August 28, 2006

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!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The airplane that you photoed was indeed a 737...a new one. they are covered with a protective plastic as they are shipped from Wichita to Seattle. I think they go to KC then Omaha and then off to Seattle(???) not sure exactly on that...All 737's begin their life at the Wichita plant.