May 31, 2011

The Texas Rando Stampede 1200K - by Rod Geisert

For KCUC members and regional rando riders, commuterDude occasionally opens its pages for guest posts. This is one such occasion, so please be upstanding for Rod Geisert, recent 1200km brevet finisher - enjoy!

First, I would like to thank the Lone Star Randonneurs and the other supporting Texas Clubs for running just an outstanding 1200K ride. George Evans did a fantastic job with all the organization and I appreciate the effort it takes to put on huge ride like this. I greatly appreciated the neutral SAG that made sure we were safe and making our way down the road. Charlie and Patricia were the greatest at all the controls with giving us water and snacks if needed.

We started on the road from Columbia, Missouri on Monday and picked up Spencer Klaassen in Kansas City. Although a long drive it went quickly and we were able to get into Waxahachie in the early evening. Time to get some sleep and then tour around Waxahachie on Tuesday before the program got started. The courthouse was impressive. During the bike check I was told by the person checking the lights he didn’t like using the battery operated lights I had on my bike. He indicated that the batteries tend to lose contact inside over time on the road. I indicated that I had never had any problems but little did I understand the vibration I was going to experience with the Texas Chip & Seal roads for four straight days. Now I understand! Still trying to get the numbness out of my hands after a full week of recovery. The evening before the start George Evans gave a welcome, discussed the route and gave advice for the ride. Dan Driscoll indicated that we must push hard the first two days (ride was really front loaded) and then the ride would be much better the last two days. Got it! Ride tough for two days and the rest was in the bag. Little did we realize what the first two days had in store for us! We ate dinner and got to bed early to get up at 3 am.

Day 1:
At 4 am, a lot of riders were up and eating breakfast. The meals provided by the Texas clubs at the hotels throughout the ride were always well done with plenty to eat. Riders were all prepared to go outside the hotel at 5 am.

George gave a few words of encouragement and we were off at the shot of the pistol. I knew that some would be taking off hard and wanted to just settle in a large group to avoid being alone riding into the south wind. There was a nice group that formed as we rode out of town and I worked hard to stay in the group. For me it became hard to keep up with the group after about 15–20 miles. At times the pace was fine but I assume when others moved forward they pushed the pace. I felt like I was almost racing in the back. When I am expending more energy than I feel is sustainable I know to drop off. My friend Spencer (rides a fix gear) handled the pace well (at least longer than me) but I was done with this and was hoping to find another group to get into. However, there were just a few other riders behind me. Oh well, push ahead as best I can.

Spencer’s Fixie! I am always in Awe!!!!

A group of three riders came around and I hooked up with them. Little did I know at that time I would become good riding friends with the two guys with maple leafs on their vests. We got into Hillsboro and found a gas station that others were getting water and food. I was very happy to see Spencer waiting for me. After Spencer asked what happen to me with a smile we were on the bikes riding to the first Control.

First day was windy but the cloud cover kept the temperature down.
Our pace was good and I felt a lot better about not blowing up on the first 30 miles. We rode along with a group of recumbent riders. They were always in good spirits and would flat out kick us on the down hills and flats.

We crossed a dam which the road was under construction and after a short wait crossed all together. Another portion of construction came up later and this had dirt work which you needed to navigate the soft spots. All went well and we arrived in the Valley Mills Control about 10:30 am. Neutral SAG was there to sign our cards and we took a short break to eat and get water. Back on the bike Spencer and I rode some really nice roads with rolling hills for a number of miles. I did like the rollers in Texas. The ride to the next control went without any problems. Wind was pretty much a crosswind or in our face which meant we earned each mile today. The recumbent’s joined us and it was good to have more company on the road. As we rode two riders were coming back towards us. It was sad that they already decided they had enough of the wind and were riding back. This was probably better since the ride and day did not get any easier. I was glad that the temps were cool with the cloud cover which really made a huge difference handling the wind today. The ride went through Gatesville, TX where it was evident that a lot of bad people live here (LOL).

Gatesville must have 4 different prisons. Never seen so many in one place!

