Any Road Tour: Day 10 -Failure to camp (again)

Xenia Ohio is famous for being obliterated by tornados about 45 years ago. I was in no rush to stock around for any repeat performances.

Dinner was the all you can eat salad and soup bar at the local restaurant next door. I feel bad for these people. I should announce something Hulk-like like: “You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry.”

I watched the hockey game last night and managed to stay up for the entire contest. Yay Caps!

This morning I intended to repeat my hooverization of the morning free hotel breakfast but it was sadly subpar food. Stale Cheerios can really mess with your whole meal. However, I persisted. Oink.

I was soon back on the rail trail heading for my planned destination, Richmond Indiana. Today’s tail trail featured my first snapping turtle of the trip.

There was also this attractive building on the trail.

In Dayton I left the trail to check out the Wright Brothers Museum. I watched a film and thought about how great things come from obscure places like Dayton and Liverpool and a garage in Palo Alto. They were complete self-taught nerds who risked everything to solve a series of massive physics problem. Most of the buildings they occupied are long gone but you can get a sense of their little corner of the world at the turn of the 20th century from some of what remains.

Here’s a statue of Wilber on the sight of his last workshop. Note that even the greatest people in history end up with bird poop on their heads.

Next to the Museum was the site of the Wright Brothers bicycle shop. The bikes on display look remarkably similar to modern bikes.

I’ve been seeing goslings all along the way but today I saw my first babies. So cute, but camera shy.

I managed to tear the transparent plastic on my map case so I stopped at a post office to fix it with some packing tape. The window clerk also told me where the local eateries were. I stopped in Bob’s next to the trail for the buffet.

About 90 percent on the patrons were way older than me. Everything moved so slowly. I had soup and salad and dessert for $10 because that’s what every meal costs on this trip for some reason. Riding a bike this far makes me crave veggies.

I’ve been meaning to include some corn in this blog so today I’ll get that out of the way.

After Brookville my route took me in roads. There are very few cars to deal with so it’s nearly as peaceful but without any shade. I also had to contend with strong headwinds as the day wore on. I suppose it’s good practice for North Dakota, but ten miles of frustration was plenty. It wasn’t all bad. This covered bridge was pretty cool.

As I neared the Ohio-Indiana state line I thought my readers would like to know the score. It’s Columbus 88, Indianapolis 82.

Not long after taking this picture the sky started to darken. Ominous black clouds loomed. I saw that my maps were taking me on a meandering route to Richmond. I called an audible and turned around. The headwind became a tailwind as I made my way to a highway that went straight into Richmond. Zoom!

It started to rain. The sky was black. I kept slogging along, scanning the roadside for an emergency shelter. Porches, barns, extended waves.

I looked up and saw signs for hotels and restaurants and made a beeline for them. I had intended to camp but this storm was scary looking. I checked into a motel as the skies opened.

Any Road Tour mileage today: 62.5

Total tour mileage: 696.

The headwind made it a tough day but I’m still on schedule.

UP Bike Trip: What Hit Me?

It has been a few days since I finished my bike trip. The short version is I rode 833 miles in 11 days on my 25-year old Specialized Sequoia touring bike. I camped out five nights and moteled five nights. Here are a few random thoughts now that I have had time to reflect:

  • I often talk about what my friend Flogini calls my meditation, that is, when I zone out on my bike commutes. The middle part of this bike trip, roughly from Days 2 through 7, was a rolling meditation retreat. I felt none of the stress of daily life. I didn’t think about work, friends, not-so-friends, family, or any obligations. I only thought about my legs spinning, my lungs breathing, and where The Mule and I were on the Adventure Cycling map segment of the moment. I sang songs, sometimes out loud. I gazed at the lake or the trees or the ferns or the lichens or the critters. I felt at peace. I wish I could bottle the feeling.

