Perfect weather for a bike ride . . .

February 28, 2009

February gets one last shot in.

A strange week indeed for Kansas weather: probably one of the warmest Februarys ever - but today, on the LAST day of February, we've got about five inches of snow on the ground out there as I type this, and it;s still coming down. They keep extending the winter weather advisory, too, which is kinda indicative of "wow, we don't know... this WAS supposed to stop...."

A strange week for sysling, too, based on the weather: Monday I rode a chilly 200K which ended up in the 50's for a few hours! tuesday, I took the day off the bike to recover from Monday's endurance-fest. Wednesday I rode in, and it was almost 70 when I left for home. Thursday, weird 50-ish and misty/rainy: my favorite riding weather, actually! By the time I was on my way home, however, it'd dropped out into the 40's with a stiff westerly wind. By the time I went to bed, it was in the 20's. Strange. Friday, errands that required more storage that I could get away with on the bike put me back in the car - but you know, I wasn't too heartbroken. But, this morning, I was back in the car again: the slick, wet snow just wasn't affording enough traction, and I deemed it unsafe. It's probably fine now that some of the major roads are treated again, but yeesh.... let's just say I'm glad I got my February 200K done on Monday - because in typical fashion I might have taken TODAY off to try and get it. A smarter person wouldn't have waited until the last week of February to get it, but hey -- no worries, because I DID get it. Man. March is going to come in, tomorrow, with fresh snow on the ground. No matter what February has given us this year, it ended like a February should. Cold, snowy, and bleak. But, I have had a GREAT month: I've lost weight, I've ridden more than in any previous February, and I've been pretty happy about the whole thing - instead of trapped in a deep, cycling-deprived depression.

Let's get it on... March is coming!

February 25, 2009

R-12 + 1 = Lucky 13 - A permanent in pictures

While the mental dust still settles, I figured I'd set a ride report in motion by letting pictures tell a few thousand words on my behalf. The way work has been going lately, it's hard to settle in behind the keyboard at home lately. Just tired of typing, perhaps... letting my eyes rest, etc. But, I still have a lot to tell! Perhaps this weekend I'll fill in the blanks!

Yes, 48-hours later, I still contend this was one of the hardest 200K's I've ridden. I talked with the route owner briefly, and he was "pleased" to find he was not the only one that had to walk that hill - scary to find out that detours around it are nearly impossible, as there are other hills that are actually worse within a few miles of that one wall I had to walk... almost crawl... up. Also, it wasn't my imagination or degraded mental state that contributed to the last six or seven miles being quite difficult. I knew that, going in, because it's an out and back route - but upon returning to the hills south of Grain Valley, MO., about 11 hours after I'd first ridden them - well, they were pretty bad. The scenery and vast open spaces make this a route to remember: there is just no getting around how beautiful Route B and F are: but you have to take the good with the bad. My own Border Patrol route is the same way... riding along the shoulder of US-69 is not exactly "pretty", but the payoff lies beyond it. Still searching for that "perfect" 200K route! One of these days, I have a feeling it will all come together - but, until Douglas County paves a few more roads and someone opens a c-store or two at some of these lonely intersections out there, well, it'll be a while.

Until then, let's step through my latest adventure, one snapshot and quick sentence at a time:

Dude in motion, probably mile 5 of the route, along "Corn Road" (wonder what they grow along THIS road?)
This is one of those times where subconscious experience with regards to clothing paid off huge. Despite a starting temp in the low 20's with REALLY high humidity, I was layered almost perfectly. This is one of the problems with long rides that start cold and end up warm -- eventually I'd have to find a place to store all these layers. A rear rack and some toe straps worked perfectly. For now, wearing everything, I'm cozy -- but very "awake" by the cold. My face, hard to see here, is pretty well crusted over with ice due to the headwind, and the foggy breath coming outta me. Also, the "please don't shoot me" rural-Missouri vest is out to play on this solo ride that has a lot of time spent on highways with minimal shoulders. I figure, if I wear the same thing that big-rig drivers have to wear when changing a tire, I'll probably be okay - regardless of how ridiculous even *I* know I look. Dorks live longer.



Finally, the promise of a little warmth as the morning sun peeks out from behind the horizon. A nice little lake, complete with spring ducks, and a jetliner piercing the blue (white line in the sky) - this was a cool thing to see. I tell you, no matter how hard the route, there is something REALLY cool about seeing the sun rise from the seat of a bicycle. The world is waking up - and I'm already riding...




Unfortunately, the camera focused on my sleeve instead of the background... but here's my shadow against the stark brown of the hillside, along the road I'm climbing up towards Lone Jack, MO. Mentally, part of the difficulty of a long "off" season ride is that everything, literally, is dead. The landscape is just barren, no sweet smells, no warmth, no life, no green. This gets to ya after a while -- I personally can't WAIT to feel bar tape under bare fingers again, wind against exposed skin, the smell of cut grass, hear bird-song, the feel of the sun on my arms. Chin up... still nearly 190km to go from this point...




Rolling through Strasburg, MO., reaching MO-58, right as a coal train finishes crossing the grade.
Strangely, this is the only train I saw today, despite paralleling the RR-tracks along Mo-58 for dozens of miles.



Bright eastern sunshine, and the thermometer board outside Kingsville, MO. 23ºF. Ever since mile-4, my water bottles have been frozen to an undrinkable state. I'm thirsty. I'm hungry. Fig Newtons and spit, it is.
An act of random human kindness occurs a few minutes after this shot was taken: upon putting my camera back into my back pocket after snapping this pic, apparently the lanyard I'd had attached to it fell off onto the road. I didn't hear or see this happen. Behind me, a passing car stops, gets it, turns around, and pulls up next to me. "Hey, you dropped this!" A nice man and his young daughter in a small white Toyota-something. I take the handup from the girl with a smile and a thank you to them both. Have I mentioned that I like small-town thinking? That kept my spirits up for at least 20 miles, and helped me forget about my frozen bottles. Soon after this, I arrived at the first control (about 6 miles later) in Holden, MO., and I got some fresh supplies and thawed my bottles out. It was nice to have fluids again, but it reminded me how far one can actually ride without ANYthing to speak of. This helped set the theme for the day: eat enough, but not too much. Drink plenty, of course. Going in, I was a little nervous coming off of nearly a month of dieting: was I "carb-loaded" enough? Would I react badly to certain things? Everything went well, nutrition-wise, for the most part - reinforcing the notion that over the past couple years I'd been taking in WAY too much on the saddle. Just pigging out because you CAN isn't smart riding - and I always paid for it on the bike, and later on the scale. On this ride I felt good, fueled, plenty of push, and I weighed the same before and after. Riding the momentum of 12-hours of metabolic confusion will be the trick this week, to make sure this long, long workout turns into a good number on the scales. After all, I still have that goal in mind.
Speaking of which: 10 or 12 lbs lighter at the start of this ride compared to the start of the January 200K - I can feel it in the hills, BIG-time. It's still a task to ride this far, but the hills are easier, and the waistband on the shorts not quite so uncomfortable. Still, a ways to go...but good progress.



