Hwy 10, West of Mandan

Hwy 10, West of Mandan

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Wrapping up the Year

I feel I’ve come full circle with this post, announcing a shoulder surgery not unlike what was done in October 2012.  This time it’s the left side, but the same situation (torn labrum and rotator cuff, bone spurs, etc.).  Assuming all goes well tomorrow, it’ll be a winter of physical therapy to regain lost flexibility and strength.  Thank goodness shoulders come in pairs.  I have no interest in going through this a third time.

The cycling year ended modestly following Chief Joseph 300k.  I stuck to my commuter, riding to and from work mostly.  Commuting, in fact, accrued the most mileage for the year among my five riding categories.  Total mileage decreased significantly compared to previous years.  Will that trend continue in 2016?

Ride time Mileage
Ride Cumulative Cumulative
Bike count hh:mm:ss km
Road 0 0:00:00 0
Mountain 1 0:41:03 10
Commuter 45 58:34:33 1257
Gravel 18 23:33:16 456
Randoneering 9 36:08:46 735
TOTAL 73 118:57:38 2460

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Ride Report - Chief Joseph 300k

Jason Karp, Montana’s RBA, selected a Spanish derivation of the word ‘Mountain’ (la montaña) as the brevet ‘Word of the Day’.  It proved to be an accurate representation of what I was to experience for most of the next 17 hours.

Beginning in Bridger, MT on August 1st, we departed promptly at 6:00 a.m.  Myself, along with four Montanan’s (three of whom were riding their final brevet prior to Paris-Brest-Paris) left the Bridger Hotel along Main St. and headed south to Belfry passing fields of wheat, freshly cut hay, and grazed pasture.  It was a great way to ease into the ride.  The valley of Clark’s Fork afforded us a comfortable air temperature, and it would be the only time during the day when we’d enjoy cool conditions at this lower elevation (<4000 feet).

(Rolling out of town)

(Montana wool)

Prior to leaving, the morning couldn’t have been more stressful.  I uncharacteristically overslept, giving myself less than 30 minutes to prepare and eat breakfast, change into cycling clothes, and complete a final check of my gear and bike.  I made it in time, but not before worrying Jason’s wife, Brenda, who knocked on the hotel door at 5:50 a.m. (“Yes, I’m just about ready…   …sorry!”).  I rolled out of my room just in time for the group photo.

[Chief Joseph 300k participants (L to R): Ken, Karel, Ken, Jason, Mark]

It was an ambitious loop, ascending Bear Creek Hill before passing through Red Lodge, over Beartooth Pass, into Cooke City (over Coulter Pass), back over Coulter Pass going east, then southeast over Dead Indian Pass before turning north on Wyoming Hwy 120 for the last 43 miles.  The day would include 14,000+ feet of climbing, with a maximum elevation just shy of 11,000 feet.  Our time limit was 20 hours, meaning we’d have until 2:00 a.m. Sunday to complete the brevet.

We were fortunate to have nearly perfect riding conditions over Beartooth Pass, with clear skies, a light breeze, and temperatures ideal for a hard climbing effort.  For me, this climb (and an all-too-brief descent) was the highlight of the day.

(PBP riders Karel, Ken, and Jason leading the charge up Beartooth Pass)

(Almost to the east summit)

(Brief stop at the west summit)

[Karel adjusts his GoPro for the descent (click here to view)]

(One of many high elevation lakes on the other side of the pass)

(Motivation to keep pedaling, fast!)

(Onward to Cooke City)

The climb over Coulter Pass proved to be the most difficult part of the day.  With temperatures in the high 80s, no breeze, and an absence of shade along the road, my pace slowed considerably.  Karel, who had been riding strong all day, pulled ahead to arrive in Cooke City first.  I wasn’t too far behind, joining him at the Exxon C-Store for lunch (deep-fried hotdogs!) and a well-earned break.

(Main thoroughfare in Cooke City, MT)

I loaded up on water before leaving, realizing there would be at least 4+ hours of riding in high temperatures before the next checkpoint.  I’m glad I did!  It turned out to be a hot afternoon.  I backed off my effort accordingly, stopping periodically to rest and enjoy the wonderful scenery.

(Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone River)

(Meadows!  Trees!  Mountains!  Sky!)

(One last crossing over Clark’s Fork before climbing Dead Indian pass)

(After the final climb, an amazing descent on Chief Joseph Scenic Byway)

The final leg was along Hwy 120, which sloped slightly downhill nearly all the way back to Bridger.  We lucked out with a moderate tailwind, which allowed for a decent pace into the evening (18-20 mph).  The only challenge was avoiding the rattlesnakes that came out on the road after dusk.  I dislike snakes, but they played an important role in the last 2.5 hours.  I had no problem staying alert.  Thanks snakes!

(Moving quickly north, dodging rattlesnakes along the way)

(One last push of calories and caffeine in front of the Silvertip Lounge, Belfry, MT)

(Arrived!  17 hours 7 minutes and 194 miles later)

The Chief Joseph 300k was a capstone cycling experience.  For the distance travelled, I have a hard time imagining a more scenic, exhilarating, and challenging ride.  Jason Karp pushed us hard with this route, and his wife Brenda provided timely support with food and drink in the last 40 miles.  While I’m in a definite lull this year with my randonneuring, I am happy having completed this brevet.  For me, the cycling year is complete.