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  • Speaking of breathing, I have mild persistent asthma that, when left unattended, can bloom into some serious breathing problems. The air in the north woods of Wisconsin and on the UP of Michigan was incredibly clean. I had no asthma symptoms at all for most of the trip.
  • I entered this ride with worries about whether my 60-year old body could take the stress of so many miles (and three ferry rides) in so few days on a conventional (non-recumbent) bike. I even padded my schedule with a 12th day to be sure. Unlike tours in my younger years, I didn’t become noticeably stronger during this tour. This may be because the last three days were the hilliest and had the most consistent headwinds. I am now confident that I can ride 60-mile days on end, which is to say, as far as my bike will take me.
  • Last year I told Mike, a.k.a Rattlingfender on Twitter, that I needed a new touring bike because mine was 24-years old. He scoffed and said that the fact that I am still riding The Mule means that it is a reliable machine. Mike was right. Even after 25 years and over 41,000 miles, The Mule abides.
  •  I had relatively few physical problems.
    • My left tricep started hurting after about a week. This is because I am right handed. I would take pictures or eat with my right hand leaving my left hand to steer The Mule. The stress took a toll on my upper arm.
    • My bottom was not happy at all. Despite my trusty Brooks Champion saddle with its cushioning springs, the flesh where my inner right leg met my pelvic area was super sore most of the last week. It’s a guy thing. It has to do with how my personal parts interact with the nose of the saddle. I had to consciously twist my seating position to the right on the last three days. I don’t quite know how to fix this in the future but I will need to figure it out. It’s a bit like a swimmer needing to learn to breath from both sides.
    • I can’t sleep worth a damn in a tent. Sleep is incredibly important when you are riding so many miles.
  • It took me a full day to stop thinking about my speed once I turned south into the headwinds on the lower peninsula. When touring on Big Nellie, I used to cover the speedometer with my map. Unless you are adhering to a strict schedule (which I do not recommend), forget about speed and miles. Just ride with the flow of the day. A good example was Day 9 when I ate dinner in Traverse City. After dinner I had renewed energy and the weather was absolutely perfect for riding, so I reeled off another 18 miles.
  • As much as I hate sleeping in a tent, I love the flexibility that having camping gear along for the ride affords me. Without camping gear, I probably would not have added the 18 after-dinner miles, but I knew there was a campground a mile beyond Suttons Bay so I went for it.
  • Trail angels are the best.
    • The folks in the bar in Wrightsville, Wisconsin who served me three ice cold beers in frosted mugs. For $1 each.
    • The  man at the gas station in Freedom who pointed me to Rico’s diner where I had mass quantities of food for breakfast on the Fourth of July.
    • The retired truck driver and his friend who helped me out at the campground in Tilleda Falls, Wisconsin. And the other camper who gave me a huge bag of shrink wrapped trail mix.
    • The Little Pine Motel owner in Hiles, Wisconsin who handed me a bottle of ice cold water, then a can of ice cold beer when I checked in.
    • The westbound tourist who told me about the campground at Lake Pentoga, Michigan.
    • The three bike shop people who fixed my rear hub at Mr. Bike  in Escanaba, Michigan while I waited.
    • The two gas station clerks who practically pulled me out of the pouring rain in Manistique, Michigan.
    • The pizza shop workers and customers who gave me so much encouragement in Naubinway, Michigan.
    • Toby, the man who explained the Bliss Festival to me, over lunch at a gas station picnic table near Bliss, Michigan.
    • The folks at the Bahnhof Sport Shop in Petosky who stayed open on a Sunday evening and replaced my broken pedal.
    • The campground manager at the Wild Cherry Resort near Suttons Bay, Michigan who also stayed open to get me situated in a campsite.
    • Holly and Kristen who gave me much info about the biking and moteling in and around Arcadia, Michigan.
  • I am still flabbergasted by the size of food portions in Northern Wisconsin. Cheeseheads can pack it away!
  • Accents were a pleasant surprise. I went from “Da Beahs” to “Fargo” to “Hosers” in the course of the first week. Eh.
  • I had read an account of a bike tourists who rode across the UP on US 2. He really felt uncomfortable with the logging trucks blowing by him. Now that I have ridden to work twice since returning and I’ll take logging trucks over the drivers of DC any day.

Livin’ and Goin’ Long

Anxiety is creeping in.

Indecision is taunting me.

