July 31, 2008

Song of the moment - which seems to go well with the blanket of fog this morning...."Muzzle of Bees" by Wilco.

July 30, 2008

Looking before leaping.

Well, it finally rained -- after dancing with 20% chances of rain here and there, it finally opened up pretty good yesterday, and has now been raining off-and-on for about the last 24 hours in some places. Yesterday AM, the bike trail was just nasty - slicked up bad, and the "roller coaster" section was a mess. I forget, I don't think I have ever mentioned the "roller coaster" section before.... I digress, but it's relevant: I used to jump off the trail at Switzer and 140th or so, close to the Deanna Rose Farmstead, and then use 137th street to head straight east to Antioch, and then jump back on the trail there to continue to work. Most of this was a consequence of the bike handling issues that were caused by the old Carradice bag setup. (read - high center of gravity). The trail in the section between Switzer and Antioch, around the 139th street corridor, is REALLY twisty, hilly, and fun....when it's dry. But, it's in an especially old growth section of the original trail that used to just service the small city park behind the ball fields off of 137th streets - so it's probably a decade older than the rest of the trail that now connects to it, and gets me from Olathe all the way to 127th and Lamar. Because of this, the asphalt is all porous, loaded with silt and dirt, and the trees shed a lot of leaves, sap, etc., and there are a lot of seed pods and fallen branches everywhere. It's probably only a couple of weeks of non-maintenance by the city away from getting sucked back into the forest. Also, it was built on the old paradigm of "scenic" instead of "functional". Considering it was by itself for a long time, people would go to the park, and go on a "hike" on this twisty thing, and feel like they'd been walking for a LONG while. It meanders a lot. It's very pretty, yes -- and after a test, I came to find out that it was actually faster to stay on the trail and go thru it, rather than to jump off and take 137th for a seemingly "straight shot". But, on rainy days, there aren't many tires that will hold you upright thru this section. It's so well shaded that even when the weather clears, this section of trail remains super sloppy for days afterwards. In the winter, you can't even really see where it is. So, when I navigated this section yesterday before the real rain really even started up, it was nasty... today, I wasn't even going to risk it. The remains of hurricane Dolly was having its way with the local creeks, and it's just not worth the risk, so I ride in on the main roads today.

Here's a shot from the Crowbar, another commuter that sits down the aisle from me: He had to stick to the roads, too, clearly!It's been an interesting couple of days on the bike because of the rain and cloudy conditions -- seems almost fall-like, with the exception of the temperatures. Once this weather clears, it's gonna get HOT again. But, for now, I actually have to don the short-sleeve modified rain jacket on the way home from job#2 in the evening, as the rain is quite cold and steady. Cold up there. I arrived home right when things were becoming a tad enthusiastic, with lighting and sonorous thunder. Magnificent! Overnight, more stormy activity - and this morning, steady, cold rain again with a northwesterly wind -- fall-like, indeed.
So, I practice my fall routines, cornering more upright and carefully - re-learning the envelope of traction on my tires. Making sure the lights have fresh batteries, etc. It's all part of the big plan.

I'm pretty stoked about this whole "car-free" thing, although I'm a little hesitant to take that next BIG step: selling the car. I've talked to the wife about it and it's starting to make more sense in her mind too. I have to make sure that I'm ready for this step, 100%, because once it's gone - it's gone. There will be no turning back. But, the financial rewards are plentiful - and everything helps these days. However, will I feel the same way in December? February - my most hated winter month here in Kansas? With the nature of Kansas weathers, can I possibly have this kind of sagacity? Will it work??? I'm nervous, of course - tentative about actually placing that ad in the online classifieds. Time to set the mind at ease by re-reading some blogs and articles out there.
But, so far, so good - while this pales HORRIBLY in comparison with some of my commuting heroes in the world, it's encouraging that I have overcome a lot of my issues of the past 18 months, and have ridden to work every day for a month solid now. Yeah, I know --- keep it going all winter, THEN we'll talk. I have the same conversation with myself about it. But, there is something that snapped in my earlier this month. Looking back, every week, every season since moving into the new house that put me more than double the distance from work, I have been fairly IN-consistent with my commutes. A large part of this was the tiny car I bought in the winter of 2006. Of course, in 2006, gas was still "only" a couple bucks a gallon. I had NO notion - I don't think anyone did - that within 18 months or slightly more, we'd see $4.00 a gallon common nationwide. Even driving the little car was getting expensive. It's just not worth it anymore - I've finally reached a point again where the price of gas far outweighs the struggles one endures by simply hanging up the car keys. It's SO easy to get sucked in, tho. The nice seats, the air conditioning, the heater in winter - protection from the elements, no regards to wind direction or velocity, nor to grade or state of repair of the roadway, nay hardly even a concern for other drivers or one's own protection. Six air bags, no worries; it renders bicycling an awfully precarious venture by contrast. Fortunately, I can stand by my record -- while someday certainly I may be caught out on odds (heaven forbid) by a careless driver, I can rest assured that I take every discretion when it comes to riding when conditions are prime, inclemency moreso. Ankle bands, reflective tape everywhere, good and well-aimed lights, a good helmet, and constant prudence at the handlebars - I have a family to support, friends that care. Risk is not an option, fashion be damned. Sometimes, however, because of the culture we live in, and the wishing and urge to be accepted that comes with human nature, that car seems awfully safe and comfortable, and EASY. I could bore myself with trite quips about the notions this country was founded upon, how the easy way is often never the best way, and how we've all become softies and sell-outs. I know what lies ahead, and I have to take it the same way our ancestors did. Not doing it simply because of the honor that might come from choosing the harder path, not doing it simply to be haughty. Doing it because of neccessity - not because of some sort of self-punishment or lofty "green" etiquette, not even to be a trend setter. Doing it because it helps my famil, financially. Doing it because it helps my environment, ultimately. And doing it because I like who I am when I am riding - and I do not like who I become after a short time behind the wheel of a car.
"Above all else, know thyself."
This is the right move for me - I can feel it.

The Deadline approaches!!!

If you are interested in the 2008 Team CommuterDude jersey, this is your last shot this year to get one: Pricing is currently $67.95 per jersey - and that CAN and WILL drop if you place and order today, based on the quantity discounts!

Click here for more information -- deadline for ordering is midnight August 8th!

July 23, 2008

Song of the week, the Alpe', and the morning peloton

The song of the day, anyways --- I dunno if I can have a song stuck in my head for a full week.... except maybe for that incessant techno that I had stuck in my head for three weeks.

It's been a while since I posted any kind of musical schtuff... so it was time.

The song that inspired me to post this: "Stray Dog and a Chocolate Shake" - by Grandaddy.
Other songs that have raised my interest lately, enough that I have been humming them in public and such:
The entire Firecracker album by The Squirrel Nut Zippers.
Anything by the White Stripes or The Racconteurs... which is kinda cool in its own right because it's pretty close in spelling to Randonneurs.... which would be a good name for a band anyways.
Anything by Phish - specifically off the Farmhouse album.
Anything by Wilco - specifically off the Sky Blue Sky album.
TRS-80: Freaking drum-and-bass backbeat genius.
This band out of Colorado called DeVotchKa.
Crud.... it's been a musical month.
The Alpe'. I love the current promo that Versus has been running on this one... this hill will break you. Ah, Le Alpe d' Huez. That's today, stage 17 of the Tour. Go VandeVelde... I hope he's got something special today. It's getting tight... Can't wait to watch the carnage tonight when I get home, DVR-willing. Yeah, I took 2006 and 2007 off from being a rampant professional cycling fan --- but I really have enjoyed watching this year's tour.
This morning on 143rd Street, I was treated to a catch by a fellow commuter on a nice mountain bike complete with handlebar bag and trunk bag, disc brakes, and mounted by a strong looking rider. Unfortunately, I didn't catch his name in all the fun and conversation. We ended up chatting it up for probably 80% of each other's commutes, which was really cool compared to the normal: "hey, I think I'll talk to myself AGAIN" on the way to work. A nearly perfect morning, cool breezes, not too humid... at least relatively. Still, I arrived at work all sticky and sweaty again -- those last two hills before hitting the work-20 are pretty gnarly, and tempting --- and when I have something like the stage up Alpe D'Huez already playing in my head, it's hard not to take the last hill in brave attack style. Still... I have plenty of time to cool down before heading to the desk, which is always nice, and the east wind helps blow dry my effort.
It's gonna be another nice day.... on the bike...

