September 28, 2013

Two Years Later . . . "A Mere Two-Hundred"

Here we go, loyal readers.... the September ride report, from the home office in Dover, Delaware... (er... Olathe, KS?)

In keeping with the recent trend of more pictures is better than more words, this post takes on the form of a photo-reel with captions.  One thing I've wanted to try to do is watermark the photos - just for grins, really, not because I have a real reason to:  but, I'm sorta proud of the stuff I've edited and touched-up.  You'll see the half-handed attempt to watermark some of the pics... but, it didn't work on all of them, like I'd hoped (the photo-editing software I'd trialed over the weekend boasted automatic watermarking upon upload, but it only occurred on a couple files - frustrating.  I'll keep messing around, but, in the interest of faster posts and less keyboard time, I'm thinking that direct upload from the camera will probably continue to work best.  Since the photos didn't all come from my camera anyways, I'm not too worried.

After all -- less talk, more "do."

Now, if a steady paycheck and an editor's deadline should somehow befall me - grant me luck - I will gladly dedicate more time to the tapping o' the keys!  MAN, to be able to make THAT work!

OK, enough aspirational dribble... on to the ride itself:

I didn't realize it when I signed up and sent in my waiver for this latest 200km+ monthly streak entry, for Sept 16th, 2013, but, when the ride was in the bag and I began to think positively about the experience -- which isn't difficult with the group I've been riding with lately -- I felt compelled to look back and see how I'd done on this route the last time I'd ridden it, which was "about" two-years ago, back in 2011.  I knew it was September, but couldn't remember exactly.  I also knew I was alone, and it had been raining for the majority of that event.  Still, I held it with fond memories, but I was hopeful that this most recent ride had been knocked off faster.


Upon checking, I was a touch surprised at myself - and a little disappointed:  First, the surprise of the date:  turns out I had ridden "A Mere Two-Hundred" on Sept. 16th, 2011.  Weeeird, and definitely not planned, but, yes: exactly two years later!  This time out, it was a little warmer - and a little less rainy.  Ok, a LOT less rainy:  and I finally got to visit the Avenue City gas station and store when it was DRY.  Third time's the charm!  

I was delighted that our group polished off this 2013 edition in less overall time, 11:05ET total... (really 11:00ET on the nose, since we got started about five minutes late) ...but, my average speed back in 2011 was a couple tenths higher...15.7mph, compared to 15.1 this time out.  My total time in 2011 was 11:47ET... dang-near 12 hours...but, I spent more time OFF the bike that day, trying to dry off and trying to stay warm -- and I remember being idle at the halfway marker in Avenue City for a small eternity, shivering and dripping over hot coffee while trying to talk myself back onto the bike, back out into the heavy rain.

 I can pretend that I'm not really concerned about the speed difference, because there are differences between riding with a group, and riding alone, and lots of variables.... but, maybe "concerned" is the wrong word... motivated is maybe a better word.  I need to be patient.  I came to this latest ride, here in 2013, about 22 pounds heavier than I was THIS JUNE... so, all things are not really equal here.  Stress has been a bit high this summer for various reasons, and it seems I've run home to my old friend carbohydrates and their many tasty friends.  

Mmmmm, carbs.... (drool).... 

Starting during vacation this June, when I weighed 168 lbs, I proceeded to pack it on pretty good, topping out at 191 lbs by the end of July... one of those numbers I swore I'd "never get to again."  Welp, wake up call received (again?), I am now using the bike to exorcise the stress demons, instead of carbs, and have therefore been re-learning how to eat properly.  9 lbs gone already since 9/22 ... keep going.

 I have also been working on tempo and climbing rhythm on the long route home now that the Indian Creek leg of the bike trail is open again, and I have noticed some personal gains.  My daily commute with the longer homeward leg now sits at around 32 miles total, and I have been working on pushing myself for ever-faster average speeds - things I professed over the last couple posts.  It's working, but, really, it has only been a couple weeks... I can't expect miracles.  But, considering the 2011 ride found me at 167 lbs (and, yeah, I keep logs for everything... except clothing, which you'll read about later), I guess I can't complain.  Same bike, same weather nearly... but, two different "mes", two years apart.  I'm satisfied with my strength, but I know I can do better - and I still want to.  Recently - though this is not another shallow announcement - I have been thinking about my personal unfinished business in Texas.  I'm approaching what many consider to be the "prime age" for ultra.... although, one could toss out that old adage with the latest crop of European 20-something wunderkinds destroying RAAM records lately.  If I really want it, I need to get off my butt and do the work - and while this blog reveals that I handle this very subject matter in oddly-timed phases, this time I feel more prepared to actually stick to it.  Whether or not that finds me riding fast laps south of Dallas in a couple years or not remains to be seen, because maybe it's Paris... but, I have a lot left to accomplish, and like any worthwhile goal, I have to do the work.  I remember saying something like "train for something... even if you don't know what that 'something' is yet...."  Well, it's back on again.