My bike tour is just a few days away. I have an important decision to make. Once I cross Lake Michigan on a ferry I’ll be in eastern central Wisconsin. From here, I can follow Adventure Cycling Association maps to the west and north before turning due east for Michigan’s upper penninsula. This is about 330 miles. Some of it hilly. Hills, especially when carrying a load, are not my strong suit.

An alternative is to ride from the ferry northwest to Green Bay, mostly on a rail trail. Once past Green Bay I would turn northeast along the shore of Lake Michigan. This would be only about 150 miles, thereby chopping some 170 miles from the route and saving me 2 1/2 days. I could use that time to doddle about the upper penninsula and to stay on car-free Mackinac Island for an entire day.

Because I am traveling in a counter clockwise direction around the upper half of Lake Michigan, I have to decide my route from day 1. Another issue is getting through the 4th of July weekend when the hotels and campgrounds are likely to be full near the end of day 1’s riding.

On the plus side, I seem to be in top cycling shape (for me at least) heading into this tour. My rides to work have been effortless. This is something of a surprise to me as I was off the bike for most of three weeks about a month ago, and tore a stomach muscle after that.All the walking (and careful eating) I did in Scandinavia took a few pounds off The Mule’s engine.

After weighing the options, however, I am going long. I got this. Bad things might happen. Good things might happen. Hills go up. Hills go down. Bike tours are like life.

As Augustus McCray once said, “It’s not dying I’m talkin’ about Woodrow, it’s livin’.”

Woot!

2016 Coming into Focus

My 2016 bicycling calendar is starting to shape up. I just signed up for the 5 Boro Ride in New York City. By all accounts this is a big mess of a ride. Two night’s lodging and the ride itself will cost over $400, more than $10 per mile. I’ve never ridden in NYC or spent much time there so it’s no guts no glory time. YOLO.

For a tour I am trying to decide between three tours. One is a figure eight loop in upstate New York, Vermont and New Hampshire. This combines the Adirondack Park and Green Mountain Loop tours from the Adventure Cycling Association. It’s about 830 miles. Logistics are simplified by the fact that I have family in the Albany area so I can drive the 400 miles there and drop the car off.  This tour would take about 2 weeks. It would add New Hampshire to the states I’ve ridden in. And involved a ferry across Lake Champlain.

An alternative would be an out and back ride from Albany to Bar Harbor, Maine by way of the ACA Northern Tier Route. This would involve riding from Albany to Ticonderoga then heading to Maine. This is about 1,000 miles round trip. It would allow me to pick off two states that I haven’t ridden in (Maine and New Hampshire), let me visit Acadia National Park, and maybe even develop a taste for lobster rolls.  This one is pretty hilly.

An second alternative would be to ride the North Lakes route (or most of it) from Indiana to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Wisconsin. This would involve some ferries including one across Lake Michigan.  The total mileage is somewhere between 980 and 1,050 miles. This would take me about 17 or 18 days and add two states (WI and MI) to the states I’ve ridden in.  I would start at my in-law’s house outside North Judson, IN. Once again simplifying logistics although the drive is something like 700 miles.

Today I saw a tweet from the Advernture Cycling Association. The ACA announced some changes to their routes. One of the changes moves the start of the North Lakes route in Indiana about 60 miles or so to the west. The new route passes within two miles of my in-law’s house. Are the gods trying to tell me something?

 

 

Some Ride/Hike Ideas for 2016

About a year ago I was admonished by a friend for sounding wishy washy regarding my 2015 vacation plans. “Stop planning. All we have is today” was her way of saying don’t plan, DO!  Irony alert: in January 2014 she told me of her plans to obtain certification to teach in DC schools and to open a business. She followed through on none of it, eventually leaving town. Even so, she had a point.

I suck at advance planning. Somehow I managed to do a bike tour, a non-bike trip around the world, nearly a dozen day hikes, half a dozen bicycling events, and take in a bunch of Nationals games. So with that in mind I began thinking about things to do in 2016.

I anticipate one non-biking vacation (to Sweden and thereabouts) to visit my daughter.  (A return to Thailand in the dry season would be nice but I can’t face the 18 hours of flying right now. Maybe 2017.) That will leave plenty of vacation time. So here are some ideas I am tossing around in my head.

