Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Indoor Century and Year-Rounder Challenges, DONE!

PowerTap data from the IronMan FL course done on the computrainer at VQ
I'm breathing a deep breath of satisfied accomplishment. Jay Marshall was an inspiration to me a couple of years ago. He had accepted the UMCA's Year-Rounder challenge of completing a century a month. Not a difficult challenge except for Jan, Feb, and Dec, at least if one lives in the northern climes, which I do.

On my way to sign up for the Century-per-month challenge I found myself also accepting the 3,000 mile challenge wherein each ride must be 90 miles or greater in length completed within the time frames established for Randonneuring.

Really glad I accepted both challenges. They brought great focus, intentionality, and creativity to my 2010 riding.

I got my January Century in HI when Kirk and I were there; my February Century in Death Valley when riding with Adventure Corps, my March Century in AZ and then it got easy until December.

Looking at a real feel temp of -7 today and not much hope for the remaining days of December can surely not be expected to be balmy. So, with the help of Vision Quest Coaching (VQ) I set out today to ride an indoor century. Never done that before and frankly was not looking forward to it.

But, as Robbie Ventura would say, I got it done, and done in a manner I feel good about.

100 miles
average speed 17.6
average watts 143 (better than 80% of my LT)
elapsed time 05:41:52
two 3-minute breaks off the bike

So on December 6, 2010 my Century/month challenge is satisfied and my 3,000 mi challenge wraps up with 32 rides of 90 miles or greater for a total mileage of 3,490

My own challenge was to ride another 12,000 mile year. As of December 6th I have 11,871. While I've learned never to count it done till it's done, it seems like pretty much a done deal that all I have to do is show up at VQ the rest of the month and my challenge goal will be met.

Thanks for challenging me, inspiring me, problem solving with me, and for some of you, riding some of these miles with me.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Riding The Natchez Trace With Steve

This map is just one way, so double the distance and the CEG (Cumulative Elevation Gain. Click on the map to see the details).

I met Steve climbing the Mingus Mountains from Wickenburg, to Cottonwood, AZ September 13, 2006, Day 4 of our 26 day Transcontinental bike ride with PAC Tour. The first 3 days we crossed the California Desert; the temperature was 110; there was no relief, not even a shade cactus.

I didn’t know until nearly two years later that Steve had been beaten up real bad by the desert on Day 3 and was just barely hanging on to the ridge of the Mingus. Steve’s an excellent climber; I am not. Had he been his usual riding self we would never have met. I would have been summarily left in the wake of his desert dust.

Lucky for us the desert and the mountains equalized us and partners we were climbing 8,500’ straight up the Mingus.

In April, 2008 I rode solo from home, (Wilmette, IL) to Columbus, GA. My choice of departure date is a testament to my then naivete about cycling in a transitional season. Day 5 I arrived in Owensboro, KY 431 miles after my departure. Every day had been mid 30’s with endless rain and endless head winds. Steve’s wife drove him 85 miles from their home in Smiths Grove, KY to Owensboro to meet me. Our plan was to ride together to Russellville, KY on day 6 and Nashville, TN on Day 7.

I think I made it about 20 miles that Owensboro morning in yet another day of temps in the 30’s, rain, and wind. I simply couldn’t turn the cranks. I was still shivering from the 6 preceding yesterdays. The terrain was getting hillier, and my 50 pounds of gear still weighed 50 pounds. Steve had been so looking forward to two days on the bike, like a kid looks forward to Christmas, and I couldn’t even turn the cranks.

I was committed to being in Nashville on Day 7 so laying over in Owensboro for a rest day was not an option. I had no idea how I was going to get to Nashville. Steve and I huddled under the awning of an abandoned building weighing our options. My best contribution was somehow renting a car and driving to Nashville. Steve had a better idea: call his wife, have her meet us and take us to their home. All I knew was I couldn’t ride that day. There was no fuel in my tank.

I remember very little about the 80-odd mile trip to Smiths Grove. But I do remember after I showered I fell asleep for 4 hours with the lights on in the middle of the day buried under a haystack of down comforters.

Steve in front of his house in Smiths Grove, KY April, 2008

Steve drove me to Nashville the next day and never said a word about his disappointment in not getting to ride.

