Bike Tour 2022 – Eads to Ordway

I am in Trump country. The city offices in Eads had the official President Trump photo in a prominent location. I didn’t see one of Brandon though.

While riding through the side streets of Eads last night I saw a towheaded little boy no more than two wandering alone in the middle of the street. It felt a bit like a Rod Serling moment.

I fell asleep way too early and slept like a fallen tree. I woke up at 2:48 a.m. I pulled my sleeping bag over my head and woke up again at 4:30. I tried again and got up at 5:35. I had been assured that the park’s sprinkler system had been deactivated but I broke camped exceptionally fast in case the maintenance man didn’t get the memo.

I rode the half mile to the roadside bathroom. The facilities were all metal. Sitting on the cold toilet woke me up muy pronto. Next I rode to a gas station convenience store to buy water and a sandwich for my ride. It’s about 60 miles to Ordway without any services.

Next up was breakfast at JJ’s where I was joined by Olav, an eastbound rider. Olav is from Norway. He’s doing 100 miles per day.

The breakfast was huge After eating every molecule, I headed west on The Mule. The road was very gently rolling as it passed through the plains, a railroad line on a berm to my right.

After 35 miles, two deer, 50 or so cattle, and some grain elevators, I arrived at Arlington. I ate my gas station sandwich. Eastbound rider Mike told me of how disgusting the Arlington comfort station was. Eww. Needless to say, I took a pass on using it.

The remaining 20 miles were a grind. The terrain however was gently downhill and, with the aid of a mild tailwind, I took full advantage. My speedometer read between 15 and 18 mph the whole way. The five miles after Sugar City were flat. Not one inch up or down.

I trucked into Ordway and found the only hotel in town where Corey, Mark, and I had squeezed into a room in 2019. I had plenty of camping options, but it had been four days since my last hot shower. Let’s just say that my BO confirmed that I didn’t have Covid.

I would have taken a slot alone in the hotel’s hostel section with its shared bathroom but two Belgian cycle tourists arrived immediately after I did. $30 more for a private room and no deadly infection won out.

After a fantastic shower, I went in search of edible plant medicine only to find the town’s weed store was closed. After a minute checking out the town saloon, I ended up at a pizza place where I had a Prison Break sausage sandwich, a wise choice.

I am several days early for the end of the solo portion of my ride in Canon City. I need to balance cost of shelter with scary heat arriving here in the next few days. My options include staying here another day, staying in a hotel in Pueblo, staying with at least one Warmshowers host on route, staying in a motel in either Florence or Canon City, and, I kid you not, staying in a dorm room in an abbey in Canon City.

Riding into Eads involved a fierce sprint of sorts through a highway work zone. It left my head spinning. My blast across the plains today did the same. Even at 4,500 feet or so I can feel the effects of altitude. Ordway is at 4,300 feet.

Miles today: 65. Tour miles: 1,102.5.

Educational sign at highway loo
My light breakfast. Held me in good stead for 35 miles.
Olav the speedy Norwegian
Arlington roadside comfort station
Two wild and crazy Belgians

Bike Tour 2022 – Hutchinson to Medicine Lodge

When I planned my itinerary, today’s ride was supposed to end after 56 miles in Pratt. I checked the weather app and found out that I’d have tailwinds and comfortable temperatures all morning. If I continued another 30 miles to Medicine Lodge I’d have good winds tomorrow when I head west to the Gyp Hills.

After breakfast (two huge bowls of Cheerios. a banana, and several cups of coffee, I headed south out of Hutchinson on Main Street a little after 8 a.m.

About a half mile into the ride I could hear the unmistakable sound of a dog huffing and puffing. A short haired, medium size dog was joyfully running its ass off to keep pace with me. This went on for at least a half mile. Then he turned down a side street still chugging away. A weird start to the day.

My route involved highways all the way. At first I was on US 50. Lots of trucks, but no worries: it had a 12-foot paved shoulder. US 50 headed west after a few miles and I took Kansas Highway 61 south. My paved shoulder went down to 8 feet. Traffic was lighter but twice I was passed by absurdly wide vehicles. One was a farm machine that looked like a giant insect. It had at least a 6-foot clearance under the cab and was more than a lane wide. The other was a tractor pulling a trailer with a wide red machine on the back. Both vehicles gave me plenty of room.

