But I am just a pilgrim on this road, boys
Until I see you fare thee well
-Steve Earle, Pilgrim

Friday, July 19, 2013

Central Iowa 400K

Dan Pfaff and I hit the road again Friday afternoon, July 12, for the last round of Central Iowa brevets in Ames. There were 20 riders for the 06:00 start Saturday morning: eight for the 600K; three, including Dan and me, for the 400K; two for the 300K; and seven for the 200K. We had a few minutes after the riders meeting and before the start, so I headed back in to grab a couple hard boiled eggs from the breakfast bar. On the way out, I decided to hit the restroom, and by the time I got on the bike, everyone was already heading east out of town. I caught up with Dan, who was riding slowly so I could catch up. We passed several of the 200K riders, who had stopped to fix a flat just west of Nevada. In Nevada, we turned south while the 300K and 600K riders continued east. The 200K riders soon passed us a few miles south of Nevada. We had a southeast wind but made good time, reaching the first information control (22.5 miles) at 07:35. This was where the 300K and 600K routes rejoined ours.

With the wind at our back, we were at the second control in Polk City (37.6 miles) by 08:48. A couple of the 600K riders passed us just outside of Polk City, with the remainder joining us at the control. The last 13 to 14 miles of the route to the next control in Redfield was on the Raccoon River Valley Trail, a former rail line. We reached Redfield (75.4 miles) at 11:54. The next control was in Audubon, a distance of about 48 miles, so we stopped in Guthrie Center to refill our water bottles. The route between Guthrie Center and Audubon was nothing but hills. The total route has about 8,200 feet of climbing, and a large chunk of it was on this segment. Fortunately, the cloud cover increased during the afternoon so the temperature maxed out about 86 degrees rather than the predicted 91. Regardless, with the wind at our back, we made it to the control in Audubon (123.7 miles) at 16:16. We stopped at the Subway for dinner. I had been having problems with hot foot in my right foot, so I also adjusted my cleat back a few millimeters. We headed out again about 17:00.

We retraced 11 miles of the route and hills before we turned north on a concrete road that had recently been milled to remove the asphalt. It lasted for six miles, and only could have been worse if they had just milled it down to asphalt. The wind was again at our backs, and we would have made great time on the rollers if the surface had been smooth. Keith Gates (RUSA #1445), who was riding the 600K, had passed us just before we turned north on the milled road, and we caught up with him at the Coon Rapids Community Park where we stopped for water. We also donned our reflective gear. Keith rode with us through the night back to Ames. We reached the control in Scranton (164.5 miles) at 21:00.

The next control (197.8) miles was informational and located at a golf course. We reached it at 12:32. We spent some time there. I was still having hot foot, and it was good to be able to take off my sandal to massage my foot. I am not sure why it was occurring. I kept adjusting the straps to loosen the sandal to accommodate my foot swelling as it got hot. We headed south and picked up the High Trestle Trail in Woodward. This was the same section we rode on the 200K, but in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, since it was after midnight, the decorative lights were off on the High Trestle Bridge when we crossed. We reached the control in Madrid (227.1 miles) at 03:58. We were back to Ames and the last control (250.1) miles at 06:38. This was one of my slowest 400Ks, primarily because we spent about four hours off the bike based on my computer, which for once, I remembered to reset at the beginning of the ride. I often forget because I rarely use it except at night to measure distances between turns in poorly signed areas. Coming back into Ames was also slow because of the numerous turns and the use of urban bike paths, which I find are generally slower than riding on streets. Overall, it was a great ride. Neither Dan or I had any mechanical problems, and I saw some great scenery and interesting architecture.
Riders meeting at the start
Big Creek Historical Society building, Polk City, IA
Crossing Saylorville Lake
Granger, IA
White Barns
Dallas Center, IA
Riding the Raccoon River Trail
Raccoon River Trail
Raccoon River
Adel, IA

Adel, IA
Near Redfield, IA
Raccoon River Trail, Redfield, IA
Guthrie Center, IA
Guthrie Center, IA
Deconstructing barn
Six miles of milled road
Saturday Evening
Sunrise, Ames, IA

