Sunday, December 21, 2014

Tommy Godwin and the Unbreakable Record

Pappy Boyington once said, "Show me a hero and I'll show you a bum."  In the wake of the Lance Armstrong Scandal it is very difficult to look at bicycle racers and find heroes or role models or even harder, gods.  Mine happen to be mostly local bikers that I have known and respected over the years.  Yet a Lycra clad stick biker blasting through the trails disrupting everyone's enjoyment makes me question the respect I place on racers.  Yet there is one subculture of racer/athlete that I have yet to fault, the endurance racer.  Des Moines was bless with the presence of one Dr. Bob Breedlove who set records on RAAM (Race Across America) until his life was tragically extinguished by someone driving a truck.  I always considered RAAM the toughest athletic competition of any discipline.  After all, it is riding a bicycle from coast to coast.  7 days is the approximate time and record.  Then I discovered a new challenge, an unbreakable record set back in 1939.

Tommy Godwin

Back in the early 20th century to the middle a quest to see who could ride the most miles in one year was a feat which a few met and set.  In 1939 a man from England set the record.  He rode 75, 065 miles in one year!  He took only one day off.  He exceeded the old record, 62,000 miles,  in October and continued.  He beat his challenger by 10,000 miles.  And if that was not enough he continued into May of the following year to become the fast individual to set out and ride 100,000 miles.  And if that were not enough, he took a week off, basically to learn how to walk again, and joined the RAF.  As the bitter dark clouds of WWII encompassed Europe, Tommy Godwin rode a bicycle to give Great Britian its endurance record back and to give the nation hope.  He probably did it for himself.  As an endurance racer he pretty much beat every record and need one great challenge to conquer.

The Challenge

For someone to match the yearly mileage record they would have to average 205 miles per day every day for a year.  For the 100,000 mile challenge, 200 miles per day for 500 days straight.  And the bicycles were a custom built Reynolds 531 steel road bike with a Sturmey-Archer 3 speed internal hub and later a 4 peed medium ration SA hub a Raleigh Record Ace with the Sturmey-Archer 4 speed hub.  Estimated weight, 30 to 35 lb.  No fancy high tech clothing.  No advanced scientific nutrition.  No GPS, mobile phone or lights.  To ride at night he used a friction generated light.

His record has sat for over 70 years.  maybe because people forgot about it in the aftermath of WWII.  Maybe no one has interest in such endurance sports.  Maybe nobody has the fortitude to challenge it.  Until now.  Steven Abraham from the UK and an American (I cannot find his name) have announced that they will attempt to break the unbreakable record in 2015.   Steven says that he has been preparing for 2 years.  He has researching on the bike he will ride and plans to use disc brakes to save time from replacing traditional brake pads and wheels since disc brakes do not rub off the braking surface on wheels.  He is working on getting sponsors since the attempt will require him to take a year off from work, the need for spare parts and food and to be able to pay the UMCA (Ultra marathon Cycling Association) who will govern the event.  Guinness Book of World Records will not sanction the challenge since they consider it too dangerous.

One Year Time Trial

Personally, I do not consider the record unbreakable.  It just takes time and dedication.  Obviously money as well.  Find a location devoid of mountains and major hills as well as a  temperate weather and a direction to ride 200+ miles with a tailwind.  And look at today's bicycles, lighter, stronger, faster, more comfortable.  Today's nutrition to fuel the body cannot be ignored.  Then again things have changed for the worse since 1939.  There are a lot more cars on the road.  And maybe our generation and future generations lack the stuff of the Greatest Generation.  I wish Steven and the American all the luck in the world and I hope the memory of Tommy Godwin will live on.

Click here if you have the right stuff!

The Bicycle Games of Van Randall

There are times that I really am sick of riding a bicycle.  There are also many times that I could pull the plug on FaceBook.  Yet there is something that at times makes me throw the leg over the bike and ride when i don't feel like it or need too.  And that same thing keeps me on FB.  I appreciate it and wish that others could enjoy this magic.  It is the games that one person creates for bicyclists.  Randall Van Scyoc.

Bicycle Ride&Seek is a bicycling FaceBook game.  Everyone there is a new list of items that one must photograph their bicycle near.  Usually this list is 10 to 12 items long.  Often there is a theme depending on the season or month.  For example, in October a "haunted house" was required.  In July a "representation of an American flag not an actual flag."  Often this requires a keen eye, creativity and good photography.  I usually do mine half arsed but occasionally I have a gem.

GeoCouching Map

The other game Van Randall created is GeoCouching.  Not GeoCaching.  Here one needs to find an abandoned couch or upholstered piece of house furniture and have their photograph taken of it while sitting on it with the bicycle in the photo.  Photo and exact location is either emailed to him or placed in the FB GeoCouching group.  He will then post it on the GeoCouching map (Google Maps) for all to see.  Quite fun.  Few things are as thrilling as spotting an illegally dumped couch during a bike ride.  It helps to have someone with you to take the photo or to be creative enough to build a tripod out of a smashed beer can and a tree.

A third game that Randall turned me onto was the 2014 Brewvet Challenge  This was a photo contest to ride a bike to different locations to enjoy a beer, photograph it and write a review of it.  despite starting two weeks into it, there was a time limit, I was the first one to complete it!  Had to represent Iowa!  Unfortunately, I missed the coffee version of this held last month.  Brewvet Challenge Blog

So whenever I ride I scan the horizon to look for necessary photo stops.  And often I smile when i see ones that I could have used in previous months.  And if you are riding with me when I spy a couch, prepare to stop and take my photo!  I lead Iowa in GeoCouching.

Friday, December 19, 2014

One Hellish Tandem Ride

Called an old friend of mine the other night.  Separated by miles and his refusal to get online and my disdain of traveling by car, we have not ridden together or even seen each other in over a decade.  Maybe less but it feels like a decade.  Usually about this time of year we text or phone each other.

After catching up on family the conversation twists toward one bicycle ride.  He claims that he tells everyone about it.  I smile knowing that at least once in my life my bicycling skills have left a permanent and positive impreesion in someone's memory.  Probably more than one person because we had a busload of witnesses.

Montrose, Iowa, 1992, the last day of the Ragbrai.  The very last 11 miles of that ride.  Mary's first go at Ragbrai, my second and our tandem's first.  We traveled light, throwing our bags in back of Europa Cycle's truck.  Rob was their pro, head wrencher.  He said he would be able to get the last day off and ride with us.  But that got cancelled since he was the only one from Europa that could drive the truck pulling the trailer.  The new plan was Rob would take care of getting the truck and trailer to the end and then ride the route the opposite way and meet us half way.  He would be using my Motobecane road bike and once we met up mary would ride that bike and Rob would be the stoker on the tandem.

We never met up until Montrose.  A mere 11 miles left for the day and for the entire Ragbrai.  Mary and I had given up hope until riding past the school we heard him call out above the din of the crowd and REO Speedwagon which was blaring from giant speakers on the roof of the school.  The place was crowded.  Last town out.  Last chance to party.  Beer was available here, odd considering it was on the school grounds but then again it was southeast Iowa during the Ragbrai.  Rob handed me a piece of paper with a message.  Jack the tab.

