Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Scouting the 300K route with Stoney.

I had spent the early morning hours working on the cue sheet for the 300 kilometer route that we'll ride next year on June 18. While working, I had noticed that a couple of the road names near Williams Hill were different on the computer mapping program than I remembered them. Crista Borras and Geoff Swartz are both eagle-eyed on this kind of thing and I decided I'd better check the signs in person to make sure of the names before I submitted the cue sheet for certification. Time to head out on the road.

This is Stoney, one of my dogs. Usually I would have used my bicycle for this adventure, the round trip is only about 80 miles, but it's been a long while since I had any face time with Stoney. About a year ago, we rescued a female Jack Russell that we named Rinti, and because she is small, Rinti became the default dog for traveling. In fact, Rinti became the default dog for just about everything, and Stoney started feeling like a red-headed step child. Today it's just me and the big boy.

Speaking of "default". This was his default position for the first part of the trip. I had to continually make him sit up and look out the window. My wife's car has a manual transmission, and it was too hard to shift with his big head in the way.

I finally rolled down his window. That changed his attitude about everything! Now he could sniff all the country smells as we traveled. And there were country smells - we rolled past a pig farm and we both had to hold our noses. Phew!

Sure enough, I was right (was there really any doubt?). The computer mapping system was incorrect. I'll be including these pictures as an attachment when I submit the routes for certification. That will save one email step later on.

This is the turn-around at the end of Williams Hill. As you can see there is a pump which brings spring water to the surface. This was put here by the homeowner who lives nearby, and it is open year round to hikers, cyclists, and whomever wants spring water. All that they ask is that you leave it as you found it. Remember, I said "turn-around". The cyclists who have just climbed and descended Williams Hill will now "rinse and repeat". This route will be challenging, even to those mountain goats who love climbing.

The work is all done, so Stoney and I decided to drive to the top and go for a walk. A fall day is a good day to be in the woods.

There seems to be plenty of stuff to sniff around here. However, despite the peaceful surroundings, I had to keep forcing myself to slow down and enjoy it. My mind wanted to get home and finish the cue sheet I'd been working on. We walked for about an hour and I was never really was able to just be "in the moment". My mind was racing on to other things. I have to work on that.

Stoney had no problem being "in the moment" and just enjoying the woods. When I took this picture, I was hoping that I wouldn't need it for a "Lost Dog" poster later today. I had a 20 foot lead with me, and although he is obedience-trained for off-lead work, I was still nervous about taking this picture without his leash attached to his collar. (Stoney and I finished obedience training when he was about 2. He graduated "top dog" in his class. When we entered the class, I told my wife that "top dog" was our goal, and she had laughed out loud. The class was mostly made up of pedigreed dogs and pedigreed owners. Stoney and I are neither. But we had the last laugh!)

Time to go home. It's been a fun morning for both Stonemans. Actually, Stoney was a Stoneman before I was. While I was still a Wiseman and waiting for the right time to change my name, we rescued him and named him Stoneman. Then in 2006, we both became Stoneman. While I have much in common with Rinti's personality, Stoney and I will always share the same name.

This is the other Stoneman in the car today. I asked Stoney to take a picture of me while I was driving. He did pretty good considering that he has no thumbs.

Whenever you're in Southern Illinois, always watch out for the cowboys. I would never live in the big city. There is too much traffic, too much noise, too many people, not enough trees and no cowboys. Today has been successful and productive. And it's been fun.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Today's blog is brought to you by the letter "R" and the number "12".

Today's ride will be the final adventure in the R-12 blog. I decided to ride the original route, that I created last year so that I could obtain the R-12 award.

It's a little cold out this morning, but I decided to save the heavy cold weather gear for later in the winter. I went with a poly-pro base layer and a long sleeve jersey covered with a wind jacket. I have bib shorts with leg warmers and decided to skip the mid-weight neoprene shoe covers and use the lycra blend stretch covers. It should warm up by mid-afternoon, and I don't want to be over dressed.

Although the picture is blurry (I must have been shivering when I took it!), you can see that it's below freezing. I don't think I overdressed. In fact, I'm going to have to move to plan "B", which is ride as fast as seems reasonable to stay warm, without overdoing it and breaking into a real sweat (which would NOT be warm). My feet were cold at the start but now are feeling better. I hope that doesn't mean that they are numb. I guess we'll see.

