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 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

A Little Water Won’t Kill Ya

It rained last night. The passage to my backyard was a mud pit. It was drizzling as I, without a whole lot of thought, pulled Little Nellie out of the shed.

I wore rain gear fImage may contain: tree, plant, outdoor and natureor the ride to work. All was going well until I reached the Mount Vernon Trail. Normally, the river is to the right of the trail. Today, the trial was beneath the river. As I cleared the Dyke Marsh boardwalk, I hit about 40 yards of deep water. I’d guess it was 6 inches deep. The density of the water slowed me to a crawl and I pedaled through it getting my feet thoroughly soaked. I stopped to take a picture that doesn’t do it justice.

I hopped back on Little Nellie, pedaled 20 yards, and was deep in the soup again. Pedaling through this much water is hard work. I cleared that flood, had a 20-yard breather, then hit the next one. And the next one. And the next one. No lie. I was pedaling really hard as I hit the last one and the backwash from Little Nellie’s wee front wheel caused the water to splash up over my knees.

After another deep section north of Belle Haven Park,  I made it into Old Town without need for scuba gear.

Old Town, of course, is notorious for flooding and today it did not disappoint. Union Street (which includes the Mount Vernon Trail) Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, motorcycle and outdoorwas closed at King. Little Nellie posed for a picture. I watched a pick up drive through the water but decided not to press my luck especially with a police car in the distance.

I turned up one alley and over another and found myself on King just to the left of the water in the picture.

Free and clear, right? Wrong. I managed to avoid submersion for a couple of miles before hitting deep water twice near Daingerfield Island. The force of my bike through the flood again kicked water up over my knees.

Dang.

I really should have chosen a bike with bigger diameter wheels. I hope Little Nellie’s hubs are not completely messed up.

In the afternoon Doppler radar was showing a really nasty storm approaching. I ran into the No. 2 person at my agency who was carrying his motorcycle helmet. Good luck! Our admin assistant and I both told my boss to hit the road on his cargo bike. He rides into DC and he probably made it unscathed.

I, on the other hand, was scathed. I made it about 9 miles in decent shape. The good news was the flooding had receded. The bad news was I was heading into dark, dark clouds with wind and rain and thunder and lightning.

Oh my.

I rode through Belle Haven Park aware that at any time a limb could fall from one of the giant old trees along the trail. It had happened before but not today. South of the park I had to deal with the fact that my glasses were covered with rain drops and condensation. I could barely see to make my way.

There was nothing to do but pedal, so I did. A bicyclist zipped past me. How he could see was beyond my ken. As I went through the slalom south of Dyke Marsh branches with wet leaves slapped me in the face.

Pedal. Pedal.

All the while, lightning was flashing across the sky.

I followed a curve in the trail up and to the right. Out from behind an overhanging branch came a bicyclists. A woman on what looked like a beach cruiser. She was riding in a frenzy without rain gear and nearly collided with me. I veered off to my right and she flew by.

Sections of the trail now had run off from the adjacent parkway. Some of these were fairly high speed and gave me cause for concern. Would they sweep my wheels out from under me?

Nope. It’s good to be lucky.

Once I left the trail the rain subsided. There was still some thunder and lightning but it was not all that intense.

I rode across the front lawn, around the muddy side of the house, and down the small grassy decline to the shed. After opening the shed and getting the bike inside I started to wipe everything down with an old t-shirt. Then

BOOM!

A clap of thunder erupted directly overhead. The walls and the floor of the shed shook. I felt the vibration in my torso.

Double dang.

A little water won’t kill ya, but the thunder’s a bitch.

Beer Truck Wake

Earlier this year I rode to work on a day with rain and coastal flooding. The Mount Vernon Trail was under several inches of water in spots. The flooding was so extensive that the only alternatives were to turn around or ride through. I rode through. The water came over the tops of my GoreTex boots and soaked my feet. My wool socks kept my feet warm enough but they started to go numb during the last mile on the ride to work.

It has been raining here for several days. As I rode across the Dyke Marsh bridge, where I often take sunrise pictures, I could see the river had risen to almost even with the bridge decking. On the north side of the bridge I could see water on both sides of the trail. Unlike earlier this year, I was riding Little Nellie, my Bike Friday with little wheels.

