Extra Innings

The idea was to celebrate my 64th (god that sounds terrible) birthday by riding 64 miles but things got a bit complicated.

My daughter Lily decided that we should go to a Nationals baseball game for my birthday so last night I met her at the bike valet (I biked; she took Metro) and went inside the ballpark to watch the Nats take on the Milwaukee Brewers.

We bought two beers each at the center field bar’s happy hour and some fries and headed to our perch in Section 318. The extra beers were a money saving venture that backfired as the second beers became warm in the oppressive sauna of the Washington summer night.

beers and friesDinner view

The contest was entertaining. Lots of home runs. Just when you thought the Nationals were done for they came roaring back. They led by three runs into the ninth inning. I thought I’d get home by midnight (the ride takes about 1:20). The Nationals brought in their closer who was shelled like an oyster. Three home runs and the Brewers were ahead by one run. The Nats tied the score in the bottom of the night but stranded the winning run in scoring position.

They stayed tied until the Brewers took another lead only to surrender it. Again the Nats tied the game but left runners in scoring position. In the 14th inning the Brewers scored twice and the Nats scored once. End of game. It was now today. I had aged a year in 14 innings.

The 14 1/2 mile ride home was pretty great. A near full moon made up for the still, muggy air. I arrived home at 2:30, showered, and surrendered to the sandman at 3.

I awoke about 5 1/2 hours later and lazed around the house until 11:30. It was once again hazy, hot, and humid outside. This, combined with my bleary, sleepy head, made me dread the idea of riding 64 miles, one mile for each year. But wait! I already had 14 1/2 miles in the bank because the ride home occurred well after midnight.

I climbed aboard Little Nellie and we rode to Bethesda and back, taking a lap of Hains Point for good measure. 50 miles done. Mission accomplished.

I need a nap.

 

Turning

Nothing makes you feel older than seeing an odometer click over. Because I ride a lot and split my riding among four bicycles, I see several odometer events every year. Today, my Crosscheck clicked 13,000 miles, for instance.

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I think it may be time to get new brake pads, don’t you?

Earlier this summer I went to the National Mall to see a projection of the Apollo 11 Saturn V rocket on the Washington Monument. It was pretty cool.

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While I was out of town, the Smithsonian celebrated the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 by having the rocket take off with all kinds of extra audio and video stuff. It was a real crowd pleaser. I didn’t mind missing it though. I was a space junkie when I was a kid. I saw Apollo 11 live.

Another thing I saw live as a kid was the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. I wasn’t much into music at the age of eight but my older brothers were. When one of them yelled down the cellar stairs that the Beatles were on, the rest of us scrambled up to see the big event. I had no idea why they were so worked up. I was expecting to see some sort of beetle act, after all Ed Sullivan had novelty acts on all the time.

As I watched the performance, I didn’t get the big deal. They looked strange and sounded even stranger. They sure seemed to be having fun though.

I never saw them live of course. And I have shied away from those Paul McCartney arena shows because hearing him sing now is a bit depressing. But when my friend Paul asked me to join him to see Ringo at Wolf Trap I decided I might as well go.

The show featured about nine or ten Ringo songs and 12 songs by his band which included three members of Toto and one each from Santana, Men at Work, and the Average White Band. In fact, the AWB member was Hamish Stuart who toured with McCartney’s post-Wings band.

Ringo is pushing 80 but seems much younger on stage. He runs around a bit and even did some jumping jacks while clapping his hands to the beat of a song.

The crowd was gray and white.

Lately, for some strange reason, I’ve had the urge to rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight.

Recovery

Dang, that bike tour messed me up. Last year’s bike tour was invigorating. I was a lean, mean machine when I got back to DC. I did several 80 to 100 mile rides and they seemed easy. And it wasn’t just physical. I felt a wonderful mental afterglow. I was totally calm. And it lasted a long time, much longer than the physical benefits. (I wonder if this isn’t the same feeling that people get when they go on long meditation retreats. I’d go on one but I’d get so antsy I’d drive myself nuts.)

