Monday, May 28, 2012

A Solid Century

From Baldy's Chill n Grill

Simply put, we ride because we love the ride.  The act of riding is at once as elegantly simply and tremendously complex sensation: It is the culmination of hundreds of thoughts and emotions--escape, love of nature, exercise--and at times, the complete absence of thought and emotion, a singular focus that allows for no distraction and spares no mental or physical faculty.--The Noblest Invention, Mark Riedy and Joe Lindsey

It had been some time.  For me it had been since March.  For Craig Lein since April.  Mary, Ragbrai maybe.  But two goals were colliding.  We heard them calling, yes heard them calling.  Craig's goal is to ride to the High Trestle once a month every month.  Mary and my goal is to get long rides, something to get us in shape for Tour de Kota and later Ragbrai.  Despite riding every day, Mary most likely the female with the most miles of the Des Moines tribe, we have a need for distance.  20 miles a day is good but knowing that 100+ is doable is better.  The two goals met and formed a plan at Handlebar Happy Hour, Goodsons two weeks prior.

Our, Mary and mine, stipulation was that we would be on road bikes or road tandem.  Gravel road excursions would be verboten unless absolutely necessary.  Craig loves to find new short cuts involving gravel roads. He found a way to shave off 10 miles to and fro the Trestle.  But our touring bikes are not rideable at the moment and the touring tandem will get new tires when the new wheelset arrives.  TdK is taking precedent on all bicycle spending for now until we return from South Dakota.  That means we live and sleep with our racing bikes until then.  Actually, those bikes stay in the computer room near the litter box.

With those demands he came up with a route we never attempted before.  "Could put us at 130 miles," he said.  "We have all day," I replied.

Quite a simple route.  Meet at the car wash on 63rd and Grand and take the trails to Yale.  Hang a right on F25 and then a left to Dawson when the pavement runs out.  Back on trail from Dawson to Perry.  then a bit of gravel to Bouton (acceptable).  Paved surface to Woodward and then the HTT to the Oasis.  Right turn to Polk City and Neal Smith Trail for the remaining 24 miles to home.  Final estimated mileage--114.

Craig posted the ride on FaceBook.  No takers.  Memorial Day weekend.  Plans for this weekend have been made long, long ago.  The distance probably scared most people off.  Not a mere ride to the Cumming Tap.  99% of the riders from Des Moines RARELY ride the extra 8.5 miles to Martinsdale and now we were asking them to commit for over 100 miles.  Three times the distance from Ankeny to Trestle and back.  Many unknowns as well--hills, wind and weather.  We have had 30 mph winds from the south all week long and Saturday would be no different.  Surprising since there has been much talk of training for century rides.  Kelly Barnet and Lori Edwards expressed interest but not in the long full gig.  We'd eventually see them. 

The worthy steeds:Craig's loaded 520, Mary's Trek 1600 and my LeMond Versailles.  I tried to convince Craig to take his road bike but he did not want to air up the tires and brush the dust off.  Toward the end of the ride and the next day he said he would be on it for Hot Wing Thursday at Cumming.

We met at 8 am on the Walnut Creek Trail near the car wash and went to the fast food joint across the street for food.  Craig had an orange juice, Mary two breakfast burritos and a Coke and I had 3.5 of the burritos and a Coke, corn syrup not diet as it was a day of riding not dieting.  Too lazy to wake up earlier to fix our own breakfast.  I rarely wake up and eat breakfast.  I prefer to shower and ride then eat.

Clive Greenbelt.  I appreciate this trail for the simple fact that it connects the DSM trails to the Raccoon River Trail.  And if I lived in the Western Ghetto and was a runner or jogger or pusher of baby stroller I'd like it for that.  I used to ride my bike with my children who rode on training wheels and some in the Burley to the playgrounds along here.  But now it is a means to an end.  If it was not so curvy and crowded.  I do dig the curves, reminds me of skiing and 10 pedal strokes and lean to the right, 10 more lean left.  But it is dangerous when the weeds are at full height and trail users are out in force.  Keith from Bike World was lamented that he'd tried to average 20 mph through this trail.  16 is dangerous, 20 insane.

Once through the jungle the trail straightens out for a bit and then it crosses underneath Hickman Rd and turns into a long dull incline to Waukee.  Here we witness suburban sprawl at its finest.  Coke a Cola used to be the only thing between the truckstop and Waukee.  Now it is a generic suburban hell and when one spots the Coke facility they say "damn, we just now got here?"  Craig stopped at Walgreens for sunblock, conveniently located on the trail side of Hickman Rd and Mary hit the ATM at the Wells Fargo on the wrong side of the road.

A very nice touch that I only noticed on Saturday.  All the sign posts have these even the ones in Dawson.  This one is in Redfield at the depot.

At last we reach the trailhead, the former beginning of one of Iowa's finest trails, the Raccoon River Valley Trail.  Paved and maintained with plenty of towns for resupply and rest.  Although the first 3.5 miles is in open country and often windy, the trail is a true pleasure to ride and I miss riding out here.  I used to be on it 3 times a week, now maybe twice a year.  I got a "Hello Chris" from Forrest Ridgeway along this stretch.  Have not seen him for a quite a while, nice that he could recognize me as we zoomed by each other in opposite direction with a combined collision speed of near 40 mph.

Purchasing trail passes and eating fig newtons.  Mary is wearing bike shorts from Barr with a denim skirt.  Craig is dressed as Craig.

The Brick Plant
We blew through Adel, noting the former brewery and restaurant now a law office and city building, stopping only at the western trailhead to purchase day passes.  Craig broke out fig newtons and beef jerkey, sugar and protein.  I noticed that the kybo was missing but it may have disappeared years ago.  Other riders used the trailhead to park their cars for the start/stop of their ride.

Next stop Redfield.  Nothing to report here except that the depot was open and we bought Gatorade and talked to a man on a recumbent.  we passed him with ease on the climb to Linden.  Nice to have this available since the Casey's has been moved and is no longer in view.  No beer at the depot but an actual restroom and a place to sit inside if it is raining.  The taverns in this town were avoided on this journey.  We had serious riding to do.

The possibility of rain was real.  The sky was grey which is fine with me because it kept the sun from frying us but the ever present threat of precipitation was on my mind.  The forecast said that the possibility of rain would decrease as the day wore on but I think they were a few hours off on this prediction.

Linden was a pass through town, nothing to stop for but it should be noted that there is water and kybos available.  A sheltered picnic area is on the north end of town just off the trail.  Thus, all the ingredients for a camping site.

We blew through Panora as well.  I noted to Craig that the grocery store has everything one needs and their is a subway next door.  From what I understand there are pubs available and a Pizza Ranch.  But they were not for us.  We had 6 miles to go to reach Yale.

For those who do not know, the trail has been repaved between Panora and Yale.  This used to be the worst section of the RRVT.  Now it has a smooth new concrete surface.  There is nothing between these towns except an old radio/telephone/microwave tower to stare at.  Craig suggested that it is also a ranger station, a look out for fires after lightning strikes.  Ancient but effect technology.