This is the first control. As you can see, it's closed. I've used this route on several occasions this last year, and I've always found it open early. A quick check on the door reveals all - winter hours. They won't open for another hour. I can't wait for that, the control will be closed by then. I'll sign my own card and move on.

In Carbondale for the next control - it's open. Yea. After I left the Grassy Store, I experienced an unusual psychological phenomenon. It seemed that the dark was darker, and the cold was colder, and the lonely was lonelier. And a voice in my head said, "This is stupid. Let's go home." However, I knew from experience that the voices in my head are seldom right (like the ones that tell me to walk around my neighbor's yard naked making cat sounds). Ignoring all the voices in my head is usually a good idea. (Of course, one of those voices is my conscience, I'll have to figure out which one that is and NOT ignore it.)

Here comes the sun! Finally. Maybe now my beard and my water bottles will thaw.

All three of these pictures show why I ride. It isn't about awards or approval from others. It isn't about bragging (or in my case whining). It's about being out here. While there are seasons in the great out doors, there isn't time. It's always now. I like that.

I don't know how many times I've stopped at Payne's Service Center to have my brevet card signed. In fact, today they were training a new cashier, and when I handed her my card, the girl doing the training explained what the card was for much better than I could have. Cool.

My strongest memory of this place is the stop I made here in June during the 600 kilometer event. I had flatted in the dark just 30 mins after the start. Everyone rode off, leaving me alone, and I hurried to change the tube so that I could catch up. (I had started in the back with the RBA and others. Now I was the last man on the ride.)

Although I carefully checked the tire for the offending glass or thorn, I found nothing. However, after an hour or so I began losing air. Because I was in a hurry, and because it had taken an hour, I just stopped - pumped it up - and kept going. Unfortunately, I would do that all day. I did stop once after catching up and took the tire off to recheck it, but found nothing. (Of course I was now alone again.)

Finally, when I got to this stop, it was late afternoon and there were three other riders here. Two were getting into the broom wagon (it was brutally hot that day), and one offered to check my tire before he rode away. Fortunately for me, he found a small stone embedded in the outside of the tire, picked it out and went on his way. I re-tubed, pumped and started the chase all over again. But this time, I didn't have to stop again.

What could have easily been a DNF for me, became the final ride in the full SR series. Yea.

I think about this every time I'm here. Thanks, Dennis, for finding that stone.

Home again. As the rednecks say "got 'er done"! This has been a long year full of learning. The one thing that I became most aware of was how little I know. I have lots more learning to do.

I'd like to thank the one person who made this all possible. Ed Robinson. Ed was the Permanents Coordinator when I applied for my first route last year. There were no routes in my area, and I needed something I could ride for credit.

When I contacted him by email, his response was "Who are you?" He went on to say that he had checked the data base and noted that "you have no results". I sent him a brief summary of my bicycling adventures up to that time, just to convince him that I could ride long distance.

He was willing to work with me to create a route for certification, but he insisted on a control every time the route changed direction. (There are so many controls on this route that you can often save time by walking your bike to the next control. It saves the time lost in all the mounting and dismounting!)

I was aware that he didn't know me from Adam's younger brother, so I didn't take offense.

This last year, I've completed the R-12, the SR series and been privileged to start serving our members as the newest RBA in a new region.

I just want to say thank you, Ed. And, Oh, I got results now.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Log Cabin Permanent

Mike McKee has driven his "grandfather's Olds" to my house; he and I are going to ride the Log Cabin Permanent today. It is a brand new permanent route. This will be the first time the route has been used. Mike has chosen to ride his fixie today with a 48X18. There isn't a lot of climbing, maybe 1500 feet total, but I think he'll feel every pedal stroke by the end of the day. We'll see.

At the start, Mike is getting ready. Just finding a place for his stuff will be a challenge. The track bike he rides has no braze ons - no bottle holders, no good bags. He normally rides on the boards of a velodrome. Riding his track bike will be a real test of his leg speed, pedal stroke and his ability to cram all of the stuff necessary to a 126 mile ride into his back pockets. (Today, Mike will circle back 7 times to pick up something that fell out!)

Mike won't let me take a close up picture of him, he is wearing a mustache today. He felt that since I wear facial hair, he might look a little more manly with a skinny Mexican-looking mustache. (Lets just say that later today we will be chased by a dog. And the dog will not notice his mustache, but will only see his shaved legs and assume that Mike is a chick and go for him. With my hairy legs and heavy beard, the dog knew better than to take on a real man. Chalk up one for manliness.)

