Friday, August 30, 2013

That May Have Been the Best Bike Ride Ever

Pictures are here.

Four miles into a six-mile climb today, I realized that I was having a great day. I mean, really GREAT!

So, that probably sounds crazy. It's a six-mile climb, right? But it was six miles at an average of just under five percent grade, and it was a super-quiet and shady road. The pavement was only so-so, but the views were incredible. Lush evergreen all around, with an undergrowth of fern. The lower mile or two had fields of cattle and corn and grain, with a few houses and barns with the usual west coast bucolic ex-hipy vibe.

And a lot of it was just because I felt great. The bike felt perfect for this kind of climb, and my legs felt remarkably fresh ... no problems from yesterday's unintentional dismount.

The weather was also about as good as it could get. Cool enough that I felt right with arm and knee warmers at the bottom, I pulled off the arm warmers pretty quickly and left the knee warmers for the duration. The dew and sweat beaded on my arms as it evaporated, keeping me cool as a climbing cucumber.

The climb got steeper for a bit, and then eased off to almost level when I ran into a group of four young touring cyclists. They were taking a break and eating a snack, and I stopped to ask how they were doing. "Good," one of the girls said. "We just hope we're at the top."

"It looks like it," I said, and thought unfortunately ...

Today was full of things like this. I slept a little late, then rode into Pacific City and had a cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll at a bakery. When I realized that I had forgotten my bottles at the hotel, I headed back and quickly retrieved them, then got back on the road with a nice tailwind.

I cruised through Oretown and Neskowin, and then up the aforementioned climb on Slab Creek Road. After a fun, easy descent, I considered breaking for an early lunch in Otis ("My man!"), but the cafe there was full of folks who beat me to it. So I headed on to Lincoln City instead.

The Adventure Cycling route avoided much of the town by going on the other side of Devil's Lake via Devil's Lake Road. This was a gently rolling, quiet street full of pretty houses with nice yards, and I enjoyed every inch of it. When it returned to Hwy 101 at an outlet mall, I was genuinely sad.

Going south again on Hwy 101, I started looking for somewhere to eat lunch. Instead, I saw a shop selling chocolate and went in for a quick snack. A milk chocolate coconut haystack and chocolate-covered Twinkee on a stick later, and I was full of energy once more.

The next few miles were a procession of riding on the ample shoulder of Hwy 101 and stopping regularly to take pictures of yet another incredible seascape. I ran into the young cyclists again, who had briefly teamed up with another young man from the Netherlands. There was also a group of 14 riders who were doing the Oregon coast down to Crescent City, but staying in hotels and supported by a couple of vans. Maybe someday I'll try that.

I had one other "incredible road" experience just past Depoe Bay, when the route turned on to the Otter Creek Loop near Otter Rock. The road shadowed Hwy 101, but only allowed one-way traffic going south; there was a lane for cars, and another for bikes. The grade was, again, nice and easy, and the views were splendid.

The few miles from there to Newport were a breeze ... helped greatly by the 10 mph wind at my back. I explored the city a bit, and then checked in to my hotel and called RandoGirl. After I got cleaned up and unloaded the bike a bit, I went down to Nye Beach for dinner at a funky restaurant there, and then came back to the room to do some laundry and write this blog.

When I checked in to the hotel, I told the clerk that the day had been beautiful. "Well, wait'll you get further south," he said. "That's the pretty part of the coast."

I may not be able to stand this.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

"Predominant." That Word Does Not Mean What You Think It Means.

Today's pictures are here.

I only saw one other cycling tourist today. He came pedalling in to the store in Sandlake just as I was about to leave, head down, suffering, trying to force his bike over flat ground, moving well off the road to get into the wind shadow of the store.

The store owner and two other locals were sitting with me on the front porch of the store. As the rider got off the bike and walked up the steps to the porch of the store, he said, "you know, I picked this route because the winds were predominantly from the northwest. I was supposed to just be able to sail along down the coast."

Yeah. Me, too.

Leaving my hotel in Portland this morning, it was blustery and wet but not raining. I got the bike out the door of my room and realized my rear tire was flat. I guess it's better when these things happen at the hotel, because it was easy to roll it back in and change the flat and then get cleaned up again.

Fortunately I had plenty of time. After grabbing a bagel, I went by the bike shop down the street and pumped my tires full, and then bought a fresh patch kit. It was mostly down hill from there to the Greyhound station, where my bus came on time.