...on that note, Holden, MO. Casey's. Hashbrowns. Boo-mutha-truckstop, YEAH... Potato products RULE.
Let's ride. Let the record show, however, per the previous paragraph, I had only ONE of these beauties - instead of like previous 200Ks, where I'd instantly justify eating 200K's-worth of hashbrowns (or pizza, or donuts, or whatever I could get my hands on) at ONE control . I washed it down with a pint of Chocolate Milk....mmmmmm. Steady moderation, for a slow steady burn. It's a plan that proved to work well... as I pulled into the Knob Noster control about 33 miles later on, I was *just* starting to get hungry again. Perfect. Supplemented by Carboplex in one of my bottles and water in the other, I was good to go. All in all, not a ton of calories, and my stomach thanked me for it.




A gorgeous overlook along Highway B, headed east towards Warrensburg. I love this highway, honestly. While I have often waxed on about this road and that road over the years, this one is truly high on my list of favorites. It winds its way NE along a ridgeline between Warrensburg, MO., and ... well ... no-where, really. It just intersects to Route F, which runs between Chilhowee and Centerview. It's nine miles of quiet country lane, a few farms and houses here and there, and big, long views of the surrounding landscape from atop a natural ridge. As the above shot shows, you can almost see forever. Unfortunately the time of year doesn't do it justice -- not enough contrast to really appreciate it. When the grass comes in, though, it's breathtaking coming around each bend, and seeing off into the distance. No big hills, just slowly dancing along above the surrounding valleys.



I'm wiping my mouth, but it looks like I'm calling something in... doesn't it? Wait... I know this image from somewhere.... POLIZEI!!!!!
Nice vest, fool. The British traffic-warden's convention was LAST week, moron.
This shot demonstrates the excitement of the Casey's in Knob Noster, MO. While I've always had a special place in my heart for towns that have the word "knob" in their name, this one is especially cool. Nestled close to Whiteman AFB, Knob Noster State Park, an active railline, old US-50, and the old finish line for the Kansas City MS-150, this is one of those towns that I've been to dozens of times... but only by bicycle.
Hey, look -- in the foreground, my gloves are giving the camera "the finger".
Halfway.... time to enjoy the tailwind, FINALLY.


Another scenic vista, post-card for a cycling moment along highway DD. You know the guys from the Missouri highway department snicker everytime they get a dispatch to this road. Since most of my humor was created in a post-highschool haze of Beavis and Butthead and Ren and Stimpy, I chuckle madly whenever I see this roadsign. Ugh. Childish? Perhaps. Who cares? Say it loud; say it proud: I LOVE DOUBLE-D! Rock-fist up. Again, the season doesn't allow for anything really spectacular since there is no green in the whole world right now, but seeing the ribbon of pavement stretching out before me is always kind neat. It's hilly here, and there's not really much of a shoulder, but hey... it's a nice road. Too bad, however, that afternoon has come - and traffic is increasing. Grrrrr.... strangely, traffic on this road is WORSE on a Saturday, so my nervousness about doing a ride on a weekday are working out pretty well. Still, I could do without cars.

Ah... a video!




More pics:

Unfortunately, sometimes THIS is randonneuring, too. Oh well - could be MUCH worse. On the warmest part of the day, the rear tire goes soft. Picked up something, somewhere! Unfortunately, this was one of those mystery-flats, where upon inspection there was no shard, thorn or other offender found in the tread to blame it on. Which also makes it impractical to try and find the hole. Time to just toss in a new tube, and be on the way. I'm here to tell you, kinda like that Mario Andretti commercial prompting you to "check your tires": Check your seat bag! The last time I had to fix a flat on the roadside was back on the 600K in May 2007. Granted, I've been in and out of my seatbag since then - but strange things happen in the darkness of these little bags. For some reason, most of my tube patches were stuck to each other - thankfully I had more than a few that were usable. The tubes were fine (er, intact) - but I'm also here to tell you: avoid the lightweight racer tubes. It's one of those things that I've discovered over time: why would you save weight on things that are going to wear out anyways? Tubes are included. Notice that Latex tubes are harder to find these days? I think people finally figured out that weigh savings and ride quality are not really that big of a deal if you have to pump up your tires every 50 miles. Still, lightweight butyl tubes are still out there: but I always figured they were saving weight by making the tubes thinner. My only reasons for using race tubes was based solely on the smaller amount of space they take up in the seat bag - and that instantly became not such a big deal. I put the new tube in the tire, tire on the rim, and affixed my frame pump to the valve. Pump, pump, pump -- easily (I love frame pumps) up to probably 80 PSI... almost rideable... how about a few more pumps? Okay... push, push, push.... POW!!!! SSSSSSSSSSSSssssssssssss s s s s.
WHAT THE??? As soon as I heard that sound, it occured to me that the wheel and pump had become seperated from one another. Hmmm, maybe the pump just popped off the valve, but why'd all the air come out? Oh. The valve itself had broken in two, right at the rim. The business end was still in the pump head!!! YOU JERKS! You saved weight by making the VALVE STEM THINNER??!? Knowing that frame pumps are hard on valve stems, I was even being careful to support it while I was pumping - common frame pump practice - but to no avail. Nice. So, effectively, I have two flats in one place. Great. Remove broken tube, grab original tube (made of real materials), inflate slightly and find holes. That worked ... two patches later, and several pump strokes, and we're back on the road. What have we learned today, Dude? Lightweight tubes are for dummies.

This happened midway between controls, back on highway B. You know how many cars I saw while fixing all this? Two. I love this road.


Run, puppies, RUN!!!


My outfit looks downright electric against the stark browns of the open fields along MO-58. The blue sky is brilliant, and whispy clouds are beginning to show up. Way out in the field, a metaphor for endurance cycling: there's all the cows on the left of the frame, eating hay and hanging out. Meanwhile, there is one, lone cow headed off by himself. Interesting. Rando-Cows. Moooooooooooooo.