I like Yale.  It used to be the end of the line before the trail expanded to Jefferson.  Now it is the last chance to get provisions before the stretch to Jefferson.  Water is available in Cooper but unless you have a water filter/purifier I'd avoid it at all costs.  Yale has everything one needs for a destination.

The trail enters the southside of town.  There is a park with water and restrooms, tables and benches and shelter right off the trail.  Campsite!  Wander onto main Street and you cannot miss Just Ethel's, the solitary tavern in this community.  In the early 90's the city razed their business district with a fire to clear out for new buildings.  A long building is home to a restaurant, bar, post office, hair salon, city hall and a gazebo.  There once was a grocery store next to the tap but it closed.  The fire department is across the street.  I've been told there is a man that fixes bicycle flat tires if one is truly stranded without repair options.  Today we needed Just Ethel's.

Bikers behaving badly in Yale, Iowa.

JE adjoins the restaurant.  Walking in you see about 6 tables, each with a pitcher of iced tea and are greeted with the odor of fryer oil needing to be changed.  They serve awesome tenderloins despite not having clean grease on a Saturday.  Locals gathered at one table to play cards.  NCIS, Mark Harmon, was on the television.  We were here for Busch Light which was served in bottles, $2.75 a piece.  Card ordered potato chips.  It was a one beer stop, our first beer of the day.

Should have been a two beer stop but as I told the bartender "two beers lead to six.  The reason we should have had another was accentuated by the sound hammering the metal roof of the overhang.  It was raining.  Just a quick hitter gone as quickly as it came but leaving a slow drip system to mark our path afterwards.  When it seemed to have ended we rolled.

F25 was virgin road for all of us.  Well, F25 east out of Yale was new to Mary and I.  I merely glanced at the map on Friday to check out the way the route.  Go east then turn north for Dawson when the paved road ended.  How far I did not measure nor read the directions that Craig posted.  He did not know either.  Now the glorious tailwind we enjoyed became an evil and angry crosswind with light sprinkles and a wet road of undetermined miles.  I was guessing it would be a 12 to 14 mile stretch to the turn.  It was only a merciful 7 miles. 

The road was relatively flat and lightly traveled.  Craig counted 8 cars both directions.  The surface was mostly free of holes and cracks.  As we left town the house on the left had a barn quilt.  Northern Iowa begins, glacier flat and barn quilts.  Nothing but a sea of flat cropland.  Few buildings and no taxidermy.  The sign for Jamaica was a relief.  It indicated that we were only 4 miles south of the trail we were trying to reach. 

There was no sign for Dawson but when cresting the last rise I could see a diamond yellow warning sign and the change in appearance of F25.  The turn was near.  P26 was another lightly traveled road despite intersecting highway 141.  There is a wooden sign of chipping faded black paint of a life sized cow.  I should have taken a photo but now possessing a tailwind sails were deployed and we were enjoying it.

Speaking of tailwinds, they are funny.  We really could feel the cross and headwinds but as soon as are asses were windside it seemed like the wind had stopped.  The road was dry and the grass and weeds blew about but it did not feel like the 30 mph bastard that hit our right side with anger.  However, we were cruising at speed with only 141 to interfere.  We managed to cross without stopping or unclipping our feet from the pedals albeit we had to slow down and let a truck get out of the way first.

The train depot in Dawson, Iowa.  My maternal great grandparents were Dawsons, an English name that moved to Ireland long, long ago, so long ago that my uncle went in a rage when he discovered that Dawson was not truly Irish.

P26 leads straight to the trail and the train station now trailhead.  Much money was put into restoring this building.  It is nice.  I cannot confirm it but it felt like it was air conditioned.  There are chairs and a cooled water fountain.  The restrooms are spacious and there are plenty of outlets for those needing to recharge their electronics.  In a pinch, one would not bitch about having to camp there.

Why stand at the fountain like a sucker when one can pull up a chair.  Dawson depot.

The last time Mary and I were here we were with Richie and Melissa Berman and Jamie H on our way to Perry and the Trestle off route on Ragbrai.  Good memories, good people, good karma.  6 miles to Perry.

The trail between Perry and Dawson is part of the RRVT.  It will extend west from Dawson through Jamaica and reach the RRVT proper between Yale and Cooper.  South of Perry the new section will link up with Dallas Center and Waukee creating a new loop where Adel, Redfield, Linden and Panora can be skipped if one chooses.  The trail has the latest features including bilingual trail pass signs, the new mileage signs and paved road crossings like the ones on the HTT.  However, Perry to Dawson lacks the curvey sections to the road intersections which forces bikers to slow down and not blow through the stop sign thus preventing needless tragedies.  The Waukee to Dallas Center line has theses.

We did stop on the former rail bridge for a photo opportunity.  I noticed that Des Moines Steel Fence Inc got the contract for fencing.  Unfortunately, the best section to pull over on and rest is fenced off.  I suppose if there is a will there is a way but today we did not explore this.  Craig needed a new FB profile photo and I gave him one.  Someone years ago spray painted "New York" on the rail bridge.  Craig liked that suggestion.  Check it out.

Ceiling tile in the Rockin Horse, Perry, Iowa

There were a few riders on this trail, mostly family types and people who enjoy riding without having to spend thousands of dollars on their passion and dress like it is the Tour de France.  Which brings up another point.  This entire journey we did not encounter all the tri-types training on crowded trails such as the Walnut Creek, Bill Riley and GWT.  On the RRVT there were about two or three groups of 6 people coming the other way but they were friendly and did not try to run people off the road like what happens in the metro.  A very nice change of pace and scene.  Also, no dorks jogging on the wrong side of the trail.  This ain't the UK.  Ride Right, Walk/Run Right.

I think it was before we left Yale Craig was in communication with Lori Edwards and Neal Andersen.  They camped out at Swede Point and were headed our way.  He suggested that they meet us in Perry but replied that Bouton had it going on.  Later we heard from Kelly B that she was in Ankeny heading west.

2 of the 3 forms of Busch Light, our standard bicycling beer.

In Perry we stopped at the Rockin' Horse.  When we were here on 'Brai, draws were $1.  Dangerous.  Fortunately, we hit the bar before happy hour.  It was here that we completed the trilogy of Busch Light, having now consumed it in all three froms.  At Ethel's we had bottles but at the Rockin' Horse we had both can and draft.  Not very many places serve BL on tap so we felt honored to support it for our second and final round at the RH.  NCIS was on the tele here too.

Time to go.  We rolled east but none of us remembered the way to Bouton.  During 'Brai Craig sagged out, IIRC, and Mary, Jamie and I took 141 to avoid gravel.  Gym Carson had at least 3 flats on that stretch and I fixed his tire on the Trestle that night.  Craig consulted Google Maps and we found our way.  The gravel was not bad or long and it reminded me of what Ragbrai Officials would term "good gravel" and I had memories of hauling ass on my Trek 2200 through such roads passing many riders and never getting a flat.

When called upon, Bouton gave.

