Rebound

After a day of riding 65 hilly miles, my legs felt like concrete. Yesterday I was walking around like Frankenstein. In a fit of sanity, I took the day off.

Today my legs felt much better. I decided to go for a spin but before I began I raised my saddle a smidgen. Small changes to saddle height and other bicycle settings can make an enormous difference in comfort. Just a couple of millimeters was all it took to calm my sore left knee. I had no pain at all during my 35-mile ride up to DC and back. The change also seemed to help my lower back.

About a mile from home, I pulled The Mule over to take a picture..

I am beginning to wonder whether The Mule will outlast me.

Heroes, Piedmont, and Walking Naked

For 13 days in a row I rode my bike. Sometimes long, sometimes short. Sometimes level, sometimes hilly. Sometimes flat, sometimes pumped up.

Yesterday I pulled another cue sheet from a ride in the Virginia Piedmont, the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I’d done this ride and portions of it before. I know it is hilly but it is also scenic so why not.

The area I rode in is just west and south of the ride I did a few days ago in Hunt country. In fact, there’s a three or four mile overlap. I started in the town of Marshall and rode south on curvy, hilly country roads to Waterloo. Then I turned on to Leeds Manor Road and headed north through Orlean, Hume, and over Naked Mountain.

I rode past Sky Meadows State Park and east on US 50 (can’t get away from the damned thing) to Upperville. The last 10 miles went through Rectortown (part of the Hunt ride) back to Marshall. 55 miles in all.

The ride started with a bike equipment tragedy. My Zefal XP frame pump slipped off the hood of my car in the parking lot in Marshall. After hitting the pavement it would no longer contract enough to fit to the frame of my bike. I think the tensioning spring must have broken. I’ve had this pump for over 20 years. It died a hero.

While I am on the subject of equipment, I want to mention the bicycle computer I recently bought for The Mule. It’s a Cateye Padrone. It meets my two primary requirements for a bike computer. First, it displays 6 digits, allowing me to keep up to 99,999.9 miles on it. (The Mule is currently over 57,000 miles.) Second, it allows me to enter my mileage in from my old odometer.

This would be great if the damned thing was the slightest bit accurate. I have looked down at my computer while rolling and seen 0 mph displayed. I’ve also seen it tick of miles while I am at a stop light. Finally, the Maximum speed function usually displays something above 60 mph. All that said, it’s distance function is accurate withing about 3 percent. It recorded yesterday’s distance at 53.6 when the cue sheet says 55.2. So I upped the diameter of the bike wheel in the computer buy three percent to compensate.

The best part about the ride was the fact that the countryside is totally verdant. Through the winter months I long for green and now I have it. Ahhh.

The low light of the ride was Naked Mountain. I did this beast once on Big Nellie. How I made it to the top I’ll never know. It’s steep and bumpy and lung busting. The last time I did it I had to stop a few times. Yesterday I stopped at the base of the mountain to have a snack and some water. Then I started the long grind. I made it about half way before my lungs were tapped out. After a short rest I started again. In a few hundred yards my lungs were gone. So were my calf muscles.

I walked the rest of the mountain. Even that hurt my legs. Other than last summer’s sufferfest, it’s the first time I’ve walked my bike up a hill in 30 years.

Thankfully, for every climb there is a descent. The Mule abides.

I didn’t take many pictures yesterday bit these will give you an idea of the landscape.

The Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance
The Mile stops to take in the view near Hume
Near Rectortown at the end of the ride.

I’ve done 462 miles in the last 13 days. There’s one thing I can’t understand: on a bike tour, carrying 40 pounds of gear, I do 462 miles in a week and I’m not tired. Must be the gas station food.

After five miles doing errands, I have put my bikes away and am taking the rest of today off.

Zzzzz.

Away and home

60 miles a day for days on end while carrying 40 pounds of gear. This is a normal day on tour. At home this would be torture.

I’ve ridden carrying no more than 5 pounds for 17 days in a row. Mostly on flat terrain. I am beat up and tired. I cannot figure it out. Partly, the fatigue has to do with riding Little Nellie. The small wheels on my Bike Friday beat my body up. It’s fun to ride because it’s twitchy and nimble but after a couple of weeks my back starts going into spasm.