The Strasburg Store and Pop Stop! A cool little place, and as far as I can tell, the ONLY business in Strasburg, perhaps? The main drag through town is 58, so I'm not 100% sure on this notion, but this is a touch north on Route E, actually right behind where I took that photo of the train earlier in the day (see above). At this point in the ride I looked pretty worn down: I had just fought traffic along the entire length of 58 highway, from Route F all the way to Strasburg and route E. Constant two-way traffic, a lot of high-schoolers in pickup trucks and old Chevies headed home from school, or wherever. A lot of passing-too-close, a lot of apathy. No horns, though, thankfully. After TWENTY miles of no-shoulder highway-fest, I just needed a quiet seat for a few minutes. I was very grateful, and bought a candy bar. If you happen to roll through Strasburg on this route, DO stop in and have some pizza or a burger if time allows -- The owner boasts the best burgers in MILES. Support the little guy, riders! You can get McDonald's ANYwhere. There aren't many of these little cafes left.


The wall. Here it is, the only hill I've ever had to walk after being smacked in the face by it. I tried, really I did. Lake Jocomo on the Tour De Lakes route? Nope. Johnson Drive? Please. Renner, northbound from Holliday Drive? Nah. Not steep enough. Ogg Road headed into Shawnee Mission Park from Midland Drive? Nope. This is simply the steepest hill I've ever encountered on a bike. Honestly, they should have a staircase installed alongside of it. It's really stupid. There is a 4% grade leading up to it, and then it just pitches wildly up. Unreasonably UP. Totally unfair. This permanent is an out-n-back route, so I came down this earlier in the day. It's one of the only downhills that has ever actually scared me, and I LOVE DOWNHILLS. On the other side, you have to climb for 3/4 of a mile to get up to the top, and you then lose all of that altitude gain in about 150 feet. It literally just drops away. I came over the top, and felt like I was going to just continue over the handlebars. I had to grab the brakes, and lean WAY back in the saddle -- then the rear wheel slid a little, so I left go and hit 40, 45.... HOLY..... somewhere I lost track, but my top speed on my computer reads 53 MPH from this ride. It's a wireless, so I don't know if somewhere else on the ride some interference from traffic affected it, but there you have it. The only place I've gone faster was in Colorado coming down a mountain. Quite seriously, I think this is the limit: I think at some point the department of transportation has to say "no, this is too steep - it needs to be graded." I think the only place I could find a steeper hill on a bicycle would be to go off-road.

Coming UP the hill was going to be BAD, and I was dreading it ever since coming north of Lone Jack and back into rural Missouri south of Grain Valley again. I knew it was there. I shifted. 39x26, the shortest gear I have. Here we go.... I snapped the picture, and then got down to business. The road pitches up, and I begin to push. Pedal stroke one, the front wheel pops up. WHOA... stroke two... another wheelie, and I lean forward to put more weight on the bars to counteract it. I'm don't know how slow I'm going, but it's pretty pathetic. Stroke three, I manage to keep the wheel down... okay, this isn't SO bad... just shove it out. Stroke four, the road pitches again, and the front wheel comes dangerously high off the road... DANG! So, in an effort to keep the front wheel on the ground and put more power down, I stand. BIG mistake. Normally this works, but the road is in really bad shape -- broken asphalt pieces, pea gravel and sand are everywhere - probably left over from winter - how ANYone would expect to climb this in winter in a car is beyond my comprehension - but my tire is right on the sandy stuff, right as I stand, and my fifth pedal stroke causes the rear wheel to break free and I slide BACKWARDS down the hill... the tire grabs, and I stop - falling onto the top tube, unclipping fast to avoid a fall, and putting both feet down. HOLY..... this is stupid!!!! "Ok, hill... you got me. WOW." I carefully dismount, and begin to walk up the grade - which is almost as much of a joke. I have mountain bike shoes: benefits for rando, good stiff soles like any good cycling shoe should have, but a recessed cleat and walkable sole. So, it's more like a light hiker shoe with an SPD cleat on it. Not an unreasonable choice for walking on pavement, yeah? I'm almost not able to walk up the hill. My feet slide underneath me like I'm walking on marbles, and I'm AVOIDING the sandy parts!!! Forget winter... if this road was WET, I don't think many cars would make it. NO REALLY. I can't make this up... I actually am one of the sickos that LIKES a steep climb to break up the monotony of a long ride, but this hill was one for the books. Now, is this a reason NOT to try this route? Not at all. At the time, yeah, I never wanted to do this route again... but now, with some distance, I want to try it again. Zig-zag it or something... I may have to install a triple crankset, I don't know... but I really want another crack at this monster.

You win this round.... but I'll be back.

Talk about a mental thorn, though: the last six or seven miles of this ride were really hard. The flats (oh yeah, I got ANOTHER flat about two miles after this monster hill), the traffic, the delays, and the dropping temps with cloud cover rolling in... I was DONE. The last four miles, especially, were hard. I came to the top of a hill and I could SEE I-70, which is roughly where my car was parked, but it was like I was never going to get there. A 1-1/4 mile long grunter of a climb awaited, and then another two miles of shoulder-less traffic mayhem, as everyone in and around Grain Valley was getting off work. Yeah, I finished the ride... but DUDE, what a way to finish. I was smoked.

But, I finished. I finished the hardest 200K I've ever ridden.
I've been told there are harder 200K routes. But, THIS route, this time of year -- and solo.
Lucky-13. Earned.

February 23, 2009

Le Update...

success...THE hardest 200k I've ever ridden. The first hill I've ever had to walk up. Three flats. Traffic. Wind. More later....stay tuned.

February 22, 2009

The Ice Breaker Perm, and me: a little lighter...


