Wednesday, August 31, 2011


My life has been very busy lately.  Crazy too.  Full time husband.  Full time father.  Full time job.  Full time biker.  24 Hour Party Person (retired and just part time).  Oh, yes, co-Commuter of the Year!

Seemed to be too much going on this month.  Recover from Ragbrai.  Bike repairs.  get kids ready for school.  Urban Assault Ride.  My grandmother spending a week or so at Mercy.  Not to mention returning to work.  I took mass quantities of time off for Ragbrai.

So yesterday I notice that my rear tire is not holding air properly.  Not a surprise.  I put a patch on it on the 8th and proceed to put on over 317 miles.  Push my luck.  The front tube has had a patch on it since before Ragbrai, still A OK.

It was a simple plan.  I pumped it up before work but after work it was low again.  Less than 2 miles to Casey's.  Free air.  then go to The Collective and purchase a NEW tube and put it on there.  Perhaps help Brad O.  Then meet Mary and ride to Cumming for Tacos. 

Ready! Set! Joe!?!?

Joe?  Joe Hildreth.  A good friend of mine and fellow bike commuter.  I have not seen him since Atlantic on Ragbrai.  We meet on the Gray's lake Bypass Trail.  "Too bad there's not a bar nearby" he said.  I was hoping he would point east but he pointed west.  Orlandos.  What the hell, I was going to Cumming anyway.

$2 Grainbelt TallBoys.  How does that new Order tune go?  "1 would not do it but 2 was far too much."  Yep, I almost left that establishment in a pile of dust.

Joe and I had allot of catching up to do.  Text Mary and revise meeting point.  Brad Buckley drops in.  Recap UAR.  Finally Mary arrives.  After she has two beers it is time to go.


I only have one key to my bike lock.  I purchased that lock after my Kryptonite lock (non-U-Lock) crapped out.  The key busted inside the lock while I was parked outside B&B SuperMarket.  Despite the best efforts of a retired locksmith i had to borroe a hack saw from John Brooks Sr  and cut the bastard off on a very cold and snowy day.  Hopefully, the key would be at home.

It was not.  I "borrowed" an abandoned Sears Free Spirit 3-speed from Orlandos' bike rack.  I spotted it from the trail earlier half expecting to see a Collective sticker on it.  Dropping in on conversations that evening I determined that this fine American machine had been there for over a week unlocked.  No one would notice if I stold it for a 10 mile round trip.  I left a deposit of greater value, my beloved Giant Via Raw complete with loaded panniers.  Mary rode with me.

Coaster brakes were quite good.  The front brake was noisy.  The seat infamously uncomfortable.  Why do cheapass bike have horrid saddles?  As for the gearing, I was able to shift it once and then back again.  The ride was that of a 70s vintage American sedan.  Shit,  steel wheels suck.  Much drift and noise.  But it rolled and that suited my purpose.

No joy at home.  Could not find the missing key.  PLAN B: Operation Hacksaw.  Small and light weight.  Black, the stealthy color.  The front of the blade broken off at the handle so it did not protrude unnecessarily.  I purchased this saw the day after Mary drove the car home with an orange traffic cone stuck in the tie rod.  It will do.  It will have to do.

The ride back was uneventful.  I was sobering up.  No tacos tonight.  Maybe Zombie Burgers or Mullets.  It was getting late and I have not been getting to bed on time for quite some time. Lord, I really need to orientate myself to the bedroom by 8 pm.  that 415 am alarm is a killer.

Two things I noticed about cutting the lock.  First, my left arm was killing my despite my right arm working the saw.  Second, nobody stopped to ask what I was doing or who's bike I was freeing.  Sometime I think you could rape a cop in public and nobody would disturb you. 

Oh well, a dead lock.  The key was bending anyway just like on the Krypto.  Just a matter of time before it busted inside the lock at a location without a Free Spirit to steal.  Just air up the tire at Casey's.  CRAP not only did I fail to purchase a new tube I DID NOT GET THE ONE FROM JOE THAT HE SAID I COULD HAVE!!!  Thank God (or the Great Secular Humanist if you play on the other team) that Casey's has free air.  I hate minipumps and my CO2 is on my road bike.  Cheap beer, pizza, ice and air.  I am glad those Canadian fucks did not buy out this Iowa Institution.

