No Name Tour: Day 5 – Getting a Push

My hotel is the tallest building for miles (I was on the 24th floor). It made faint creaking sounds from the wind. They didn’t keep me up. Nothing could have. I was exhausted.

I started the day with a short ride to Abraham Lincoln’s house. It’s in a cute, preserved neighborhood with wooden sidewalks and gravel streets. Unfortunately I was 90 minutes too early for a tour so an exterior photo would have to do (sorry Jessica).

I was anxious to get on the road because the wind, albeit a light one, would be at my back. I made it two more miles before stopping for breakfast at a diner.

Eggs, sausage, hash browns, toast, and coffee.

Burp.

With a full tank of gas, I boogied out of Springfield on a rail trail. The solitude was lovely but the trees along each side blocked the wind. Still, I was clipping along at twice yesterday’s speed with no effort.

In Chatham the trail gave way to hilly roads through suburban developments. Once clear of them I was on level country roads with my friend the wind nudging me along.

I started bonking after 25 miles and stopped at a gas station shop for food. I managed to gag down some Gatorade, pretzels, and crackers then hit the road again.

The temperature was in the low 60s and I struggled to keep my body temperature under control. A jacket was too warm but a shirt alone was chilly. I opted for chilly and continues south on a rather poorly maintained rail trail.

Five miles later I was back on 66 which was a frontage road for I-55. With good pavement and the wind at my back I was comfortably cruising at 14 miles per hour.

Bonking again, I stopped for lunch at a family restaurant in Litchfield. The service was glacially slow but my body appreciated the opportunity to recharge. I had a Wisconsin butter burger (a cheeseburger with a dollop of butter on top and a glob of mayo on the bottom).

Fortunately the waitress knew CPR and I was back on the road with a belly full of fat and grease.

It was just what my body wanted. I was riding in the 14 – 17 mph range and came to the town of Mount Olive where I visited the grave of Mother Jones, the famous labor activist.

How does he find such interesting historical stuff? When you’re going 10 mph through town the signs every two blocks are hard to miss.

I was briefly considering riding the wind for another 20 miles but after six more I arrived in Staunton and called it a day. By the way, Staunton, Virginia is pronounced Stanton. In Illinois, locals swallow the second “t” so that it sounds like Ralph Kramden called his friend Norton.

The Super 8 here is inexpensive and has breakfast. Much more importantly it’s located next door to a Dairy Queen.

Guess where I’m going as soon as I post this?

71.5 miles for the day brings the tour’s five day total to 295.

No Name Tour: Day 4 – Headwinds Are a State of Mind

After yesterday afternoon’s massive feed, I fell into a food coma in my hotel room. Laundry was accomplished. Nats best Cubs on the telly. I slept for 8 hours.

Just what I needed.

The hotel breakfast was decent: cereal, OJ, coffee, yogurt, fruit (including 2 apples for the road), and toast.

As I left the hotel the wind nearly blew me over. Once I got on Route the wind was in my face. I was determined not to fight it. So I plodded along at 8 miles per hour. During the day, the wind intensified and my speed crept downward.

No worries. The temps were cooperating, staying in the high 60s and low 70s.

I decided to just forget about how long the day would take. I stopped from time to time to check out the sites.

It turns out that a business in Santa Monica (the western end of Route 66) makes huge fiberglass statues as advertisements. Most of them look like Paul Bunyan carrying an axe or whatever matches the business being promoted. Mufflers were popular. A hot dog business in Illinois had one made with a giant hot dog. It’s named the Paul Bunyon statue because of restaurant trademark conflicts. It now stands next to the road in Atlanta, Illinois.

Paul’s a whole lot bigger (and my head is much smaller) than he looks in this picture.

I was plodding along thinking the bike gods that the road was mostly level.

I stopped in the town of Elkhart and had a light lunch at an Amish cafe. I was happy to get out of the wind for an hour.

The wind picked up even more when I saw Stephen and Bernd coming my way. Steve is from New York and Bernd is from Germany. We had a nice chat. They were loving their tailwind. Steve said they rode more than 80 miles yesterday and “didn’t break a sweat.” He also said that the winds were so strong in Arizona that he was literally blown off the road into a ditch.

Steve and Bernd happy to riding the wind

Isn’t bike touring fun?

I rode into Springfield expecting to camp but the campground looked boggy so I headed into town in search of a hotel.

Along the way I saw some signs for Lincoln’s tomb so I checked it out.