I re-read some of my last blog posts and I really didn’t convey how worn out I was when I got to the Sierras. For the better part of two days, I had my head down and was just grinding out the miles. I remarked that when I looked in the mirror I seemed to have lost ten pounds. When I got back to DC I quickly realized that I had lost more than that.

When I started the tour, my pants were snug. I was so heavy that I really worried about being able to tour, let alone being able to handle mountains. After the tour, all those tight clothes fell off me when I put them on. It’s no wonder that for the next three weeks I had an insatiable appetite.

I also was thirsty. Constantly. I tried water, Gatorade, Diet Coke, seltzer water, diluted orange juice, and iced tea. Nothing worked. I guess that part of my thirst was caused by the humidity. After all, DC is incredibly muggy in the summer and I had spent weeks in a low-humidity environment. My body had a tough time adjusting.

I was tired. No surprise there. Even though my body wanted rest, I’d pop awake after six hours so sleep. This was not nearly enough so I took quite a few naps over the last month.

Then there was the mystery stink. For about a week after I got back (although Jessie and Mike or my seatmate on the flight home might beg to differ), I reeked. And it was a very unusual odor. You know it’s bad when you are grossed out by your own BO. It wasn’t associated with sweating either. After a few days, my wife brought it up. I’m sure she noticed it earlier. A few days later, the stench went away.

So basically I stomped on my body for seven weeks and it let me know. I feel fine now. Yesterday I did two bike rides. The first was 30 miles in the early morning to and from Friday Coffee Club. The second was 21 miles in the evening to a happy hour. Today, with lower (although still pretty high) humidity, I did 72 miles. I wasn’t riding fast but I managed to go 50 miles before stopping to eat. That’s not a bad back-to-back showing.

My wonky left knee and hip were all kinds of messed up when I got home. I had done a pretty good job of managing the pain using edibles with some mixture of medicinal marijuana in them. I stopped taking the edibles when I left Nevada. Once the chemicals left my system, the knee and hip started to hurt again. And my left shoulder, in which I had a cortisone shot last spring, joined the pain party.

Lately the hip has calmed down. The knee still barks at me, especially when I ride uphill. The shoulder is a lost cause. The only way to fix it is with surgery and a year of physical therapy. I’ll live with it as is and put up with some pain now and then.

I neglected to mention that while I’ve been recovering from the tour, I’ve had to deal with two stressful situations. One was a simple car repair that took four trips to the dealer to get done properly. After a week and a half, they finally got it right. I bitched up a storm and the dealer, to its credit, refunded my money.

And while that was going on we started a home renovation. We are 1 1/2 weeks into what is supposed to take 8 weeks. We are renovating one level of our four-level split-level home. The renovation includes a new bathroom, a family room with drywall and insulation instead of cheapo 1960s paneling. There will also be lighting and electrical upgrades. My wife is getting a sewing space in the basement. Although the project has hit a few bumps, it far less stressful than the kitchen renovation we did 20-odd years ago with a toddler in the house.

My wife keeps suggesting I go on a short tour or something. I might do that. Complicating things, however, is the fact that, on September 7, I am doing my 11th 50-States Ride in DC. (The 60-mile route meanders all over the city so that you can ride on the avenues named for all 50 states. It’s hilly, takes all day, and ends with pizza and beer.) I am putting together a posse that will ride with ferocious good humor. Scuba Michael, Science Dad, Science Dad’s college friend, and Hiker Cassie. I am hoping to rope in a few more gullible fools enthusiastic friends to round out the team. Watch this space.

No Name Tour: Day 15 – Pacelining to the Moon

Today we left the Warmshowers house and headed into Newton to partake of a breakfast buffet. Our hosts met us there and I ate lots of fruit on top of pancakes and other goodies.

We, Corey, Mark, and me, bid farewell to our hosts and headed west into an unexpectedly strong headwind. After 5 miles we turned north and had little relief.

After waving at the town of Hesston we headed due west for 23 miles to Medora. Corey stopped to photograph all the things, Mark jetted out into the distance, I held the middle.