We ate at Mullets, splitting a huge plate of nachos.  Jess asked if I wanted a Molson.  No, not today.  Had my share of New Belgium on Sunday and GrainBelt tonight.  A Diet Coke with refills please and STAT.

I stopped at The Collective today after work, the day after.  Fix that puppy good.  Kept the old tube as an emergency spare.  Perhaps I will repatch it and get another 300+ miles out of it.  Hopefully when the next flat happens I will not be distracted, derailed and disturbed.


Irrational Numbers

Bicycling can become a numbers game.  How many miles till town?  How many have we ridden?  How many miles have you got for the year?  It's the Mayor's Ride, have you gotten 2K in yet?  This year yes.  Often to keep my mind off the pain and misery I do math in my head why riding, which is a bitch because I am a visual person.  Simple problems like 33.5 plus 15.9 plus 128.  All miles.  So I believe my last update I was lamenting an irrational number, 16.363636363636363636363636.....

That was the amount of miles that I needed to ride everyday until the end of the month to obtain a new August mileage record.  Reasonable for some people but it was still something like 180 miles to get in less than two weeks.  Plenty of time if one did not have a job, children to feed, ailing grandmother in the hospital with her bipolar and diabetic daughter at her bedside.  180 was an irrational number not in the scientific sense of the term but in my world.

Somehow.  I did it.  The next day I swung the axe and knocked 50 miles off that bastard.  (A carbon fiber axe with Shimanos entry level race group.  My Campy bike is not ready.)  That was three days worth of 16.36363636363636363636.....  When I did the math afterwards it gave me a rational number, just one digit past the dot.

That week I swung the axe more, mostly grocery getting on my singlespeed.  Riding to work then Windsor Heights Hy Vee is a 23 mile round trip.  I think I did two of those.  Daily trips to the hospital to visit Granny added about 5 per trip.  I remember grabbing the pump and a tube to intercept Mary and fix her flat outside Woody's Smoke Shack AFTER a Hy Vee run, 34 miles.

So it added up quickly.  I reached my goal early, perhaps 5 days remaining.  Bonus miles.  Bonus numbers.  I managed to get over 600 miles for the month of August.  Quite I feat I must admit, not meaning to brag.  After all it is the hottest month.  It is the month that begins when Ragbrai ends and I am sick of biking.  Busted body, broken bikes.  But yet I accomplished a new record, something to strive for next year and the year after that....

Since tracking my mileage, I have reached 500 miles only 3 times for August.  My log goes back to 1994.  This is the 7th year that I had 200 or more for this month.  There are years that I had 0 miles for August.  Now over 600.  Next year is gonna be fun!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A stroll down memory lane

..some of it's blurred...

Hankering to ride to Winterset.  Have not done this for possibly a decade.  Easy enough to get there.  Ride to Cumming and hang a right on The Cumming Highway, G-14/G-4R.  Hang a left on US 161.  Once in city limits there are convenience stores and a big chain burger house.  Refuel and turn around.

I used to ride out this way quite a bit.  Concrete and some blacktop.  The occasional 40 mph downhill and inevitable climb.  Great road to train on.  Usually in June I'd hit it.  After all only so much training gets done on trails. 

So I would drag my friends out.  First it was Mystery Machine.  I remember Amy Orlowski Greiger commenting that the small dogs chasing us were "dingos".  We'd just go out 10 miles and regroup at a bridge.  Just a rural bridge, have to go underneath to pee and get safe.  Then the miserable climb out. 

Then my high mileage years died out.  People started having kids, others moved away.  Others plain burnt out.  A few years ago I started riding with a different group of friends.  These people ride a bit more seriously, which in my case is a good thing.  I like the challenge.  Got the drinking and biking thing down.  Need to work on both speed and distance.  So we'd hit this road, usually on our way to Osceola. 

Pretty soon we noticed that the road really had turned to shit.  Never mind the stretch out of Cumming over I-35, very bad, it improves after the ramps have been passed.  The rest of road is bumpy.  Joe Hildreth had an axle break on him.  A biker got hit out here or near there.  Play it safe.  We called it quits.