It turns out that 3 of his 4 sons (Robert is buried in Arlington) and his wife are also buried here. This surprised me because Willie was buried in DC (the basis for the book Lincoln in the Bardo).

I know my history fanatic friend Jessica is going ape over these pictures but there’s more! Lincoln’s tomb is just up the hill from the graves of the Korndog (sic) King and Mr. Accordion!

I’ll bet that made Jessica spit her cerveza.

After checking out an inexpensive Howard Johnson’s they looked like a perfect spot for meth sales, I ride into downtown and grabbed a room at the Wyndham. I’m on the 28th floor and I can hear the wind howling outside. I have an amazing view of Springfield and let me tell you it’s totally not worth the picture. (I grew up in Albany and I’d feel the same way about the view there do don’t give me any grief y’all).

In spite of the headwinds I logged 52.5 miles today making the tour total 225 miles.

Tomorrow I check out Lincoln’s house before riding headwinds outta town.

No Name Tour: Day 3 – Getting My Ass Kicked on Route 66

At the motel last night I watched the Nats play the Cubs on TV. I fell sound asleep in the 4th inning (or thereabouts) and woke up at 1:30. I stayed up for a few hours then faded away until 6:30.

I ate a pathetic motel breakfast again (cereal, OJ, coffee) and headed out into a stiff headwind that never relented.

I just put my head down and did my best. 8 miles per hour.

The route occasionally had a path next to it. The path was made from half the old roadway. It was nice and had Burma Shave signs.

Don’t pass on hills or curves

If the cops don’t get you

Morticians will

Burma Shave

I crawled along until Normal. Normal strikes me as a strange name for a town. It practically begs you to suspect the place is full of weirdos.

Normal gave way to bike paths through Bloomington. I wonder if the locals call it Abnormal.

I became hopelessly lost about the same time as I started bonking. I was not a happy camper.

With help from the google I escaped Bloomington but managed to bypass all kinds of restaurants and food stores.

I ended up at a crappy gas station shop and made do with a chocolate chip ice cream sandwich and two Gatorades.

Here I discovered it was 83 degrees outside. So had heat to augment the lovely headwinds.

I have to say that this was one of the hardest rides I’ve ever done. I did 88 miles into a headwind last summer but that was downhill with cool temperatures. (And the views along the Blackfoot River in Montana were awesome. The Illinois prairie not so much.)

Back on the trail I decided to end the day at McLean. They had a Super 8 with a diner across the street. I got there as yet another nasty thunderstorm was approaching.

At the diner I ordered breakfast. There was enough food for three people. Oink.

I noticed a few morbidly obese people in their yards along the road today. There were several more at the diner. Depressing.

Tomorrow’s forecast is for more fun with heat and headwinds. At least the hotel has a much more ample breakfast set up that I will attack with Kennedy-esque vigah.

41.5 miles today. Total so far 212.5.

No Name Bike Tour: Day 2 – Getting My Kicks

Something must be wrong. I slept like a log and my knee didn’t ache. Good thing I was in a hotel because a storm went through the area and had golf ball sized hail.

The complementary breakfast wasn’t worth the price. A small bowl of Raisin Bran, toast and jam, and coffee. Normally I’d eat everything twice but not today.

It was a dreary day with cool temperatures and drizzle. On went my rain jacket.

On the road by 8:30 or maybe 7:30. I have time zone confusion. On the way out of Kankakee I was treated to the curse of the miles long freight train. Actually it was fun watching it roll by. Forever.

Once freed I was treated to a tailwind for most of the morning. I had decided to ride west to intersect Route 66 in Dwight, Illinois. I let the google do the navigating.

Off I went on country roads, a very pleasant experience until I hit the unpaved part. “Continue for 9 miles.” The google likes to joke.

After about five I turned off and headed to the two lane highway.

Did I mention that these roads are level. (Bike tourist never use the “f” word.) I was clipping along at 15 miles per hour with little effort. What a pleasant contrast to yesterday’s slog.

The fields were quagmires so I knew camping wasn’t going to happen.

As I rode into Dwight, some 37 miles after I began, I could tell I was bonking. The fuel from breakfast was used up. Fortunately there was a family restaurant at the turn to Route 66. (Family restaurants are ubiquitous in the Midwest.) I ordered lunch and was thrilled to see piles of food arrive at my table. It took me close to an hour to down it all. No crumbs for the mouse this day.

Just before entering the restaurant I checked my weather app. It predicted a thunderstorm for the next two hours. It was a false alarm.

