April in the Books

Bike Summary

It was a pretty mellow month as far as bike riding is concerned. I rode 774 1/2 miles quite a bit less than last year, but, in my defense, I did take five days off. All my bikes are now ready for the summer after some TLC at bike hospitals. The Mule is tour-ready. Big Nellie is out of the basement. The Cross Check has a new rear wheel. Little Nellie gathers dusts. (Anybody want to buy a lightly – okay, over 20,000 miles) used folding travel bike?)

My longest ride of the month was yesterday. I rode 53 miles on Big Nellie through the azaleas and dogwoods in Bethesda. Dang, if that neck of the woods doesn’t have awesome landscaping.

So far this year, I have ridden 2,824 miles. That’s an average of 23 1/2 miles a day and a 8,590 mile yearly pace.

Tour Prep

I am starting to prep for my bike tour in earnest. Today was the tent competition. I have a lightweight backpacking tent and my daughter has a heavier, inexpensive tent. The heavier tent is roomier and is free standing. I will be sleeping in it tonight to make sure my back can take sleeping on the ground.

I need to acquire a few goodies for the tour. I would like to have a bigger back up battery for those days when my phone runs down. I also need some all purpose soap (like Dr. Bronner’s). I think my last task will be to inspect my panniers and patch the holes in them. Duct tape to the rescue.

Reading and Watching

I’ve been watching baseball games nearly every night since the season started. The Nationals are pretty lame this year. Cold weather has kept me from attending any games. I might get one in before I leave for the tour.

We did a quick trip up to Harford to visit our daughter who is finishing up her first year in law school. We went to a Yard Goats minor league baseball game, ate some Frank Pepe’s pizza, visited Mystic Aquarium, and ate at Dunkin Donuts. Mission accomplished.

My wife and I are watching Moon Knight, a Marvel series on Disney+. It is bizarre to say the least. Oscar Issac, Ethan Hawke, and May Calamaway are all very good. I can’t help but wonder what they were thinking when they first read the script. My guess is WTF?!

I read only two books: Lola and Vida, the fourth and fifth books in the Diva series by Delacorta. They were okay. One more to go (Alba).

Take Me Out to The Dunk

Over the weekend we travelled to Hartford to hang out with our daughter who is attending her first year of law school. On Saturday night we caught a minor league baseball game at Dunkin Donuts Park, known to all as The Dunk. It’s a new ballpark, very well designed and maintained. Minor league baseball is a trip. This was fireworks night so we could only get standing room tickets. Not a problem at $10 a pop.

The AA game pitted the hometown Hartford Yard Goats, the AA affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, against the Somerset Patriots, the oddly named New York Yankee farm club. The teams were competitive. The play was competent. What was more interesting was the endless and creative marketing that went on during the game. After every strike out for example, the announcer said words to the effect “That’s another strike out for addiction” referring to some local program related to drug addition recovery. What a weird promo!

In between every inning there was a contest pitting kids against each other. One contest featured to two two teams of two. One player, with his back to his teammate, would toss a chicken wing up in the air and his partner had to catch it in a bucket he held on his head. No lie.

Another contest was a race between two kids who raced to put on fire department pants, jackets and helmets. Then run to the finish line.

The best was the Baby Goat Race. A bunch of cute little kids dressed up in what looked like pajamas raced around the infield on the outfield grass. They had little goat heads attached to their PJs. Total sports excitement.

The post-game fireworks were quite minor league in keeping with the scope of things. They were still entertaining though. Ooh. Ahh.

The whole night had a joyous, small town, middle class, feel to it. The crowd was whiter than Ivory soap which was a bit of a shock considering the city of Hartford’s ethnic diversity. The stands below our SRO perch were filled with grade school kids. They had a ton of energy. Not one of them watched the game.

The game featured a pitch clock. Once the pitcher got the ball, he had 12 second to throw it. Otherwise the late pitch would be called a ball. When a runner was on base, 18 seconds were allowed. In between innings the clock was set to 2 minutes. Relievers had two minutes to throw their first pitch. The game lasted a bit over 3 hours but the pace was noticeably brisker than a major league game. It would have been shorter but for numerous pitching changes. If you ever see a major league game played in the 60s or 70s you’ll notice the pitchers and batters don’t mess around. Batters stay in the batters box. Pitchers don’t go for long contemplative trips around the mound. This minor league game was like that.