Let's snap back to the ride, shall we?  Yeesh... 

Though it was promising to be rainy, the weather wasn't nearly the washout I'd endured in '11 - but, damp roads and thick clouds dominated the day for our group of Glen, Gary, Terry and Steven.  No complaints, really - the temperature didn't move much, so clothing storage never became an issue, many of us wearing exactly the same kit at the beginning of the ride as at the end.  Starting in the dark under that thick blanket of clouds and hovering around 60 degrees (F), the morning had been almost perfect - and we all joined up early (with the exception of Glen, which I'll explain) at the Perkins in Liberty for a hot meal before the depart.  Glen, fortunately, had eaten something on the way to Liberty - a bum wheel on his vehicle on the way to the ride start delayed his arrival, but he still managed to get to the start on-time.  For me, a short stack of blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs, hash-browns, and hot coffee.  YES!  This is how you start a ride! 

 (yeah... see, you need carbs to ride.... my problem is, I eat like this when all I plan to do is sit in my cubicle all day.   Hmmmm, wonder why I gained weight??? . . . D'ooooy!  (/Ace Ventura, When Nature Calls)

As Terry, Gary, and Steven wandered inside from the foggy morning air outside, I felt a bit like Bob Burns - sitting in a booth, coffee half-full, clipboard, pens, zip-top baggies, waivers, checks and cue sheets flying across the table as the wait staff looked on with curiosity.  The clanking of silverware, gentle pours of coffee, papers rustling, and early-morning mumbles of conversation - interspersed with long, introspective pauses on the questions of what-to-wear, and why-am-I-awake-this-early.

Before . . . 

. . . after.
After the final check had been paid, we all ventured outside into the parking lot and wrapped up our individual starting routines.  Gloves or no gloves?  Should I bring the jacket... I catch myself taking a really long, silent stare into the trunk of my car at the myriad choices:  knee warmers, gloves, thermal jacket, rain jacket... "yikes, dude, it's not THAT cold... why did you bring half this stuff??" ...knowing that the question could have been reversed had I not brought enough.  Sometimes "pack everything" has its drawbacks when the brain isn't yet used to associating temperatures and forecasts with articles of clothing... another reason I need to act a bit more like a certain Noah when it comes to the cycling wardrobe, and start logging clothing.  I keep logs on almost everything except clothing... and I'm still not sure what my hang-up is on that subject.  It won't likely be a definitive guide, but more of a reference -- when it was like "this", I wore "this and that", and felt like "this" as a result.  I'll probably have to have a "facial hair" constant in there, somehow... as the amount of hair above my neck often contributes to my comfort when the temps start to hang out below the 60F mark.  Granted 60F isn't cold... but, with drizzle and strange wind directions, it can get chilly after a few hours of exposure.  And if I'm used to the 90's, which it had been the week prior... yikes.  No matter how I feel, though... it's still 60F, which is WAY too hot for a true rain jacket or barrier.  If I remember that and dress appropriately, I warm up by riding and end up staying cozy... but, if I panic and grab the rain jacket, I end up a sweaty, overheated mess... but, original goal accomplished in a roundabout way:  I'm anything but 'cold'.  The point is, I need a quick-reference guide to help me make up my mind before it becomes 2nd-nature  (usually March each year... just in time to start forgetting how to dress for WARM weather... ha!)  Heck, if I can consolidate my list carefully enough, I could print it, laminate it, and affix it to the underside of my car's boot lid -- unzip giant duffel, and layer up (or down) before heading out.

Heading out.... oh yeah...

When in doubt, follow the first guy on the road.  When you are confident enough to go it alone, just keep riding.  What do I mean?  Just refer to my rule book:

  • Rule #376 in group cycling, part A:  it doesn't matter how many times any given rider has ridden a particular route; if someone at the front of the pack suddenly takes a different direction, the majority of following riders will immediately turn to follow the leading rider (group A), on the assumption that this rider must possess information that the followers themselves do not yet have.