I had intended to exploit today’s perfect weather here in DC by going on a monster bike ride. Last night I had a couple of minor back spasms. Then I went to sleep only to wake up with stomach cramps. This turned out to somehow be connected to my ingestion of sour dough bread last evening. I know this  because I had sour dough toast for breakfast and my stomach went nuts.

After lazing about for the entire morning, I set out on The Mule to see if my body would respond favorably. It did. I was riding about 10 percent faster. I could barely feel the tree root bumps in the trail. The weather was perfect. The only negative thought I had was whatever will I do when The Mule dies? It fits me so perfectly.

When I got home, I sat on my deck with a glass a merlot. I did the crossword puzzle while listening to a baseball game (Nats won 7-2 over the Cubs) on the radio I  received for my birthday. Bliss.

Tomorrow is another perfect weather day. Mrs. Rootchopper and I are joining a couple of friends for a morning hike on Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland. I get to try out one of my birthday presents, a new Osprey backpack. (I tossed my WalMart fall-apart backpack. I hated that thing.) Afterward, I shall retire to the deck for more radio baseball. (Our TV is out of commission as a result of the renovation to the man cave.)

Next week I have nothing planned and some awesome weather. I think I shall take The Mule out to the country for a long stroll.

No Name Tour: Day 49 – 8,000 Feet, 94 Miles, 40 MPH, and a Ton of Hemoglobin

Last night’s improvised lodging worked out great. Dan, Spencer, and I went our for burgers and beers then I hit the hay. I awoke at 1:30 and looked out the window. Not a cloud in the sky just so many stars that Carl Sagan would be pleased.

The early morning view of the lake was nearly as amazing.

The lodge unexpectedly provided motel breakfast. The lodge owner told me to expect a few more climbs before the road tips toward California’s Central Valley.

He was right, of course. The first hill was rudely a mile into the ride. How dare they?

A few miles later was a 1,000 foot climb back up to 7,900 feet. Sleeping at 8,000 feet seemed to help me get over this hump. There was a third climb of a few hundred feet after they then The Mule could take off.

I stopped a few times to admire the view.

At Hams Station I considered eating second breakfast. The restaurant has both open and closed signs displayed. If they couldn’t decide I wasn’t going to give them my business. I rode past Cooks Station a few miles later but by then I was looking to break 60 miles by noon, so no dice.

After about ten miles of descending the route at 25 to 40 mph, I turned off the main highway. No more rumble strips. No more direct sunlight. The narrow, two-lane, shaded country road now had patches and small potholes all over the place. The shade made it hard to tell where they were. I had to slow my roll down into the teens. So not fair!

Every so often I’d get rambunctious and let The Mule loose… until I hit a rough section. My back took the worst of the bumps.

At Omo Ranch I started seeing farms. Soon thereafter I saw miles and miles of vineyards, each with a tasting room. I didn’t give into temptation.

At Ono Ranch an elevation sign said I was at 3,612 feet. This was the first time since Kansas that I’d been below 4,000 feet.

In Mt Aukum I stopped for lunch at noon at a cafe. It was just shy of 50 miles for the day. Still not a bad morning’s work.

Back on the bike I was passed through a few gigantic vineyards then found myself passing fields of tall, golden grass. The occasional field had some cattle in it but they wanted nothing to do with entertaining me. Instead they looked up, momentarily stopped chewing, then returned to their mastication.

I stopped again at tony Rancho Murieta where I saw a text from my Warmshowers hosts. It suggested a route to their house that completely bypassed Folsom to the north, saving me at least 15 miles.

They were leaving the house at four do I decided to see if I could get there before they left. It was then that I realized that i was now about 60 feet above sea level and my legs seemed supercharged. Hemoglobin is a wonderful thing.

I arrived at Fay and Robs place just as they were leaving. They left me food, beer, and a swimming pool. So far I’ve taken what was behind door number 1.

Tomorrow will be my approach to San Francisco. I plan on riding through Sacramento, Davis, Vacaville, and Fairfield. If my legs will agree I’ll ride all the way to Vallejo, the point of departure for the ferry to the City. Then, on Friday morning I’ll set sail for the Ferry Terminal and a reunion with my bikeDC friends Jessie and Mike.

