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

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.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

20,000 Miles

Finished the 20,000 mile overhaul on the Rivendell Romulus I bought new in 2004. Just waiting on the front wheel to return from New Hampshire where Peter White is rebuilding the generator hub. Bike should be good for another 80,000 miles or so. Hope I am too. Steel is real.