  • Rule #376 part B:  if one rider of group of riders (group B) continues along the original path after the scenario above occurs, all remaining following riders - unless they belong to the group already following group A - will immediately discard all self-confidence and will forget that they themselves are carrying a cue sheet, whereupon they will begin to wander aimlessly at reduced speed until someone in either group A or group B can convince the confused cyclists to follow them, as opposed to the other.  This group becomes Group C, unless the rider in question has legitimately never ridden the particular course, in which case they become Group D, and can be spotted by their constant reference to the cue sheet for the remaining ride, which generally occurs every ten minutes whether a turn is approaching or not.  Sometimes members of Group A become members of Group D in behavior, even though at one point they had been members of Group B.
  • Rule #376 part C:  riders in group C will ultimately make a decision to follow either Group A or Group B, but will continue to give Group A a hard time for the remainder of the ride, professing that they knew the route all along and were merely following them to make sure they ultimately rejoined Group B.  Group B members usually don't say anything, as they are confident enough not to need to defend their decisions, which proved correct all along.
  • Rule #376 part D - lessons and take-aways:  Group D members ultimately become Group B members, as they will never forget the correct trajectory for this particular course because of the comical bookmark placed upon it by the actions of Groups A and C.  Group C will always ask for a cue sheet, but will never look at it, but will eventually become members of group B simply through memorization of the actions of members of Group D, now Group B.  Group A members are doomed to be the butt of jokes until the end of time, unless they progress to Group B, but are only allowed membership into Group B after five consecutive flawlessly navigated groups rides after the original incident.  Members of Group C will still give them a hard time right up to the point that they themselves inevitably become members of Group A on a subsequent ride.
  • The cycle continues until enough momentum is achieved to create a Group E, which is a faster subset of Group C, which rides too fast to affect any other riders anyway, yet creates confusion when they continue to pass Groups A, B, C, and D throughout the course of the remaining miles.  Group F is extremely rare, and involves a very tiny subset of the remaining group A, which can be identified by their habit of riding the course backwards until they figure out what happened to Group B.
  • Rule #376 part E:  when in doubt, refer to Rule #1:  always follow the cue sheet. Therefore:  x=A-B(C/D+A)-A+BB/C+(D-DB)-(A+B)/E+(A+C/D) or x=42  [undefined]

Hey look.... pretty pictures!

These photos come from Glen's camera, after we have returned Lightburne Road after the scenario in Rule #376 unfolded, near the intersections of US-69 and Interstate 35... an interesting place to find oneself on a Monday morning at 6:30AM.  Mainly, these shots provide a rare look at the randonneur as he appears when the sun isn't up.  The camera flash captures our reflective gear nicely - though, it should be noted that most automobile headlights are not, in fact, omni-directional camera flashes.  Sometimes I consider parts of my reflective kit to border on overkill when I see photos like this - but, remembering that automotive headlights are cut off, vertically, to prevent blinding on-coming drivers, there is a good chance that only small portions of your reflective gear will truly return light to a driver's eyes.  Having reflective material of some kind, then, from the bottom of your fenders to the top of your helmet makes sense.  Of course, on dark, quiet country roads, approaching drivers will likely be using their high-beams - in which case, one will show up brilliantly, and with plenty of warning.  However, if you do nothing else, remember that surface area and movement are king:  the most conspicuous items in the shots above are the reflective vests on the rider's body.  There simply isn't enough surface area on a bicycle frame to replicate this.  Further, the ankle bands up/down movement are impossible to miss ... drivers' attentions are quickly drawn, and there simply isn't anything else out on the roads that moves the way a cyclists legs do.

Ankle bands and reflective vest are required by RUSA for a reason, and I feel every commuter and cyclist in general should run these in low-to-no light conditions.

Night Riders.... Hasselhoff sold separately (my eyes!)

This shot helps paint a picture of headlight beams and their effectiveness toward the two categories cyclists should care about when shopping for a good front light: "be seen" vs. "see with."  With few exceptions, it's difficult to get both in the same package until recently.  My headlight beam, left, is a Busch & Muller Lumotec Cyo R, and can be seen casting a nice pattern on the road, accomplished with B+M's optics redirecting the LED emitter output into a very controlled pattern.  This prevents blinding on-coming traffic - but, as a result, the beam itself is not as apparent to oncoming traffic, either.  On the right are Gary's and Steven's lights, two (I just don't remember the manufacturer names at this writing) battery lights which utilize the standard, omnidirectional "floodlight" pattern typical of most battery systems available.  While these do put plenty of light on the road to see with, they are also very apparent against the background compared to other cars, etc., when viewed from ahead.  This isn't so much a generator v. battery concern, as some generator lights also use an omni-directional pattern.  However, since generator systems are capped by their maximum output, and must therefore rely on optics to put maximum light on the road surface, battery lights often result in affording their users the benefits of being seen and seeing the road in one package.  That drawback, for my light, means I really should be running a "be seen" light in addition to my generator headlight for maximum effectiveness.  Technology and innovation, however, marches ever-forward:  although I haven't had a real reason to upgrade yet, B+M has answered this concern with their latest Cyo and Luxos lights by adding daytime running lights (DRLs), which are lower-output LED emitters pointing directly ahead without any optical redirection.  The result is a very conspicuous "be seen" light in the same housing as the effective "see with" beam.  This trend can be seen almost everywhere on the roadways lately - originally, WAY back with GM's old Saturn marque touting the first "daytime running lights" which used the car's high-beams on a reduced voltage setting, through the purpose-designed 12w incandescent DLRs of Volkswagen, Volvo and Mercedes, to the first LED DLRs of last year's Audi's... the concept is nothing new, but B+M now offers this feature for bicyclists - and, in addition to improved circuitry and better-by-the-year LED emitters, the entire generator light package is smarter, more efficient, and brighter than ever - all without having to upgrade the generator hub itself. 
Even typing this out makes me want to hit Peter White's webpage to order the latest.  