Mary took off on the Motobecane leaving Rob and I to our own devices.  One beer then hit the road.  But we had trouble leaving.  No sooner than were were a few pedal strokes into it two bikini clad girls with supersoakers drilled us.  "Take the lid off your water bottle and turn around.  Let's get them!" Rob insisted.  Sure enough vengence was ours.  They were surprised!

Then the woman he flirted with all week showed up.  Had to stop.  Last chance to see each other.  I think they traded shirts.

Then I had to pee.  Leaving the kybo I see Rob riding the tandem from the back seat and head straight into the Mississippi River.  "You bastard!"

"Don't worry about it,  he laughed, "this bike has seen worse this week."  True, it had rained several times.  I had the bottom brackets replaced 15 years later, not that I needed them to be replaced, just because I had the money and wanted it done.  Bike World said that they were still alright.  Still....

Finally we got rolling.  Up out of the hole and up on the high road.  Change of stokers requires new communication.  The only real issue is that he did not want me to coast.  Easy for him to ask.  After all I had been riding all week while he worked.  Rob also raced and was disciplined.  "Just give me a gear when I ask for one," he asked.  Prospects of a painful ride.  Rocket man on back not allowing my pedal pedal coast coast method.  Fine.  Head down and pedal.

It must have been a hot humid day despite the grey sky.  I was aware that I had taken my jersey off.  Then I was aware that it was or had been raining.  We were going fast.  The bikes we passed appeared to be standing still.  The road had red spots, from the local cheap rock, where road work had been done.  But these areas seemed small as if it was mere pothole patching.  Each red patch was flown over in mere seconds.  The bike's computer died a few days earlier so I had no idea how fast we were going.

As we sped quicker to Fort Madison there were people that cheered us on.  Someone gave Rob a pinwheel and he would hit me with it.  Later other people statred booing us.  "Ragbrai is over!"  Funny, we passed a bunch of slow bikes and hundreds of people were still behind us in Montrose.  Keep going, ignore them, faster.

Finally the town appeared.  The route proceeded downhill with a hard left turn at the bottom.  A crowd of people stood behind a State Trooper who was signaling us toward the turn.  the road was wet, confirmation of the rain.  We were still hauling ass at top speed.  Time to scrub some speed.  I applied the brakes for a second or two.  "Off the brakes, the rear wheel just slid 4 inches!" Robert exclaimed.  In retrospect he should have complimented the bike's brakes for being able to lock up when wet.  But with the necessary retrograde completed I released the brakes.  "Slow down, man, we gotta turn!"

My replay was simple.  "I know what I am doing!"  Some in the crowd began to back up and move.  What I was about to do I had done once on a mountain bike.  At the right moment i was going to hit the front brake HARD with my left hand, push the handle bar HARD with my right hand, shift weight to the left and release the front brake and make the 90 degree turn without losing an ounce of energy or speed!  To put it simply, redirect the kinetic energy of the tandem without crashing or losing speed.  I had no time to explain this to Rob or the State Trooper who was now jumping out of what he believed our path was.

Sure enough, it went down as planned.  I did not have time to look to see their faces.  We were headed in a new direction at the same speed as before.  The tandem stayed upright.  That was the peak, the highlight, the high water mark.  Some high speed bootlegger move that the crowd could only stare in disbelief as we spirited away, warp factor 7.  Of all the crazy stuff I had done on bicycles before--divebombing hills at 50+ mph ect, nothing has ever topped that move.  On the phone, Robert told me he still tells that story.

So we peaked and now the comedown.  Literally spiraling downward toward wherever the Ragbrai ended.  Cars and people everywhere.  I let the speed drop.  My energy suddenly vanished and all adrenalin reserves were depleted.  Time to find Europa,  Time to find Mary and her father who drove here to pick us up.  Very soon the real world and all its ugliness and responsibilities would come crashing down on us.  But for the remaining moments the Gary Fisher Gemini tandem let us ride freely.

Russ Clark, owner of the bike shop appeared.  it was over.  He grabbed the handle bars and looked my in they eye with a crazed smile on his face.  "Did you see God?"  I could not speak.

Mary and her father appeared too.  Punctual as ever, my smiling father in-law had the Chevy Scottsdale waiting for us and the bikes.  Game over.  A few hours to drive home.  He took the same road the rout was on.  Nice to have this perspective.  Those red spots I thought were small were really nearly a quarter mile long.  In the cab of the truck it felt like we were flying.  Moving without effort above the road.  A new sensation.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Trek 560 Rolls Again

Yeah, the reable cable housing is a bit too long but it was what I had at the time and Rob was on his way.  Shifted nicely anyway.  

After a long year of only doing bike maintenance when i had to, finally pulled the classic Trek 560 out of storage and placed the finishing touches on it to make it road worthy again.  A few years ago one son managed to throw the rear derailleur into the spokes and thus destroyed the Shimano 600 Ultegra derailleur.

Several months ago I purchased the replacement derailleur and place it on the bike and put it back in storage.  I think it was because the white bar tape was dirty, nasty and ugly.  But when I pulled it out today I think the reason the project was delayed was because of the want of a chain.  I did purchase new bar tape and I removed a chain from a different bike that was not going to need it anytime soon.  it was, however, a new chain.

The 560 is a lugged and brazed Reynolds 506 steel frame.  Long chainstays and not provisions for racks.  When I purchased the bike it was missing a seatpost, derailleurs and handlebars.  I had the missing items except for the seatpost which I obtained at a benefit for Stretch Wilson's family after the death of his granddaughter.  Silent auction at Carl's Place.

The bike has that wonderful steel feel to it and at times seems a bit twitchy at slow speeds.  But it is a comfortable bike and the fit is reminiscent of our beloved but stolen 1991 Cannondale R400.  The wheels were custom built by a friend at Europa Cycles for my Motobecane, the French company not the Chinese company of the same name.  27" Matrix Titan Tour with butted spokes.  The front is a bit noisy after years of use but still a solid wheelset.

Unfortunately, I could not find my pedal wrench in time for a ride with Rob den Hartog.  Rat traps had to do.  We rode to Cumming and back and then the Holly Jolly Lights in Water Works Park.  This was our first ride together.  The first of many I hope.  It was almost 60F outside.  29 miles with stop at Principal Park.  Christmas miracle indeed!

Needed this photo for Bicycle Ride&Seek

54 Miles Because it's 50F

Mensch on a tandem team!  Big Wheel Rally 2014.

My faith in weather forecasting is nil.  Still I check.  Not much one can do.  Study yearly  records and determine what the weather will be for a certain date?  Two weeks ago the Weather Announcers said that warm weather would hit this weekend.  They promised that it would warm up to the 50s.  56F for Saturday.  This forecast never changed.  We had to do one last long ride before the hammer comes down and we would be forced to endure another winter of 20 below Zerex.  Craig had a similar thought.  Together we planned to ride to Dallas Center, Iowa, before joining up with the Big Wheel Rally on Ingersoll Ave Des Moines.  Since the BWR was an all day and night marathon of bicycles, big wheels, costumes and drinking I had no fear of arriving late.

