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

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tour of Northeastern Kansas 600K Brevet

The Kansas City Region 600K was held this past weekend in Kansas City, KS, and Dan Pfaff and I drove up Friday evening to ride it. We had attempted to ride it two years ago and were wiped out by a fierce headwind. 
600K Route
The ride started at 06:00 from the American Inn at I-70 and 78th Street, where we spent the night making the logistics simpler. Six of the other eight riders that started also rode the 400K brevet two weeks ago, so it was a familiar group. The start down 78th Street is 2.3 miles of steep rollers complicated this year by road construction. Everyone made it down safely, but it was tricky with several areas of gravel and rough pavement.

Rider meeting at the start
The second control in Linwood, KS, is only 21 miles, which means you cannot dally because a flat tier or other mishap can cause you to get there after it closes. As it was, all riders were there about 07:19. The riders began to break up into smaller groups north of Eudora. Dan and I stopped in Wellsville, which left us at the back of the pack as usual. There was a north to NNE wind, so we also made good time to the third control in Ottawa (10:00). Most of the other riders were leaving as we arrived because they wanted to eat second breakfast at a McDonald's further south in Ottawa. We decided to join them, but had to eat rather hurriedly to leave with them. We hung with them for a while, but they were setting to fast of a pace after having just eaten.

Heading out of Kansas City
Stout's Corner in Linwood, KS
West of Linwood, KS

Making the turn south

Spencer Klaassen's fixed gear
Spencer and Dan
Dan crossing the Kansas River
Building south of Eudora
It was basically a long, straight pull to Emporia on Old US 50 with some assist from the wind on the first third, but the remainder was directly west with a cross wind. We only saw a couple of other other riders, and they were ahead of us. We ate dinner (really another breakfast) at the Harvey's in the Flying J, which was the fourth control unless you were getting a room at the Knights Inn for your return. We were playing it loose and planned to get a room on the way back if the timing worked out. We headed out as soon as we had eaten. There was still a steady wind out of the north, and we were headed into it. We made it to the information control in Bushong sometime after 18:00. We had to record the speed limit through town (30 mph)on our brevet card.

Dan on Old US 50
Downtown Emporia
Sculpture in Emporia
Emporia control
Americus, KS
Americus, KS
Bushong speed limit
We stopped for a short time in Council Grove, which is the start of the Flint Hills 225K Permanent that I have ridden with Spencer Klaassen and friends a couple times. Council Grove is also the home of one of the twelve Madonna of the Trail statues. I was feeling sleepy, so I took a caffeine pill before leaving Council Grove. There was quite a bit of traffic on Hwy 177 north out of Council Grove, so we were glad to make the turn onto Hwy 4 after 12 miles. We put our lights on after we made the turn as it was almost sunset. The wind began to die down, and it was a pleasant ride along a relatively flat section until we began a gradual descent into a valley. We ran into a group of five riders headed back when we were still several miles outside of Junction City, and then a single rider, Terry Beasley, just before we began a steep ascent out of the valley, only to go back down on the other side to reach Junction City at 21:43. As we walked into the Handy's store (sixth control), I noticed there was pizza for sale, but when I came back out of the restaurant, they were all gone. I asked the clerk if there was more pizza. She told me that all they had were old ones they were tossing and we could have them for free, so we both took a pizza. We rested for a while and watched the typically strange traffic wandering in and out of the store. There were also police car lights continually flashing further down the road. We found out later it was a sobriety stop. Two of the riders decided to spend a few hours in a Junction City motel. They got the last room because there was some type of graduation ceremony that day, and the motels were full.

Heading into Council Grove, KS, on Hwy 56
Madonna of the Trail statue in Council Grove, KS
Heading out of Council Grove on Hwy 177
Sunset as we headed north

Dan in Junction City

It was cooler as we headed back, particularly in the low lying areas. We stopped again at Council Grove. There was a lot less traffic on Hwy 177. I think we were only passed by about three vehicles. At the convenience store, the clerk told us we should try to spend the night there and pointed us towards the only two motels in town. Her main concern seemed to be that the bars were closing about the time we were leaving. Although, it was tempting, we pushed on. As it was we were only passed by a few vehicles as we head east out of town on the main road, Hwy 56.
We were back in Emporia at 04:30; almost the same length of time it took us to ride the 400k brevet two weeks earlier. We were satisfied with the time. We decided to eat and take a nap, which we did in the booth at the Harvey's until we were awakened after about an hour by the waitress vacuuming the floor. She apologized saying she had to get it done before her supervisor showed up shortly. With that and since no one had stolen our bikes while we slept, we got on them and headed east.