Highway 61 followed a Union Pacific rail line all the way to Pratt. I was expecting evidence of flooding but there was hardly any. New state motto: Kansas: We Do Drainage.

The pavement could not have been smoother or flatter. The Mule trucked along at 15 mph. The tailwind and blue skies lifted my spirits. The riding was effortless,

The shoulder eventually narrowed to three feet but there was no rumble strip to deal with so I had plenty of room to roll.

For the last several days there have been small, bird-pecking oil wells in the fields. The number increased as I moved south.

I arrived in Pratt a little after noon. 56 miles before 12:30 is insane. When I came to a WalMart, I stopped to inspect my left pedal. It was holding up just fine and not making any suspicious noises. So I moved on.

I asked a police officer where I could buy breakfast. The only place was three miles west of town. So I settled for McDonalds which I happened to be standing next to.

A quarter pounder with bacon, fries, and a half gallon of Diet Coke for $9. And two water bottles filled with cold water to boot. Burp.

Continuing on to Medicine Lodge was an easy decision to make. I rolled down Main Street in Pratt. It could have been any Main Street in any city in Kansas. Every other store was empty. Cars were parked diagonally signaling this was once a vibrant commercial area.

The ride to Medicine Lodge was slower. I had called ahead to book a room at a motel so there as no hurry. I had an occasional light headwind which seemed only fair after the morning. With each passing mile the terrain became less flat farms and more rolling fields with trees scattered about. This area clearly gets more rainfall than farther north.

With ten miles to go the road started rolling up and down and side to side as I entered a hillier area. There weren’t any granny worthy hills, just a few middle ringers.

I am now very much in Trump/conspiracy nut country based on some of the yard signs I was seeing. I think I’ll stay out of the bars in town tonight.

I’m pretty impressed with how my body’s holding up. An achy shoulder now and then. A sore left calf. Pretty much run of the mill stuff. I will confess to feeling a bit wobbly when I dismounted at the motel. I feel more like I did in 2018 than in 2019.

Speaking of the motel, it looks like a place where murders are committed (Stuff her body in the trunk, Roscoe.) Other than a threadbare carpet, the room is quite acceptable. I promise I’ll duck if I hear gunfire.

Miles today: 88. Total tour miles: 787 in 12 days.

I hear the train a comin’
Grain elevator. Would my home owners association object if I put one of these babies in my backyard?
Fields of grain. If you zoom in you can see the wind turbines in the distance.
Trees and hills. And a few clouds.

Bike Tour 2022 – Eureka to El Dorado

Last night was full of worry. How was I going to ride 72 miles with no services in a brutal crosswind with gusts up to 50 mph? Add to the challenge my super hard 84-mile ride yesterday and the fact that the only breakfast place in town was closed for Memorial Day.

What’s a Rootchopper to do?

For a start I spotted cars pulling into the Pizza Hut across the highway as I was lubing my chain last night. I decided to buy a pizza and save some for breakfast. That solved one aspect of the problem. I had saved half a Dagwood sub from yesterday’s lunch at Lizard Lipps. (Basically it’s a small brick of meat and bread.) I could get 30 miles out of that bad boy, for sure.

But the crosswinds would be even stronger. Gusts of up to 50 mph were forecasted. About 58 miles of the TransAm route would have featured crosswinds.

I woke at 4 a.m. and came up with an alternative. Instead of following the TransAm route through Cassoday to Newton, I’d ride 31 miles straight west to El Dorado on a two-lane highway. If I was feeling my oats, I could continue on to Newton from El Dorado. This route would be a few miles shorter than the TransAm and give me a viable bailout point if things got nasty.

After downing some cold pizza, I headed for El Dorado. The first 19 miles coincided with the TransAm. I figured that if things were going well, I could scrap the El Dorado idea.

Things did not go well.

The first four miles weren’t too bad but the winds intensified as the ride wore on. Once, again, again, again, and again gusts blew me off the pavement onto the 8-foot wide unpaved shoulder. My right arm was getting worn out from trying to control the bike’s direction. Big vehicles zooming past at 60 mph either hammered my front with their wake or sucked me to the left. The latter was quite scary.