Stay tuned for the ride report and photos (if I take any.... okay, I will take some time time) from the Ice-Breaker Permanent!
Tomorrow, I play hooky from work and ride a 200K, hoping to soak up a little 50ºF+ weather, and a nice tailwind, on some really nice roads. 
My only reservations about this trip are going to involve riding through Warrensburg on a weekday... but it shouldn't be too horrible, and that occurs near the eastern extent of the route; so even if it IS hairy, at least I'll only have to deal with it for an hour or so before it's behind me.  
All I know is, CASEY'S... here I come.  Ah, the c-store tour of the midwest... I'm ready. 
The calorie and "points" counting of the last couple of weeks has yielded some good results, and I'm making progress:
Upon finishing my last 200K the first of January (which seems FOREVER ago) I weighed probably 192.  Yikes... I know... I slipped WAY back.
However, at THIS writing, I'm sitting at 180 lbs.  I'm sure I'll be able to feel SOME difference from the saddle on this ride, so we'll see.  
Still a long way to go to get to my "ideal" weight again, but it's becoming a quest, a habit -- a good habit, tracking and maintaining control over intake. 
Tomorrow, however, I get to pretty much eat whatever I need to to stay on the bike... within reason, of course. 
After reading some articles recently from Hammer Nutrition (with a grain of salt, yes), it's interesting that they have re-thought a lot of some of the old-guard thinking with regards to caloric intake and replacement while on a long ride - and it happens to jive with the diet I've been sticking to.  So, it's time to put it to practice.  While there is no denying that I'll burn PLENTY, I still don't want to go crazy, and shouldn't go crazy, because that can actually lead to a lot of problems.  More on this later...

Until next time.... ya'll have a good Monday at work!   Pfffttt-HAHAHAH!!!  I'm gonna go ride my bike.  :)

February 16, 2009

"Five County" is coming

Link of the day --- it's not too late:  put it on your calendar, ride your bike to it.  

http://www.5countystudy.org/get_involved/ 

Show 'em who's boss.

 Well, it's still NOT BAD, lemme tell ya - for a February.  But, it seems the heady days of upper-60's in February is over for a while.  Friday, I left work wondering how the ride home would pan out.  It was still warmish, mid-40's - not bad.  But the forecasters were really confused.  We floated from rain, to no-rain, to wintry mix, to dry, to rain again all within the course of the workday.  I've learned not to pay much attention.  
Temperatures, they've got nailed.  Springtime thunderstorms, they' got that down.  But winter here... yeesh, let's just say I wouldn't want their jobs this time of year.  

I pop into the restroom to change into my superhero outfit, and it's dry outside.  
After changing, I emerge...hmmm, darker outside.... 
I step out into sleet.  

BIG sleet.  

Holy.... oooo-kay.... I can deal with this, right? 
Reminds me of the March 2008 permanent... as I mount up in the safety of the parking garage and head east out of the complex... right into the wind-driven balls of frozen pain.  Ah.... memories.  
Stinging memories...

The onslaught continues for nearly two miles, and then things begin to clear again... 
Yikes, an isolated pocket of thunder-sleet!  After that, the commute home is un-eventful - wet roads and clearing skies.  Just another strange February day!

My observations from a couple posts ago still stand, unfortunately -- I wanted to chalk it up to being in a semi-poor mood, but honestly, even in the sleet with my two taillights on solid, and my Road ID Firefly blinking on the back of my Camelbak backpack, I felt pretty safe --- but still, the drivers (some of them) were just not sure what to do with me.  It makes me wonder if I had it right with the rack and pannier set-up - looking more like someone that's headed somewhere - as opposed to someone just out for a ride.  
A couple things I have noticed since shifting back to the backpack mode:  headwinds are not NEARLY a problem anymore.  With all of the portage behind my body, I get no more resistance than if I was riding unladen.  But, if that changes the way I appear to drivers on these ever-more-dangerous roads, is it worth it?  Granted, I'd have to fix my current panniers, or get new ones -- but that's not a deal breaker.  
Other problems arise when I realize the bike I have been commuting on lately doesn't have the eyelets necessary to install the rack the way I'd like it.  I hate clamps... braze-ons RULE.... but, again, not a deal breaker.  Oddly enough, the Camelbak solution isn't all that bad - it makes getting on and off the bus a lot easier, but that's not a deal breaker either, as I haven't ridden the bus that much this season.  
Further, having the pack on my back has not been a hassle, nor has it caused any discomfort.  So, it's a decision I'll have to make with a little more consideration.  I must admit, I like the way the bike handles FAR better without the rack and bags on there, though... and for my overall comfort and enjoyment, that can be a deal breaker.  My commute is just long enough for me to think that way. 
We'll see.   The nice thing is --- options are GOOD.  I like to play around, so I may do JUST that.  

Another good week on the bike coming up, in what is shaping up to be my most productive February on the bike in years!  And, on Monday the 23rd, the beginning of the second R-12 run... It's gonna be a good year! 


February 12, 2009

The ICE-BREAKER Permanent - Monday, Feb 23rd.

 
If you are the least bit interested, please email me ASAP to register - the cut-off is Wednesday Feb. 18th, please!  (Registration is now closed)
Must be a RUSA member to ride - see www.RUSA.org for membership details!  $20 a year, it's a GREAT DEAL, and will add a lot of excitement to your cycling calendar!
Join today! 
 
Monday, February 23rd.  6:00AM start time.
The Knob Noster 200K - Grain Valley, MO - Knob Noster, MO. and back.
 
Excellent scenery, railroad interaction, and that good, good Casey's General Store Pizza along the way.
Take advantage of the mild February weather, and get a jump on your 2009 season with 127 miles of gooooodness!
 
 
 
By the way... I'm in a much better mood today.
Yesterday's post was a little harsh... but I still contend that there are issues to resolve out there.
But, let's hold our heads high, and rise above. 
At least, that's my philosophy going forward.
We all lose it once in a while...

February 11, 2009

Cycles of Doom

The fun has continued all weekend, and up until today, pretty much.  
It's been REALLY nice out... albeit a little windy.  

Last night, the first thunder and lightning of the year... in FEBRUARY?
Weird.  Indeed.  But, awesome.... I love this time of year... (well, assuming the weather holds)

After waking up late and having to help out with the kids, I decided to lay off the bike today and handle the constant downpour from the car.   You know, I've really come to despise driving - really.  Sometimes its a necessary evil, but I really prefer not to if I can help it anymore - despite the weather.  Last night, I had to work over in Missouri, Lees Summit specifically - and riding the bike all the way over there with tools and such just wasn't in the cards.  There's a good example of necessary evil... and in the best form:  I-470 at rush hour.  Nothing will make you loath society more, I nearly guarantee it.  At least I had ridden to my primary job yesterday morning to keep the balance correct.  

Still, one thing I noticed:  I've been a long-time proponent of the Mo/Kan Iron Curtain.  Missouri drivers, for the longest time, should stay on the Missouri side.  When I was a kid, Kansas drivers were better.  Just recently, that opinion has changed.  Kansas Drivers are far worse.  My FAVORITE driver?.... Someone who lives and works in Kansas, but dodges the property tax bullet by registering their SUV or Lexus (or the mighty Lexus SUV) in Missouri.  Your luxury SUV makes me laugh.  People that are headed west on 151st Street during rush-hour, for example.  Surely, you're headed in the wrong direction?  These people not only don't know how to drive (read: drive and shuffle their iPUD and text on their Jackberry while driving).... or be honest about their bills and contribute their fair share to the department of transportation.  OOOO, someones in a cruddy mood, dude!   (yeah, me.)