It appears that this road is also used for the stagecoach. Or more likely it's an area where there are Amish people. In fact, just a few more miles down the road is a sales lot, where you can pick out your buggy, if that kind of thing interests you.

After turning on Log Cabin road, we spotted a car on the side of the road with a young woman standing near it, talking on a cell phone, and looking frustrated. Mike needed one more good deed to get his "Good Deed Merit Badge" from the YMCA (Young Men's Christian Arrows) club. The tire you see has lost it's tread. Only the belt is left. It will have to be changed.

Since we're on a timed ride, and the clock never stops, I decided to help him get finished. We removed the old tire, replaced it with the new one, and Mike had the lady sign his YMCA handbook on the appropriate page (so he could get his merit badge) in under 15 minutes. Gotta keep moving on a brevet or permanent.

Some guy that Mike knew came up to us and said, "I see you guys ride, too. You have a nice bicycle." Did you notice the singular "bicycle"? There were TWO bicycles in front of him, and he wasn't looking at mine. Then he glanced at mine and added, "You both have nice equipment." We were wearing cycling shorts, so I began to worry that he was no longer talking about bicycles. I was glad to roll out.

Self portrait. We were both so tired when we returned, I forgot to have Mike take my picture. So I took it myself. You can never have too many pictures of yourself. Next year I'm giving a calender to all my friends, and I'll be the picture for all twelve months. This might be my June picture. We'll see.

I normally don't have a picture made of myself without a hat or helmet on my head. You may not have noticed before but I'm bald on top. It makes me feel bad. I often find myself resenting guys with hair. Well, there's nothing I can do about it. But I did ride today with Mike. And he's only 32. While not divulging my age, I'll say that I'm old enough to be his father without having to have met him mom while I was still in high school.

Only one more month, and the R-12 award is mine. YES! Then after that - I can take over the world!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Grand Tower Permanent

It's time for September's ride. After today, assuming I make it, there will only be TWO rides left for the R-12 Award! Yea! It's 5:00 and time to go. The temperature will be in the upper 80's (pretty nice, I'd say) and the wind will be out of the South at 12 - 15 mph with gusts to 18. I'm starting early, so by the time the wind picks up, I'll be headed west then north and it will be OK. The only time I'll have to fight the wind will be coming back from the Zeigler control, but that will only be about 20 miles. Not too bad, I would say.

I always like the first light of morning. I think I'll save this picture for the cover of my first record album.

The view from S. Wolf Creek is breathtaking. Say what you want about Pennsylvania, Oregon, or Detroit (Detroit?), but they got nothing on us.

Shadow rider is feeling frisky today. He's always out in front of me when we start. I'm not going to panic, I know that I'll catch him by lunch time, I always do, and he'll be bringing up the rear when we head for the house later this afternoon, as usual.

Andrew Jackson was the first American President to begin removing Native Americans from their homelands in the south and relocating them in "Indian Country" in the West. By 1837, approximately 46,000 Native Americans had been relocated to make room for Non-native Americans to settle in the Southern States. Many DNF'd on the trip.

Farm land in the river bottoms near the Mississippi river is rich and productive.

The Big Muddy River isn't at flood stage, but it's full.

Someday, I have to learn to pose for a picture without looking like I've posed for the picture. Oh well. That's the mighty Mississippi behind me.

Grand Tower Rock. Lewis and Clark stayed here in 1803.

An American family farm. I thought I might as well get a picture of one now. Soon they'll all belong to Monsanto.

All these people spent their Labor Day in their vehicles going someplace they hoped would be fun. I had fun all day on my Labor Day going someplace and getting back on my bicycle.

Finally back at the start/stop control. Huck's Food Store in Marion. Notice that the top half of my safety flag is missing? It must have blown off in the wind after the Zeigler control. You would think that Shadow Rider would have let me know - he WAS behind me coming home, as usual. I'll have to buy another one now; and glue it together this time.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

200 Kilometers - not how they drew it up on the board.

I'm the first one here, so I'll take my own picture. I've been looking forward to this brevet since June when I last rode with John our RBA. Since then, I've been given the opportunity to be the Regional Brevet Administrator (RBA) of a new region that has been created in Southern Illinois.