We continued on to Lampasas with Canadians Carey and Dick.

Nice rollers along the way!

As we approached Lampasas at 4:30 pm you could see the sky darkening.

Just was we made it to the control the rain opened up. Everyone ahead of us was at the station and I mean everyone. Rando’s everywhere!

Lampasas Control the sky opens up!

They were standing outside deciding what to do, eating food inside, and sleeping in front of the drink dispenser on the little carpet that was there.

It was quite a sight. The leaders of the pack were all checking the weather report and waiting for the storm to pass (Hopefully). Spencer and I took time to get some food and relax a little. My wife Sue was SAGing for us so we had the ability to change into different clothes when needed and she carried extra wheels in case a major mechanical occurred. Little did we know that this would be a life saver later on during the ride. The large group of riders took off when the rain decreased and we followed a few minutes later. The rain continued but was not as heavy so riding was not so bad. We continued on to Jonestown on wet roads. When we got to the Control in Jonestown about 9:30 pm riders were again eating and looking at the weather report. Checking my iphone it was clear that another major storm was moving through the region. Although it was tough with the rain at least the region was getting rain since they have been in a drought since at least last September. The group decided to take off with the police escort to block the road for the riders. That was really nice. We took time for the storm to at least move on and get some hot soup to eat from the microwave. Later heard that the group got into some heavy rain and hail so certainly glad we waited. There really is not much for hot food in the stores like we have in the Casey’s in Missouri (have a better opinion about Casey’s now). We grouped and started the last leg to Marble Springs. This section had some large rollers which would have been nice to see if it was not in the middle of the night. The recumbent’s were with us and it was helpful to have so many lights to see the road. One thing about recumbent’s is they really have a lot of rear lights to clearly make it easy to see them. However when tired and your eyes are having difficulty focusing, it really does crazy things in your head. I had to either not get directly behind them (no wheel suck for sure) or off to the side. They are a great group to ride with and I enjoyed my time working our way to the hotel. We reached Marble Falls just before 1 am. Once we came into the hotel there were people immediately jumping up to help us. Get your bags to the room; take your bike and then a great spaghetti meal before bed. Fantastic service that I was not expecting, but greatly appreciated. You guys ROCK!!! Spencer and I decided that we would leave at 5 am for the second day (oops it’s already Day 2).

Day 2:
Got up and ate a big breakfast in the hotel lobby. The thundering herd of Dan Driscoll was pulling together but we took off just before 5 am. It was nice that the wind dropped when we came into Marbles Falls last night and was still down early in the morning. After a few turns we entered a stretch of a gravel road. Interesting, made for a different kind of ride. I actually thought this was a real cool add on to the ride.
Nice rollers on Day 2

There was some nice scenery along this stretch and then we got a surprise with a drop down to a river bridge which had a pretty steep grade to climb up. All in all this was one of the most scenic days of the ride to Dripping Springs which we arrive just after 8:20 am. At Dripping Springs there not only huge numbers of Rando’s but ranchers enjoying their morning coffee. Discussions were of course concerning the weather and whether they got rain or not. The weather projection looked like it was going to be good for the ranchers but not so much for us. In Oklahoma we have 3 inch rains, which is the distance between one drop of rain to the next on the sidewalk. Sorry, just a little Okie humor! We got back on the road and worked our way to Canyon City where about 10 miles out we suddenly were hit with a cold wind and knew it wasn’t going to be good.
The weather is starting to look cold and wet!