Honestly, and back to my point (there's a point?) - I'm nearly done with suburban Johnson County.  The attitude, the drivers, the sprawl.  It's exhausting.  Missouri drivers are - from the saddle AND from behind the wheel - far better in traffic from my recent observations.  There are exceptions to everything -- but that's my most recent observation; that there is a cultural shift happening across our borders.  I don't even know where I'm going with this rant.  I think I'm just pissed.  Johnson County.  It's gettin' old.  

From a cycling perspective, I used to be really nervous about heading over into Missouri to do a ride or Brevet.... But, just in the past couple years it's actually been my preference.  They seem more patient, more grounded, and more forgiving on quiet 2-lane roads when it comes to bikes.  Honestly I'm not so sure it's a Missouri vs. Kansas thing as it's a Suburban vs. Rural thing.  But, I tell you one thing -- I HAVE to get outta the general area before I feel like a ride has REALLY started.  Leaving from the house by bicycle to start a ride -- EVEN my commute -- has gotten hairier and hairier in the four short years I've lived at this new address.  Granted, I don't think I've had any more close-calls or incidents... but I attribute that to my observations and ability to predict unfolding situations (like when that guy darts ahead of me and then suddenly slows down - he's turning right, right in front of me without a signal., for example.), managing my own risk on the saddle, and sticking to the rules.  I have a nasty feeling about those with less time on their clock navigating around these suburban speedways.  I worry about people, about new cyclists.  It's a little un-nerving to think that only a few blocks from my house that I usually get run-up on from behind by Suzy-Sequoia with her hair appointment trying to shave a few minutes off her commute by bombing down a residential street to avoid that long traffic light, latte in one hand, blue-tooth headset in her spray-tanned ear -- getting the brush-by from 2 tonnes of soccer-mom starts the heart faster than espresso.  People ask me why I like riding downtown so much.... "It's so dangerous!" they say.... pfffffffffft, please.  Come ride with me at 123rd and Antioch, if you think suburbia is so much more "cyclist-friendly".
Recently, concerning an upcoming night ride, someone was concerned about drunk drivers on a Saturday night -- and I was tempted to ask what the difference was between them and anyone on the road at any time of day anymore.  

Here's a few things I've noticed that are becoming problematic over the past few years in the "kill zone", between 119th and 159th on the north and south, and Ridgeview to Mission east and west.  

Sprawl:  Every nice, rideable road has been peppered with new and poorly-placed neighborhood entrances.  In the interest of reducing speed and breaking up monotony, many areas are beginning to install roundabouts and re-routing straight stretches of road with long, sweeping curves.  The only thing this seems to have accomplished is made impatient drivers better at examining the envelopes of their cars' handling ability.  And, few of them are very good at it.  The double-lane roundabout?  You might as well just remove those lines, because once a car enters the roundabout WITHOUT slowing down (which is standard procedure) , they will use every inch of both lanes to complete their turn.  If you're a bike, and you're in there... hold on tight.  Being a cyclist on a long, big-radius curve, hearing that car coming up - knowing that the driver is off the axis of your taillights, your reflective gear - and even in daylight, he's probably not able to discern you from the background that is just beyond you -- again, hold on tight.  The only thing these long, sweeping boulevards seem to do is confuse people, directionally, and take up more green-space, all in the interest of high property values, curb appeal, and attractive anti-geometric lots.  It plays on a model that was once established in Prairie Village... but it seems the main difference is the speed limits.  In the older neighborhoods, this works well, and was planned well - the streets are narrower, not designed for higher speeds, and the posted limits are 25 MPH.  Further, these streets are lined with residences... the streets that follow this design in the southern part of the county are only lined with entrances to residential areas.... so, in essence they are trying to get a Prairie Village feel on a major collector street that has a posted limit of 45 MPH.  NOT SAFE, for ANY-one, cyclists or drivers - or all the kids that live around here.  It would be one thing if the residential streets went through... but in most cases they do not.  Cul-de-sacs and loop-backs are all too common - and whether or not a street goes thru is usually determined by land rights at the time of build, rather than on good suburban planning and foresight.  This puts more cyclists (and drivers) back out on these collector streets and arterials, all trying to figure out if this super long curved street is carrying them west, or is it a trick?  I just want to get to 175th Street for example, so why am I weaving back and forth?  Should an arterial or collector thru-street DO that?  If drivers are going to be a hazard, I should be able to find a good 25 MPH residential pathway toward my destination, so I can enjoy my ride and stay outta the way.  Just because a neighborhood doesn't extend into "Farmer John's" field yet, does that mean the city shouldn't use their domain to cut a section road through it, so residents (and cyclists) can get through from another arterial road?  If the city couldn't get these rights, should the neighborhood even have been BUILT?  Did we REALLY NEED $300K+ homes out here?  REALLY?  There is a logic that seems to be slipping in the city planning departments - cities so desperate for tax revenue that building plans get pushed through and permits signed without much forethought - it seems.  This is all tendered against my personal notion that in this economy, builders shouldn't be striking out into any more farmer's fields right now ANY-ways... but I do understand the inevitability of it all. 

It's clear - I don't fit where I live, and I'm not going to change much about where I live by simply complaining about it.  But these 45 MPH zones zig-zagging everywhere don't seem to be helping anyone get anywhere ANY faster.  Give them an inch, and they take a mile.... indeed.... 45 MPH posted is merely a recommendation.  If everyone is going to drive 10 MPH over the speed limits ANY-ways, and law enforcement is so understaffed that they can't keep up, that means everyone is essentially going to be doing 55 MPH on these residential collector roads.  When someone screws up, people are going to get injured to a more extensive degree.  Some kid got killed outside a city park because of some jerk in a dual axle flatbed doing 60 in a 40 MPH zone.  Near a park full of kids.   If we know that everyone is going to drive ten MPH over the limits, then why not make that limit 30 MPH?... how about just 25 MPH?  Regularly seeing people bombing down MY collector street at 45 MPH, and it's posted at 30 - and I'm three blocks from an elementary school.  People are rude, dangerous, inconsiderate, tailgating freakshows.  Drop the speed limits, issue more tickets, and everyone will eventually learn to wake up fifteen minutes earlier.  Having 45 MPH speed-limits in-town doesn't get anyone anywhere, any faster.  Do the math.  Slow down; and for pete's sake, get off my tail!   What ever happened to the two-second rule???

