Friday, January 15, 2010


R-12 Award

Today I'm going to do a second ride on my permanent route. I recently began thinking...what if the pictures I post on the world wide web should contain visual information which caused me to be disqualified on a particular ride? For instance, the rules state that one tail light should always be in the steady mode during low light conditions. What if a picture showed NO tail light. A viewer would be able to deduce that my steady light was out, or was on the flashing mode. Either way, a violation. Now what if it was discovered AFTER the month was past? I'd be out of luck! I'd have to start over.

You may say, "Miles, the odds of that happening are awfully small!" Sure, so are the odds of winning the lottery, but it's done every few weeks. So in keeping with the self-sufficiency ethos of randonneuring (carrying duplicate items of the important stuff), I decided that doing two rides each month would help protect me in case I was disqualified from a ride for any reason. Redundancy is our friend.
The Boy Scout is The Boy Scout ‘cause he’s always prepared.
He carries extra water, he carries extra food,he carries extra money, he carries extra air.
His bike must weigh about a ton and a half, but The Boy Scout just doesn’t care.
‘Cause who knows what kinds of things might occur when riding from here to there?
He carries doo dads and tools and spare parts and things,most of which he never uses.
But he supposes that someday he might need them at last on those epic 1200K cruises.
He reasons, “Now, what if I broke down two hundred and twelve miles from home;
And the difference between walking and riding that day was an unbreakable black plastic comb?”
From The Bike Club by Miles Stoneman

If you've ever wondered what I carry on the bike it's: (clockwise) two spare tubes, a spare shift cable, white athletic tape, black electrical tape, a patch kit, a glueless patch kit, a large patch for a tire, a small tool with pliars and a knife, a fiber-fix emergency spoke with a magnifying glass, a multi-tool, a set of keys to get back in the house, a bandanna, a spare light, a pump, three CO2 cartridges with the delivery holder, (in the patch kit is a Schraeder/Presta adaptor),two tail lights, two headlights, tire levers, a spare container of Hammer Seat Saver for reapplication on long rides, a spoke wrench, two Clif bars for emergencies, and a tyvek envelope to wear under my jersey. I hope I haven't forgotten anything for today's ride.

Food for the day. Two bottles of water with one scoop of HEED in each for 100 calories each. Extra HEED for refills (notice the orange color of one of the refill bottles. I once put Gatorade in it. If it discolored the plastic, think what it does to your insides. Hammer has NO artificial colors or flavors!) Although I don't use Endurolytes in the winter, I figured I better carry them, last time Mike forgot his and was only able to ride 2 miles ahead of me all day as a result. Then there are 4 flasks of Perpetuem. Each has 202 calories for 1 1/2 hours nutrition. There are two small flasks of Hammer Gel as a supplemental, and of course some United States currency for the trip.
Information on all the Hammer products can be found at . You can purchase it in Marion at Nature's Answer Health Food Store where River To River Cycling Club members can get 10% off.
The Huck's convenient store on Route 13 in Marion is the new starting spot. Although I enjoyed seeing Marion's finest at the old start/stop location, they didn't have potties for the public. It occurred to me that out of town riders might need to go before they go (if you know what I mean). Besides, I have been instructed to obtain a register receipt at each location to show proof of passage, and the Police station, while heavy on hand cuffs, tear gas, and riot sticks, was a little short of cheese crackers, water or chewing gum. This will work better.
This is going to be a great day to ride 126 miles. Starting out at a mild 31 degrees with the high predicted to be in the lower 40's is a good omen. In fact, I rode out with only a long sleeve jersey and jacket on the upper and shorts and leg warmers on the lower. No need for a base layer today.
The sun is finally beginning to come up on Grassy Road. Because I drive a truck, beginning at 3:00 a.m., I don't mind riding in the dark. I'm always careful to watch out for drunks, dogs, and deer. Rednecks and Government agents are also possible threats. This morning, a dark pick-up truck rolled up next to me and matched speed. I eased my hands off of the hoods to the brake levers to make a panic stop if they pulled a gun. Noticing that it was a government vehicle made me more anxious. As the darkened passenger window slid down electronically I held my breath and began planning my move. Then I saw the smiling face of a riding buddy. Kevin works for the EPA saving our planet almost single handedly. We chatted for a few yards then as he pulled away, he assured me with all sincerity, "You know if I didn't have to work today, I'd be riding with you!" "Sure, I replied." It was enough to know that he would protect our environment today.
Grassy General Store is a man's place. The parking lot outside is full of pick-up trucks, and all the customers wear Carhartt clothing and camouflage. As for the interior decoration: a shelf full of dead animals just screams manly.
The car wash at Huck's in Carbondale was doing a booming business. I thought about taking my bike through, but didn't want to spend $7.00. Note to those in charge of Obama Motor Company: If the vehicles you plan to build for consumers in Southern Illinois do not look like these, you may not turn a profit this year either. Not many Euro-boxes are seen around here. Pick-up and SUV's seem to be more popular.
This sign on Route 127 near Murphysboro always amazes me. Since there is a sign attached which says "Bike Route", shouldn't the sign say "Drivers Use Caution"? Why is the responsibility on the cyclist, when they are the most vulnerable? That's like telling the wife of an angry, violent man to be careful not to upset him if she values her safety. The drivers NOT the cyclists should have the greater responsibility. When this becomes culturally normal, we'll all be safer out there.
Tow's Garage in Murphysboro is also your one stop shop for Cook's storage buildings. If you need more room for your stuff, this is the place to go. However, if you have too much stuff, you might simply hold a yard sale and use the proceeds towards your next cross country bicycling tour.
The roads between Murphysboro and DuQuoin were not as clear as I had hoped. All you could do was pick a line, and hope for the best. I don't have my commuter today. It has studded tires that are 2.5 inches wide. My 23mm road tires will have to do.