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Central Iowa 200K

I have not been riding much this year, so I have not been posting. I had only ridden three 123K permanents in 2013 until Saturday when Dan Pfaff and I rode the Central Iowa 200K brevet. The brevet started at 06:00 in Ames. There was a 400K starting at the same time. There were eight riders for the 200K and five for the 400K. We started together under generally clear skies with no wind. There were some low-lying clouds to the east that helped block the rising sun.
At the start
There was a fast group of five that quickly disappeared down the road. We hung with a group of four, riding a little faster than our normal pace, until about mile 16 when my rear tire began to feel soft. Dan and I stopped while they headed on. I found a small slit in the tire that I was going to have to boot when I replaced the tube. After I removed the tire from the rim and inspected the inside, I found a small piece of wire barely sticking out of the inside of the tire. There was not enough sticking out to grab hold of, so I replaced the tire. If I had not been carrying a spare, I probably could have eventually gotten the wire out. While we were changing the tire, the last two riders passed us and we assumed our usual position as the last riders. We reached the first control (22.5 miles), which was informational, at 07:48. We were still on a 10-hour pace even after stopping to fix the flat. An informational control requires riders record a response to a question about something they can see. We had to write down the color of the two zip ties attached to the stop sign pole. We turned southwest at the stop sign and west about a mile further on. The skies were beginning to cloud up.
Heading east out of town

Dan & the only two windmills we saw
Greg Courtney, the RBA for Central Iowa, marks his routes with pavement paint. This is not traditional for the Missouri brevets. It really helped me because I could not read the cue sheet without stopping to put on my reading glasses. Since I had cataract surgery in January, I had not ridden a route that required reading the que sheet, so I had not given it any thought. I now have some stick on reading lenses on my cycling sun glass lenses. I need to get another set for the alternate clear lenses I wear at night.
Farm house
We turned north onto the HighTrestle Trail at mile 34. The wind was blowing out of the south between five and ten mph, which helped us move along at about 18 mph. We reached the second control (48.2 miles) at 09:38. The control was at the Flat Tire Lounge, which is located right on the trail. We planned to eat some real food, but the grill did not open until 10:00. They were advertising a Bloody Mary special, but I ate a small bag of free popcorn instead. We took advantage of the restroom and headed on. There were a number of businesses in the small towns that had small signs along the trail announcing their services. There were also some rest stops set up for a Tour de Cure ride that was taking place that day. We encountered a number of riders along the trail, but we could not tell which ones were riding the event. We saw several trikes and two recumbents bolted together side-by-side to create a four-wheel contraption.
High Trestle Trail
Sheldahl, IA
Grain elevator south of Madrid, IA
Flat Tire Lounge, Madrid, IA
Underpass, Madrid, IA
 The highlight of the ride was crossing the Des Moines River on the High Trestle Trail Bridge. It is a very impressive structure with great views. Too bad we did not have more time to enjoy the views. The bridge is lit at night.
High Trestle Bridge
Des Moines River from the High Trestle Bridge

Dan & Ralph on the High Trestle Bridge
Woodward, IA, Trailhead
 The third control was in Ogden, IA, (72.4 miles) where we arrived at 11:37. I had a breakfast burrito and V-8. Dark clouds were slowly moving in from the west. When we turned back to the east at Highway 175, it began to sprinkle. It was not enough to put on my rain jacket. The wind was still blowing about ten mph out of the south. We arrived at the fourth control in Stratford, IA, (93.3 miles) at 13:26. I ate three chicken strips and drank a bottle of sweet ice tea. We were out of the control fairly quickly. About three miles further east, we turned south into the wind and the sprinkles. We had hoped to maintain 13-14 mph on the leg south, but settled for 11-12. We turned east again after nine miles, and by the time we turned onto the next south leg, the wind had died down and we were able to maintain about 14 mph. It started to rain harder just as we reached Ames. The route enters Ames from the northwest, and we meandered through town, mostly on local streets. It was somewhat slow going because of the number of turns. If we had been more familiar with the route, we probably could have gotten through town much quicker. We arrived at the final control (127.0 miles) at 16:16. It was a nice route, and we had a good ride.
Ogden, IA, control