So now it is August and all the trails and destinations are getting old.  Need new pavement.  Joe said that the road had been resurfaced.  Perhaps we need to check it out.  So I did.  Really need to get an early start, I did not.  I left about 10 am.

The ride to Cumming was non eventful, good.  As usual I feel like shit at first.  Considered turning around.  But I gamble that I will feel better once I hit Cumming.  Jane Arpy and Sherri Halter are at the Lean To.  I press on.  At Cumming I  pull up to the Tap for a Mountain Dew.  It is closed, too early.  Onward to the westy.

On the way to I-35 interchange I spy a dead skunk.  Yeah!  The road after the interchange sucks.  No new pave.  Did Joe lie?  But this is ok.  Bumpy roads amplify the road noise cars make.  This helps.  Always good to be aware of those approaching your 6 at 3 times your speed.

The hills seem much flatter than I remembered.  Maybe I am that much better of a cyclist!  I doubt it.  I did not get near 40 mph on the downhill but the bridge was there.  5 miles out of Cumming.  Maybe I had it all wrong, 10 miles there and back?  I press on.

This is the sign at the intersection where Francesca's house is.  Locals have added Braille for the visually impaired

After leaving the bridge one must climb a hill.  I remember this one.  I recall talking to Kevin C on this climb.  At the top and too the right is the gravel road that leads to Francesca's house, The Bridges of Madison County.  Never been there, it is on a gravel road and I am usually on a stick bike with skinny tires whenever I venture this way.  The sign for the house is missing.  Linda W says the house is still there, the back half tarped off after a fire.  Might be an interesting drinking spot...

I continue, part curiosity and part desire to rack up some miles.  Lots of big ring time, no reason to turn back now.  I pass Howell Tree Farm, a great place to take the kids and kill a tree for Jesus.  Later pass the dingo house, no canines give chase.  

Suddenly the road smoothes out and a gorgeous down hill reveals itself.  Yep, 10 miles out to the bridge which is not yet in view.  Time to get serious for speed.  I max out at 38.7 mph, disappointing. I blame a headwind as I stop at the bridge and think.

10 miles from Cumming.  Another 13 to home.  Mary is at Mercy with my ill grandmother.  My sister is running my mother to Ottumwa to pick up clothing and her diabetes medicine.  I have 3 Power Bars and a little bit of cash.  My main bottle is dead.  If I started a few hours earlier I would have pressed on.  Time is running out.  Perhaps another 5 miles to Winterset which would add nearly an hour on the return trip.  Bicycle east and north.

I stopped to take the photo.  No real chance to get a run for the hill.  This type of hill needs a 30 mph+ jump.  Not possible.  False flat leaving the bridge.  Climbing from a dead stop never killed anyone I knew.  On the climb I see two bikers sans helmets.  One sorta looks like Miguel Indran.

Honestly, it is steeper than it looks.  I almost hit 40 mph today going down it!

On top of the hill I spot the Principal building, 801 Grand Ave.  I estimate that it is 21 miles from my location.

I stop at the Tap.  Refill my bottle and grab the news paper.  trying to get Linda's attention and digging for cash I realize that I left it at home.  No sugar and caffeine or beer for me.  Guzzle the bottle, eat a Power Bar and refill.  Outside I sit on the bench and talk to Sherri Halter and Jane Arpy.  They planned to goto Martinsdale but bonked.  Sherri says that they found a bunch of journals that Dave wrote.  She related an entry about his ride from Colorado to Iowa.  86 miles without eating, nowhere to get food.  Another entry he comments that he is tired and does not know why.  I suggest she publish them.  WTF it could pan out.

The Tap to home is fast.  I feel good.  This time I try to keep the average speed up.  Just a game to keep me occupied.  I do notice that the shoulders of the trail need to be mowed in Warren County.  Have not seen weeds this tall since before the trail was paved.  Polk County's section is well trimmed. 

Ride time less than 3 and a half hours.  I hope to do it and further this Saturday.

August Blues

I have been logging my rides in a "bike log" since 1994.  Every mile, destination, bike, main people I rode with, average speed, max speed, weather ect.  It started with a simple logbook provided by Bicycling Magazine.  They gave out with their magazine for 2 years.  And when they stopped I photocopied the relevent blank pages and purchased binders.  Eventually I started an Excel spread sheet and input my bike life electronically.

