looking so good – especially when I finally turned north.

Reaching LN 1095 again wasn’t horrid, save for having to actually CLIMB the 50 MPH monster that I had descended earlier. Dang – straight up the ridge… this is a challenging little piece of road – but the downhill on the other side was totally worth it, the Colorado-style twisty descent was a thrill, and the drying out pavement meant it was time to hang it out a little bit. Fun tires, too, did I mention? More flat to rolling terrain, and the crosswind was reminding me not to get too excited about things: spin, conserve. The donuts were working, the Clif Shot electrolyte drink was working – another new “experiment” that I took away from Tejas last year. Works well, but certainly just electrolyte replacement, not really a caloric source. That reminded me – even though the donuts sat well so far, and I was trying NOT to stuff myself, I STILL really don’t know how to eat for these rides. I’ve either forgotten, or I never learned how – with all the powdered energy supplements I’d used religiously over the years. I have actually been thinking that some of my lack of speed comes directly from nutritional concerns. I ate like dirt at Texas for the Italy brevet, and today I was eating like dirt again – even though it was WORKING, it was stuff that I would never really eat off the bike, even in moderation. Heavy donuts, for example – a treat, sometimes, yeah – but would they really continue to work or would I eventually fall into a sugar crash? Had more of the ride been done just on residual calories from last night’s dinner and this morning’s Sustained Energy? I went through a whole thing where I started worrying a lot about what I was carrying – which LAST year was indeed TOO much stuff. Carrying too much powder for a long ride creates a problem – and my old formula solved most of that by adding a Camelbak system, and filling it with straight water of hydration fuel. But, I just DON’T want anything on my back anymore. Can’t do it. Can’t commute that way anymore, won’t brevet that way anymore. I have learned to DRINK enough now, and hydration today wouldn’t pose a problem at all – no cramps, no problems. BUT, calories – specifically calorie replacement: with the tally of food I’d take in, and the amount of calories I’d burn by the end of the ride, I ran a BIG deficit again. The donuts would start to turn on me, eventually, partly in waste product production, and partly in staying power. While the chocolate glazed long-john crème filled at Casey’s got me DOWN to Pleasanton, the Hostess Little Gems were about to run out, and I’d barely reached the turn six miles into the return leg. Pizza, a sandwich, maybe even a sit-down MEAL at a café, certainly an actual LUNCH would have served me better – but the time warp issue pops back into my head. If I thought I was hurrying, and burned an hour easily, what would sitting down at a restaurant do to my clock? Am I just a powdered energy drink guy, and that’s it? Why am I messing around, then? Should I do what Byron does, and just stuff the back pockets with SE again, or Carboplex? Maybe so – and to be sure, I’ll try it at the next one. Today, however, my last serving of SE was sitting quietly mixed up in my 2nd water bottle, and I knew I dare not drink it YET, for fear of a sugar reaction with what I’d eaten before. Again, why should I mess around?

Linn 1095 came up, I turned north, and WHAM… there it was, as promised: the north wind. What was supposed to have died down had increased as the storm front blew past, and the breeze was a solid 18-20 MPH. I put my hands on the drops, and my head down – time to stare at the pavement for a few hours. It was relentless, and what Spencer had mentioned about this being an “exposed” route was true. No tree line, no ridge, no sheltered road – just like the Italy 200K again – and this time, no Ort, nobody but ME – it was time to earn it, because it was NOT going to get handed to me today. I was ten minutes in to 60 miles of headwind, and was already feeling sapped. Then the first of the next three hills came, starting with a gentle 4% run-up that lasted about a mile. Then the hill itself… I don’t remember this hill at ALL, I was thinking – and for good reason. I had NEVER been this way, even in a car. After pre-driving the route, there was no reason to back-track and drive it again – upon reviewing it from La Cygne to Pleasanton in the safety of the car, I was at the Phillips 66, pretty much a block from the highway – so I, being in a hurry, took the highway home. I had never seen the route in reverse! OH, my, my, my… what was I THINKING? This hill, I tell ya – I have to ride this again in a couple months to be sure, but I can partially blame the caloric deficit, partially blame the headwind, but mostly blame the 1 mile 4% run-up to a absolute BEAST of a climb, long, curvy, tiring. I stood on the pedals for more punch, and I had nothing. NOTHING in my legs, I tell you. I literally felt ill, and fell back into the seat with a grunt. It wasn’t the pushing, it was just the act of standing, it’s like my arms had given out, too. I had already shifted down into my easiest gear by the time the run-up was over, so when the climb began there was nothing left to reach for. I was maxed out, I could feel my heartbeat in my temples – bonking? Out of shape? Who can tell – this hill was a monster for me. For about 5 seconds in the middle of it, I actually considered stopping and walking up the rest of it – and I never do that. I try to never let a hill tell me “no”. Today, I was close to that edge, but I stayed on it – my other half chiming in with whatever motivation I could hear over the noise of my own doubt and fatigue, and I reached the top. Ready to coast… sometimes I wonder if these gears are my worst enemy: have low gear, will use it. How did I used to do this on ONE gear? Answer: probably the same way I do it now – it’s not easier or harder – you either do it, or you don’t. Today, however, I was really glad I had some sort of bail-out mechanism.