A little after 1 pm, I was back in Tillamook putting my bags back on the bike. As often happens at bus stations, there was a strange little man hanging out who tried to tell me that he was the model for George Jetson, and something about a weird code that I should tell the Canadians when I go across the border.

Ah, the life of a ramblin' man!

I cruised north to the local megamart for a sandwich, zip ties, shop rags, and a new electric razor. And by cruise, I mean "cruise" because the wind was behind me for this mile and it was strong! After my shopping when I began heading in the direction my route was supposed to go today, I knew that I was in for it.

The Adventure Cycling route has an option to skip a hilly route down over Cape Meares and through Oceanside. I thought about taking the short cut, but that would be easier and less scenic. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending upon your point of view), the road to Cape Meares was closed. Thus cut almost 10 miles and over 500' of climbing out of my day's plan, but it turns out that this was okay.

My shortcut returned to the coast at Netarts, where I paused to eat the rest of my sandwich and watch the fierce sea. Then it was back on the Three Capes Scenic Route, pushing my way down Netarts Bay Drive, sometimes shifting into the small ring even though the road was flat and I was down in the drops. The wind eased a bit as the road moved inland to begin climbing the 800' over Cape Lookout.

The fog was thick for these three miles, but the road was nice and quiet, with a bike lane most of the way. When I finally reached the top, the wiind came back with a vengeance, and I had to tuck low and feather my brakes to keep from getting blown into the other lane.

Near the bottom, I entered a mile of road bordered by sand dunes. Pines were in the distance, slowing being enveloped by the drifts. I've never seen anything like it.

Then it was a right turn past Sandlake, with more of that fierce headwind. This went on for another 10 miles, as I eventually topped the last of the capes -- Kiwanda.

Just before Pacific City, I was riding near the right edge of the road when a car passed me. As it went by, I noticed that the right edge of the road was crumbling in, and I needed to move left. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to do this very well, and ended up making an unintentional dismount. My left elbow and hip got banged and scraped a bit, and it temporarily knocked my handlebars and saddle askew, but I was able to fix everything (pretty much) and get moving again within a minute.

My original plan was to stay at a campground, but after the harsh day and the spill, I decided to treat myself with a hotel. The first one that I came to, after another crummy crosswind descent, was the Inn at Cape Kwanda. It's very nice, but more expensive than any other place that I've stayed at so far this trip. After a hot bath, doing some laundry, and a good pizza, I feel pretty good again. Hopefully the world will be right again tomorrow, and the wind will be back to it's proper predominant place.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Bicycle-Friendly Community

For pictures from today, go here.

It rained last night, but stopped (for the most part) before I got up very early, broke down my tent, loaded up, bade my riding companions from yesterday a bon route, and headed to the Tilllamook traansit center to catch the bus. I was early enough to get breakfast at The Pancake House. The bacon was thick and the boysenberry syrup tasty.

The bus ride was a steamy warm bumpy flight through a green mush. Ferns and thickets and slashes of gold bank laid bare, then glimpses of a silver river far below, rocks sensed more than seen beneath tumultuous turbidity. You could wipe the window clear of condensation for a minute and play a kalaidoscope game with the view: Blurry foliage up close then - pop! - a clearing with a yellow logging yarder ticking cool. More blurs and - pop! - a series of signs bellowing KEEP OUT and POSTED and NO TRESPASSING to let you know that somebody by gum moved up here into the hinterlands for a reason (darn tootin', you betcha!).

We reached the top of the mountain range and the world slowly changed, firs giving way gradually to fields of amber grain sown and shipped. There was corn, but it was shorter than ours ... probably the result of a different moisture to sunshine ratio than in Tennessee. A farmer on a John Deere tractor was plowing under last year's dismal yield. Mobile homes with mossy roofs. Mills and lumber yards that are obviously the biggest industry in town.

Then, it was the Portland suburbs, and ubiquity settled in like a comfortable pair of Birkenstocks ... arranged, of course, in such a way that the brand name showed. The bus stopped and disgorge many of the Tillamookians (Tillamookites?) in front of a See's Candy shop. I almost jumped out myself.