There are a few "missing years" after the turn of the century that I failed to adequately record my bicycle activities.  Got addicted to an online airplane game.  I blame myself for getting sucked into the internet and work and perhaps burnout.  BUT I still road although recording my milage was happenstance from 2002 to 2007.  I'd jot down mileage stats on the box that held my log or bike parts.

Last winter I pulled the old logs out and electrified them on Excel.  A folder for every year with each month on its own spread sheet.  A seperate spread sheet for weekly totals.  A lastly a sheet for annual.  On that page I can view what I did for every month since 1994 assuming that I recorded for said month.  August is always low.

Why?  Burnout and beat up body from Ragbrai and training for Brai is one reason.  Too damn hot is another.  July is the high point of the year.  Used to get 600+ miles in July and then drop to less than 300 or even as low as 50 miles for August.  Some years, 2001, a good year in terms of mileage, I had 0 miles.  Goose egged

This trend changed after 2007.  Pivotal year for me.  Quit a career that was killing me and took the summer off from working.  Focused on job search and lossing weight.  Daily rides.  August mileage hit a then record of 500 miles!  2008 added 30 more miles and is the record for August.  I missed breaking that record in 2010 by a mere 6 miles.  My pc was down and I was unaware of the "record".  6 goddamn miles.  One loop around Gray's Lake from my house would have done it, almost. 6 fucking miles.  Stll getting over 500 miles in this miserable monthy is pretty damn good.

2011.  At this moment I sit at 351 miles for August.  Been averaging over 100 miles a week since July of of last year.  That would be longer but broken clavicles tend to kill miles.  The only other interuption was caused by my mother and grandmother coming to town for Christmas, 87 miles that week.  I need 180 more miles.  Got 11 days to do it.  16.36 miles per day.  Urban assault will rob me of big miles next Sunday.

Weather, attitude and desire.  Align all three and I can stop crying over the 6 miles I spaced.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Close Encounters

The Archangel Raphael is the patron saint of both healing and travel.  His intercession is one that I ask for from time to time.  I think he has been there for me a few times.

Lately I have been thinking about near death/hurt collisions during Ragbrai.  I've experienced a few.  Rather not experience anymore but on the road incidents happen.  I have seen almost everything during 'Brai, from ghettoblasters falling off the back of tandem sending duracels my way 5 feet off the ground to people drafting and taking 5 riders down to 3 separate water bottles falling off bikes in front of me within a 2 minute period.  I get pissy when that happens.  No vehicle collisions. 

My first near collision was my own fault.  Day 3 of my first 'Bria.  Headphones on and head down staring at the wheel.  Somewhere near Amana, 1991, road sparsely populated.  Looked up.  Plenty of room.  Stare at wheel and computer.  Look up.  Still safe.  Stare at front wheel again.  Near the end of the day when things get quiet.  Tired from drinking til 3am and getting up at 5am.  Youth.

Look up again.  This time I am inches from the bike in front of me.  ALARM!!!!!!  My brain took a dump.  First, it signaled the adrenal gland to release everything.  This was to shock me into never ever do this again.  Next it sent the signal to my body to shift weight and have the right arm push the handlebars forward and the left to pull the bars back in a very hard left swerve.

The biker in front of me smiled.  A woman with a very beautiful smile.  I do not remember seeing anyone else.  My only thought was that she was totally oblivious to my stupidity.  I wonder if I had a frightened look on my face and if she saw it.  No real time for facial expressions.  All my efforts were into preventing impact and keeping myself from shitting my pants.

Lesson learned.

A few years later we were outside of Fort Dodge.  The Register told us that we would be going through a park that had a 40 mph downhill.  I was looking forward to this as I was on my fastest bike and liked to obtain new high speeds.  This may have been Brushy Creek State Park. 

When the hill arrived I was ready.  Only two bikes in front of me, both in the right lane.  Left lane empty.  Nobody overtaking me from behind I made my move.  Work through the gears with my Ergo shifters.  At 45 mph I spun out, flattened my back and stretched my back.  Looked ahead, both bikes were exactly in the same spot.  Kiss the stem and tuck in.  Scott Drop In bars give additional aerodynamic position and I was using it. 