Still, a backup light is a good idea for any randonneur... and had this been a longer event, I would have likely had to come up with something.  Most organizers of events 600km and above insist on it, for good reason -- while modern battery and generator systems are very reliable, things can happen.   

This shot shows Steven W's reflective situation quite well, as we make our way across US-69 and onward toward Plattsburg Road, heading north into the foggy, drizzly morning.  

The prominent and universally recognized yellow safety triangle (it's not a "yield symbol", Aardvark) is bright enough to produce a halo effect for the camera, closely matched by the built-in reflector in his rack-mounted B+M taillight.  Also note the awesome power of the Rainy Day Biking reflective spray-guard on his rear fender, Sayre (sold by RUSA) reflective ankle bands, reflective trim on the shorts and knee warmers, windvest, the Sayre (sold by RUSA) reflective sash, and even his helmet is reflective!  Just up the road ahead of Steven is yours-truly, sporting the L2S (available thru RUSA) reflective vest, yellow safety triangle, and B+M taillight reflector and Sayre ankle bands on duty.  I think there is a small red dot, also, where the tiny reflector in my fender taillight is visible.  Ahead of me, Terry, sporting the "old" (2011) L2S RUSA vest and Planet Bike SuperFlash taillight, with orange reflective ankle bands.  This is how we roll before dawn!  (PS, I gotta get me one of those reflective mud-flaps... if my home-brew duct-tape flaps ever fall apart, that is!  

Three-up on Plattsburg Rd. (or Highway C?) heading north 

I want to thank Glen R. straight-away for these great shots -- I touched up this one a little to emphasize the subject matter.  Aside from being a terrific shot, this is also a great example of three different approaches to rear visibility.  Being a randonneur, I like to think that "we've got it all sorted out", and to a large degree we do.  I still see far too many examples out on the "highways of America" of bicyclists on the road not hitting the mark, regardless of their "status" among cyclists.  Trail users, casual users, roadies, racers, whathaveyou... there are more than a few that have taillights mounted as a strict afterthought.  Unfortunately, I've heard from more than a few people that trying to casually mention a fault in someone else's setup isn't usually met with kind words, regardless of best intentions... but, sometimes I will find myself slowly approaching someone from the rear during the wee hours, and I get frustrated... "grrr...turn your taillight on!"  ... and then I'm absolutely disgusted when I finally get close enough to see that they DO have their taillight on, but it's aimed at the dirt and/or the batteries are half-flat.  Good grief man!  Check your lights! 

In the shot above, the clear winner is the tiny Blackburn Mars 4.0 which Steven W. (at right) has fixed to his rear fender, much like I have my fender-specific Spanninga Pixeo XB.... except mine (at center) is switched off as I only use it during heavy rain or as a backup for my generator taillight (with regret, specific to this shot, I don't really know how effective it is).  Steven is also running a B+M 4DToplight (battery version) mounted to his rear rack, and I am running B+M's Toplight Line Plus - both of which employ built-in retro-reflectors.  Gary's taillight (at left) is adequate - but a bit dimmer than the others in the shot... and though I've seen it before, I'm not sure what make/model it is.  In the reflective category, I found it interesting that my L2S (sold through RUSA) reflective vest seems to still be returning light back to the camera flash, even at this distance - where the rest of the reflective gear we're all wearing doesn't appear to be.  A good vest is worth its weight, IMHO, but, plainly - we're ALL plenty visible here.  Thanks again, Glen, for this great shot!

Another great road-shot from Glen as we made our way north with brightening skies along Missouri Route C toward Plattsburg, MO.  In order, Terry B., Me, Gary D., and Steven W. -- this is a good spot to point out that while Gary's taillight didn't look particularly bright in the previous shot, it looks perfectly bright here... it could be a trick of the lens in the first photo, but who knows... Gary isn't exactly what I'd call "insivible", wearing a bright safety-yellow jacket with reflective trim, and a giant strip of good reflective tape on the rear fender surface, complete with ankle bands, he's more than visible for weather like this.  It shows that you can take almost any approach to being seen while riding events like these.  All of us are done-up properly, and we look like a road construction crew on bicycles.  Hard to miss!

The march north continues along Highway C, approaching Plattsburg, MO., Steven and Gary on point.

Another sweeping shot of the terrain between Plattsburg and Liberty, MO, under a thick carpet of gray.

Bikes in repose at Larry's Two-Stop, Plattsburg, MO., corner of MO-116 and highway C.  We're inside fueling up, and drying off a little, as persistent drizzle continues.  No complaints heard, it truly is a nice morning for a good, long ride!   

The shot above is a great example of the myriad equipment setups one can employ for long-distance, non-competitive bicycling.  The bicycles themselves aren't important here, but, take it from me:  after years of doing this with a LOT of bags, then down to only a small seat-bag, I'm glad for the experimentation I've done.  I've arrived at what works for me, and most randonneurs and commuters will find themselves in this situation.  Mix it up!  

From left-to-right, then, eh?  