We were standing under tree to decide what to do when it started raining and lighting flashes began striking in the area. As I looked back I saw an abandoned house with a porch about 50 yards behind us. Spencer and I rode back and just got on the porch as the rain, winds and lighting hit. Looking at the iPhone indicated a pretty good cell was coming through. We decided to wait it out. As we rested the thundering herd came through on the road. I yelled that we were in a good spot but only one rider came back as the rest motored on. All the best wishes I thought as we were in the middle of high winds, rain and lighting at this time. When the storm lessen, we got on our way and made it to Canyon City which the rain had started to stop. A large group (the herd) was at the store getting refueled. A number were clearly shaking from the cold rain and trying to get their body temperature back to normal. I was certainly glad we had waited for the storm to pass.
Beautiful scenery on Day 2

We were only about 10 to 15 minutes behind the group and much better for wear. When we headed out Spencer flatten on the hills leaving Canyon City. He could not find the puncher from the traffic roaring by us but he changed the tube and we headed on. In a few miles Spencer flatten again. This time he could find the problem which was a piece of imbedded glass difficult to see. He fixed the tire and we were on our way again. The ride along the Guadalupe River was stunning. Lots of houses with many options for rafters. Glad that it was not a busy weekend as there was no traffic on the road at this time. We arrive at New Braunfels about 3 pm where Sue was waiting. Spencer was able to switch tires from the car so he was good to continue on down the road. Took time to eat a hamburger and drink a malt with Sue which hit the spot. Spencer was certainly glad Sue was there with extra wheels on this ride for sure. We pushed on to Lockhart and we could feel the drain of the day on us. Finally reached Lockhart before 6:30 pm and enjoyed another burger and malt. We continued on to La Grange and arrived about 11:30 pm.
Sunset on the ride to La Grange. Road was not in the best of shape but at least it wasn’t Chip & Seal.

Spencer indicated he was having trouble staying awake. When we came into La Grange, the control store was closed but Sue was there and indicated she had been given permission to sign cards. The two Canadian’s Dick Felton and Carey Chappelle were there and had the same thoughts that Spencer had! Stay the night here and then ride to Sealy in the early morning. That certainly beat sleeping in a post office when we got tired so I was all in. We rode about a mile and got hotel rooms which gave us a nice hot shower and about 3 hours sleep. This was a learning experience for me. Nice move to get some sleep and head out early. I would not have thought to do this.

Day 3:
Spencer, Dick, Carey and I were up early and rode on to Sealy about 4 am.
Great morning with low wind and no hills.

As we rode we came upon a number of other riders heading into Sealy. There were signs along the road to encourage all the rando’s as we got closer to Sealy. One indicated it was only a few more miles (In Rando terms that means 10 to 15 more miles!) or just around the corner (means you only got a 5 mile stretch!) I felt much better with the short sleep we got and we all managed to pull into the Sealy control about 7:30 am. Many riders were just getting up and others still sleeping as far as I could tell. We continued to ride on knowing we were doing 200 miles today. We got a little turned around when we arrived in Magnolia trying to find the control. That can be a little frustrating but finally saw another rider heading in the right direction and followed. After that was sorted out, took some time to eat again and then move through the heavy traffic out towards Huntsville. This was the first time that I know the Chip & Seal was starting to get to me. With the wind, rough road surface and now just a little warmer (90 degrees) it was taking a lot more effort. I am thankful to my friend Spencer who can really power on always waited for me at the turns. It was greatly appreciated. This region provided more farm land as scenery. It was cool to see some flood rice fields and well as a variety of other crops.
Rice Field north of Sealy

As we rode along Spencer indicated that his rear wheel rim had cracked. I am sure a victim of the brutal Chip & Seal. Not good since he is riding a fix gear. Looked as if he could get to the next control so it was good that Sue would be waiting there for us to switch out the rim. I was still struggling with the wind and dealing with the Chip & Seal and was always dropped off Spencer’s wheel. Then along came the Thundering Herd. Pam Wright was whipping the herd along and I heard Spencer say jump on and Pam yelled the same. What a change! It was like having new life within the group. Not only was it great to have support from the wind but got to meet a lot more riders. Nice change of pace and the time went by quickly.
Saved by the Thundering Herd

Dave Minter from England pulled up beside me and asked what ground control was saying. I smiled and took my ipod out of my ear. Really had a great conversation and he was more than just encouraging. Many thanks Dave! Dan Driscoll was keeping the group together and the pace was perfect for me. We stayed with the herd for the remainder of the day. We got to Huntsville in great shape and Sue was there to help get us food and Spencer switched out his rear wheel.
Cracked rear fixie wheel! Thank goodness for Sue!

