Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Cicadian Theory

Everything in life is about balance.

Turns out birds typically keep the Itch Mites under control by feasting upon them. What happened this year is that the Cicada returned to Chicago after being dormant underground for 17 years. Birds and zoo animals were thrilled for this tasty variation to their otherwise routine diet. But what was bad for the Cicadas (getting eaten by the birds and monkeys), was good for the mites (not getting eaten by the birds), and was bad for people, certainly for me (getting eaten by the mites). Even if this is not exactly how it is, it sure makes sense and gives me hope for next year--that the birds will be back on duty tending to the mites. Mitey nice.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mitey Bites

Let there be no confusion, Mitey Bites are not savory; no, not in the least!

Along with its bunny boom this season, Chicago has had a boom of the Oak Gall Mites, sometime also called Itch Mites. They have made the news in the Chicago Tribune, and the Department of Public Health. Tonight I even heard they made World News!

These little pesky critters are nearly invisible. Not only that, but they bite today and you don't start to itch until as many as 12 hours later. Then you get to itch for up to two weeks. But, because I'm so special, I get to itch for up to four weeks. Don't know if it's because I'm out so much on my bike or what, but I'm covered with these fiery itches that just don't quit.

Never thought I'd hear myself say I look forward to the first killer frost. But if that's what it takes to kill of these buggers, I'm for it.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Storm Story

Despite the consumptive storms of the past week, I somehow managed to get my 400 mile riding week in, including The Bike Psychos DoubleMetric. The biggest, badest of the storms hit Thursday during evening rush, doing some if its worst damage to Wilmette.

While my 63 mile ride on Friday didn't commence until 4:15 p.m. I was confident I could make it home by dark; civil sunset being 7:37 p.m. I was eager, too, to see what devastation the storm had wrought. Our narrow escape from the fallen tree that landed only one foot from the structure of our house was but a sampling of what was everywhere. The sounds of sawing were everywhere contributed by crickets and chain saws, the latter getting an early weekend jump reducing the felled trees strewn over roads, lots, houses, and cars to pick-upable size.

Streets seemed to almost squish beneath my bike tires, so water logged they were. I was on track for a civil twilight ETA until my first road closure at Illinois/Happ--a telephone pole obtusely draped across the street, its wires casted like fishing lines.

Turned around, rerouted, getting darker now. Winnetka Road and Hibbard. Closed. Don't know if I, a bike, could have made it through, but I almost didn't see the wire across the street so not taking any chances in the growing dark of night.

How about Locust to Illinois and on to home. Nope. Closed. Now I'm totally enshrouded by the night. My helmet lamp and an 0.5 watt lamp on the front of the bike aren't doing much except letting oncomers know I'm sharing the road.

I'm disoriented. It smells like I am in the middle of a Christmas Tree lot. But, I thought it was August, yes? no? Yes!. All the fallen pine trees were emanating their holiday fragrance. A little nervous though, there are myriad, indiscernible shadows everywhere. Which of them might have form and substance encroaching on my traveling road surface?

Another road closure and now the sounds of silence, but not those of Simon and Garfunkel. Black as pitch--no stars, moon, nor a street light, nor a light in any house. A different motor sound now breaks the silence--generators sucking out basement bilge.

I made it home safely, but long, long, after sunset. I turned on the kitchen light and sighed with frustration that two bulbs were out. Quite the commentary about the selfish, sinful nature of this human being, me. I asked for forgiveness and added many things to my list of gratitudes and light bulbs to my Ace Hardware list.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Sparta But Not Quite To Elroy

Kinda cool, Denise literally rides from her house in Muskegon onto the ferry also in Muskegon and I pick her up in Milwaukee. We were going to ride the Sparta to Elroy trail in SW Wisconsin on Thursday before the Recumbent Rally at the Hostel Shoppe in Stevens Point, WI. It was a slow go to Sparta via I 94--a fatal accident for the driver of a dune buggy.

Sparta is really a sweet town. Lots of community pride, love of cycling abounds, but haute cuisine there is not. There was dinner at Taco Bell and lunch at The Greens. Now that I was looking forward to. Had to be either an organic place or a restaurant owned/operated by the Greens who had to be into healthy food. NOT, again. It was a restaurant whose most elegant item was Cod Loins with cheesy fries. It was, however, situated pleasantly on the greens of the local golf course.

Riding was beautiful. Reminded me of Michigan. Don't know if Denise would say the same. It did rain some so we aborted a trail ride and stayed on the streets paralleling the Sparta to Elroy trail. And, we made up our own routes.

Passed these two young girls who had found a new way to walk the dog. The girl not pushing the buggy is from London visiting relatives for a month in Sparta. That had to be culture shock! Dog in a buggy aside.

Sparta is also the home of the Deke Slayton Bicycle and Space Museum. Interesting combo. Deke was famous by his own rights as a US Air Forcepilot, he was chosen as one of the original seven American Astronauts in 1959 . He was scheduled to fly in 1962 on the second orbital flight but due to an erratic heart rate he was grounded, and his place was taken by Scott Carpenter. Slayton was the only member of the Mercury Seven who did not fly on the Mercury program. He eventually flew the final mission of the Apollo spacecraft. But Deke was famous in our house as we watched over and over again Hollywood's version of the NASA's Mercury Program, The Right Stuff.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Short 15

This was to have been a 200 miler, but alas, I got a late start (5:30 a.m.), had some technical issues with my electronic "toys", (Garmin and Power Tap Hub Batteries),and my route was waaaay too traffic-heavy so I quit at 185.