First we have the Steven W. rig -- This is possibly the best "high-end" handlebar bag workaround set-up I've seen to-date:  backstory:  most "real" handlebar bags don't attach to the handlebars at all... so they call 'em "front bags."  These are bags meant to sit atop a front-mounted rack, and are supported by what's called a decalleur, half of which is affixed to the bag and connects to its other half which is attached to the bicycle or front rack.  These specific front racks start around $90, and the bags they support range from $120 to nearly $400.  Extremely well-made... I can't emphasize that point enough: these are truly one-purchase, lifetime bags...but, they are costly, and most can't justify $500+ to have front storage.  Most of us employ actual "handlebar bags", which attach to the handlebars via straps or brackets and accomplish much the same thing for a fraction of the cost.  Drawbacks:  the weight is higher, compromising bike handling - especially during out-of-saddle climbing, you can feel it.  Cheaper, non-waterproof materials are often the norm, but, these bags start around $40, have map pockets and storage for your stuff -- which is all they really need to accomplish.  Steven created a hybrid system of his own by taking a hacksaw to a rear rack, modifying it to fit on the front of his bike - and used part of the rack platform, bent upward, as the decalleur for the his Topeak handlebar bag.  The result is the best of both worlds:  low mounting, low cost, and a lot more stability and ease of use than that stock bag provides on its own.  On the back, a standard rack trunk for overflow storage.  When I decide to set up a "real" front-bag, I'll probably copy quite a bit of Steven's set-up, mainly because I already have the same make of rear rack in the garage, waiting to be modified.  Steven has ridden this set-up to the 600km level, as well as his recently-completed and first R-12, so clearly it works well, and provides the right amount of storage for the job.

Next is Gary's rig - basic rear rack, basic no-frills rear rack trunk for storage - spare tire lashed to the top, just in case.  Up front, nothing much:  just a few simple clips designed to hold a cue sheet.  Anything else needed while riding is kept in the jersey pockets.  This set-up is effective, simple, is inexpensive to duplicate, and has worked for randonneurs, commuters and century riders for decades.  Slap a reflective triangle or taillight on the back, and go!

Next in line is my over-thought set-up.  There is nothing different about what I'm doing to carry a load here compared to the other setups, just a slightly different aesthetic:  and, really, that's all the Carradice bag is, with a few minor exceptions.  That may be doing the guys in Nelson, England a slight disservice... these are very well-made, lifetime bags, but far more cost-effective than their front-bag counterparts - and while they do, indeed, satisfy in the looks department, their usefulness exceeds their curb-appeal.  Compared to a rack trunk, the load is carried transversely, and closer to the center of the wheel-base of the bicycle, which, when climbing or cornering, helps maintain stability.  Their waxed cotton canvas construction makes them waterproof, so your stuff stays dry, and some outer trimmings allow for extra (or wet) layers to be stowed.  I've added some bungee cord loops to facilitate this, as well as the reflective triangle.  Though they come in many sizes, mine holds about as much as the average rack trunk and is the smallest in the Carradice saddlebag lineup.  The one thing saddlebags generally require are some kind of support to keep them from rubbing against the rear tire.  Some would call this a "fender", but one shouldn't have a lot of weight resting on something that could ultimately bend and contact the tire underneath.  Most will be using a saddlebag like this to avoid having to install a rear rack, so there are a few products that attach to the saddle's underside or the seat-tube to hold up the bag a bit.  In my case, I already have a rear rack in place - which is normally used to hold the panniers I use for commuting.  This setup works, in my opinion, better than a bag support:  it affords the rider choice and a little extra storage if needed.  I can lash a few things to the exposed rear portion of the rack, should I need to.  Most importantly, however, it provides a great mounting location for a taillight, because placement of a saddlebag will certainly block the usual mounting locations.  Finally, for things like touring or long, multi-day jaunts, I can run the panniers and the saddlebag together, for oodles of storage.  Finally, while most saddlebag supports receive mixed reviews for varied levels of "flimsiness", a good rear rack is almost bomb-proof, and supporting a saddlebag won't even have it raise a sweat.   Up front, I have a modified fanny-pack from Outdoor Products.  I have yet to find anyone manufacturing the smallish handlebar bag that I'd buy, but my dream bag is basically exactly like this fanny-pack, except made from waterproof cotton canvas.  I should have documented the mods for bike hacks, but I got ahead of myself.  I simply cut the waist-straps off the main pack body, and then cut a square of thick plastic salvaged from another handlebar bag that ended up breaking to serve as a backboard for the new "handlebar bag".  I'd then cut some openings through the backboard and the material of the pack, and passed-through some spare leather straps I had in the ole spares box, to allow attachment to the 'bars - whilst also adding a certain knuckle-dragger sensibility to it at the same time.  The resulting bag is small, but not tiny... big enough, but not huge... and stable enough to open and close with one hand.  Inside, pockets for the phone/camera (which helped enable the 50-some photos we've got here today), some energy bars or leftover snackages from the last control.  Even enough room to stuff some discarded arm-warmers or gloves into, if needed.  Perfect:  $14.95 for the fanny pack, which I didn't even buy specifically for this project... so, really, this was a gimme-build from stuff I had laying in the garage.  As I mentioned before, when I start to explore the 600 and 1,000km distances again, I may need to graduate up to a larger front bag, and do some re-building, like relocating the front light to allow for the rack... but, that day isn't here yet, and while I've flip-flopped in the past about having something on the handlebars, this one is a keeper, and having fast access to the cue, the camera, and snacks is aces.  My back pockets are free for discarded layers like jackets, and can generally just be empty.  