2009 I was riding my second PAC Tour transcontinental and Steve was training to ride PAC Tour’s Eastern Mountain Tour. He drove to Pine Bluff, AR and then rode with us to Clarksdale, MS.

So, it seemed only natural to give him a heads-up that I would be coming to Nashville mid-November for a professional meeting after which I wanted to get some miles in on the Natchez Trace, including my November UMCA century.

And so it was it came to be that Steve left Smiths Grove, KY about 4:15 a.m. and I left Nunnelly, TN about the same time for our rendezvous in Columbia, TN; loaded the bikes into one car and drove to mile marker 391 on the Trace and headed south for the Alabama Line, mile marker 341.

(Click on the pix to read the sign. Pretty interesting story)

Chilly, but sunny this Sunday century day. Collinwood would be the only service opportunity along our route. We stopped at the Collinwood’s Exxon at 10:30 to refill our bottles and found Exxon is the Place du Jour! The place was packed with little, elf-sized men whose bodies had shrunk with age but who still had enough skin to cover their robust bodies of long ago. Their toothless grins offered exceptional patterns for jack-o-lanterns; their beards laid fallow like harvested fields of corn.

Back on the Trace to the Alabama line and then back to Collinwood for lunch and another bottle refilling. The elves had given life to one another for another day and the crowd was replaced with men, women, and children heading home from church. Who woulda thunk that Exxon would be the dining option of choice! When the minister and his wife came in for Sunday dinner at Exxon, well, it was both the highlight and lowlight of the tour.

Signage in the 4 star Exxon Sunday Restaurant

Steve had been looking forward to these two days on the bike like he had back in April, 2008. I was grateful I could deliver this time and be a fully-able riding partner.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Portland Transcontinental--The Movie

Portland Transcon: The Movie
Click on the link to view the movie.

My first back injury occurred in the early 1960‘s as a young teenager. My back disease seemed to be a debilitating combination of genetics, running for 13 years, complicated child births, a major auto accident, and the Western World life style characterized by a lot of sitting.

In 1990 I re-injured my back and began an eleven-year recovery process including multiple back surgeries and complicated physical rehabilitation.

My eventual recovery was also about my surrendering my years-of-practice modus operandi of, not being willing or able to ask for help or accept help. Back disease taught me about building a team of professionals family and friends who could partner with me on my journey , not in an enabling or abusive way, but in a way of lending their experience, strength, and hope in ways that would allow me to find my own freedom in recovery.

There was no single magic pill, intervention, or therapist. Some professional team members were traditional health care providers, e.g. neurosurgeons and physical therapists. Others were practitioners specializing in holistic, complementary, and non-traditional modalities.

In March, 2001, after 11 years of being on the cusp of disability, my physical therapist and I thought maybe I was well enough to begin some kind of physical activity.

My goal was to ride the 550-mile AIDS Ride from Minneapolis to Chicago in 2002, on a recumbent bike. On my maiden ride, the day after I bought my first recumbent bike, I crashed breaking my jaw, my wrist, and several teeth. I had facial lacerations, severe road rash and internal bleeding. I was back on the bike training in earnest for the AIDS Ride in two weeks.

What is it about the bike? Riding, for me, is an expression of who I am, about freedom, gratitude, and humility. It’s about pushing the envelope, chasing the demon that lives in thin air, challenging my self to stretch, excelling, asking for help, and giving God all the glory for anything that I accomplish.

Twenty years later I continue to receive integrated manual therapy and nutritional counseling, and practice Bikram YOGA and Pilates. I have added other professionals to my health care team as needed.

Since 2002 I have averaged more than 10,000 miles each year on the bike. The highlight of 2006 was a 3,000 mile, 26-day transcontinental ride from San Diego to Tybee Island, GA with PAC Tour.

In 2008 I did two solo, unsupported rides, each about 1,000 miles--one from Chicago to Columbus, GA, the other from Chicago to Stoddard, NH.

I rode a second transcontinental in 2009 (Portland, OR to Tybee Island, GA), again with PAC Tour. Even though I was nearly 64, I struggled not with my age but with nutritional issues that resulted in my getting only about 1/3 of the calories I needed to fuel thirty (30) back-to-back, 116 mile days (3,500 miles).