Further in to town down busy US 26, we finally hit our ultimate destination -- the Greyhound bus station -- and I jumped off with my bags, got my bike off the rack on the front, loaded everything back up, and spun away to explore. I stopped at an Embassy Suites that was less than a mile away, but their price was a little ridiculous. After a little more exploring, I hit a Travelodge that was just over two miles from the bus stop. As the clerk said, "we're clean, but you won't get a chocolate on your pillow." Sold!

I couldn't check in for another four hours, but the clerk let me stash my bags in the hotel office. I then went back in to the city center. The pictures pretty much tell the story -- a funky little town that has managed to embrace cycling as both a means to exercise and a means to travel. There were bikes everywhere, either under people travelling thither and yon or securely bolted to the omnipresent bike racks. The number of apparently homeless people wandering around made me whip out my little lock a few times to lash Sparkletini securely to a post..

Two funny things about the homeless folks: One was the guy that I saw with a sign saying "Need $5 to get a job." He was sitting by an on-ramp to the interstate, wearing dirty clothes and with a pretty grimy looking beard, talking to somebody on his cell phone. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but it seems like if you have your own phone number you're not technically homeless any more ... right?

The other funny thing about the homeless folks was this: When I would lock up my bike, I would then take my front bag and bottles and helmet into stores with me. Maybe it was this, or maybe it was because I wasn't dressed very nicely -- wearng cheap zip-off-leg light khakis and a wicking rayon (but collared) shirt -- but the store clerks weren't sure whether I was one of those homeless guys or not. I stopped at a Safeway for some Gatorade for tomorrow and went to use the rest room, but it was locked up and you needed a code, and the lady in the deli wasn't sure that she should give it to me.

Of course, it may also be because I haven't shaved for a few days, and was frankly looking a little dirty after biking about town much of the day. I left my old electric razor (a very cheap one -- no big loss) in Elma, so I may go out this evening and buy a new one. I was playing with the idea of growing my beard out on this trip, but if people are going to treat me like a hobo I may have to rethink that idea.

Or I can get a sign and try to earn a living.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fools Love Company

NOTE: I'm going to try something different. Because blogger doesn't play well with an iPad (at least, for writing blogs), I am not embedding any pictures in today's blog. To see the pictures, go to my Picassa Web Album for the West Coast 2013 Tour (this link may take you right to today's pictures).

What do you know? There are actually other cyclists doing this route!

I got up to wet streets but no rain, so after getting a nice cup of coffee and pastry from a shop downtown I headed out on the route. Less than half a mile from my hotel I came up two other touring cyclists headed my way.

Oliver is from Sacramento, and had ridden up from there to Vancouver and was now heading back to Coo's Bay to end his trip. Max is from Frankfurt, Germany, and is riding his recumbent from Anchorage (with a ferry ride in there, somewhere) to San Diego.

They were super-nice guys and good riders, and the rest of the morning we headed down the Oregon coast, enjoying the sights, sweating up the climbs, zipping down the descents, and doing what we could to stay out of the way of passing RVs and logging trucks. Although I had originally planned to camp at a state park before Garibaldi, by lunch I had decided to ride with them all the way to their evening's destination in Tillamook.

Just after a brief break for lunch, we came upon another four cycling tourists -- two couples that weren't really riding together, but had also met on the road. One couple was just heading out onto the road, so they joined us for a few miles. They were staying at a Warm Showers house in Bay City. The other couple was heading to Tillamook like us, and we ran into them again there. They ended up at the same campground as Max, Oliver, and I.

It was really a phenomenal day, with no rain while we were riding and just a light drizzle after we had finally set up our tents. Check out the pictures and captions for more information.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Well, They Talk About It Being Rainy Up Here ...

So, the forecast for Sunday night was a %20 chance of rain. That means that it's going to rain.

It woke me up a bit, but mostly it just meant that I had to try to dry the rain fly on the tent again before I packed it. I took it all to the covered picnic pavillion, packed stuff up, dried it as best I could, fixed my coffee, and managed to get on the road just before 7:30.

The roads were wet, but the sun was breaking through the clouds. I had a long way to go today, so I was pushing the pace more than I had the previous two days.

The first part of the day was fairly flat, as I went along the Cowlitz River. There was even a spot where I got onto a quiet road running through fields, passing under I-5. It was really a lovely morning.

I stopped briefly for coffee in Castle Rock, after which the road turned more into the wind and the hills returned.

There was a very long climb next, followed by an even longer but more gradual descent.