The graphic shows the route via Google Maps which is car-only friendly--from home to Waterford, WI. I had routed myself with my Garmin GPS what I thought would be bike friendly, but alas, I lost between 30-40 minutes just trying to cross impossible, impassible roads. Traffic was so intense through some of those booming Lake County burbs.

The good news is I learned about some roads that will be fun to ride for my next 200--Hales Corners, WI by way of Kenosha and Waterford.

I stopped by the Waterford Bike Frame Building Factory, said "hi" to the frame builders and got excited with them about the new Volae ES that is going into production next week. The frame can be taken apart for the ease of pack&go via the airlines. Looks like that bike is in my future for some semi-self-contained touring planned for 2008 to GA and NH. I had a chance to ride it last weekend at the Hostel Shoppe Recumbent Rally in Stevens Point, WI.

Got home in time for a wonderful dinner out with Kirk. How could a day be better?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Bipolar 175

My friend, Barb, called this ride “bipolar” given that I went South, North, and then South again. Or maybe she was just thinking I am plain crazy to do this stuff.

Anyhow, The Cochise Classic, a 252 mile ride out of Douglas, AZ, is in only two months (October 13th). It’s an unsupported, timed ride that draws only the hard core, mostly AZ-based racers. Only about 20 participate, only 1 or 2 from out of state, only 1 or 2 females, only about 1 or 2 my age, and no other recumbents. So, the training is on big time to ready myself for my own self-assigned goal of completing the 252 miles in 16 hours. For me that’s a touchable, but possibly audacious goal requiring an elapsed average speed of 15.75 mph. So, I have to ride even faster than that average to accommodate stops to pee, refuel, change out a tire, or take care of any other road business that comes along.

Bryan and Daniel will be crewing for me. Thanks to my crewing for RAAM this year I learned a lot about how they can crew that will minimize my off-the-bike time which, along with the unknown and uncontrollable AZ wind factor, will be the two largest deciding factors of my success with my 16 hour goal.

So, to that end Saturday, August 4th, was a 175 mile ride. “Ride Illinois” was hosting an 87 mile Tri-State Tour originating in Hammond, IN and concluding in Kenosha, WI. I figured if I rode TO Hammond, hooked up with those guys, rode to Kenosha, and took the long route home from Kenosha I could get 175 miles in. I arrived home with 175.04. Can’t get any more precise than that, I don’t think.

The start out of Hammond was 6:00 a.m. which meant I needed to leave my house at 3:00 a.m. It doesn’t take 3 hours to ride 35 miles, but there was the darkness factor to attend to.

I really like night riding. So quiet, no traffic. If I did very much of it in unlighted areas I would definitely want to get a Schmitt hub to through some good light on my path. But given that I live in one of the several most brightly illuminated cities in the US, as seen from satellite pix, a Schmitt hub won’t be my next big purchase.

A few encounters of the night-kind were either predictable or poignant. For those of you who know the Lake Front Path, it was about 4:00 a.m. and I was at Recreation Drive on The Path when three 30-something females were coming toward me. They were dressed in their partying clothes, carrying their heels, each walking alone with that weary, the-night-used-me-up, all alone countenance about them. They were not together, just happened there were three of them at about the same place and the same time. For those of you who don’t know The Path, this is not a Path to home. It is a Path were the whole world of Chicago cyclists, runners, and bladers, do their daily workout thing, or do a north-south bike commute. So why a single female is walking this part of The Path at 4:00 a.m., one of the few places on The Path that is not lighted… Well, I don’t know the answer to that question, but what ever the answer is, can only be a sad one, I think.

My second encounter, by the Oak Street Beach Curve, was with a harmless African-American drunk. One of my two front headlights fell off my bike, right in front of him. So, nothing to do but stop, get off, and get my light. I made some friendly comment about losing my light to which he regaled himself with an a-humorous comment about losing virginity. He was still laughing at his “joke” as I rode off. So much for 4:15 a.m. drunk humor. I gave up putting the fallen-off light back on, looked at the sky and knew, with gratitude, that by the time I hit the blight of NW IN, there would be enough light in the sky to not need my 2nd headlight.

My third encounter was down by Grand Ave. and The Path. About a dozen folks are mingling about. I’m assuming they are all under the influence of something, if nothing else than fatigue. So, I announce my upcoming presence and this one African-American guy, who is so drunk I can smell the alcohol as I whiz past at 16 mph, shouts out, “Whoa! What kind a bike that is?” I chuckled at his syntax.

The ride to Kenosha was uneventful. I didn’t want to ride a good portion of the “official” course as it was a lot of bike paths crowded with weekenders, tree roots, and pot holes—not a rubber-side down combination. The ride organizer was sympathetic and was totally fine with my riding off-SAG when I wanted.

I got to the Kenosha terminus with 125 miles on my odometer and there was not another cyclist or crew member around. I called the ride organizer thinking I was at the wrong shelter in this park, or something. I said, “I’m here, where are you guys?” “I’m in Lake Forest”, he said. Now that is at least 20 miles back!! Well, I thanked him for the ride and told him since I had 50 more miles to go, I was heading on home.

Stopped for lunch at Franks Diner. I’ve been hearing about this place of landmark-fame for quite awhile and never took the time to check it out. Today was the day. It’s a made in an old train car that landed in Kenosha in 1926. Truly a place to visit if you’re ever hungry in Kenosha. Check it out.

Finished the ride with an average moving speed of 16 mph, not including the 35 miles in the dark. The moving speed is respectable, but not good enough for a Cochise 252 in 16 hours. More work to be done. But, all in all, a most excellent day on the bike.