Stratford, IA, control
Headed back to Ames

Monday, November 19, 2012

Keeping the P-12 Alive

I have not ridden much since the Last Chance. My Achilles tendon has not been hurting, but there is still some tingling and loss of strength in my hands. The doctor diagnosed a mild case of carpel tunnel, so I am wearing wrist braces at night and minimizing my computer use. Dan Pfaff and I did get out on Oct. 7 to ride the Hound Dog 123K and maintain our string of monthly sub-200K rides for RUSA's P-12 award.
Me & Dan
James Doggett and I rode the Hound Dog again this past Sunday, Nov. 18, to keep the P-12 going another month. It was a chilly 40 degrees at the start with a steady southeast to SSE wind. The skies were mostly clear. We made good time (3:26) to Aurora considering the wind. We shed some clothing in Aurora. The pace back was a leisurely 3:13 with a nice push from the wind that shifted to the SSW for a time. The temperature was in the mid 60s when we got back. James had electronic shifting installed on his Lynskey. This was his first long ride using the system. It worked flawlessly for him, but he said he missed the click of the shifters when he shifted.
Electronic derailleurs

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Last Chance 1000Km Brevet

I had planned to take it easy in 2012: ride the Super Randonneur SR series and a couple permanent populaires a month to end up with 3,000Km. Dan Pfaff and I finished the SR series in May, but then in July, Dan started talking seriously about riding the Last Chance 1000Km brevet. I decided to go with him, and we had to increase our riding distances to be ready for a longer ride. In addition to our regular populaires, we rode a couple 200Km permanents to give us more time in the saddle. Now, I will probably end the year with about 6,000Km. 
Last Chance 1000Km Route
We left Springfield on Monday afternoon, September 10, with Dan's wife Deb and daughter, Amy. We arrived in Louisville, CO, on Tuesday afternoon about an hour before the 17:00 bicycle and safety check. Right after the check, I rode for about 20 minutes. I wanted to ride up a hill to see if the higher altitude (about 5,000 feet) would have an impact. I could not really tell any difference from riding in Springfield. We ate at an Italian restaurant next to the motel, packed our bikes and went to bed to be ready for the early start.
Karen Winterhalter, Dan Pfaff & John Lee Ellis, RBA, at bike check
Thirty riders were listed for the ride, but one did not start. Of the 30, four including Dan and myself were riding the 1000Km, the rest the 1200Km. Dan and I designed a schedule that had us completing the ride in about 66 hours.
Waiting for the start under the motel canopy
We were off quickly when John Lee Ellis, the RBA, let us go at 03:00 MDT (September 12) in a light, cold rain. NOTE: All times are Mountain Daylight Savings Time [MDT] even though we changed to Central Daylight Savings Time [CDT] at the Kansas border. It was somewhat confusing as the ride progressed until we were back in Colorado.

Shortly after the start, as I was riding down a gentle hill on Via Appia Way in Louisville, it seemed like the handlebar bag of a recumbent blew up in front of me. Papers and things were flying everywhere. Fortunately I did not run over anything, and the rider went back to retrieve his belongings.

The most difficult part of navigating the ride was getting out of town. A couple riders missed the turn on to 4th Street off of Highway 7. They turned around when we yelled: “Right turn!” I later heard that some riders missed the turn at Imboden Road off of 152nd Avenue. When we got to Strasburg it was easy; just stay on US 36.

It was 71 miles to the first control in Byers, so we planned to stop at a Valero Convenience Store near the I-76 interchange (about 25 miles). This would ensure we had adequate water if it was hot. As it was, I added sun sleeves under my rain jacket for a little more warmth and used the restroom. I had only drank about a fourth of a water bottle.

There were quite a few inbound cars on 152nd Avenue as we headed out. It was only a problem because rain drops collected on my glasses and dispersed the on-coming headlights making it difficult to see. I was constantly wiping my glasses off with my handkerchief, but I could not always get it done when a car approached. The white line along the edge of the road was very distinct, so I would just look down and follow it off to my right side until the car passed. However, one time the line suddenly ended because I had come to an intersection. I was flying blind for several seconds because there were two on-coming cars. I slowed down and was finally able to pick up the line on the other side of the intersection. It was very disorienting.