I rode 66 southwest with the wind aiding my effort. The highway is concrete with many patches and pot holes. Many years ago the state decided to let the western two lanes deteriorate. It reminded me of snowmobile trails in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

My original plan was to stop in Dwight but it was barely afternoon so I forged ahead to Pontiac. On the way I passed through Odell where I crossed my route from last year. I re-took a picture while I was in town.

Pontiac boasted several museums. I went into the Route 66 museum. It was filled with memorabilia. I thought of my friend Rachel’s descriptions of the Haines, Alaska Hammer Museum.

Route 66 changed course several times. In Pontiac there are sections that date back to the late 1920s. Somebody decided to build a bypass in 1930.

There are restored buildings along the road from time to time. The Standard Oil station was cute. It would have looked better with a big 1930s car out front.

Despite the fact that the trail is clearly marked and that I had an actual map of the road, I missed a turn south of Pontiac. The level terrain made it no big deal, perhaps an extra two or three miles, but I felt embarrassed to have screwed up something so simple.

I recovered and found my hotel outside Chenoa. The desk clerk is from Gurjarat in India. It’s amazing how many small town hotels are staffed by Gurjaratis. I often wonder how they find these places.

After check in I discovered the tap water had the faint smell of sulfur, probably untreated well water. I’ll be buying bottled water for tomorrow.

So Day 2 ends at 70 1/2 miles. I’m hoping the Nats v Cubs game is on the telly tonight.

Props to all the folks back home who participated in Bike to Work Day. Thanks to Monica for offering to grab a shirt for me.

No Name Tour: Day 1 – Headwinds, Rumble Strips and Thunderstorms

The day began with my in laws taking us out to the Fingerhut Diner in beautiful downtown North Judson, Indiana. Maybe it was pretour jitters but I couldn’t finish my omelet. My tummy was in knots and my left knee was barking at me.

We went back to the in-laws’ fabulous home atop a sand hill (the land around here is either sand or bog). I packed up and my mother in law offered me some granola bars and a fig bar. I put a few in my handlebar bag because what’s a few more ounces when your bike weighs a ton.

The engine

Hugs and kisses were followed by me riding The Mule down the curving driveway and into the wind.

Crops are only now being planted around here so the vast fields offer little break from the constant winds from the south and west. I was going west south west so my entire day was spent fighting the wind. Of course, as the day wore on the wind speed increased. Did I mention that I hate weather?

The county farm roads were empty but disconnected so I had to use two lane highways from time to time. I spent about five miles going south on US 421. It had rumble strips along the narrow paved shoulder leaving me no choice but to ride in the travel lane. I spent most of the time looking in my rear view mirror (if you tour without one you are a fool). Dozens of tractor trailers and dump trucks passed me. They all gave me plenty of room. Only one honked at me.

I turn west onto Indiana Highway 10. No rumble strips! But still beaucoup trucks. Fortunately 10 gave way to some paved county roads that I had all to myself. I used the google to navigate the grid and made it quite along ways on these bike friendly lanes.

Better than a rail trail

Alas, all good things must come to an end as I rejoined 10 with still more trucks. Cowering to the edge was a bad idea. I caught my front tire in some gravel and nearly crashed. Luckily my wheel caught pavement and I recovered traction.

As I headed due west I could see the skies on the horizon darkening. On coming traffic had its headlights on. No bueno.

First state line of the tour

I arrived in the Illinois town of Momence and stopped to check the weather radar. As I did I heard a rumble of thunder. The radar showed a massive line of dark red approaching from the near northwest. It had dozens of lightning strikes displayed.

Eek!

I have been caught riding in Midwest thunderstorms several times before. They are scary. Heavy rain. High winds. Hail. Lightning.

Fortunately the google indicated that a fast food joint was only two blocks away. Having ridden 50 miles with only the fig bar to eat since breakfast I understood that the universe was telling me to eat some French fries.

And do I did. I munched slowly as I waited an hour for the storm to pass. Thinking ahead I made a motel reservation ten miles west in Kankakee.

After the storm passed, I hopped on The Mule, made two turns in Momence and rode 10 miles straight to the motel. I didn’t even care that scores of cars zoomed past me as I rode.

And so I arrived at the Super 8 covered in road spray but feeling pretty darned good about the first day of the tour.

I still have no idea if this left knee of mine will hold up to daily abuse but there’s only one way to find out.

Onward to Bicycle Route 66 tomorrow.

No Name Tour – Day 0

We drove 13 hours to north central Indiana today. My mind kept ticking off all the places along the way that I have bikes to and through in the past. Many good memories. Okay, riding over the monster hill in Wheeling in my recumbent in 2005 was no picnic.