Quick meal and we were back on the road. The herd really worked together and was careful not to leave anyone behind. I feel I should have moved forward to do a pull but was struggling just to stay even in the group. We rode along and had a stop at little store to get the last chance for water and food. Everyone iced down and we were off again. There were a couple of mechanicals which we all put a foot down (Pam’s favorite phrase) and when the bike was fixed got back at it. We moved along well and I again enjoyed the company as did Spencer. It was nice to be with the group as we rode through the Sam Houston National Forest. The trees really helped block the wind as well it was a beautiful stretch.
Riding through the Sam Houston National Forest

Later during the evening I dropped back and rode a little with Charlie Fenske who is a very strong rider. After talking with him we realized that both of us had been at Oklahoma State at one time. It is a small world. Great person who was always pulling those who dropped off back up to the group. We did get some water and food along the road from a neutral SAG late at night which was really nice when we getting closer to Crockett. The group arrived in Crockett about 11 pm. When we came into the hotel, a group was out front to cheer us and get us into our rooms. Lots of snacks and food was already in our rooms. Again, the people taking care of us were just fantastic. I cannot thank them enough. Spencer and I decided to leave at 4 am to get a head start on the day.

Day 4:
We saw Dick and Carey again as they were getting ready to leave in the morning. We headed out and stopped to get a quick breakfast. As we rode along we caught up with Bill Olsen and a friend. We rode with them for a while then headed on.
Beautiful Last Day!

A lot more Chip & Seal roads which was just taking a toll and really starting to just beat us up. Again, the wind had turned against us so there was not really any help. I had a laugh as we rode by one country house which had a sign that read “If you can read this, YOUR IN RANGE”. I did pick up my pace a little. We caught up with Dick and Carey at Palestine and I rode with them to the finish. As we worked our way to the next Control, it was actually a nice day with the exception of the wind. We stopped at a store in Tennessee Colony where the people were just super nice. Spencer rode over to get some barbecue supporting a youth program and we on our way again.
Uphill to Tennessee Colony

We hit a long flat stretch which was 20 miles that seem to go on forever with the wind hitting us. Pam came by in a car and of course with the Texas yell encouraged us onward.
Dick, Carey and me on the long windy stretch to the Lake.

We finally came to the lake and crossed the dam where there was a great café to get some food. This café was just fantastic as they even served breakfast at noon so could get eggs and pancakes. My eyes were bigger than my stomach but I tried to consume as much as possible.
Fantastic Café at the end of the Dam!

The herd also arrived about 10 minutes after us and was ready to go about the time we were too as well. Spencer asked me if I want to go with them I decided I wanted to stay with Dick and Carey. Spencer went with the group and I cannot say how much I appreciated his help on this ride. We picked up another rider and the four of us went on to Corsicana. As we approached Corsicana there was an air show going on at the airport. It was really cool to see the planes and the show as we rode down the road. Unfortunately, the show ended as we were coming in and the traffic picked up. We arrived at our last control where the herd and a lot of other riders were eating and getting ready to leave.
Corsicana Control – the end is in sight (after ice cream)!

We took a short break and then headed through the brick streets of Corsicana to complete the last leg of the 1200K. The ride went well and it was great to have a neutral SAG give us cold pop to help finish the last 18 miles of the ride. The roads were busy coming into Waxahachie and we did get a toothless cowboy telling us to get off “his” road. All the riding and we got one idiot on the last 5 miles. Go Figure! It was nice to see the end and we worked our way into the city. We did manage to make one last wrong turn on the last mile but quickly corrected and could see the hotel. Dick, Carey and I rode in with guns blazing and got a well deserved reception.
Dick, me and Carey have Finished!!!!!!!

It was nice to finish with new friends who worked hard to complete this ride. Pictures were taken, beer was downed quickly and a well deserved dinner rapidly consumed.
Dick, Spencer, me and Carey

Forever Friends!