The sky began to lighten as we headed east on 144th Avenue. We rode through Strasburg where we picked up US 36, and as I was climbing a gentle slope into Byers behind Dan, I almost ran over a small snake on the edge of the pavement. It looked like a rattler, but it was not moving. Dan never saw it.
Outbound to Byers, CO

Quite a few riders were huddled in the Byers control trying to get warm. I was fine while we were riding, but started shaking from the cold after we stopped. I got some hot chocolate and heated a breakfast burrito in the microwave. One rider was trying to repair a flat tire. I was glad it was not me. Soon, we took off for Anton, CO. I don't remember much about that part of the ride. We pretty much just put our heads down and pedaled 55 miles through the rain.
Byers, CO, control

The scene at the Byers control was repeated at the Anton control. Everyone was trying to get warm and refuel. Deb and Amy had stopped at the Anton control on their way to the motel in Atwood, and I was able to exchange my wet socks for a dry, thicker pair.

We continued east on US 36, which had a nice wide, paved shoulder. The shoulder was also clean of debris; probably due to wide farm vehicles regularly driving on the shoulder. We stopped briefly at a store in Idalia, CO, about 50 miles further along. There were no stores open when we reached the St. Francis, KS, control after riding another 30 miles, but one of the brevet workers was there to sign our cards and provide water. I also got an ibuprofen because my right ankle ( Achilles tendon) was sore. By the time we reached St. Francis, the rain had pretty much stopped.

We made it to the It'll Do Motel in Atwood about 01:00 MDT on Thursday. We had ridden about 250 miles and had hoped to be there about an hour earlier. The rain was the main reason for the delay. Deb and Amy were helping out at the Atwood control even though it was late. We ate food provided by the organizer. I managed to fall down a stair at the motel as I was heading to the room. It was dark and I thought I was on the bottom step, but I had one more to go. I hit the ground just below the knee and took off a patch of skin about an inch across. Fortunately, it did not bother me the rest of the ride. I took a shower and tumbled into bed for about two hours sleep. When the alarm went up, I sat up in bed and thought there was no way I could get back on the bike. By the time I got dressed and ate something, I felt a lot better. We headed out in the dark about 05:30 MDT.

As the sun came up on the ride to Oberlin, KS, (27 miles) there was fog in the low-lying areas so it looked like we were riding above the clouds. It was pretty cool. When I came out of the control at Oberlin, I had a flat. It was due to a small rock point. I am surprised I did not have more flats considering all the rain, but I had put new Panaracer Pasela Tour Guard tires on the wheels about 70 miles before the brevet. There was no rain on Thursday. The temperatures were moderate with light variable winds. Overall it was a lovely day to ride. US 36 in Kansas did not have as wide a shoulder as in Colorado, and the rumble strip was often positioned so that we were forced to ride in the lane, which was generally okay because of the low traffic volumes.
Low-lying fog
Truck & fog

We stopped briefly in Norton, KS, (35 miles) before heading on 31 miles to Phillipsburg, KS, the turnaround control (344 total miles). We were passed by Tom Knoblauch, one of the 1200Km riders riding outbound, as if we were standing still. He got much more sleep than we did in Atwood. We were also passed by a couple returning 1200K riders and the other two 1000K riders as we neared in Phillipsburg. In Phillipsburg (elevation about 2,000 feet), we dropped a postcard with our arrival time in the mailbox, stopped briefly at a convenience store and headed back west 31 miles to the Norton control.
Ronaele Foss outbound towards Norton, KS
Norton, KS
Memorial sign in Norton, KS
Phillipsburg, KS
Locomotives on return to Norton, KS
As we were leaving the Subway in Norton, Mark Jilka of Manhattan, KS, pulled up. We had ridden with Mark on the 400Km and 600Km brevets in Kansas City. He wanted us to wait for him while he ate because he did not want to ride alone in the dark. We told him we would head out but not push it because he is a stronger rider and should be able to catch us. Mark caught up with us just before we stopped to assist Ronaele Foss, another 1000Km rider, about halfway between Oberlin and Atwood. She had repaired a flat with a new tube when we pulled up, but something was wrong with the valve. We could not get the tube to inflate with any of our pumps. Since she had 650 wheels and we all had 700 wheels, we could not give her a tube. She decide to call her husband and abandon the ride. I don't know why we didn't try to repair the original punctured tube.