As for the refreshments, The Dunk has pretty much everything. It has a very popular barbeque vendor in left field. We stood near it and there was a long line throughout the game. There were local craft beers on sale as well as the usual baseball munchies, hot dogs, popcorn and such. And, of course, coffee and donuts because Dunks.

Oh, did I mention the highest point in the ballpark has a Dunkin Donuts coffee cup on it.

For those of you unfamiliar with southern New England Dunks are everywhere. It’s insane. Of course, we managed to eat breakfast at one in West Hartford. When in Rome…

Bike Stuff I Like – Fiber Fix Spoke

The one sound I absolutely hate to hear when I am riding a bike is the POP! that comes when a spoke breaks. The POP! is followed almost immediately by DAMN! From me.

When you break a spoke, your wheel goes out of true. The rim rubs against the brake pads. And the integrity of the wheel is compromised which can lead to another POP! DAMN!

I tend to carry all kinds of fix-it stuff when I ride. I have tubes and patch kits and tire levers and a pump and a multitool and tire boots and master chain links and on and on. I draw that line at carrying spare spokes and cassette tool and a wrench.

No worries. Instead of becoming Joe Mechanic on the side of the road, you can pull out a fiber fix spoke instead. No tools needed. A fiber fix spoke is a kevlar cord that comes attached to a cam – a twisty thing for increasing tension on the cord.

Just remove the broken spoke. Then follow the simple instructions to install the Fiber Fix spoke without any tools. No lie. It only takes a few minutes. Check out this video. I am a mechanical idiot and I’ve done it one tours.

And off you go. I’ve heard of people using these for hundreds of miles way out West where bike shops are few and far between. The only downside is that you can get too aggressive and pull the spoke nipple right through the rim. Then you have screwed the pooch. Don’t screw the pooch.

The picture below makes it look much bigger than it is. The entire device fits in its own little plastic tube about the size of your thumb.

A Fiber Fix spoke will set you back about $15. They are re-usable so one should last you a long time.

Bike Stuff I Like – Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tires

There are few things that suck on a bike tour more than having a flat tire on a highway in a cold rain. Okay, having a flat tire on a muddy trail when it’s sleeting is one, but you get the point.

My first truly long distance bike tour was from Indiana to DC. Prior to the trip, I realized that the back tire on my Tour Easy, the tire that would carry 75 percent of the weight, was old. So I bought a new tire. It fit my wheel and was inexpensive. Great.

I never made it to DC. In the middle of nowhere my new tire had not just a flat but a sidewall blowout. No bueno.

I was on the unpaved GAP Trail between nowhere and no place. It was after 5 on a Sunday. I had no cell signal. It was raining. I was stuck. Oh, and I was sick.

Not having brought a spare tire, I used duct tape and all my spare tubes to limp into Rockwood, PA where some kindly B&B operators took pity on me. I quit the tour the next day.

I decided from then on to get some serious rubber for my wheels. I put Schwalbe Marathon tires on my Tour Easy recumbent. They worked great. Despite the fact that they had a special belt under the tread to prevent punctures, I did get the occasional flat. Then I discovered something better: Schwable Marathon Plus tires.

These bad boys weight about 50 percent more than regular Marathons because, in addition to a belt under the tread, they have an extra hunk of rubber on top of that. The extra weight means you experience more rolling resistance. When touring this is pretty much no big deal because your plodding along at a slow speed anyway. (For non-touring purposes I use lighter Schwalbe Mondials. Not as puncture proof but they roll a lot easier.)

I have used Marathon Pluses on five tours. On road and off. For a total of about 9,500 miles. Not one flat. I still can’t believe it. They also last forever. I have put over 6,000 miles on one pair and they still have plenty of tread on them. I buy a new pair for each tour; the old ones go on my Cross Check and my Tour Easy. As it is, I have four or five old ones, lying around the house. They have plenty of life left in them.