After spending a lot of energy yelling, fighting, forum posting, advocating - one thing you may have noticed is that I've essentially stopped ranting on this site about poor cycling habits, how we need to ride by example to get the rights we deserve made into law, to make those ignorant of the existing laws more tolerant by exercising proper road etiquette (riding single file, to the right, not blowing stop signs, etc.).  I tell ya, it's exhausting.  Our advocacy folks need the biggest round of applause we can muster -- because this is thankless, exhausting work.  But the true nature of the beast is, none of us are perfect - and sadly, I think frustrations will only mount more because the fine art of GOOD DRIVING is quickly fading.  60 in a 45 is considered normal.  Four-way stop procedure:  kill or be killed.  Double-lane roundabout:  take whatever line you like, at speed.  Speed bumps:  suspension limit testers.  Cyclists:  in my way.  School zone:  teach your kids to fear the street, and no-one gets hurt.  Double lane change to make the right turn lane, without looking or signaling:  you're lucky you weren't in his way.  Crosswalks on Metcalf:  you can wait until 6pm when all the drivers have arrived at home.  What REAL difference does it make whether or not I stop and put my foot down at a stop sign while on my bicycle if Mercedes S-Class-Jack over there is barely gonna come to a rolling stop at the same intersection???  If Larry so-and-so with his F-350 Dually Power Stroke-my-inadequacy-because-I'm-such-a-diesel-driving-stud drives down the middle of Lamar because he doesn't know how wide his truck really is, who cares if I ride as far to the right as practicable?  Sometimes it's about not getting killed. 

(to be clear, I see an F-350 dually powerstroke covered with mud, huge hunks of leftover hay in the bed and a dented up bumper, with an old guy in overalls driving it -- I tip my hat.  It's the shiny, body-lifted and dubbed up, full King Ranch edition leather and navigation-equipped penny-loafer driven versions that have NEVER been and never will be taken off road, or put to work - to the point that the factory bar-code stickers are still on the axles,  driven in-town, to and from work with usually only one person in them -- that's the one's I have a problem with.)

These behaviors, and worse, are not only commonplace now, but they seem to bridge across generations:  While this used to be something you'd say only about teenager drivers, it's clear that older, established men and women that OUGHT TO KNOW BETTER simply drive like CRAP, too.  

So, you have the bad drivers - and bad drivers make bad cyclists.  Even just yesterday, I was excited to see another cyclist on the road finally - for the first time in months, as I approached the first intersection of my commute home, from the east came a guy all decked out on his road steed... we reached the intersection at roughly the same time, but he was already rolling RIGHT INTO IT, which made all the cars pause for a second while they all tried to anticipate his next move.  He took that as his queue to go, so he did.  Then it was my turn, so I headed thru after track-standing for a second or two.  Being a cyclist, there is a certain recognition on the roads -- if you see another cyclist it tends to stand out more than say, seeing a particular car.  Anyways - I figured he'd seen me, which is my assumption probably getting me in trouble.  As I accelerated to catch up and maybe say "hey", the downhill approached:  he being on a geared up race bike, and me on the fixxie -- well, it was hard for me to keep up as he upshifted and hammered down the grade.  Not after he hocked up a good one, and let a blob of spit fly over his right shoulder..... up, up....duck!... (whew).  At least I was paying enough attention to dodge it before it hit me.  That would have been nasty.  What goes down, must come up:  the downhill becomes an uphill, so I begin to close up the gap, just for sport - and again to say "hey".  Well, apparently he still doesn't see me, because he suddenly, without a twitch, a hand signal, a look over the shoulder, NOTHING - he darts over to the left to head back east on 127th street, nearly clipping my front wheel with his back wheel.  Again, thank goodness I was paying attention.  A quick brake, and retreat, and I save the near-collision.  That's about the time it crossed my mind that this guy, at some point, it getting behind the wheel of a car.  It all fits together.  An older gentleman; and IMHO, he oughta know better.  After reaching the intersection, he then looks over - surprised to find someone had been following him, I guess... "how's it going?"  Ugh.  I mean, benefit of the doubt - certainly he may have genuinely NOT known I was following him --- but he had a few opportunities during his intersection behavior and lane-change randomness to turn his head slightly and make sure he wasn't about to get run over by someone in a CAR, for example - much less piddly little me on a bike.

But, I didn't let it get me down for long -- I just shake my head a little anymore, and carry on with my ride. It's typical, utterly commonplace, and I can't control everything.  
But, I can control where I live, and where I ride -- and more and more I feel like my bike ride home doesn't truly begin until I'm safely on the bike trail - away from the drivers, and cyclists that behave like drivers.  

Meanwhile, closer to home - carefully making my way along 143rd street - ANOTHER cyclist out enjoying the weather!  Cool... maybe I'll fare better this time.... uhhh.... wait a second.  This guy takes the cake.  
Helmet - cool.  Bike looks vintage... cool... But the problem is it's difficult to exchange "hellos" when he's riding directly for my front wheel, in the bike lane, headed in the wrong direction.  I'm hammering along, with the flow of traffic, and here's this guy, diving into a drainage ditch cutout so I can pass.  I didn't turn around to see what his next move was after that -- was my presence enough to reinforce he might have needed to re-evaluate his choice of lane?  who knows.  Whoever taught this running or riding against the flow of traffic needs to be taken out and stoned, publicly.  It's invalid, out-dated, and in Shawnee at least - ticket-able, even for joggers.  Runners:  Seriously... I don't know where this notion that sidewalk joints and cracks are somehow gonna mess up your marathon pace - but knock it off, and get on the sidewalk.  There's a pictogram of a BICYCLIST painted in the bike lane, pal.  Not a picture of Pre Fontaine.
Ride scared, because apparently even our fellow cyclists are out to get us.  Luckily he moved when he did -- with my cycling cap blocking the glare from the sun, and me totally NOT expecting an oncoming traffic threat in a bicycle lane, it would have been an ugly collision - probably resulting in one of us falling sideways into the steady traffic stream that was rifling past us only a few feet away, at - you guessed it - ten MPH over the posted limit.  

I even saw someone riding their bike down 119th Street near the campus at about 10:45am - getting near the beginning of the lunch rush.  Probably because that's where she likes to drive when she's out on her day off?  She looked visibly uncomfortable, riding her brakes down the hill towards Lamar.  C'mon, people.... 119th street is NOT CYCLING FRIENDLY.  The honking alone should have told you that.  Get a map, guys!  