July 21, 2008

UPDATED!!! RUSA's 10th Anniversary Ride - August 16th!


Check out kcbrevets.blogspot.com for updates and route information.
This is the 10th Anniversary or RUSA, and this is your chance to get in on the action and ride a ceremonial 200K and receive a special medal for finishing!
You must be a RUSA member to get a medal, or be in the process of getting your membership.
For more information on the ride, how to pre-register, etc., contact me today!

American Inn
Kansas City, Kansas
I-70 & 78th St - Exit 414
7949 Splitlog Kansas City, KS 66112

Ride starts at 6:00 AM S H A R P !!!!

Anyone not registered by 5:50AM will have to wait until the registered riders leave - so PLEASE, PLEASE, P L E A S E arrive WAY earlier than you think you need to, so we can avoid being bogged down in paperwork!

July 19, 2008

R-12 pt.6 - Stranger than Fiction

Success for July in the continuing saga of R-12! Six down...six to go... and the August edition should be cake since it's an organized RUSA brevet, and not a strict solo-effort. Not that today was --- a new record for one mf my permanent routes, I hosted two other guys, and it was almost three, making for a near-total of four people! Crazy... plus, two of those guys, one woulda been Noah from last month, RUSA 5062 - and newcomer JBrown, RUSA 5064. Two new members inside a month is simply awesome - considering in the time they both registered, only one other person in the whole U.S.A. got between them. This is a sport truly for the nut-bags out there... these numbers are sequential, so there's only barely 5065 of us. Let's see....there's 300 million people in the US currently...ok, we are a very small faction of complete psychos. Probably only 10% of Americas are "cyclists" -- as opposed to occasional bicycle users. Only a small percentage of them will do a century. And then an even smaller percentage of those people think a century isn't enough. If this is you, RUSA WANTS YOU. Email me***.

Anyhoooooo.... so this month saw one of our new psychos, and two grizzled veterans of the brevet circuit. He,he. Actually, JBrown, I'll have to say was already nuts before he joined up - onlythe RUSA number is new. Come to find out he rode to the Oklahoma border one weekend....just because. Ok, he's found the right club. He's also the only person that's EVER asked me about next months event immediately after finishing this ride. I think we have a winner, Bob! Quality guy - tough as nails - strong rider.

The morning started much the same way the last four or so of these have started.... E A R L Y.
My alarm woke me up at 2:15am...and I snoozed until I saw a numerologically perfect 2:22AM on the clock. The only even prime number... seems like a good time to wake up. Technically, time isn't really a number more than some archaic marker for the passage of something that can't be quantified with the decimal system... whatever, dude...you're getting off track again. PULL IT BACK PULL IT BACK!! Ack! Pfffffft!

SO.... I rise, and get a little liquid breakfast going.... Sustained Energy...mixed with a gle pack of raspberry Clif Shot, ice cubes, and cold coffee. Yeeeeeeayh.......tasty. Finally, I get to play with coffee.... the plan is still working really well... abstain from caffiene in ANY form until the morning of a ride, or on the overnight of a longer ride...maybe the 2nd morning of the MS-150, too... anytime where I need it to work. And it works. I shower, dress, and open the garage to the temple of randonneuring ... the most decorated shrine to long distance cycling in the entire area between 159th and 151st streets in Olathe. I'm fairly confident in that claim... Never know.

JBrown shows up, lights blazing into the night, right around 3:05am. Yeesh it's early, and this guy rode from HOME up a little farther north to get here! A gorgeous night, full-ish moon up high, passing clouds - and not a hint of rain like the forecasters warned. Cards are signed, procedures reviewed, waivers checked. Ort - yeah, buddy!!! - Ort from Texas, baby... back in O-town for a run at 217km. This is indeed a treat. This is the guy that did a full SR series (that's Super Randonneur series, consisting of a 200, 300, 400 and 600km brevet in the same season)...completed R-12, AND finished the Tejas 500 last year. For someone that kinda poo-poos things sometimes, he's a legend. There are stronger, faster riders that can't say what he can say. Very modest, very solid rider. Pretty flippin high on my list.

Finally, it's getting close to start time -- we hit the road and make our way to the official start at the 7-Eleven up the street. 3:32 AM... heeeere we go!

The night, again, is nearly perfect ... 74 degrees, and a little humid ... but not bad. The wind is very light, even though technically it's a headwind it's not even a concern. Dry roads, and not even the usual morning fog in the low spots -- just some really light areas where you can feel that it's cooler, but nothing visibility-limiting like the last couple of times. Good conversations are already kicking off amid us three, and the road is long and friendly.

The first real test of the day, Antioch Hill, comes up pretty quick and it's over in short order - heart rates are up, and the speed afterwards comes up a notch. This hill gets easier and easier with each passing month for me. I know that it's exposure and strength returning to my legs and spirit - but I just wish the numbers on the scale would reflect the way I'm feeling. It's hard to explain, when I feel lighter and nimbler than I have since the beginning of the year... but yet, the scale says otherwise. Muscle mass.... yeah, yeah.... but my midsection is still not where it should be. It's a common mid-30's complaint, I've been told. Still, I refuse to give up on it. The conversation turns to the folks down in LSR land, how a lot of them are true ATHLETES... as opposed to just "cyclists"... in the sense that if they wanted to do the Boston Marathon, they probably could take a month off the bike, cross train a little, and just go do it. Me, on the other hand -- I've never been much on running, as these pages will attest. Yeah, I could probably do it with a solid year of preparation.... but getting back to my point, I'm basically not ready NOW to just hop off the bike and do anything. Some of these LSR guys are, and they look it, and they are in some cases two decades my senior. There is hope... the conversation turns to the notion that "people are people", in the sense that if one person can do something, I should be able to also. That notion gives me hope.... but JBrown is right... some people are more gifted than others. Part of my persona won't let me live with that fact, however... I have to keep trying, mainly because I know that I personally have been there myself... not "athletic", but slimmer, faster on the bike - more ready. I want to look the part. There is part of me that constantly screams "not good enough". Perhaps there is still part of my plan that hasn't come together physically, and it is yet to come. My food intake is down, I am eating more sensibly on the bike, and my riding time is more consistent now... whatever it is holding me back, it will break soon -- and my pants will fit better...

A little zig zagging, and we're on the longest part of the course... Metcalf.
There are mixed feelings about this road -- mine usually come later in the day, around Louisburg. As in, there has got to be a better way. Traffic is steady - but not horrid - but one has to remember that before the new highway was bypassing the old one, Metcalf was pretty much it. I've never explored much of Louisburg aside from the Cidermill to the west, and this intersection - but the intersection of K-68 (279th street) and Metcalf is pretty busy for a town this size. Coming thru in the dead of night...not a big deal. But, in the afternoon, yeah. It's a bit of a cluster. This is part of the reason for my preference towards an EARLY start time. After passing 279th Street, the hill get bigger, longer, steeper. The real ride is beginning.