The best laid plans often get torpedoed and the warhead that jammed our rudder was in the form of my family.  We had to make sure my mother got up, took her medication, had dry bedding and insulin.  I suggested that we do this in the evening on our return from a long ride and thus skip the BWR to ensure proper attitude and sobriety.  But my sibling had some training and could not take the morning shift.  It worked out very well for us.  The only thing about it was that we would not be able to ride with Craig to Dallas Center and Minburn.  I was not about to abandon Mary on this day.

New plan was to ride to Johnston and check on my mother and then ride to Polk City from there and have lunch at Papa's Pizzeria.  After lunch intercept the High Trestle Trail and ride to FireTrucker Brewery and then ride back to Des Moines and catch up with the Big Wheel Rally.

Our steed was our fast tandem, a Cannondale  RT3000.  2014 was the year that it sat in storage since it seemed that we rode the touring tandem more often.  Checking the Bike Log, the C-dale had been ridden about 3 times for a total of 63 miles.  September was the last time we rode it.  The tires were down to 40 psi.  Sad, but that how one can extend the life of a bicycle by not riding it often.

We planned to leave early but we slept in.  I had a massive headache that even coffee could not kill.  Funny, I only had one beer the night before and no wine.  Did I take anything for it?  No.  Suffer, bitch, suffer.  I do appreciate that I had time to brew coffee.

Late starts are not bad this time of year as it allowed us the liberty of not taking as many layers as an early start require.  I wore tights, a long sleeve base layer and a long sleeve jersey, two pairs of socks and sandals.  to keep my head warm I wore a Santa hat sans helmet.  Oh yes, a pair of those $1 brown gloves.  Perfect.

It was near 50F when we left.  The roads and trails were wet.  It appeared as if it rained over night but it may have been from the ground thawing out and moisture from the melting snow.  Grass was turning green.  it was a bit foggy.

Neal Smith Trail to the Trestle to Trestle Trail and then the InterUrban Johnston Trail to reach mother's apt.  Once we deemed her ok we left.  We headed north on Merle Hay Rd and stopped at the Kum&Go for water and food.  We left our water bottles at home.  I have not used a bottle in months since I don't need one on my commute in cold weather.  Then we took the trail to NW 70th St. to NW Beaver Dr.

When a sign says "TRAIL CLOSED" please obey it even if you can see it all the way to the end without anything that would appear to be the cause of the closure.  I ignored the sign and took the trail, sidepath really,  Sure, the work appeared to be finished but there was a layer of slimey dirt/mud on the surface which not only caused the back wheel to loose contact on occasion but stuck to the wheels like no other.  Our 700x25 tires looked like 26x1.5s.  Mary's backside was getting dirty and my face as well.  Lesson learned.

The tandem is smaller than a Corsair2
The tandem is smaller than a tank.
Smaller than this tank, too.

The tandem is smaller than a large caliber towed field artillery.

Once on NW Beaver we followed it north past Camp Dodge to highway 415 and crossed the Mile Long Bridge to Polk City.  Kinda fun crossing that bridge and I wished I would have take photos.  A bit hazy and the lake was mostly frozen and the guard rails seem to be real short.  I wondered it we were hit if we'd fall of the bridge and if so would be be better off landing on the ice or the open areas.  I also noted that high profile vehicles could also suffer the same fate.  But the expansion joints were the most disturbing.  It seemed that the closer we got to the end of the bridge the worse they were.  But our wheels never got stuck and nobody honked at a tandem with the captain wearing a red shirt and Santa hat.

Papa's Pizza was as good as always.  We had the Hawaiian, two sodas with multiple refills and a beer.  Please make that joint a destination on a bicycle ride.  Fast and friendly and great pizza.

To get to the HTT we just followed the main road out of town and took the county road to the Oasis.  maybe 2.5 miles.  Another 6 or so on the trail itself to the end in Ankeny.  We encountered one tandem.  the stoker said hello, the captain was silent.  They had the tailwind.

Firetrucker can be found at the end of the trail across the street.  It is a busy street.  There is a dirt entrance/exit from the trail to the road.  Frogger time but you end up right in the driveway.  This place was set up for bicyclists.  Large bike rack out front adjacent the beer garden.  All sorts of plug ins for your phones and electronics.  USB ports on the electric sockets at the bar!  I had the pumper truck Porter which was excellent.  Mary had the Uptown IPA.  My second and last selection was the 2Alarm Red which was 7.6%.  Most of their beers were $4.75 per pint which is very reasonable.  We will be back.

The return trip to Des Moines started with the trail again.  I really do not know how to get from the trailhead to the sidepath on Oralabor Rd so I navigate it like this.  Take the trail to IrvinedaleRd.  Get on the street and ride that to the GitnGo on Oralabor Rd/415.  Take sidepath west and connect up with the Neal Smith Trail.  OR continue south past the Casey's and get on the NST off of Morning Star Rd.  We chose the former for a change.

Once in Des Moines we had the decision to make about the best way to get to Ingersoll Ave and the BWR. Do we take the trail all the way downtown and then head west?  Do we take the InterUrban trail and cut through Drakeland?  We opted to get off the trail at North HS and ride 6th to Clark and then ride through residential areas until we reached the Drake area and then connect with Kingman Blvd and take 28th to Ingersoll.

With the sun starting to set we found our friends at the BWR outside the Ingersoll Tap which was having their busiest day ever.  We hung out there both inside and outside to soak up the good vibes and see friends.  We skipped the Yacht Club in favor of having sushi at Sakari.  Sake, too,  Nothing washes down raw salmon like sake!  Then off to home.

54 miles on the dot on the clock!  Now it is time to hose off the tandem and put it away until the Spring.  I am glad we gave it a glorious ride for its final big roll of the year.  we did ride it to Church this morning for the forgiveness of its riders' sins!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Metro Trails Snow Clearing November 26, 2014

Yeah, a little late on this report but it is necessary.  The Des Moines Metropolitan area received around 2.8 inches of snow the day before Thanksgiving.  For most people this was a working day.  For those that commute to work on bicycle they were faced with the decision to ride on uncleared trails or snow covered roads with cars and trucks driven by individuals who are traveling in snow for the first time since last winter.  Also, snow on streets gets dirty and wet quickly.  I chose the trail system.

snow event 11/26/2014

Going to work was not bad at all.  I love to ride on fresh virgin snow.  Riding home was not too bad either. The City of Clive had the Greenbelt Trail cleared of snow.  So did Windsor Heights.  Des Moines, however, dropped the ball.  No attempt to plow the Bill Riley Trail from Water Works to the dog park was made.  Now, the snow was still rideable when I made my trip home but I knew what was going to happen.  No one was going to clear in Thursday since it was a holiday.  Nobody was going to get to it on Friday, Saturday or Sunday since it the weather was forecasted to be in the 40s on Friday and Saturday.  Also, given the holiday, who would be on the trail?  Everybody.  And when everybody uses the trails and leaves tracks--footprints, tire tracks and dog tracks the snow will freeze leaving the tracks as evidence of use.  This ice is very dangerous.