When Corey didn’t catch up to me, I texted him to make sure he was okay. (He was.)

When he was done with his artistic pursuits, he rode his ass off to catch up to me. Exhausted, he caught my wheel and I pulled him along for a few miles.

We then traded leads until we caught up to Mark who was standing on the side of the road admiring his awesomeness.

Actually he was still suffering from SBS and was determined to get to Hutchinson to buy a new saddle and new shorts.

Our original destination was Nickerson, Kansas, but the entire town is literally under water.

The three of us pacelined into the wind going much faster than we would have individually.

We pulled into the town of Buhler where Danke Schoen was blaring from loudspeakers. (I made that up.)

We had lunch at a cafe. It was a relief to get out of the wind. There I met Sweet T, a TransAm rider who works at an REI in Fairfax, Virginia.

Another 10 miles of windy pacelining brought us to Hutchinson. We went to Harley’s Bike Shop where I, also suffering from SBS, bought new bike shorts. We picked up the key to a free bike hostel in a nearby church. Then Mark and I returned to the bike shop. Mark bought a new saddle (his third saddle of the trip) and new bike shorts. I bought a pair of socks because the Warmshowers laundry ate one of my socks last night.

Later Corey, Mark, and I went to the Cosmosphere, a local museum about the space age. We checked out an Atlas (Gemini) and a Redstone (Mercury) rockets and a Saturn 5 thruster outside. Inside we toured the fascinating exhibit about the Nazi’s V1 and V2 rockets. (Made doubly interesting for me having visited the Churchill War Rooms in London in January). There was also a full size replica of the Space Shuttle Endeavor and an SR-71 Blackbird (a super fast, high flying spy plane).

Then we all watched the movie Apollo 11 on a screen on the inside of a dome. It’s an excellent recap of the mission for all you kiddies who weren’t alive when it happened.

After going to the moon we went out for beer and pizza at Salt City Brewery. We ended the night at the grocery store for more snacks and provisions for tomorrow’s ride.

Tomorrow we will be improvising a route because sections of the TransAm are under water. We are headed to Larned, about 60 miles to the west.

Earlier today I searched the weather for Nevada. My concern has been for sweltering heat. It’s actually cold there.

Another concern is that getting across the Rockies may be undoable because of unusually high spring snowfalls.

Time will tell.

Miles today: 46.5

Total miles: 949.5

No Name Tour: Day 14 – Dixie Chicks Kind of Ride

Today was challenging. For the first time in a while we had headwinds. Not especially strong ones but enough to keep our speed down. Mark and Corey has oatmeal in their hotel room. I opted to dine at Eureka’s finest breakfast establishment.

A western omelet with burnt hash browns and burnt toast and weak coffee. A bargain at a third the price.

I hit the road and decided to not fight the wind. So I poked along the road through the Flint Hills at 9 mph. The clouds were low but not threatening. A light mist and temperatures in the 60s made it perfect riding weather despite the winds.

There’s a lot of flint around these parts

Obligatory Cow Photo

At Rosalia the convenience store was no longer there. So it was on to Cassoday The hills were no longer flinty but the spaces were wide open. Green everywhere. Simpsons’s clouds in the sky.

At a restaurant in Cassoday I caught up to Mark and Corey. They were finishing second breakfast and Mark was bemoaning his bad case of SBS, Sore Butt Syndrome.

As we left, store dog Maisie came to say goodbye.

Maisie

Off they rode with me well behind. There would be no services of any sort for the next 40 miles. The wind did us a favor by dying down. I didn’t see Mark and Corey until I caught them taking a roadside rest about halfway to Newton.

They took off while I snarfed some peanuts. Then I gave slow pursuit.

20 miles later I rolled into Newton. I found the town’s bike shop and bought a red blinks light for The Mule. Then I rode around the block to the Voth’s house. Orvin greeted me and his from John lifted The Mule up the wrap around porch’s steps. Janet greeted us inside.

The three of them fed us, let us do laundry, and told us stories.

Tomorrow we go off route for free housing at a church in Hutcheson. The TransAm has many, many more free lodging options than the last two routes I used in 2017 and 2018.