Finally we reach 335th Street, and my usual morning stop. Ahem. And we're off again, in the pre-dawn light and onto the highway shoulder. Ort mentions we need to bring it up to about 60MPH so we can merge better... This is a good section, kinda the cross-country tourer's section. A lonely highway shoulder, on some piece of highway way far away from anything. I have images of grizzly, unshaven flannel shirt-donning vagabonds with front and rear panniers and well-worn tires blazing the way to the next overnight campsite. Ahhh.... someday.

Then comes the fun part... Jingo Road... aka, the cobbled section....aka, "WHY?" Well, yeah... it's not THAT horrible. I've gotten pretty used to this section, and today with dry, hard ruts in the road I am having a blast just letting gravity do the work, occassionally steering to correct. Before long, we're done, and on the newer paved section... but my familiarity with the course is showing as I've put a little gap in, so I wait up and we regroup. The sun is coming up, and headlights turn off finally. Last month, by the time we reached 335th it was time to turn the headlights off... the season is changing fast!

Grouped back up, tales flow about riding styles, Tejas, so and so riding this, and such and such -- all good stuff. Of course, Colonel Clink' comes up, and we have to explain the long history of exploits and quotes from the man from Columbia. Awesome -- makes me laugh just thinking about it --- not really making fun, no way... but he represents the most energetic and unique personality in probably all of RUSA -- granted I haven't met EVERYone... but he was the guy that rode all four US-based 1200ks in the same year in 2005... not many people can say that.
The flying quotes about the "four-hole (whatnots)" and a "certain kind of misery" all come with a large dose of respect.

La Cygne, the first control, and cheesey potato bites. What else is there in life?
Ok, egg croissants and various other eateries. Still.... FOOOOOOD.
21 miles to the turnaround....and it's barely 6:30am. Not bad!

The next section, also is getting easier for me -- and the talent of my two companions today is showing. After talking up the section pretty good, and yeah -- it IS challenging -- it didn't really dent anyones resolve today. While small gaps opened up here and there, that's expected - and they quickly closed back up again. After proclaiming that I "didn't want to hurt today" earlier in the ride, I was living up to my end of the bargain, choosing the shortest gears right out of the box, and just lugging it out. On these climbs, that's about all you can do. Like JBrown said, they are pretty similar to Johnson Drive in grade... you just gotta gear down, and do it.
With layover panniers mounted on his rear rack, a lot of extra gear, and all on a flat-bar Trek Soho tourer with disc brakes and Shimano's fabulous 8-speed internally geared hub - yeah... this guy is a strong rider, if I hadn't mentioned that before. I don't know how much it weighs in comparison with what Ort and I were riding, but the only time it ever made a difference was when speeds hit 26 MPH or more, and the gearing simply ran out for him. In many cases, I was working to keep pace with him.

Pleasanton! Amid the usual gawking stares is my normal checkout girl, and we're practically on a first name basis now after three months in a row of this route for me. Food, water, bathroom - the usual stuff. Off again!

Pleasanton...the Linn Valley, specifically. Weird. WEIRD weather. In May, I was on the Trek utterly alone, and after leaving Pleasanton and reaching the first big hill on the return, sprinkles... It makes that first long descent around the backside of the tall ridgeline seem like it's in another world. It only lasted for a few minutes, but it was odd....aside from that early morning fog that day, it was pretty dry everywhere else. In June, with Noah, the same thing -- after reaching the first big hill on the way out of town... sprinkles again... weird.... only for about a half mile, not really even enough to wet the pavement. The rest of that day was clear and dry - and the thunderstorms we'd stared at on the way down south that morning should have been long gone. Today, July -- you'd think that thunderstorms and rain of any kind would be out of the question. In fact, I had planned for a little leftover rain at the start is all, but most of it should have stayed to the north of us, like Iowa border north. I was ready for HOT weather finally... like seriously, I was ready to have a brutal, 90+ degree sweat-fest of a ride. Instead, we reach the first hill... and begin the slog to the top. Drip... Drip.... drip drip drip..... drip drop drop drip drip..... RAIN RAIN RAIN..... what the???? This time, not only did the rain increase to a nice gentle shower, it lasted.... and lasted.... and lasted.... breaking for a short period of time between the 2nd and last hills, then picking up again. By the time we reached K-152 again, we had essentially done 90% of the section back to the next control in the rain, or at least on very wet roads. I was missing my fenders, but only from the standpoint that I was gonna have to clean off the "good bike" later that night. Small hardships, I know. Temperature-wise, this was the perfect time of year to be caught without a rain jacket or fenders. Under a constant shower, I put my head down - also missing my riding cap with brim - and just hammered it out. Ort dropped into "get this done" mode, and started to pull away off the front - and JBrown and I gave chase, only to find it harder and harder to keep the same gap, and J eventually running out of gear. I've seen this side of Ort before. The side that puts me miles behind in Texas in February.... the side that put me hours behind at the MS-150 in 2005 when I was stuck on the fixxie and couldn't catch up, talk about being out of gears! Ort was focused only on Casey's, and getting out of the rain. We HAD to chase... but we simply weren't catching him... until the downhill. Not sure what it is about me currently, or if its the bike - but I've gained a reputation of being able to descend like a bomb. While it's not usually a good idea, it is possible to make up time on descents, and today it was the only way I caught Ort's wheel. After a while, I was crazed and amped up from the long workout, and so I decided to keep it going and mash out the last four miles or so at high speed -- well, high speed for me right then; solo in the rain was good for about 23.5MPH on the flat, so I tried to hold it to the stop sign at K-152 and maybe burn off some of this midsection.
Felt good to push it... but I was also glad the Casey's was coming up.

Safely off the road, back at the Casey's the rain continued as we tried to dry off, squeeze out, and wipe down basically everything we owned. Yikes. Cards were signed, and quickly I grabbed some hot coffee and got out of the air conditioned meat locker of a c-store that was starting to cause chills. Even in summer, cold and wet is not a good combo. More food, more water....more contemplation about the last big hill of the day leading out of Linn Valley to the east.

As a trio, we mounted up and made our way east towards the last really big challenge of the day -- well, aside from the gravel section -- with my Dinotte headlamp turned around backwards and hanging under my seatbag, I felt a little safer riding in the rain now and took up last position in the mini-paceline to ensure cars could see us... but as it happened, the rain ceased, and bluer skies began to appear in the west. Ahh..... just wet roads now. We took the hill without any particular drama, and got back onto Jingo Road for the 9 miles back north to 359th Street. This is the point in the ride where the incessant techno music that was stuck in my head for some reason began to come out. I guess I have been listening to too much mindless house music at work lately, since my tasks have been all-encompassing, and I can't listen to anything with lyrics when that happens. Still, riding along, beat-boxing --- it's just the kind of weird I come to expect from myself on these rides. This was also the part of the ride where section of road and the sub-division of the remaining route becomes important, almost neccessary. It helps, mentally, when you know you've got a big section behind you - and the finish is that much closer.

The gravel section, another chance to play cyclo-cross world champion of my neighborhood, and take the mile-long acsent back up to 359th. This is my "fun part" for sure. So much fun that I don't really hear the one truck that comes up behind me - but thankfully he's taking his time and has plenty of room to pass. Soon, it's over -- and my biggest fear about it being all sloppy from the rain is proved false. This loose stone and silt takes a lot more water than this to get nasty.