Finally, at the bottom of the descent, I turned east on Hwy 4. The wind was at my back and the road was flat for over five miles.

I knew that the Columbia River was just out of view to my left, but these overflow lakes full of lillypads were gorgeous.

The down side of this road was the logging trucks and RVs. Soome of the logging trucks were loaded, and some were on their way to get loaded. I think that this big thing was on its way back from loading the trucks.

Eventually, the road moved far enough south that I could see the river. Across was Oregon, my destination for the night.

There were a few long climbs in here, too, but eventually I got to Cathlamet.

It was about 11:30, and I was making good time. But I was really hungry, too, so I tried to find a sandwich that I could get to go. My first stop was a convenience store, but they didn't have anything. I bought some sun screen, and went down the road to the grocery store. They didn't have sandwiches, either, so I bought a box of Wheat Thins and a package of cheese. Paying for this, I asked the clerk if the ferry to Oregon ran, and he said it went every hour.

Loading my lunch on the bike, I saw that I had four miles to go to the ferry, but only 15 minutes to get there. I settled into time-trial mode and pedalled hard ...

... but just missed it.

One hour later the next one came, and 20 minutes after that I was heading west again. But this time I was in Oregon and on US 30.

About 2 pm, the rain started. Thirty minutes later, it got serious and I stopped to put on a jacket and cover the panniers. US 30 was much worse than Hwy 4 had been, too, with a lot more trucks and RVs and cars that seemed determined not to move over at all for cyclists.

It was at this point that I actually ran into some other tourists going my way. They were stopped at the top of a hill, and I pulled over to see if they needed any thing. They said, no, they were just pausing for the traffic. I asked where they were going, and they said San Francisco. Me, too, I replied. I asked where they were stopping for the night and they said Astoria. Me, too, I replied. I asked where they might go after that, and I think that this was the point that they figured that I might be interested in riding along with them. So they said something vague and I got the point and moved on.

I finally got to Astoria about 4 pm. I found a bike shop to get some chain lube, and then found my hotel. It's ... well, not expensive.

The rain paused in the evening, so I walked into town and checked things out. After grabbing dinner at a microbrewery, I went to an old movie theatre downtown and watched "Despicable Me 2." Although the movie was only so-so, the theatre owners are doing a great job trying to bring it back.

At the bike shop, the guy selling me my lube told me that this was the first real rain that they've had all summer. It was not what I wanted to hear. Hopefully, it will be brief.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Mayonnaise on French Fries

It's easy, as you ride along here in western Washington, to forget that you're not in Tennessee any more. The countryside is gently rolling, green, bucolic ... with cows and sheep and goats and llamas penned up to one side, watching bored as you pedal past. Fields are full of hay, mostly rolled now and shrinkwrapped into giant Hostess Ding Dongs to be called into play during the coming winter.

But, as Vincent Vega once said, "it's the little things."

Some are obvious, such as the mountains. Today, they shadowed my ride to left and right for the first flat 30 miles. "Come play with us, Danny," they called, as I motored along on my big wheel and kept my eyes fixed forward. Eventually, I knew that I would enter that elevator full of blood ... just not now, please. Not now.

The casinos aren't subtle, but when are they ever? Cars whizzed past me on a Sunday morning near this one, spewing fools hoping to strike a deal with the one-armed bandits. Money-changers, trading coins for delusion.

The subtlety was left to nature, really. The road was lined with blackberries, but in spite of a reportedly dry summer here they were fat and juicy and thick, unlike the sparse morsels we get back home. And there were other, less-familiar berries -- something that looked like a pepper, and bushes full of dark ominous orbs whose proliferation proved their poisonous persuasion.

Subtle ... a four-P piece of alliteration is certainly not that.

I had gotten a late start, thanks to my diligent observance of the 10pm to 7 am "quiet time" at the RV park. By the time that I had cooked breakfast, gotten dressed, broken camp, and loaded up it was almost 9 am. I grabbed a second cup of coffee at a roadside stand and headed out onto the backroads.

As I mentioned, the route was flat at first. I crossed some lovely rivers, slightly wider and faster flowing than most back home, but otherwise the same.

Another difference, of course, was the weather -- temperatures were more like December in Tennessee.

I'm glad to say that the humor is about the same. From the Barbie dolls hanging from the phone line ...

... to people willing to name their businesses with an eye towards entertainment.