Miles today: 75.5

Total miles: 903

No Name Tour: Day 13 – Second Eureka

After dinner of peanut butter on flour tortillas and an apple, I read some of Corey’s Crazyguyonabike.com journal. The sandman whacked me in the head at 9:30 and I didn’t move a muscle for eight hours.

After a mediocre motel breakfast, The Mule and I hit the road, west bound for Benedict with a strong cross wind.

I spotted what I thought were statues of three horses near the road. Then I realized they were real. What beautiful creatures. They posed for a picture but wouldn’t say hello.

Corey and Mark caught up to me. I think they are on PEDs. Or maybe I’m just old, fat, and slow.

At one point I passed a baby snapper turtle in the road and pointed it out to Mark who nobly stopped and saved to grow and wreak havoc.

Once we turned north and had a tailwind we made like bakery trucks (and hauled buns).

After 40 miles we stopped at Lizzard Lips Cafe for lunch. We were each given little plastic lizards to attach to our bikes. I took the pink one to match my WABA socks. Now my tour has a mascot. It needs a name. Suggestion welcome.

After lunch we headed west to Eureka, my second Eureka of the trip. The road was s busy highway. We had 19 miles to go and we’re racing the predicted arrival of thunderstorms. Along the way we met Ian Graves who was heading east on the TransAm. He gave us the forecast.

We pushed the pace. Well, Mark and Corey did. I kept them in view and hoped my left knee would survive the trauma.

I did stop to take a selfie with a sign.

Thankfully it did and the motel that Ian recommended was adequate and walking distance to a beer store.

Tonight we dine at Pizza Hut. (It’s nearby what can I say.) We will be joined by Sweet T, another TransAm rider who we’ve been an hour behind for the last few days.

One thing has been very clear: had we come this way a day earlier we’d have been sitting for days waiting for the flood waters to recede. So despite our inconvenience yesterday, all has worked out surprisingly well under the circumstances.

Miles today: 62

Total miles: 827.5

Evidence of flooding was all around us but the flooding near the Verdigris River was astonishing. The highway passing through some farm fields was raised above the fields like a causeway. The fields were filled with flood water for as far as you could see on either side of the road. About two feet from the road was debris from the peak of the flood. The water must have been at least a foot higher. That’s a mind boggling amount of rain.

The road had no shoulders and a drop off on either side. Strong crosswinds and passing cars and trucks made for a hairy mile of riding.

No Name Tour: Day 12 – It’s Supposed to Be an Adventure, Right?

Another monster storm hit today. Fortunately I was in a nice comfy hotel room when it did. It was rainy so hard st one point that it sounded like someone was blasting my room’s window with a hose.

I waited it out then hit the road knowing that some of the roads to Chanute, today’s planned destination, were closed because of flooding.

Instead of taking the Adventure Cycling route which left the southern part of Pittsburg, I opted to head north then take a two lane highway west all the way to Chanute. Or so I thought.

A quarter mile into the ride I had to detour to avoid downed power lines. The neighborhood I rode through had standing water all over the place.

Back on the highway I enjoyed a huge tailwind. 20 mph was not a problem. I stopped after a couple of miles to admire some descendants of the plains that white settlers nearly wiped out in the 1800s.

It wasn’t much of a herd.

Back on the road I flew north for a few more miles then turned left. For six miles I dealt with a side wind. It probably slowed me a couple of mph. Not a big deal.

In Girard I stopped at a gas station convenience store where I learned the road into Chanute was closed. When I looked at the google it seemed to indicate that Chanute could only be entered from the west. All the access roads were flooded.

I was about to throw in the towel on the day and ride north 24 miles to Fort Scott when Corey rode by. I yelled to him and he pulled into station. It turns out Mark was at the station across the street. (Two gas station convenience stores constitutes a central business district in Kansas.)

We assembled for snacks and Corey got the google to map out a route to Chanute. I thought it was bogus and wouldn’t work, Corey said “So what. This is supposed to be an adventure. If the road is closed we can ride in the railroad tracks.”

