Monday, April 30, 2012

Anticipating Ragbrai

The RT3000 in Odebolt, Iowa, on our way to meet Ragbrai 2006.  We may stop at this shelter again.

Should be riding but I am feeling ill.  Waiting for Mary for come home and help locate the Sudafed.  Such a shame on this nice day.  So it is. 

Finally pulled the maps out.  Think we were at Mullets or The Lift when the overnights were picked.  Looking like old familiar territory but only the type you see once a year or two or so.  But these are good roads.  And I look forward to this adventure.

Friday-- Jefferson 80 miles
Saturday-- Ida Grove 73
Sunday-- Cherokee 40
Monday-- Breda 56
Tuesday-- Madrid 101
Wednesday-- Marshalltown 52
Thursday-- Des Moines

460 miles estimated

Friday will be a long but easy day.  Mostly trail.  Plenty of places for food.  Camp at the swimming pool.  Shower!

Stuff like this appears, then you know you are in Ida Grove

Saturday will be interesting.  Normally we would stop and camp at Black Hawk Lake State Park but we are going to push it on to Ida Grove, camp at Moorehead Park.

Ida Grove has a castle fetish.  This looks more like a keep than a castle.

Sunday will be a short day and the day we intercept Ragbrai.  Plan to get there early and do laundry and possibly visit the bike shops.  After 3 days on the road we may need provisions for the bikes--tires, tubes, CO2 ect.  I always like to see who actually rides on Day 1.

Monday we may or may not be on route.  Destination Breda.  This is where the hippie baggers will most likely be IF they venture west.  Monday Funday.  We have never overnighted here but have ridden through it on several occasions.

The stick and bags mark the spot that nearly killed me and Quin on the trail north of Breda in 2006.  I heard they paved this trail since then.  Praise God if they did.

Tuesday will be our loongest day and our longest ride since Tour de Kota.  100+ miles.  Madrid will be our overnight.  We did this last year from Carrol.  Long day in the saddle but we will see the High Trestle at night during 'Brai, again.  Well worth it.  Lunch in Jefferson and probably hit a bank or two.  Obviously, a grid or two below the "official" route but we prefer it that way.

Wednesday we roll to Marshalltown to spend our last night away from home with Ragbrai.  The Heart of Iowa Trail will be our main road.  We attempted this trail years ago one cold Spring day but the trail was wet and generally sucked so we turned around.  I hope we can ride the entire trail instead of county roads.

Thursday.  All good things must come to an end.  So it is with bicycling adventures.  I imagine the tops of my hands and my arms will be broken out with heat/sun rash despite how much sunblock I apply.  My eyeballs will be screaming for the removal of contact lenses.  But there will be nearly 60 miles to pedal before we reach the comfort of Festung Ebar.  Highlights include visiting the Chichaqua Trail and seeing the progress of the repair from the flood.  I think a pizza in Baxter is also in order before we start said trail.  This will be our first time riding from Marshalltown to Des Moines.

This could be our last bagger 'Brai for some time.  Tour de Kota may spoil us.  So I think it quite right that we will roll on some familiar roads and trails and some new ones too.  Ambitious some of these days are which is fitting as well.  Mary and I should be top form.  Why waste it??

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Me Campy Road Bike Rolling Again

Triumph of the Swill

Brief History of Trek carbon screw and glue frames...

Trek introduces the adhesive-bonded, internally lugged Aluminum Model 2000, designed by Tim Issac. It was available through 1988 as a bike or frameset and in 1989 as a frameset only.  From this Trek produced the 1000 series of road bikes most notably the 1000, 1100, 1200 and 1400 among others.  A "20" in the number usually denoted a triple crank.  In 1986 Trek introduces the carbon fiber composite model 2500. It first appears in the 1987 catalog. The frames consisted of carbon tubes bonded to aluminum lugs in the same manner as the all aluminum 2000. This frame configuration later included Models 2300, 2200 and 2100.  The 2500 had 7 carbon tubes--3 in the main triangle (top tube, downtube and seat tube) + 2 chainstay and + 2 seatstay.  The 2300, 2200 and the 2100 have 3 cabon tubes.  OCLV came out in 1989 with the Model 5000, molded graphite composite frames.  1997 was the last year of the bonded aluminum frame 1000 series road bikes.  1998 was the last year of the carbon tubed 2300/2200, 2100 series.  They returned as aluminum framed bikes in later years.

In 1994 I was in the market (fancy phrase for lusting after a new road bike) for a new road bike.  I really loved the red Specialized carbons, Epics or Allaz I think.  But Trek's 2200 was equipted with Campagnola's new Veloce groupo and that is what hooked me.  Only two things I dislike about 1994 Veloce.  1, the front shifter is still as stiff as it was when I purchased it, way to stiff. 2, lack of a release on the brakes which makes changing wheels a bit more difficult.  But it's Campy.  It's Italian not Japanese.  "Brev Italia" stamped on it.  Veloce was aimed at the Shimano 105 market.  I have not had to replace any components from this groupo.  Too bad Trek only had the balls to offer a campy bike once.

Today's story begins...

Been a few years since I pushed the Ergo levers.  My Campagnola bike, a 1994 Trek 2200, 3 piece screw and glue carbon frame.  The only thing Shimano on it are the pedals and the cosmic ray deflector.  I almost forgot how to shift.  The bike had been in storage since the spring of 2009.  Chain issue.  One of the kids took the rear wheel off and the chain got tangled and not possessing the patience to de-tangle the now Rubric's Cube Campagnola chain I took the chain tool to it and proceeded to push the damn pin all the way out.  I had a spare road bike, a newer one for that matter.  So the former pride of the fleet went into the hangar to collect dust.

Instead of replacing the chain immediately I fixed up another old Trek.  This one was another decade older and perhaps one of the last "classic" Treks, Reynolds tubing, lugged and brazed with old school decals. 

Commuting picked up with Mary now a full time commuter so Mark Greiger's old Cannondale was refurbished.  Mark gave this bike to us, his old touring beast, on the promise that we would not tour it into a single speed fixie or some other bastard.  And a few winters added to the normal maintenance work for me.  Just keeping my commuter running is work enough.  So she sat, air slowly leaving those wonderful Continental Gatorskins.