Wednesday night and Thursday the temperatures dropped and what was wet and malleable became dry and hard.  There were at least 6 major ice spots on the aforementioned trail that were dangerous.  First there were 2 near Irish Run Horse Stables on the Bill Riley Trail that required riders to dismount or ride off the trail to avoid the ice.  Studded tires were of little use because the surface was too bumpy to ride over.  Tires wanted to bounce increasing the likelihood of crashing.  It should be noted that this was the place that Courtney Hilton crashed his fatbike on ice and broke his ankle a few years ago.

Even worse was the the stretch of the Walnut Creek Trail that parallels the soccer fields south of Pal Joey's.  The north-south stretch is hidden from the sun's love and thus formed the longest ice patch of the trail system.  Impossible to ride.  I suppose a fatbike would make it through if ridden carefully and with 4 psi in the tires but not everyone has a fatbike nor a week to ride to their destination.  Once again we had to ride on the grass and get on the road parallel the trail.

I was impressed that someone, assuming Des Moines Park&Rec, added ice to these sections.  I have never seen this happen before.  And after several days of adding ice melt to the troubled spots the trail became safe.  Thank you for correcting this oversight.

Other neglected trails were the Neal Smith Trail from Lutheran Hospital on up.  The levy was fine but going through the wooded area was bad.  The InterUrban Trail was ignored.  The area adjacent to Harding Hills Hy Vee is DANGEROUSLY NEGLECTED.  The Trestle to Trestle Trail was not plowed nor were the Johnston trails.

I wish to thank the City of Clive for brushing off the Greenbelt.  last year there were a few times when this trail was inadequately cleared and months long ice formations dotted the trail like a minefield.  By clearing it on Wednesday the trail was perfect Wednesday evening and on Monday for the commuters and runners and walkers who use this trail.  Well, the section behind the fuel storage tanks just west of Wittern Group could have used a refresh since it is exposed to the north wind and drifting.  But it was passable and the sun did clear it up by midweek.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Chase

Just a grey sky with hint of rain greeting us when we woke up and fed.  Must have been day 3 or 4.  I really am a morning person but sometimes it takes me a while to get up to par.  Today was no exception.  I tried stalling to let me friends head off without me but that did not work.  Joe decided to stick with us.  I was not really in a mood for fast bike action.  I like to warm up slowly, hitting proper operational status by mile 20.  But I was in a fast crowd and I knew I'd be dropped.

Leaving town I spotted a photographic opportunity.  The Bad River.  Never have seen nor heard of the Bad River.  Could not let this one pass.  I yelled to Mary and Joe but they rolled on.  Just as well for I'd be miserable trying to keep up until I was ready for the ram-jam biking that had been the order of the day.  Of course, I stopped on the bottom of a hill.

RASDAK is held the first full week of June.  Ride Across South Dakota was in its second year.  This was our third bicycle adventure in this state.  Unlike Ragbrai, it is often cold.  After about the third hill I had to stop and take my jacket off.  Despite keeping Mary and Joe within visual distance for some mile this break separated us for good.  Time to focus.

Drink some water and focus.  Start riding in the drops.  Shift to big ring and keep leg speed up.  By mile 10 I was up to speed.  Respectable 20s.  Feeling good.  Leg speed was good, plenty of power and no fatigue.  Found that perfect spot between pain and speed.  No issues from my back being contorted to allow me to keep my hands in the drops.  Another drink of water and keep pushing on.

Finally I saw the turn.  The rest stop was set up and many bikers were standing around.  I went through my checklist: speed good, body not in pain, no need to pee since I did that a few miles back causing me to drop further behind, still in the drops, water bottle adequate for another 10 miles and 2 Powerbars just in case. And yes, bicycle functioning perfectly.

I could make out their faces.  They were watching me.  My friends who traveled here with me every year. How long had they been there?  It was a T intersection.  Left or right or straight on the gravel parking lot that served as the rest stop.  Left was the direction we were to go.

I looked to the right, no cars or bikes.  The left was clear as well.  My speed was good and I was still in the drops and in big ring.  Keep it up.  Look for cracks and prepare to lean the LeMond into a left turn without losing speed.  HAMMER!

The town was maybe 7 or 10 miles.  What would that be, 20 minutes?  Keep it up!  They would give chase.  the road was flat and the wind was nonexistent.  Stay in the drops, spin high in big ring and do not look back.  I could beat them there.

A few hills emerged.  Mostly rollers.  The last one into town forced me to drop out of big ring for a bit but I was almost there.  Out of the grey emerged a truck stop.  Here I will stop.  Get a water and a Mountain Dew, eat a Powerbar.  Have a banana and rest a bit.  Read the map and wait for Mary, Joe, Donnie, Jeff and Riggs.  Ask they what took so long.

The truck stop was warm.  I did not realize how wet I was.  Sweat and the moisture from the cold sky.  When they finally showed up Joe said they could not gain any ground on me.  Yeah, fat bastards have their days.  This was mine.  I had to put the jacket on when we rolled away.  I probably took it off on the second hill.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

How to Get a Million Miles in a Year

Simple answer is too ride your bike, a lot.  But it is never that easy.  However, with dedication and goals one can ride mega-miles with ease.

What you need.  Tracking system.  Something simple.  Something that does not take up a lot of time.  Mine is based on a bicycle log book that came with an issue Bicycling magazine back in 1994.  Tracks daily ride stats--distance, time, average speed and where the ride took place.  In 1995 they issued another one and then I photocopied a blank page and placed them into a binder.  When computers came along i made an Excel spread sheet.  3 to be exact.

One for the month, one as a weekly mileage graph and the 3rd for yearly comparisons.  the monthly one is dived into weeks, Monday through Sunday.  Tracks distance, average speed, max speed, time, odometer, weather who I rode with and any comments about the ride.  of course, which bike I rode.  I use this one ever time I ride.

The second thing one needs is a simple goal.    Don't start out with "I'm going to ride X miles for the year."  That only sets one up for failure.  What I started with was "I will ride the bike at least once a week every week."  Guarantees 52 rides for the year.  More importantly, it is an easy way to get you on your bike in cold weather.  does not matter how long the ride is.  Eventually you will ride more and more and on more than one day during the week.  the hidden benefit of this is that your ass will remain broken in all year round.

That goal morphs into a better goal.  Ride 50 miles a week every week.  I went straight to 100 miles every week.  But even 50 adds miles quickly, 2600 miles as a base.  Factor in the fun long rides during the summer and 3000 miles for the year is very obtainable.  During the summer I try for 200 miles per week.  100 miles per week is 5200 miles per year.

A fourth suggestion is to ditch the car.  Try to do things on your bike that you normally use your car for.  Ride your bike to the trailhead as much as possible.  Ride your bike to the store.  Ride your bike to work.  Commuting to work has been my greatest source of miles.  I get between 25 to 30 miles per day from that only.  30 miles per day for 5 days...150 miles per week with Saturday and Sunday open for even more!  Truth be told, I really do not ride much on the weekends.