Today’s miles: 94.5

Tour miles: 2,875.3

Top speed: 40.1 mph

The No Name Tour: Get Me Out of Here

The last few days have been a scramble to get important stuff done before I leave for the tour. Today involved trips to the post office and putting together all the stuff for the tour. This took way too long. I had hoped to get to the Book, Jacket, and Journal Show in DC that my friend Katie Lee told me about but I ran out of time. Check it out if you are in town over the next ten days.

After about 90 minutes of work, The Mule is ready for a bike tour. Me not so much. But the time has come.

Mule at home

You will note that this bike weighs a ton. Some of the load is consumable. Maps. Soap. Chain cleaner. Lube. A book (Devil in the White City). I switched from a Kryptonite U-lock to a much lighter Ottolock to save weight. But I added two water bladders and a water filter so the bike weighs about as much as it did at the start of last year’s tour.

The bike feels much heavier though. I think I need to work on weight distribution. Everything in the so-called water proof panniers is in a plastic bag. That’s because the panniers have proven not to be water proof. Live and learn.

The engine is a bit heavier than last year. I attribute this to beer consumption. This year I consumed; last year I did not. After a few hundred miles and some temperance, I should be complaining about my pants being too loose.

Last year my body was in decent shape except for a sore left shoulder and arm. After a cortisone shot, that problem seems to be mostly gone. My left knee is very wonky though. I am seriously worried about it. The hills of Missouri should be a tough test.

Weather looks nasty. Missouri and Kansas seem to be having nonstop rain and thunderstorms. Let’s hope tornados are not in the mix.

I have the tour route roughed out. The starting point is still up in the air. Presumably I’ll start on Thursday from my in-laws house near North Judson, Indiana. If so, I’ll ride 60 miles to Kankakee, Illinois. On Day 2 I will connect with Bicycle Route 66 about 20 miles away. There is some discussion of driving me to Chicago where Route 66 begins. My first day will then likely be a confusing 65-mile ride to Joliet, Illinois. (If this is anything like riding out of Miami, I will be cussing for 6 or 7 hours.)

We shall see.

Oh, I don’t yet have a name for this tour, so I’m calling it the No Name Tour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April in my rear view mirror

After a week of mourning and activism, I need to move ahead. Dealing with the sudden death of a friend is always very hard. Seeing the incredible outpouring of love for Dave in the local community (and beyond) has been amazing.

I pulled up a bunch of old Flickr pictures to share with friends on Facebook. I had said in my last blog post that I’d known Dave for five years. The pictures say that it’s more like ten. I had forgotten how many rides we did together.

He may be gone but like Tom Joad he’ll still be here.

A fellow ain’t got a soul of his own, just little piece of a big soul, the one big soul that belongs to everybody.”

But unlike Tom Joad, Dave had an enormous soul. And his passing leaves a our one big soul broken.

When I heard the news, I didn’t even want to look at a bike, much less ride it thousands of miles. That feeling faded with dozens of tearful hugs from friends over the last week.

My Errandonnee activity came to a screeching halt however. It just didn’t seem right to continue. Most of my rides in the last week were to and from DC to visit the site of the crash twice, go to a happy hour with mutual friends, and attend a rally at the District Building (city hall) to call for the city to up its game to keep vulnerable road users safe.

Near the end of the month my Cross Check’s odometer hit 12,000 miles. I put it away and switched to The Mule for the rest of the month.

Ironically, on my first ride to the crash site, I found out that the brakes on The Mule were nearly useless. When I got home I tried to put new brake pads on the bike but the hardware on the 28-year old brake mechanism was so rusted that I couldn’t get one of the old pads free of the caliper. Fed up, I took the bike to my local bike shop where they swapped out the old cantilever brakes for new mini v-brakes. Afterwards I could skid my back wheel. A vast improvement.

The planning for my tour continues to march ahead. The expected start date is now May 16. Launch will occur from the small town of North Judson, Indiana instead of Chicago. This is because Mrs. Rootchopper will be driving me there in her new car. Her 15-year-old car was burning oil like a bad diner cook. Speaking of diners, North Judson has an awesome one that I will hit up before departure. During Lent, they make killer paczkis, which Dave, who lived in Chicago and its environs before moving to DC, would have appreciated.

I have built a decent mileage base, riding 868 miles in April. So far this year I have clocked 2.609 miles, mostly in 30-mile days.  That, and riding 1,300 miles from Indiana to Colorado, should put my legs, not to mention engine weight, in good stead for the climbing during the middle of the trip.