The next two hills were markedly easier than that second one, but the wind was fierce and the eleven miles of Linn 1095 was thankfully over, and a little sooner that I’d expected. Back at the Casey’s at La Cygne, stomach growling, I was needing a refuel. Clearly not having learned any lessons AT THE TIME, I grabbed for what had worked earlier in the day, the donut. More coffee, more water, and some V8 – probably the only intelligent choice. The hot coffee tasted good and felt good – still no time to remove the jacket, as the wind howled and my fingers grew cold. I put the gloves back on to finish the coffee. A nature break, not the preferred variety, and I was ready to depart again – it was 2:45 PM. It had only taken 15 minutes longer to get back north, despite the wind, so I was fairly pleased. Maybe this day would turn out okay after all? Even though the scepter of the headwind that kept reminding me of its presence, I never found my mood wavering, never felt that need to make a phone call. Yeah, not my FAVORITE conditions, but it seemed very possible. But, I also knew not to get too excited – looking at the rest of the route in my mind as I slugged the last of my coffee, it would be a long time until I would be able to call it “done”. Get to it.

Off into the K-152 hallway, again – this section of highway that I ride on the 400K and 600K of Bob’s always makes me feel a little closed-in. Lack of shoulder, flat, long, and a big hill at the end (well, not so big anymore, by comparison!) it’s always a good road to get to the end of. Finally I am there, grunting up the big ridge that gets me up and out of Linn Valley, and onto the spine of the old highway again. I peer over at the La Cygne reservoir, and the KCP&L plant humming along, twin smoke stacks leaving long billows of steam trailing for miles in the cold, wet air, pointing south – reminding me again, as if I’d forgotten, about the wind. This route was designed by me, as I mentioned before, and BY design it’s for spring and summer riding. With Kansas’s prevailing SW winds in the warm months, this is a great route to get out early on, beat the heat, enjoy mild breezes in the early hours of the day, enjoy breakfast in Pleasanton, and then get propelled back home by the southwest winds, enjoy the warmth of the afternoon and early evening, and get some assistance with that distance-induced fatigue. It was NOT meant to be ridden on days like this, days where everything I had hoped was reversed. This wind is a curse on me now, and the clock is ticking loudly. Ugh, where is the sun? THERE! Peeking through a break in the clouds! MY SHADOW!!!! I actually let out a yell, not caring if ANYone was around to hear me – I hadn’t spoken aloud for hours and hours… and now a guttural hollar of pure joy just escapes from my lungs! I see my shadow! I feel a blink of pure solar warmth hit my left arm…. AHHHHHH…….. and then, just like that, it’s gone. Fifteen seconds. For the next three minutes it occurred twice more – and I thought that the end was coming, the end of the dreariness, the final clearing, some warmth, that upper-40’s temperature! Finally! I’ll take the headwind if I can have sunshine! I smiled… but it would not last. After those three short visits with my shadow, I would not see the sun again until Sunday. But, that little spark really woke me up inside, and I began to turn the pedals with a little more earnest. Despite my work, however, the wind was a rough customer – sometimes I’d look down and see 9 MPH. Depressing, but it was movement. There was no way I could shape myself, hold my head, change my pedal stroke – this was all I was able to give against the hand of the north wind. Head down, the harshness of Jingo road’s “questionable” section came up, and I barely flinched. I had visions of cobblestones, George Hincapie, gutting out the impossible spring classic, and the mile of rattling, jaw shaking pavement was over in a flash.

Finally back on US-69 highway’s shoulder, a big landmark in this ride was passing by under my legs, and Louisburg was next. I downed my Sustained Energy in my 2nd bottle, and felt it go to work after a few minutes. My system was languishing for energy, and while I was not cramping up I could feel an emptiness in my gut and a hollowness in my legs that was growing – but the SE was helping. Some push returned, and I counted down the numbered streets knowing each 8th block was a mile…. 319th…… 311th…….303rd……head down… spin….push…. pull….. one, two, one , two…. Metcalf’s rolling hills section came up…. But it didn’t seem as tough this time… push on…. 295th…..287th……..AH! The BP station in Louisburg is here! I skipped it on the way down, but now I needed it! Stop! Water! Corn Nuts and V8 might work… no pizza, nothing “food” like here. Ugh… still, it’ll work. I am sore, and I make a call to the wife – the obligatory, I’m twenty miles from home… see you soon…. I saddle up, steeled, ready – I can do 20 miles… common.