Bouton is a tiny community of 129 people according to the 2012 Iowa map.  But it possesses an establishment which Mary noted is for sale according to the sign on the north outside wall.  We thought that Lori and Neal had left because we did not see their bikes but instead we were pleasantly surprised to see them drinking UV lemonades inside.  Their bikes were parked across the street at the park to protect them from the rain.   we stayed for 3 drafts, $2 each, before moving on.  the barkeep gave us $5 for the jukebox which Neal loaded with mostly Nickleback and one REM tune, What's the Frequency, Kenneth. 

To get to Woodward we had to travel south from the bar and take a right.  Paved all the way.  Neal led all the way.  Once again there was a strong cross wind.  we eventually passed the country club where we stopped at during 'Brai.  Good memories of DSM's finest biking bastards entertaining local professional women in their late 50s (a judge, a real estate agent and a lawyer) and people crashing their bikes at the same shrub I crashed the tandem at that night.  But today we rolled until we hit Casey's General Store.  Craig was the slowest but found a short cut anyway.

Craig's short cut

Our only stop in Woodward was at the Casey's.  Craig suggested that we visit the walk in beer cooler.  I felt like paradise!  The photo of Mary and I looks funny because we were exhaling to have our breath visible in the shot.  FAIL.  Craig picked up some football pop for our next stop the Trestle.

The kid in the candy store!

The loneliness of the road and trail ended in Woodward.  Yes, the Trestle is still very popular and there were many people riding and walking to the bridge.  Something about that 13 story view over the wide Des Moines river valley attracts people as if they are on a pilgrimage.  For bicyclists it is a pilgrimage.  The view is spectacular and there is nothing else like it in the Midwest.  I think it is best at night but we did not have the time.  Mary and I plan to skip the overnight in Webster City so we can bask in the blue glow of the Trestle's lights.

I may be in the minority opinion on this but I really think that this "gate" looks evil.  I know the designers added the black stripes to signify coal and coal mining of this area in the past but it looks sinister.  Personally, I would have summoned the spirit of Albert Speer and had a  Romanesque or Egyptian column with a bicycle on it and another with a pedestrian ala Nuremberg styling.  But that is just me.  I suppose this entrance adds to the vertigo effect that one feels when they see the twisting steel beams.  At night it reminds me of a disco.
We stopped at the overlook.  Two bikes were there, a man and his son.  Turned out to be a small world.  this man was either related to or had a connection to Brad Buckley.  He grabbed his football pop when we busted ours out and we discussed this trail and the trail of his area, the Wabash Trace.

Self portrait
Time to eat.  Baldy's Chill n Grill was our destination. 

The connection from downtown to the trail was completed with the recent paving of the gravel path.  Nice touch.  If you build it they will come and we did.  Located on State St in Madrid we made our second visit to this establishment.  Our first visit was back in March.  We were a bit disappointed that the kitchen still was not completed but they did have a menu posted.  We opted for the turkey bacon wrap with chips since salt was needed to be replaced.  Mary and I had Mountain Dew for sugar and caffeine and a beer.  Lori and Neal split a wrap and she was able to get her UV and lemonade.  Craig had an ulterior motive, he needed a replacement for his Baldy's coozie that he gave to Chad Ulrich.  the owner tore the place upside down and then search vehicles and other locations to find us 3 coozies.  That's service!  I forget what the real menu will be when the kitchen is completed but Mary said it looks good.  Also, the restroom was clean and a little too nice for the rowdy crowds that this place should get.  We will check back over Labor Day weekend, Madrid's 4 day drunk.

The black coozie is the prototype.  Brown is the official color.

Slater was the next target, the Night Hawk would be our stop.  Here we expected to meet up with Kelly.  We skipped the Flat Tire Lounge which seemed busy and rolled eastward.  However, just a few meters from the Night Hawk and just around the bend Kelly rolled by.  We did not stop but exchanged pleasantries in the mere few seconds one possess when traveling in opposite directions.  Kelly ended up with 60 miles for the day.  A great ride.

Dr. Phil awaited us at this new establishment.  Drinking large beers like the ones served at the take down he had ridden up with his wife Stacy on a Cannondale tandem. For the life of me I do not remember his name but everyone else in our group knew them.  We did not stay long.  Daylight was running out and we had about 30 miles or two hours of riding (assuming ideal conditions) waiting for us.  This is where we parted with Lori and Neal since they were going the other direction.  Neal had been inside the bar the entire time so we did not say goodbye to him.

Dr. Phil and Stacy.  I hope I got her name right, I got his wrong but he gave me advice about morning wood.

Ideal conditions were not offered.  We turned into the wind and set course for Des Moines.  Our friendly 20+ mph headwind was ready for us.  I often say that the 5 miles from Slater/Sheldahl to the Polk City turn off (the Oasis) is among the worst 5 miles one can ride in a headwind.  Today was no exception.  Put head down, grab the drops and slice through the air the best one can do.  Just 5 miles, 5 long miles.  We passed a couple, one on a road bike with aerobars and her on a hybrid with front suspension, earlier bitching about her job, for the second time that day on this stretch and after reaching the Oasis and drinking a beer they rode by for the final time.  Ankeny must have been their destination.  8 miles an hour their speed.  I could not believe it.  maybe they stopped and rested.  But there is nowhere to stop.  5 miles of nothingness.

This is where we made the final split.  Craig wanted to stop at the marina and realized that we were faster and needed to get home.  Mary full of anxiety of being out for so long.  And myself, without lights and with a strong desire to remove my right contact lense.  7pm was my target to reach the Neal Smith Trail at Polk City and now it was after 8pm.  The Oasis to our home is about 24 miles or 2 hours under moderate conditions.  We lost an hour of daylight.  I hated parting with a friend but Craig is a strong rider and this has happened before.  He left the Oasis first but we caught up and rolled into Polk City together.  Then he was gone.  We were on our own.

I really dislike the bike route through PC.  Safe yes but confusing and hilly and indirect.  They want bikes to head north and then up a big steep hill and wander through residential areas and pass through a myriad of trails to get to the NST.  I prefer dealing with traffic by taking the main road through downtown and south to the Casey's and then a left after the wide shoulder gives out, highway 415.  Logical.  There appears to be a new sidewalk that one could take but I stick to the road.  And if I ain't a monkey's uncle but I swear I saw the same gallon milk container in the storm sewer that I'd seen before!  No one ever honks but it could be a tad bit uncomfortable to those that surrender their right to ride on streets.  It did feel good to reach the trail.  Mary rode in front since she had a light.  I rode behind since I had the red rear flasher.

Normally this would have been routine but since it was the opening holiday for summer the Saylorville Lake area and park was jammed with campers.  I really do not get camping in trailers stacked on top of each other.  Unless I had a boat there and did not desire driving home after playing on the water I'd say no.  I like camping.  But I like to camp in isolation from strangers and civilization or camp out of necessity.  Dragging a camper here is not my cup of tea.  Thus we had to deal with them.

