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New York!

Getting closer every day. OK…it was closer the day we rode out of Everett, WA, but when you’re talking one mile out of 3800-ish, it doesn’t feel closer. Yet, today, crossing into New York felt closer. The Real Riders have north of 3300 miles under their tires. Impressive, no? And the last few days have been challenging miles, as well. The hills may “only” last 2-3 miles (some are shorter than that), but they are much steeper. It isn’t unusual to see a 10 or 11% gradient on the GPS and on some hills the GPS has said 20%. Thankfully there are not too many of the latter, but we do seem to see long 7-8% climbs with a kick at the end where, apparently, the road graders just said, “Too tired, to grade, let’s just slap some asphalt on what’s left and call it a day.” OK, maybe not, but the kick at the end just seems cruel.

The day started in the Allegheny Forest and finished in New York. Pennsylvania is now behind us and, quite frankly, I’m glad. Pennsylvania did not have nice infrastructure for bikes. Shoulders were often torn up, narrow, and in some cases blocked by a rumble strip (grrrr….really? And where, dear road engineer do you now expect us bikes to ride?!?!?!?!). To make the memories worse, one of our riders got clipped by a truck, making all of us a little skittish on the busy roads. Now, that said, 99% of the Pennsylvania drivers were great, giving us room and waiting to pass (or for us to find a pull out). This is probably due to the large number of Amish buggies on the roads — drivers are expecting non-automotive traffic. But, still…that one truck driver left a bad taste for all of us. Sorry, Pennsylvania, you had the Allegheny Forest and it was awesome, but some unhappy biking.

Today, again the terrain, was rolling hills. Forest and small towns. One really felt that this was the foothills of the Appalachians with small farms, old buildings, towns that seemed to be laid out linearly along the highway and go on forever. It is hard to imagine that this area was once considered “frontier”.

Details. 69 miles, 3642 feet of climb

Reading List Against the Grain James C Scott. Political Science viewpoint of early states mostly focusing on Mesopotamia. Very academic and often intentionally controversial, but thought provoking (e.g., did the development of the state domesticate humans?). [I continue to clean out my Audible freebie list before buying anything new so the reading list will be scattered from this point on.]

It Comes with a Cost

Beautiful scenery comes with a cost….and that cost? Wear and tear on the muscle fibers of the human’s legs as the number of climbs increase to get that beautiful scenery. As a bike? Meh…..a road is a road. Sure, when the human gets cautious on a downhill, my brake pads take a beating, but they can be replaced. Human legs…fragile things need time to repair. But…enough negatives…the scenery!!!!!

Oh, today, the scenery was amazing. Some of the roads were rough, but twisty, wooded, rural…up and down. The ride took us from rolling hills into the Allegheny National Forest in the foothills of the Appalachians. Amazingly beautiful scenery, but, yep….flat road was not in the cards….so definitely no flat, flat, flat farmland that described Illinois and Indiana. Miles go by more quickly when there is so much to see.

Even the towns are interesting with their older homes. Many of the same style of old houses in the Midwest, but unlike the Midwest where there might be one on a block, here they line the block. We know the population density of these towns was greater than the Midwest at the same time and you can read it in the architecture.

Today was our 28th day of riding and we have another week to go. For comparison, the Southern crossing ends at Day 27.

Details. 50 miles, 4192 feet of climb

Reading List The First Signs Genevieve von Petzinger. Interpretation of Paleolithic rock art symbols and their meaning in the development of human culture.

Crisis Averted

Woot! I have a saddle! Wahoo! What’s that, Dear Reader? Do I hear you saying, “Of course, you have a saddle Edwina. Without a saddle you’d have no human rider and wouldn’t go very far. Not to mention, a saddleless bicycle is a pretty odd looking thing, no?” Well….

A few days ago, the cantle plate on my Brooks saddle broke (hrrmph…Susan thinks my human has lost weight, but I can attest that is not the fact and…well….the saddle did break, but I digress….). So the human swapped out the broken saddle for my backup. No problem. We were back on the road and riding fine….until today.

As we crossed a busy road, we heard something fall, but it wasn’t a familiar sound. Can’t stop in the middle of traffic, but we stopped on the far side of the road to check out obvious cuplrits….bags, lights, stuff from the bags, etc. Nothing. And then we heard the noise again as a couple of trucks passed. Oh…must have been something other than us, right?

And then we started to ride and it was clear that the first ding was part of my saddle hitting the pavement and the second ding was the truck sending the pieces to parts unknown. Expletive. We limped the remaining 4 miles into the next rest stop and hitched a ride.

So…now we have 2 broken saddles, but….one saddle has a broken cantle piece and the other has a missing nose piece. If we could move the noise piece from one onto the other we’d have a whole saddle, right? Well, theoretically. And, sometimes, with the amazingly talented PAC Tour crew, theory meets practice. Woot! They made one saddle out of the two and we’ll be back on the road tomorrow! Woot! Thank you, amazing crew! You’re awesome!