Tomorrow morning we go to the local diner then I take off for Kankakee IL. I will stay in a motel since it is supposed to be a stormy night.

Wind will be an issue. There are no crops in the fields to hide behind. Maybe the weather gods can give me a push.

My left knee is very unhappy with the time in the car.

The Olympics has a motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius. Faster, Higher, Stronger. The motto for this tour is Maior, Corpulentiores, Deterioria Mereri. Older, Fatter, Sorer.

Onward.

And a note to the folks back in DC: I am sorry to have miss led this year’s Ride of Silence tonight. As my father used to say: you done good.

The No Name Tour: Get Me Out of Here

The last few days have been a scramble to get important stuff done before I leave for the tour. Today involved trips to the post office and putting together all the stuff for the tour. This took way too long. I had hoped to get to the Book, Jacket, and Journal Show in DC that my friend Katie Lee told me about but I ran out of time. Check it out if you are in town over the next ten days.

After about 90 minutes of work, The Mule is ready for a bike tour. Me not so much. But the time has come.

Mule at home

You will note that this bike weighs a ton. Some of the load is consumable. Maps. Soap. Chain cleaner. Lube. A book (Devil in the White City). I switched from a Kryptonite U-lock to a much lighter Ottolock to save weight. But I added two water bladders and a water filter so the bike weighs about as much as it did at the start of last year’s tour.

The bike feels much heavier though. I think I need to work on weight distribution. Everything in the so-called water proof panniers is in a plastic bag. That’s because the panniers have proven not to be water proof. Live and learn.

The engine is a bit heavier than last year. I attribute this to beer consumption. This year I consumed; last year I did not. After a few hundred miles and some temperance, I should be complaining about my pants being too loose.

Last year my body was in decent shape except for a sore left shoulder and arm. After a cortisone shot, that problem seems to be mostly gone. My left knee is very wonky though. I am seriously worried about it. The hills of Missouri should be a tough test.

Weather looks nasty. Missouri and Kansas seem to be having nonstop rain and thunderstorms. Let’s hope tornados are not in the mix.

I have the tour route roughed out. The starting point is still up in the air. Presumably I’ll start on Thursday from my in-laws house near North Judson, Indiana. If so, I’ll ride 60 miles to Kankakee, Illinois. On Day 2 I will connect with Bicycle Route 66 about 20 miles away. There is some discussion of driving me to Chicago where Route 66 begins. My first day will then likely be a confusing 65-mile ride to Joliet, Illinois. (If this is anything like riding out of Miami, I will be cussing for 6 or 7 hours.)

We shall see.

Oh, I don’t yet have a name for this tour, so I’m calling it the No Name Tour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Coffee Club – Getting Our Groove Back

For a long time, I’ve missed Friday Coffee Club. It’s a gathering mostly of DC bike commuters every Friday morning before work. In it’s early days around 7 or 8 years ago, it was populated by an incredible array of interesting people: old, young, male, female, (and in between), lawyers, economists, librarians, students, IT professionals, bloggers, reporters, visiting bike tourists, folks from other countries, and on and on. The conversation always had surprises and I rarely left for work without a good laugh or learning something new.

Then Swings, the 17th and G Street NW location near the White House, closed for renovations and we were sent across town to temporary digs where the food was better but the spark was missing.

When Swings re-opened earlier this year the old spark was still gone. Recently Swings placed tables outside (under a protected building pass-through) and the life returned to the party. Today, even without founding members Ed (in Finland), Mary (in Iowa), Brian (new dad), and Lisa (in Hyattsville), the old spark came alive.

Rudi was back to his old self after leading the mourning after the passing of our friend Dave. Susana (a first timer) told us how her husband didn’t want to go to Macchu Pichu because he gets headaches at altitude. Then Lawyer Mike chimed in about how his wife and he wandered into a labor dispute in Lima and escaped being shot with water cannons only to be tear gassed later in the day. (Best honeymoon story ever!)

The weather was perfect. I had a gentle warm breeze at my back for the 15 miles from my home to Swings. I stopped to take a selfie of me with a line of porta potties behind me. I was re-creating a recent selfie of my friend Jessica standing in front of a line of Moai (large stone heads) on Easter Island.

Rapa Pooey

I am thankful that Rudi has his mojo back. It’s been a brutal couple of weeks and we are grateful for how he took us on his shoulders as we mourned.

I am grateful to meet (or perhaps re-meet) Matt. And to be introduced to Amanda. And super thankful that Susana came. She’s one of the nicest people on the planet. And she told great stories. One of these days I will get her on a bike.