Thanks to the Texas Randonneurs for putting this event on. I will remember my first 1200K forever. The Chip & Seal certainly will be hard to forget.
Chip & Seal to the end but what about my rear end. HTFU!!!!!!!!!!!!!

May 21, 2011

Bike Week - Day Five

Bike week wrapped up with another dry commute, on a day that was otherwise a washout --- benefits, I suppose, of coming into work early, and leaving quite late each day this week.
The creek was high in a lot of places, which made for a rousing aquatic soundtrack as I rolled along towards home in the afternoon.  Also, the Switzer low water crossing was overflowing, but only maybe a couple inches deep so I rolled across.  Kinda neat... and defintely outside the norm. 
Arrived home, and did a few  bonus-miles doing laps in the driveway with the kiddos. 
All in all, a great week - and the first full five-day week for me on the bike since September. 
Looking forward to hitting it again on Monday!
Hope you all had a good week!

May 20, 2011

Bike Week - Day Four

I think the long layoff from consistent commuting, whether caused by scheduling or injury, has caught up.  I hate to complain, so I really won't, but it occured to me yesterday that I hadn't been on a bike for more than 2 days in a row  in a LONG time, and this morning I felt tired.  (Thursday)  Add in the rain, and no matter how hard I was pushing I could yield no more than 13 MPH.  Ugh...  It still beats driving, and so - instead of fighting against it and making things worse - I geared down, and slowed down to enjoy my surroundings.  THAT worked.  I arrived fresher, relaxed.  If I can remember that from time to time, I thnk I'll be better for it.  All in all, not much to say, but a good, good day.  The ride home was humid, and no falling precip -- so, I got to enjoy the swollen creek's soundtrack and meander along the trail watching birds hunt for worms and the like.  Hit the bed like a sack of dirt, though.... not unusual for my return to consistent commuting AND especially hectic workdays.   More about Friday's ride later on... 
Hope you are all well!

May 18, 2011

Bike Week - Day Three

I feel remarkably good. I am seeing progress where there was once frustration, feeling engaged and ready. Today was the first Wednesday back on the bike since August, when an after-work commitment with the kids had started. It'll be nice to get a full five days in a row on the bike. It means summer is close, school is ending, and that means less rushing around, more time with the kids at home each evening. I look forward to it.

Summer also means more time to schedule another DSR, and hopefully some trail adventures, bike-camping, and perhaps a longish ride or two. Also means more family bike trail adventures.

Its thoughts like this that get me through the work week...

Todays ride, I got ambitious on the way to the office, averaging 16 on the way in... Best commute time in a long while for me. Took it extra easy on the way home to compensate and relax. Overcast and lukewarm, it was surprising not to see more riders out.

Avoided the rain, somehow, but I doubt I'll be as lucky tomorrow... But part of me is looking forward to it.

Contemplating hitting the Tomahawk rec center breakfast rest stop in the AM, if its not a complete washout.

Stay tuned!

Bike Week - Day Two

I figure small updates are better than nothing.
Nothing overly dramatic, other than a terrific day of light winds, clear skies, and epicly smooth trail.
Ahhhh.... work is really a grind right now, so the bike is a PERFECT way to unwind at the end of a long, long, long day.
More to come.... tomorrow oughta be interesting, as rain appears in the forecast.
But, as I always contend - a rainy day on the bike still beats sitting in a car in traffic on a sunny day.
Thanks for reading!

May 16, 2011

Bike Week - Day One

Bike week got off to a great start, same as last year with the run to Deanna Rose for the Overland Park bike week rest stop. Met up with Noah of fame, for coffee and a shot at some swag - this is where I picked up my reflective triangle and recycled innertube wallet last year (the latter courtesy, which are still in use today. Drew stopped by only a couple minutes before Noah and I had to depart for work, and it was good to see him again. It strikes me as I write this that perhaps we could get the city to rezone a small rectangle of Deanna Rose parking lot for a mini Scooter's Coffee kiosk or something, with bike racks and outdoor tables. As I stood out in the cool morning air chatting up HTs and antennas, and discussing disc brakes vs V-brakes and such... it hit me that I could get used to a morning rest stop - and I'm wondering if I'd have the time to fit something in like that. It was a nice change from simply riding straight through, and the
coffee was better than my home brew. Maybe I'll try that in the morning... Happy bike week, all!