Last year I purchased a chain with those convenient "quick link" connections.  Aired up the tires and brought her out into the daylight.  Put it on only to  discover  that my chain tool was busted.  The new chain was too long.  Back into storage.

But today I felt productive and ambitious.  I revived one bike this week, why not another!  Pumped up the tires again and rode to the Collective.  Had to soft pedal in big ring.  Slow.  The chain was too long but the bike worked.

The 2200 felt strange.  Back in the 90s bicycle manufacturers were more concerned about performance rather than comfort.  Hence, things we take for granted now did not exist back then.  The main difference between this bike and newer mid level racing bikes of today is the positioning.  The 1994 geometry is not upright.  I had to stretch forward to place my hands in the brake hoods.  The front end of the bike is much lower than my 07 LeMond Versailles or Mary's 08 1600.  Built for speed and aerodynamics not fat Americans as most road bikes seem to be.

Rolling down my street I felt the urge to downshift.  After all, I left it in big ring to take up slack in the chain.  It is a simple movement of flicking the right wrist or using two fingers.  But the shifter would not move.  Then I realized that this was a Campy Ergo shifter not Shimano STI .  The brake lever does not move.  The lever behind the brake lever moves to downshift the cassette.  There is a button on top that up shifts.  Just the opposite on the left or front derailleur.  On a Shimano STI bike, which I ride two, the entire brake lever moves.  No button on top except for those of the Sora groupo which I do not own.  Shimano copied that from Campy for Sora although the button is too small.  Took Shimano almost two decade to get the cables hidden like Ergo but only on the top 3 tier Japanese groups.

Sans wheels waiting to be loaded for her latest Ragbrai.  Two bottles, I think I only use one these days

Well, it shifts.  Just focus on riding.  Oh yes, rear wheel could use a true and new cones.  On the stand the wheel spun forever, typical of Italian bearing surfaces.  But the movement indicates that it is time for an overhaul.  Maybe next week.

Back to the ride.  Despite the lower and more forward positioning the bike feels a bit smaller than the Versailles.  I swapped the original bars for a set of Scott Drop-ins.  The drops turn inward for an extra position.  I can get down real low, stretch out my back and kiss the stem.  Great for downhill high speed work and head winds.  Unfortunately, they have been banned from racing but since I do not road race, no BFD.  At stops I noticed my knee hitting them.  weird, I do not recall this before.  It has been a long long time.  The bike feels smaller despite the longer reach.  Weird.  I think it is a 47 cm frame.  The LeMond is a 49.  Yes, I am short.

The other noticeable difference is the freehub.  The hub ratchets very, very loud compared to the average Shimano hub.  Extra pawls.  I can never sneak up on anyone while coasting.  Like a giant SST, ZZZZZZZZZZ.

Not the lightest bike in the world.  Could use a diet.  Stem, seat post, bars, wheels a start.  I think it weighs 19 lbs.  But if I really wanted a lighter bike I'd just lose weight on me not the bike. 

Way out dated by today's standards but a proud and noble steed.  She holds my single bike speed record.  OCLV was already established before the 2200 was built.  But the "classic" 2300, 2200 and 2100 series would soldier on for a few more years until Trek changed them into aluminum frames and saved the carbon for OCLV and Madones.  Now 16 lb road bikes are close to the norm instead of the 20 lbers of yesteryear.

The 2200 like its siblings was a fairly stiff frame in its day.  Compared to newer racing bikes it is not.  I can feel the difference between it and the Versailles.  But before the introduction of the 5000 series it was used for triathlons and racing.  It handles well and the unique frame construction absorbs the roughness of the road.  Its legacy is still around today as the carbon/aluminum partnership is used in the rear triangles of some bikes.

Santana makes a tandem that uses the same technology except for titanium replaces the aluminum lugs.  At $12K USD you can own own.  The one Mary and I saw on Ragbrai was a rental!

Theoretically this bike is faster than the bike I replaced it with.  A 53x11 beats a 50x11 any day, at least downhill.  The Lemond's racing triple will be nicer in the long run as I age, kinder on the knees and the granny, a 30T, is useful on the real steep stuff that the 39T of the 2200 would make unpleasant.  I think the cruising speed of the 50 is also good.  But I have many, many miles and challenges of high rpm sprints in the 39.  I cannot wait to have some more.  And a long steep downhill.  53 beats a 50 downhill, Always.

The drop-ins are visible here, below my thumb and the computer

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lacona Uber Alles!!

It was a female rain.  More of a constant light sprinkle.  The type that evaporates very quickly but does not soak through.  I last looked at the forecast 24 hours ago.  The rain was to remain up north of the metro.  We were heading south and by the time we would return the rain would be in the next state.

The purpose of the ride was to get a long ride in.  We have not had very many this year.  I wanted to avoid trails as much as possible and get on county roads so we could fly without having to cross an intersection every mile or so and to avoid the usual trail crowd.

The wind was from the south.  Head into it and turn around and put it into big ring and enjoy a tailwind all the way back.  New Virginia was on my mind.  Essentially, due south from Festung Ebar.  Just cut over to the Great Western Trail, a jog east after Martinsdale and right turn on the first paved road.  Easily a 70+ mile run with the possibility of setting a new speed record (50.3 mph) on The Hill.  Tailwind for the record attempt.

The other option was to ride to Lacona.  80+ miles of mostly county road S23 with the Summerset Trail on both legs of the trip.  Convenience stores or bars every 10 miles or so. 

Given the Mayor's Ride and the usual trail crowd and the endless intersection crossings on the GWT, we opted for the latter.  We have not been on the Summerset since November.  Besides, we could have breakfast in less than an hour in Carlisle.  Leave early and get back in time for some Funhating at The Saddle.  Good plan, miles and smiles and see all our drunken friends.

As plans go this one fell apart in the morning.  Too damn cold in the house!  The heat has off for quite some time.  Unfortunately, it was 52F in our house Saturday morning and that made getting out of bed difficult.  So much for leaving by 7am.  At 8am I got up and took my shower.  Mary then got up.  Sleep all day or get something done.  Quin went off to work at Mullets and katie said she would be in bed all day.  With Katie staying home we had someone to watch Dora!

