June 15, 2013

The White Cloud 250k, a Reversal of Fortune (Pt.1)

The usual mental load of work and outside work are still keeping me away from the keyboard, so I at least wanted to get a photo-post up for this most recent ride, which marked #24 in a row - for R-12 #3, complete!  I don't know if I touched on it after the last ride, but, having the Carradice saddlebag back in the arsenal is SO nice.  I was able to just ride, and not worry about where to stow things - and best of all, it allowed me to keep the camera handy, for lots of on-the-road pics.  WAY more than usual, which is a good thing.  This helps with ride reports as well, and while this is something of a photo-dump for now, check back:  I'll be adding notes later on, most definitely, because - especially for the last 25 miles or so - there remains much to tell.

For now, the ride in brief:

Prep begins:  Glen in the mobile fortress.... a.k.a., zie RAAMwagen (a secret nickname I've given it, but really haven't uttered until now... muahahahaha!)  No, that's not an announcement.. just a deeply unfounded and financially ridiculous pipedream... for now.

Next to it, the SAG-Delux, now with roof-carrier!  Thanks, again, Badger!

Huh?  The Dude realizes how much work it is to prep stuff out of a trunk, after months of riding from home.
Koggy, at the ready.  A perfect morning, all-around - clear, crisp, inviting

We began our tour promptly at 6:09am, after checking in at Speedy's c-store, and headed out onto quiet St. Joseph streets.  It really didn't seem like a Monday morning... light traffic, but who's complaining?
The early hills taxed my legs a bit - I never seem to get warmed up until maybe mile 20 these days, so early hills are always a bit "fun."

Whaddayaknow?  Not much, you?  Face-shot, on US-59 northbound, south of Oregon, MO.  A few layers still present , as thick, low clouds - almost fog - continue to blanket the morning.  The scenery begins to open up, and distances between towns expand.

Glen, cuttin' up the countryside - the reverse angle of the picture above, US-59 - headed into the expanse of northwestern Missouri.
We made Oregon, MO. at about 8:20am, for a non-control refuel and refill.  I like this little town - quiet, friendly, familiar.  Good ole Americana.

The hazy clouds of the morning begin to part and thin-out, as we cross the giant Missouri River floodplain, headed away from the eastern bluffs.  Compared to November's version of this ride, the fields are no longer beige and sandy, but lush and green.  The road converges to a single point in the distance behind me - the dead-straight run towards the state line on US-159.

Glen, working the run-up to the Rulo Bridges on the Missouri River.   I'd thought by this point the new bridge, 650 ft. to the south and out of frame here, would have been complete - but, we get to ride over the old bridge at least this one last time!  I wish they were keeping it - once the new bridge is finished, this steel masterpiece will be dismantled.  Thankfully, the railroad bridge beside it will remain.
Here, you can see the new bridge at left.  Unimaginative engineering, and not much higher than the old bridge.

A rare treat, we encounter an eastbound BNSF coal train while on the bridge!
Yours truly, sitting atop the state line, 60 feet above the rolling Missouri

State line!  Back in Rulo again.  (Think CCR.)

Right at the state line, at about 9:45am, the sun finally comes out in full force, and the clouds disappear!
Sunscreen time!

NE-8 highway, westbound... under blue skies!  Awesome views all around, as we hammer toward Falls City, NE.

We make Falls City, NE at 10:30am, approximately.  Skipping the Subway sandwiches this time, we are in and out in 30 minutes or less, swapping layers, refueling, and laughing.  Sonic, just down the road, becons.... but, I resist the call of tater tots...  

Meanwhile, it's a great day for a ride!

On NE-8, headed back toward Kansas, a smaller version of the Rulo Bridge gives another visual treat.  This one crosses the Big Nemeha Creek near Salem, NE.  Glen on point!  Here, Glen and I proved ourselves as a solid pair, each taking multiple-mile-long pulls on NE-8, at times holding steady at 20mph, with a very slight tailwind helping.  Nutrition proved excellent, my saddle near perfection, and push consistent.  I don't know if I've felt stronger this year, so far, than on this section.

