August 28, 2006

The Larrytown Time Trial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Naw.. I’ll be fine…” I thought.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MS-150 number seven, here I come!

The Metro Metric - a taste of everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martindale Road, paralleling the RR tracks headed north.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 15, 2006

Metricus Metropolus!

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

Thanks for coming out Karen!


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


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


August 10, 2006

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

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

Heat. It’s gettin’ OLD.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 7, 2006

Reminder about Metro Metric!

A quick reminder that THIS weekend, SATURDAY, is the Metro Metric - or CommuterDude XX - assuming I haven't lost count somewhere. "XX" seems to be a good place to start, anyways - so I hope I don't lose count AGAIN. Crap.

Anyhoooooo --- all the ride details are HERE.

Bring CASH -- Coffee Girls is a cash-only business, but they do have an ATM in the building, if you don't mind the fees. ACME Bicycles WILL BE OPEN, and we will probably take a quick stop there, if you like. I need to buy a new bell while we're there.

Ride notes: Lights, bells, and gigantic saddlebags are encouraged! Panniers optional.
Pack a few snacks for yourself and BRING EXTRA WATER if you have a way to carry it.
Near the end of the ride, stops become spread farther apart!

You better be there, and if you aren't there you better be dead, or in jail.
And if you're in jail, break out.

Love ya!