I had to be on my toes constantly. (Speaking of toes, my shoe repair last night seems to have worked. Dunno about the tent repair.)

I plodded along going slower and slower up the ridges in the Flint Hills. Every so often there would be a wind break but increasing elevation seemed to anger the wind gods. By mile 14 I’d been blown off the road 10 times. Then a truly powerful series of gusts knocked me off the road four times in a mile.

I gave up trying to spin in my lowest gear and started walking. When the winds calmed (to perhaps 20 mph) I started riding again.

At the town of Rosalia, where the TransAm turned north, I decided to continue west to El Dorado. I was pooped. What a shame to miss out on 20+ miles of tailwinds to Cassoday.

The highway dropped the unpaved shoulder but I still had about three feet of paved shoulder to work with. The big gusts had abated and there were continuous wind breaks for several miles. Yay! My speedometer rose into double digits . Yay!

But I was toast. I stopped every two miles to rest. I made it to El Dorado a little after noon about four hours after I left Eureka.

Having already had lunch for breakfast, it seemed logical to have diner breakfast for lunch. Bacon, eggs, hash browns, toast, coffee, and two gloriously tall glasses of ice water.

Kansas has the best bacon. Wide, crisp, and salty. So salty. Did I mention salty?

Once I got back on the bike, my legs decided that I was done for the day. I rode to one motel then another to find one with laundry machines. The Baymont Inn not only had them but they were operated by credit card.

Tomorrow the winds out of the south will continue until late morning then shift to the northeast. Storms are forecasted for much of the day. It’s about 40 miles to Newton. I’ll stop there unless the wind gods push me to Hutchison where there is free lodging for cyclists. Then I’ll let the weather forecast and motel availability decide if I’m going south to check out the Gyp Hills Scenic Highway and Dodge City.

I’m pretty much on schedule to get to Canon City by June 11. Plenty of time to take a day off unless something unforeseen happens.

Mileage today: 34. Tour mileage: 544.

Long overdue OCP, obligatory cow photo
There’s lots of flint in these hills. The further west, the more rocky the fields were.
Couldn’t resist buying this yesterday. Came in handy at laundry time.
Well played, Mule

Bike Tour 2022 – Erie to Eureka

Lord this got hard.

I had a decent dinner at a bar in town last night. Southwest chicken salad. It was huge. I ate it all. No contest. I also had a beer for the first time in weeks. The menu suggested “Ask about our craft beers”. So I did. All of their beers were mass market. I ended up with a Blue Moon because I needed the orange garnish in a big way.

Riding back to my tent in the park I saw a sign for Dinosaur Park. It was just a block from my tent. A little corner lot filled with dino skeletons made from spare parts. Genius!

I hit the hay before sunset but never really fell asleep. Tossing and turning all night. The wind finally calmed down for a few hours. At 4:30 I gave up trying to sleep and started to break camp. I was doing great with my tent, having pulled all the stakes out of the ground, when a big gust launched my tent 20 yards.

During the disassembly a part of the tent that pulls the side of tent out fell off. The tent is still usable but a bit claustrophobic. I’ve used this Big Agnes tent maybe ten times so this failure really pisses me off.

After a sumptuous breakfast of bean dip on tortillas, I headed out at dawn. Erie was still abed, it’s citizens tired from the raw excitement of Saturday night on the prairie.

My first two miles were aided by a huge tailwind out of the south. A great way to start the day. Then I turned west. The cross wind wasn’t so bad for 14 miles. A right turn had me sailing the winds for four miles into Chanute. In 2019 we couldn’t take this route because the entire area was flooded. I didn’t recognize anything.

In Chanute I stopped at WalMart for some glue to use on my tent and my shoes which are falling apart. (Duct tape has been getting a lot of use.)

The WalMart cashier suggested a diner in town. Good stuff but as I have come to realize nobody in the service industry in Kansas is in a hurry. Breakfast took over an hour.

Back on the road with the engine properly fueled I surfed the cross winds for 15 miles before turning south. Dang! The headwinds were brutal. I turned off the main road to check the offerings at the convenience store in Benedict. This little town is epically impoverished. The convenience store was scuzzy and, just like 2019, closed.