The last few miles of Metcalf pass quicker, mentally, mainly because I’d done them so may times in the past. 247th… Cleveland Road, I call it… 223rd…. 215th! County Line! Johnson County! Now, I’m getting there! The wind, though – angry now, shoving at me, I shove back… but the little bursts don’t last long, caloric deficit coming back again… grrrr… time to throw more food at it, I guess. I hit Stilwell, near 199th and Antioch, and stop again. Ok, what’s worked today? What’s gonna get you this last 11 miles, I ask myself quietly after another nature break and a quick wander around the store – stomach growling LOUDLY. Now, I have to stop you a second – I know I just got done saying that I’d been eating like dirt all day, I need to go back to something that works – but I’m here to tell you: at THAT moment, I passed the Krispy Kreme display – donuts that had been sitting in there all day. I got coffee, and I got some water, and then I got a BLUEBERRY CAKE DONUT WITH GLAZE. DUDE, that tasted A-W-E-S-O-M-E!!!!
NOW I CAN FINISH THIS MOTHER. Sometimes, it’s all about the donuts – I will make better choices on future rides for better overall performance and not as much struggling… but sometimes… sometimes… say it outloud:

Blueberry Cake Donut with Glaze… if you can say that outloud, and your mouth doesn’t water a LITTLE, right there at the corners… common, you must be dead.

Sometimes, it’s all about the donuts.

It’s nearly SEVEN PM. Yep… SEVEN PM now… I left the Casey’s in La Cygne at 2:45, roughly. What took me only three hours and ten minutes to accomplish this morning had just taken over four hours – yes, kids, that’s a whopping 10.45 MPH average. My overall average at this point was down into the 13’s – absolutely SLOW, un-stellar – and so you see the need for more training, or better nutrition after all – despite it sometimes being about the donuts, despite it sometimes being about a killer headwind – I AM S-L-O-W. It’s time to revisit Longview Lake, and start chasing some people. It’s time to try and catch Jeff Winter. SOMETHING needs to change, because as the clock ticks, I am 11 miles from home at this C-store, enjoying my donut treat, and I only have an hour and 40 minutes to finish legally. That’s sad. Yeah, I should not be rushed, yeah I have this one in the bag… but it’s going to take me another HOUR to do 11 miles IF I SPEED UP into this flippin’ gale force wind, on a caloric deficit, with ridiculous fatigue in my legs. See how that hour I blew in the morning is something I REALLY wanted back now. And, the sun is going down. MOVE, man… GO!

I mount up, happy as a clam, knowing that a killer downhill on Antioch will get me back a small fraction of time. But, I am pedaling harder, faster, and the speed against the wind is better now – mainly because of the appearance of trees along the roadside to help buffer me a little – still it howls up the road into my face. The big downhill comes, then 179th Street, then 175th Street, and finally Mur-Len again, and the FINAL turn north. Ugh, this blows… the wind puts up one more fight. Here I was thinking it’d die with the fading sun, NOPE. Up hill, downhill, over the one-land bridge where my one-foot deep pothole was dried out now. I give it the finger, like that will help. But, I laugh out loud – I’m two miles from being done, and I’m back after 12 hours of suffering. Granted, this was more than a 200K, but even with that pace I’d managed all day, it would have been only an hour and a minute faster than what I’d just managed. The last mile was here, and I was going to finish this ride with something like 38 minutes to spare. For this kind of riding, that a single flat tire, a single missed turn, anything. Blink – gone! But, the rear tire held all the way back, no flats, no issues, no wrong turns. Whew. I went into the 7-11, bought a chocolate milk, and swiped my card for the last time, getting 7:47 on the clock. 12 hours, 50 minutes. Blow an hour at the start from my allotted 14:20 ET allowed, and that’s 13:20… I cut this one CLOSE, and to boot I’d never finished a 200K anything after dark before. Yeah, I was prepared, but still… 9 hours… 8 hours sometimes if the conditions are good….my BEST was 6:45 ET. That’s normal for me…. THIS, this was a HARD DAY. Off the bike time? Not really any worse than usual… 10:26 was my rolling time, for a whopping 12.9 MPH average…. YUCK. I still did something good for myself, and got one step closer to a bigger goal, and got some excellent base building and mental training – but YUCK. I was elated to have arrived home alive, and promptly high-fived the monkey hanging from the garage shelving.

Since I hadn’t talked to anyone all day, after riding back home to the house and sitting down the wife was kind enough to listen to me just spill basically ALL of the above to her – she’s not a cyclist, probably won’t ever be, but she listens great… and I just dumped it all out… MAN what a day, but I finished it!
I finished! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… finishing is EVERYthing. Regardless of speed, the only thing that counts is the finish, and I just gave myself a GREAT goal for next time I ride this bad-boy: do it faster. One of these days, the winds will be right. One of these days, I’ll figure out the food issues…. But I still finished, and the journey is the best part.
The time for being afraid is over, and for the “I’ve had worse” files… man, this is on the top of the pile. Winter, I’m still DONE with you…. But I’ve indeed had worse now so whatever you got, I’m ready to ride – there ain’t no WAY it’d be worse than TODAY.
Looking back to 13 hours earlier, in the garage, looking out, wondering if I should go or not… I’m very, VERY glad that I went.

March 13, 2008

The quest for Dura-Ace continues

Another rare find destined for the Trek 450 was picked up this week -

It's fantastic that all of this older stuff occasionally goes on special, and I love it when I hear things like "No-body uses 1" threaded anymore..." from a bike shop. Deep discounts tend to follow statements like that.