On this stretch of road last time, Mike began a story about his stationary bicycle riding octogenarian grandfather. He said that it would be a long story, but that I'd need the background to really appreciate it. However when he started, "On a cold December day my grandfather was born in Western Kentucky..." I was glad this was a 126 mile ride. I wouldn't want to miss the ending, and I figured we'd barely be to his grandfather's retirement party by Thompsonville.

But that's the joy of riding with someone. I usually ride alone, therefore I have to tell myself stories. Besides the obvious, getting bored with the same old stories, there's the problem of embellishing. Sometimes I forget that I know the facts as I listen to myself tell the story. Often I shout out "Liar!" at myself and then I realize that I've gone too far and am properly embarrassed. I have to make a mental note to only lie to others riders, since I always catch myself in a lie.
Recently, as cowboys have begun to ride bicycles more often, the unemployment rate of horses has been rising. No longer are the usual mounts named Rex, Trigger, or Silver. Cowboys are using mounts with names such as Trek Madone, Specialized Tarmac, and Raleigh Supercourse. Even the cowboy pastime, rodeo, is often giving way to Down Hill racing, and BMX freestyle. Being put out to pasture is becoming a reality for horses all across this nation. These horses are standing around near Duquoin Illinois with little to do and less to keep them out of trouble.
I took this picture on Route 34 between Benton and Thompsonville. This is my shadow. (He's not on the phone. I never allow him to use the cell phone while he's riding with me. He's taking a picture of me while I'm taking a picture of him.) I have seen so little of him this year, I thought he had given up riding with me. It was nice to have him along today.
The Manna Restaurant in Thompsonville. There is a large Seventh Day Adventist community here (as well as the international headquarters of television and radio broadcasting for the Adventist denomination). You will probably not find them sitting on their rooftops wearing white robes while waiting for the return of Jesus, but you will find them eating lunch here. It's a vegetarian restaurant. Just down the street is a pork BBQ restaurant. Diversity, I suppose.
This is 100 miles. The intersection is Perry Road, and Paulton Road. All the century riders can ask the owners of the house if they can rest there while they wait for their mom to come and pick them up. Randonneurs have 26 miles to go before they rest.