Of course, since I'm describing my own set-up, it gets a lot more print, because I own all the details and reasons.... but, please know that my way is NOT the "right way."  I sorta represent the "aesthetic" crowd here... the "retro-grouch", if you will... I accept that.  From the lugged steel frame to the color-coordinated cable housings to the fancy saddle bag, everything I'm doing can be accomplished for cheaper than I've chosen to... but, I tend toward a certain classic look and feel, and so there you have it.  The one thing that I do appreciate about the Carradice bag, however, which transcends its retro look, is the waterproof nature of the fabric it's made from.  Whether I maintain retro-grouch tendencies or not, waterproof bags - in my book - are a must.  However, there are plenty of "modern fabric" bags that are waterproof, too -- my Axiom panniers for example.  Sorta like everything else in the aesthetic category, it's easy to let the bags define the rider.  We're all guilty of being a touch judgmental about this... don't do it.  Similar to my ridiculous rules and formulas above, LuggedFrame("B" bag + "A" bag <> "D-bag")  ... at least, I hope not.  Ok, at least not until you add a few beers.

On to Glen's setup, atop his new Specialized rando-machine; complete with disc brakes, a growing trend in road cycling these days...and jealously-inspiring in wet conditions like these.  Glen's tall rear rack comprises the bulk of the storage here, with tools, clothes and nutrition all organized and ready.  The rack is modified slightly to work with the disc brake set-up, and provides a solid perch for the load above.  Up front, a smallish handlebar bag - larger than mine, with more pockets and features; yet, smaller than Steven's - mounted with sturdy metal clamp assemblies, it has a map pocket on top for the cue sheet and just enough storage for the essentials -- not too large, but not too small.  This is a fairly no-nonsense arrangement, and it's served Glen well, all the way up through 600km events, and his recent R-12 completion.  No reason to overthink it... rack, trunk, small front bag - and get to work!  

Terry's bike is out of shot here, but follows Glen's setup very closely, with the same level of effectiveness up to 600km, and for his recent R-12 completion as well.  

There's honestly NO wrong way to do it.  It's one of the things I still find fascinating about attending ANY group ride:  you'll see all levels of hacks, home-brews, the latest tech gadgets next to decades-old frame pumps, and all manner of bags.  Just remember... take notes:  you may poo-poo some stuff, but you may see some great ideas, too.  My point to all this:  run what you need to.  Get that bag.  Get those fenders.  Get the cheaper, stronger tires.  They won't slow you down... not really... and who cares what anyone else thinks?  Just ride.  

Photo Courtesy Steven W. - heading north out of Plattsburg, MO... something off the road has my attention.  A great shot showing all our different approaches to long-distance timed touring.

Highway "Y", northbound, a large blue heron takes flight from a nearby field, under thick, grey skies.  It's closer to us in than the shot might represent -- kind of a surreal, zen moment.

Another shot of the same, with Gary working his way up the many hills north of Plattsburg, MO.

Probably my favorite shot from the ride, and with all the filters, overlays, and editing programs available out there, I'm happy to point out that this has none of those treatments.  What you see is what the camera captured, as I held it precariously close to the pavement near the shoulder as we zipped along at near 20mph.  The wildflowers, which were in their late summer bloom nearly everywhere we rode, become a blur of color as the auto-focus looks for anything to latch onto.  Steven and Gary are nearby, along Highway Y.  My only regret is that I never quite got things lined up the same way for attempts at capturing the small purple flowers which also dominated the shoulders of the roads - but, this will do.  In a few more weeks, not sure how much of this color will remain, so this will provide a nice reminder when the winter rides start to unfold.  

Tenedor Del Diablo... the Devil's Fork.  I keep waiting for Alfonso Arau to burst over the hillside in a modified Ford Bronco II, or something like that.  An interesting tree, I mumble this moniker out loud, as it looks suspiciously like the one from the movie I was thinking of at the time.  We follow the third branch... closer to the treasure... On a more serious note, this dead tree smacks of tornado damage - the bark stripped, and not many branches left.  Some of the buildings in the backdrop look fairly new, also... so, maybe?  Maybe it's just old and dead - but I don't remember seeing it two years ago.  One thing always on my mind up here, north of Plattsburg, is how often I watch severe storms carefully from Olathe - the home base - and a high percentage of the southern metro's near-misses tend to split and track north... towards Plattsburg and such.  Big, giant red blobs of radar echo... and, one of these days, I'm probably going to get caught between controls.  Keeping a watchful eye for things like easy-to-access barns, homes, open ditches and other potential shelters sometimes passes through my head - but, it's a worthy trade-off for such quiet roads and sweeping scenery.  On a day like today, it's hardly a worry.