This week, added to the pile is a Shimano Dura-Ace 1" threaded headset. Sadly, Shimano has been slowly getting out of the headset game. I have no idea WHY, other than to say that "no-body uses 1" threaded anymore". I've had an Ultegra headset twice before, one instance on my old Trek 720 tourer, the cartridge bearing version. Arguably, a BETTER headset than the Chris King headsets - but only in a direct comparison of value-to-performance. I think the Chris King is probably the end-all of headsets, but the Shimano 1" models with their "floating" cartridge bearings are actually smoother, and require FAR less tediousness in initial prep. The Ultegra that I had on the Trek 720 never wore out, and as far as I know it's still in use today -- last time I saw it, the current owner had it built up as a fixxie, and the same headset was on it. Butter-smooth, no notches. I had the same experience with the older Shimano 600 (old-school speak for pre-1997 Ultegra) headset that I had on my old Surly Steamroller. It used ball-bearings and cages, but the bearing races were ultra-hardened, to prevent notching and pitting -- and it worked. Never had a single issue with that headset, either. Smooth, free. Interestingly enough - Shimano's headset design was so good that even when they changed the verbiage from Shimano 600 to Shimano Ultegra, the logo on the headset stayed the same for a long time, up until the last two years they made them. It's actually harder to find a headset that says "Ultegra" on it, than it is to find the Dura-Ace model.

The Dura-Ace version of the cartridge version of the Ultegra headset is the same exact design - seriously. The ONLY thing that changes between the Ultegra and the Dura-Ace model is the script on the side of the cups. Ok, that, and the fact the crown race is aluminum on the Dura-Ace and steel on the Ultegra. The difference it probably ONLY to satisfy the notion that the Dura-Ace version of ANY-thing should probably be lighter than the lesser models - and in this case the Ultegra weighs 115 grams, and the dura-Ace weighs 107 grams. Big whoop. The steel crown race weighs exactly 8 grams more than the aluminum one, so it's safe to say the rest of the headset is identical, then. In fact, I swapped out the aluminum crown race for the slightly heavier steel one - mainly because it's steel: I'm a firm believer in saving weight, but only if it makes sense -- and a lot of load gets displaced onto the crown race of a headset. Not saying Shimano doesn't CARE, but this reinforces how good their headset design is -- the crown race was the only thing they could change to make the Dura-Ace model make any sense on paper to prospective buyers. In my eyes, the crown race should be steel - so I end up with something of a hybird headset, and only to the end of having a complete Dura-Ace complement of spec on this bike. The other thing, actually barely worth mentioning: the top-nut stem seal on the Ultegra is a black plastic ring that sets into the metal of the surrounding nut... the Dura-Ace is a nicely etched full-metal nut with an inset O-ring seal. Much nicer looking - probably a better stem seal, and extra threads - but no weight difference.

But, as differences go - it IS a difference.

Now, if the stock Tange-Sekai Levin headset *EVER* wears out..... ha-ha!

March 10, 2008

Updated: Permanent - This Weekend

Ride Announcement: THIS Saturday 3/15, 6:00AM start –
Route #386 - The Free State Border Patrol 210K

Start location, route sheet, perm card delivered upon RSVP only!

Pre-Registration CLOSED


Welp – looks like I traded a +7ºF start temperature and a cold headwind LAST weekend for THIS weekend’s forecast slightly above-freezing temps and a cold rain/snow mix. Awesome!
So, it’s understandable that, combined with short notice, that I’ll be riding this one solo.

This is what I get for playing with the weather – but it’s time to conjure up MY Flemmish alter-ego, the CömutaarDüüd. It’s time to say farewell to winter, yes, but it’s also time to stoke the “I’ve-had-worse” docket with another potentially epic early spring classic.

So, h-eee-re we go! Full ride report coming soon…





Jedi-Hedgehog, engage!!!

March 4, 2008

A change of scenery, and direction.

Yeah, I know it's not exactly gonna be 70 degrees at the start line, but hey -- It's still a good time, and great riding! http://kcbrevets.blogspot.com/ This time out, it's the KCK 200K, this Saturday, 3/8, 7AM start -- $10.00 Hope to see you there!