Kudos to Jason and Brenda for setting the stage for unforgettable day.  They are a great team.  (Jason’s review of the ride can be found here).  I’m also indebted to my wife, Susan, who had good eats and cold water waiting upon my return. 

(Relaxing the next day in Medora, ND)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Biking Brasilia!

The annual GRA Croplands Research Group meeting in Brasilia, Brazil afforded me the opportunity to observe bicycling in South America (a first for me).  My previous travels ‘south of the border’ have extended no further than Mazatlán, Mexico, so this was a momentous travel experience, and one I enjoyed immensely despite being limited to a three day visit.

Brasilia is the hub of government for Brazil.  It has the unique distinction of being a city built over a 41 month period with the specific purpose of supporting the national government.  Inaugurated in April 1960, the city is characterized by modernist architecture at a grand scale.

(Looking down from the 21st floor onto part of the Monumental Axis)

While I had no time for recreation during my visit, my walking excursions to and from meeting locations allowed me to observe bicycling in this city of 2.5 million people.

One thing I noticed immediately upon arriving was the pace of the traffic.  All vehicles, including public transport, moved well above the speed limit and often at an unsafe travelling distance.  As a pedestrian, I learned immediately to look twice before crossing roadways, even when I had the right-of-way (as I was nearly hit at an intersection by a taxi on the first day!).  Some thoroughfares were also surprisingly wide (six lanes), which made for some interesting crossing experiences given the paucity of stoplights.

(Major thoroughfare in Brasilia)

I was pleased to see a bike-share system and dedicated bike lanes close to the Monumental Axis.  Both, however, seemed infrequently used until Sunday morning, corresponding to a time when vehicular traffic was scant.  The bike share stations seemed to be operated using cellular phones, as I could not discern an obvious undocking/docking mechanism, though admittedly, my limited understanding of the Portuguese language didn’t help.

(Dedicated bike lanes)

(Brasilia bike-share station)

(Bike-share bike)

(And you unlock it how?)

I witnessed some interesting riding habits during my visit.  ‘Taking the lane’ on the equivalent of an interstate was a bit surprising, as was riding against traffic on the same highway.  Salmoning seems ubiquitous, despite the obvious risks.

(‘Taking the Lane’ in the passing lane)

(Brasilia Salmon)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

McKenzie Slough

I took advantage reasonably warm temperatures this weekend to get in an early morning ride.  Starting at 5:00 a.m. on Saturday, I headed east on Highway 10 into a slight headwind.  It was the first lengthy ride for the AWOL, which so far has proven to be an excellent bike.

By daybreak I arrived on the outskirts of McKenzie Slough, well known locally as a birder’s paradise.  Both sides of the road offered pleasant views of water and standing cattails from last year’s growth.  However, on this ride, it was the sound that I won’t soon forget.  Birds of all sorts were announcing the sunrise, and the volume of their chirps, squawks, quacks, and screams easily drowned out the hum of my tires for about a half mile.  It was a super cool experience.

(Daybreak at McKenzie Slough)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Turning the Corner on Winter – Looking Forward to the 2015 Cycling Season

Winter’s grip on North Dakota has finally loosened enough to allow for comfortable riding weather.  The warmer temperatures, coupled with the benefit of daylight savings time, have been most welcome.  I’ve managed two short rides on the singlespeed and a 50 km jaunt on the CrossCheck, with the latter a mix of pavement and gravel around the Mandan airport.

Ice is still prevalent on the Missouri and Heart Rivers, but is disappearing quickly.  Barring ice jams, both rivers should be running free soon should warming temperatures continue.

(East bank of the Missouri frozen near the BNSF bridge)

(Where free of ice, the Heart River flows quickly)

The first lengthy ride of the season is always a favorite.  I take the pace slow, enjoying what wildlife is nearby while easing my body back into the rhythm and mechanics needed for good form.  Having done relatively little winter conditioning, the path back to ‘cycling shape’ is expected to take longer than previous years.  I’m unconcerned, as plans for 2015 are modest.

I’ve abandoned a run at Paris-Breast-Paris.  The time and financial commitment is simply beyond reach, with new staff to train at work this summer and a junior-to-be in college.  Should my body hold up, I’ll refocus for 2019.

Most rides this year will have a local flair, beginning and ending in Bismarck/Mandan.  At this point in time, only one ACP brevet is planned for the year, but it’s a ‘bucket list’ ride.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Bike Parking in Japan

A brief visit to Japan last week afforded the opportunity to share a glimpse of bicycling culture in this technologically progressive country.  My visit was limited to Tsukuba, Kameoka, and Kyoto, with travel to each squeezed into a very busy four-day schedule.

(Kameoka is immediately west of Kyoto)

Something new - at least to me - was the presence of fee-based bike parking.  At first I thought these ‘stations’ were for a bike share program, but upon further inspection I realized otherwise.  Commuters seem forced into using these stations, as locking bikes to signs, fences, trees, etc. is prohibited.  The locking mechanism affixes to the front wheel...  ...hardly a fail safe approach for securing a bike.

(Uncovered bike parking near Tsukuba Station)

Bicyclists were abundant in Tsukuba and Kyoto (both university towns).  Bikes were unsurprisingly utilitarian, with most bearing lights, fenders, and racks.