What to ride and what to wear.  Fast bikes were at the top of the list.  Too much time on mules.  Time to fly!  We selected the RT3000 for its speed and since it was cold Mary could warm herself against the heat I ould be irradiating once I got a few miles in.  We rarely get to ride this tandem, it seems, and it has been out only once this year.  The ride before that was in November on the same route.

Because this is our fast tandem we were limited to what we would carry.  Water bottles and tire repair kit.  Any clothing that needed to be shed would need to be carried on person.  I thank the genius that invented the 3 back pockets on jerseys.  I wore my olive Underarmor shirt with my red long sleeve jersey over it.  I also put on my red rain jacket to provide an extra layer of warmth and for its ability to be stuffed into a jersey pocket.  Pearl Izumi bike shorts with tights.  Wool socks.  Mary had on 2 jerseys and two jackets and tights.  Not enough Northern European blood in her it seems.

I think we were rolling by 9am.  Barely made it around the block when I decided to turn around to grab the 4 remaining Powerbars left over from Ragbrai.  Not that we'd need 2 each but I left them out on the bed and if we did not take them the children would eat them.  This added a half mile to the journey.

Our route out of Des Moines and to the Summerset Trail takes us to Hartford Ave.  We take Hartford to SE23rd and then a left on Evergreen.  Roll past Easter Lake and take a left and follow the road to SE45th.  Climb and descend a hill and take a left on Highway 5 and cruise into Avon Lake.  Follow this to the old ballpark and turn left on SE Avon Rd.  This goes all the way through Carlisle to the Casey's General Store by the Summerset trailhead.

Get on the trail and take it all the way into Indianola and hop on the McVay Trail.  Take this to Highway 92.  Turn left and travel about 2.5 miles to S23, the first paved road on the right.  S23 the rest of the way through Milo and into Lacona.  Simple and sweet.

Done this several times.  Once on the way to Lake Wapello, a two day journey and two times to Ottumwa.  Many times to Indianola.

With Powerbars stowed we were off.  Hartford is where we cross SE14th.  Hartford can be busy at times since the City built soccer and baseball fields at the end of the road.  Don't be alarmed, cars will give room.  Nobody wants to miss Johnny's baseball game or Sally's soccer match because they were involved in an accident.  This stretch is just over a mile long.

Once on Evergreen we opened it up, put the bike in big ring and pushed it.  The sky was overcast which normally does not bother me.  I did not put my contacts in and thus lacked sunglasses.  Sunscreen?  Hell no!  Clouds are OK.  But it started to sprinkle.  Soft.  But it was there.  Thin clouds.  "This will blow over soon," I said.  Soon was 20 odd miles later.  But the sprinkles did not get us terribly wet, we stayed dry under our rain jackets.  This was more of an anoyance.

Easter Lake was on our right.  At the stop sign we take a left.  This winds through a residential area and then a nice descent to the river valley.  The Great Ape Trust is to our left.  This is also known as Hubbel Park.  HP is a good place to take MTBs or it was prior to the Ape farm.  I have taken my son's out here when they were young.  Brad Dagget and I biked out here once over 12 years ago.  But focus on the road.  The descent is fast but is marred by rail road tracks at the bottom.  Watch it.

SE45th used to have a bridge that crossed the Des Moines River.  But that is long gone and in the opposite direction we need to turn.  Heading south we climbed a long hill.  No traffic.  There is a junk yard hidden on the right half way up this climb.  Once a scary looking white man called out to us "You doing the Hy Vee?"  This translates into "are you going to compete in the Hy Vee Triathelon?"  We replied no and continued our way.  I don't like to be around people who wet their pants while racing.

Highway 5 was not busy.  Just a straight shot past the enterance and exit ramps and nobody will care about you biking on this road.  Becareful.  After the last of the ramps the blacktop quality diminishes greatly.  Keep one eye out for cars and the other for the cracks in the road.  After the General Mills plant the road has been resurfaced and only one set of tracks to tenderly cross.  I like to stand up when crossing tracks.  This allows your arms and legs to act as shock absorbers and thus save wheels and ass.
Mary did not like me taking her photo here in Carlisle

It was still sprinkling when we rolled into Carlisle but that did not prevent an old man from mowing the lawn of the park.  He waved.  It was time to eat.  Their are a few restaurants and taverns in this town but none were open at 10 am on Saturday.  We even stopped and asked locals and cruised up and down the business district.  No joy.  Casey's was our only option.  mary had a pork sandwich and I a chicken fritter.  We shared a bag of chips for the sodium and each guzzled a 32 oz fountain Mountain Dew, no ice.  we sat outside on the curb where I updated the tandem photo.

Breakfast completed and off to the trail which is just east of the store.  I really love this trail.  11 miles long, few intersections one long climb, rail grade, which becomes a good section for big ring on return.  There is a elevated look out platform that some hippies would call a safety shack almost half way.  Intersecting Banner State park there is also a restroom about a half mile past the look out.  But the best part of this trail is that it is not overpopulated with people training for races or people walking 2 or 4 dogs at a time.  We encountered a few people running on out outward trek.

Indianola can be identified by the intersections towrd the end of the trail.  There are about 3 of these to cross.  Just follow the trail.  Do not turn at the first trail offshoot.  This leads to a dead end park.  Just follow the trail and eventually the trailhead appears.  Sheltered tables and modern restrooms.  A vending machine that dispenses Coke products is provided. $1.25 per bottle is very reasonable.  I purchase one for the sugar and caffeine.

Now Highway 92.  One could opt for the trail on the south side of the road but it is not of significant distance and leads to the ballpark where there would be mobs of baseball parents and children and cars to deal with just to get back to the highway.  just stick to the white line and let them pass.  S23 will be here is a few minutes.  S23 begins as a nice rural residential neighborhood.  Big houses, big yards and barking dogs.  None gave chase.  Some sort of strawberry fetish here as well.