I also went by this place today:

The sign said it was a school, but it looked more like a minimum-security prison. There didn't seem to be anybody there, either. Spooky ...

After 25 miles, I stopped in Rochester at this place.

The owner, Bob Connors, is a bass player who had worked with Stephen Stills and Larry Gatlin. We talked music for a while, in particular our mutual philosophy that it is best when it is organic, and he told me that he is planning a visit to Nashville in a few months and might look me up then. That would be cool.

Bob also makes a mean breve and his candy is great. He is selling this place as of this coming Thursday, but said that the new owners don't plan to change anything. It's been successful for 18 years, according to Bob, so I don't see why they would.

RandoBoy does not ride on chocolate and coffee alone, however. I stopped at a Quizno's in Centralia for a flatbread sandwich, and it was the busiest Quizno's that I have ever seen. As so often has happened during the past few days, people asked where I was heading. The lady in line behind me, when she heard that I am riding alone, promised to pray for me.

A few miles out of Centralia, the road turned up and I had a two-mile climb. Once atop the ridge, the wind came around behind me and I moved briskly along. I saw three touring cyclists, apparently doing the same route but northbound, and then went down a steep descent with a couple of riders just out for a spin. I saw "Dan Henry" arrows on the road about this time, so these were obviously popular cycling roads.

A little further on, there was another climb up onto another ridge with another tailwind. This road took me past Lewis and Clark State Park, where I had to get a picture since we so frequently visit Meriwether Lewis Park on the Natchez Trace.

Five miles more and I was in my stopping point for the evening, the City of Toledo. I quickly found the city park, which does not appear to have anyone else staying for the night. It's only $10 for tents, with rest rooms and a shower. (You have to feed quarters to the shower, but the rest rooms are free.)

My campsite is next to this really cool tree, too.

But the ground is so hard that I broke one of my tent spikes driving it in.

Tomorrow is a long day, as I finish up the state of Washington and end up in Astoria, Oregon. The people at the grocery store here were telling me that I had to visit the Maritime Museum there, and that Kindergarten Cop and The Goonies were both filmed there. Maybe that's another way that Washington is just like Tennessee -- lots of friendly folks.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sleeping Amongst Zombies

I'm staying at an RV park tonight that is full of zombies and runners.

That's what the lady running the park told me when I got here, explaining that normally there's more tent room and that the bathrooms are cleaner, but "there's a big bumch here. Half of them are zombies and the other half are runners."

I talked to one of them while I was setting up my tent, and asked her, "are you a runner or a zombie?"

"Both," she said.

So apparently it's not as simple a world as the lady running the RV park thought.

Here's the view from my hotel room this morning. I slept as late as I could, trying to get on west coast time, but went ahead and got up about 5:30 am. After an hour of rearranging things on the bike, I took my shower, checked out of the hotel, and went off to the Family Pancake House for breakfast.

In the course of unpacking stuff, I found that I had left part of the mount for my Vis 180 helmet light. As the above shows, you can overcome almost anything with zip ties.

It took me an hour to get out of Bremerton proper -- partly due to a couple of missed turns. One of those turns had me climbing a really long hill ... just to find that I missed the turn at the bottom of said hill. Once back at the bottom, I think that I climbeed the same hill again, but in a steeper way.

Soon I was riding along either the Hood Canal, which was lined with nice houses. It was still chilly and overcast, and the sky was threatening some rain, but that rain never did fall on me.

About 20 miles into the day, I stopped at a store for some Gatorade and a snack. It had warmed up enough and spots of blue were showing in the sky, so I took off my jacket and knee warmers. Some guys in a truck pulled in at the store and asked how far I was going. One of them was also a cyclist, and he got a big kick out of my Shimano sandals. They also told me that the store was famous for their breakfast burritos. Maybe next time ...

Just past this spot at the lake I turned left and went up a bodacious hill. The guy at the store had warned me about it, and I'd said that I would walk if if  that was what it took to get up. Somehow, I managed to avoid walking, but it was close.

Things were more dry on this road, and I kept noticing how much of the fern undergrowth was dying. I felt a little guilty for being happy that I wasn't getting rained on, with the problems that they are having up here with fires.