Back on the main highway I rode what is essentially a causeway between two planted fields. The fields are about 10 to 15 feet below the road. In 2019 the flood waters were nearly up to the edge of the road. The road has no shoulders, just an immediate drop off to the fields. Unlike 2019, traffic was light so it wasn’t as scary. I could have done without the crosswinds though.

As the day wore on the winds picked up. I passed many fields with cows grazing. (Heifers bring $1.79 per pound in Missouri. The things you overhear in diners!) After one such field, I saw two donkeys; one was braying loudly at me. It must have recognized The Mule.

A quick check of my phone told me that a diner in the next town was closing at 2. With tailwinds pushing me, I made it in plenty of time only to find the diner didn’t exist. I pushed on to my last hope for food three miles north.

As I rode several ATVs sped past me. When I reached the gas station convenience store all the ATVs were parked there. I went inside and the place was packed with the ATV people. As has been the case everywhere I go around here, none of them were masked. I wore a cloth mask, but I probably should have worn an N95 respirator. If I get Covid I’ll know where I contracted it.

The store has a deli. It took me a few minutes before I realized that this was Lizard Lipps cafe in which I had eaten in 2019. All TransAm riders get a little plastic lizard to zip tie to their bikes. I still have my 2019 lizard on my stem so I’m going to have to get creative with the placement of the new one. I also signed the guest book. I looked up my previous signing and there were the entries of our five man TransAm posse. (Two sped ahead after a couple of days.)

From Lizard Lipps to the next town was an 18-mile slog through strong crosswinds. I was on a highway with broad unpaved shoulders. Three times the gusts blew me clear off the pavement. Passing trucks with big wakes amplified the winds too.

Miles 78 to 80 were into a stifling headwind. I often used my granny gears just to maintain forward momentum.

I arrived in Eureka, passing many old businesses that were closed. A Pizza Hut (a bad one as I recall) with an outdated sign. Cherokee Chinese & American restaurant. La Taqueria B&B.

After over 80 miles of winds on a poor night’s sleep, there was no way I was going to camp in the town park.

A note on the terrain. There are very few steep hills but the road slopes upward gradually. Every so often there’s a rise, like a big step, then back to the gradual incline. The last 15 miles have been in the Flint Hills. No more brick streets.

Nothing is open. Tomorrow being Memorial Day means that many businesses are closed. I don’t know how I’m going to get to Newton 80 miles to the west with more crosswinds and unreliable resources. If I stay here I get to deal with the prospect of violent thunderstorms on Tuesday. I’ll figure it out in the morning.

Todays mileage: 84.5 Tour mileage: 505

Hmmm
Pretty cool
Dawn on the prairie
When in Rome
Amber waves of grain
The causeway without the flood waters
Five went riding – from 2019

Bike Tour 2022 – Boonville to Windsor

Last night I ate everything. A sub sammich, a huge bag of chips, and two bottles of Gatorade. Burp.

Breakfast was the usual motel fare. Biscuits (no gravy), hash browns, scrambled eggs, OJ, coffee, a banana, and some Raisin Bran. I took two apples for the road.

I hit the road at 6:30 in the hope of stealing the march on a forecasted 2 pm rain shower.

I rode about three miles on roads to get back to the trail. The trail had left the Missouri River valley and was now climbing ever so gradually through rock cuts and farmer’s fields. This is more like the rail trails I’m used to. The trail sits between parallel rows of trees. As a result you can’t see much of anything.

I could hear plenty of birds whose songs were unfamiliar. From time to time I’d hear a lone cow mooing a yawn. A couple of roosters made their presence known. I came upon a big snapping turtle who seemed completely disinterested in The Mule and me.

Not in a big hurry. Maybe laying eggs.

I later spotted a box turtle crossing a road at an intersection with the trail. I left him alone.

The general plan was to ride 36 miles to Sedalia where I’d consider riding further to Windsor or even Clinton. The trail surface was better than yesterday but the gradual incline provided a false flat. Your eyes tell you the trail is level but you can’t seem to attain a decent speed. It wears you down mentally.

I talked to the people from the Chamber of Commerce who worked in the restored train station at the trailhead. They told me about places to eat and mentioned the Hotel Bothwell as being popular with trail users. I rode a few blocks to check it out. They discount rooms by 20 percent for trail users.