Back on the highway, enojying a nice tailwind now as the morning breeze starts to become the afternoon gale, typical of Kansas in summer. Now the design and start time of this route makes perfect sense - as the last few times I've ridden it, it hasn't worked out this way! Cruising along, the highway section is over in no-time, and we're back on the other side and onto old Metcalf again. Charged up on the last of my SE and HEED mixture, and a steady flow of salty nuts and leftover potato bites, the ride becomes more fun as the rolling hills south of Louisburg begin to pop. One by one, we all climb and descend, climb and descend - over and over across the miles. Ort and JBrown are strong as ever and every time I get passed up on the flat, I have to answer with a little kick to keep up. Even though Ort starts to mention a lack of push, he is right up in the hunt each time the road pitches up. Strong guy. While randonneuring is never about head-to-head competition, it's fun to uncork like this, when the calories are right, the wind is right, and you're among friends. Normally, solo, this part of the ride becomes difficult to deal with -- today, I'm smiling. Louisburg comes, and there's the BP station -- at the last minute, I decide to stop.
I risked losing Ort at that point, as he mentioned he was not going to stop here -- but he pulled in as well. Whew... Water on the face, mens room, some sort of food perhaps... Lousiburg on the return, when fatigue sets in, and the heat comes up... I'm glad it's here. And, today, we actually see another cyclist pull up, coming from the north. Compared to last time, that's huge! It's an old Trek 2200 Composite, internally-lugged road frame...possible about 7 years newer than my lugged steel model. Nice deep burgundy against round carbon tubes.... nice stuff!

Back on the road, only the last section of Metcalf and a few more turns remain. We begin to dive into pacemaking mode, heads down and pedalling along. Spaced out along the road, the conversations turn internal, and there is a lot of watching scenery and looking at the passing fields and buildings -- at least, that's what I started doing after Ort caught back up to me and mentioned that's what he had been doing. I had gone into my head-down, staring at a spot of road about 3 meters ahead of the front wheel. Sometimes I forget that even though this is the same route for me, the fourth time over since March, the scenery is constantly changing. My favorite part of Metcalf comes up - a part that, as soon as I say it, I hope they never bulldoze and turn into strip malls or houses. A huge field on either side of the road, between 239th and 231st streets. Bright green, corn on the east, beans on the west, and that old, dead tree that was hit by a tornado or lightning or something a LONG time ago, I forget the story. The road stretches out like a long ribbon across the small valley that we descend down into and then have to climb out the other side. I love this part, and we are blessed with sunny blue skies and scattered clouds time time to enjoy it. This is the same place last month where Noah snapped a great shot of the road, and an approaching tractor.

We make it back to this section just about the time the Trek from the BP station in Louisburg catches up to us. He chats with Ort for about a half mile before proceeding up the road past us with good day wishes and smiles. It's nice to see some other riders out here, even if its only a few here and there. Mostly today, it's cars - but after passing 247th street, they've slacked off a bit and it's not as bad today. Finally, 223rd, then 215th and we're back in Johnson County. We hit 199th, then Antioch to finally enjoy the long downhill, the opposite of the hill that started our day. Unfortunately, the fun is cut short by the pavement joint at the bottom, which launches JBrowns waterbottle and headlight off into the trees. One of these nights I'm coiming out here with a bag of Quikrete and a trowel. After fearing the worst, I'm relieved when they both come over the top of the last rise together after reloading the gear. Could have been worse.

179th street, one of the last turns we have to make, and the long steady grade that seems to be a mile long gets done. Somewhere along the way to 175th Street where 179th curves north, we pick up some other rider - I say rider instead of "cyclist" because he's not wearing a helmet. I still don't get that mentality - but whatever. I've also come to the conclusion that - yeah, based on the previous discussion about people-being-people - some people just don't care, you can never reach them, and the sad fact is the world does need more organ donors. So be it.... but he still needs to get dropped. So JBrown and I proceed to drop him, and make the turn onto Lackman Road.... only two more turns... and JBrown's new mantra is getting louder....


YES! Some sort of sustainance awaits at 7-Eleven, and we are only a few miles away!
Thank goodness, too -- the heat is starting to come up, and the wind -- while still a tailwind that would have been REALLY nice a couple hours AGO -- well, it's not helping much with the rising heat. Hovering in the 80's all morning, it feels like it's defintely in the low 90's now, and the sun is out... along with a lone dark cloud that is spitting one drop at a time of rain... but nothing like before in Linn Valley. Just WEIRD July weather! I never woulda believed it. As soon as I think I've got Kansas weather figured out, I'll let you know... it's just strange, and always will be.
Makes me worry about the next six 200ks I'll have to ride out here....

Today, however, success -- Ort and JBrown and I finish together, another great ride and good times. Talk of Mexican food, beer, SLEEP, some sort of rest, etc. and we all part ways... and I have a date with the couch for a nap.... as tough as it is sometimes getting up so early, it's SO worth it when you realize that it's barely the afternoon, and you earned that nap.
I almost feel sorry for the guy mowing the grass across the street, even though I have to do that later on. What an awesome way to spend a Saturday morning...on a bicycle, on a quest...

***Quite seriously, if YOU want to experience life on the other side of the century mark, email me today and find out how, and visit www.RUSA.org for all the details, rules, awards, and more.
You gotta get out here... and if you like in the KC area, I'd love to help you get started!

July 17, 2008

Lenexa Midnite Madness and more!