At this junction I am always reminded of a local rider who cheats on long rides while wanting us to believe that he completes them. Once on a ride, he turned off here and called his wife to come get him. When other riders called to ask if he was OK, he answered his phone while hanging his head out of the window to make them believe that he was still riding. LOL
This huge flock of birds rose up and crossed the road just as I passed. I was hoping I wouldn't get pooped on as they flew over. This is on the Paulton Road not far from Crab Orchard.
At the other end of this road is a coal-fired power plant. This sign lets you know what kind of vehicles you will be sharing the road with. The road is a little hilly and somewhat curvy, so pay attention to your rearview mirror, if you aren't a weight weenie and have left it at home. Most of the truck drivers will move over, but be prepared to ride a straight line just in case.
This is the Historic brick road in Marion. Along this road are the older renovated homes which have historic value. It's really rough for bicycling, I have to ride standing all the way to keep from being beat to death. Notice how they patch it. That's not much different from repairing antiques with duct tape. Perhaps they should either repave with asphalt or repair with bricks. Just an idea.
This is more like it. Although the wind was a little strong, and the section south from Thompsonville to Creal Springs was tougher than usual (I could only pedal 10-11 mph on the flats, and could only pedal 14-15 mph on the downhill sections) it was practically spring-like today.
The Ray Fosse Park in Marion is just across the street from the Huck's store where the start/stop is located. In fact, it is one of the main reasons I moved the start/stop. There is plenty of parking for out of town riders, there are addition restroom facilities, and when we have hundreds of riders show up for a ride, there are large covered pavilions where we can do the registration and bike inspections.
Another successful ride. I'm feeling a little more tired today than usual, I think it's because my nose ran all the way. I also noticed that since I began to wear these red Hammer leg warmers, I look more like an elf (or possibly Robin the Boy Wonder) with the addition of shoe booties.

When I turned in my first completed brevet card so that the RUSA Supreme Council of Elders could verify that I was keeping the rules and following the procedures, it was suggested to me that I should get a store receipt at each control, instead of a time and signature, for proof of passage. The theory is that since I am the only one on these rides, for the most part, the store receipts would strengthen my story since the veracity of a rider with a short RUSA history and a long beard is immediately suspect.

As a result, when I rode today, I purchased something at each store. Here are my treasures. With the exception of the Jersey gloves (which I used as liners), the water and the fig bars, I couldn't have used any of the other things. (Perhaps I'll give them to my church to go in those food boxes they distribute. The cheese crackers will fit in nicely with the pork and beans, macaroni and cheese, and Spam that is usually given to poor families.)

I'm going to need bigger pockets if I ride a permanent longer than 200 kilometers.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Today is the second leg of my attempt at the R-12 award . We'll be using the same authorized route as last month, although it will be a little colder. The officer at the Marion Police Department has signed my brevet card, and after explaining what a brevet card if for, I'm off to my latest adventure. Wish me luck! (On second thought, wish me endurance. Luck has less to do with long distance cycling than endurance.)
This is Mike McKee. Today he'll be my riding partner. Mike is an accomplished track cyclist, as well as a road racer. He frequently rides long distance solo (it is extremely difficult to find a riding partner for long distance). However, he hasn't faced this distance before, nor a temperature this low. Challenging yourself is what cycling is all about (and suffering, too).
The Bank of Marion clock/thermometer says that it's only 6 degrees out here to start. I'm wondering if the minus sign is burned out. It sure feels colder than that. In my driveway at the very start, Mike was shivering uncontrollably, and was beginning to wonder if he should attempt this ride at all. And for a track cyclist who knows how to suffer on a bike, that's saying something.
First stop of the day, and I'm smiling. We'll see how long this lasts. Look at the unzipped portion of my jacket and you'll see my secret weapon. A Tyvek mailing envelope. I always wear one on a really cold day to windproof my core, and I always carry an extra in my back pocket. Thank you USPS.
This is a lake. Not the Lake of Fire you read about in Revelation, but a frozen lake near Carbondale. If that much water can freeze and stay frozen, then we may have to adapt our hydration strategy today.
It's full daylight, and we're in Carbondale. The man who was good enough to take this picture was adding antifreeze to his car. We wondered if ethylene glycol would be good in water bottles.
This is the inside of my water bottle; is antifreeze poisonous? I have a feeling that this will be a difficult ride for my fueling/hydration strategy. My flasks are already freezing and I have them inside my jacket. I'll carry one bottle in my jacket pocket with extra heat pads that I'm carrying to keep it liquid, and I'll buy hot water at each stop to thaw the other one. Eating and drinking are the priority on a long ride, especially a cold long ride.
This is what we photographers call an action shot. If you enlarge this image you'll see Mike up there. Until Carbondale, we rode together. Then he mentioned that he had left his cue sheet at home. I gave him a spare I was carrying (I told you I always carry two of everything!). Now he doesn't need me, as you can see. Note to self: If you want others to ride with you, be the only one who knows where you are going!