After the strawberry shed we turn east again to avoid gravel.  A nice big ring decent then a few climbs.  This is horse country as many horses will stare at you as you pedal by.  This is also political country.  First we spot this sign.

Aparently, there was a disute about property someone was murdered in cold blood
Also we noticed that about 5 people are running for sheriff of Warren County.  Signs stating this marked our route all the way into Lacona and back.  I did not photograph these.

Milo is about 10 miles from Indianola and a welcome sight.  New this year are Burma Shave signs.  The tale of the new signs was about someone named Hank who checked his gas tank with a lit match.  the last sign did not read "dumbass".  However, instead of seeing a chargrilled Hank we saw a mini-Doberman.  Hard to tell if a dog of this stature would be friendly or not, we were cautious.  Most dogs we can outrun for they give up early.  despite our speed advantage this dog followed as did its owner.  My latest trick for this situation is to turn around and lead the dog back to its rightful human.  But said pup would not not follow the plan.  It ran and ran.  It got close to us and its human but stayed a safe distance.  the man handed Mary a dog treat as a bribe for the dog but Fido did not fall for that.  Instead, he ran off into a cornfield.  Mary returned the treat and we rolled on into town.  We tried.  We did the right thing.  He needs a leash.

Once again we stopped at the Casey's.  This store is a block east of S23.  There is a bar that serves food.  We did not stop there opting for the restroom and two bottles of water and some peanut M&Ms.  Casey's provided milk crates to sit on while we refueled.  It was cold and I could not wait to get rolling again.

Milo to Lacona is another 10 mile stretch.  Most of this is flat with the exception of the hill exiting Milo and the crossing of Whitebreat Creek.  The scenery is good.  This barn is about 2 miles south of Milo.

Photo taken in 2008
Climbing out of Whitebreast several dogs, maybe 5 in all, spotted us and one took chase.  A woman came running out of the house and yelled at the dog.  We hit 40 mph on the return trip, the dogs never saw us.

The first sign of Lacona is its watertower.  A short climb up to the cemetary and then mostly downhill to town.  The sun finally came out.  Things were looking up.

"Gas station or bar?" I asked Mary.  She did not care.  I turned to the bar.  O'Neal's Bar and Grill.  A few years ago the men's room was covered with photos of Ragbrai past.  Not 2009 but before.  Now those photos were removed and one was encouraged to write their name and hometown.  I declined.  We ordered two beers, $3.75 for a mug of Sam Adams seasonal and a Bud Light.  We also ordered two hamburgers at $4 a piece.  The burgers were quarted pound size with toasted bun served in a basket with chips.  tasty!  If we needed a dry shirt there was a table with free t-shirts.  Nascar and golf on the tvs.  I want to return to this place.  Unfortunately, poor phone reception so I was unable to to check in with Latitude.

The sun was still out when we finished.  Time to return.  We had 45 miles in but subtract a mile for the Powerbar snatch and Carlisle food hunt.  The wind was still from the south.  We turned the bike north.  Time to fly.  And we did fly.

Descending into Whitebreast we hit 41 mph.  We were at 38mph when I noticed.  I lowered my head and grabbed the drops.  Just enough to change the 10s!  The brown house of dogs was a blur.  Milo was soon on the horizon.  We used it only for the restroom at Casey's and one bottle of water.  But first i took this photo.  I spotted it on the way down but did not stop.  Rock is not dead!

Long live rock!

Back on the road we soon were passed by motorcycles.  Loud Harleys.  I thought of the South Park episode where the kids had the dictionary definition of "faggot" to mean loud obnoxious attention whores such as HD riders.  How true.  Apparently they were on a charity run complete with two SUVs following them to pick up any parts that fell off.  Funny, how Mary and I were out on our own without support on a vehicle that maybe reached 40 mph down a long hill.  I looked at the computer again and thought it was broken.  it read 38 mph.  Then I realized that we were in big ring going downhill with a high cadence.  I gave us a few more gears and grabbed the drops and lowered my head.  40 again!

We lost the noisey HDs on the climb before the strawberry farm.  I noticed that we sucked with the cross wind.  But that was ok.  We still felt strong and it was a long gradual climb.  Soon we will be back on the Summerset Trail and closer to home.

92 was not as busy.  We stopped at the trailhead again.  This time we had company.  A man and woman on bikes peering into a camera.  I offered to take their photo and they agreed and reicipocated.  Damn old phone.  She told me to press "save to card" after taking the shot.  I just handed it back to her.  No need to learn the workings of an obsolete phone.  They were only riding to Banner.  Mary and I ate a Powerbar apiece and shared a bottle of Coke.  Our friends left before we did.

Needs to give up carbs again
The ride back to Carlisle along the trail was fine.  Once the final intersection leaving Indianola was crossed, we opened it up and jammed on the downhill.  It took a while to pass our photographer friends, who were standing on the side of the trail looking at his phone/camera again.  But then another "ping" noise.

I become very cognisant of the noises I hear while riding bicycles.  Early this day the sound of gun fire off in the distance bothered me.  At first I thought something fell off the bike or something broke.  Now on the speedy part of the trail another bad noise.  A quick check of pockets and query of Mary determined that we must have rolled over debris that bounced up on the frame.  Yep, there were sticks and things on the trail that could have created such noise.  Too bad we lost our speed to figure this out.

A quick note about this trail.  It did not suffer from the storm like the Des Moines trails.  No trees were down nor evidence of recent chainsaw activity.  Nor were there any washouts.

Stopped at Casey's again for the restroom.  76 miles so far.  11.5 to home.  Once out of town we noticed the sky again.  Downtown Des Moines looked like it was getting rain.  There also was a dark cloud to the southwest.  No time to mess around.  Mary thought she saw a rainbow while we were on the road.  This was when we were near Avon Cemetary.  Instead of going all the way to the Ape trust we turn on SE57th and hit the SE corner of Easter Lake.  This avoids a hill and changes the scenery.  But I did not see a rainbow, rather the rays of the sun coming down through gray clouds.

A quick stop at Fareway for salsa and sour cream for our tacos was our only delay.  Fareway is on the corner of Park Ave and SE23rd.  No Templeton today.  The soccer and baseball people were still around.  Such nice fields but inadequte parking.  Good planning! 