Two minutes to Midnight.... not just a good song by Iron Maiden.
this was my first time riding the Lenexa Midnite bike ride, and even though funds are tight lately, I spent the twenty bucks and headed out. After riding from Olathe to Lenexa, hanging out for a while before and after the ride and the riding home, it would end up being a pretty good day in the saddle. This, after a full week of commutes, a bike trail ride with the boy, and a few random errands. It's officially been a solid week since I gave up on the car. Well, the SECOND car, that is. More on that later. Still, I wasn't as wiped out as I figured I'd be, and a little shot of caffiene before leaving didn't hurt. Over a thousand riders showed up, kids of all ages, the youngest at six! But, mostly, it was the requisite cyclistas in their club gear, on their expensive mounts. Good stuff... intermingled with all the families and cruiser bikes, mountain bikes, tandems of all kinds, recumbents, and other bikes you don't see too often. Not since last year's MS-150 had I ridden with more people.... in fact, this ride seemed to give the MS-150 itself a run for the money for attendance...only missing it by probably half, which ain't bad for a ride who's longest loop is only 12 miles. But, the appeal is huge; cooler temps, fun pace, excellent support.
Plus a chance to ride thru the caves in Lenexa!
The ride started off the way that it should - slow. Released onto the streets in waves, I kept the pace really light, hanging with Noah, Lorin and his daughter, and a few other new faces. Like any massive ride, though, we all quickly spread out - then faded back together - then lost track of each other again. Without daylight and color recognition, it was impossible to find anyone. I could pick out sillouhettes and taillight patterns, but that was about all I could do. Look ahead... a sea of flashing red lights and glowing pedals and reflective accents. Look back, a blinding glow of bluish and white spots and flashing. Staying with any group...well, that was out of the question unless you were lucky enough to stay within a few feet of your friends the whole time.
Still, it was great fun - I talked at length with Lorin's daughter before we seperated, and after a while I had lost Noah altogether. I was passing a lot of people, and a lot of people were passing me... it was really surreal.... usually when I ride in the dark, I'm alone... not in this hurricane of activity. The pack was different every time I blinked -- weird... I reached into my pocket, and added to the ambiance by turning on some streaming audio from SomaFM. Groovy tehcno emminating from my back pocket, I eased into a cozy pace and enjoyed the sights. Soon, tho, we were on Prairie Star Parkway, headed west. The clouds faded away revealing a fresh moon, and the road stretched out straight ahead of us. Crossing intersections under complete police patrol - thanks Lenexa PD and Fire! - there was no stopping or waiting. Just like the Tour of Shawnee, but at night! As the Prairie Star laid out ahead of us, I was treated to an AWESOME view, and if I thought my camera would have done it justice I would have captured it to film. Set up like an out and back route, on one side of the road was nothing but red taillights from curb to curb... and on the other, nothing but headlights from curb to curb. the whole thing pulsating and throbbing like a giant, waving sheet of light diving downhill into the valley of Mill Creek and then back up the other side. The it was my turn to dive down into that valley...at about the time that Noah appears on my left FLYING pedals and head down into the donwhill. I shift and give chase, and we are descending at 40 MPH into the black, towards the bridge that crosses over the creek. Right about then, I manage to reel him up, and I get passed by two other cyclists, deep in a tuck -- one with pedals flaying at an incredible speed --- a fixxie.... Whoa... nice! But, the guy in back of him has a familiar face... and ear treatments.... I give chase up the following grade, to find myself riding alongside one of my co-workers from the bike store.... ah-ha!!!
Come to find out there is a whole slew of them here, and eventually Will - on his brakeless Lotus fixxie - and I catch up to Dave on his yellow Giant OCR. Surprise! Suddenly it's game on, and we three start working out a little bit. Just before the turn-around, the ride switches gears for me, and what started as a 10 MPH average joy ride was quickly turning into a miniature hammer fest. The pace quickly came up into normal road riding territory, and the chase was on to find the rest of the team. Soon we were descending down into the caves, a real treat -- but the cool conditions outside were making conditions in the caves a little "off" from normal... this should be the cool portion of the ride, but it was flip-flopped. The caves were warm and moist, and the pavement was slimed over with slick mud here and there. But, no matter... we took it easier in the corners, but mainly were hammering along and enjoying the view. It's surreal and almost creepy down here. A few more 90 degree turns at speed, and a couple of mad sprints against some "wanna race" kids... that was cool, except for the part where I got squeezed against the rock wall while passing a couple people on the left -- turned out okay, but man... risky move. Eventually, I managed to reel Dave and Will back in, and it was time for the climb up out of the caves again. Two way traffic, headlights in the face, I lost track of them briefly while climbing, but eventually bridged up. More work ahead - they were determined to catch the remaining teammates up ahead; granted we never caught sight of them, but they were "out there somewhere", and so we worked it out. Feeling slightly more warmed up, I lifted the pace a little bit, but it was too late to really do anything magical. We were beginning to run out of course, as we were already back on 99th street headed towards Santa Fe Trail Drive again.
The ride finished fast after that, and we hung out for a while before heading back out (the rest of the team eventually came in behind us, oddly - save for three really fast riders). A little jaunt back on Pflumm, our madcap group eventually made it back to BB's place for a regroup and hangout. The hour drawing late, and a full ride back to Olathe staring me in the face, it was time for me to head out, tho. I finally got home at the ridiculous hour of 2:45am... wow, what a day.
Slept good! A little bit more of a workout than I'd planned for out there in the dark, but an absolutely blast.... it's like the old Dark Side rides, but with about 70 times the people.
Highly recommended ride for 2009 - mark your calendars!

1074 riders... a new record for this event.
This was my first Lenexa Midnight Ride, and it was a treat!

Look how excited I am. Bikes and a passing train? Awesome!
Ok, maybe that's the caffiene working, since I've been caffiene-free for six weeks at least.
But, saving it for when I NEED it REALLY works, especially on brevets.

I quote Joel McHale..."Let's take some E." Glowing sticks, glowing bottles...
Cue the techno house music and twirling.

Road kills. CommuterDude...keeping the streets safe for cyclists everywhere.
Yeah, I can't take credit for this shot... but whoever did it is a freaking genius.
A LOT more roadkill on the streets of suburbia lately... open season?

Sunday ridin'.... This is one of those images I HAD to capture before it befalls the developers bulldozers. I really, honestly hope that doesn't happen. The entire area we now call 'suburbia', this open zone on the outskirts of Overland Park, is fast filling in. This tract represents one of the last untouched areas around here, likely looking much the same as it did 100 years ago, only the trees are larger. My bike is leaned up against a fence post, complete with barbed wire, overgrown with scrub and vine. My bike faces east, here only ten feet off the road at 139th near Quivira. Immediately behind me are $600,000 luxury homes that were completed only a couple years ago. From this angle, you'd think I was out in the middle of a brevet somewhere, certainly not 1/2 mile from constant four lane 45MPH traffic at 135th and Quivira. It was an extremely bright and sunny day, so the clarity of the moment is lost to the cheap digital camera built into my phone, but it's breathtakingly green and vibrant, the beans just beginning to sprout. This land stretches from Rosehill to Quivira, and from 139th to 135th.... but a quarter of it has already fallen to the rumble of development, as AMLI has built a new complex at the NE corner. There is a church also in there to the northwest. Before long, who knows... but for now, I love this little piece of land. It's refreshing to know that as crazy as this place has become in the last ten years, there are still horses, cows, corn, beans, and open fields only a few miles from my house in all directions.

I alluded earlier in this post to a car-free notion, and so-far, so-good.
At least, ONE LESS CAR.... (that reminds me of a good website).... anyways, the gas prices started to bother me when they reached about $2.00 a gallon, and I started commuting a lot more. That tension sorta eased when I sold my '76 Buick and got a litte Kia gas-miser car. For a while there, I regret that it was ttoo easy to just get into that little car and leave the bike at home, and for about a year I did just that on more than a few occasions. But, gas reached $3.00 a gallon..... and just recently $4.00 a gallon.... and the flippin' car isn't even three years old yet.
The trend here... a car that started out not even taking $20.00 to FILL now takes over $40.00 to fill.... not that I even can afford THAT anymore... I usually just toss in $15.00 and see what it gets me. Stupid. Seriously. There are people tossing $100 a week in their gas tanks lately. I'm done. That's IT. So, I talked to the wife about it, and after a LOT of convincing discussions, we finally reached an accord: if I can prove the family can survive with one car, then I can sell mine. Here we go... and tomorrow begins week number two. With two kids, and school coming up, will it be tough? Absolutely. With how last winter went, will it be hard? You bet. But, people DO make it... the Blayley's are completely car-free, as are a lot of families out there. It's what's next, and while I can't eliminate both cars - I can do my part. Even if it's nothing more than a selfish desire to save money. Think about it -- car payments, gone. gas costs, gone. Insurance, cheaper. Car tags, cheaper....plus I'd get a state refund for the tag portion that I haven't used yet since it's paid in advance. And, one less car on the roads. With any luck, I'll sell it to someone that is giving up on their SUV. All the better. Seriously, we're all headed this way eventually - the government, the auto industry, the oil companies... a solution isn't coming anytime soon, folks, and we're gonna see $5.00 per gallon in the metro. The only question is "when?".

Stay tuned ---- another run at the R-12 this weekend comes with 217km, with Ort who's in town from Texas!!! Get it ON.

July 11, 2008

Tales from the Office: Someone saw a cyclist on 119th St, between Antioch and Riley...in heavy construction AND heavy traffic. Dude, email me.

July 9, 2008

Along the road

Some recent wildflower shots from the sideroads of the midwest.
Song in my head today: "Tales of Endurance - by Supergrass"

July 8, 2008

R-12 Pt.4 -- May Edition...Slightly out of sequence.