Last year while riding around town I managed to get a few flats on old Marathon Pluses. One occurred when I rolled over a strangely shaped chunk of metal. Another happened when I ran over a long, exceptionally sharp screw. The tire went into the trash bin after that.

If you read touring journals, you’ll find that Marathon Pluses, despite being somewhat pricey, are very popular with the bike touring crowd. This year I bought Marathon Plus Tours, because the regular Pluses were sold out. Plus Tours have a slightly different tread for unpaved trails. What a coincidence. The first 300 miles of my tour will be on the unpaved Katy Trail in Missouri.

If you are going on a long tour, don’t screw around with inexpensive or old tires. You won’t regret spending the money on Marathon Pluses.

Marching onward

March, as usual, was a bit unpredictable. Weather changed from winter to spring to winter to spring. This frustrated my attempts to dial into warmer weather. It could be worse. I could be up north where this process typically happens in April. Count your blessings.


I managed to ride 821 miles this month. about 66 miles more than last year. Only 101 miles were indoors on my Tour Easy. (Last year I rode indoors 122 miles.) But for 32 miles on my Bike Friday and 73 on The Mule, the rest of my riding was on my Cross Check. I grew noticeably stronger pushing the big gears on my Cross Check and feel almost tour-ready. I cut way back on eating crap and my weight came down a few pounds. (I rarely weigh myself, relying instead on how my clothes fit.) My guess is I weigh about 215 pounds. I’d like to be closer to 200 for the tour in May. So far this year I’ve ridden 2,050 miles, 20 more than in 2021.


My reading started to decline as I spent more time outdoors. I read About Grace by Anthony Doerr. It’s a rather strange tale about a man who has premonitions in his dreams. The book is not quite in the same league as Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See but it’s easy to see how his writing improved from Grace to Light. I am looking forward to reading Cloud Cuckoo Land when it comes out in paperback. Having plowed through a bunch of best selling novels, I decided to revisit some of my old books. I started re-reading the Diva series by Delacourt, the pen name of Daniel Odier. I read the first three short novels, Diva, Nana, and Luna. Set in France, these are tales of Alba, a sexy underage teenager, and her boyfriend of sorts, a 40-something grifter named Serge Gorodish. (Yes, it’s unabashedly politically incorrect.) Diva involves gangsters, an opera singer, and two cassette tapes. (The books were written over 40 years ago.) Nana is the tale of how the two came together and how Gorodish comes into (well, steals) a fortune while conning an entire town. In Luna, Alba is kidnapped and taken to a secluded estate. The tale predates cell phones and the Internet so it’s rather interesting how Gorodish comes to her rescue. I have three more Diva books to go.

Movies and Such

We went to our first concert in over two years. Le Vent du Nord is a Quebec folk band that we have seen numerous times. This time everyone was masked and boosted. You have to love a band with a hurdy gurdy, I always say. I didn’t watch any movies this month which seems strange. I did watch a couple of Washington Nationals spring training games. Suffice it to say, it’s going to be a very long year on Half Street. They lost yesterday’s untelevised game by the football score of 29-8. Pitching is everything and they got none. We also watched the first episode of Moon Knight, another Marvel series. This one looks promising, thanks to terrific acting by Oscar Isaacs and Ethan Hawke. If I had to guess, the creative team is fond of psychedelics.


As is often the case, I use the winter months to catch up on my medical problems. This year’s problem is annoying pain in my left calf and my lower back. I had a CT scan to rule out another deep vein thrombosis (blood clot) in my calf. Then, my pain doctor gave me rather shocking painful injections in my spine to calm the pain in my calf. These injections seemed to work. My lower back pain lingers. I can walk about 1/4 of a mile pain free then a dull ache in my lower back develops. We tried diagnostic injections in my spine but they had no effect. I am scheduled for an updated MRI and then another set of injections lower in my spine. The diagnostic injection contained a small amount of cortisone. The stuff makes you feel fantastic, which may explain the improvement in my riding. If the next set of injections doesn’t help, I may need surgery. Eek.