Back on Hartford when I felt the first rain drop.  "Please, Lord" I prayed aloud, "5 more minutes is all I ask."  we were just over a mile away.  We barely made it.  By the time I got the tandem put away and the Red Phoenix disconnected from the Burley, something I failed to do the night before, the floodgates in the sky let loose.  Funhaters were getting wet and heading inside bars.  Not me.  Mary was making tacos.  A shower was in my immediate future.  87+ miles.  I called it a great day.

Monday, April 16, 2012


I spotted the yellow and black jacket as I rounded the curve heading to the intersection of the Bill Riley Trail and the bypass to Gray's Lake.  Almost always some form of yellow these bicycle jackets are.  Better for visibility.  Mine has faded to almost white, a homeless yellow and mercifully the zipper is dieing so I will need to replace it before next autumn.  But there ahead of me was another biker enjoying the tailwind.  I caught up with him at the intersection on Flagg.

It was an elderly gentleman on a Trek OCLV, 5200 or 5500.  A quick glance at the fork and shifter/brake combo, a early to mid 90s vintage.  Provision for a handlebar bag and requisite flashers adorn the carbon road bike.  Probably bought it as his last new bike.

I asked him how the trail was.  Mary's report from this morning was grim as were others.  Trees and mud.  Mary planned to take the streets home.  He gave me the run down, the trail took a beating during Saturday's storm.

Then looking at him I popped the question.  "Are you Leon?"  He affirmed my query.

Leon Sanderson was among the first people Mary and rode with when we settled in Des Moines.  We joined the Des Moines Cycle Club back in 1991 or 92.  Since let our membership lapse for a variety of reasons but I never regretted belonging to DMCC.  Leon was old back then and even older now but he is still rolling.

Back in those days we would join certain ride groups with DMCC and explore the area.  This was a great way to learn how to get around the metro.  Most of the trails were not connected back then.  The Great Western Trail was not paved.  The Raccoon River Valley Trail began outside of Waukee.  Warren County was the place to ride for miles.

And Leon was at nearly every ride we attended.  Mary and I would show up on a tandem pulling a Burley thinking that because it was a tandem we'd keep up because it was a tandem and tandem are faster.  Wrong!!!  But we learned the ropes soon enough.

The best ride we ever did with DMCC and Leon was the tailwind Century.  they dropped us off in Missouri and we rode back to Des Moines.  Reached the support truck about every hour so we could chow down on sandwiches and fruit and chips and chug a Mnt Dew.

Soon our hippie friends moved to Capital City and we rode with them instead of DMCC.  Our membership expired. And on occasion we'd see Leon throughout the years.

Leon asked me if I was going to do the Mayor's Ride.  I said no.  Too many people.  I dislike crowded roads with people who have not been on their bikes since Ragbrai although this year I think everyone has some riding under their Lycra belts.  He said he planned to do 25 miles of the ride as part of the 80 miles he is doing.  80 miles on his 80th birthday.  Damn.  I hope I can do the same.

Godspeed, Leon.  I hope and pray that the weather on Saturday is perfect for you.  You will be one of the few who ever ride 80 miles on their 80th birthday.  Mary and I may have to join you, tandem and all.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

To Be Seen and Not Seen

I like riding after sunset, when it gets late at night.  I move around in the dark and leave before it gets light.  Often I leave before sunrise and arrive at work as the sky begins to turn turn blue.  I possess excellent night vision.  But I do not trust those around me especially when my hemisphere is turned away from its star.

If I had my way I would not use lights on my way to work.  But deer, pedestrians, other bikes and automobiles convince me otherwise.    There are days when I shut them all off except for the rear flasher.  Use the ambient light of street lights and the sun's reflection from the moon.

Sometimes I need more illumination.  There are areas of my commute that are infested with deer.  I like to turn on maximum wattage to scan a few hundred meters in front of me.  Maybe Joe Ayers can attest to my zig zagging in Water Works as I enter the curve just west of the Raccoon River bridge.  Deer are often spotted here between the treeline and the river.  I also use the bright lights when I get on Park Ave for my 1/2+ mile run on this busy dark road.  No excuses for being unseen here.

I could go on about all the stealthy joggers and walkers I see almost daily especially now that winter has ended.  Why run in the darkness without lights, reflective gear and dressed in black?  Do they want to die?  My favorite place is the Gray's Lake Bypass.  Silhouettes  show up against the lighted back ground of the Fleur Viaduct.  I close within 2 or 3 meters and turn the night into day.  One morning I got very close to a large group of stealthy joggers and before lighting them up I said in a loud deep voice, "NINJAS" which caused several to jump off the trail and scream.  Jeff Logan suggested that I use the word "zombie" next time.

Some bicycles get the max wattage treatment because they fail to dim their lights.  Could be an inconvenience.  Could be generator lights that cannot be shut off.  Could be rudeness.  But I dim my lights when I encounter other bikes.  After all, night vision is ruined by bright lights.  But if they fail to do this I light em up.

So the other day I was dumbfounded by what I saw or failed to see.  I was preparing to cross the intersection of Jackson and SE1st.  After turning off Granger I immediately look at the convenience store at that intersection to see if it is open.  If it is open I am behind schedule.  Then I look at the intersection itself searching for cross traffic that may impede my travel.  This morning there was a southbound car which is ok with me, no concern since we are not in each others way.

But as I was crossing, looking at this car and the convenience store I saw a bike making a left turn as after me while I crossed.  I did not see the bike at all until it was on me.  It was in the turn lane thus I had the right of way and obviously I was in his way.  But next to the car he was invisible.  I noticed he had a cheap light on steady and it was dim.  My cheap light is always on flash.  A flashing light attracts attention.  His did not.

Note to self and others: when riding at light on a well lit street and in traffic you may not be seen.  Be properly lit.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

First Tandem Ride of the Year

The F-82 Twin Mustang
Been a long time since Mary and I took a tandem out for a ride.  A Beautiful Easter Sunday seemed like a wonderful day for riding a bicycle built for two.  Tandem, of course, means "inline" which makes the photo of the Twin Mustang incorrect for this blog.  the F-82 is a "sociable" not a tandem.  But the Pony+ would be more thrilling to fly than a Cannondale or Fisher bicycle.