The Portland Transcon taught me more about asking for help, accepting help, accepting my limitations, and remaining grateful for the gift of being out there.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Memories: Micro, Gestalt, and Tortugas

(click the pix to see the baby Tortugas)

Of course we'll remember Cancun 2010: the trip we'd been planning for 10 months, bought our airline tickets with points on Mexicana and a month before the flight we got the ubiquitous call: "there has been a change in your itinerary, please call us." Significant, indeed, it was. Mexicana had gone out of business and felt no compunction or responsibility to refund our money or rebook us on an airline that was still flying.

We'll remember always how much Kirk, especially, was looking to a change in scenery, venue, and the roil of surf right outside our patio door.

We'll remember always taking a cab, plane, cab, ferry, and golf cart to get to our villa on Isla Mujeres, reminiscent of the movie, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

We'll remember always our first meal on Isla of Ceviche at Picus.

We'll remember always notification by the Resort Staff to attend a meeting of all guests at 11:00 a.m. to learn how they would be evacuating us from Isla Mujeres to Cancun in anticipation of a direct hit by Hurricane Paula.

We'll remember always spending the rest of the day following the evacuation plan, arriving in our new accommodations in a lovely room at Avalon Grand, except to reach it you had to climb 62 steps and traverse two steep ramps, outside, in the rain, with no elevator option.

We'll remember always watching workers board up the windows and shops closing their doors to wait out the storm which ultimately turned east and hit Cuba instead of Cancun/Isla Mujeres.

We'll remember always Alejandro, the 26 y.o. front desk clerk at Isla who excelled in his customer service at Isla and who shared a big piece of his poignant story with us as we waited at the Ferry Dock waiting to be evacuated. Kirk is hopeful he can arrange for Alejandro to participate in Spanish Town in 2011 as a Guide.

We’ll remember always Kirk’s billfold continuing to ride on the Old Cancun bus without him.

We'll remember always releasing 2 of the 125 day-old baby sea turtles into the sea praying the birds of prey wouldn't snatch them before they reached safety. Wonder where safety is for those little guys?

But there are other memories that are likely to recede from the conscious realm only to be reawakened upon return to experience Mexico anew:

__The recognizable smell of Cancun as soon as exiting the plane and before stepping onto the the jetway

__Paper napkins that virtually dissolve when wet

__Absence of pedestrian walk lights so peds, scooters, buses, cabs, and cars all jockey for crossing rights

__Steps everywhere that are unregulated in height, even in the same flight

__Sidewalks that are actually humorous, if you're able bodied, as they are anything but flat, chunky cement, curb irregularities galore, and full of mid-block steps into houses and shops. If you're mobility challenged, well, even a wheelchair pusher would not be up to the task. "Kneeling buses", unheard of.

__Light switches in the villa that require key card insertion. That requires a lot of key cards unless you like leaving one room in the dark, groping to the next to insert your key card once again.

__Street signs painted on the sides of the buildings at a height of 20 feet in binoculars-required hand printed fonts, and there is no consistency on what corner (N,E,S, W) the signage will appear. Oneway signs are hand painted pieces of wood nailed to whatever, if ever.

__Garage parking meters are emptied by two, unarmed women removing the canister and dumping the coins into a bag, spilling coins all over the ground. That's the job of the second woman: pick up the spilled coins. No armored vehicles here!

__Bus fare is collected by the driver, change is made, and fares stored in open box.

__Construction workers jackhammering in flip flops.

__Peanut butter is unheard of.

__Seeming absence of locals over the age of 55. Where are they? Are they?

__Beaten down weariness of the visage, shoulders, and step of the locals riding the bus from the Hotel Zone to "real Cancun" where over 450,000 live out their lives.

Biking Isla Mujeres

This was not my first immersion in Isla life. I knew the streets were cobbled and full of axel-disemboweling speed bumps known either as Topes or Sleeping Policemen. I knew from the tippy north to the tippy south and back was at the most 10 miles, unless I zigged and zagged across the east west streets, each of which was at the most 0.3 of a mile. Isla would not be about the bike; it would be about us and rest.

I also know that I’m not a good walker and poop out after a couple of miles not to be renewed till manana. I also know that my urban, shoe-protected delicate toe pads are ground to bleeding pulp within the first 6 hours of arriving in the Caribbean clime of grade AAAAAA white sand. Toes wrapped in mole skin and riding elevated on Tilda’s pedals is a hopeful solution.