May 11, 2011

Bike week is coming! Do it, do it, do it!

Bike Week is nearly here!
May 16-20th, 2011
If you've been on the fence about riding to work, this is a GREAT week to start because of all the support mechanisms in place.
I'm sure I'll miss some here, but this is a quick list:

Johnson County, KS trail guide

Overland Park's version of the trail guide

The trail system is a large part of my daily commute, and I'm lucky enough to live and work close to a terminus that actually serves my needs. Dig into the map -- that busy street you're nervous about MAY be avoiadable using this ever-expanding and well maintained paved trail system.


Mid-America regional Council Carpooling resources

If you have to use a car, get friendly with your co-workers. Using a car, sadly, may be unavoidable, but at least you can share the gas costs, strike up a conversation, and help ease the costs this summer.


Bike Month - from the League of American Bicyclists

Good info concerning the national scope of May as bike month.


Overland Park, KS., Events for Bike-to-Work-Week

Metro-wide Trail breaks and rest-stop guides

Swag, advice, coffee and bagels.... just some of the things I was surprised and delighted to find last year at some of the breakfast stops. I hope to hit more of the stops this year, even if they take me far afield from the route to work.

The official Bike Week website for information, logging miles, starting a team or starting a car-free or car-light trend in your life.

Get into it!

Local commuter and car-free bloggers:

Noah Dunker -- reluctant local hero, gadget-gawd, good friend and friend of the show

Carfree American -- no car use for a year, and going - how its done

Kansas Cyclist -- THE source for Kansas cycling news and info

Missouri Bike Federation -- on both sides of the MO/KS line, your advocacy heroes at work

bikecommuters -- the source for product reviews, stories, tips - national scope

KC Sprints -- because sometimes its not about saving gas at ALL. Crack a cold one, and check it.


... the above is a short list, and I know there are more --- I'm more than happy to pass your link along, so feel free to email.

Amatuer radio operators?

Bike Week goes "geek" on the air - back-pocket talk-ins on 442.150+

Spotty coverage, weak audio, scratchy into the machine.... just how we cyclists like it.

Zombies. Run.

OKay... that's all I have for now.... get a bike, get a bag, get a route, and DO IT.


May 9, 2011

Some open items

It's been an "interesting" time at work lately, and my mental capacity to keep on typing on a computer into the night is really limited.  That's obvious when visiting here and seeing the gap between meaningful blog posts.  I'll try to work on that:
Couple things in the hopper, however, that I'll do quick-hits style:
1)  Gas prices are edging $4.00/gal here in the KC area... and it's not even summer vacation season yet.  Scary.  If you are within a few miles of work, you can really help your family's bottom line this summer by riding a few days a week to the office.  You've come to the right place --- scan the archives at right, and read up.  As always, I welcome your email!
2)  Sometimes I write 6 pages about a 200-mile ride... and other times I can write 6 pages about a 6 mile ride.  I had just such a ride last week, and that post is coming soon.  Six miles. on an errand, nothing special... but then, it turned out that way. 
3)  One of the most popular posts here on is a review of Axiom's Monsoon waterproof panniers.  I gave them a solid, 1-year-of-use review a while back - and it struck me:  I'm still using these things today.  So, also coming soon with updated photos is a TWO-YEAR-PLUS review of the same bags.  Short version:  they are quickly rising to the top of the heap in the "best money I've ever spent on cycling gear" category, right alongside my horribly-missed Shimano SPD sandals.  More to come on that subject, also.
So, a lot "to come" - stay tuned --- meanwhile, I'm doing the work - suiting up, riding to the office, and saving money.  I hope you are doing some of the same!
Thanks for reading!