This is a true tandem aircraft.  Two engines inline as well as the cockpits.  This bastard was the fastest twin engine piston engine plane in WWII, the single engine Ta 152H was the only conventional aircraft faster.

But Mary and I are not billionaires that can afford to restore and operate high performance piston engined aeroplanes.  Instead we ride tandem bicycles that when purchased cost almost the same as a decent used automobile.

November 11, 2011 was the last ride of our Cannondale RT3000.  We took it to Indianola and back.  December 30, 2011, was our most recent tandem adventure.  On that day Dora was my stoker on the Fisher Gemini.  We went to Anders and Laura Olson's house to watch the Hawkeyes in a bowl game.

We had a destination and purpose to ride today.  Carl Voss emailed me to let us know that a photography session of the Des Moines bicycle community was taking place on SUNDAY.  yES, SUNDAY IS IN CAPS.  The first paragraph from the email from Carl said "Sunday."  It was to take place between 4 and 6 pm.  Just take 10 minutes.  The purpose was for bike Month 2012.  Some sort of online gallery showing everything from triathletes to homeless can collectors.  As Commuters of the Year we were invited.  I figured that this shoot and the Bike Month 2012 Picnic were our last two responsibilities of being CotY.

Our weekend was busy with the Easter holiday.  Saturday had me at church twice for 2 to 3 hour sessions, once in the morning and the other at night.  When leaving that night I was drafted into singing with two friends and a priest with a guitar for the Sunday 7 am Easter Mass.  WTF I thought, should be painless and I wanted to be there about 8 am for what I was assigned to do.  At the 830 am mass I did the readings and distributed Communion.

After Church Mary and I prepared Easter dinner for our family and my sister and mother.  It takes an hour and a half to two hours to slow cook a pork loin on the Weber grill.  I had not eaten since 530 pm on Saturday, sticking to coffee Sunday morning until the Easter meal was ready.  It was a 20 hour fast.

We figured we had plenty of time to eat and exchange pleasantries before kicking our guests out and changing into bike mode.  Patty brought her bike for a ride and left mother and her car here so she could get some miles in and ride home.  She is training for a century ride in June.  We were asked to take the car and Mom back to Patty's.  Throw the tandem on back and roll.

I chose the Cannondale because we had not been on it for quite some time as I already mentioned.  The tires were ok, feeling like 80 psi but if I avoided potholes and rough roads we'd be fine.  I really did not want our dirty commuters in the photo.  And I did not want to scratch my road bike on the Saris bike rack on back of Patty's Honda.

After dropping my mother off we jumped on the tandem.  3 months it had been.  I elected to start the adventure on the other side of the street with the front wheel facing downhill.  Tandems require quite a bit of coordination and communication.  Best to be able to coast while clipping in and not have to worry about playing Frogger on 30th St.

Once on and the movement of feet to click in the tandem accelerated quickly.  we coasted down the hill at 32 mph.  Always like riding something new when you have not been on a certain bike for 4 months.  What was that noise?  Computer was functioning.  Mary said something but I was concentrating on the 90 degree turn onto the Inter Urban Trail.  The brakes were still killer good although the front does squeak loudly when applied with force.  Mary was urging for us to stop.

The culprit of the noise was a leaf stuck on the rear brake apparatus and rubbing against the back tire.  No BFD.  Time to climb the hill.  Silence on the bike, good.

Urbandale Ave is not really our friend.  Mary has been hit by cars twice on this road.  Patty hit a parked car and ruined a wheel here too.  All of this happened after the bike lanes were established.  Today, however, parked cars were my Nemesis.  Cars, more than usual here, were parked in the bike lane.  Yep, family holiday meals and gatherings.  I did get a very good idea for a photo but I need some accomplices. 

We rolled past a car parked underneath the bike lane sign in the bike lane.  I want to take a photo of 4 bikes parked in the avenue next to this car underneath the bike lane sign.  Just take a minute.  Irony, gotta love it, luv!

We turned on 48th and took it to Franklin so we could catch the Waveland Trail at the library.  This was virgin trail for me.  I have never been this far north on the trail.  A few families were riding here.  The day of the Burley Trailer I thought.  Carl's email said that our destination would be on the trail.

This trail is nice until after the cemetery.  Once we crossed University it reverts into a side walk along the golf course.  I thought about what Anders or Dave Hatcher once said nearly 2 decades ago about the thrill of tossing a bike over the fence and climbing over it to ride through it.  I never did this.

After crossing 235 we spotted our target and rolled in back to the garage.  Chris Maharry was outside hiding Easter eggs.  He even offered us some.  We declined, these are for children.  Then he said the photography session was yesterday.  CRAP!  Did I feel stupid.  How could I be so stupid.  Oh well, I got the pride of the fleet and my beautiful wife, the prettiest stoker of the land.  What more did I need?  He suggest that we talk to Carl ect.

The prettiest stoker in all the land!  Unfortunately, with the sun at my back I could not tell that the branches would leave shadows on Mary.  My bad.

We decided to roll further away from home.  The connection to Walnut Creek Trail was downhill.  Mary was curious where Valley Drive went so we took it south where the trail intersects the road.  We discovered Frisbee Park, possibly Des Moines' western most park.

Not only are the roads bad in this part of DSM but the distance from Patty's house to Frisbee Park may frighten some people.  No worries, John was writing about Nero who not only persecuted Christians and cause mayhem.  666 is code for his full name in Greek.  In the Latin translation the number is 616 which also spells out his full name in that language.  Don't believe me?  Read Marx and Engels, On ReligionRevelation was a political statement not a spiritual book.
After a brief rest we returned to the trail.  Everyone was out riding today.  Many families with children and bicycle trailers and people walking dogs.  It is great to see the trails get used but I miss the emptiness of winter.  We got behind an asshole that rung a bell every time he encountered traffic.  Mary and I would say "hello" or "howdy" whenever we passed folks.  No sense in being rude.  If we wanted a fast ride we would have taken a county road.  Innercity paths are not for training.