Lunch today at Playa Lancheros, about 5k from our villa. Tilda and I arrived 15 minutes ahead of Kirk who taxied out and walked home by way of the Turtle Farm. Chicago will never be able to offer fresh caught barracuda cooked in the tikinxik manner, which I imagine to be similar to a Tandoori oven, and served at your table in the sand. Definitely one of our Isla traditions.

Locusts and Wild Honey

First order of business on Isla is to introduce Tilda to “The Super”, a grocery store the likes of an Aldi + a minimal Dollar Store in the States (see her parked outside waiting patiently?). This is my first trip to Isla since my food issues have been in full bloom. I had low expectations but left with lower results: an avocado, powdered soy milk, filtered water, and a bag of rice which, once we returned to our villa, I realized I would not be cooking after all since rice cooked from scratch in the microwave wouldn’t be happening, especially since the largest available cooking container held only 6 ounces.

My Starbucks-style Tea, Steamed Soy Misto looks and tastes quite a bit different with powdered Soya Leche. I’d brought Stevia from home, but forgot my honey packets cached from Starbucks overage. Back to the Super, Tilda and I for honey, or miel as it’s known in Spanish. First they thought I wanted money from the cash station, then they thought I was using a term of endearment (I guess Honey is universal), and then finally the answer: “No Miel at the Super.”

I met Kirk for lunch after my unsuccessful honey trip to the Super. Along the way we asked a local resident for directions and fell to talking about Miel. He had a half liter of the unprocessed pure liquid gold, straight from the bees of the Yucatan. His half liter cost him 200 pesos, about $20 USD; we gave him 50 pesos for the 2 oz left in his travel bottle.

I don’t know how people with dietary limitations make it in places like Isla; just really don’t know. My solution has been to buy an order of rice, potatoes, plantains, and save some of my dinner entree for breakfast. Then, hunt and peck through restaurants and menus one day at a time, ODAT, for lunch and dinner.

Temporada Baja

Low Season, that’s what it is here on Isla Mujeres, that sleepy little Isle 20 minutes by the fast ferry from Puerta Juarez, Cancun.

In Temporada Alta, High Season, Isla wears her “stage face” by day full of unrelenting hawking of unwanted garish 10-cent jewelry, barracuda sun-bleached jaws replete with a full set of teeth, and conch shells devoid of their masters who were just served in the freshest ceviche you’ll ever eat at the likes of Picus, our favorite little seafood restaurant without walls, a canopy roof, and a beach floor. Picus is our first stop, always, after disembarking the ferry. We wheel our luggage, which this time included Tilda, on the beach floor up to the table and sigh that sigh of having made it back once again.

Isla teems with tourists from Cancun from about 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Then she returns to her shy, quiet, private self to rest and renew until the tourists return the following morning. But we’re here in Temporada Baja so the glare, blare, and crush by day is about 10% of January, and the stillness of after 6:00 is interrupted only by the pulsing surf that never rests.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Saison Accompli

To each his own humor
Who woulda thunk mosquitoes would be worth a Nature Center?
Tis the season
Carved from a Cottonwood Tree
Glorious sunrise leaving Stevens Point for a 139 mile day

The Ferry Tour was, indeed, the capstone of my 2010 riding season.

I didn’t set out for it to be about “putting-it-all-together” about integration; but that’s what it turned out to be.

I finished the PAC Tour transcontinental in 2009 and the 2009 riding season broken and doubting, certain that my years had caught up with me and I could expect only a progressively sinking spiral of physical resources.

With low expectations I entered the off season without a lot of enthusiasm. Out of practiced discipline I just kept doing what I hoped would be the next right thing, whatever that really meant.

First it was rotator cuff surgery in December, then encouraging performance at Vision Quest Coaching in the computrainer lab, then multiple bike trips out of the winter and into the warm, then Bikram Yoga to improve my flexibility and balance, then the watershed discovery that I was allergic to an ingredient in the Hammer product I was using to fuel on the bike, then Pilates to strengthen my core, and then new orthotics to support my biomechanics toe to head.