Descending the lake shore at the marina we saw a Siamese cat.  It had a collar but it was where the entrance to the marina meets the trail near the road.  Kitty was lost.  Craig later reported seeing it.  Then moments later encounter two or three women walking with a 3 or 4 year old boy on the trail.  They merely turned around and stared when we called out and hailed our intentions and at almost the last second the bigger woman grabbed the kid and pulled him out of the way.  It was like he had never seen bicycles before, one bike with a blinking light.  I can still hear him cry as we rolled past and turned south to go up the east bank and encounter a group of young teenage girls wandering about the trail.  Maybe 7 of them but they cleared out of the way.  Worse than deer these white people are.

There is a campsite in which you can go the right way and loop all the way around or go the wrong way and save time.  We chose the latter but had to avoid 4 or 5 kids on bikes, 3 with training wheels riding down the hill.  recipe for disaster these unsupervised children were.  But not our problem.  Time and daylight were.

By the time we reached the prairie we were on moonlight.  Almost to the visitor center and then the great descent down the dam wall.  Here again humans.  Just as we were to unleash our speed (albeit cautiously because of inadequate lights) we spotted a blue-white light that on a trail normally means bicycle.  then the light was gone.  the it reappears as a man and his small son on a walk at night.  He greeted us with "nice night for a bike ride" as junior beamed us with the torch.  Too young to know that one does not shine lights into people eyes. 

Speaking of which, my right eye was very irritated.  I should have taken the contact lense out and tossed it (disposed of it in an environmentally friendly method).  But my fingers were dirty and we were almost home relatively.  I was also concerned about the lawn clippings on the trail.  riding blind on 700x23 tires over this yard waste could cause a tumble especial on this downhill.  Miraculously we made it.

The rest of the NST was a pleasant experience.  Fireflies were out in force.  Sometimes the best way to describe it was as if we were going through a tunnel or diamond mine, shiny tiny lights all over the canopy walls.  Beautiful.  Other times it was like when the Enterprise is traveling at warp speed and the stars drift by.  On the river bottom we would see campfires and hear people in boats having a good time.  That is the camping I'd could relate to.  far away from others and authority.

But this bliss was interrupted.  Two bubbas on bikes were ahead of us and unable to fully understand that we intended to pass since our speed was much greater than theirs.  We did slow down to their speed but the simple act of riding single file was not genetically evolved or introduced into their DNA.  finally, the bubba on the left, the one with the radio on his handlebars pulled over slowly and lost forward momentum as he brushed against the canopy wall (weeds and trees and other assorted plant life).  He looked a bit drunk but did not say anything as we passed.  Mary picked the pace up a bit in case they wanted to give chase.

Then the right eye again.  I wanted to close them but that only burned.  It was like passing out but being wide awake.  I had to concentrate on keeping my eyes open  Lesson: never keep a pair of contacts too long i.e. don't be cheap.  Carry eye lube.  Perhaps pack glasses as back up.  By the time we hit the city I was bothered by the lights.  The headlights of vehicles almost had me howling like a vampire exposed to daylight.

Hairball was going on so we had to take a left around Embassy Suites.  Some band played two Guns and Roses songs in a row.  Unfortunately, their Slash stand in did not possess his gift.

Now we had street lights and I could read the computer.  Damn!  We exceed 120 miles!  Mary and I had 123 miles for the trip.  Craig had 118.  This was our longest ride ever.  We felt good, a bit tired and in need of a shower.  Yes, a shower.  I think there is a point when one stops sweating and just oozes poison out.  I had reached that point.

Centuries, or 100-mile rides, legion to road riders.  There are hundreds of organized century rides, and they have been around as long as the sport itself; no one even has records of  who was the first to ride 100 miles at a single clip.  But it's the baseline for serious cyclists, a commencement ceremony marking the transition from a person who rides bikes to a cyclist.  A century makes sense to people who don't ride; lessor distances don't sound as impressive, and larger ones are a pure abstraction.  A century is a universal yardstick for all cyclists and noncyclists alike.--The Noblest Invention, Mark Riedy and Joe Lindsey

We did it on our own terms and did it well.  A solid century for our own pleasure and the charity of my bike log.  We have done it before and we will do it again.  TdK will have us putting up similar miles.  Our version of Ragbrai will cross this line in two months like last year.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Winterset there and Back From DSM

Needed a long ride, a Hail Mary ride.  Go deep and deeper still.  After all it is near the end of May and the summer's big rides are sooner than you think.  Next month we will be in South Dakota riding 470 miles in 6 days.  The month after our Ragbrai adventure, loaded touring.  Both rides contain centuries, the former having longer days.  The mild winter put our training ahead of schedule.  My philosophy is simple, if you are doing your Ragbrai training on trails in June, you are fooked.

By this time of year my ass is broken in as should any rider contemplating a week long ride across Iowa.  Actually, since we never stop riding sore but syndrome is never an issue.  3 issues face us now: hills, distance and bikes.  There are no hills on our trail system in Des Moines.  Mary and I have been up and down almost trail this year that we are bored.  Intersections on them every few miles disrupt our flow, get a good pace, decent cadence and it's time to slow down and cross a road, usually a gravel crossing.  Also, with the Spring thaw EVERYONE is out on the trail--bikers, hikers, joggers, strollers, inline skaters and dogs.  Sometimes I miss cold weather as it thins the herd.  So we looked for a destination that we have not visited for a long time.  Winterset.

Winterset holds a special place in my heart.  It was here that Mary dropped me and my Trek 7000 off for my first Ragbrai in 1991.  Really don't remember much about the town other than helping Rob Prunty and Paul Meyer at Europa finish up so we could drink.  And a park at 2 am full of back of the pack people drinking some sort of soma from a cooler.  EverClear.

In subsequent years I may have ridden to Winterset a handful of times.  Most recently in 2008 or so with the Hildreth brothers Sam, Joe and Donnie on the way to Osceola.  Back when Team Mystery Machine actually rode we'd ride about half way there on the Cumming Rd.  I think Mary and I rode there once.

My route begins on the Great Western Trail (good for warm up despite my bitching about trails).  Take a right turn at the trailhead in Cumming and cruise to highway 169.  2 or three miles on this road and Winterset greats like a mother.  South from the square to the St Charles Rd and take this all the way through until you hit St Mary's.  Turn north and fly into Martinsdale and take the trail all the way back.  Simple.

This destination would give us everything we needed, namely hills and uninterrupted distance.  The longest stretch is 17 miles from Cumming to the 169 turn on a decent paved county road.  The next big stretch is a 12 miler from Winterset to St Charles.  Now back then and to the untrained these hills may seem bad, they really are not.  Mostly rollers with a few longer climbs, nothing that would make you stop and cry "dear Lord, why have you forsaken me" or "you SOB, why could we have not taken the trail instead?"

As for bikes, we took our fastest road bikes.  Mary on her Trek 1600 and me on the LeMond Versailles.  These will be our steeds for Tour de Kota.  We took our fast tandem to Lacona a few weeks ago.  Mary averages about 3200 miles per year on the 1600 while I get maybe 1000+ on the Versailles.  We need to know if the 1600 needs new parts.  The bike is 4 years old.  I had to adjust her brakes right before we officially left.  Hills are great for determining if drivetrain issues exist--bad shifts, chain skips ect.  As for the LeMond I'd plan to get a new set of tires.