I took my eye off the bikes in front feeling safe in the left lane.  Then I looked up once again.  The fuckers moved into my lane!  Well one bike did and I was right up his ass.

I was puzzled by my first reaction.  My mouth was salivating from the impending concrete that I was surely to be eating in a second.  But I did a favorite manuever.  Full front brake, shift weight and lean, release brake.  It worked and the computer said that I was going 41 mph. 

My next thought was that everyone behind me must think that I am the most dangerous rider on the road.  Probably was but I was still over 40 and getting the fook outta Dodge.

Raphael, thank you but give me bit of a warning.  My heart needs to stay inside my rib cage, not out.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Strike 2!!!!!

Aug 9, 2011

Ever have one of those weeks when shit goes wrong immediately?  This is that week for me.

Strike 1 Mechanical failure

Montag 520 am.  .3 miles from house on my way to work.  Giant Via Raw single speed.  Deceptively nice morning, finally cooling off at night.  It rained sometime during my sleep, streets sorta wet.  But the rear wheel starts to feel bad.  Cracks in the road more noticeably pronounced.  Tire noise on road getting louder.  NO !  Quick grab on the brakes to stop for inspection.  Lean and bend over and grab the rear tire.  Yep, losing air.  Turn this beast around for a fresh horse.

Fortunately, I always leave early to give myself time to cool down and change clothes, screw around on the internet and to buy myself time for mechanical failure.  Two previous times it happens when I am over half way to work.  Water Works Park.  I have no choice but to ride it as far as I can.  Damn the tire.  After work flats, two in Water Works, will see me repair on the spot.  Not today.

Fresh horse requires lights, transference of payload and air it its tires.  I grab the only available bike with bags, a 89ish Cannondale SM800 Beast of the East.  I purchased this from a friend several years ago and after two hard winters of my Mary commuting on it I recently stripped its frame and replaced or cleaned everything.  I left the studded snow tires on it.  Studs are well worn anyway and there are other priorities in the stable.  But low air pressure.  Bummer.  This cost me another 2 minutes.

The restarted commute is uneventful.  More joggers now and more daylight.  I am about 15 minutes behind my schedule but still "early" to work.

Strike 2!!!  Human error

I patched the tube last night.  Simple puncture,  Tire free of debris.  Could have occurred Friday on my wet journey home from the store or Monday morning.  Saturday and Sunday the Via sat still in the laundry room.

Pleased that the tire held air overnight I confidently rolled toward work.  The front tube was patched in June or early July and it has held air with issue.  The back should too.  Park Tool patches.  1) find hole 2) clean area around hole 3) apply patch  No glue, no mess.

So with a peaceful mind I set sail thinking about everything and nothing at all.  Somehow the thought "I wished I had more cash today" floated through my mind.  And I thought that if I had more cash it would be in my wallet that is in my fanny pack in my pannier along with my Principal Financial Group security card.  The PFG is the only essential thing I need to bring to work, that and clothing.  And that mere chain of thought set off the alarm.  DID I GRAB THE FANNY PACK????!!!!!????

ALL HALT!!!!!!!  Quick search gave no joy.  Time to turn back.  As consolation, I am a mere 1.5 miles from home.  Further than yesterday but not too far.

This mistake added 3 miles to the day.  I get to work with 20 minutes to mess around and change.  Not bad.

So I have had mechanical and self failure.  Will tomorrow bring another person's failure to make Strike 3??

Monday, August 8, 2011

Off Me Arse

Aug 7, 2011

Hit the store Friday eve just before the rain.  loaded up 30 lb of groceries and hit the pavement in time for the much needed rain.  Just a singlespeed that needs some wrench time before the snow flies.  Long week at work.  First week at work since Ragbrai.  Just wanted get dry, eat dinner and veg.  Ended up staying up til 2am downloading music and watching Gettysburg.  So Saturday I was shot.

It has been at and above 90F with very high humidity since mid-June.  Having completed the annual tour of the State, Ragbrai, on a bagged out tandem I was in need of a day off.  So I sat around all day in boxer shorts and an occasional t-shirt and downloaded more music, finished Gettysburg, No Country for Old Men and Little Fockers.  I ventured outside just once.  it was late and the rain was starting up again.  Had to tarp the outside bikes.