Eventually, I got to Shelton. The Adventure Cycling route had me going through town, but my GPS wanted me to go around it via some weird way. It had done this earlier, so I had to go "old school" and pull out the route sheet again. It took another five bonus miles, but I eventually found downtown and explored it. This gave me a chance to find what seemed like the best lunch place in town. I got a burger that was more than acceptable.

I took another wrong turn on the way out of Shelton, so I got to climb another hill that I shouldn't have. Eventually, I got to Cloquallam Road for the last long stretch of the day.

The wind had come up, and was mostly in my face, so this part of the route took longer than I would have liked. I was so happy to see this sign.

I've been re-reading "Sometimes a Great Notion" on this trip, so this road -- which was the roundabout way into Elma -- was  really cool. Of course, they had put down a bunch of fresh gravel and had signs warning motorcyclists to be careful (Hey! What about me?!). But it was easy to ride over, except for the few times that it got caught by a wheel and made a horrible scraping sound as it went by on the fender.

A turn off of this road made me miss RandoGirl.

Soon, I was exploring Elma. It was a nice town, with a good grocery store. I bought some tomato soup and Cheez-Its, plus some stuff to fix tomorrow for breakfast, and then made my way to the RV park and the zombies.

I just cooked my dinner while doing laundry (this is a NICE RV park ... although their wifi isn't too great) and chatted with the zombies while writing this blog. They told me that if you want more information, you can go to A couple of them said that they are neither zombies or runners, but were just spectators.

Just goes to show that there is more to this world than is dreamt of in the RV lady's philosophy.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Trip to the Trip

For a day where I biked so few miles, I am very tired.

It's usually this way, of course. Getting to the start of the ride is often more difficult than the ride itself ... or so it seems. It's probably because riding a bike is, of course, more fun than sitting in an airplane.

Friday started really early, with RandoGirl driving me to the airport for my 7:25 am flight (thanks, honey!). That flight to Chicago went fine, with a two-hour layover (I like that, however, ever since I've had shorter layovers that left me stranded at some airport overnight) followed by a longer flight to Seattle. After collecting my luggage -- two cardboard boxes with my panniers, tent, and so forth -- I caught a cab to Aaron's bike shop.

By this time, it was after 2:30 in Seattle, and the shop folks were at lunch. They had warned me that this would be the case, so I went to the place next door and get a Vietnamese sandwich. At first, I was reluctant to do this, having never eaten a Vietnamese sandwich before. But then I decided, "Hey! This is an adventure, right? Get outside of the comfort zone."

Soon after lunch, Aaron and his crew returned. They quickly got everything good on the bike, tweaking a few things here and there, and I had bags on the bike and was out the door just before 5 pm. I headed down to the Fauntleroy ferry across Puget Sound.

On the boat, I met a fellow who was biking home with his daughter. He was envious of my trip, and I got some tips on the route to Bremerton. I needed to pick up a fuel cell for my stove, and he recommended a sporting goods store on my route.

When the ferry docked, we all went our separate ways and I rode quickly to Port Orchard, stopping for my fuel on the way. The lady at the sporting goods store wasn't sure how late the foot ferry to Bremerton ran, so I was sweating it when I finally got to the dock. Fortunately, the ferry runs until 8:30 pm on weeknights, so I had plenty of time.

Twenty minutes later, the ferry came and I paid my two dollars. It was a very nice little ferry, with only three of use on board.

On the Bremerton side, I met a fellow who used to work at the Navy yard and he told me about some of the ships there. As I started off for my hotel, night was quickly approaching. I saw a pizza place advertising calzones, so I stopped and got a quick dinner to quiet my growling stomach. It was full dark by the time I left, but traffic was light and well-behaved on the last five miles to my hotel.

If you find yourself staying in Bremerton, I must recommend the Flagship Inn. The view out my back window is really nice, even though it is now dark out. The staff was really nice when I got here, and the price is excellent.

Tomorrow is the first "real" day of my tour, and I'm looking forward to getting out in the country. Sparkeltini feels good, although heavy ... as you might imagine. Right now, however, I'm exhausted and going to bed.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What? Me Worry?

I saw a great quote the other day: "Worry is a misuse of imagination."

Of course, it's human nature to think about what might go wrong with something ... and that's not necessarily bad. It's actually a sick kind of fun to attempt to anticipate potential problems, and then devise strategies to overcome them. I've been doing a lot of that over the past couple of months in preparation for my Big Trip, which starts Friday.