Shortly after 830 am we took off.  This would be the second ride of the day.  An early morning run to Hy Vee was in order to ensure that the children and pets had food.  Somehow we never made the grocery run on Friday.  Using my new Droid ap Endomondo we had 3 electronics recording our adventure.  I also brought my camcorder for photos and videos.  1 water bottle each and 1 Vitamin Water as well.

The ride to Cumming was smooth.  Our "late" start placed us nicely in between riders.  Early risers were trickling in from the opposite direction and there were not too many people to pass on the way down.  Instead of "ON YOUR LEFT" i issued warning and intent with the words "Funkytown" which put a smile on my face and others.  The trail seemed less crowded which was a good thing.  We stopped at the trailhead in Cumming.

The last of our Vitamin Water drained and last chance to use a kybo/restroom before Winterset.  I threw the empty bottles in Bob's trash container on his new slab.  At this point I check the readings on our two computers and on Endomondo.  My computer was .5 miles ahead of the others.  Checking the calibration it was discovered to be set for a 700x35 tire not the 700x23 that the Versailles possessed.  This was remedied and I made a mental not to subtract .5 miles when I logged the trip.  Time to hit the highway.

County Road G14 runs west out of Cumming.  Later, once rather deep into Madison County, it becomes G4R.  Signs along the road title it "Cumming Rd."  This stretch is accented with nice homes, tree farms, greenhouses and the occasional "Share The Road" sign.  Other than that there are hills, farmland, birds, people driving pickups and cars.  On the top of one of the first of the larger hills there used to be a sign pointing to Francesca's House from "Bridges of Madison County" fame.  The sign is gone and the house suffered some damage from a fire.  I have never visited the house mainly because I ride road bikes on pavement not gravel.

Hidden on the Cumming Rd

Leaving Cumming the road is poor and bumpy.  This road leads to the I-35 interchange and thus suffers from vehicular travel.  But as soon as we crossed the freeway the road smooths out and traffic reduces greatly.  A long stretch of downhill, not the steepest, greets bikers with a warm embrace.  This is at least a mile or two long and the bottom can be seen.  Flick that left wrist and get into big ring for it is time to fly.  Or so we thought.

I forgot to mention that it was a windy day.  A significant wind from the south was blowing in our part of Iowa.  Although we were heading west at the moment the cross wind hindered our speed.  Our turns would be to the south.  Average speed would suffer but we would be stronger riders for it.  And the promise of a tailwind on our return was very real.  Needless to say not speed records were obtained on that first downhill.  But the joy of speed without effort soon faded as we turned left at the bottom.  A half mile stretch of flat and a long climb all with the full force of the wind.

The following video is a little shakey and very loud.  I held the camcorder in my right hand while shooting this at speeds in excess of 30 mph.  This hill is about 9.5 miles from Cumming. 

So it was during the 17 miles to 169.  A series of hills, none bad, none requiring granny gear.  Constant wind held our speed in check.  We were graciously provided with an overcast sky to keep the sun from frying us early on.  The only issue, one we have not encountered all year, was water.

I was down to half and Mary was about the same too.  There was nowhere to refill although I bet the greenhouses and garden centers would oblige such requests.  Perhaps a knock on a house would be necessary if we were truly suffering.  Good lesson learned: on hot days with long rides bring two full water bottles.

The end of G4R as seen from a farm lot on 169.  The illegible sign is a "Share The Road" sign.  So if we are not to use 169 for bicycling why place this sign here at the beginning of the Cumming Rd if there is not a trailhead or parking for those that start right here??

At last we reached the 169.  Our stretch on this would be short, 2 miles or so.  But we hit it at the worst time.  The road was busy.  Farm equipment was using it too creating dust storms as a set of wheels rolled on the gravel shoulder.  I've done it before and I'll do it again but this seemed to be the worst.  maybe because it was lunch time.  We waited out a few pieces of machinery before  jumping on and heading south into a very, very strong wind.  I was actually grateful for the wind since it filled my ears and I did not have to listen for cars.  Just hug that white line and pray that it ends quickly.  The shoulder was wide enough but it was gravel.  The risk of flats and getting the bikes dirty kept us on the road.  The Winterset city limits sign was almost a welcomed sight but it was overshadowed by another climb.  Nobody honked or yelled or through litter on us.  Reaching the intersection of 169 and 92 we pulled over to let the traffic clear.  Where the F these people were coming from I did not know.  There has to be better things to do on a Saturday.  We gave them 5 minutes before rolling into town proper.

Once 92 is crossed a variety of options open up for bikers.  On the left side of the road is a gas station where once I purchased a gallon of water to fill my bottles and the bottles of the group I was with, the Hildreth's.  If one is in total starvation a Hardees is next door.  Mary and I, however, were in search of a small quaint cafe on the town square which is exactly where we headed.

Winterset's square is like so many in Iowa.  At the center is a court house.  Businesses surround it.  Honestly, it looked like Jefferson or Mount Pleasant or Adel any only of many small towns in Iowa.  The fact that a Kum&Go can be seen from the square is no help in stopping the feeling that one is in Anytown, Iowa.

But things were different here today.  Two busloads of Chinese tourists descended upon Winterset.  The bus driver, from Omaha, said he picked them up in New York City and was taking them to LA.  Many were walking about the square wearing cameras like the stereotypical Japanese tourists.  But many occupied the Mexican restaurant that Mary and I wanted to try.  We settled for the Italian deli/cafe on the south west corner.  Yep, Italians were here.  Although we eat our fill of that cuisine in Des Moines it was not overrun with customers and we could always report back to Little Italy of our findings.  The cafe used to be a bank and its vault doors were delivered via horse and wagon back in the day.  I had the "mob" sandwich and Mary had the "Donna".  I wonder if someone opened a African American deli and use such racist and ethic slurs for menu items.  However, a beef sandwich piled high on rye with a side of coleslaw and chips was delicious.  Our bill was $18 which included 2 cans of Mountain Dew with sugar.  When asked we received a pitcher of water.  The atmosphere was one of Italy and of Iowa small town and country crafts.  Gift shop in the vault.

The Mob sandwich served the way the Mob likes it with mustard!
 After lunch it was time to roll.  First stop was at the Kum&Go for water.  I asked a patron where G50, the road to St Charles was and he said to go south through some curves and over a bridge.  My map at home was useless for determining where it began.  And my Droid was losing battery life faster than expected.  I trusted him for some reason. 

Across the street was the memorial for John Wayne.  probably the reason the Chinese were here.  That and the covered bridges.  We were able to snap this photo before others arrived.  If left alone I am sure some some disrespectful yet humorous photos would be posted here.  I was not in the mood to be lynched.

Whatever you can say about John Wayne you can say that he was consistent in his work.  Always the same character whether as a cowboy or cop or marine.  Iowa loves its local kids when they do well and become famous.  I wonder if 80 years from now my great grandkids will see a statute for Ashton Kutcher in Cedar Rapids?  I doubt it.