By the time the 2010 riding season launched I seemed to have youthened 10 years: much pleasure challenging the glacial hills of Madison; successful fueling with a new potion in my water bottles, sharing destinations with Kirk, and solo, two and three-day rides of 120-150 miles per day.

And so, it came to be that The Ferry Tour was a triumphant fanfare celebrating the gift of wholeness in strength, balance, fullness of belly, riding friends here and there wherever I roam with whom to share some miles, the confidence and competence to solo navigate the miles far from home, and the joy of beating the sinking sun by eight minutes as day turned into night on the 6th day.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

SS Badger

Denise and Ken rode with me from the hotel to the SS Badger ferry dock in Ludington; they headed home (Muskegon) from there; I settled in for the 4-hour passage with Jhumpa Lahiri's novel, Namesake.

What are the odds of bumping into someone you know on the SS Badger? I'd say pretty slim. But bump I did into June and Bob Miller from church. We were all playing hookey. :)

What a difference a day makes. Gray skies replaced with blue, clouds replaced with cloudless, overcast with bright sun, 50 degrees with 75 degrees, no wind for WIND, and a head wind at that. But no complaints here after a wet yesterday.

The clearly autumnal feel of yesterday was replaced with a late summer quiet--the fields were resting, their florid growth over, ready for harvest; vibrant, silky green of corn and soy replaced with scratchy, noisy gold and brown. Farmers beginning to shave their corn field faces leaving the soil with the rough stubble of an old man's beard.

The fields of corn and soy and occasional lots of cattle wooed me into thinking I was in familiar turf. But the reality was I traveled the full distance from Manitowoc to Kimberly without nary a town or minimart. Had my Super 8 not arisen above the corn tops at mile 49/50, I was about to seek the hospitality of a local farmer. I'll save that for anther day.

Glorious day.

Day 2--Ludington

Oh my, rain, rain, and steady rain for 65 of the 85 miles. Temp was probably mid 50's but it was anything but pleasant.

What a gift to have Ken and Denise riding with me.They know the roads well so we could choose the most weather-friendly route. I've ridden in Pentwater and environs with my recumbent buddies from Chicago. Fun to be back "putting it all together" for the Ferry Tour.

Mark asked me if it had been a scenic day. I could only answer, "I don't know." Guess I'm not very good at looking around and taking in the sights when it's pouring rain, I'm shivering, and wanna keep the rubber side down.

Chilli at the Sands Cafe in Silver Lake, hot tea, and sinfull French Fries helped warm us from the inside out. Still another 30+ miles to go to Ludington from there.

Funny how quickly you can forget the weather pains after you shower, clean the bike, and refuel.

Ready for another day on the bike.

Practice Makes Perfect

The only Lake Express Ferry Crossing that would fit my schedule is a 12:30 departure. It's 75 miles door to door and I would have at least 25 pounds of gear loaded on the bike to support a 6-day tour. That leaves little time for smelling roses, changing tires, or missing a turn.

I test rode the route to the car ferry in mid-August. The route is truly doable in the given time frame. Next test was on Labor Day. How much slower would I be loaded with 25 pounds? Let's ride it an see. No problem. Punched it out in 5 hours.

Friday the 10th finally came. Mark and Jeff met me at my alley at 5:45 and off we went. They would ride with me 18 miles (Lake Bluff) and then turn around for breakfast and home. The weather gods were favorable so I easily arrived at the ferry dock before 11:00 for a 12:30 departure.

Ken met me at the dock in Muskegon; we rode to Denise's and then convoyed to dinner.

Sweeeeeeeeeeet day

Ferry Tour--The Inspiration and Reality

Friday, September 10th would launch my 2010 Ferry Tour, a significant scale-back from my original plan to circumnavigate Lake Michigan this season. Alas my nutritional issues required my deferring the circumnavigation to another year buying me some time to explore nutritional solutions. The Ferry Tour was the more modest tour that seemed doable under my fueling circumstances.

The Plan:

Day 1: Wilmette, IL-->Milwaukee and ferry across Lake Michigan on the Lake Express Ferry to Muskegon. Over night with Denise, a bent rider friend since 2006 from PAC Tour Desert Camp.