Emporia control inbound
Emporia, KS
Terry Beasley, caught up with us not far out of town. He had spent a couple hours in a motel in Emporia. He said Spencer Klaassen had probably left about the same time as we did from the motel that was further east than the Flying J. Terry rode with us for a while before pulling ahead. Two other riders, Karen Winterhalter and Dave Mathews, caught up with us when we stopped at the park in Williamsburg to get water. We left before Karen and Dave, but they caught us before we reach Ottawa. Just before we turned north into Ottawa, a pickup passed us going the other way with the driver flipping us off. Not sure why. Must not like cyclists in general. We really did not have any other problems with drivers. There were a couple vehicles that passed a little closer than necessary, but nothing really unsafe. Karen and Dave were still at the control when we arrived (12:47). I debated going a few blocks further north and off the route to eat at a Subway but settled for pizza at the Casey's instead. Karen and Dave left before us. That was the last we saw of them.

Dan near Lebo, KS
Sheep on Old US 50
Old building on Old US 50
Williamsburg, KS, park
The headwind died by the time we reached Wellsville, where we stopped briefly at the Casey's. Somewhere between Ottawa and Wellsville, a turkey ran across the road in front of me and then, a little further on, two deer. It seemed strange to see them so late in the day. We were making good time on the rollers between Wellsville and Eudora when Dan told me it looked like my rear tire was a little flat. A few miles later, I could tell it was getting mushy, and we stopped to pump it up. It was mushy again as we crossed Hwy 10 into Eudora, so we stopped to change the tube. I could not find anything wrong with the tire, but I had had problems with the valve stem unscrewing in the past. I put in a new tube. As luck would have it, there was a Subway behind the convenience store where we stopped. At first, we did not think it was open because there were no cars, but the open sign was on. So I got have my subway sandwich after all, or at least part of one. I wrapped the rest to eat later, which ended up being in the motel at the end.

We were at the Linwood control at 18:16, and then we began the long haul east to the end. It always seems to take a lot longer on the return than outbound, particularly along Hwy 32 (Kaw Drive). We thought we had gone past the turn onto 78th Street, so Dan used his smart phone to locate us. We still had to go a few blocks east before we began the long climb up to the motel. We arrived at the motel at 20:25. It took longer than the other 600Ks I completed, but it was a longer ride (383 miles). It also seemed like a more relaxed ride. It helped that the temperatures were relatively cooler than the prior 600K brevets. I do not do as well in the heat. At the end, Dan said he had no interest in doing another 600K, but I also said that after every 600K. The memories of a sore butt and aching muscles fade and the road beckons when the brevet season starts again.

Old US 50 looking east
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began,
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow it if I can.
-J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings

Saturday, May 5, 2012

200, 300, 400Km

Been riding and have not had much time to keep the blog updated. Dan Pfaff and I pre-rode the Southwest Missouri 200Km on March 18, my birthday. It was a nice day to ride, except that we had a south head wind on the return that slowed us up. We finished in just under 11 hours, which is one of our slower 200Km. There were 13 riders the following Saturday for the actual event, and they were all faster except the two that got lost and did not finish. Three riders came from Columbia, MO, two from the St. Louis area, and one from New Jersey via Mountain Home, AR.

SW Missouri 200Km Pre-ride
Dan and I also pre-rode the Southwest Missouri 300Km with Joe Kratovil on April 7. Joe is from New Jersey and was visiting his mom in Mountain Home. He rides a fixed gear. The ride was prety non-eventful until it started raining as we left the Jasper control. About three miles from the Joplin control, Dan hit a pothole and crashed. He was able to ride to a convenience store a short distance away, but the tire was beginning to deflate. When he took the wheel off he discovered one of the spokes had broke. After changing the tube and remounting the wheel,the wheel was no longer true and rubbed against the brake pad even with the brake open. He ended up abandoning the ride and had his wife pick him up. If we had thought about it, he could have walked to the control and had his wife bring him a replacement bike. The rain stopped, and Joe and I continued on. As luck would have it, the wind also shifted out of the west. Prior to the storm ending, the wind had been out of the SSE, which helped us until we made the turn south, just west of Jasper. The wind would now push us home, and I completed the route with my fastest time, just over 15.5 hours. Dan ended up riding the route again the day of the event along with two other riders, of which only one finished.