Hiking: there are still many, many hikes to do in the Shenandoah National Park. Also, I have barely scratched the surface of hiking in nearby Maryland and Pennsylvania along the Appalachian Trail. One possibility is to gear up and do some overnights. I have never done this and it would be an interesting extension of my day hikes (not to mention save on driving home after a day’s worth of hiking).

Biking Events: WABA swears that it’s going to offer a century ride this year.  If it works into my schedule, I’ll definitely do it. Then there are the usual events: Vasa, Cider, 50 States, Backroads, and Great Pumpkin. I’ve done all of these several times, but the Backroads course was moved to West Virginia this year. I was in Australia and missed it. I can’t wait to do the new version. Two more that I keep threatening to do are RAGBRAI and the Five Boro Ride in New York City. Both of them are cattle drives. Both offer logistical challenges. Some of what follows are a lot easier to do.

Bike Trails: There are all kinds of cool trails around here that I haven’t ridden. Here’s a list of Virginia trails:

  • The Virginia Capital Trail goes between Williamsburg and Richmond. This could be a fun 2-day deal or a long single day ride.
  • High Bridge State Park down near Farmville and Appomattox looks really cool with a long, high bridge.
  • The Virginia Creeper Trail is a bit of a drive from DC. It’s only 34 miles but could be a beast of an out and back ride.
  • The New River Trail is a 57-mile trail that looks really promising with 30 trestles and bridges and two tunnels. This is a two-day ride with camping I think.

In Pennsylvania the Pine Creek Rail Trail runs 63 miles through the Grand Canyon of the East. Looks like a good overnight camping round trip to me.

Bike Tours: Right now I have eight possibilities on my list. All in the Eastern U.S.

  • Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway: This is a monster tour, 578 miles from Front Royal, Virginia to Cherokee, North Carolina. How the hell I’d get back is anybody’s guess. It’s also super hilly so I figure I’d be lucky to average 45 miles per day, 13  days of riding. This could be beyond my physical abilities. (Never stopped me before.)
  • The Natchez Trace: This 444 mile road is truck free. Tack on another 90 miles or so and the route would go from Nashville to New Orleans. Logistics on this one is a bit pricey (two bike flights). Bike Friday to the rescue?
  • Figure 8 in Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York: Adventure Cycling has two routes that form a figure 8. One loops around Lake Champlain, the other does a lap of the Adirondack Park. This one would be logistically pretty easy as I have family in the Albany area where the Adirondack route begins. The total distance exceeds 700 miles. The riding in Vermont and upstate New York is incredibly nice. Also weather up yonder is pretty much perfect for cycling in June – August.
  • La Route Verte: There are over 5,000 kilometers of marked bike routes in Quebec. The possibilities are endless. Then there is the interesting prospect of conversing in my horrid, mostly forgotten high school French. The idea of cycling to Quebec City, which I have never seen, or around Montreal is pretty intriguing. Getting there is a bit of a haul, but c’est la vie.
  • A New Kind of Rail Trail – North: Amtrak now has roll on bike service on the East Coast. Theoretically (relying on Amtrak is always an iffy proposition) I could take my bike on a trail and ride to Brunswick Maine, then ride up to Acadia National Park and ride all or part way home.
  • A New Kind of Rail Trail – South: Alternatively, I could take the train to Florida, ride to Key West, ferry to Tampa and ride across the state to Amtrak in Miami. Or just ride home.
  • Around Lake Michigan: This one starts in Monroeville, Indiana, one of the most bike touring friendly small towns in the US. It heads north through lower Michigan into the Upper Peninsula. Then across to Wisconsin and returns by crossing Lake Michigan on a ferry.  It’s 1,100 miles. Logistics would be simplified by using my in-laws house in north central IN as an alternative starting point.

In the increasingly likely (yet still somewhat improbable) possibility that I retire there is this:

  • The Trans Am/Western Express/Northern Tier Cross Country Ride: There remains a faint possibility that I might retire this year. If so, adios, amigos! I don’t know which route I’d take but the possibilities are numerous. The Trans Am is the classic route from Yorktown to the Oregon coast through Yellowstone. The Western Express shortens the Trans Am by taking a b-line across Utah and Nevada for California. The Northern Tier goes close to the US-Canada border.