Day 2: Muskegon--> Ludington, MI with Denise and her long-time riding buddy, Ken, also a strong bent rider

Day 3: Ferry across Lake Micigan on the SS Badger from Ludington-->Manitowoc, WI; ride solo to Appleton, WI

Day 4: Ride solo to Stevens Point and visit friends at the Hostel Shoppe, a premiere Recumbent Bike Shop

Day 5: Ride solo from Stevens Point to Hartford, WI, a suburb of Milwaukee

Day 6: Ride to Milwaukee to meet Kirk for lunch and then ride home to Wilmette

Monday, September 06, 2010

Loaded For Bear (for Ferries)

My Ferry Tour launches this Friday, September 10th:

I'm packed, routes are both printed and loaded in my Garmin, bike is tuned, new Crank Bros. Acid pedals, new orthotics to support the recalcitrant right foot; just waiting for the start date to arrive on my calendar.

Friday's route is to Milwaukee and then ferrying across Lake Michigan to Muskegon where I'll hook up with bent friends, Denise and Ken. The Lake Express Ferry departs at 12:30. Cars, bikes, and peds must be queued up for boarding by 12:00. Since ferries don't wait for flat tires or head winds I want to arrive at the dock by 11:15 allowing some cush for untowards.

Today's goal was to ride to Kenosha (42 miles) and back to Cafe de Isaac in Highwood (31 miles) for a 4:15 dinner with Kirk, exactly 73 niles, the same distance as home to the Ferry. My bike was loaded with all the gear I'll be carrying on Friday so I would have a true test run of what it will take time-wise to get to the ferry by 11:15.

Outbound I enjoyed a delightful tailwind which, of course came back to bite me on the return. Bumped into John Lake (PAC Tour Hall of Famer) in Highland Park on the outbound; deer were jumping across the path in Lake Bluff; and all was right with the world.

My bike was solid and road worthy. And the answer to the question: "What time do I leave home on Friday to reach the ferry by 11:15?" is: 5:45 a.m. It'll be dark at that time; but hey, my Stella lamp will guide me well.

I off loaded my gear into Kirk's car and rode the last 11 miles home considerably lighter.

I'll post daily on my blog if the hotels have computers.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tilda Ferries To Dixie

The day after our nephew, Nate Reed, married Danielle in Leesburg, VA August 21st, and two days after Grandma Mary turned 89, Kirk, Tilda, and I drove to Baltimore for a meeting. Work done, Kirk went to watch the Orioles lose to Texas 4-6. While he kept score in Camden Yard, Tilda and I rode back to Leesburg following the route offered by David Berning from the DC Randonneurs.

After the first 10 miles or so getting out of Baltimore the route was pastoral, roads excellent, and directions perfect. Thank you David! And thank you Bill Beck, RBA for the DC Randonneurs, who put me in touch with David.

Tilda's rider's muscles strained to rise and fall over the 3,700' of climbing in those 63 miles. Bike Friday designed their Tikit to ride "the last mile", you know from home to the bus stop, or the bus stop to the office, or home to the grocery store to get a loaf of bread. The Tikit was not intended to be a land cruiser with only 8 gears, 16" wheels with no accommodation for standing to power up the hills. But together we did it albeit my slowest 63 miles ever recorded, I do believe.Water Stop

The route's crown jewel was crossing not only the Potomac by ferry but also that invisible, but still palpable line the other side of which was Dixie.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Few Fun Pix

A hand-carved wooden Gas Pump on Rt 12

One of a kind mail box

Bike on the brain

Now this is just lovely.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Tri-State: New Buffalo, MI

Living in Chicago the word, Tri-State implies IL, IN, and WI. Today I redifined Tri-State by riding out my alley, down the Chicago Lake Front Path, through East Side (a most uncreative name for a community still in Chicago but whose front yards sit on the IN border), down the Burnham path, finally onto Ave "O" (another uncreative name), through Hammond, East Chicago (that's in IN), Gary, and finally the Indiana Dunes National Park district. On to Michigan City, IN (where my parents had a 24 hour honeymoon back in 1939), and finally New Buffalo, MI.

My several solo treks from home to New York and further east have required passage around the bottom of Lake Michigan, a frightful arm pit of steel mills, abandoned buildings, 18-wheelers, and all things industrial sized that further dwarf my vulnerable 2 wheels. And yet, I've felt called to navigate the bottom of the Lake once again.