After reaching Water Works we turned in the opposite direction of the jerk.  I wanted to pass him but it was not safe.  The arboretum was our next destination.  This is the largest collection of crab apple trees in the US and they are in bloom.  And for the first time ever I noticed that this hidden treasure in DSM was teeming with visitors.  We did manage to get the photo below.

 Not the best but it will serve to remind me of a nice 15 miler with Mary on a gorgeous Easter Sunday.  A little practice on the tandem and an opportunity to soak in some rays.

PS  I checked the email when we arrived home.  Carl said Sunday but when I scrolled down, and it was a forwarded email, it said Saturday.  Lesson: read the entire message!

Monday, April 2, 2012

BitterSweet2:Further Reflections

That was no caffeine withdraw.  Nor a daytime hangover.  It was pure dehydration.  Amazing how it messed with my head.  Totally unaware of the issue.  just a pain I associate with other things.  Should have seen it coming.  I have never experienced it like that before.

I took 2 water bottles.  Drank one dry.  Drank a bottle of Vitamin Water (Power-C).  Drank mass quantities of Busch Light and a few Coors Lights.  See the problem?  More beer than water.

Being to stupid fool I am I did not realise this until this morning.  Lesson learned, the hard way.  just when i thought I was above it all....

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Flat and Out on the BitterSweet Road

Skidmore Finds....mutant clovers at the intersection of Bittersweet and Wendover Rds

The last time Craig and I made this journey was the last day of the last month of 2011.  Today we repeated the journey on the last day of March.  I was also the last ride of my rear tire. 

The rampage of baggers were to meet at Colby Park at 9 am.  I woke up after 8 am.  Behind already.  Strange, I did not go out the night before nor did I drink at home.  I went to bed early after a long day of driving my mother to Ottumwa and back to close out on my grandmother's apartmentAn omen appeared in the form of a flat tire on the 520 after returning to my sister's house.  Grab the keys to van and go to Bike World and purchase 2 tubes and a set of levers.  patty has a floor pump.  Load up the stolen art work and roll home with mary, who happened to be off by the time I was fixing the tire.

Late.  Grab what was necessary for a 70+ mile ride.  Spare tube, Powerbars, jacket, two water bottles, cash, camera and mobile phone.  Oh yes, cooler bag.  Needing breakfast but lacking time I stopped at Grazianos for a bag of rolls and a box of raspberry filled cookies.  Eat while riding.  Ever try braking with bread in both hands?  Fun.

I headed to Gray's Lake and Water Works trails to get to Colby Park.  Somewhere on the missing link I spy Rikki King riding the opposite way.  Craig later commented that Rikki wanted to ride with us.  Craig texted once stating that they were about to roll.  I was just north of Mc Donalds, a few minutes away.  Apply more steam.  If I missed them I thought I'd double back and take the NST and intercept the HTT via Polk City and the Oasis.  Fortunately, I made it on time and got to enjoy the first beer of the day. 

My partners for the day, Craig Lien and Bob Skidmore at Colby Park

Bob seemed a bit nervous when he said "Please be gentle."  He never realized until that day just how slow Craig and I ride.  Sure, we can rocket when we need to but our off the bike time makes for some long days.  After today I thought he'd never want to ride with us again.

After a beer and a few photos we snaked our way to Grimes through the bicycle trails in Urbandale.  Going though Walker Johnson Park we headed west along Douglas where flat number 1 occurred.  During a discussion of troublesome tires and flats I looked down and noticed that the my rear tire was flat.  Again.  I thought I should just say "sorry fellas but you are on your own."  We were by the Pepsi warehouse.  I could walk the bike to the QT and air up the tire and limp it to Bike World and purchase a new set had I a presta adapter.  Left mine at home.

After wasting 2 CO2 cartridges and then pumping with Craig's pump we were off and rolling again.  Crossed I35/80 and took a right at the Kum&Go.  North to Grimes then a left to the first paved road then north again until we hit the cows.  Craig's cows.  Don't know why he has an affinity for them but they sure came a running when Craig parked his bike.  They love him.  Bob later commented that cows are dogs and horses are cats.  The horses we saw did not give a rat's ass about us.
Craig and his cows

After a beer we rolled north and went through Granger.  A quick stop at Casey's for provisions and restrooms was next.  Here we encountered a group of roadies who questioned us and our choice of bikes.  "You all going away for a month.  I do declare that's alot of stuff you all have.  Cletus could not carry that much.  Hell he'd fall over and cry like he did when they hung his pa for stealin' a pig."  Craig produced a bottle of sand that he carries for extra weight.  They almost wet their Lycra shorts.  We should have given them more shit.

North again on gravel and we finally hit the intersection of Bittersweet and Wendover Roads.  Possibly a 3 beer each stop.  Some "Skid Finds" of 4 and 5 leaf clovers before rolling to the HTT.  We intercepted the trail east of the Woodward and west of the bridge.  30 something miles from the southside of Des Moines.  First stop was on the outlook.

Things have been tense here lately.  Apparently, Boone County has received several complaints about drinking on the bridge and that county will enforce a drinking ban.  Never mind the fact that people have been stabbed and shot in that county in recent months.  Police standoffs ect.  The real criminals are the one that ride bicycles to the trestle and drink adult beverages..  Strange FB postings and texts about the sheriff kicking people out the night before.  You can camp under neath the trestle but will receive the full wrath of Boone County if you have a campfire.  Once the novelty of this bridge and trail wears off a bit things will undoubtedly calm down.  Until then, keep your wits about you and be careful not to stare.

After a football pop, and despite some of us needing a restroom, we moved onto the trestle proper and enjoyed another football pop and Bob's discussion of a  base jumper.

All good things must come to an end so we had to leave the bridge.  I prefer to be here at night but today that was not possible.  With a heavy heart I left this windy spot 13 stories above the Des Moines River and headed to the Flat Tire Longe for some of Sam's sublime tacos.  Yes, Tacoapocalyspe on a Saturday in Madrid.  We also hit a new bar called Baldy's which has not officially opened.  It was open for the Pony Express Ride that day.  Then Who's Lounge, a dive which seemed to be the place to be, crowded and loud, we split a bucket of beer.  Time to head to Slater.