My long ride of the month was a 64-mile jaunt to Bethesda and Potomac, Maryland. A few days ago I did a hilly 39 miler. I also rode to six or seven baseball games at Nationals Park. The rides were better than most of the games. Blame the bullpen.

Last night on the way home from the last game of April, I spooked a yearling in the dark along the Mount Vernon Trail. It bounded along the trail ahead of me for a few hundred yards, its white tail dancing in the white circle of my headlight.

On to May….

 

 

 

 

Any Road Tour: Day 3 – Critters and Mud

After a perfectly inadequate Motel 6 free breakfast (worth every penny) I rolled to a gas station to buy some snacks and backup water for today’s trek. The goal was Hancock to Cumberland, the western end of the C&O Canal.

The first 12 miles were on the Western Maryland Rail Trail. Clipping along at 12 miles per hour in the cool of the Mountain morning. Wheee!

I saw deer and bunnies in abundance. Then I was startled to see a possum run across the trail in front of me. She had a baby possum on her back. Cool!

I came to a construction zone. They are extending the rail trail. I can’t wait to ride it. I cut over yo the towpath. The towpath is bumpy going on a good day but intermittent patches of mud made the next 48 miles really difficult. For the most part the mud was not deep enough to grab my front wheel. I think having loaded front panniers down low helped stabilize the bike.

Deer and bunnies and squirrels and turtles and bull frogs and snakes (including a long light brown one) and exotic sounding invisible creatures made for entertaining companions. I came upon a family of geese with several pre-fledging goslings. One of the adults rushed strait at me with its mouth open, flapping its wings. Okay, okay. Just passing through, dude. Chill already.

I stopped at Fifteen Mike campground and talked to a camper as bugs swarmed around us. He was quite a chatterbox. 70 years old but he looked far fitter than me. He advised me that mud was in my future.

He told me how to find Bill’s Place, a canal landmark that I’ve never seen before. Unfortunately it was closed so I’ll just have to ride back to check it out someday.

I talked with a group of seniors who were being dropped off to ride the canal. 0ne was on an e-bike. I paid it forward by giving them info on the towpath section I had just ridden.

I took a bio break. You can tell you are near DC when you find a book about French history in a porta potty.

As I approached the Paw Paw tunnel the mud became a quagmire. I was lucky that the edge of the towpath was covered in a carpet of leaves, perfect for walking my bike through the muck.

The tunnel has a very rough trail surface. I walked it and was glad I did. It seemed to take hours with my claustrophobia increasing with each step.

I think the prettiest section of the canal is west of the tunnel.

They told me of a cafeteria in a closed school in a place called Oldtown. I stopped there for lunch before slogging on through more and more mud.

Miles and miles of the stuff was wearing my old ass out. Each time I hit a muddy spot I’d tense up and my back would ache as it tried to keep the rubber side down. I considered taking a nearby road just to get out of the stuff. I was stopping every ten minutes to clear mud from under my fenders.

I arrived in Cumberland and a passerby took my picture.

I really should pull my pants up higher for the full geezer in a bike look, don’t you think?

I went into a bike shop to buy a Fiber Fix spoke, a gizmo that will allow me to replace a broke spike without tools. They were out of stock. They advised me not to break a spoke. Yeah well…

I used there hose to spray all the mud off The Mule. Afterward I ran into a couple who were doing a big loop bike tour: Albany to Erie to Cumberland to DC to Albany. John and Sara (I think. My fusiform gurus is on the blink again) and I talked for a good twenty minutes as we snarfed down goodies at a sandwich shop,

They headed off down the canal to find a camping spot. Happy mudding, y’all!

I tried to get a bed or room in a Cumberland hostel. It they were booked. The YMCA in town puts people up for cheap but it was apparently under siege by derelicts. I checked the Ramada but they wanted $110 and that’s not in my budget. So I headed 16 miles up the gravel GAP trail to Frostburg where I got a bed in a bunkhouse.

I’m the only one here so it’s not bad at all. I have a bed, shower, TV, and laundry.

All the muck and the gravelly uphill really wore me out. I was on the trails for 12 hours.

Bottom line: 79 miles (Tour total 206). I’m 16 miles further along than I planned. Tomorrow I ride 5 or so miles to go over the Eastern Continental Divide then downhill for the rest of the day. Zoom!