After a much-improved performance from me on NE-8's last few miles, Glen and I pause at US-75 and NE-8, and consider riding to Omaha - just because.  Unfortunately, it would have added 300km to our trip.  Next time...

Glen, pausing at the NE/KS border on US-75 southbound.  There's still construction about, but it's a much better road than we rode in November '12.  

Pause for the cause, at Morrell, KS.  The only services, a pop machine and a bench in the shade -- which is all I really need!  The look is confident, and of enjoyment - a nice change from previous rides!  In my personal notebook of strange nutritional combinations that work well on rides, today's entry is Mountain Dew and Mounds candy bars.  Weird, but I'm not questioning it.  On this stop, I tried a Bonk-Breaker energy bar... these worked well, too.

Glen, feeling good and fresh on 310th Street, east of Reserve, KS.  Compared to November, the monster chip seal is manageable, the light winds perfectly cooling, and the legs feeling strong.  The solid thumbs-up and beaming smile sum up the ride - to this point - perfectly.  Happy, strong, fresh, feeling great, and absolutely loving randonneuring.  This one needs submittal to RUSA's photo-blog, I think!

Another great shot - the road looks almost like gravel, and feels about like gravel - but we don't have a care in the world!

...feeling good enough to screw around with the camera, to try out a couple of panoramic shots!   This shot was accomplished using Apple's panoramic feature on an iPhone 4S.  Starting at the left edge, the feature is activated and the camera is slowly panned left-to-right.  As the sweep occurs, the image is composited along a common horizontal axis, and the result is a puzzlework of individual photos which are joined along this line.  In the case above and below, however, I was moving forward at 16MPH -- while the horizon line stayed relatively steady, the items in the foreground begin to have problems joining together, so, the result is a segmented image - similar to what some early NASA photos from the Mars rover and Voyager spacecraft images.  It managed to compress and slice Glen, and part of my face - as well as the roadside edge, grass, and clouds.  Since the image file still had "room", I continued the sweep to the right until the camera ended up facing me directly, which is why I appear to be looking into the shot from the right - when I'm actually nearly directly behind Glen.  If travel approaching light-speed where possible, one's brain would (in theory) construct a similar image, as things approaching and things one had already passed would appear to be visible at the same moment.  That's a bit deep... but, it won't prevent me from attempting to print this in a large format and affixing to the wall in my man-cave.  If nothing else, it captures the vast openness of the NE KS plains.

Though I don't like this one as much as the one above, these two are my favorite shots of the day, and maybe ever.  Not perfect, no - but it really gives a sense of NE KS, how awesome the sky looked, and the aloneness and alien-like experience of riding a bicycle across such a landscape.  White Cloud is a spectacular route!  This shot was actually taken about 45 seconds before the shot above.  Here, Glen is still next to me - where in the shot above it, he's passed me. It nearly, however, completes a full 360 degree view around my head on 310th road, somewhere east of Reserve, KS.  It will take a far steadier hand to get a true 360 shot with my head on-center - but, I'll be trying in the future, for sure!

After the fun of the camera, we checked off the remaining miles to White Cloud, KS., and the Tee with K-7, marking our final run back to the finish.  In November, I managed to recover from the chipseal pounding and up my pace to a degree that would help salvage a decent, though difficult, finish.  THIS day, we had been planning on the same, yet the difference lay in how fresh we'd been compared to the November version.  I felt strong, fresh, ready - and Glen and I both knew we were on-target for a sub-12 hour finish, perhaps.  It had been a near-perfect day, nutritionally, and it reflected in our riding.

Until we hit White Cloud.

This is where the pictures stop, and the tale begins... a reversal of fortune neither of us saw coming.
Arriving at K-7 and Main street at White Cloud just a hair before 4:00pm, with light winds and hot - but bearable - temps, Glen and I said "hello" to the river once again, and turned south.

...to be continued...  (see Pt.2 post)

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