Any Road Tour: Day 18 – Ups and Downs

I awoke to thunder. It was pouring outside. The weatherman said that the rain would end by 9 so I waited it out.

When I hit the road it was cool and breezy. The wind from the east was a tailwind for most of the day.

I road through downtown Dyersville. It reminded me of downtown Bloomington Indiana in Breaking Away. I felt like telling a cop that I was a little disturbed by the developments in the Middle East, but I let the moment pass.

The riding began with a five mile tailwind. This allowed my legs to ease into the day. The tall grass on the side of the road looked like it had been through a tough time.

I rode north under overcast skies. To the north dark clouds loomed.

I did a four mile winding descent into Elkport that was quite thrilling. Sometimes even a Mule can fly.

Then came the climb. I was warned that this ride would get hillier as I headed north. Roger that.

Then it started to rain. I was already a bit chilled and the rain added to my shivers. I stopped and put on my rain jacket. Within minutes it was pouring. And there was thunder.

Pedal, pedal.

I checked my surroundings for shelter in the event of lightning. Barn. Porch. Garage.

The climbing kept me warm but I was starting to worry about my visibility. On a descent I pulled over to put on my blinking light belt. I was quite cold so I zipped up the pockets and pit zips on my jacket. Stopping The Mule took much much too long. Rim brakes are pretty useless when they are trying to stop 270+ pounds going 30 miles per hour in the rain.

I had a long downhill to Elkader. No guts, no glory.

Whoosh!

I made it to the bottom in one piece then started another long climb, perhaps the biggest one since Ohio.

About halfway up the beast, I spotted a burger joint with a covered patio. Food and shelter! When I stopped I realized that I was shaking from cold and tired and grumpy. The Google told me there were plenty of options for motels and such nearby. Hmmm.

The weatherman sad the storm work pass over in about an hour. So I decided to enjoy some fish and chips. Hot food was just what I needed. My focus on rain-related matters had blocked out the fact that I was extremely hungry.

Snarf!

Then I spotted the sign for ice cream. “You want nutrition, eat a carrot.”

I ordered a double dip cone and inhaled that bad boy in minutes.

The counter staff advised me that there were plenty of hotels in Prairie du Chien Wisconsin about 30 miles away and just a couple of miles off my route.

The rain stopped and I decided to ride on to Monona, the day’s planned destination with free camping in the town park. 15 miles of hillage ensued.

The town park was lovely but the soggy ground and porta potties turned me off. After a coffee break at a gas station convenience store, I decided to ride 15 more miles to Prairie du Chien.

They were remarkably level miles with more Iowa farm views.

I passed through the town of Watson.

A few miles later I flew down a curving hill to the Mississippi River. It was a thrilling ride. I just took the lane and went for it.

As I entered the town of Marquette, I feathered my brakes to bring The Mule in compliance with the town speed limit.

We crossed the river to Wisconsin and did the state line sign picture thing.

And The Mule and I paid our respects to Father Marquette who “discovered” the Mississippi.

After a three mile search for lodging, I ended up at a Super 8 (again) south of town. After cleaning up, I went next door to the family restaurant and had the soup and salad bar. All of it.

I discovered that my waterproof Ortlieb panniers leaked quote a bit. The desk clerk at the hotel gave me a roll of plastic bags to wrap my things in. The worst victim of the water infiltration was my ancient copy of Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test.

As I write this it is thundering again. Tomorrow’s route continues on the Iowa side of the river. About six very hilly miles away is Effigy Mounds National Monument. I’d like to check it out but the prospect of rain is putting me off. I understand that the terrain in Iowa to the north is super hilly. Lucky for me, the river road on the Wisconsin side is level. I shall take the path of least resistance.

Total miles: 77

Trip miles: 1,344.

Three Good Things

There’s not much I can do to remove the clots from my lungs and my leg. I just have to take my medicine and wait. Unfortunately the medicine itself can cause big problems. So I have taken some steps to shore up my defenses.

For much of 2017 I rode without a helmet. I hate helmets. So it was a little bit ironic that  I bought a new helmet with the multi-dimensional impact protection system or MIPS. This type of helmet has a plastic liner that moves. The idea is that if you hit your helmet on something your head won’t just smash into the inside of the helmet. Instead the plastic liner will allow your melon to move a bit, reducing (so they say) the chance of a concussion. For me, that might mean reducing the chance of blood building up in my brain – which can be fatal.

Fatal is not good.

Before my bike tour to Florida, I bought an Ortlieb mirror. It was a godsend, especially when I looked at it and saw a dump truck bearing down on me in West Palm Beach. I was about to lose my lane. Instead of proceeding I stopped and the dump truck didn’t. I’d have been toast.

Toast is not good.

So I bought another mirror for my Cross Check which will make riding in traffic around and in DC a bit safer.

My third acquisition is a Road ID. It’s a wrist band with a small metal clip attached. The clip has my name, my wife’s name and phone numbers, and critical medical information: Xarelto, Asthma, and A+, my blood type. In the event that I am unconscious medical professionals will know that I am likely to bleed uncontrollably.

Bleeding uncontrollably is not good.

Three for Safety.JPG
Purple Road ID wrist band, Ortlieb mirror, and MIPS helmet. 

So, it’s all good.

Shopping for My Bike Tour

I am in pretty good shape in terms of gear for my bike tour. I don’t plan on cooking so I don’t have to bring a stove or a pot and that sort of stuff. There are a few things I know I need and one that I might experiment with.