Glen and Gary tackling the many hills on Route NN, on the way to Easton, MO.

Desolate, quiet.  The Missouri countryside and the endless gray skies draw each of us inward, and we begin to spread out on the road.  Steven W., making his way . . . Terry not too far behind.

Pavement's-eye view

North of US-36 on Route Z, headed toward Cobsy, MO., Steven W. and Gary on the move.

A strange intersection, the turn is actually around the curve.  Road signage, one of the few signs out here, confirms the cue sheet.  This route requires patience, and faith.

Cosby, MO.  Keep moving.... no services here!

Some editing fun with the Platte River bridge near Cosby, MO., one of the few of this type remaining in the state.
I love classic bridges, and they represent one of the joys of randonneuring - but, many of them are very old and in need of expensive repairs, which usually equates to replacement.  You'd probably seen me blab about such a bridge on the White Cloud route from time to time - a recent example, though still not certain on its fate.  Next time I ride the "Ride with the Devil" route, a detour might be in order to find this one, built in 1898!  It's just a mile north of Highway E, right on the RWTD route... so, I'll have to see if I remember that next time I'm up there.  

Makes me wonder... is there an app that could "ding" whenever I get within a mile or two of an interesting landmark?  Hmmm... as an iPhone user, currently, I have a handy reminder app that will ding at me when I arrive at, or leave from, a location... which is nice... but, I think I'd have to load all the bridges and landmarks as contacts or something to make it work... might be worth playing around, because a quick review of Bridgehunter reveals just how many of these old bridges I've passed within a dozen yards of without a clue at the time.

Like this one, which we'd pass twice... and I've passed dozens of times on various Liberty, MO. routes... byproduct of a far-too-often heads-down approach to my riding... but I was surprised to learn that this particular bridge is not listed on the Bridgehunter site.  That should be remedied soon, as I have an email off to their staff for submission. 

 (...and, that was fast, because here it is!  Not sure why it never caught anyone else's attention... but, I guess I beat everyone to it!  Bonus!)

Using websites like these presents a great way to see local history while riding RUSA events.  As long as you return to the route you've signed up for, and manage your time carefully, scenic detours aren't off-limits... just don't use them as shortcuts.  Considering how old many of these bridges are today, and how many states are funding massive infrastructure and civil engineering improvements, the clock is ticking.  Many of these old relics will fall, every year.  Looking at Jackson and Clay counties in Missouri alone, there are dozens - perhaps hundreds - of listings that are gone forever...but there are many that have simply been left to the hands of time, un-used, abandoned, and waiting to be discovered.  Along with their sister-site LandmarkHunter, BridgeHunter provides a great way to see "what's out there" along your next ride -- and I am eternally grateful to Randy R. for pointing me this direction a few years back.  It's revolutionized my riding, satiated my taste for history, and piqued my sense of adventure.  

Moments later, crossing the Platte River.

Full danger panda self-shot!  Plaid wool cap crew in the house!

I ended up feeling pretty frisky for most of the day, enjoying the steady push and renewed sense of calm knowing that - hey, maybe I won't fall on my face in the ditch if I ride without the powdered nutrition - and taking in all the sights up north.  I love it up here... have I mentioned that?  I seriously, with all the attention I've been giving to permanents that are a fair piece beyond 200km, that "The Hell of the North" 300km might be a good one to knock off pretty soon.  Granted... if I want to ride ALONE, that is... I'll have to see how my fellow comrades feel about that idea.  he,he... Altho, October, if the weather is nice, might belong to the Flint Hills.... ahhhh.... yes...  

Wait, I'm still talking about THIS ride.  ok, ok, ok ... 

A couple of times, when things felt right, I opened up the taps a bit to see if some of the same performance I enjoyed on the Kickapoo Two was still available.  Felt good to unwind a bit, and stretch the legs - but I quickly discovered that a great way to lose a 30-45 second advantage over the peloton is to drop my energy bar on the road after fumbling the one-handed wrapper-opening attempt.  Niiice, dude... oh well:  the payback, I get to chat with Glen for a while!  I like randonneuring.... if this had been a race, I'd have gotten run over, and dropped.  LOL

Ok, that's not why I don't race.  See any average speed I've ever posted for THAT.

An honest-to-goodness long-eared Missouri mule

Chow time!  Today, it's crunch donettes providing the push and drive... solid, and working well!  I just need to remember to not eat them when I'm not riding!

A busy randonneur table, with all manner of cues, snacks, powders, smart-phones, etc.