On another note, more to the title of this entry; you may have noticed that a couple of things have changed on this site lately -- that's all by design. Anyone that's been surfing here for a while knows that the old "commuterDude.com" URL has slipped into oblivion, and along with it the redirect to this page. I really hope that most of you have found your way back here to this dedicated blog page. The hits have been consistent - and I thank all of you that have continued to read and have updated your links to this new location! I was a little worried, especially locally, as when I show up at local rides – and even when I went down to Texas -- I have people coming up and asking if "I'm the commuterDude". It's humbling, and kinda cool, actually – so I don’t really want to totally shed the whole CommuterDude moniker – the name, and what it stands for, are important and do serve a purpose in the community. My personal comfort level with the whole thing has been a little "off" over the past 18 months. I have had trouble wearing my own jersey, for example. I can't really put my finger on it, and I am not really looking for an outpouring of advice on the subject, but it just seems a little heavy-handed now (I think I’ve used that term before – it’d be like Obama wearing a “vote for me” t-shirt with his picture on it – a little cheesy, at best). A lot of people (at least from my perspective) might get a sort-of "goody-two-shoes" impression about the whole commuter thing, and the whole ride-by-example thing. Personally, as far as that ethos goes, I don't really care what “they” think, because I still contend there IS a right way and a wrong way to ride a bicycle in traffic. Unfortunately, me wearing the jersey, spouting the rhetoric, and using the webpage as a shotgun; I feel like it creates a culture of "us and them", and I don't really want to be a divider. I want to be a unite-r. I want to be clear that this is not a "can't beat em, join em" moment -- certainly NOT. I just think that slapping "rider A" with a big "you're-doing-it-wrong" sticker because they run a stop-sign creates a division - and division creates tension, and tension creates animosity. I don't want to support that. What I'd like to support is a culture of communication between ALL cyclists in Johnson County. A dialogue between racers, weekend riders, cruisers, randonneurs, commuters, utility riders -- a dialogue that supports positive behavior and eradication of actions that hurt the cycling image and culture. Instead of slapping that rider with a bad name, and shunning them, perhaps make it a constructive talking point. If they don’t want to listen, they have that right – but I think it is up to all of us as a body of cyclists, regardless of bike, goals, attire, tire size, to behave in a way that will promote cycling on public roads, help us secure our rights on those roads, and help keep cycling out o the shadows of bad press and unfortunate traffic accidents and loss of life. I think we all owe it to each other to push towards that culture, and stop putting up more barricades between each other. That’s my mission.

Where I have stepped away from organizing short rides and pulling together an MS-150 team, I have taken up organizing longer rides under a national umbrella with RUSA (http://www.RUSA.org), and have started to step up my actions with regards to advocacy.

One small victory, owed to everyone that rides to work here at Sprint and our collective efforts over the past two years or more, we now have a discounted fitness center membership available for bicycle commuters that want to use the facilities to clean up and shower in the mornings – one more excuse eliminated, and one more perk gained for those that would rather ride to work!

Why RUSA? RUSA lends itself towards long-distance cycling, yes, but they are an internationally recognized cycling body that has a clear rule-book for their riders, and it stands right alongside what I’ve be preaching for years as good tips for commuting. I am a proud member, since 2001. My goal, locally, is to get a few other routes put together, called Populaires: these rides are LESS than 200K, can be as short as a metric century in some cases, and are a great way to introduce people to randonneuring. The way to ride in traffic, the way to prepare for commuting to work, can all be found in the RUSA rules and I think it’s a great way to help mold that kind of behavior into second-nature. Populaires are a great way to grow the sport of randonneuring and a great way for those unfamiliar with it to see how the events are run and what goes into them, without having to ride 125 miles right off the bat. To bring back some of the flavor of this whole thing, some of them will indeed be held AT NIGHT. I tell you what, the night ride thing is something I’d like to hold onto – and I’m gonna put a few out there, for sure, this summer. I won’t be able to hold them on a regular, monthly basis like my original plans from last year entailed, but I’ll do what I can. I’d love to have the old crowd consider coming out for some good miles in the warm summer nights, so stay tuned, and I’ll be putting it out there for the JCBC calendar as well --- the routes WILL be RUSA Populaires, but you will not necessarily have to be a RUSA member to ride with us – but, I strongly encourage it: it’s only $20 a year, and you will gain the opportunity to participate in mileage competitions, will be eligible to receive medals for your efforts, and gain a unique member number that will stay with you for life (I’m RUSA #1445, nice to meet ya!), as well as a terrific bi-monthly newsletter with great information and well-written stories and photos from big rides, and great deals on RUSA-logo products at a deep club discount. It’s a terrific deal – but don’t join on a whim: come try a populaire, come try a permanent or brevet – see if it’s for you, then decide. As you can tell, my big push is to grow the sport of long-distance riding, and grow the randonneuring mentality in the greater KC area. Yes, I have a lot of personal interest there, but I also think that the more exposure people have to the type of preparedness and the behaviors that the RUSA rulebook suggests, the closer we’ll be to a cycling culture that will grow and thrive safely, instead of a culture that is stunted by shortcomings, miscommunication and mishap.