SW Missouri 300Km Pre-ride-Joe & Dan
Dan and I also had a four-member Flèche team for the KC Region Flèche on April 20. One member bailed before the ride because of work. We left Republic at 17:30 for Grain Valley, just east of KC. The other rider got sick to his stomach in Golden City, and we ended up abandoning, which was unfortunate because we were on schedule and it was going to be a great night to ride.

 On April 28, Dan and I rode the 400Km in Liberty, MO. We drove up the evening before. As we were unpacking, I realized I had not brought my water bottles, and Dan only had one bottle. Fortunately, there was a Dick's sporting goods store just down the road from the motel.

Bob Burns, the RBA, sent off the 15 riders at 06:00. We hung together the first eight or ten miles, but then several of the faster riders moved ahead and a couple of riders dropped back. Dan and I stayed with the main group until the north side of Excelsior Springs when we were separated by a traffic signal that forced us to stop for crossing traffic. The other riders were going slightly faster and slowly pulled away. By this time, there was a slight headwind that stayed with us the entire day. The route is pretty simple from Excelsior Springs north; it follows US69. We soon got to a bridge that Bob said was closed but should be ride-able, and we rode across with no trouble although it was closed to traffic.

At the start

Riders behind

Riders in front

Speeding around a curve

Heading north on US69
I had an AMC Gremlin in college
Closed roads don't stop randonneurs

Dan and I stopped stopped briefly in Cameron at a Casey's (45 miles). We crossed paths with the big group as they were leaving the Pattonsburg control (73 miles). The riders we thought were behind us were at the control and left as we arrived, so we were at the back. We were planning to get back to Pattonsburg before 21:00 when the store closed because we would have to find another store further south if we did not make it on time. We also stopped in Eagleville (88 miles) for a quick soda.

Cameron, MO

Riders leaving Pattonsburg, MO

Pattonsburg control
 North of Eagleville, the two fastest riders passed us heading back. We figured they were about 35 miles ahead of us. Two other riders passed before we got to Lamoni, where we stopped at the next control (118 miles). We passed the three riders, who had been behind the big group, between Lamoni and Davis City. We arrived in Davis City at 16:39 (124 miles) and dropped our post card in the mail box. We stopped at Subway in Lamoni as the three riders left. Apparently the big group had stopped somewhere to eat, and we did not notice when we passed them on our way to Davis City. After we ate, we stopped again at the Lamoni control and then took off to try to get to Pattonsburg before the store closed. We made it by about 20 minutes (177 miles) with the help of the slight tailwind that we had pushed against on the ride north.

Big barn
Crossing the Grand River

Just south of Lamoni, IA
Lamoni, IA
We were in Amish country
 We had a scare after dark where US69 and MO6 intersected with MO6 coming from the northest and US69 headed southwest. We could hear sirens coming down MO6, so waited expecting them to continue southwest on US69, but they turned right at high speed with us directly in their path if they lost control. We heard another siren coming, so we took off down US69.

We stopped again in Cameron, and the clerk said several riders had stopped earlier. South of Cameron, we began to see lighting in the distance, and it began to sprinkle. Soon the rain was pouring down. We finally found a sheltered place to stop just north of Lawson, where we put on more clothes to keep warm. The rain slowed, so we took off again. At Lawson, we ran into the three riders who thought were well ahead. They were taking shelter under a gas station canopy. The rain had picked up again, so Dan and I stopped. When it slowed, we started to leave only to return when it started raining harder than ever. As we waited, a guy in a pickup stopped and told us there was a 24-hour c-store just east about ½ mile. We took off for the store and waited for the rain to slow as we warmed up and dripped water on the floor. We monitored the storm on a mobile phone, and when there appeared to be a break in the storms, we headed out again. The other three riders were riding faster, and we lost contact with them before Excelsior Springs. As a result, we missed the turn off of US69. We had to backtrack about ¼ of a mile when we realized our mistake. We made back to Liberty (250 miles) at 04:26.