Quick beer break at the bench and horse racks built by the Boy Scouts was our first stop.  Too nice to avoid taking a break.  I often consider this place for a campsite.  Just bring mosquito repellent as they get thick here in the summer. 

We were almost to the elevator outside of Slater when the unwelcome sound of a tire blowing was heard.  Rear tire again with a whoosh whoosh whoosh with every rotation.  FUCK.  My head began to ache either caffeine withdrawal (I had none so far that day) or sobering up hangover.  I think the former.  Bob loaned me a tube.  Hope I can make it home.

The new bar in Slater was the next stop.  Business seemed good.  Food was served.  We stayed for one beer and then fought the wind on our homeward journey.  My head was really killing me and I knew the misery of the stretch from Slater to the Polk City turn off would be hell in this wind.  Fought it before.  Will fight it again.  But I was close to migraine.  Keep head down.  Just five miles.  Don't dwell on it.  It has been worse before.  Once we turn to Polk City I can get caffeine at Kum&Go.  Craig and Bob wanted to push on to Casey's.  But I would not make it that far.  Get some 'feine and slip into the comfort and seclusion of the NST and a mere 24 miles to my house.

Bob went on ahead.  I never saw him again.  We kept him out late and now I was going to be slow for awhile.  I did the Dew, regular, and some M&Ms.  Craig supplied a slice of pizza.  Then we were off again.  Head still killing me but I knew what I had to do.  Craig wanted to stop at the marina but my head said no.  Just keep rolling.  Get the most out of the daylight and creep closer to home.  Mary texted my and asked for a ETA.  22 miles was my reply.

The trail was empty.  How many times have been the only soul on the trail I wondered?  Fine with me.  I did not need to see anyone.  Pedal and wait for the caffeine to kick in.  Should have purchased or carried a pain reliever but given my intake of beer that was not a good idea.

When I reached the prairie I noticed the thunderhead to the east.  I could see the lightning but did not hear the thunder.  Far away but not coming this way.  But keep rolling in case it has a friend.  Head feeling a bit better but now it was getting dark. 

I turned on full lights at the Visitors Center.  It was dark and light is a necessity for the descent down the dam wall.  I thought about filming this but need both brakes.  The descent was uneventful, no deer nor other trail users.  Not many miles now.

Once on the bottom and near the river I could see many campfires along the river.  people were fishing and camping out there.  I'd spook up a few deer every now and then, jumping and running through the woods as if I was the grim reaper with my bright lights.  And I noticed that my headache was almost gone.  Craig texted and said that he was behind me.  It was going to be alright.

Then flat #3.  WHOOSH WHOOSH WHOOSH!!!.. I was almost at the end of the I-80 stretch and should have known better.  This section needed to be repaved 10 years ago.  Rough and bumpy and often littered with sticks and branches this is among the worst segments of trail anywhere.

What to do now?  The tire is obviously history.  Miles from civilization.  One option: walk.  So I walked about a mile and a half.  I considered who to make the 911 call to.  But such a call would not be easy.  The last time I looked at my phone the battery bar was red and it beeped at me "please connect to charger now."   Get to Euclid and have someone meet me at the Polk County building at the area formerly known as Targhetto.  Less than 2 miles.  Just call someone with a truck or a bike rack or van.  Explain the situation and give the location quickly before the battery died.  It must have been 830 pm.  I'd have one chance at a phone call.  But what if the phone died during the distress call?  Who ever I called would most likely have questions.  Before their queries could be answered the battery would quit leaving me off track and alone wondering if they'd ever show.  I needed to get home and shower and get to bed.  It has been a long day and I am about 70 miles into a ride that turned into a walk.

There was another option.  Not one that I recommend but one I have used before.  I call it the "Franz."  Franz used to race for Europa back in the early 90s.  he was known for riding on a flat.  And on a few occasions on my way to work I'd do this myself as well.  As long as there is rubber between the rim and the pavement the wheel will be ok.  But I was about 7 miles out.  Never ever rode a flat this far.  But riding on a flat is faster than walking and Mary is probably worried about me.  I texted later "near Birdland limping a bad tire home."

The secret is to be slow and careful.  Avoid bumps if possible.  Walk it up or down hills.  Pay attention to the noise.  If you hear metal on asphalt STOP.  The wheel makes a noise when the stem is on the bottom.  The tire is ruined anyway, time to squeeze the last bit out of it.

The only section of my route that worried me was along Robert Ray Drive.  The trail here is bad and the road just as bad if not worse.  Plus there are people here.  I saw a group of people walking up the bridge to Lutheran Hospital.  One of them had on a safety vest.  No lights.  Just walking.  I turned off the Turbocats as not to fry out their retinas.  Another group was at the B-Cycle kiosk at the skate plaza.  Instead of renting bikes they walked the same direction as I was traveling.  I ditched them at the police station.  The red bridge had a group of bikers enjoying football pops on the overlook.  I did not recognize them.  I still had 4 of these sodas but was not interested in them.  A young family was walking across the bridge at the same time.  Some of their children were underneath making screaming ghost noises.  Enjoy your youth, I thought, you only have it once.

Piece of cake from here to the end.  Just one mile to go.  Mullets was still open so i was not that late.  Jersey Shore and Dress Like a Rapper Night at Fat Tony's.  That bar was best as a gay bar despite playing that Cher song too much.  I like FT before the sun goes down and the 2nd shift clientele come in. 

Finally, I turn onto my street.  The scent of flowering trees is in the air.  Good to be home.  Then an attack from a little white dog.  Go ahead you rat bastard, make my day so I can leave a SPD mark on your head.  It backed off, sensing that I was not fucking around.

Home at last!!  SNL rerun was on.  Actually funny although I only recall the Digital Short and Robyn as musical guest.  Shower and then the last of the rolls I bought over 12 hours ago.  I missed dinner but I was home.  Plug the phone in and let Craig know that I was safe.  77 miles.  7+ miles limping.  200 for the week.  First 200 mile week since October.