Group selfie with Susana
Clockwise from left: Lawyer Mike, me. Big Ed, Susana

 

 

 

Oink – Preliminary Bike Tour Packing List

I will be using four panniers and a handlebar bag. I may swap two big panniers for my two little ones in front so I can carry more water. But for now here’s how the packing list looks:

Camping

  • Two-person tent with rainfly and ground cloth
  • Sleep sack (light weight sleeping bag)
  • Cocoon (silk sleeping bag liner)
  • Full length sleeping pad
  • Travel pillow
  • Knife and spork

Water

  • Two two-liter water bladders
  • Water filter

Clothing

  • Three pairs of mountain bike shorts.
  • Three techincal t-shirts
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 1 pair bike gloves
  • Sun sleeves for my arms
  • Cotton t-shirt for off the bike
  • Shorts and belt for off bike
  • One pair technical undies for off bike
  • Bathing suit
  • Teva sandals
  • Floppy hat for riding in Utah and Nevada
  • Buff (for combating desert sun)
  • Headsweat
  • Gloves
  • Rain pants
  • Rain jacket

Electronics

  • iPhone charger cable
  • Camera
  • Headlight (with mount for helmet)
  • Chargers for all three

Medical

  • Aspirin (blod clots)
  • Compression sleeves (blood clots)
  • Antihistamines (allergies)
  • Ibuprofen with and without sedative (old body parts)
  • Eye drops (glaucoma) – 2 small vials
  • Arnuity (asthma) – two inhaler discs
  • Albuterol (asthma) – one inhaler

Toiletries

  • Sunscreen
  • Toothpaste (lots of little travel tubes to be tossed as I go)
  • Toothbrush
  • Razor (Fusion – one blade will last the whole trip)
  • Shaving cream
  • TP
  • Dr. Bronners (for washing me and my clothes)
  • Wash cloth
  • Towel
  • Spare prescription glasses

Handlebar bag

  • Chapstick
  • Spanner for Brooks saddle
  • Sunglasses
  • Wallet
  • iPhone
  • Backup power source (small with USB port)
  • Ottolock (small lock in place of u-lock – much lighter)

Tools

  • Multitool
  • Chain tool
  • Piece of coat hanger (to hold chain during repairs)
  • Master chain links (2)
  • Cables (1 for brakes, 1 for shifters)
  • Fiber fix emergency spokes (2)
  • Tire levers
  • Patch kit
  • 2 spare tubes
  • Folding spare tire
  • $1 bill as a tire boot
  • Wax lube (for chain)
  • Oil lube (for everything else)
  • Degreaser
  • Rag
  • Duct tape
  • Zip ties
  • Road Morph pump
  • Swiss Army knife

By far the heaviest single item is the two person tent. I can’t camp in a one-person tent. It feels like I am in a coffin.

In any case, this is quite a load. Roughly the same as last summer, adding the water items and ditching the u-lock

If anyone has any ideas about cutting weight, please post in the comments.

 

 

 

 

Ten Days to Liftoff

Over the weekend my oldest brother told me that he has the document that I need for my Irish citizenship application. Dang. I could have sworn I had it. Anyway, he’s putting it in the mail so I can ship off my packet of documents and photographs to Dublin. Yay.

Yesterday it rained all day. Having not slept a wink on Friday night I took full advantage of the rain. I slept in. Then I took an afternoon nap. Then I watched a baseball game on TV. In other words, I took the day completely off. Stressing out over the application had worn me out mentally and physically.

With batteries recharged and perfect weather, I rode The Mule 61 miles today. It was a nonstop ride from my home in Mount Vernon, Virginia to DC to Potomac Village, Maryland, to Bethesda Row, Maryland and back. I managed to find a few decent hills including the climb near Great Falls Park on MacArthur Boulevard. This climb very much resembles the long climbs I did in the Cascades (except for the fact that it is less than ten percent as long).

I rode at least two miles per hour faster than usual without meaning to. My left knee and my back were barking at me over the last five miles but I made it the whole way stopping only to tie my shoes and obey stop signs and red lights.

I was pretty tired so I made myself a Dagwood and inhaled that bad boy. Then I went out and mowed the lawn.

Ninety minutes later I was toast. The effort was similar to what I’ll be doing day after day on my tour. Of course, I didn’t carry a touring load on my bike but tacking on the lawn job was a good way to balance that out.

In ten days I should be rolling west from my in-laws house in Indiana.

Time to make a packing list.