Mark and Jeff rode out with me from home to Grand Ave. in Chicago where they headed west for Lou Mitchell's, an iconic restaurant for at least as far back as Route 66, and I headed south and east hoping, hoping for safe passage into Michigan.

Last week when riding through south-central Illinois, Google Mapping for bicycles routed me on crushed limestone paths. I was not up for trusting Google Mapping again, at least not so soon. I opted for US Rt 12 virtually all the way. Route 12 through Chicago is as close to an Interstate as you can get without having the title of I-12. I was not hopeful; concerned to nervous might be better terms.

Turns out 12 is really not that bad; it just sounds bad, but picturesque it was not, no not in any way.

Notice the totally empty Gary-Chicago Airport Parking Lot!

Pleasantly, though the road surface was good, shoulders ample, traffic light, and weather friendly. What more could a rider want?

Company would be a nice addition.

I happened upon a yellow-jerseyed rider 7 miles west of Michigan City, a vacationer from NJ. We swapped stories till our paths diverged and then I cat and moused a 2nd yellow-jerseyed rider.

Later I would re-fuel at Jimmys and who should be there? Yellow jerseyed rider #2.

Refuled and refreshed by Jimmy's fare, a soy tea latte from David's and a few dark chocolate covered almonds from The Chocolate Cafe I waited for Kirk to arrive by car bringing me a fresh set of clothes so I can change out of my towel.

My ride home was equally pleasant and uneventful save the fog that enshrouded the city, this shot as seen from the Lake Front Path about 3100 south.

Thanks, Rob

Rob Welsh, an accomplished randonneur from the Twin Cities and recent successful Elite PAC Tour rider (crossing the US in 19 days averaging 162 miles per day) kicked open his 2010 training at PAC Tour’s Desert Camp. It was there he met Michelle Williams, a recumbent rider from MS who would be riding PAC’s Northern Transcon from Everett, WA to Williamsburg, VA this July.

Rob and I met at Desert Camp in 2007 and have since cheered each other on toward our respective riding goals and adventures. Rob introduced Michelle and me via email since we were both bent riders and both PAC vets. And so it came to be that Michelle and I emailed regularly sharing our training, our UMCA goals, fears, frustrations, and foibles.

And yet we had never met.

Then it occurred to me I could ride to Pekin, IL and meet her and her fellow PAC Tour riders when they arrived Saturday, July 31 and I could ride with them Sunday, August 1st from Pekin--> Danville. And so, that was the plan.

To Morris

Chicagolad riders know there are infinite ways to ride north/south But east/west is a whole ‘nother story lessen’ you want to add 30-40% more miles to your route to avoid the plethora of perils rendered by the four-wheelers.

Then it occurred to me: I could cycle to Union Station, take the Metra Commuter rail to Aurora, and cycle to Morris, IL. Yes, that would work.

My biggest challenge stood to be getting my bike loaded with its 25 pounds of gear on and off the train. But, I got the job done, through no help from Charlene, the conductor, who had no intention of lifting a finger of assistance. The trick was unlashing the bundle from the rear rack and lifting the bike into the train on haul #1 and the bundle up on haul #2 and then reversing the process.

Jayesh, the Super 8 desk clerk in Morris, made up for Charlene’s lack of hospitality by rearranging my reservation so I could have a 1st floor accommodation, since, of course, the Super 8 doesn’t have an elevator. Thank you, Jayesh!

While my corner of Morris, IL seemed pretty humble, it did have a quaint local coffee shop and a restaurant with “0” minutes of waiting.

Google Maps

I typically obsess over my routes when riding solo, but this time I turned loose of my obsession and trusted Google Maps. Not a good idea. Google Maps took me through the Morris Super 8 neighborhood (in the pouring rain) to the I and M Canal Bike Trail. Yes, it was a soggy crushed limestone path, all 13 miles of it. With 120 miles to ride hauling 25 pounds of gear a soggy limestone path was not welcoming. So, at mile 3 I was off-route already. And so it went for the rest of the day. I’d ride 20 miles and ask the locals for the next 20 miles.