It was a old hotel, the kind you might see in film from the 40s or 50s. I thought about booking a room but I still had three hours before the rain would arrive.

I decided to ride 21 miles to Windsor. The Chamber folks said that Kim’s Cabins in Windsor is popular with cyclists . I called the number and arranged for a cabin.

I bought a sandwich and some potato salad from the deli at the town market. I ate the sandwich as I rolled toward Windsor on the trail.

The trail surface seemed much worse. About a half inch of sand had been poured on the trail. It made for really laborious pedaling. At about the halfway point I ate the potato salad. I stole this idea from Felkerino, a randonneuring friend. It’s a food he eats when his energy is flagging after 200 or 300 miles. (I can’t even!)

It worked but the stop cost me time. With four miles to go the rain arrived. I actually welcomed the change. Alas, The Mule did not agree. The water mixed with the sand and limestone grit on the trail got into my cables making the flat trail feel like a mountain climb.

After an unintended tour of Windsor town, I arrived at the cabins where Kim greeted me. She had a hose set up that I used to gently wash off The Mule and myself. I had trail grit stuck to my legs almost to my knees.

After washing all the mess off it was obvious that the grit had gotten into my brakes – the cables, the brake mechanism and the pads. This same thing ruined a 2003 tour of mine in the GAP Trail in Pennsylvania. The solution is to loosen the cables and wipe the grit off them. A job for tomorrow.

As for tomorrow more rain is forecast for the entire day. Assuming I can get my brakes working properly, I may take the highway to Clinton where the Katy Trail ends. It’s only 20 miles. Then I need to decide whether to continue on 35 miles to Nevada. Another option is to try to set up a Warmshowers visit in Deepwater about 3 miles from Clinton.

Sedalia Depot
Magic Rando Food
It wasn’t my imagination. I was going up after all.
Home for the Night

Today’s mileage: 62. Total tour mileage: 244

Bike Tour 2022 – St. Charles Mo to Hermann, Mo on the Katy Trail

Today was supposed to be a 60-mile slow roll but things happened and it wasn’t.

To begin with the 60 miles did not include riding East on the Katy Trail for 3 1/2 miles to attend a day-after-the-wedding donut picnic breakfast in a park along the trail.

Of course I had already filled my tank at the hotel breakfast bar. It was well above average. As a result I had half a donut and some coffee at the picnic before heading out. The picnic delayed my departure to 11:30 which is much later than normal.

Before I left I had trouble filling my tires up to proper pressure. I decided to roll with it and it worked out fine. Along the way I found a bike repair station at a trailhead and used it’s floor pump to fix the issue.

The trail surface is unpaved but for most of the way you’d never know it. It’s as hard as pavement. Local trail users have an annoying habit of walking abreast on the trail, something I’ve never seen elsewhere. At one point a group of horses were hogging the trail. The riders moved to single file with military precision when I approached.

The trail is FLAT. The surrounding terrain varies between rivers (most often the Missouri), farm fields (occasionally flooded by recent heavy rains), wooded areas, and cuts through rock. I like that the variety keeps you from getting bored with the view.

I rode nonstop to Defiance where there was a trailside eatery. It was crowded and the bike parking didn’t work with my panniers so I forged ahead. I came to Augusta where I found a bike shop, ice cream, and a brewery. I chose the brewery and selected a “to go” box and a Coke.

The to go box had grapes, a clementine, carrots, celery, some cold cuts, cheeses, crackers, peanut butter, and hummus. Dang. I could barely put a dent in it at the brewery so I brought it along for dinner.

About 45 miles into the ride I arrived at Marthasville. Daniel Boone was buried near here so I followed the directions at the trailhead and backtracked 1 1/2 miles to see the gravesite. Along the way I rode the loaded Mule up one of the steepest hills I’ve ever ridden. I can’t believe I made it up without walking.

The Boone gravesite was a bit disappointing as it was adorned with a modern tombstone that look completely out of place.

Back into town I realized that my 60-mile route has somehow ballooned to over 70 miles! Good thing I started late.

I ground away into a light headwind. I decided not to stop to eat, choosing instead to make sure I finished before dark. I made it with ease.

The final town on the trail was McKittrick. Unfortunately all the services at this trailhead are located 2 miles north on the opposite side of the Missouri River in the city of Hermann.