Other things to consider.  It helps to have more than one bike.  Especially during winter.  I ride my winter bikes to death and when spring begins I ride other bikes, leaving the winter bikes in storage until it is time for long needed maintenance for the next winter season.  Also, if a bike has a flat tire in the morning you can grab another one instead.  This happened to me this week on the day I hit 10,000 for the year.  Different bikes do different things.  A road bike is not the grocery getter that a touring bike is.  A MTB or fatbike perform much better in snow than a stick bike ect.

Finally, get a bike computer if you do not have one or use a phone app such as Endomondo.  Most apps are free and will track time and distance and give you a map of where you have ridden.

So ditch the climate changer and work out in God's gym.  Ride!  Make it a habit.  Start out slow if you are not much of a rider.  the more you ride the easier it will become.  It will become a habit.  Trust me.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Ragbrai with the Devil

It was one of those crappy mid-week days.  Overcast.  I do not recall what the temperature was but I doubt it was hot.  The problem was that the route had a mind numbingly long north stretch.  This was our first encounter with such routes.  Through the years we have noticed that most times when the route goes north or south for an extended period of miles/time riders are treated to bad headwinds.  This day was in 1994 IIRC and the road was Highway 14.  Our overnight would be Marshalltown.

Mary and I were on the Fisher Gemini tandem going self contained with all our necessities behind us in a Burley trailer.  The anchor.  The aerodynamic drag who's only saving grace was its ability to haul our stuff including a cd player boom box.  But this day we hated

The turn to the right and off this miserable highway finally appeared and if the angels had heard our prayers and read our thoughts there was a tavern at the turn.  $1 can beers its sign read.  We were more than ready for a break.  And if things could not get any better it suddenly did when Slick rolled in.  Oh yes, rest, cheap beer and college buddy.  Trifecta in play.

After having our fill we rolled on.  Unfortunately, the Burley prevented us from keeping up with Randy.  However, we were refreshed and had a decent radio station blaring from the anchor.  A curvey four lane downhill presented itself to us.

The road was still a bit wet from the rain but we were heading south and had a tailwind.  Despite losing our friends were were now moving along quite well and enjoying ourselves.  The radio in back started playing Van Halen's Running With the Devil and that made my mood even better.  We were even going downhill.  Life was good!

That's when Mary, my stoker, shouted that we had just knocked over an orange safety cone!  Yes, I was in the left lane and piloting this zwilling bicycle.  I turned my head to check the Burley knocked another one to the left.  We barely felt the impact.  I laughed.  At least the cones were going away from the bicycle route.  Turned my head back to the front to adjust our trajectory and hit a third.  That was it, the last one.  Up shift for more speed in case anyone wanted to catch up and bitch.  Keep moving and flee the scene of this crime!  Running with the Devil indeed!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Riding to Stevie C's Dive Bar and the Fishing Bobber

Nothing like a good destination ride to end the work week.  Since Craig and I both work out in the Outer Rim of the Metro we took an opportunity to meet up and ride to one of our favorite establishments.  Stevie C's is located in Grimes, Iowa, and offers great pizza on homemade crust.  A little bit off the beaten path for people who live in Des Moines but anyone who can bike more than 20 miles on a round trip can go there.  Or drive, but that would be cheating.

We connected up just off the Clive Greenbelt trail.  Specifically, the trail access to Lake Shore Drive that ends up at the Casey's on Hickman Road.  I needed to stop there and pick up a pair of brown gloves since the ones I wore in the morning were a bit overkill for the current temperature.

After linking up we chose to go back to the Greenbelt and cross Hickman via the underpass on the trail and thus taking the Raccoon River Valley Trail.  We wanted to avoid 128th as much as possible.  One significant climb and traffic.  We'd play with cars once passing the hill.

Heading west on the Raccoon we took the first right into a residential neighborhood just east of Deerfield Senior Community.  Look for the very small sign that says "Raccoon Trail,"  it is white.  Take the second left and head to the house at the bottom of the decline.  The trail is there.  Be courteous as the trail goes between two homes.  When the trail levels out take the first right.  This is located just north of the retirement home.  And another right at the bridge.  The trail is lovely here.  Very picturesque in Spring and Autumn.  There is a back to back bench underneath some trees.  We used this as an opportunity to sit and enjoy nature.

Once rolling again we took another right, at the "library," and headed east to the switchback climb.  Great view here but be aware that people like to take family/senior pictures/Christmas photos here.  The trail leads to the east side of Douglas Pkwy.  Right is the only direction to turn and keep going that direction as it curves around to the Des Moines Christian School and eventually 128th.  This is where we got on the road and played with cars.

We seized a lane and rode north on 128th to the Meredith intersection or Chicken Coop intersection. When we crossed we veered to the right and got on the sidepath.  This road is now known as James Street and leads into Grimes.  This is also the road that the City of Grimes illegally and unconstitutionally declared off limits for bicycling.  Bikes are to use the sidepath.  Given the traffic and the shit condition of the road, high curbs and cracks (128th has horrid cracks at the seams like MLK does downtown DSM), we did not mind riding on the path but hate to be told we have to.  The most glaring issue, however, is what happens when the path ends in Grimes proper.  Trail users are expected to cross the road and get on the sideWALK on the other side.  I tend to go forward, ride on the grass of someone's lawn (really a crappy stretch fro years of being located 2 feet from the road) and re-enter the road some 10 meters later where it widens and curves a bit. Take this for 1/4 of a block and the first right into the mobile home court and the first left that curves out to the road that the school is on.   Turn left at the school and take this to the bar.  I usually park in back in the beer garden of Stevie C's.  This requires a left and a right to to the alley behind the building.  The gate is usually looked but they will open it for us.

Stevie C's is a typical sports/college/local dive bar littered with televisions on sports channels, college paraphernalia and all sorts of bumper stickers and signs.  Craig estimated that about 100 people came through while we we there but it never felt crowded and the service was excellent.  We chose to stay inside instead of the garden, too cold this time of year.

We had a large "garbage can" pizza.  Very good, loaded with toppings and on a freshly made crust.  Craig and I ate it all and then parted ways.  He was head to Ducktails to find Robb and I to Johnston to meet Mary and ride home with her.  South and east we went on our own ways in the dark.  I took 1st St or Ave and crossed Highway 141 which becomes NW 70th and forms the southern border of Camp Dodge.  Maybe a mile of this is a 2 lane road then It becomes a 4 lane with a sidepath on the south side of the road.  I took this to Merle Hay Rd and then turned right and headed south to meet Mary near my mother's apartment on 63rd.  We then took the Trestle to Trestle Trail to the Neal Smith Trail to downtown Des Moines and eventually home.

I wish Johnston would hurry up and finish the work on their interurban trail.  We took the back way to NW Johnston Dr to get on the T2T.  The trail closure north of here is a pain in the ass.  requires sidewalk action and riding on a road that can be busy.  Can Habitat for Humanity get this done over a weekend?

The highlight of this trip was our first visit to the "fishing bobber" art piece at the end of the Principal River Walk and Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge.  Been looking at this for a few weeks and finally it was open for people to visit.