Any Road Tour: Last Days of Prep

Here’s what I did to get ready to hit the road:

  • Friday – Volunteered for Bike to Work Day in the rain
  • Saturday – Road to and from and during DC Bike Ride in the rain (45 miles). Watched 2 baseball games
  • Sunday – Road to Vienna VA to return Bike to Work Day materials (47 miles). Watched baseball game. Went to concert (Brandi Carlile) at The Anthem in DC.
  • Pulled together everything I’m bring on the tour. Put it in panniers and rode The Mule 1 mile to see if I distributed the weight properly. Mowed the lawn that had made use of a week of rain. Watched my last baseball game at home. (I’d love to go to the ballpark but there’s just no way.)

 

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It weighs a ton. (I am bringing a second water bottle by the way.)

I also kept track of the problems with the C & O Canal towpath. Sort summary: mucho mas. Came up with a workaround to get me beyond the damage and the quagmire. Printed out some routing information that I will need. Did some last minute banking. Obsessively checked the weather forecast for tomorrow. (Rain. Thunderstorms. Typical DC area summer weather.)

So there you have it. Time to put up or shut up. Tomorrow I roll.

 

It’s Hard to Like April

Mostly, April 2018 will fade from memory, because nobody wants to think about cold, wet, windy weather. April did have a few high points. For a start, my pulmonlogist was pleased with my recovery and backed off the prospect of leaving me on blood thinners for years or maybe even forever. She also lowered the dosage of my asthma medicine. And hopes to further lower it when I get back from my bike tour.

My bike tour planning is going along very well. I received several bike maps from the Adventure Cycling Association a few weeks ago. This allowed me to plan my trip as far as Missoula, Montana. There are numerous options for the rest of the trip to the coast. The southern route goes through central Oregon and follows the Adventure Cycling Transamerica Route. The middle route follows their Lewis and Clark route down the Columbia River gorge, through Portland, and on to the coast. Both these routes are encumbered 50 miles on road construction through the Lochsa River valley. In this corner, Felkerino, who is a man of many miles, advises that this road is awesome and contains a continuous downhill stretch of over 90 miles. In the opposite corner is Andrea, a woman of many miles too who rode the Northern Tier from Seattle east. She (and some commenters on this blog) both say the Cascades are awesome.

Two more maps arrived today from Adventure Cycling. One is for the missing segment from Missoula to the western edge of Oregon on the Lewis and Clark. The other is the segment of the Northern Tier that goes through the Cascades. To get to the start of that route, I’d need to ride a truck route along the Flathead River. I’ll plan both routes out and wait until I get out west before finalizing the way to the coast.

Getting back to my health, I did an acupuncture treatment last week that has done my left arm and shoulder a world of good. Yesterday I rode a 52-mile event ride called Breaking the Cycle. It was cold. The first 28 miles were uphill into a headwind. I rode The Mule as a test ride for the tour. It did fine except for some chain skipping on the cassette (which I had tended to today). At Friday Coffee Club last week, I bought a Brooks Flyer saddle from Felkerino. I mounted it too flat and spent much of the ride sliding my butt back to the rear of the saddle. This caused pain in my bad shoulder. Today I tipped the nose of the saddle up just a bit and my shoulder is happy again. So happy in fact that today’s visit to the gym involved two machines that I have avoided for over a month. So I cancelled tomorrow’s physical therapy session in a fit of optimism.

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The Mule at the Turn Around Point

A word of warning about acupuncture, if you don’t want to look like a junkie, you might want to avoid acupuncture if you are on blood thinners.

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The Golden Arm

Near the end of April, the sun came out. The trees and grass did their thing and we got to enjoy a shit ton of pollen. This is my car today.

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There was one excellent thing that happened in April, I went to three baseball games! On my bike, of course. I missed catching a home run at the first game. The Nats lost. At the second game I nearly killed my buddy Kevin with a nacho bomb. The Nats lost.

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At the third game, I avoided batted balls and gut bombs but the Nats still lost. I sense a disturbing pattern.

Despite its crummy weather, April did give me my biggest mileage month of the year. I rode 27 out of 30 days for a total of 789 miles during the month. For the year, I’ve ridden 2,743 miles. That’s a pretty decent foundation for what lies ahead.