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

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Rochester, MN, 600K Brevet

Judy and I drove up to Rochester on Friday so I could ride the 600K starting on Saturday. Judy was just going to hang out and help with the driving back to Springfield because I had to be back at work Monday afternoon. It took about 9.5 hours to get to Rochester. We had a motel room just across US 52 from the start so I could ride over with my drop bag in the morning. I was not planning to stay at the West Union motel on Saturday night, but I was hoping to be able to change my clothes and resupply. As it turned out, I also got to take a shower. We drove a few miles of the route to the edge of town; ate dinner; and went back to the motel where I loaded up the bike bags, laid out my riding clothes and went to bed.

The brevet started at 6:00. There was a total of 12 riders. We broke into two groups pretty quickly as we rode the hills out of Rochester. I was in the second group with four other riders. Two of them, Paul Osika and Michele Brougher, were planning to ride straight through. Bob Booth had a room in West Union but was not sure if he would stop to sleep. We thought Ken Priddy was planning to stop, but he apparently rode through the night ahead of us.

When we left, the sky appeared to be clearing but it soon clouded up. It looked like it could start raining at any time, but other than a little mist it never did where we were riding. It helped keep us cool until it cleared away in mid-afternoon. I was quickly reintroduced to the rumble strips that a characteristic of stop signs in the country throughout Minnesota and Iowa. I remembered them from when I rode RAGBRAI in 2003, but they continually surprised me throughout the ride. RAGBRAI started on Saturday as well. The route was through northern Iowa about 30 miles west and south of Elkader, the turnaround control. Several people in Iowa shout: “RAGBRAI!”, as we passed. Apparently, they thought we were riding RAGBRAI.

The terrain to the first control in Chatfield was rolling hills filled with cornfields. We encountered the biggest hills on the road to the second control in Rushford. They were mostly downhill, so we knew what would be in for some good climbs on the return trip. This part of Minnesota is rolling plains with deep valleys cut by the streams and rivers. Many of the towns are down along the streams and rivers, so we were usually charging downhill at 35 mph, or more, into town and then chugging back out of town at about 7 to 8 mph. Many of the roads had a seam about every 20 feet, and it was quite a bumpy ride down some of the hills. The big downhill into Rushford had some tree branches down in the road and the branches had been broken up by motor vehicles. We had to carefully pick our way through the debris as we sped down. The overnight storm that had knocked down the tree branches had also knocked out the power in Rushford, and as a result, the control was not open. There was a store across the street that was open even without power. We had our cards signed there and bought some water and other supplies.

The next control was Harmony followed by Decorah. They were having a Nordic Festival right in the middle of the route in Decorah. Ken and I rode down the alley to avoid the festivities. The others rode through the festival because Michele was looking for a drug store. I left Ken behind as we climbed the hill out of Decorah, and rode the leg to West Union on my own. I was riding slower than the earlier legs. When we headed out for Elkader, the pace was noticeably faster, but I was able to keep up. I was concerned that I would fall behind as the ride progressed, but the pace slowed after we turned around in Elkader and it got dark. Between Elkader and West Union, we passed through Gunder, home of the Gunderburger, which is made of one pound of freshly ground beef. We did not stop for a Gunderburger either time we were in town. The moon was covered by a thin layer of clouds when the sun went down, but it was shining brightly by the time we reached West Union. Michele, Bob, Paul and I took a shower at the motel in West Union, and I was able to lay down for about 45 minutes.

We got back in Decorah about the time the bars closed. There were a lot of students from Luther College milling around, and the police were out with their lights on. We were a little concerned about leaving our bikes outside while we went into the control, so I waited with them while the others got their cards signed and bought supplies. We encounter some racoons in the road as we left Decorah, and I missed running over a skunk by about a foot. It would have been a long ride back to Springfield on my bike if I had been sprayed by a skunk.

At the Cresco control, we stopped long enough to take a nap. I slept for about an hour wrapped in my emergency blanket and was woken when the compressor for the air hose came on for someone inflating their tires. The others were getting ready to leave. I was not ready to go and told them to leave without me. I was only 200K from the end and had 15.5 hours to finish, so I was not going to push it. I tried to nap a little longer, but the sun was coming up. I headed out about a half hour after the others. As I was leaving town, Kelly Hines passed me headed into town to the control. He passed me again a few miles outside of town and we rode together for a few minutes.