In case you didn't know, I'm flying in to Seattle, Washington. From there, I will head out on my bike to the coast, riding mostly down Hwy 101 through Oregon and into California, then going inland for a bit until I pick up CA 1 to go back to the shore. Eventually, I will cross the Golden Gate Bridge to my destination in San Francisco.

Most days, I'll be on popular roads with towns and grocery stores and bike shops. If something goes awry, it shouldn't be difficult to hobble things together enough to get somewhere where I can either buy what I need to fix what's wrong, or make other arrangements.

But there are some days on my trip when I will be out in the boonies. If there's a problem there, I'd better have with me everything that I need to get my bike moving again ... or else be prepared for a long walk.

But I'm not going to worry about those things. I have been, and will continue to be, concerned about those days. And I don't blame RandoGirl and the RandoDaughter and all of my friends for being concerned for me on those days -- any more than I would blame them for being concerned about me when I go out and do any long bike ride.

Just, please, don't worry.

If it helps, let me tell you what I've done to mitigate potential problems:

It all starts with the right equipment. Everything on the bike right now is in top shape, with new tires, new chain, and all of the hubs and bottom brackets and headsets and bolts well-greased and snug. Over the past couple of months I have tested, tweaked, and refined everything so that it is maximally operational, logically positioned, sufficiently accessible, and as solidly locked down as I can get it.

Next come the things to fix the obvious "what ifs" -- four spare tubes, a big patch kit, a spare tire, a roll of tape, bunches of zip ties, a fiber-fix spoke, tire boots, backup lighting, links for the chain, and tools to effectuate most repairs. I thought about carrying spare cables for brakes and derailleurs, but I rarely hear about anyone getting a good result from this. If I have to ride singlespeed for a few miles, it won't be the first time. If both of my brake cables should somehow go at the same time ... well, I would be very unpleasantly surprised.

As to my tent, sleeping bag, cooking equipment, and so forth, all of that is in good shape, too. I've got patch kits for any of those that might spring a leak, and I am bringing a proper mix of gear to get me through all but the most extreme weather.

Of course, to quote Mike Tyson: "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."

What Mike probably means by that is what Helmuth von Moltke the Elder meant when he said that "no plan survives first contact with the enemy." At that point, you rely on conditioning, resourcefulness, whatever knowledge and experience you may have gained thus far in your life, and a cool head. When that fails, you go the Blanche DuBois route and rely upon "the kindness of strangers."

So, what I'm asking you all to do is not waste perfectly good imagination thinking up dire events that could befall me during my Big Trip. Instead, just keep reading here for the next few weeks as I chronicle a trip that I have wanted to do -- in one form or another -- for almost 20 years. If you want to expend an emotion on me, make it Envy.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Big Tent

In politics, a "Big Tent" party is one that is trying to bring more people in by being diverse and less divisive. Sunday was a "big tent" day for me, as I tried to do some things that brought new blood -- figuratively, fortunately -- into the Harpeth Bike Club.

It started with a skills clinic in the morning, taught by Coach Emma Cribb from the I Am Racing bike team.

Coach Emma stayed off the bike this time -- a rarity for her -- because of her advanced pregnancy, but brought three teammates for the riding portion of the clinic. It focused on paceline and group-riding skills, and was extremely informative and well-delivered.

I was even able to help out, teaching one of the students how to park her bike against the curb. Riding stuff I may be only so-so on, but when it comes to getting off of a bicycle I am a pro.

After the clinic a group of us went out to practice some of what Emma had preached, heading down Wilson Pike to Cox, then back via McDaniel, Meeks, and Peytonsville Roads. The clouds had cleared up and a light breeze was blowing, making for the kind of August days that we just don't get enough of in middle Tennessee.

It had been a long morning since I had grabbed my coffee in bagel on the way to the clinic, so I rode from there over to Sonic and ate lunch. RandoGirl picked me up there and we drove over to Arrington Vineyards for a 1 pm group ride.

We had a big turnout, probably because 1) the weather was still nice and cool, although we had a couple of raindrops hit us during the ride, and 2) the ride organizers -- Regina Jensen and Ed Condon -- had mandated a 13-15 MPH maximum speed.

Regina and Ed regularly enforced the speed limit during the ride, so we all behaved and didn't race one another for the top of every hill. This also meant that we slowed down, talked, enjoyed the countryside, and actually just had fun riding a bike.

Weird, huh?