Have we become so lax?  Has the economic crisis focused everyone so heavily that common sense and decency is out the window?  Is there any hope for suburbia?  Will the Dude stop drinking SO MUCH coffee that he fires off into these three hour rants about effectively nothing?  

BAH.   Humbug.   

From Mo-Bike-Fed...

The U.S. House has passed a version of the stimulus bill that included a fair share for bicycling and walking in the bill's transportation funding. 


The Senate's version leaves it out.

Your voice can help put it back.

Hundreds of bicycle & pedestrian groups across the U.S. are coordinating a grassroots call/fax/email campaign TODAY.

  --> Easy 5 minute action page: 

 
  --> Contact info for ALL Missouri members of Congress is at the very end of this message.

Message:  "I support a fair share for bicycling and walking in transportation funding.  Please support Transportation Enhancements in the Economic Recovery bill."


SUPPORT BICYCLE AND PEDESTRIAN PROJECTS IN THE ECONOMIC RECOVERY BILL

The House and the Senate have each passed their own version of the Economic Recovery Bill, aimed at creating jobs and stimulating the economy.  

Both bills include billions for transportation infrastructure, but only the House bill includes funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects in the Transportation Enhancements program.  The House bill includes approximately
$1.35 billion for Transportation Enhancements of which 50-60% is traditionally spent on bicycle and pedestrian projects.  

The Senate bill does not explicitly include Transportation Enhancements, so it’s unclear whether this funding will be in the final bill. 
 
We need to make sure Transportation Enhancement funding is in the final bill.
 
This week there will be a conference committee where several members of the House and several members of the Senate will work together to reconcile the two bills.  Conferees need to hear that Transportation Enhancements are important to stimulating the economy, creating green jobs, and moving us towards a sustainable future.

CALL TODAY! 

5 minute action page:

  http://capwiz.com/lab/callalert/index.tt?alertid=12647931
 
Please call your senators and representative and ask them to tell the Conferees to support Transportation Enhancements in the Economic Recovery bill. Tell them:
 
 * Bicycle and pedestrian projects create jobs at the same or better rate than highway projects.
 
 * These smaller projects can move quickly to hire local businesses and help local economies.
 
 * Providing safe and convenient bicycle and pedestrian access gives families healthier and cheaper transportation options.
 
 * Improving sidewalks and bike lanes can make a downtown a destination further helping the local economy.
 
 * Better biking and walking options also help ensure greater energy independence, less pollution, and a healthier United States!

February 6, 2009

The "Miley Cyrus stole my spicy-curry" ride.

After a RIDICULOUS corporate debacle that unfolded today, on my DAY OFF - that I happened to get pulled into with a surprise phone-call; washed in gentle waters with the promise of adventure and prosperity, only to be later drained and sucked thru a sharp-toothed band saw, spit out and reassembled in some form of my former self....all within four hours!  Kinda like dangling the proverbial carrot....  man.... I'm so hacked off I lost my analogy.  (No, I didn't get fired - for those close to the home camp.  No need to panic -- it is refreshing that even in these dark financial times, however, that managerial stupidity is still alive and well.)  Anyways -- what better way to deal with corporate stress than a nice bike ride on one of the warmest February days in recent memory?

I can't think of a better engine for interval training than being the victim of ineptitude.  

Let's ride...

So, I get the Trek out for a nice spin in the...  holy.... it's WINDY!!!!

WINDY!   Like one can expect anything less on a day like this, when winter still has a good hold for at least another six weeks.  If it's warm, it's windy.  It's Kansas, ya'll!  
Saddle up, and get aero!

I headed south, into the gale, heading down Mur-Len to 175th, and then on to Lackman.  It was time to test my legs on Lackman's "wall" just south of 183rd Street.  
CRACK....  another plastic bottom bracket cup bites the dust....  nice.  Well, it's only outer ring cracks, not a thru-and-thru crack.  Still, it's time to bite the bullet and order the aluminum aftermarket model that replaces.... hey, what's that I smell?  Corporate ineptitude, on the part of whoever at Shimano thought it'd be a good idea to make these bottom bracket cups outta plastic. Grrrrrf.... oh well, ride on:  things are still tight, good to go. 

On to 199th, to Webster, to the Spring Hill Casey's, thru old Spring Hill, the industrial area, over the RR tracks, and onto Woodland - finally headed northbound with a REALLY strong tailwind!
Then, it's time for a little gravel-road fun!  I've recently started injecting more fun into my rides, and a lot of that is removing the word "no" from roads that are "road-bike appropriate".  After all, one of my favorite prefessional races to watch is Paris-Roubaix... mainly because they ain't stickin' to the rules.  Road bikes, on some of the nastiest stretches of cobbles and excuses-for-roads in France.  Pure, butter-dipped, awesomeness.  Check out the 2001 edition - one of my faves.  

Anyways... back to my ride... a good ride, a good stress burner, and a good tour of the nearby countryside.  I came home refreshed, recharged, and wishing for slightly larger tires.

Oh, and a new, METAL, bottom bracket cup.  

Enjoy the pics!

Woodland Road, just north of 183rd Street.  One of my favorite section of gravel road to ride, in either direction, with the railroad tracks paralleling the western side on the ridge.  Kansas has looked like this far longer than it's looked like, say, 135th and Metcalf.  


I've been riding.  Moon.  Shadow.  
Moon, shadow.  Moon...  Shadow.


Another example of Kansas early-20th century architecture hidden under the railroad tracks for this small creek to pass through.  All stone, hammer-and-chisel to shape, classic arch-way, complete with threaded-pipe guard-rails atop the culvert.  Hard to see much detail with the sunrays peeking into the shot - but a cool little hidden treasure along a quiet country road.  


Wicked cross-winds on 199th street -  here's a little off-angle between-the-legs shot.
Usually, only my wife gets that treatment.
  
Gross.

I'll be here all week.


Battling the relentless 25 MPH headwind on Lackman Road, southbound.  
Good for burning off those unwanted pounds.  
By the way, I've lost 7 lbs. since my epiphany last week.  Tracking your food intake WORKS, and reinforces how silly I've been.  It's pointless to complain if you aren't doing the work - now that I'm doing the work, the results are coming along.  Funny thing, that.  



Shadows grow long on 175th Street, headed home on the last leg of the loop.
I'm HUGE!  