It's unfortunate that I never had much time to write up this edition of the R-12 quest RIGHT after I rode it. It was an interesting ride from a soloist standpoint -- solo riding is something I've become dangerously good at, as often now when riding in a pack I forget that someone is following me, or I daydream my way into someone's back wheel. It's never caused a wreck or anything, but lets just say my pack riding skills... well.... they suck.
ANYways, this was another one of those brain-on-autopilot rides that I've been practicing - the kind of mental training that gets someone ready for 1200kms, let's say. Not announcing anything. But, it is the end-all for randonnuering, and its on the to-do list someday.

This ride was to be exceptional -- a nice day was on tap, maybe warming into the 80's for the first time in a while. I set the clock early, set for a 4:00am departure. I managed to make it up to the 7-Eleven and get my card signed at 4:08am. The first 46 miles would happen in the pitch dark of a moonless night -- the last day of May. Talk about cutting it close. Weekend after weekend had come and gone, and I had been unable to ride. Finally, only days before missing the cutoff, I managed to get this last Saturday, on the last day of the month, scheduled. Whew....
I tell ya, no more cutting it so close like that (I can especially say this since I'd also cut June so close, too.)

Patchy fog, and calm winds met me in the darkness as I motored my way south on MurLen. Dim streetlights and shadows, and my thoughts. That was it. No cars. NO activity. It even seemed like the crickets and frogs were asleep. My morning jolt of caffiene was beginning to work, and I was not so much awake as "aware". The road zipping underneath me, and the fog...hmm... the fog. It was building from patchy to spotty... to hazy... Crossing near water, close to large wet fields, there was a lot of moisture in low spots as I made my way east on 175th Street. Still no cars. Weird.... Eveen for this early hour, it's not unusual to see someone coming home from a late shift, or starting off on an early one -- but 8 miles in, not a single soul.

Sitting atop the Trek, with the Dinotte headlamp beaming into the thin foggy patches ahead, I climbed up Antioch with relative ease compared to the March edition of this ride. Perhaps some of the fitness was catching up? Certainly the body weight was not... not yet. I could still feel it in the climbs, but not to the same sluggish degree that March was. Certainly my mental state and the conditions had a large part to play. I silently rolled past the Shell station at 199th and US-69, where I finally did see a car or two up on the highway. Past the empty Stilwell Grocery, and onto Metcalf, pointing towards Louisburg. In the low light of my mini-headlamp, I checked my speed and was surprised to see I was cruising along in the 20's. Hmmmm.... I AM feeling pretty good, apparently. The effort seemed relaxed, even. But, there I was, motoring along. Some of it the bike? This was the first time I'd had the Trek out for a run since the April 200K in Liberty, so perhaps that was some if it -- but after an hour of it, I was starting to wonder about a tailwind. There wasn't much of a wind forecast, but something had to be helping this along. I'll take it... but I instantly turned my thoughts to six hours ahead, and the return trip. Ugh.
If the pace felt relaxed now, I should take advantage of it, for sure.

Sunrise started to light up the sky as I turned onto US-69 for the midsection of the ride. Then came the gravel -- dry, thankfully. This would be the first time I'd get to ride this section dry. It was fast, and manageable, and the Trek didn't toss any surprises out on the sketchy surface. Not surprising, though -- it's a very stable platform. Along Jingo Road, after the gravel, things began to turn a little, condtions-wise. What had stayed pretty moderate as patchy fog here and there was beginning to accumulate, and thicken. Not really being close to any water, it was a little weird - but the huge empty fields on either side of me probably had a lot to do with it, and it was probably blowing downwind from the Marias des La Cygne River just to my west. Either way, I was getting wet to the point where I couldn't see well out of my glasses, so I risked it and took them off. Now, I'm effectvely blind without my specs, but the foggy blur was at least visible now, instead of shrouded my droplets. I had to take the lesser of the risks. Risk.... hmmm...time for another modification. This worked really well on the March ride in the nasty conditions, snow and sleet. Since the sun had come out and hit the air with enough energy to light up all the fog down to about 1/4 mile visibility, I started to wonder if anyone could see me at all. I stopped, took the Dinotte off the handlebars, and then hung it under my rear seatbag, facing backwards - then put it in flash mode. It will run for days on flash mode, and it's like an emergency flare. The bright white beam gets a LOT of attention, and the conditions today - it made me feel safer. When a car eventually DID pass me, I could hear it slowing down, and it gave a wide berth and a wave out the window. Good stuff. I'm planning on taking it along, even on the Kogswell with it's generator system, should the weather ever turn foul, that's the way be seen. Good timing, too...
a bonus -- my brand new NiteRider 5.0 taillight was dimming... on fresh Lithium AAAs, no less. This is the 2nd taillight I've noticed to do this. Planet Bike models are notorious, two that I REALLY wanted to like a LOT, also. I can't remember the model number, but the Planet Bike model with five LEDs housed in a CPSC reflector -- a terrific package, brighter than the Cateye TL-500II model. A LOT brighter... but the circuitry is weird... the energy seems to get wasted a little as heat, and as the chip heats up, it lowers current to the LEDs. I don't know if this is how they squeeze 60 hours of runtime out of it, or if it's a fluke -- but the LEDs after a few hours become dangerously dim. I've had this happen with lithiums and alkalines alike, so I'm stumped.... but I do know that Cateye, B+M, and Spanninga taillights don't have this problem. I had recently picked up the Niterider 5.0 taillight, too, thinking it might be a good solution for the Trek. I mounted it on a seat-stay bracket, and it looked good and was aimed perfectly. But, this was the maiden voyage of said taillight, and after reaching Jingo Road and dismounting, I noticed that it, too, had faded to almost NO light output at all. Scary. And this thing was SO bright on initial start-up that it cast a faint beam on the pavement, and a reddish halo on the backs of my legs as I pedalled. Rounding out an otherwise good design were two smaller LEDs pointed 90 degrees out to the sides. A well thought layout.... but apparently the same chip fault or thermal issue.... I can't tell, and I haven't had a chance to put it on the test meter.... but same deal: after a couple hours the LEDs are so dim, you start thinking about batteries.... but turn the light off, and back on a couple hours later, and full brightness will return. It's weird... defintely a "just get me home" taillight, and not an all-nighter.

Back on the road, with my photon cannon pointed behind me, and me squinting into the growing fog, I reach La Cygne, and descend into the valley. Today, what is normally picturesque I can't even see. Just a big white haze of nothing. Creepy. Cars appears on K-152 as if from no-where, dim circles of diffuse light creeping out of the mirth. Luckily, my little helmet LED light has a flash mode, and I feel confident from the front or the rear approaches. Highway traffic is light this morning - thankfully. I pull into Casey's for the first control, some coffee and a hashbrown.
Refill bottles, and on my way. Solo mission... I am out of the control in five minutes, maybe a little more -- my bike computer had not yet "timed out", which I think is ten minutes. A good self-check at controls to avoid the time warp effect. Before leaving, a concerned motorist gives me the once over.

"Where you headed?"

"Pleasanton today..."

"taking 1095?" she asked...with a turn of the head...

"yeah...." I replied.

"Well, be REALLY careful.... can't see anything out that way this morning."

"Always, ma'am...thanks..." I showed off the Dinotte and my reflective gear.