I stopped in Harmony for about 20 minutes even though it was not a control. At the Rushford control, I decided to take a nap, so I called Judy and told her to call me in about an hour so that I did not over sleep. I sat at a counter, put my head down and fell asleep. About 30 minutes later, one of the clerks woke me up because they were concerned I was having problems. I assured them I was fine, called Judy to tell her I was heading out and I took off. While I was chugging up the hill on MN 30 out of Rushford, there were motorcycles roaring down. The motorcycle traffic continued almost all the way to Chatfield. Every motorcycle within 500 miles of Rushford must have been on MN 30 that day. When I got to the top of the climb, I stopped to rest. Based on the USGS topo map, the climb appears to be an average of an 8% grade for about 4/5s of a mile. While I was stopped another cyclist, not riding the brevet, stopped to see if I was alright. After a few miles of rolling hills, I dove down into and climbed back out of Pilot Mound, followed by the same routine in Bucksnort.

At the Chatfield control, I had the urge for a Subway cold-cut sub on flat bread, so I called Judy and asked her to meet me at the Stewartville control with a sub. She was there when I arrived, and the sub was great, even though it was on wholewheat bread because they did not have flat bread. It helped to eat something that resembled real food. I had been consuming mostly chocolate milk and Dr. Peppers. While we were sitting in the shade away from the control, another rider came in who I believe was Richard Soderberg. He apparently never saw me, and I was not going to expend the energy to walk over to talk to him. Stewartsville was only 21 miles from the finish, and after a few more hills and a stop at the control in Byron, I pulled into the final control in Rochester at 19:15. I got a plate of pasta for dinner and ate while Judy drove south to Des Moines where we spent the night. We were back in Springfield in time for me to go to work Monday afternoon.

Finally after seven attempts, three of them this year, I finished a 600K. It might be some type of record. The biggest contributing factor to completing the ride was the moderate temperatures. The high in Rochester was 80 degrees on Saturday and 81 on Sunday. Usually, I have attempted to ride the 600K with temperatures in the low to mid-90s. Riding with a good group; the minimal winds; and riding through the night and at my own pace also helped. On other 600Ks, I have left controls just because everyone else was leaving and I paid for it later.

Michele's ride report is HERE.

At the start in Rochester

On the road to Rushford

Bob, Michele, Paul & Ken in the distance

Paul in Harmony
(Love the loon on the MN Randonneurs jersey)

Michele, Ken, Ken's wife & Bob

Nordic festival in Decorah

One of many Lutheran churches

Outbound between West Union and Elkader
Photo by Michele Brougher

Back in Minnesota

Still smiling at the end

Photo by Judy

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Edwardsville, IL, 600K Brevet

I drove up to Edwardsville last Friday to ride the 600K. It was already in the mid-seventies when I left the motel, so I packed my water bottles with ice. The ride started at 4:00, and I was surprised that there were about 15 riders, but there was an entire series of events, and only 9 rode the 600K. I got off to a good start and stayed with the lead group for about 10 miles before I settled into a slower 600K pace with John Shelso. John was riding the 400K. We made good time to the first two controls, and I was still dealing with the heat pretty well when John turned south at Hoyleton (93 miles), on the 400K route, while I continued east.

The heat began to get to me when I turned south at Harmony Lane (121 miles). I stopped for an extended period in the store at Markham Lane (132 miles). John Jost and Dennis Smith caught up with me there, and I left the store when they did. At Wilkey's Cafe (Control 4), I tried to eat some but my appetite was not very good due to the heat. I left with Dennis, John and Miles Stoneman after about 45 minutes. In retrospect, I should have stayed longer and recovered more.

A bridge was being replaced on the route, and we had to half carry our bikes down and up the stone riprap that had been placed in the channel. It was quite a chore. Not long after the bridge,I began to fall behind, and I stopped to rest a couple times in the shade. I did not stop long because I would be attacked by giant horseflies. I ran out of water about three miles from Thompsonville and abandoned the ride in Thompsonville (166 miles).

John Jost providing instructions at the start

Breese control

Okawville control

Randy & Dennis at Okawville

Bridge replacement