The wacky February weather continues into next week -- although not quite to the same 67º+ extent... upper 50's with thunderstorms promised for Monday, which will add a little spice to the daily commute!  Winter may yet bite back, but I'm gonna enjoy this while it lasts....
...and while I'm at it, I'm probably going to get in a 200K for this month.  Yep.  I re-read some of my posts, and it's true:  I'm a randonneur.  Will it morph into another R-12 attempt?  We'll see.... but there's no reason why I should say "no, absolutely not." if I'm not burned out, and I truly enjoy those long rides.  Especially if the weather holds.  Banking on the fact that February in Kansas is usually miserable, that's why I'd pretty much decided to take a break... but this weather has really changed my outlook, and if I can get one in... heck, why not?  

For now, today was a GREAT ride, and a good preview of how the forthcoming "Hard Cider" ride will probably go.  Translation:  FUN!  As for the corporate world -- it is what it is... so be it.
I have the bike, and they can't take that away from me.  

Stay tuned... 

February 4, 2009

The 2009 Brevet Calendar

 
Before you know it, spring will officially be here:  That can only mean one thing....   it's brevet time!
 
It's time to get yourself ready for a solid season, and there is no better way to do it than with a long, steady base ride.  The Kansas City Ultra Cycling Brevet series is the way to get that big, big mileage base to support your hard training to come, racers! 
 
Not a racer?  No problem!  You don't have to have a big racing goal, or anything like that, to enjoy a nice, long spin in the rural reaches of this fine area.  Brevets are "timed tours", so they're perfect for getting out and seeing a lot of the countryside from a bike, while still participating in an organized and recognized event that can get you a shiny medal.  That's right, these aren't t-shirt rides... you get a real, substantial, beautifully detailed medal from the Audax Club Parisien after your ride is certified.  Quite literally, you can collect the whole set; completing the series of a 200, 300, 400 and 600 kilometer brevets qualifies you for the coveted SUPER Randonneur award!  
 
 
Here is this year's brevet schedule:
 
  • March 28th, 2009 - 200km - Kansas City, KS., to Linwood, to Ottawa, and back.
  • April 11th, 2009 - Fleche - a 24-hour Team event - see http://kcbrevets.blogspot.com for details.
  • April 25th, 2009 - 300km - Liberty, MO., to Stewartsville, to Albany, MO., and back.
  • May 9th, 2009 - 400km - Liberty, MO., to.....  TBA!  Exciting NEW route!!!
  • May 23rd, 2009 - 600km - Grandview, MO., to La Cygne, KS., to Appleton City, MO., to Weableau, MO., and back!
  • June 7th, 2009 - 1,000km! - Santa Fe, NM to Herington, KS.!!!  Take the train to Santa Fe, and ride back!
 
 
Visit http://kcbrevets.blogspot.com for more details and ride organizer contact information.
(RUSA membership required for brevet participation - join @ http://www.rusa.org)
 
If you have any questions about the above or want to know more about this exciting sport, contact me via the comments on this post - or ANY post, for that matter.  I'm happy to help you get started, and fill in any blanks you might have. 
 
It's addictive, it's challenging, it's not a race, but it's no "Sunday stroll", either. 
Pump up your tires and hit the road towards a new challenge in 2009! 
 
No goal, no glory!

February 3, 2009

Rust in pieces

Well it's a good thing the groundhog saw his shadow yesterday, because the Krudwell is dead. Seat tube crack. Yeah, I know (weld it.) Nah... not worth the effort. We're talking about a $5.00 frame here. But, I have a feeling the worst.... nevermind, not saying it out loud.

So, let's take a moment and say a silent farewell to our favorite winter beater.

Okay, that's enough.

February 1, 2009

I dare not say it aloud....

February is here... and in the last 48 hours, there has been some really odd weather. I don't know if we officially hit 70ºF here in town on Saturday, but we must have gotten close. Even today wasn't that bad. The end of this coming week shows more temperatures in the 50's and lower 60's. Could it be? Could... it.... BAH. Shut face, before you jinx it! Let's just say that even though February is only a few hours old, I've been enjoying it so far. This is usually the month where I dig a hole and crawl into it. Things like last-minute ice storms come to mind, weeks of roads locked with ice and leftover snow. Bitter temperatures. Commutes wrought with misery and woeful moans. FEBRUARY in KANSAS. Welcome to suck-ville.

So far.... so good? The next 27 days will be interesting, that's for sure. I have a sneaky suspicion that we're in for an especially hot summer, though. I like that.

I've recently made some plans, some goals -- and while I'm not fully prepared to spell them out here in print, I'm pretty excited about the prospect of a hot summer. A hot, stupid humid summer under an unforgiving sun, telling stories that start off like...

"so, there we were, it was lap 11, the sun was finally going down, and it was still 133º... my legs looked like something that fell outta the back of a Pemmican truck. The beer was hot, and the grass was dead. I looked for shade, but the trees had all caught on fire. I pulled another hunk of molten tar off my shoe to finish patching my 8th flat tire, and then I'd be off again - into the unknown..."


Yeah, it's gonna be a good year.

Even though I'm acclimated to the cold, I am a little tired of it with these last couple days of getting taunted by springtime - but, my mental pieces are in the right place this year. I'm not "done with cold" like I was before, hating it and not riding at all. Yeah, it'll be 24º tomorrow morning when I mount up for the jaunt to work.... but there is a fire in my heart again, stoked by a new objective that lies only six short months away. Stay tuned for that.... (nice tease, I know. You like it.)

But, there can be no doubt.... Spring is six weeks away, and I can already feel the hot pavement rushing under my feet, hear that first clap of thunder in the spring air, smell the aroma of the morning air after a night's rainfall, hear the song of frogs in the roadside ditches. Football season is over, tonight.... (finally) ...and it's time for that "other" season to start, hearkened by the sound of hundreds of cleats snapping into pedals as people get ready for another season in the saddle.

It'll be a special year, no doubt... the year of Lance's return. A year of hope with a new president at the helm. A year of promise, as financial futures are rebuilt. Things to ROOT FOR. Times are still hard, yes... but it's all SO much easier to take when you have a bike ride to look forward to, and a goal to focus on.

Whatever it is you're looking forward to; the MS-150... the Cliff Drive Classic... Tour De Lakes... Copper Triangle... RAAM... the Kansas City Triathlon... Hospital Hill... Furnace Creek... Rapture in Misery... the Cidermill Century... RAGBRAI... whatever it is, here's to ya and good luck.

Let's get this thing started.