  • Panniers: I have been using Ortlieb roll top panniers for over ten years. I have big ones for the rear and small ones for the front. They are fantastic. Basically they are a big waterproof bag. I am on my second set of rear panniers and they are starting to leak. I think I bought them less than 5 years ago and am trying to get them replaced under warranty. Not many people use the same panniers day in day out for 200+ days a year like I do. So we’ll see if I can get them for free regardless. Otherwise, I need to buy new ones.

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  • Sleeping pad: I bought a 3/4ths length Thermarest self inflating sleeping pad about 12 years ago. It might be useful for a ten year old but I have never been able to sleep on it. This caused a bit of a problem when you’ve just ridden a tank for 90 miles and you’re body needs rest. My friend Michelle recently did some backpacking in Shenandoah National Park and raved about her REI sleeping pad so I bought one.  It’s more than twice as thick as the Thermarest and it’s 6 feet long. It is a little narrow. I am optimistic. Thanks, Michelle.

  • Mirror: I use a mirror on my recumbent. I really like it. In fact, for a while, I used two but this makes my wingspan a bit too wide for riding on trails as I do around home. The mirror on my recumbent attaches to the end of the handlebar. I can’t do that on The Mule, my touring bike, because it has bar end shifters. So I either have to use a mirror attached to my helmet or some other type. I don’t much like either but the Adventure Cycling Association sells a couple that I might give a tryout to this summer.
  • Tires: I might buy new tires. I usually use Schwalbe Marathons because they are very puncture resistant. They also last a really long time. The front one on The Mule is a Marathon Plus which is more resistant. It probably has 3,000 miles on it. Just to be safe., I will take a folding spare along just in case. (I had a tour ruined by a tire failure.)

Errandonnee No. 8: Hot Seeds

It promised to be a splendid day. I was really tempted to go for a long ride but decided to do a few minor chores and run a couple of errands. One of the chores was to liberate Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent from the basement where she had been parked all winter. Of course, we had to go for a spin so we rode to the hardware store where I bought some Hot Meats. These are hulled bird seeds mixed with cayenne pepper powder. Squirrels will take one bite, shake their heads, and go elsewhere. No mess. No squirrels. They come in 5, 10, and 25 pound bags. You don’t want to crash and have a bag of this stuff split open on you. While I was tempted to try to transport a 25 pound bag. I chickened out and went for the ten pound bags. It turns out that a 10 pound bag fits perfectly in my old roll top Ortleib pannier.

Miles: 2 1/2

Category:  You Carried What on a Bike?

Observation: I have clipless pedals on only one bike, Big Nellie. The hope was that they would help with nerve problems in my feet. They don’t. And my concern over getting properly unclipped makes me tense. This nerve problem really reduces my use of Big Nellie, down to about 1,000 miles per year. Most of that is because I feel like a should ride it just because it takes up so much space.

Pre-tour Dry Run in Front

It is the last week of April. The weatherman didn’t get the memo. It was in the 40s when I left the house. I couldn’t bring myself to wear long pants. Suffice it to say, I was cold most of the way to work. I am less than two weeks away from the start of a week-long bike tour from Pittsburgh to DC so I thought it would be a good idea to try out the front low-rider rack on The Mule.

The front rack made by Tubus has wider diameter tubing than my old Blackburn rack. Since the attachment hardware on my panniers cannot easily be switched from one tube diameter to another, I have a set of small Ortlieb roll top panniers set up for use on the front rack. To my surprise they hold very little stuff. I could just fit my work clothes, shoes and a U-lock.

Front panniers for first time

The steering was sluggish. The Mule’s steers like a bus anyway so I didn’t have to make much of an adjustment.

Between the cold and the increasing foliage, I was in the zone for most of the ride. I totally forgot about the Tulane bald eagle nest. The Belle Haven nest has two ospreys near it.

The ride to Rosslyn happened without notice. It was one of those “How did I get here” rides. The Intersection of Doom was another story entirely. Bikes and runners and walkers and cars were going every which way. How I managed to get through it all without a collision is beyond me. A guy on a bike passed me on the sidewalk approaching 19th street. As he did I noticed the walk count down was at 2 seconds. He accelerated into the crosswalk in front of cars waiting to turn right. Dude, you’re gonna die young if you ride like that.

The ride home was about 15 degrees warmer. It didn’t feel like it though. As I approached the turn off for the Memorial Bridge, I noticed a big group of loaded bike tourists turning to cross the Parkway. I quickly pulled out my camera, aimed, and….beep. “Battery Exhausted.” So you’ll have to take my word for it.

I continued south toward home with a pleasant tailwind. Climbing up one of the flyover bridges at National Airport I was stirred from my trance by a “Hi John!” It was Sam from Friday Coffee Club. By the time I realized it was her she was almost past me. So for the record, “Hi Sam.”

I remembered to stop at the Tulane nest. It is barely visible now. The leaves on the trees obscure the view from the trail. I have landmarks picked out so I will still be able to see it once the trees finish getting their foliage.

One other odd thing happened. When I got home and unpacked my cell phone was warm. It turns out that it was in a very tightly packed pannier with no air circulation. I’ll have to make sure I don’t repeat this mistake during the tour.

So not a bad start to the work week. And one little detail checked off the pre-tour list.