In fact, he told me that he was going to text his family at each stop. They are following our journey on an internet map he left for them. By the end of this ride, he will have had enough time to text his family considerable portions of War and Peace waiting for me to reach the designated stops.
Good thing I wear a beard. That would be my face all frozen instead! Pretty cool glasses, huh? They're Tifosi phototec glasses. They change with the changing light. I bought them from Rob. Thanks, Rob.
We've finally arrived at the DuQuoin stop. Yea. (BTW No I'm not getting fat. Remember I mentioned that I have my fuel inside my jacket?) Just outside of DuQuoin, I found myself getting irresistibly sleepy. I've never felt sleepy on the bike before. I had the nearly overwhelming desire to put my head down and close my eyes. I think that's a bad sign on a cold day. I'm glad to be here, I plan to fuel up and wake up.
My fueling strategy is being adapted. At the Duquoin stop, I have often (usually?) bought a container of Fig Bars as a snack. Today it is a necessity. In fact, I inhaled the first package and went in to buy a second one. I have had to carry my Perpetuem flasks inside my jacket to keep them thawed (the first one on the bike froze in less than 15 minutes). But I can't unzip with gloved hands, and removing my gloves while riding is not going to happen. I've been reduced to reaching for them only at the stops. I'm going to need fuel that doesn't freeze so easily. (I gave Mike a package of his own, and they became his new favorite cold weather fuel, too!)
This log cabin house in Thompsonville is a reminder that our ancestors lived much more difficult lives than we do today. We have the "luxury" of getting outside to ride on a very cold day for the fun of it. They, without heated vehicles, had to travel all winter in an outdoor fashion. In fact, their indoors were probably uncomfortable most of the winter. And don't even think about needing to go to the potty in the middle of the night in winter. Brrr.
Another "action shot". Mike asked me to take his picture. He complained that all the pictures will be pictures of me when I post this.
The Creal Springs Mini Mart. Mike is inside looking for Fig Bars, his new favorite snack. Now we will have to fight the wind once more as we head west and north back into Marion.
I can never get enough pictures of myself, especially the "mountain man" look with ice in my beard. (In fact, when I asked Facebook to run my postings looking for the most used words, the number one word was "miles". I'm not sure if that's because I post things about "Miles" or "miles". Either way, my wife wasn't surprised. She said she has long known how self-involved I was.)
Finally back at the Marion Police Station. (Notice how many words have "ice" in them? Hmmm.) Anyway, we are two tired, cold but very satisfied cyclists. As we came into town, Mike fell back to alert me that he was going to sprint the last little bit to train for sprinting after a 100+ mile ride. He asked me if I was going to sprint. I replied, "I am sprinting." True to his word, he sprinted up the bricks on Market all the way to the top. He's a true cycling machine!
It may not seem very warm to you, but it was a definite improvement over the start. The only time I felt like quitting was before and just after DuQuoin. I figure that my sleepiness was due to a dropping core temperature. And after we rode out of DuQuoin, I couldn't get warm. Despite pedaling the biggest gear I had I continued to shiver. It took me several miles to warm sufficiently for the shivering to stop and my confidence to return. Now that we've got the first one in for the new year, the rest of the year will rock! In fact, this is the start of a new decade. I guess the rest of the decade will rock, too!!