The ride to Hermann was interesting. A wide smooth shoulder made for quick work. With the same effort I used to ride 12 to 13 mph on the trail, I was easily cruising at 15 mph. Once in town I searched for the town park that allows trail users to tent camp. It wasn’t much to my liking (nor was the declining temperature) so I opted for a divey motel instead. If they filmed Psycho at a Midwest hotel, Norman Bates would be from Gurjurat.

I am knackered. Tomorrow’s ride is supposed to be 55 miles. I sure hope it’s not more.

The trail goes through Rapa Nui, MO
I could not come close to eating all this.
The trail has many of these short trestles
Doesn’t look a bit like Fess Parker
Earlier I had to lift The Mule over a fallen tree. We could just squeeze under this one

When I’m 64

The Mule reached yet another milestone today. It turned 64, thousand miles that is.

The Mule turns 64.
Will you still need me? Yes!

I bought this bike from the Quaker Lane location of Spokes Etc. bikes in Alexandria Virginia sometime in 1991. I bought this bike because my Trek 1200 road bike couldn’t handle the stress of commuting. It’s a bit ironic that the Spokes Etc. chain of local bike shops recently was bought by Trek Bicycles.

It’s also a little odd that Spokes marketed this bike as a commuter bike. Little did I know that it was the best selling touring bike in Europe back in the day.

The Mule will be my steed for this summer’s bike tour. Tomorrow I’m taking it in to Bikes at Vienna for its annual fix everything service.

Bearing Up – A Quality Shoe

In the Second World War, Allied bombers targeted a small Bavarian city named Schweinfurt. Located in between Frankfurt and Nuremberg, Schweinfurt was a center of ball bearing manufacturing for the Nazi war effort. No ball bearings means nothing made of metal will rotate properly. Bearings and the grease that keeps them from wearing out are little out-of-sight things that most people never think about.

Which brings me to bikes. A bicycle encounters three kinds of resistance: wind, rolling, and mechanical. Obviously, riding into the wind can ruin your whole day. Certain kinds of tires have higher rolling resistance than others. Puncture-proof touring tires keep you from getting flats but they increase rolling resistance. Personally, I hate changing flats so I opt for heavy, bomb-proof tires. Mechanical resistance comes into play when things that are supposed to rotate freely wear out.

I seem to have an aptitude for breaking bike pedals. Don’t ask me why; I seriously don’t know. A few years ago I decided to upgrade my cheapo platform pedals with expensive, fancy pants pedals from an online retailer. After about a year and a half, I found myself in Michigan, a couple of days away from finishing a solo tour of over 750 miles. My right foot felt odd as I pedaled. Suddenly, the welds on the pedal broke. Basically, the pedal disintegrated. As I rolled along, I was holding the platform part of the pedal onto the spindle using the force of my foot and ankle. Luckily I found a bike shop that stayed open late on a Sunday evening and installed new pedals for me. Cheap ones. (The fancy pedals were warranted for one year. I was out of luck.)

Every so often a pedal on one of my bikes goes bung in a more conventional way. The bearings wear out. The pedal starts feeling crunchy. Through the sole of your shoe, you can feel the workings of the pedal breaking down. A week ago, this happened to the cheapo pedals I had on The Mule. Supply chain problems being what they are, the aforementioned online bike place didn’t have anything in stock. I rode to the two bike shops nearest my house. They didn’t have anything either.

So, on a whim, I called Bikes at Vienna. The shop owner Tim said he had some MKS touring pedals. “I have them on all my bikes. They’re great.” I couldn’t help of thinking of the old Mark Knopfler song “Quality Shoe” about a shoe salesman describing his products. And they cost only about $10 more than the crummy pedals I had been using.

So I rode 23-ish miles to Vienna and bought a set. Beth, the mechanic (who also has these pedals on her recumbent and loves them) thinks they don’t come with enough grease in side so she opened the pedals and added grease to the bearings.

I picked one of the pedals up an spun it with my fingers. It was an obviously vast improvement over pedals on The Mule.

The next day I installed them and went for a ride.

The Mule’s new shoes

WOW. No way. What a difference. The Mule was very happy. I was very happy. So The Mule and I rode back out to Vienna and bought another pair for my Cross Check. After a 30-mile ride on that bike, I can confirm that these new pedals are the bomb.