With that leery warning echoing in my head, I set out west, across the La Cygne bridge and into the thickest fog I've ever ridden through. This is bad.... I cross the bridge, and I can't see the other side of it, and I can barely see the surface of the water below me of the river. A car approaches, and I can't even hear it coming because of the sound-deadening effect of the thick air. It's moving SLOW.... so this is good. At least nobody is trying to be a hero in this soup.
One car approaches from the rear, at least I can HEAR it... but I can't see it until it's passing me... thankfully, I could hear his speed drop - probably the Dinotte... I peer over my shoulder, and the Dinotte is throwing a cone-shaped arc of light back into the fog. Impressive... and life saving, I have no doubt. Visibility, seriously -- I want to say zero.... maybe a 1/16th of a mile. I finally reach Linn 1095, but the fog is so thick that I can't actually see the intersection itself until it's actually time to start turning left. I hear an oncoming car, and I sprint to make the turn.... geeeez..... not a close call, but talk about getting the heart rate up. A half-second earlier, I didn't even hear it... no idea how close it was... but I could hear it pass by behind me about ten seconds after I was safely on the new road. Whew... now, the hilly part.

The fog remained, and the spooky, surreal nature of this lonesome country highway became even spookier. No roadsigns, no signs of life --- just me, on the road, a road that seemed to dissappear only a few thousand feet ahead of me into a white haze. With glasses back on my face since the control, it seemed like it might be thinning a little, as the droplets aren't so bad now. Still, I can't see much. But, I can see a bright blob over my left shoulder... the sun was beginning to make its way thru the layers... and another few miles later, I could see clouds above, instead of white nothingness. The fog released its grip, and slowly the day began to turn.... very slowly, as grey clouds hung low, and covered up the sun that was visible only for a half hour. CArry on... at least now, I don't have to worry about a random car coming around a bend too fast in the fog!

The hills came, one.....two...... three...... on a solo ride like this, there was not much to think about: head down, and push. Stand and deliver the climb. Push it. I didn't realize it yet, but I was indeed making good time. I had hit Casey's at 7:06am, a touch less than 3 hours for the first 46 miles. Certainly not a land speed record, but compared to the March ride I was flying. After the last big hill, I was dropping into Pleasanton, and I hit that control at the hafway at 8:33am. Not bad. Hmmm..... not really a PR pace.... but I could still have a little fun on the way back. After all, it seemed like the wind - which was forecast from the northwest, wasn't quite blowing yet. I'd seemed to have a little push on the way down, but all the flags I'd passed were limp. Probably from the wet air, but still.... not a lot of wind, clearly -- the fog itself is evidence of that.
Now that the day was clearing a bit, it was time to work this out and see if I could make it back by 2:00pm!

I fueled up, and departed Pleasanton - towards more dark clouds... back to obscure the sunshine again. UGH... another day where I wonder why I'd put on sunscreen at all. The clouds came closer, and then... rain.... not much, but defintely rain. But, we're talking seconds.... barely worth mentioning... but odd enough to mention anyways. Another 200K of mixed bag weather, apparently. Later on, that would become even more apparent, as the farther north I rode, the sunnier it became again. Before long -- 10:07am to be exact -- I arrived back at Casey's.
Lo and behold.... riders.... not just ANY riders, but Mike and Jeff W. from the Longview group! Out for their last-ditch R-12 ride, too, Jeff and Mike just happened to arrive at their halfway (for the Super Big Gulp route) here at the Casey's only a few minutes before. AWESOME! And talk about rare and a small world. Even if I'd tried to coordinate such a meeting, it wouldn't have worked out so well. They started at 6AM, from Grandview, so they were motoring along at a fair rando clip, too. I had noticed, also, that my speed on the return was pretty consistent with my speed on the way down, again an indication that there wasn't much wind interference.
We chatted for a little bit, and they took off for the last half of their 200K. I ate up, and discovered Casey's breakfast cheesy potato bites. Holy........ THIS is good stuff!!!! I downed the entire thing, and drank up some more water. HEED powder in the bottles, and I was ready to attack the last section back to Louisburg.

Ahhhh.... there is something that happens when the sun comes out after a particularly wet episode. It's the bane of every Kansan. Humidity. Dude.... NOW I was starting to sweat, as my shadow danced across the road nearby. The sun was out, and the air was clean - and I could feel exactly where all the black graphics were on my black and orange jersey. Which is why I have now gotten rid of it. Seriously... give me plain colors, light colors - reflective colors! Feeling like I had two big heating pads on my back now, which I suppose if a good thing if I'd had back issues, I was working up a good stink, and what.... WHAT? A tailwind??? Flipping sweet!!!
While it wasn't much, it was reducing resistance just enough to allow that little extra push, and so I took advantage of it. After leaving Linn Valley, and hitting the gravel once again, I got onto Us-69 highway towards 335th Street, and was flying along at 26 MPH, without much effort it seemed. Either that, or those potato bites were like rocket fuel. I was feeling awesome!

A nature break at Rutlader, and on to Louisburg... where another stop was needed at about 11:15 am. The humidity was taking it's toll on internal water stores, and my bottles were dry. Good stuff... unfortunately I was OUT of the "good stuff", the HEED. So, time to see what our friends at the high-fructose-corn-syrup farmers association of America have for me inside the c-store.... Yup, Gatorade... but a new type... Gatorade G2... about half the usual sugars. Ok, ok.... only 24 miles to go, give or take... I can do this. I drink it down, and put about half into a water bottle for a little later on. It's okay, compared to regular Gatorade -- but I think there is something about the sugars that settle the stomach, or some nonsense -- because THIS G2 stuff was not sitting so well. Not really causing any catastrophic distress, but it was making me "aware" of my gut... and not in a good way. Still, it's better than cramping up hard and bonking. A Nature Valley granola bar rounds things out, and I'm ready to wrap this one up.

Speed is fun when you can get it --- the biggest of the hills behind me now, I was getting busy on the flatter roads in south Johnson County, making short work getting to 199th street again, the tailwind increasing? 199th, Antioch, and the wicked downhill... and then the silent personal challenge to try and nail a 17.0 MPH average for the while ride. It's amazing how much slower you have to ride, or faster for that matter, to make a difference in your riding average speed when the clock has been tracking for 9 hours. At that moment, however, I had the bike computer right on the edge of two stats.... 16.9MPH....17.0MPH....for the average speed... it sould drop to 16.9 on a hill, and then halfway down the other side, 17.0.... it would dance back and forth for the last ten miles. It became a game that totally ate up the last miles, mentally -- there was no late-event despair or exhaustion like usual... I wanted the numbers!
MurLen came, andit ws clear I was struggling more and more to keep the 17.0 number peeking onto the display... and there were hills, too. I never saw anything less than 16.9.... but for a while there, in the last three miles, I wasn't sure I'd get it back - fighting, riding hard -- forgetting all about the previous 130 miles... it was kinda cool, it's good to have a small goal like this, no matter what it is... and, then, right before reaching the 7-Eleven parking lot...bang! 17.0!
Well, then I had to ride home -- but I'm taking 17.0!

Again, not a land speed record -- not UMCA territory... but it felt good, for all the wallowing in low-speed, low motivation land this year, it felt good to get a nice result for this route.
What started out as a weird, foggy, creepy day turned out to be sunny, breezy and downright HOT in the mid 80's. A great May ride... and R-12 continues on, just in time!

Thanks for reading!

Le Tour & Le Tires

First off, yeah -- It's July. IT'S TOUR TIME, baby!

You know how to use Google, so I won't bore you with a buncha links and such - but I wanted to express my love for the sport, my love for Team Garmin-Chipotle (Slipstream) -- ahhh...the HOME team, man.... Olathe, representin' over in France. Get it ON. That and BIG burritos. Dude, you couldn't ask for a better sponsorship ticket. Electronic gadgets and mexican food.
And cycling. Yup. Go team! David Millar, back in business and clean - and the new ACE group, promoting drug-free professional cycling? Christian Vandevelde? The future of cycling pros as domestiques? It's gonna be a good run.... and the fun is barely beginning!