Time to roll once again.  South into the wind following the advise from someone spending $100 on gasoline.  At first I thought he might have lied.  Leaving town one descends into the Middle River Valley.  A nice scenic ride that was marred by the wind.  A long curvy descent that I plan to do again for its own sake.  But the deeper we got the more I worried that we would have to ride up out of this hole.  But then we saw the sign for St Charles.  Amen, credit due!  Turn left and have the cross wind mess with us.  But it is always a good feeling to know that the right road is underneath the wheels.

The deep descent into the river valley changes the landscape.  Hills are much more pronounced and steeper.  Houses and structures are dug into the hill sides.  This is where southern Iowa meets the flat north, where the glaciers stopped and took a dump. 

Even human activity indicates southern culture.  Although we spotted one barn quilt, albeit quite faded and on a garage, taxidermists populate the region rather than barn quilts.  We even rolled past the College of Taxidermy!  I do admit that the Obama 2012 sign looked out of place.

Bob Morgan took this road in the opposite direction than we did.  What he described as a series of steps down to the creek now become a series of hills to climb to St. Charles.  The steepest one is just outside of town.  Just when I almost started to bitch I saw the water tower and knew the hills were over for a moment.  We rolled through town and stopped at a very large Casey's General Store.  Close to I-35 travelers must support this oasis to bikers.  A soft serve machine was included too!

Two rather dusty cyclocross bikes were out front and later two jersey clad individuals stepped out.  David and Loren.  They too rode from Des Moines although gravel roads were their choice.  They said they might fight the wind to Osceola and suggested that we turn north and go through Bevington.  But once David saw our road bikes he told us to stick with our plan.

After they rolled off a gentleman on a Surly LHT rolled in and purchased a ton of food and water.  mark I think is his name.  He was training for a long self contained adventure out west and needed hills to train on since mountains were in his future.

On the way out of town we stopped at the IMES bridge.  Having seen signs for this covered bridge for at least 10 miles we were curious about it.  Bonus was that this one was right off the pavement instead of a few miles down a dusty gravel road.  Photo opportunity.  Spoiler alert: every covered bridge in Madison county is polluted with graffiti.  Billy loves Doreen ect.  Looks like crap but I suppose some people think it immortalizes their love.

Put that F'ing camera down, please.

Versailles on at the IMES bridge.  Yes, we rode through it.
Back on the road and we crossed I-35 and left Madison County.  Warren County would be our location until we were within a few short miles from home.  This year it is easy to determine if one is in Warren County.  there are almost 8 people running for sheriff and a million signs asking for your vote.  I think the primary is in early June.  We discovered this a few weeks back on our Lacona excursion.

St Marys is about 4 or 5 miles from the freeway.  We were able to experience our first tailwind of the day on this leg.  it felt good, damn good.  And to make our smiles larger the road comes into town just south of the business district but north of the STEEP hill. 

R45 has some very steep hills including the one about midway between St. Marys and New Virginia.  we have hit 50+ twice on it on tandem.  40s on singles.  I wanted to turn south and conquer that hill again.  yeah, it's a climb but the reward is worth it.  With the wind from the south I'd set a new single bike speed record for myself.  The last time we attempted this the wind was from the north.  But Mary was right, we were close over 50 miles into the ride and still a long way from home.  Besides we just avoided one of the worst climbs in Iowa, R45 at Nixon Ave.  Try it sometime if you aint chickenshit.

The day was not without reward.  Now the wind was at our backs.  We flew through town, noting that the convenience store was still inconveniently out of business and that the bar was open.  Time to fly!  Just about 4 or 5 miles to 92 and then another half mile to Martinsdale.  A nice set of rollers that lead us down to 92.  Big ring engage!  This was about the only time I lead other than on 169.  Maybe dropped out of big ring twice on climbs but once atop SHIFT!!  I ran out of gear, too.  That's the trouble with stock racing triples, 50 teeth aint enough.  I missed the 53 on my 2200. 

Traffic was not bad, maybe 4 or 5 cars passed us.  Mary had to drop back a bit because she could not close the gap and cars wanted in.  We saw two bikers riding south but they did not wave.  Stuck ups.  And when we were on the flat I verbally reminded Mary and myself to downshift before the stop sign.  There are many worse things than crossing a highway in too tall of gear but novice mistakes suck.

Martinsdale at last.  Time to get on the trail and not worry about cars except at intersections.  We stopped at the park/trailhead and checked phone.  mine was dead from running Endomondo.  Last Endomondo reading was in St. Charles.  Mary had several missed call's from Dora's friend.  We rolled north passing two young mothers pushing jogging strollers at speed.

The ride to Cumming was ok.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  Few of my friends ever get south of Cumming.  Too bad.  The trail is interesting down here.  But scenery was not on my mind.  I was beginning to bonk.  I considered eating the Powerbar in my pocket but Cumming and Charbuff Grill were just a few miles ahead.  Climb and not think about it.  Food and drink soon enough.  Chad grilled us his last two Italian sausage sandwiches.  Seemed fitting since we had Italian for lunch in Winterset.

Justin Jenkins was here too enjoying the hops and barley of Bob Moural's finest.  This was the first time we had talked in quite sometime.  i suggested that he organize 40 on the 4th again but family obligations have prevented him for repeating this wonder ride in FLAT north Polk County.

Soon we rolled again, destination home.  Nothing really to report except for once we rode the entire trail complete and half without ever hearing "ON YOUR LEFT" except for the time I barked it at Mary for a dangerous maneuver she made on my right.  Closing in on Mullets we saw a blue jersey and a red jersey.  I picked up my pace until I recognized Loren's water bottle underneath her saddle.

"What happened to Osceola?"

"Had to work" or "it did not work out."

I wonder where they were while we sat in the shade of the Cumming Tap?  They missed a good time.  Bernie was buying beers.  Mary and I had mountain Dew.  We drank the night before.  One beer is not enough and two are too many.

End Note

We showered and made dinner.  And to cap off the day and to reward Dora for our absence, I had her as my stoker for a ride to DQ in Windsor Heights.  Soft serve and chocolate is always good.  Besides, DQ is a tad over 8 miles from our home and we needed 16 miles to have 100 for the day.

101.2 miles for the day; Des Moines to Winterset and back 80 miles

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Book of VeloRelevations

These are the scenes that were shown yet hidden from me.  These are the words spoken yet not spoken to me.  What I will tell are things that are, things that have always been and things that are to come. 

I was alone on a hot stretch of road.  My water bottle was empty.  My mobile phone's battery was drained.  In every direction I saw vast wastelands.  I tried to find shade but there was none. My legs felt torn up and useless.  The stench of a dead skunk, flattened by a automobile filled the air.  I rolled past the grease mark that once was a black animal with white stripes.  Eventually I stopped to look at my map.  But the map was tattered and disintegrated in my hands.  A gust of wind scattered the remnants far away.  I was alone and lost.  "Ah, Lord, could this really be the end?" I cried out.  Pedal on.  Out of options roll forward to see what fate awaited me.