Clearly the heat was getting to him.

But he had a point. Except about the railroad tracks. I ain’t riding no trestles. The Mule would not abide.

Off they went and I followed. The next six miles were due north. The tailwind blasted us past one farm after another. The gently rolling terrain felt level.

We then turned west and that tailwind was now buffeting is from the side. The other two pulled far ahead. I wanted to leave something in my legs in case this backfired.

About 15 miles from Girard Corey and Mark were hanging out in a roadside convenience store. Sadly, they had learned that Corey’s google route was blocked by flooding.

As we were pondering our alternatives a local man walked in and announced that a road to Chanute was now open.

Were saved!

Just go west to the stop sign turn north then go left on highway 39.

He made it sound like the stop sign was just up the street.

It was nine miles away.

Corey and Mark took off and I followed from a distance. When I finally got to the stop sign the turn to the north gave me that amazing tailwind again. Ahhh…

Then the turn to the west turned it into a side wind for 11 miles.

There was water everywhere. In the fields, in the drainage ditches on the side of the road, and in swollen creeks that were far over their banks.

This was nothing compared to the flooding in Chanute. The Neosho River was nowhere to be seen. In its place was a massive flood plain.

These pictures don’t come close to doing it justice.

One thing’s for sure, I’m getting out of here before more rain hits.

I grabbed a hotel room south of town. I cleaned and lubed my chain. Then I spent 30 minutes setting up my new tent for the first time in my hotel room. It’s incredibly complicated. Good thing I did a trial run in the comfort of my motel room,. Had I bought the footprint it would have been easier.

Many thanks to Corey and Mark for convincing/shaming me to take a risk that worked out very well.

Miles today: 62

Trip miles: 765.5

No Name Tour: Day 11 – Church, Pie, Tornados, and Flooding

I miss central Montana where nothing happened for days and days. Biking in Missouri is surreal by comparison.

Corey and Mark left the Ash Grove bike house early in the hopes of beating bad weather to our west. Maybe if the storm tracked to the north we’d be okay.

Such fools we are.

I left about a half hour later with a tummy full of peanut butter tortillas and whole wheat bread and butter. Nutrition is my middle name.

The terrain seemed gentler for a few miles before the road crossed a series of creaks. Down to the creek then right back up.

At one point I went by a farm with some cattle. With very little urging I had them running beside me on their die of a wire fence. Stampede!

The weather seemed to be off in the distance until it wasn’t. Thunder. Lightning. Rain, growing heavier by the minute. I was grinding up a long hill when I stopped to put on my rain jacket. Minutes after the clouds opened. A car pulled up along side me. The passenger window rolled down and the woman told me “There’s a church at the next cross roads. You’re welcome to come in…if you make it.”

I said “Thanks. I will.”

Then I thought “if I make it?”

I made it. Mark and Corey were hanging out under the covered entry to the little white church. Soon the congregation arrived and we all went in for services.

Religion and I don’t get along so I watched the service with bemused and confused detachment.

The service starts with three pledges of allegiance: to the US flag, to the Christian flag (I never knew there was such a thing), and to the Bible. I resisted the urge to start humming “Imagine”.

While the service was going on the storm was raging. The windows of the church were frosted so all you could see were flashes of lightning. I went outside for a moment and it was raining about as hard as physics would allow.

After over an hour and a let up to the rain, the three guests on six wheels headed west.

Lest I sound ungrateful, thanks to the good folks at the Pennsboro church for taking us in.

The terrain leveled and we made good time to Golden City. Actually Mark and Corey did; I lagged behind. We learned during church that three people died in Golden City last week when a tornado touched down. I didn’t see any evidence of it as I went into town to eat lunch with the two amigos.

The restaurant was crowded so it took a long time for lunch. Corey was certain that they gave bike tourists a free piece of pie but they turned out to no longer be the case. The pie was good anyway.

We headed due west with los dos dudes way in front of me. I noticed a pile of corrugated steel in a farmer’s field to my right. Then I saw Mark and Corey stopped up ahead and looking to the left side.