We pulled into the motel at Atwood about 01:00 MDT having ridden a total of 437 miles. We were about three hours behind our schedule. Again, we ate, I showered (Dan skipped it), and we slept for about two hours. After a quick breakfast, we headed out.

There were some good climbs the first few miles out of Atwood, and after the sun rose the wind began to pick up from the south to south southwest. By the time we got to Bird City, I was having a hard time keeping up with Dan. I told him I needed to stop and rest. He was concerned about making the St. Francis control before it closed if he stopped, so he continued on. This was one of the real low points of the ride for me. I stopped at the Bird City Cafe where I had some eggs, toast, hash browns and several cups of coffee. I felt much better and headed out after about 20 minutes.
Sunrise on Friday
I caught up with Dan in St. Francis, and Karen Winterhalter, from Lenexa, KS, rode in a few minutes later. We had ridden with Karen on Kansas City brevets. The three of us headed out together. As we were riding, we noticed that there were numerous small flies on our backs. Unfortunately, some of them would bite me. The bite did not hurt much. As we rode, Karen told us stories about past brevets. She has been a randonneuse since the late 1970s.
Karen & Dan climbing up from St. Francis, KS.
Karen returning to Colorado

We stopped at the control in Idalia for lunch. Fortunately we got there just before the cafe closed. A number of other riders also showed up just in time to be able to order.
Dan & Karen riding into Idalia, CO

In Cope, CO, we stopped for water and I used a porta-potty in a park. It was on the other side of the park, and I had to ride down a gravel drive. When I got back on the road, I noticed something stuck to my tire. It was a goathead! The was a slight psst of air when I pulled it out, so I decided to change the tube then rather than wait for it to go flat.

Friday was a nice sunny day with moderate temperatures and winds. We knew the temperature would drop quickly when the sun went down. It was dark and cold when we pulled into the closed store at the Anton control. Deb, Amy, other spouses and support made sure we had food and water to get through to Byers. One of them also signed our brevet cards. I changed from loose touring shorts with a very thin pad to tight-fitting wool shorts with a thick pad. I thought they would be warmer. I also hoped the would help my sore butt, but they actually felt worse after a few miles. Lately, I have just been riding with the touring shorts, but I had to ride with a saddle cover on my leather saddle during the first day's rain. The saddle cover and wet conditions really wore on my butt. I also continued to have pain in my right Achilles tendon. It had been swollen with a slight ache since Wednesday afternoon. Every time we stopped or coasted down a long down hill, my ankle would stiffen up. I think it was the result of the thicker socks I changed to after the thin ones got wet because the ache was less when I changed back to thinner socks. The last 61 cold miles to Byers would be a little painful, but I was too far along to quit. Karen, Dan and I were the last to leave Anton.

We stopped after about 20 miles at the Last Chance roadside park so Karen could eat. Her gloves made it difficult to eat while riding. I wrapped up in my space blanket to stay warm. We headed out again, but Karen soon dropped behind. She called me on my cellphone to tell me she was stopping again and for us to go on. Since she is an experienced randonneuse and we were really going slow with time running out, we continued on.

Riding the last night with a totally clear sky gave a panoramic view of the stars in all directions. It was really impressive, particularly since there was no moon. If there had been a full moon, it would have really lit up the road. There were always some lights visible, but they were generally some distance from the road. This caused the road to have no definition in space. It just appeared in front of us in our headlights and quickly disappeared behind us. When a car would be approaching in my helmet mirror, it sometimes seemed to take forever to get to us because I could first see it from several miles away. A completely different experience than riding in the Ozarks at night.

We arrived in Byers on Saturday at 03:52 MDT, 72 hours and 52 minutes after we started and six hours behind our schedule. Bill Olsen, one of the 1200Km riders, was still there. He had been napping, and we talked to him as we ate and he got ready to leave. He was so lively, you would have thought we were at the beginning of the ride. Karen came in almost two hours later, but within the 75 hour time limit. Fourteen riders did not finish, including one 1000Km rider.

A big thanks to Deb and Amy Pfaff for supporting us and other riders on the ride.