Gas prices are getting RIDICULOUS, as you know. My fire was lit when we broke $1.50…. got hotter when we broke $2.00…. and now, not too much later, here we are…. $3.00 and up has been solid on the gas station price boards for weeks now. Once it goes up, I don’t think it’s coming back down. While it was a scary prospect last summer, with $2.99 showing up everywhere, now the reality of $3.50 per gallon gas THIS summer may be very real. I’ve already seen $3.16 in Olathe, and it’s gone down since then to $3.07 – but that little spike is a harbinger of things to come, and it ain’t pretty. If you were thinking about commuting to work last year, this year the case is even stronger. The winter weather has been tough this season, and it’s kept a lot of us off the bike far longer than we’d like – but spring is coming. Time to finish up that beater project, grab a WalMart or Target hybrid for cheap, ANYTHING – just get out of the dang car!
I don’t know about you, but part of my motivation for getting rid of the webpage hosting and such was simple economics – I’m trying to reduce family expenses wherever I can, and extra stuff like a web-hosting bill in the mail just wasn’t on the “must-have” list. It’s getting REAL out there. My gas bill went up, my electric bill went up – my usage has gone DOWN. Energy costs are going to get worse. It’s fact. Again, I urge all of you to push the notion, encourage your friends, make them believe it CAN be done. For your health, for your personal economy – the time to ride to work, even if it’s only a couple times a week, is NOW. The next five years will see a dramatic shift in the costs of everything that uses, is delivered by something that consumes, or burns fossil fuels. There’s just no way around it. Make your plans now… every employer will ask you, “where do you wanna be in five years?” – this is a question I have started to ask myself on a personal level, and I suggest you do, too: I used to look at things like, my car will be paid off in “xx” years, wonder what I wanna get? Do I wanna keep it, or trade up? Man, I tell you… I don’t honestly know if I’ll have a 2nd car in five years. I can’t even imagine, doing the simple math, what a barrel of oil will cost in five years, what a car tire (or a BICYCLE tire) will cost in five years, how much a quart of oil, a gallon of anti-freeze will cost. Windshield wiper blades, for cryin’ out loud – anything that has rubber, plastics… man, it’s gonna get rough! More drivers, more cars, more traffic, more gas.... yes, bicycles benefit from all of this technology, too -- but cars use far more of it for one person's needs than a bicycle does. It's a difference that could matter.

I’ll be on a bike in five years, that’s for certain – maybe in a bus, maybe on a light-rail line… But in a car, alone??? Ask yourself…. Your answer will dictate your next move.

More than ever, riding a bicycle to work makes sense!

March 2, 2008

Spring in the air, saddle up my bum.

Ahhh, spring is indeed in the air this weekend: as I sit to type out my latest ride report it’s a blistering 69 degrees outside, and thunderstorms are on the way… unfortunately, it’s EARLY to be calling it spring because not far behind the thundershowers is likely another good dose of sleet. It’s hard to get me down, however, as the cobwebs of winter go a thorough dusting this Saturday. I headed out a little later than my usual “crack of dawn”, to let the temperatures moderate a bit, as we rose to a crisp 34 degrees, which began to climb as soon as the sun rose. It was going to be gorgeous, and I was going for a ride! Suited up, saddled up, and out the door I went! Down the street a titch, and a right turn towards freedom and therapy!

Gosh, it’s a touch windy!

It was expected, and it was a WARM wind, so I didn’t mind a bit. The Trek felt awesome, especially shod with new rubber. I just am NOT a skinny tire guy anymore, and as much as I tried to be thrifty and use what I had in the garage when building her up the 23c tires that ended up on the wheels were just punishing, as I discovered in Texas on their monster chip-seal. That was one of the only bike changes that was absolutely on the big list once I got home, and it was one of the first things I did with some tax-return money. Back in the land of the sensible, I have chosen to run the same tires on BOTH bikes, the Kogswell and the Trek. This makes things like last minute wheel swaps, and notions about running the generator wheel on the Trek perfectly possible without any crossover issues, not even so much as a computer recalibration. So, the Specialized All-Condition Armadillo Elite tires, in 700x25C – which, I should note is a BIG 25C. Compared to Continental, even compared to Panaracer. Panaracer tends to run a little under what the sidewall reads, and one of my favorite all-time tires is the venerable Pasela TG. I ran those in a 700x28, and a rim to rim comparison, the Specialized 25cs are the same width, height, and volume. Compared to the Continentals I used to run, the 25c Specializeds are the same size as a Conti 32c. Conti’s run REALLY small. So, this is certainly NOT a lightweight racers tire, despite the manufacturer. In fact, in the last 3 years, Specialized has gone from a so-so tire maker, to a real competitor – to the point where just about everything they make tromps on the adjacent competitor’s offerings. I don’t work for, get money from, or otherwise hob-knob with Specialized, or their reps, by the way. I worked at a bike store that carried them, and by consequence and lack of funds, when tire time came and I had the choice between Panaracers and my shop discount, I gave the Specializeds a try. I was surprised. My first exposure to them was back in 2005 at Tinbutt down in Oklahoma, but that was the racy “Mondo” model. It’s still a great tire – but as I have matured as a rider, and found my niche in randonneuring, it’s more about comfort balanced with performance, and the All-Condition model is simply top-notch. I must say, however, that the Panaracer Pasela TGs are still fantastic tires, and very inexpensive – but for me, there is a little bit more of that “racer” feel and “snappiness” to the Specialized that the Panaracers just don’t have. Plus, the sidewalls are black – a sticking point for some, but definitely more contemporary. While the tan sidewalls of the Paselas never got me any bad attention or goofy looks, sometimes it just looked a little “old”. That’s just me, tho. These new Specialized tires on the Trek feel terrific, and the ride is smoothed up just enough to make it perfect. Rough pavement, and even a stint on freshly-graveled Woodland Rd. between 175th and 199th streets was fairly cozy. Yup, that’s a good test of a tire – if it tracks well and soaks up freaking boulders like THAT on brand-new, untamped gravel, it’s smooth and perfect on just about anything considered “pavement”. Plus, the flat-protection of the new Armadillo Elite belt, which I can only guess is some new form of Vectran™ by DuPont®, contrasted to the now old-school Armadillo, which was their version of Kevlar™ by the same company. Vectran™ first appeared in bicycle tires with Continental’s new GP4000’s, but arguably not in perfect execution. It’s a pure race tire, after all. Specialized uses it bead-to-bead for nearly bullet-proof protection, and it’s bragged upon heavily by Specialized by one of their field-testers: Ultra-cycling legend Danny Chew, who logged 11,000 miles on ONE of their tires before getting a flat. I can firmly stand behind something like that claim. That’s huge. I’m sold, so far, as the name claims, the All-Conditions don’t seem to be nervous about anything from sleet and snow, to flooded streets, to hot tar, to gravel, to chip-seal, sandy shoulders, whatever you got. A good, install and forget tire.