I want to spend the day talking it over with John, getting his perspective. And I'm really tired of riding alone. Except for one day with Mike, my friend from Sesser, it's been all alone riding. It will be nice to have company today.

All the riders are here (there's only 6 counting me) so we'll soon be on the road. The forecast is for hot humid weather with a 50% chance of thunderstorms. It's been raining all morning, I hope it quits and the day is fair. We'll see.

Look who showed up uninvited. And only 3 miles from the start. Everyone was riding along mostly together when John announced he had flatted his front tire. I stopped to help him while the other riders kept going. John spent a few minutes wrestling a too-tight tire off of the rim, and when he put in the spare tube, he discovered that it was too large. His wheels are 650C and the tube he brought was 700C. I offered him my patch kit, but he decided to abandon and go home.

"Great," I thought, "now I'll have to ride alone all day if I can't catch the others." And I was at least 10 or 15 minutes behind.

I rolled out with the intent of keeping a quick pace and trying to catch back up. Then 500 yards from leaving John I flatted! It was my rear tire. And it is the same brand as John's and just as tight. I wrestled it off, changed the tube, and wrestled it back on as quickly as I could. Looking at my watch, I figured that I was at least 30 - 35 minutes behind the others. Maybe if I hurried, and they stopped at Pocohontas I could still catch them.

I rolled out singing to myself to keep the pace high..."2, 3, 4, 5, John Jacob Jingle-Heimer-Schmitt. That's my name, too. 3, 4, 5 Whenever I go out, the people always shout "Hey! John Jacob Jingle-Heimer-Schmitt!" Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la John Jacob Jingle...

Daylight and no sign of them. John Jacob Jingle-Heimer-Schmitt that's my name, too. 3, 4, 5...

Pocohontas, and still no one. I was thinking of going in and asking if they had stopped and how long ago it might have been, but I decided to keep trying to catch them. Whenever I go out, the people always shout, "Hey, John Jacob Jingle-Heimer-Schmitt!" Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la...

Finally, a rider. This is Brandon. He's doing the 300K today so I won't be seeing him again.

Brandon says that John and Tom are probably 30 minutes out but that George is only 10 or 15 minutes ahead. Maybe if I refill quickly and if George takes a long stop at Okawville, and if I can go a little faster, I'll still ride with someone today! Nothing to do but try. "Hey, John Jacob Jingle-Heimer-Schmitt!" Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la John Jacob Jingle...

C-130 rolling down the strip.
Recon daddy gonna take a little trip.
Stand up, buckle up, shuffle to the door.
Jump right out and count to four.

When I was in the Marines, we often ran in formation, singing to keep up the pace. This cargo plane from Scott Air Force Base reminded me of that. I don't remember singing John Jacob-Jingle-Heimer-Schmitt, though. 2, 3, 4, 5 ...

Well there's Tom and John coming back from the turn-around spot. I'm still 30 minutes from there, so they have an hour on me. Bye, guys! Nice riding with you today.

Oh, George didn't take a long enough stop at Okawville. I'm still 2 miles from the control! As he rolled by he shouted, "See you around, sometime!" I assumed he wasn't going to soft pedal and wait for me. See you, George. Nice riding with you today.

You can't see the flag in front of this house, but there is one. And it's pointing AT me. That's right, the wind has shifted. It was blowing out of the South West all the way to the turn-around, and instead of helping me home, it shifted to the North West. Nothing like a head-wind all day to check your attitude. And trying to catch up has left me spent. Oh well...whenever I go out, the people always shout...

First one here, last one back it seems. After flatting early, riding alone all day against the wind, this is the one thing that discourages me the most. Brevet riding, more so than riding charity rides or, to some extent, even competitive cycling, requires self-discipline, self-motivation, self-encouragement and self-sufficiency. But it shouldn't require self-congratulations. You shouldn't have to look in the side-view mirror of your car and say "Good job!" There should be someone at the finish to hear your stories and say "Good job, Miles!" We have to purchase our own medals if we want one. We have to send our blogs to everyone on our contact list, hoping for a little encouragement. We have to offer leading phrases the next work day (like: boy my legs are a little sore after Saturday...) hoping a co-worker will ask and we'll get a chance to tell our story.

There should be someone here!

John Jacob Jingle-Heimer-Schmitt. That's my name too...