A fiery light illuminated the distance.  It was far away but moving toward me.  Like a line of force from the heavens, a tear in a strange design.  Far away but moving in.  It seemed to draw me in.

I could feel its heat as it approached.  Not a searing heat but a comforting embrace.  An image emerged from the fire.  It appeared to be an angel on a bicycle.  Fiery eyes like stars penetrated my soul.  "You are not lost," it said although there was no movement from the angels mouth.  Words formed in my head and I understood.  "I will see you home."

"I am very thirsty.  I need water and food," I cried out.

"And you shall have it."

The angel pointed to a sheltered table.  On the table there were three water bottles filled with a substance that appeared to be water yet appeared to be brighter and shinier than water.

"Drink from the first bottle," I was told.  I leaned my bicycle against a tree and sat at the table.  I reached for the first bottle and the scene changed.  The wasteland morphed into a lush mountain valley yet we seemed to be rising.  Our table and road and bicycles rising higher and higher until we were the tallest point on the horizon.  The bottle felt very cool and the liquid was very refreshing.  I drank the entire contents in 3 pulls.

"Look down from the mountain and tell me what you see and I will tell you what you see."

I could see many bicyclist.  Some riding fast.  Others were riding slow.  The fastest riders were very bright.  The slowest were dimmer.  The brightest bikers eventually dimmed and others became faster and brighter.  The dimmer bicyclist became brighter.  Some also became dimmer and there light extinguished.  Everything was in flux.  No one biker maintained the same intensity consistently.  It was impossible for me to follow one for more than a moment.  They would disappear into a sea of others, indistinguishable from one another.  It told all of this to the veloangel.

The angel pierced me again with its fiery gaze and the words I will repeat to you appeared into my mind with sound.  "There is always the fastest biker and always the slowest biker.  You are neither.  There have been times when you were the fastest.  There have times when you were the slowest.  As long as you ride your light will shine."

The veloangel motioned to the second bottle.  I knew I was to drink this.  Once again I completed the bottle in three swallows.  I was told to look down the mountain again.  I saw the fastest biker.  I could see its face.  The fastest biker was smiling.  Without sound or facial movement the fastest biker spoke to me.

"I am the fastest biker.  I am a fleeting image.  My time is short and I will expire and reform as someone else soon.  Someone else will be the fastest.  I smile because I know I am the fastest.  I worked hard to be here, my chance.  Feel the heat from my light.  It soon will be less intense.  I will not be in agony when the torch is passed.  My time in front has filled me with joy.  It hurt to get here but I am at peace now.  I have tasted true speed and true freedom.  For that I am satisfied."

And as quickly as the fastest biker rolled to us, it as quickly rolled away.  I almost thought I saw the light of the fastest dim and I tried to concentrate on it with all my being.  But the veloangel summoned me again.  It told me to look behind me.

Behind me I could see the slowest biker.  The slowest bike rode toward me at an incredibly slow pace.  I thought this bicyclist would fall over.  It appeared not to move at all.  The slowest biker smiled.  And like the others the slowest spoke without movement, spoke without sound.  Words appeared in my thoughts again.

"I am the slowest biker.  I was not always the slowest.  I once was fast but my light was dimmed.  I ride slower and slower.  But I am happy because I still ride.  Those who do not ride are the dead and the dieing, those who physically cannot and those who never had a chance, those who are skeptical and those that will never know the pure joy of riding a bike.  Have pity on them.  Some knew the joy.  Others lost the joy.  But I know the joy and i continue to ride.  My time as slowest is finite and someone else will take my place when I leave this realm.  But my spirit remains."

"You once were slow.  You are slower than others yet faster than others as well.  You light will shine brightly and slowly dim like mine if you are safe and take care of yourself.  You can ride a long an joyful journey if you are safe and wise."

The slowest biker communicated this to me as it rode by.  Soon the slowest biker was gone and I found myself staring at the third bottle.  The veloangel nodded and I knew it was time to drink the third bottle.  As with the others, I finished the refreshing liquid in 3 drags from the bottle.  Without being prompted I looked down from the mountain a third time.

I could see every biker everywhere.  I could hear their sighs and sorrows.  I could hear their laughter and jubilation.  It was almost more than i could bear.  Millions and millions of bicyclist going everywhere, some lost, others knowing where they were.  Some broken down.  Some rolling just fine.  Some getting along with each others.  Others fighting over trivial matters such as 26" or 29" wheels, Campy v Shimano v SRAM.  Trail etiquette seemed to be the major issue.  Manners.  People not getting along because they knew not how to share a road or trail.  Knowledge and lack of knowledge.  Their voices rising to me like growing din that turns into a freight train.  I covered my ears to know avail, the sound completely filling my head.  I turned to the veloangel and cried out, "Please stop this.  I cannot bare another moment."

The mountaintop vanished and we were back on the side of the road that I was lost on.  The noise ended, thankfully, as well.  But the wasteland was transformed into a beautiful countryside.  Upon further examination I knew where I was.  Not far from home, no longer lost!  I felt at peace.

The veloangel spoke again without movement or sound.  Its thoughts filled my head and I understood.  "You may never be the fastest and you may never be the slowest.  But if you help others on their rides and you ride safely and with concern for others your light will remain bright.  And perhaps someday you can help others in this realm of the ether worldly bicyclists."

The angel smiled and spoke a final time.  "Would you like a draft to the lean to?"  I nodded yes and rolled with the veloangel.  I do not know how fast we were going because my computer could not register the speed.  it was as unreal as my visions.  We slowed down as the lean to appeared.  There were people there sitting and enjoying themselves.  I saw a gazebo near by.  And i caught a glimmer of something else.

A bulldozer was rusting near by.  Underneath its treads I saw Knapp.  He was alive but vultures were picking away at his skin.  "What have I done?  What have I done?" Knapp cried out.  The veloangel spoke one more time. 

"He has received his reward in your world.  Gnashing of teeth and fire await him in mine."

Then the bulldozer disappeared.  I turned to veloangel to ask him if this was to come true and be Knapp's fate but the spirit was gone.  I heard a faint voice in the distance.  "Do not forget what you have seen.  Do not keep these things to yourself."

I was 10 miles from home.  My friends were with me.  Someone was playing music and I could hear a cold beverage being opened.  Everyone was happy.  Just then my phone beeped with a text.  "Dinner will be ready in an hour.  Home soon?"  Yes.  I will be home.  I wave at the people at the lean to and rolled toward the first tunnel.  Home soon.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Antics From Check Point 4 on Cyclo de Mayo 6

Our two bicycles and Burley, flag prominently displayed @Check Point 4
Once again yours truly volunteered to run a check point for Des Moines premier bicycle poker run, Cyclo de Mayo.  This event is to raise money to build a gazebo in memorial for Joan Gill, a valued member of the tribe we call bikers.  This was Mary and my second time at Check Point 4.  Joan was good to us and Graham has been good to us as well.  Give back to the community.