Sunday had to be the day.  I have had over 100 miles every week this year. In fact the week of Christmas ended may former streak with a mere 85 miles.  This had been going on since 'Brai 2010.  Sunday I was at 82 miles.

Mary and I opted for the "Southern Route" to Carlisle, Iowa, and fast bikes.  She rode her trustworthy trek 1600 and I my LeMond Versailles.  12 miles from our house to Casey's General Store and the Summerset trailhead.  Mostly county roads and with baseball season over (kids league) the first stretch should be traffic acceptable.  It was.

I felt like shit.  August can do this to me.  It has been a high mileage year.  I am knocking on 5000 miles.  But I yearn for cooler weather.  Today was 88F and humid.  however, sweat was not as bad as 'brai.  My first 5 miles were miserable.  Nothing quite as bad as not being up to par doing something you love.  My lungs hurt from the increase demand for oxygen.  After 5 miles when we hit Easter Lake I was feeling better.  Perhaps going over 20 mph on the flat helped.  I love speed without effort.

Just past the lake we turn north in a rural residential neighborhood.  A moderately twistt blacktop with a few bumpy hills to get the blood going.  The road straightens out for a nice short downhill that goes by "Lollipop Lake" and the Great Ape Trust (Hubbell park).  We all know that the study of monkeys is best in the land of corn and harsh winters.  Right turn on SE 45th. 

A climb past what appears to be a salvage yard hidden by overgrowth of trees and weeds.  A rustic white man in a baseball hat shouts something at Mary but she presses on.  When  I get to him I can only understand "Hy Vee" (local grocery chain).  A brief exchange of his incoherence and my dead brain reveals that he is askign us if we are doing the Hy Vee Triathelon on Labor Day weekend.  Nope.

A much deserved downhill to the Highway 5 intersection is next.  Somehow my right foot unclips which normally is not an issue.  But today it is.  My beloved rightside Nike became an Air Jordan, the sole separating from the front of the shoe.  Very difficult to flip the pedal to spd side up.  I wait until the stop.

Left turn on 5.  Run the guantlet!  Vehicles are either going our direction to get on the bypass or coming at us from the bypass.  4 lane but they need to turn on our right.  Some go straight.  Big ring action, time to revisit the 20s as we pass the ramps and head into the village of Avon Lake.  Said village is a collection of modest homes around or near a large pond.  There is a General Mills facility on the west end which probably explains the shitty road surface.  I hit the bad pave at 25mph and promptly raise my ass off the seat and start dodging holes.  Traffic now has ceased.  Safe once again.

The rest of the trip is uneventful.  The road smoothes out.  We do not see the Golden Retriever that chased my son last year.  The final stop sign is like a mile from Carlisle.  we take a nice road into town past the park and the house with the rhino and past the HS football stadium straight to Casey's.  We opt for sodas and take them to the trailhead shelter.

Small world indeed, Lori Edwards is there.  We last saw her on 'Brai in the park shelter in Atlantic, Iowa.  All three of us ditched the bagger bikes of that week for fast road bikes for today.  She and her frends are heading to the Summerset Winery.  We are turning around.

An old timer and possibly WWII vet greets us and prceeds to share his life with us.  60 years ago he would ride a Columbia singlespeed from des Moines to Osceola, Iowa, at night without lights or reflectors on Highway 65/69.  40 miles?  He also claimed to have been a Hells Angel or had ridden with them through a cornfield to escape the cops one time.  I failed to ask how many krauts or japs he killed.

Time to go.  We recieved a text from Tammy Bridgeman.  Her and Joe are biking downtown, would we join?  Spott us 12 miles and we will be there.

The ride back is uneventful.  Enjoyable.  Apparently we had a tailwind on the way down.

We meet Tammy and Joe at the Highlife Lounge.  I suggest that we [purchase beer and sit underneath the new MLK bridge since the East River Trial goes underneath it.  Joe and I purchase an 18 pack, the ladies grab the bridge.

We have not seen Joe since 'Brai.  We lterally dropped him off at home on our return from that adventure.  Been even longer since we saw Tammy.  In the course of our get together the 4 of us kill the 18 Silver Bullets, most "super cold".  Soon it is 6 pm and time to make dinner and feed the children.  Got my 18 miles in, 27 actually,  the 100+ Miles A Week streak continues.