No guts, no glory. I rode on. I slowed down to keep my front wheel from kicking up the water but it was fruitless. The water was so deep that it soaked my feet. I couldn’t go around it either. The flooding extended well beyond the trail. There were occasional breaks in the water but the sloshing went on for about a quarter mile. Little Nellie is immersible. Who knew?

In Old Town the base of King Street was underwater. Normally when this happens, police block it off. I assumed the water wasn’t that deep. Wrong.

Ooogah! Ooogah! All dive!

A beer truck pulled out of an alley and entered the depths. Fortunately it was going slowly but its wake came up almost to Little Nellie’s axles.

After a few more feet of this, I dropped some ballast and surfaced.

By now my feet were soaking wet, but at least this day the water was not ice cold.

And to think I was going to telecommute today.

 

The Return of the Mule

It’s been hanging there in the shed for weeks and weeks. New chain, new cassette, new brake pads. 32,300 miles on the odometer. Waiting to make the long march to 33,000. Today it began.

I rolled the Mule out of the shed and headed to work on yet another unseasonably cold morning. It was 46 degrees when I left the house. Everything about the Mule felt unusual. The saddle, a Brooks Champion, seems to be more like a sling. I should probably replace it, but it fits my butt like the pocket of a outfielder’s glove fits a baseball. The brake hoods felt too far away. The brakes, despite new pads, are mushy. Despite all this, it seemed to take off with little effort on my part.

A mile from the house, in a quiet suburban neighborhood, the Mule and I were buzzed by a minivan. There was no reason for the driver to come so close (not that there ever is a legitimate one). There was no one else on the road, no parked cars either. Still the van came within a foot of my left side. I doubt the driver even saw me.

The Mule made its way down to the Mount Vernon Trail. The Potomac River was running high and spilled across the trail near Dyke Marsh. I picked my feet up and glided through like a little kid. Whee.

No goslings yet. Lots and lots of mallards and Canada geese, though. We’ll have mallards and ducklings soon enough. I didn’t see any raptors or egrets either. I suppose they move with the shallow water.

In Old Town, the base of King Street near the river was flooded. This must happen a dozen times per year. You’d think they’d build a levee or something.  I wonder if you could sit outside the Starbucks on the corner and fish. I’ll have a Grande Frankenfish and a Venti Americano.

Old Town Flooding

By the time I made it to work, I was feeling cramped on the Mule. My hands had gradually moved forward onto  the brake hoods as my back loosened up. My left knee was complaining. (This always happens when I go from one bike to another. My feet don’t like Big Nellie. My right knee and my back don’t like Little Nellie. My left knee doesn’t like the Mule.) The pain will subside after I ride the Mule for a few more days.

I made it through the Rosslyn Circle of Death without incident. I learned later in the day that another cyclists wasn’t so fortunate. How many medivacs does it take before something changes?

It was much warmer for the ride home but I had a strong, gusting headwind and incredible amounts of pollen to contend with. After the Memorial Bridge, I came upon a photoshoot of some sort. There were reflecting umbrellas on stands, one on each side of the trail. Some young women were holding on to bikes. One of the bikes looked like a little like a bikeshare bike. There was so much activity on the trail I don’t know how they were going to get any pictures taken. I didn’t stick around to find out. A minute later I saw Bob (Don’t Call Me Rachel) Cannon riding in a short line of cyclists. He was my only regular of the day.

Photo Shoot

The rest of the ride home was a slog. As soon as I’d get any speed at all, a gust of wind would take it away. There was no sign of flooding in Old Town but the river was still very high. The water came right up to the underside of the Dyke Marsh boardwalk. Once past that, I had some tree cover and the headwinds were lessened. It’s incredible how much some foliage does to slow the wind down. I stopped at the drug store to pick up a prescription and bought some eye drops to get the pollen out of my eyes.

I was planning on driving to work tomorrow so that I could attend my daughter’s lacrosse game. Over dinner she told me that the game is canceled. Many of the players on her team are sick, I would imagine from allergies. So I ride again tomorrow.