Wonderful day on the bike.  This was probably my 4th visit to Stevie C's as construction on NW 62nd prevents me from riding to Johnston on that road.  Did not mind the ride to work when it was below freezing.  The wind was kind to us and we got home before the "fan" was turned back on high.  Missed that by at least an hour!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Great Job Clive: Greenbelt Repair

The day I saw the sign announcing the closure of Clive's Greenbelt Trail for construction I was upset yet I knew it was necessary.  The trail had a few sections that were falling apart and others that were bubbling up from tree roots, erosion ect.  The trail is old as far as metro trails go.  I recall riding on it back in 1991.  The sign said the work would continue through November.  Happy was I to see that the work was completed before the second full week of November end.

Photo taken from a section that has been eliminated.  A sharp turn to the right just past that tree was the order of the day before reconstruction.  Unfortunately, the trail was half missing at that turn.  If bikes traveling in the opposite direction me there the one going east would be forced to ride where the trail disintegrated.

What did they do?  Resurfaced and straightened.  Nice new asphalt complete with striping.  Benches are added and 2 or 3 nasty curves have been eliminated.  I always likened riding the Greenbelt to skiing.  Lots of switchbacks.  Although it could be dangerous it was fun the take those sharp turns and hope nothing or nobody was in the way.  But it is safer now for everyone.

Super job, City of Clive!  Now could you do the rest of the trail?  Yes, I'll hate it when construction starts but in the end the trail will be much better.  Thank you!!

The straw covers the old section of trail.  Another needless venture toward Walnut Creek.  Notice the deer on the left?  He's happy with this.  Happy the construction is over!

Traffic Lights Again

I have 7 controlled intersections to cross on my way to work.  All are in West Des Moines.  Not a single light can be trigger by the mere presence of my bike.  I have two choices: OBEY or IGNORE.

I do my utmost to be a good citizen.  If I choose OBEY I have to wait for a car to trip the light or go up on the sidewalk and press the cross button and get back on the road before the light turns or a car takes my spot.  I'd like to see car drivers get out of their vehicles and do this.

So the other day I am going downhill and go off the road to the sidewalk and stop at the light pole and hit the button.  I stop 6 cars.  Sometimes I wait until they are past before I press the button.  This day I did not.  Part of me wants to laugh. "Ha ha suckers, I got you!"  But the majority of me feels a bit guilty.  "Sorry.  I just need to cross this intersection.  Forgive me for making you late."

Then I thought about it.  When I drive I never ever feel bad about triggering a traffic cycle.  Nope.  It's my right.  I need the RIGHT OF WAY.  I really doubt 99.9% of drivers feel bad about disrupting someones journey.  "They was askin' fer it!"  Why should I feel bad about it on a bicycle.  I'd rather run the light.  Stop first, of course, look both ways and go for it IF SAFE.  But heaven forbid if I am spotted by the one dinosaur brained fossil fuel burning safety nazi that spots me doing that.  Yes, hit the button and make them stop.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Chasing 10,000

Barley 2 months left in the year.  Two more months to ride and add to my mileage.  Two months in record territory.  Sometimes I forget that it will happen.  Excitement is building slowly.  Perhaps when I am at the last 100 miles I will be thrilled.  But now being 7 miles shy of 9500 miles for the year it seems business as usual.

I passed my former annual record ages ago.  7932 miles IIRC.  Just put a smile on my face.  every tenth of a mile, every pedal stroke was a new record.  I remember being so disappointed when I failed to reach 8000.  For that matter, I recall sitting in Court Avenue Restaurant and Brewing Co watching ISU play a bowl game on New Year's Eve pondering taking the trail to Fleur and passing Gray's Lake for the final ride and thus gaining the extra miles to reach 4K.  Damn, that's been a while.  Since then I passed 6K and hit 7K at least twice.

A few years ago someone told me of a person that had 9000 for the year.  I thought that was nuts.  3 to 4K was hard enough but 9K.  Now I am that person.  Nothing in my life has been sacrificed.  I still beat everyone home despite my 15 mile ride from work.

Work.  The commute.  That made the difference.  Guaranteed 150 miles from Monday to Friday without messing around or padding miles.  There was a time that I aimed for 200 miles per week.  My weekends are the biggest opportunity to add more but I seem to let it slide.  I had less than 20 last weekend.

Sometime before the end of November I will cross the 10,000 mile mark.  If weekend weather is good that will be before Thanksgiving.   So damn close it does not seem real.  Does not seem like a big deal.  Just something that will be noted on my Bike Log.

I do plane to celebrate.  In the works there will be a laurel wreath, construction paper attached to a tire, with "10,000 Miles" written on it.  I will have it placed around my neck and be holding a freshly opened bottle of champagne.  Got to celebrate success, celebrate achievements.  Most likely I will have to duck out at CABCo or The Lift or Mullets while I wait for someone to be home to take my photo.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Grocery Getting

Bicycling parking at Fareway.  This is only the items from Hy Vee and Dollar General as we just arrived.  I failed to take an after Fareway photo.

Another trip to the store on Saturday.  It was a chilly day, temps in the 40s and a bit windy.  The sudden shock of the temperature drop had us scrambling for our winter bicycling clothes.  We waited until lunch time before leaving the warmth of our home.  First stop was at El Rancho Alegre for authentic Mexican food.

After the south of the border deliciousness we crossed the street and went to Hy Vee.  Like most Hy Vee's, the Park Ave location provides for bicycle parking which is very convenient.  Not the easiest store to frequent on bicycle due to traffic and lack of trails yet they offer bike parking.  Thank you!

15 lb dog food
3 bottles of wine
1 jug of wine
2 packages of split chicken breasts
2 2lt bottles of soda
1 3.5 lb bag of cat food
6 pack of toilet paper
bag of jasmine rice
4 red bell peppers (2 for $1!)
bottle of laundry detergent
2 giant sweet potatoes
1 red onion
tub of REAL butter

As I loaded the Burley Mary ran next door to the Dollar Store and purchased a coffee maker since ours died last Sunday

Once the load was secured we journeyed to Fareway.  Unfortunately there is no bicycling parking at the SE 22nd so I backed the Burley against a curb and leaned the bicycles together in a car parking spot.  Fook 'em!  This amazes me since this store is located in a residential neighborhood and a major bicycle trail is nearby.

Purchases included
9 lb pork loin
1 lb breakfast sausage
1 lb steak
bag of La Rue breakfast blend coffee
16 lb bag of charcoal

All of these purchases from 3 stores fit nicely in the Burley.  Nothing fell out.  The return trip saw us go north on SE 22nd and then take the Des Moines River Trail to our neighborhood.  7.3 mile trip

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Flat Tire Blues

Happened today.  Grab the bike that 7 days prior I placed 68 miles on.  Barely get on to the street and I feel it right away.  Something ain't right.  Stop and squeeze the rear tire.  Low, very low.  3 choices: add air to the tire and check for a leak, change the tube or swap bikes and deal with it later.  I chose the 3rd option.

So after the ride and after I started the grill and placed the entree on said grill I grab a tube, a lever and a pump.  Place the bike on the stand and remove the ailing wheel.  I pumped it up first and looked and felt for the offender.  Nothing, nada, zilch.  Tire is holding air.  Visual and tactile inspection reveal nothing.  Leave as is or replace the tube?  Or patch it?