Moral of the story: if you have a two-wheeled horse, you’re going to need a quality shoe.

One Way on the WOD

I’ve really been cooking with gas on my bikes lately. It always takes me a few months after winter departs to get my mechanics working right, but the last week I’ve been riding like a boss. After ten consecutive days of riding over 30 miles a day, I popped a 52 mile ride on my Surly CrossCheck. My route took me up to DC where I rode up Rock Creek Park to Bethesda. After a couple of miles of connecting roads, I hooked up with the Capital Crescent Trail for the return. Beach Drive. the main drag through Rock Creek Park, is closed to through auto traffic in the upper half of the park. This is a positive pandemic dividend. I hope the National Park Service continues this policy because it’s a beautiful ride.

Near the end of yesterday’s ride, the CrossCheck hit 20,000 miles. As is my practice, I am now switching over to other bikes for a while.

Today, The Mule got the call. My wife and daughter drove me out to Purcellville, Virginia where the Washington and Old Dominion (WOD) trail has its western terminus. I bid them farewell and headed for home.

The WOD is about 45 miles long. (A few detours here and there add about a half mile by my odometer). Since it starts at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains the ride loses about 545 feet along the way. The decline isn’t constant, but there are long stretches of gradual downhill that allow for riding at a respectable clip.

A couple of hundred feet from the start of the ride I noticed that my riding position on The Mule is much less aggressive than my position on the CrossCheck. I decided to try an experiment. I adjusted the tilt of the saddle down just a bit. At first it felt strange to have additional weight on my hands. And my butt seemed to have been raised much more than it actually was. After about three miles, I didn’t notice the difference at all and I seemed to have much better power transmission to the pedals.

Dang was I riding fast. I think I had about a 2 mile per hour increase in cruising speed.

To be honest, making a tweak to your riding position before riding 50 miles is not a particularly good idea. But for me. it work out okay.

The more I rode, the more my body liked the new position. Cruising along at 20 miles per hour is not at all normal for me. I blasted through a tunnel of green for ten miles before stopping at Leesburg for a Mule photo op.

As I rode the din from the Brood X, 17-year cicadas was my constant companion. From time to time I heard other summer bugs such as the annual cicadas. The Brood X sound is a low pitched drone coming from the tree tops; the annual bugs make a higher pitched sound that seems to be only a few feet over your head.

The best part of the WOD is the ten miles from Purcellville to Leesburg. After that, development encroaches on the trail corridor. For those of us who remember when much of this area of the corridor was farm land, this change in scenery is a bit depressing.

It is what it is so you just keep rolling along. I past a few turtles in the Ashburn. Later I east of Vienna I saw a deer eating grass on the fringe of the trail. No worries.

Trail traffic was light probably because of severe weather that had raised the humidity noticeably since yesterday.

I booked along through Sterling and Herndon and Reston. Vienna came and went as did Falls Church where some major trail work caused a half mile on-street detour. It brought to mind the fact that I have very little idea what this area looks like beyond eye sight of the trail corridor.

I ran out of WOD in Arlington and stopped for a couple of other photos, one of the trail sign and the other of the Weenie Beenie, an Arlington culinary institution for decades.

With the WOD conquered. I switched to the Four Mile Run Trail which took me three miles further east to the Mount Vernon Trail at National Airport. Turning south on the MVT, I made honest work of the last nine miles. My pace had slowed but by this point my brain had shut down and The Mule and I were on autopilot. Every few miles I had that how-did-I-get-here feeling.

Did I just ride 110 miles in two days? Why am I not crippled? A month ago I would have sworn that my 65-year-old body couldn’t stand a bike tour anymore. Now, it’s telling me “You still got it, kid.”

Scrape, Ride, Paint, Ride, Level, Ride, Dig, Ride, Watch, Read, Ride, Rest

April was a mixed bag of work around the house and riding. Most days I spent a couple of hours on a project in the morning followed by an afternoon jaunt on my bike.