Graham @GoodSons for handlebar Happy Hour.  This is where we recieved the packet and flag.
My involvement began sometime back.  When asked, I said I'd help.  First task was to build trophies.  We met one afternoon and cleaned old chains, cassette cogs and chainrings in an environmentally sound manner.  Big thank you to Brad O @The Collective for donating chainrings.

The day before the event we met at GoodSons for HHH and packet/flag exchange.  This is when I was given the location of our check point.  Chutes and ladders was the theme so parks with slides were the destinations.  Honestly, if the happy hour special was not good I would have been upset.  $3.75 pints of quality beer.  I chose Goose Island IPA.  Love the taste and smell of hops.  Mary met us there which was a good thing since my bike lacked bags to carry the flag home.

Craig Lein left here with us, stopping once at Carl's and then the Locust Tap.  Jon Cox, Check Point 3 met us at the Tap.  We exchanged phone numbers and Latitude permission.  As per Graham's instruction, the check point before yours was to call or text the next check point to inform them when the first rider was heading that way.  With the exchange of info Points 3,4 and 5 were ready.  I had previously called Liz Waxman Dagget, #5, to establish communication.

Liz @El Bait
After a beer we rolled for home.  However, when we reached Court Ave it was discovered that the flag was missing!  So we retraced our path and found the flag laying on the ground in front of the Tap.  It apparently fell out when Mary put her purse in the panniers.  Dodged that bullet.  I feared that some drunk snatched it as a memento of the night.  We rolled home and went to bed.  Long day, our alarm went off at 415 am on Friday.

The morning felt promising.  Sun was out.  Forecast called for great temps.  My best operating temperatures are between 55 and 75F.  I like to be outside without shivering or sweating.  I can always put on a jacket but in Iowa when the temp passes 80F so does the humidity.  I do not mind working up a sweat but just breathing and having my heart at a low resting beat and sweating is wrong IMHO.

Supplies.  Last year we were the designated Red Bull stop.  I also supplied a 30 pack of Miller and CP 4 was on the pedestrian bridge over I-235.  Miller and Red Bull over the freeway!  Unfortunately, Graham's connection moved away to care for his father and we were sans Red Bull.  And feeling a bit of a need to save money and stay sober, we foregoed the Miller.  Diet Mountain Dew and a bottle of Moscato is what we took.  We never touched the wine.  For food we stopped at Grazianos and purchased a bag of rolls, 1/2 lb of sliced pepperoni and 1/2 lb of sliced provolone with a box of raspberry tarts for dessert.  Helping out a local business and eating with style.  I snagged two Powerbars just in case.  It could be a long day.

 Because I am not of the Culture of Fear and was planning to be sober I left the helmet at home in favor of my BSA Asian looking hat.  I found it on day 4 of our trek through the Rookies at Philmont Scout Reservation.  Riding with this hat was an experience since it is completely an aerodynamic drag.  Sort of a drag chute with straps that cut at my throat.  But the hat was for keeping the sun off my face and give people a laugh.  As usual, it was well received by those who saw me riding.  Should have brought along my SKS for the full effect.  Diddy mao, round eye!

The shadow of the hat made me feel like a South Park character
CP 4 was at McHenry Park.  5 or so miles from our house in Little Italy and all but 1/2 mile on trail.  Nestled above the re-vamped Birdland Levy, this park offers a commanding view of the river and city.  The trail was greatly enhanced during the levy reconstruction.  City planners intelligently had a new trail replace the connection to the park.  The former was extremely steep and narrow and dangerous.  I would not have been able to pull the Burley up it.  But the replacement has a much gentler grade.  It is a pleasure to ride up and down it.

Mary and I arrived early and had time to set up.  As per Graham's instruction we set up next to the slide.  This was also next to the rock on the punch card.  He said not to take the shelter.  The shelter was busy with a birthday party anyway.  We had time to mess around for these stupid photos.

With these shots we were ready.  All that we needed was the text from Jon that the riders were coming.  We never got that text.  4 or 5 bikes eventually rolled up.  Since we were slightly above the trail they failed to see us and rolled to the other slide bitching all the way once we were spotted.  Sorry, your job was to find us.  We were exactly where we were supposed to be.  Time to work.  It seemed that once the first folks arrived someone was right behind them.  The first group was off quickly.

Bottom left is CP 4.  Notice the slide through the rock?  We set up there.

Our job was simple.  Punch their time card and hand out a playing card with their number on it.  Then tell them where the next CP was and hand out maps as necessary.

These participants were not in a hurry. One has a beer.  Photo taken at our checkpoint.
The only problem with our CP was that the trail was dug into the earth.  The sides of the trail were seeded for grass.  It was very tempting to ride up our run up or scramble up this hillside.  At least one person rode up it.  I was impressed.  Smart people would leave their bikes down there and climb up on foot.  Chris Mace asked for us to come down to him.  Sorry, Chris, I was not going to establish that precedent.  Git your arse up here!

In the group of riders in the photo above, one puked and another took a hit off an inhaler.  They bitched about hills.  I don't remember the hill being bad but then again I was not competing.  They took their time to recover.  3 more check points.

Sam Gill
Soon the herd thinned.  Fast riders were long gone.  Time for stragglers.  The last two were of note.  One was the infamous #61 or "girl in pink shorts."  She was the last to register.  Graham had already texted the number of racers BEFORE she signed up.  She was with a friend who was not participating.  I think they refused to allow her to sign up.  Late and probably out of punch cards.  One must draw a line somewhere or people will walk right over you time and time again.

Pink shorts chick on a late 80s early 90s Trek 1400 a tad bit too large for her.  Noticed the saddle is almost to the frame.  Too bad, those Treks are solid rides.  I hope it is not uncomfortable for her.

The 55th racer to grace Check Point 4 was Molly.  I tried to video her climb up the hill but did not hit start.  Instead I have the following crappy photo.  She said that this was her 2nd ride of the year.  Mace, come on man, her second ride??  Best winter ever.

Molly getting her card punched by Mary.  She would join "Pink Shorts" for the ride to CP5
We remained on station for another 40 minuted before texting Graham.  1 racer dropped out and informed HQ.  5 others failed to show up here before graham gave us the go ahead and return text.  I did call Jon Cox twice to no avail.  We called Liz to let here know and told her to text Graham about splitting.

Off to El Bait.  Good to see everyone there.  Many of my friends I had not seen for quite some time.  Been a busy Spring.  Liz and Brad invited us to the Omaha Double Bagger but we declined.  Would love to go but we need some centuries in before Tour de Kota.  That and saving $$.  Ragbrai soon after TdK and we have two touring bikes in dry dock to prep for that adventure.  As it is Mary's fast bike needs some TLC before June 17.  Thank you for thinking about us.

Mike Lamb was there.  Back pack ready for his pilgramage to Europe for rock and roll.  Emphasis on rock.  I am jealous.  Richie Allen was there but his drunk wife was passed out at home.  His FB posts are the best.  I hope he posts "ghetto tetherball."  Ask him.

Not a bike ride without a photo of Eric Crabb and Brad Dagget and Liz