February 25, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah... a video!

More pics:

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

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

Run, puppies, RUN!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Jason said...

Ohhh I gotta experience this hill!!! :) Sounds like a good challenging 200k!

Chris said...

You da man! We should plan a quicky out and back just to do that bugger again... I think you need to do in the SS.

warbird said...

dude! now i have a serious craving for hashbrowns.

have you ever tried to find hashbrowns in japan? :(

loved the ride update. congrats!

Anonymous said...

During the section where you describe your misadventures on The Hill, I unconsciously reached down to protect my crotchal region...