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.

 

Not My Kind of Day

I feel like bitching and moaning.

  • I went to my physical therapy appointment today. For the better part of a month I’ve been rehabbing a nerve problem in my left shoulder and arm. I’ve now gone to nine appointments. I have nearly all my range of motion back but it still hurts when the arm and shoulder bear weight or move in certain ways. Thursday is my last appointment. I think it’s time to try acupuncture again. At least I got a big foam roller that makes my back feel great out of the deal.
  • Today is the first day of the 2018 Errandonnee contest. It was cold and rainy with the possibility of ice accumulation here in the DC area. I can’t risk falling while on blood thinners so I had to forgo riding to physical therapy and lunch which would have easily knocked off two of my twelve errands. We are getting a freak snow storm tomorrow so that knocks that day out as well. And Saturday is out because I am going to a march in DC with Mrs. RC. So I am down to nine days, at most, to complete my 12 errands. I rode Big Nellie in the basement just to keep sane.

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  • A few weeks ago I ordered a new rear wheel, hub, and chain for Little Nellie from the manufacturer, Bike Friday, in Oregon. I have been waiting weeks for this to get here. It took them a week to get around to building the wheel. Only then did they discover that they didn’t have the cassette I ordered in stock. So I had to wait for that to arrive at their shop. So it finally came today. Yay! When I opened the box and pulled out the wheel, I decided to mount a tube and tire to it and get the bike back on the road. Only then did I discover that Schrader tire valve wouldn’t fit through the hole in the wheel rim. This is a first for me in over 40 years of bike riding as an adult. They drilled the rim hole to accept narrower, presta valves which are not readily available on small (406) tubes. When I called them, they suggested I take it to a bike shop and have the hole drilled out. Really? Now I wish I had had the wheel made locally in the first place. Anyway, I told them to ship me three presta valved tubes instead. (They’ll work fine on my old front wheel which has a Schrader sized hole.)
  • My Cross Check and I are not getting along. When I got back from my bike tour on The Mule, the Cross Check didn’t feel right. I was sliding forward on my saddle. So I tilted the nose of the saddle up a couple of weeks ago. My mechanics instantly improved. Unfortunately, after a 51 mile ride, my back started to ache like mad. So I tilted it back and rode 23 miles. No back pain. Go figure. After that ride, I moved the saddle forward just a bit in the hopes of getting the better mechanics back. I’ll fiddle and diddle with it some more over the next couple of weeks. One annoying thing about this bike is that tilting the saddle is very hard to do, much harder on my Bike Friday or The Mule. I actually need a hammer to free up the metal cradle that the seat hardware sits in.
  • Some bike tourists from Arlington are riding north from Jacksonville this week. The plan is to ride all the way to DC. They are riding along the coast, generally following the East Coast Greenway. They report that riding US 17 is not a lot of fun, but they are making good progress. Unfortunately today is crummy weather in South Carolina.

The Mule Abides – Again

After ragging about the mechanical delays in getting The Mule back on the road, I thought it would be a good idea to take it for a ride and see if the darn thing works.

Yup.

I rode to Arlington by way of Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood. The weather was splendid. The Mule and I get along about as well as bike and rider possibly can. All the shifts were true. All the braking was bueno. (I had severely toed-in my brake pads. They were silent, but they were rather lame in the stopping department. Now I have stoppage.)

I even gave the granny gear a good work out by riding up South Walter Reed Drive, a steep hill that never, ever ends. I took a couple of big gulps of water before I started up the darned thing. Bad idea. Nearly saw that water again near the top. For the last 50 yards all I could think of was “Who’s idea was this?” It would have been wise to take a couple of hits of albuterol but clearly my brain function was not at optimal levels. Near the top I was hurting so bad that I didn’t even notice any pain in my ribs.

(Ribs update: the exterior bruise is gone but the area is still sore to the touch. At least I can roll over in bed without pain waking me up. I think I will begin doing my back and physical therapy exercises again tomorrow – oh, how I hate them. They are yoga-ish. Also, Monday I have a date with the weight machines at the gym.)

The rest of the ride felt a little off. I had moved the saddle forward just a touch because I noticed that I was riding on the nose of the saddle during my tour. I addition to stretching the leather on the saddle, I was compressing a nerve in my perimeum causing sharp stabbing pains after about 30 miles. This doesn’t float your boat when your riding 80 miles in a day, believe me.

Today I rode 32 miles and had no pains but now my lower right back isn’t happy. My working theory is that moving the saddle forward resulted in a slight up-tilt causing my back to bow a bit. So I adjusted the nose down one click on the saddle adjustment mechanism.

I did notice one thing that was off about the bike. The stem (the piece that connects the handlebars to the bike) is on crooked. I probably knocked it off line when The Mule and I took a tumble in La Belle, Florida. It’s pointing about 5-10 degrees left of center. This is easy to fix, except that I need to loosen the stem but and the stem bolt is rusty. Won’t budge. I sprayed it with some oil. Maybe it will free up.

Long story short, the bike is in pretty great shape. No additional work is needed. I might take Rando Mike up on his offer to install a generator hub/light system on The Mule. He’ll do the work. I pay for the parts. And buy the beer.

This could get expensive.