Once I find out when the WABA Century and the Sweden trip will happen, I’ll pick two of the tours and as many events and hikes as my aging bones can handle.

 

 

 

Now We’re Getting Somewhere – Taking a Mulligan

I needed a grease injector to service my pedals. It’s a bit of a mess trying to do it with a baby medicine injector. Not enough oomph in the lilttle plastic plunger.

My local bike store doesn’t sell them but Performance does. I could have ordered it online but that would have taken away a prefectly good excuse to ride over to their Springfield store. A couple of weeks ago, friend of the blog, bike commuter, and Friday Coffee Club devotee Reba told me that Mulligan Road was now open.

Mulligan Road is the new road that connects US 1 with Telegraph Road near Fort Belvoir. Woodlawn Road used to serve this purpose but the military closed it for security reasons after the 9/11 attacks. Traffic has been a mess ever since. In true Washington area style it only took 13 years to fix the problem.

The road seems to have been recently renamed, Jeff Todd Way. Jeff Todd was a local businessman who was very active in the community. He died in a car crash in 2011.

Whatever the name, it was time to check out the road on two wheels. Big Nellie got the call.  I stepped out of the house and was smacked by searing heat. Labor Day may be the first day of meteorological autumn but somebody forgot to tell the weather gods.

To get to the new road, you ride the Mount Vernon Trail to the end at Mount Vernon. Then you keep going down the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway all the way to US 1. At US 1 you’ll see a mess of road construction which will soon be cleared up. Cross US 1 and you are are on the old Mulligan Road. It has been moved a bit to the south and widened. (The old entrance to Woodlawn Plantation has been removed. Access is now available from US to the south. Good luck with that if you are on a bike.)

In a half mile you come to Pole Road. This used to be the end of the line for Mulligan Road, but not anymore. A new road winds up (and I do mean up) through Fort Belvoir. It’s a four lane highway with a 40 mile per hour speed limit. The road isn’t quite done yet. For one thing it needs another layer of asphalt to make the road bed even with the concrete edge of the road. The right lane seems extra wide which I hope means there will be a bike lane.

Up, up, up. Put me in the zoo.

After cresting the hill, you get a nice reward descending through broad curves until you start to ride up again to Telegraph Road. Telegraph is a bit of a mess heading south. The hill you just came down now goes back up, and then some. There’s no bike lane (yet) so it’s just you and the constant flow of impatient drivers yearning to get to I-95 and go absolutely nowhere.

Just before the crest of the hill there is a sign saying “End of Bike Lane” which suggests that maybe there is supposed to be one. Not 30 yards later a new bike lane begins. Signage is not VDOT’s strong suit. This bike lane continues all the way to US 1 south of Fort Belvoir. I turned right at Beulah Road expecting to do battle with heavy car traffic but to my surprise I was given a bike lane of my very own. Yay! It continued all the way through Kingstowne to the Franconia Springfield Parkway. (It wasn’t actually my own. It was used by a man driving a car while messing with his smartphone. He kept weaving all over the road. I caught up to him at a red light and yelled at him to put the damned thing away before he killed somebody.)

I could have taken a side path all the way to Performance but the wide paved shoulder on the Parkway was too nice to pass up.

Mission accomplished thanks to the folks behind the Fairfax County Comprehensive Bicycle Plan.

The ride back was more better because the other side of Telegraph was in much better shape including an on-road bike lane. I turned right onto Mulligan/Todd and saw a wide side trail. I do hope this is not going to replace on on-road bike lane because the right lane is extra wide and can easily accomodate a bike lane.

Ever notice how the ride back seems so much faster once you know where the roads go? I flew down the long hill on Mulligan and zoomed right across Pole Road without so much as recognizing it.

Mulligan/Jeff Todd will be finished soon. I have sent a note to Adventure Cycling so that they may consider adding it to their Atlantic Coast route.

I took a whole bunch of pix so you can see for yourself over on my Flickr page.