Let all the air out and pump up the tube again although the stem is still in the tire so i can locate the "sharp" object that punctured the tire and tube.  Nothing.  Finish removing the tube and run my thumb on the inside of the tire hoping that something will rip open my skin.  I do this twice and only get a very dirty thumb.  Once more pump up the tube and check it again.  No leak or hole to be found.

I have no passion for my hatred of those.  Microscopic punctures, slow leakers.  If I found a hole I could patch it and use it for an emergency spare.  But if not found I am left with a problem.  Do I dare trust this one again or should I go to the next level?  The next level would be to submerse the tube in water and wait for bubbles.  Not worth my tire for a 700x25 tube.

So what now?  Trash it?  Find someone that can make it into something useful?  Use it again and hope the hole becomes visible?  99% chance of trashing it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

"At Least it's Not Snowing"--PISS OFF

Every cager climate changer will look at me tomorrow and ask, "You really rode your bike today in the rain?  At least it is not snowing." With some half ass smug smile.  I really do not think they understand the difference between riding in the rain and riding in the snow.  

Unless it is 100 F outside, rain generally is not welcomed to a bicyclist.  It seeps to your skin.  It penetrates through seems and almost every form of clothing except for spacesuits and Ebola gear.  And it washes the lubrication off the chain, sneaks into protected bearing surfaces such as headsets, hubs and bottom brackets.  Derailleur cables and brake cables get wet and rust too.  All the grit, and dirt from the road becomes plastered to the bike.  Not fun.  Just keep your head down and grind it out until home or whatever destination is reached.  The worst is when the temps are between 50F and 33F.  Cold and miserable.  This rain literally sucks the life right out of me.  Give me 26F and snow any day over 40F and rain.

Snow. on the other hand, is fun.  Tracks make bike art.  Snow can be brushed off ones clothing before it melts and makes one wet.  Thus, snow is less of a water hazard than rain.  Sure, snow only happens when the temperature drops below freezing but generally one is prepared for that.  The right clothing and right bike and tires and a brisk snowy day is now big deal.  And there have been days when cars get nowhere in snow but a bicycle gets you home quickly and safely and without getting snarled in traffic.

At least it's not snowing....kiss my ass!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Big Oil and Metaphysical Guilt

It's that time of year again when I turn off the television and tell door to door propagandist to feck off.  Election season in Iowa.  Everything from baby killers to Big Oil controlling candidates like puppets.  But I want to call out those that bitch about Big Oil--WTF are you doing about it?

Do you drive to work every day?
Do you do 99.9% of your shopping via car?
Do you own a SUV (so unnecessary vehicle)
Do you have All Wheel Drive in a State that only sees bad snow 2 months out of 12?
Do you drive to the trailhead instead of riding the extra 5 miles to get there?

It's one thing to bitch about the evils of Big Oil and another to stop sending them your money.  Or at least reduce the amount you give them. Sure, I own a truck.  Have not driven it since May.  And a gas lawn mower.  May have filled the gas can 3 times (1 gallon).  But I have driven to work once in 2014, it's now October.  I usually pick up my groceries when I ride home from work.

If we want to stop Big Oil and stop climate change we need to change ourselves.  We need to change our lifestyle instead of hoping that some great Apollo is going to be elected and do this for us.  The easiest way is to stop driving.

German philosopher Karl Jaspers examined the question of his country's guilt and complacency during the Holocaust.  He used the term "metaphysical guilt."

There exists a solidarity among men as humans that makes each co-responsible 
for every wrong and every injustice in the world [this confuses man the creature 
with God], especially for crimes committed in his presence or with his knowledge. 
If I fail whatever I can do to prevent them, I too am guilty.”

So don't tell me about politics and all the problems with the economics when you continue to feed the beast.

I know it is not easy.  Some employment requires a vehicle.  But Just biking during Bike to Work week is lip service.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

So I got Hit By A Car Today.....

One of those WTF moments.  Windsor Heights, Iowa.  The intersection of University and the road that goes to Wal-Mart.  Just stopped by The Rookie to visit Anders Olson at said intersection.  Got behind 2 cars and waited for my turn to cross or turn right onto University.  Destination: Hy Vee.

The Impala in front of me made the right turn but despite being in front of the line I had to wait for a garbage truck and another car to go by.  I do not want to be remembered as the cyclist killed by a garbage truck.  Glanced at my crank.  Still in big ring so my take off will be slow.  Look up and at the garbage truck again and BUMP!!

Did I just get hit?  By the force of the impact I could tell no damage was done.  Fritz hits me harder with his paw.  Turn around and stare at licence plate.  red late model Chevy of undetermined small sedan size.  Another soulless Chevy somehow not a a dealer for a recall.  Reach for phone and prepare to photograph the plate, car and driver.

I pull up to the driver's window.  An old man rolls it down.  Good Lord, he must be 80.  This is definitely the last new car he will ever own and drive.

"Did you not see me?"
"I thought you took off when the others did."
"No.  I did not."

Perhaps the recent earth quakes shifted the tectonic plates enough to generate sufficient energy to create a wormhole and he saw into the future where I left the stop sign and rolled across the street.  Perhaps the radioactive orange shirt and the yellow reflective safety vest give the impression of movement.  Whatever the reason I am glad he did not push the throttle to the firewall and truly ran me over.

I could not swear at him.  "What the fuck do you think you are doing you piece of shit?  Have you ran over people before?  Is that how you get your jollies you fucking worthless sodomite!"  I could not yell at him either or leave an SPD cleat impression on his car.  Nor quickly release the front wheel and smash the fork through his windshield.  That's the best thing about road bikes, light weight weapons. He had to see the phone in my hand ready to record.  No harm done.  I got my point across.  He was probably picking up medication for his cancer stricken wife.  Why do I look at people and assume I know their story.

Now and then a car driver honked their horn.  Maybe 5 cars deep behind the old man in the red Chevy everyone of the cagers POed that a fat man in bright clothing holding a bike is impeding progress.  Time to get back at the front of the line and cross the road.  I took my time and opted to turn and take the turn lane.  I noticed that the truck behind me on University gave me 3 car lengths.  Yeah, don't fuck with me for the round is chambered and the safety is not on.

Much later i was nearing the horse stables along the Bill Riley Trail when a pedestrian asked me if I was an official or volunteer.  LOL.  "Nope.  I wear this so cars do not hit me."  Yeah right.  I wear it to hold my mobile phone.  I've put in 20 may 30,000 miles since I was last hit by a car.  I am a lot more aware of my surroundings and a lot more visible and always assume that there is a car behind me.  But stopped at a stop sign and legally obeying it and waiting for a safe time to depart I should not worry about getting hit from behind.  It is a busy intersection.  Last week a bicycle hit me, today a car.  What's a person to do?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Bond

Seems once the weather improved we all went our separate ways.  New blurs in the dark replaced the familiar blurs of the morning.  At the end of the work day a sea of new faces greets, some familiar most not.  Every year more and more.  But the ones that matter to me are the ones that I can relate to.  The ones that go through the same hell year after year.  The Winter Commuters.