There was a house with a couple of outbuildings utterly devastated. Nearby trees were torn up. You could see exactly where the tornado touched down. It was stupefying. With all these wide open spaces, how unlucky these people were.

The other two headed west again well above The Mule’s top speed. We knew the road were taking was closed up ahead because of flooding.

A driver stopped me and advised me about detours. As I researched possibilities on my phone, Corey texted me. They took off their shoes and walked through the flooded section of road without a problem. So I did too.

After a brief chat with a couple in a VW bug who decided not to test the waters, I continued west. The wind was now in my face and the road began to roll again.

It took a frustratingly long time to get to the Kansas state line.

After that I pushed on another five miles to Pittsburg. With all the flooding I saw today, I didn’t even bother to ask about camping in the city park. The first hotel I checked had flood damage on the below grade first floor. I went up the street to a Comfort Inn. A nice bed, laundry, and pizza. Soon I’ll be saving logs. My apologies to the other guests.

Miles today:72

Miles total: 703.5

No Name Tour: Day 10 – Put Away Wet

I came back to the town park after dinner only to learn that much of it had flooded. And a big picnic was going on right next to my tent.

So I moved everything to higher ground next to a gazebo and nearly fell asleep sitting in a park bench. By ten I was in my tent too tired to change out of my street clothes.

I was too tired to sleep well but I was kept comfortable by a cool breeze. Around 10, I checked the radar on my phone. A storm was coming so I got up and put the rain fly in my tent.

Around 2 am I woke up feeling wet. It was raining inside my tent, much harder than last summer in Winnett, Montana. After that episode I sealed the seams of the rainfly, or so I thought.

I moved everything under the gazebo and negotiated a couple of hours of sleep from the sandman.

Using the google I learned that there were stores that carried tents in Springfield. After breakfast I rejoined Route 66 and headed for Ozark Adventures, a store catering to outdoorsy types.

Driving in Missouri is scary. I was passed or cut off dozens of times. The ride to Springfield wasn’t particularly hard, much easier than the previous three days. In Springfield itself, the drivers went from obnoxious to scary. I was stressed out by the time I arrived at the store.

As I was leaning my bike against the store front, my back wheel started coming off. Apparently I had caught the quick release lever with the hardware on my pannier. Scary!

Inside I was nearly talked into buying a one-person Big Agnes tent when a customer who was about my size told me how he hiked the Grand Canyon with a two-person Big Agnes tent. He said the very slight increase in weight was well worth the trade off in comfort.

The new two-person tent weighs less than half of my old one. I’m gonna be a happy camper.

After spending an appalling amount of money, I turned on the google for directions and headed to Ash Grove where there was supposed to be camping at the town park. I tried calling the police to get permission but no one answered.

I escaped Springfield using bike paths. After some time on a busy highway I picked up the 8-mile Frisco Highline rail trail to Willard. Bliss. And I had a tailwind.

Unfortunately, my phone was running out of juice. If something went amiss how would I find a campground?

I stopped at a cafe and plugged in my phone while eating some ice cream. The place was about to close but it was in the same building as the town library.

I went inside an catnapped while my phone charged during this hottest part of the day.

After two more miles on the rail trail, I turned west for eight miles of rollers. Something was different. I was going much, much faster than anytime during the trip. I hill hopped several of the rollers, speeding down one hill and flying up the next.

As I pulled into Ash Grove, I saw a man in a sedan parked on a side street. He was waving me off the main road. I pulled over. He then proceeded to lead me to bike touring paradise. The town park has a house with a kitchen, shower, bathroom, and indoor bike parking. Outside was a swimming pool.

I took off my shoes and socks and waded into cool, wet awesomeness. I had 15 minutes to cool down before the pool closed for the day. It was more than enough time.

Later I met Corey and Mark who were staying at the house while taking a rest day on their east to west ride on the TransAmerica Trail.

Tomorrow I (actually all three of us) hope to escape the Ozarks. I celebrated with a dinner of an apple and three peanut butter flour tortillas. And one of Mark’s IPAs.

Miles today: 62

Total so far: 631.5