Dang, this wasn’t supposed to turn into a tire review – but, anyways, back on the ride I go… Just a simple loop to stretch the legs, not after any big numbers this weekend, as the brevet season officially starts here in Kansas with a 200K next weekend. I really really hope the weather cooperates – today, again, it near perfect. Sunny, warm, breezy… ok, maybe a little TOO breezy. Yikes. I head south on Mur-Len, and turn west on 175th street, head down into a fierce and growing gale. It’s nuts, leaves flying everywhere like it’s fall again, with 30 MPH gusts making the trees sing and the power lines whistle. I make fairly good progress, having to lean my head a little to the left to steady the bike against the crosswind. A little resistance training, eh? I head south on Woodland, which is partly packed dirt, but it gives way to that aforementioned fresh gravel after about ¾ of a mile – too far to turn back, I press onward instead of backtracking. It’s slow going, and one portion is so loose and soft underneath that I finally have to dismount and hoof it for about a ½ mile. A UP mixed-freight train passes on the adjacent track, so I stop and have a drink and rest for a few minutes. A local in a home-made tube-frame buggy zips by while I rest, throwing dust all over the place – but he chills out on the throttle just before reaching me, thankfully. Everyone, regardless of hobby, is soaking in the first 60+ degree day in MONTHS. It’s awesome out here! We exchange waves, and I saddle up for the slightly better ¾ miles or so that’s left of Woodland road before the pavement picks back up. Finally back on smooth asphalt, I turn towards Spring Hill on old 199th Street, veer onto Webster, and face the south wind head-on, pedaling hard down what is normally a 30+ MPH downhill. This wind is nuts! Good workout…. Keep thinking good workout…. Don’t turn back yet.

I traverse Spring Hill, and approach 223rd street, especially hard today after passing all the houses and natural wind breaks on the edge of town. I’m greeted by an absolute wall of air, pushing hard against me – I bend lower, and focus on the white shoulder line, occasionally glancing up to check my next 50 yards of road for obstacles. Thankful for the cycling cap I chose today, I finally reach the 223rd street intersection, and look upwards just in time for a massive gust of air to launch over the highway berm, across the pavement, kicking up buckets-full of sand from winter treatments into the air – head DOWN! MY eyes are saved, but my exposed shins take a pelting of stinging stones. Wow. I turn right on 223rd, thinking to myself I’ll forego the torture that is probably Old KC Road today and just stick to the west. Unfortunately, the crosswind down here is wickedly bad, coming off of Hillsdale Lake just to the south beyond the tree line. Crossing over the top of US-169 was particularly touchy, as wind buffeted over the top of the bridge and pushing at the bladed spokes on my wheels – I might as well have been riding a sheet of plywood, as the bike – while easy to manage and control normally – is pushed towards the guardrail, the only thing between me and the highway below. I lean hard, and steer carefully, and traffic following me over the bridge is surprisingly forgiving, slowing down and allowing my LOTS more room than normal, as my struggle against the elements is probably more than apparent. Good gravy…. I reach the end of the bridge, and slide in some loose sand as the wind gusts one more hard time before I reach the safety of the trees on the other side of the long bridge. Man, alive! I’m upright again, now I only have to deal with a moderate headwind that is chasing up the road, spiraling between the lines of trees on each side of the road. 223rd has an especially long and fun downhill good for nearly 50 MPH if you play hard and climb the gears – the Warbird and I used to play here a lot, but today the wind is making it hard to stay above 20 MPH – in a reasonable gear, I spin DOWN the hill and frown a little – but then smile to myself… a few months ago, I would have wimped out and headed home by now. I was working, but I wasn’t dying from the effort, and I knew the training was coming from it. My wind vest flapping angrily in the gale, I start to climb out of the valley back onto a plateau. Uh, oh…. Yep… more wind waits at the top, and it welcomes me with a smack to the face, and a twist of the front wheel. “Dude!!!” I belt out loud, falling into the drops, putting my head down and left, steadying the bike once again. This is far more than 15-20 MPH with gusts to 30 MPH… .this is gotta be 40 MPH wind… flags nearby are straight and stiff, pulling hard on their poles, ropes clanging and slapping the metal, wind chimes on a farm house are nearly sideways, and a plastic grocery bag clings for a moment to a wire fence, only to give way, ripping apart and flying north at high speed.