Tires? Yeah, tires.
I caught myself playing the "gram game" again -- not sure WHY... maybe I'm bored and I want some easy speed at the expense of comfort and broken spokes. There, I just talked myself out of it. I've mounted up the old Specialized Mondo 700x23s on the Trek, and I think for fun I'll take it for a test ride this weekend. I don't expect miracles.... in fact, if it wasn't getting so late at night, I'd probably just go back into the garage and swap the Specialized All-Condition Armadillo Elite 700x25cs back on. The tires and the bikes are SO good now, that I think it really IS boredom in the garage, and nervous energy. Not sure where from, but it's there. The urge to tweak. (Time to find that garage sale bike, eh?) Trust me - NOTHING else is getting tweaked. The last two times I rode, I couldn't remember which bike I was taking - seriously. The feel of the Kogswell and the feel of the Trek are IDENTICAL -- the Trek being a little bit faster and more urgent, perhaps, and lighter -- but the road feel, the endurance capability of the bikes, are perfectly matched. Seriously, on the June Moon ride, in the dark, I reached for my bell for a fun ring-ring to my neighbor on the road Noah, and the bell was missing... because it was on the Kogswell. Two bikes with exactly the same fit, to the point where I forget which one I'm riding? Dude, put the other tires back on, and roll on. I swear -- boredom is a dangerous thing!

Hot temps this week, and a little rain shower today on the ride home --- awesome weather.
Looking forward to the next permanent on the 19th, too. Turning out to be a good summer!

Oh yeah --- and I think I'm gonna post about the May 217K, too... never got around to that. Save my nervous energy for the keyboard.

July 5, 2008

Upcoming challenges!

Next Permanent for the KC area:
Saturday, July 19th, 3:30AM start time - Border Patrol 217km -
Join me for another run at the Border Patrol in two weeks!
Please let me know ASAP if you plan to attend, and I'll get you set up.

Before you can ride a permanent for credit, however, you must join RUSA.
What's "RUSA", you ask? Click here.
If you have a knack for what lies beyond the Century mark, this is for you!

What's more, joining RUSA today ensures you'll be ready for the title event of the season:
August 16th all across the USA, randonneurs will be riding various 200K events to commemorate the 10th anniversary of RUSA. Be a part of it, and you will earn a special medal that marks the occasion! Plus, what better way to enjoy a long summer day, than on a bike?
Join RUSA now, and be a part of history in August!
You can do it!

July 1, 2008

This week's highlighted commute, and site updates

Just got done brushing up the website a little today -- you may notice a few changes.
The old commuting articles have their own links now, which should prove handy -- so if you are looking for information on how to get started out riding to work, and how to debunk some common commuter excuses and myths, check em out!
You also can ALWAYS email me for commuter questions, or how to find a good route in this suburban maze of KC. Banner link available on the right.

Also, the rotating "on-the-cover" photo section has been retired... mainly as a time-saver, and 2ndly as a consistency measure. You'll have the same banner everytime you visit, so there's no question about whether or not you're in the right place. I simply started running out of photos to post, and I had to got steal one from Noah's webpage just to get by ... then I realized, yeah, A) I'm digging in the photographic past and retelling old tales too much, and B) if I happen to come across a good photo, I'll just put it in a post for ya. That way I don't have to keep figuring out which font color is going to be visible on which photo background at the beginning of every month, too. I know, I know - I should have so much to complain about! Photos will all be logged on a Picasa web-album now, and will be slide-showed at the top right from now on, as a sorta "replacement" to the old "front page" pics -- click on the photos and you can browse thru a lot of random cycling pics... and some just plain random pics.
The photo I chose was the first photo EVER put on the old CommuterDude.com page, and then ended up being the background image for that site from 2003 thru late 2007 when I took it down and went "all-Blogger". It seemed appropriate - this is a shot from the 2003 KCUC 300K up north of liberty - and oddly enough it's a wrong turn, so I've only ever seen this road once. It's MO Hwy "E", way up in .... well, I don't remember. We turned around about a mile later after realizing the mistake. In green is me, right next to the Warbird in red/white, and just up the road is AW and daughter on their tandem. Photo courtesy W0DEW.
I love that picture. It stays.

I also added back in a little welcome banner with the old webpage logos -- a little props to the old FTP-updated HTML page, eh? I really dig this blogger engine'd deal - really easy to maintain and update, and the price is right on. Plus, all I have to do is keep the domain paid up, and we can roll this puppy on the cheap -- good stuff. So, whether you've gotten used to the "commuterdude.blogspot.com" address, or like the old http://www.commuterdude.com/ URL, either one will work from now on.
Now, on to todays commute and photos!
Today dawned bright and cheery, with a calm breeze from the south and cool temps in the 60's. A great morning for a bike ride. It's hard to fathom, but the temp would swing up 30 full degrees by the time I'd leave work. Kinda nutty for around here.
The other thing I've noticed, the sun is a LOT more brutal this year than in years past. With the low humidity, especially, it seems like I'm riding under a heat lamp. Either that, or my tolerance for UV is dropping each year. I already invested in two good hats this year, for off-bike outdoor activities, like mowing the grass. Earlier this year I got a nasty sunburn on my head, and today - after forgetting my hat on an afternoon walk - I have another, more minor, burn that I can feel. Ugh. Thankfully, the majority of my ride is on the tree-lined bike trails, and I never ride without a helmet - or some sort of head cover underneath it, also. Perhaps it's just exposure, but my head hurts and it warm to the touch. Ugh. Engage dome-cover, moron!

Took a couple of pictures, trying to spice up the content in here. While I probably won't take as many pics as most, it might help fill in the gaps between longer ride reports.

Rushing along the shady bike trail in the 90-degree heat - glare is becoming a problem lately. Even this morning it was a squint-fest, as I forgot to don the cycling cap again. No near-misses, but dang it's hard to see! Time to wake up earlier!

To the rear, you can see with the sun behind the camera it's a lot easier to see... except for that big bag in the way....

A little risky trying to line it up... but a nice reflection in the housing of the Schmidt headlight. Too bad I couldn't get my pretty, pretty mug in the frame. Ho, ho, ho.

Look, ma! Safety yellow jersey!

143rd and Pflumm, another one of those popular south-Overland Park, almost Olathe, intersections that for the LIFE of me I can't figure out why it isn't a fully controlled traffic-lighted intersection yet. The Afternoon Kill-Zone isn't looking too bad today, actually, as I prepare to merge left for another dastardly manuever. In a few short seconds I'd come face to face with a mini-van driver that didn't turn his head or really even stop fully. Nice. Note the nice "side path" that only serves to make matter worse. Don't believe the hype -- take the lane, and sprint like your life depends on it. It probably does anyways. You know, I spun that off kinda badly --- in two years of traversing this intersection, todays mini-van showdown was the closest thing even approaching a "close-call", and we didn't even have to exchange hand signals. It could always be worse... just make sure they SEE YOU!

One of the things I happen to LIKE about the intersection of 143rd and Pflumm, is the Hilltop Stables. A place that one day I'm sure will probably move, but hads thus-far been here "forever". Two nice looking mares out for a sun and a grass-eating session pause to review me as I stop for a photo, and they let go with a nice loud "whinney" (the one by the silo, hard to see but you can see the white accent in his nose). Pretty cool, considering I only had to turn my head 45 degrees to see it -- right after snapping the picture above. It's nice to have little reminders of what this area was all about only a decade ago.
The rest of the ride home was a battle royale with the headwind, but a nice workout, and a great end to a decent day.