There were three of us on my route.  David, Paul and your humble author.  Every morning fighting the elements and staying alive while inching toward work.  And the struggle resumed in the evenings.  With the Spring we changed our routine.  We could sleep in longer since it was easier and faster to ge to work.  I have not changed, however.  I am enjoying coffee and breakfast in the confines of my office.  I know that in a few months, maybe up to 5 months that I might just be arriving at this very moment.  So Paul and David are memories.

Today I saw David.  We stopped and talked.  We have seen each other maybe a handful of times since March.  Different routes and extra sleep he said.  Told him I like to get in early.  No traffic and no peleton of racers to swarm me.  Coffee, yes coffee.

There is a bond between winter commuters that is both powerful and unspoken.  We know that each has each other's back should disaster hit--crash on ice or fetal position death pose.  Someone is out there to call for help.  This bond may not be as strong as that of soldiers but I'd like to think it is close.  Both face death in hostile environment.  Uncomfortable at times and occasionally thrilling.  Speed, expensive bike and clothing not impressive in winter.  Survival is.  And repeating it day after day all winter long is what is truly impressive.  Any fool can ride when it is nice.  Takes a special fool to ride when it is hell.  I love those fools.

Those that freeze their ass off with me shall be my brother/sister.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Mingo Friday Fun Between the Legs

"Would ride the Bondurant trail to the Greencastle Tavern in Mingo this coming Friday evening.. want to give a shout to all my friends if anyone would like to join. The Bar has bike nights on Friday and drink specials, bartender said its cool to camp out overnight, there's a park half a block away.. weather is gonna be GREAT for riding and camping this week! Plus this is a great trail to ride! Thought if anyone wants to meet at the trail head east of Bondurant around 630 or so.. take our time getting to Mingo with plenty of SAFTY MEETINGS along the way. Would love to kick up some dust with my fellow bike riding friends! Esp since all your livers are still pickled from RAGBRAI! Let me know what u all think! Would love some good company!"--Mel Allsion's post on FaceBook

Looking for adventure I rounded up the posse and headed to Mingo, Iowa, to crash Mel Allison'd Friday Fun Between the Legs ride.  Destination:Greencastle Tavern, formerly Ozzy's.  I successfully recruited Colin, Donnie and Joe.  Mary was supposed to go, joining us later but she was caught up in the Great Johnston Bike Lift and ran out of time and mood.

The IP was Mullets as it is the best location to gather up for the trip out east.  Mullets also had food available since the 19 miles from there to the Greencastle is pretty barren unless one goes off route.  All four of us ate and downed a few glasses of water.  It would be a long ride.

If the pannier is dripping then the beer is cold.  Altoona trailhead, Gay Lea Wilson Trail

The ride from Mullets was 30 miles.  It involved two trails which cut down street/highway riding. The first 5 miles would be a mix of Maury and Scott Ave to get to the Gay Lea Wilson Trail.  Industrial and ugly but it is the best route to the trailhead in Pleasant Hill.  When MLK expansion is complete/rideable a side path will take us there.

Joe Hildreth

The Gay Lea Wilson Trail is nice albeit short but takes us safely to and through Altoona.  Other trail users were present including runners and families on bikes.  Always good to see trails in use.  We diverted and stopped at the Kum&Go a few blocks from the Altoona Trailhead.  After gather supplies, ATM, food for breakfast, water and Gatorade we rolled back toward the trail on 1st Ave and took a right on 1st St and took that road out of town.  Turned at the cemetery at the NE 80th  intersection and rode that over I-80 and into Bondurant without crossing 330.  Stayed on 80th until we hit NE 88th, double infinity.  The Chichaqua Nature Trail trailhead is just to the left of this intersection.

We had our last break at the trailhead.  19 miles ridden.  Donnie started just south of Cumming so he had an extra 14 miles.  Late as usual, I spotted Brad Daggett's truck.  They are here.  630 was the meet time.  It was now approaching 9 pm or so and already dark.  Two bikes emerged from the darkness and told us that the bar in Mingo was dead.  Some of us expressed a desire for beer and our "new friend" offered up his last two Bud Lights.
Colin Lamb

The 11 miles to Mingo on the trail were nice.  Weird seeing frogs on the trail at night.  One of the bridges jumped out and attacked Colin but he maintained uprightness and rolled on.  A break on the Skunk River bridge had us listening to owls and staring at stars.

It was a most glorious sight turning the corner and spotting seeing 9 bicycles parked along the Greencastle Tavern!  Stretch, Melanie, Mike B, Brad were among my friends that were there.  Judging by the beer cans on the patio they enjoyed themselves in our absence.  The four of us quickly caught up.

The prized 6 pack with ice that I never needed.  Purchased 18, confiscated 1 and returned home with 12.  Must be the Jesus Cooler.

At some point we crawled away from the tables and found places to sleep.  Colin, Donnie and I chose the park shelter just off the trail.  FYI  picnic tables to sleep on and electrical outlets for electronic devices.  Joe slept on a landing of the red co-op building across from the pub.  Brad shared that spot, too.  Stretch camped at the grain  bins just off the trail where Melanie pitched her tent.  I think she was the only one to set up a tent.  Janice pulled a trailer and provided coffee for us in the morning.  We needed it.  HangOver City.

Slowly we woke up.  Some local on a Trek cruiser with an extreme need for a new chain (can you say 3 inches of stretch?) pulled up and quizzed us.  Our freedom must frighten people.  The inevitable, "did you do the Ragbrai" question popped up.  Kinda felt good to say "no, but we rode across South Dakota in June, ragbrai with only 100 people."  An elderly couple on a recumbent tandem trike rolled by on the trail at least 6 times and left blood in the kybo.  Their top speed, 4 mph.  So the ride back was a bit slow at first.  Some of us had a hard time overtaking the 'bent tandem trike.  I dropped my water bottle but Mel was kind and picked it up.  Colin rode off the trail at one point and had his knee abrased.  First stop was on the Skunk River bridge.  Hair of the Dog.

I had about 4 sips and placed the beer in a bottle cage only to dump it out on the GLW Trail.  I needed a blood transfusion and a gallon of Gatorade.  Instead got 2 slices of pizza and a quart of Mnt Dew at the Casey's in Bondurant.  Once again, quizzed about trail conditions and Ragbrai.  many locals are upset with the poor job on resurfacing the trail between Mingo and Ira.  Having traversed over it on carbon road bike and loaded tandem twice this year I can say it ain't that bad.  It is not dusty.  And it is 100% safer than before.  It all came down to $$ and the State did not match funds.  That's the problem, we use but do not pay directly for upkeep and M&R on these trails.  Hopefully when the High Trestle Trail connector links up and the MLK Trail gets closer to Scott Ave trailhead of the GLW Trail more awareness and M&R will happen for the Chichaqua.  Just keep the hordes of stick bike Lance wannabes off the trail.

This was a fun ride and near epic adventure.  I hope to ride and stay at Mingo again sometime this year.  Give me a shout.  It is a flat ride there and back.  30 miles does not take too long to cover.  Thank you Mel for creating this event.