Projects

I finished two projects. One involved re-painting a steel stoop. It was in rough shape seeing as how the last time I painted it W was president. (Or was it Clinton?) Most of the work was prep. Scraping and grinding and sanding for hours on end. I thought it would go on forever. The actual priming and painting took only an hour or so each. The second project involved fixing some landscape timbers that had been undercut by a giant surface root from a volunteer silver maple. The timbers see saw if you stepped on them. I had the option of cutting the root or working around it. I ended up leaving the root alone and raising the timbers using some bricks I had lying around. It looks okay but will probably only last a year. This took only a few hours. mostly excavating and cogitating.

While this was going on, we had a tree company come and take down two trees, a diseased white pine and another silver maple. The tree crew also removed a couple of Russian olive bushes that were distressed. (They were growing sideways.) The tree folks ground the stumps leaving me the task of cleaning up the aftermath. This involves a great deal of digging and raking and even some root chopping. The soil is mostly clay so this turns out (I am still working on it) to be exhausting work, especially in the recent 80+ degree heat.

I began the month riding The Mule then switched to the Cross Check. After a week on that bike, I’ve moved back to Big Nellie, freed from her basement dungeon. It took a few rides to get my bent legs back but now I’m having a good time banging out one 30-mile day after another.

Miles

I managed to ride 862 miles, or just a tad under 29 miles per day. Last year I only did 772 miles in April so I feel like I’m improving a bit. Year to date I’ve ridden 2,891 miles compared to last year’s 2,906 (which included a leap day). Even though I am 397 miles off the pace for 10,000 miles I am well within reach of another 10,000 mile year, because the big mileage months lie ahead.

The Mule hit 61,000 miles during the month. That’s pretty good for a bike I was going to get rid of 21 years ago. Glad I kept it.

Watching

We watched The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. I thought it was kinda meh. I did like Erin Kellyman as the chief baddie. We also watched Concrete Cowboy, a strange movie about horse riding in a poor black neighborhood in Philadelphia. Basically, we’ll watch anything with Idris Elba in it. This one literally put me to sleep though.

My Octopus Teacher won the Academy Award for documentary feature. Entertaining. Octopuses are pretty strange critters.

I also watched nearly all of the Washington Nationals games. I am still not comfortable with going to a game in person. The mostly cool weather only reinforces my reluctance. Klarence, who had yet to be vaccinated, went to one game and said it felt creepy being there with a socially distanced crowd. (She had her first shot a few days after.)

Speaking of shots, I received both my Pfizer shots in March and became fully immune on April 1. I am old enough to have had vaccines for smallpox, polio (one shot and one sugar cube, if I am not mistaken), measles, mumps, shingles, pneumonia, tetanus, and influenza. If vaccines were dangerous, I’d have exploded years ago. Go for the jab, dear readers!

Reading

I only read two books this month. One was a 730-page biography of Sam Phillips by Peter Guralnick. It was overlong and repetitive, not nearly as good as the author’s Elvis and Sam Cooke bios. Still Phillips was quite a force in modern music as he was the first person to record Sly Stone, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Charlie Rich. He also recorded Bill Justis playing the song Raunchy which is a guitar instrumental. John Lennon was so impressed with 14-year-old George Harrison’s version of Raunchy (played on the upper deck of a bus in Liverpool) that he brought him into the Quarrymen. Phillips’s recording techniques were crude but innovative. The rest of his life involved radio stations and such and wasn’t very interesting.

The other book was The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks. It’s a series of case studies of neurological patients with truly strange behaviors. I read this when it came out 35 ears ago and loved it. This time around it didn’t hold my attention.

Stenosis Update

One would think that with all the digging and raking I’ve been doing that my back would be deteriorating by the day. Not so. My stenosis pain has been mostly in check. I do have to take stretching breaks during my digging/raking work but I have to say that I am rather shocked that I’ve made it this far without screaming pain in my back and legs. (The stretching I do is a simple runners stretch involving leaning against a wall and stretching my calves, hamstrings, and glutes. I think it also decompresses my discs.) I took the last day of the month off and went for a two-mile walk. After a quarter mile, my lower back started to ache a bit but the pain didn’t build and I managed to complete the walk without much difficulty.

Looking Ahead

May holds more of the same. Summer bike touring is on hold until I see how the pandemic plays out. Also, my daughter is moving to law school in early August so I need to be home to help with that. After that, maybe a week-long tour of sorts in August followed by a month-long tour this fall. (New Orleans seems like an interesting destination.)