A telecom relic, leftover at the Avenue City store, long after the pay phone itself had been pulled.  This is still on someone's spreadsheet, somewhere.  Really neat... yeah, kind of a geek moment, but hey; I work in telecom.  Whaddaya want?  You won't see coverage like this ANYwhere else on the web!  HA

Sweeping shot of Route O, headed back to Cosby, MO around grand curves which take riders over the Platte River.   

Gary is at right, and I am up the road near the bridge - a small orange dot.  Compared to last month's Kickapoo ride, I came away from the halfway point feeling renewed and ready - so another opportunity to stretch the legs opens up.  I am surprised that I was able to grow enough of a gap to get completely out of sight at one point from the rest of the group.  As I always say, that's not really the point of rando -- but, on the personal training front, I'm thrilled.  I am, despite the weight struggles, beginning to see improvements in my own performance, and I'm happy!  Having the weight issue finally under control, I hope to see continued improvements - not to distance myself from other riders, but to achieve what I'm capable of.  I'll take the companionship of randonneuring over just about any other type of riding, but, I still have inklings of competition popping into my head, so the fitness will help realize those goals.  As mentioned earlier in this post - the topic of the day, so it seems - I'd been about 20 lbs heavier in 2011 when I tackled this ride, and I felt like I performed better on this year's return-leg than I had back then.  If I can get the power-to-weight ratio back up, that can only get better.  I'm inspired to continue this new diet I'm on lately - focused, and goal-driven... yeah, even though I may not have picked a goal, the best thing I can think of right now is to arrive at each month's 200k a leaner, more-capable rider... instead of using them as an excuse to eat anything I want to in between.  The bursts of breakaway energy would come and go, as I'd catch up to Terry (who'd left Avenue City early) about a mile from US-36, right about the time Glen and Gary would catch up to me.  Upon reaching NN, I'd try my hand again - but then took a long pause at the stop sign at Route VV.  I gave it one more good run, but found Glen bridging up about a mile from the turn onto Highway Y.  Good cat and mouse for all of us!

I think this was taken in Cosby, MO. on the return leg - a cool old brickwork building with classic corner entrance, currently housing the public works department.

Old barn and farmstead along Highway NN, headed back to Plattsburg, MO.

Gary and Glen start to gain on me, as I run out of steam again on Route NN

Crossing Castle Creek on another cool old bridge, Glen smiling  all the way

Gary and Glen, into a cross/headwind along the open highway

Big field, old barn, and eerie quiet - rural Clinton County, MO.

We all arrive, staggered, back at Plattsburg for the final control - same location as the morning stop, at Larry's c-store again.  This time, we're on the bench and resting for a spell.  While the clouds had been threatening for hours, the last few miles in produced fog and drizzle, rewetting the roads, which had almost dried off after the morning rain had ceased.  It was an interesting day - reminding me a lot of the 2011 ride:  no sun, except for maybe 5 minutes.  No complaints... a ride without sunscreen, and not a lot of layer juggling, either!

The big cemetery at Plattsburg, MO., highlighed by elaborate and ornate headstones - it would be a good place to visit to see what's what, and who was who.  Another interesting feature of many rando rides are the remote cemeteries that dot the rural landscape - the towns and churches which had likely accompanied them all long-gone.  There are some reminders of history that time and tradition will never erase - thankfully

The crew, on one of Highway C's sweeping bends.  We grouped up for the remaining 22 miles into Liberty for the finish - safety in numbers on the highway, as afternoon traffic picks up ... although you'd never know it in this shot.

Triangle up!  On the open rural roads, reflective vests say "construction worker" before they say "cyclist" , and most rural folks recognize the triangle for what it really was meant for:  Slow Moving Vehicle.  Though it doesn't exactly match the DOT's defined "SMV" sign, it's close enough to trip the trigger of safety for most motorists.  Notable, it doesn't weigh much of anything, it's easy to mount, and - technically - it's the law.  Also, cheap.  Get one.

Plattsburg Road, heading south toward home


Plattsburg Road reminds riders how far they've ridden, and how tired they might be, with a dose of memorable hills

St. Bernard turned sheepdog, protecting a small flock of sheep and goats on this small farm plot

Where's goatboy??

Full flag of Cross/headwind on the return leg into Liberty, along Plattsburg Road -- courtesy Steven W.
Go Chiefs!

Steven W. at the finish!  It's Perkins time!

Wrap up notes?   Nah..... no complaints here...  Inspired by Steven W.'s goal of leaving it all out there on the course, we all enjoyed a nice fast run back into Liberty ... thanks for the rabbit, Steven!  Maybe it'll be another 2 years before I ride this one again... who knows, but, it's a great route!  Having a cozy booth and a hot meal to enjoy afterwards?   MAN... how come we don't start ALL our rides at a place like this??

A terrific ride.... stay tuned for October's edition!

Good luck to my good friends and riding partners - a couple of them are up in Nebraska this weekend (9/28) taking part in a very remote and scenic 400k... I hope I can attend next year!

Stay tuned...and thanks for reading!

1 comment:

Spencer said...

Nice post! I felt like I was there....