I reach the safety of another tree line, and relax for a little – I start to count the miles to the next turn at Gardner Rd, and the end of my struggle with this wind, which was becoming dangerous – as the wheels catch more air, the bike keeps sneaking over to the right, and I hear the crunch of loose sand and leftover salt as the edge gets nearer and nearer – I veer left and lean, pulling the bike back into the lane – but it’s narrow here, and the traffic is light, but the speed limit is 55 MPH, and I can’t hear ANYthing coming up behind me… as far to the right as practicable is becoming farther and farther to the middle of the lane with each passing minute, as the wind grows and becomes harder to fight. Traffic is forgiving when it comes, again my struggles probably visible, and not just in my head today. I rise to another plateau, and the wind is horrid – nothing lying to my south and west by a large field, plowed flat, the nearest trees probably a mile away, and the road is up on a rise, about 10 feet higher than grade. The wind is catapulting over the small rise and slamming into my body, sending me in a full lean to the right all of the sudden, the drop off into the culvert below looms big in my field of vision as I lean hard back, and correct for it …. Time to ride sideways again, I guess! Saved it… but this is becoming un-fun, real quick. Gardner Road, thankfully, is ½ mile ahead… I turn, and breathe a deep breath at last!

Finally free of the head/crosswind, I stop for a break, and shed the knee warmers and the wind vest – it’s WARM out here, and I’ve been working hard! Soaked in sweat, for the first time in months I don’t have to worry about hypothermia, and enjoy the cool breeze as it cools my back. A long drink, a long look around, and back pockets are filled up – ready to enjoy the toils!

We’ve all enjoyed a good tailwind, and it’s one of my favorite parts of riding, especially when you work for an hour or so to earn it, and then turn back for home – the ultimate reward! However, usually the tailwinds are moderate, 15 MPH, sometimes less, but enough to make a noticeable difference. Today, it was so strong I had to concentrate on staying stopped while I put items in my back pockets – the wind was shoving at me, egging me forward. I mounted up and started off, and the wind was literally pushing noticeably against my back, accelerating me. It almost made me unstable until I got up to about 25 MPH! Finally, I was spinning fast enough to get the choppy winds to cooperate, and before I knew it I was zipping north at 32 MPH. Simply awesome, the bearings in the wheels singing happily and leaves and birds joining me in my northbound fun. Gardner road between 223rd and 199th isn’t exactly flat, but I don’t really remember the hills being too much of a pain today – there is that ONE that lifts you up over a small ridge, but after that single cogs moves in the back were enough to keep the RPMs steady, and keep the speed high. This is one of those times where I really am glad I have gears back on the bike, to take full advantage of such a boost from behind. I remember riding along and spinning out before reaching 30 MPH, frantically pedaling, and then coasting helplessly, knowing I could go faster – but not being able to. Yeah, there is still a place for fixed gearing and me – but today, I love my big chainring. 33….34……35 MPH… easy! The road zooms by underneath me, kilometers ticking off, and before long I’m at 199th street! I turn right, and that violent crosswind now is at my back by 3/4ths, so I can enjoy it instead of fight it. I breathe easier, 199th’s gorgeous rolling hills stretching out to the east in front of me – not exactly a flat road, either, but much easier to handle today. I zip along, almost no traffic, the sun shining, the horses running in the fields nearby – awesome! After a while, I’m back at 169 highway again, back to Ridgeview – back to Webster and 199th, and stopped by a passing train at Woodland road again. I peel off the arm-warmers here, finally feeling hot – taking in the last of my water, only a few miles from home now. What an awesome afternoon this is! The grass is still brown in the fields, but the sky is a brilliant and clean blue – none of the wintery grey that has covered us like a heavy burden these last months. I couldn’t stop smiling!

Clear of the train, I head east to Ridgeview, rocket past the new high school, past the farms at 191st Street, past the unfortunate construction at 183rd, and past the old tractor crankshaft mailbox right before 175th, having to brake harder than normal, the gale still boosting my progress, almost to a fault – I’ve never had it THIS good, where it was hard to brake! A few more turns, and the old familiar roads come back into view for one last charge up Brougham Road and back to the homestead. Ah, MAN, what an awesome ride…! It only ended up being 35 miles, but for today it’s a perfect distance to stretch the legs and get some of the old air in my lungs blown out in the fresh, spring-like air…. Before long, we’ll all be complaining that it’s too hot, true--- but today, everything it right where it should be… ok, maybe except that wind.

In the garage, I pull stuff out of my back pockets, and retrieve my phone – two new text messages?? Wonder who called me? No-one, it turns out…. It was a double text from the National Weather Service, announcing a wind advisory…. I laughed out loud… NO KIDDING?!! GREAT ride…. Stay tuned! 200K next weekend!