The rain stopped by late morning and I arrived in Pekin at the PAC Host Hotel about 45 minutes ahead of Michelle and the balance of the PAC riders.
One of the 9-person PAC vans that pulls the trailer which carries all of the rider’s standard issues duffle bags and bike repair equipment died, not to be resuscitated upon arriving in Pekin. Susan and Lon are totally unflappable; Susan just drove 150 miles one way to Rochelle and drove a new van off the lot. The new van was ready to roll out along with the riders the following morning.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Danville, Peotone, Ravinia

Riding to Danville was like a family reunion reconnecting with Greg, Greg, Susan, Lon, Rebecca, Christopher, Walt, Veronica, Bob, Jim, Jon, John, Jonathan, Steve, and Cynthia as well as meeting new family "relatives".

Pacelines always make the 136 miles go faster.

Dinner in Danville

Monday PAC would head east to Anderson, IN and I north to Peotone, IL through much corn. Kirk would meet me there and we’d drive the rest of the way home (65 miles) together. Today, August 2nd was our 41st wedding anniversary and we had Ravinia tickets to see Chanticleer. Would never have made it 165 miles in time to make Ravinia.

Rossville honors their servicemen
Bicyle art in Peotone

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sisters (OR), Son, and Grandchildren

I met Elizabeth Renner "on-line". We shared a coach, Bart Bowen, out of Bend, OR. Elizabeth lives in Sisters, OR, I in Chicago. She off-season trains in Bart's computrainer lab. In 2007-8 I trained in my family room uploading my PowerTap data daily to Bart in Bend. Since Elizabeth rides a Lightning P38, as do I (and they are both green), Bart hoped we could meet someday.

Our son, Bryan, lives in Eugene about 200k from Sisters, perfect for flying out to ride with Elizabeth and her friends, Carol, Sue, and Mae for a few days before my husband would fly to Eugene for a family week together. Never have I felt in the majority, but here we had 3 Lightning P38's and 2 uprights.

Elizabeth, Sue, and me
Loading The Bents

We loaded the bents on the back of Elizabeth's Explorer and headed just east of Prineville to ride the Big Summit Prairie, home to free range cattle, sheep herded by guard dogs assisted by mounted cowboys, and fields of wild flowers that attract aficionados from world-wide. What I noticed equally to the beauty was riding at 3,900-5,400' of altitude the morning after arrival, a big leap up from my steady state 600' called home in tortilla-flat Chicagoland.

After 3 days in Sisters, I set off solo to summit the McKenzie Pass on Rt 242 and then to drop down into Eugene. Packing is always an art of creative fun to anticipate all my rando-style bike needs (both mechanical and personal, including fuel for my idiosyncratic body), AND riding clothes and off-the-bike clothes for 4 days before my husband would arrive by plane with replenishments. I did well getting all of the above in my Rans seat pouch with my 2 folding tires (one for each sized wheel) stuffed in my Crocs which were zip tied under the cinching cord atop the bag.

Two years ago when I made a similar trip to Sisters, the McKenzie Pass was closed for road construction so I took the lesser road, the Santiam Pass. But this year, this year the McKenzie Pass was open and how glorious it was. Other than the 50 motor cycles that passed me on the ascent the only sound was of silence; 48 of the 50 cycles had motors as quiet as mine. One of the two screamers finished his ride as squid along side of a switchback having caught his wheel in displaced gravel. The sound of silence was broken by the sound of sirens.

I wasn't expecting to find black lava fields atop the pass. Other than the difference in the temp and the color of the lava, the view, in places, reminded me of the desolation of Death Valley. Of course, a few peddle strokes further and the snow-covered Sisters would, once again be watching over me.
Dee Wright Observatory at the 5,300' summit of the McKenzie Pass

The descent was glorious, probably a 3-4% slope most of the time, gentle enough that I could wander my eyes to the walls of verdancy all around. Found myself on the wheel of a 6 CFG's (Carbon Fiber Gladiators) and hooked on for the last few miles before I turned west on Route 126 for the final 57 miles into Eugene following the McKenzie River.

I gave Bryan a call when I hit Springfield, OR and we rendezvoused on the Eugene bike path. We rode together to Starbucks at 13th and Alder where we hooked up with his kids (our grandkids), Elijah, age 9, and Ayva, age 7. After a Starbucks refresher we all rode home together, Ayva's longest ride--2 1/2 miles.

Sweet times.