As the for ride…our short ride was cut even shorter, but we rode in the rolling hills of Ohio. “Rolling hills” is a lot like the back roads of the Driftless — steep. In the afternoon we crossed into Pennsylvania, so Ohio is now history. One rider and one crew left in Ohio due to home issues, but we picked up a rider, as well.

Tonight Edwin is back in the room with us. A low bridge clearance meant he had to come off the roof of the truck (alas, not because he and his human are getting to ride). But, to make him feel welcome, tonight he is the clothes rack while I beam here with my brand new pieced together saddle. Woot!

Details 50 miles, 2375 feet of climb

Reading List The Book of Eels Patrik Sensson. Natural history on eels. It was an Audible sale item. Interesting read with more background on why we don’t know all of the details of the lifecycle of eels.

Misunderstood, methinks

OK…yesterday, Dear Reader, I said that as we moved further east in Ohio that the roads would get lumpier. By that I meant that we would stop seeing perfectly straight roads that were flat, flat, flat. Apparently, I misspoke. While we did start to see roads that bent and twisted and went up and down (aka, lumpier) we also encountered lumpy roads….roads with new asphalt that were rougher than fresh chip seal.

Chip. Seal. Four letter words to bicycles. Fresh chip seal is like riding a gravel road. If you can find a wheel rut that has sealed the chip, it is just rough. But pay attention….piles of gravel can occur any time (as, alas, one rider discovered on the first day). Dangerous stuff for a bicycle.

But, that asphalt. Owie. You cannot imagine, Dear Reader, how many times I had to tell the human to quit spinning at a high cadence and pull up a bigger gear with a lower cadence. Us bikes do not have shock absorbers (well….some mountain bikes do, but not road bikes). We rely on the human to absorb the road vibration and a high speed cadence can just amplify the vibration, while a lower speed cadence can work to counteract it. But, still….riding those rough roads is hard on us bikes and hard on the humans. Ouch. My wheels will think they’re still bouncing all night long.

That said, the scenery today was prettier. Funny how fields and more fields of corn, more corn, soy and more soy can be prettier if you break it up with a hill, a stream or a bend in the road.

Tomorrow, Pennsylvania.

Details 87 miles 696 feet of climb 14.6 strain

Reading List Paper Mark Kurlansky. The human had read Cod and Salt so the author was a known entity. These books are history centered around a topic. In this case, not just paper, but what was printed on it and when. Lots of anecdotes…perfect for riding along.

Blink and Its Gone

And just like that, Indiana is past and we’re now in Lima, Ohio, not to be confused with Lima, Peru, the home city of one of our two Peruvian National team members. Lima, Ohio pronounced lye-ma as in lima bean even though, lima beans are South American and their name also derives from Lima, Peru. Confused? Yeah. Me, too. Humans spend so much time talking you’d really think they could agree on pronunciation, eh?

So…let’s just say that today we are now in Ohio. Indiana didn’t even last a full day…just part of yesterday and part of today. With such a short glimpse it seems unfair to summarize, but….lots of corn and soy beans (seriously, how much soy and corn do all you humans need? Ever hear of diversity?!?!?!?!? Hrrmph). The roads in Indiana were nicer than Illinois including one long stretch of a one lane farm to market road….very little traffic and a really nice road surface. Us bikes really appreciate roads like that — no trucks to push us off and smmmmoooth pavement means no rattling. Ah…

Of course…today’s detour (and, for some the detour on the detour) to get over a river might just leave all of us remembering Indiana as the state without a bridge (or two).

That said, today ends or our seemingly forever miles of flats. As we head into eastern Ohio, the road will become lumpy. Some of the humans think that is great; some are yearning for more miles of corn and soybean. Me? Hrrrmph….about time my triple gets used again!

Details. 81 miles 817 feet of climb, 13.3 strain

Reading List The Cooking Gene Michael Twitty. A mélange ?perhaps ratatouille? of genetics, genealogy, history of food and culture, travelogue and experimental history. A little disjoint at times, but an interesting exploration of one man’s journey to understand his roots.

Another Day, Another State

And with that, Illinois is now behind us. Tonight we sleep in Indiana. Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were forever going through Montana and Wyoming wondering if we’d ever reach the edges of those states? But eastern states are smaller geographically so we shall click them over more quickly now.

Illinois, well that which we saw, was corn and soy bean fields Egads that is a lot of feed corn. But, contrary to the opinion of the humans and crew from Illinois, overall, the roads in Illinois were better than Wisconsin’s (sigh….so embarrassing as a bike that was manufactured in Wisconsin — you’d think with Waterford, Trek, and Milwaukee Bicycle that Wisconsin might just support infrastructure on its smaller roads….you’d think, but you’d be, alas, wrong…but that’s politics and we don’t go there)

In Illinois we had a small changing of the crew. Two left and two joined. We shall miss the two that left….oh, they were such fun (well…except for that camera that one of them carried…..grrrr….twas quite the entertaining watching the battle between the paparazzi and my human as my human avoided the camera…..but, apparently, like all good paparazzi, the paparazzi won…although we’re still waiting for the picture of proof). We, of course, welcome the new crew.

Alas, in Illinois yet another rider departed us. Oh, what a tough human….quads of steel. A week-ish back on a 140 mile windy day, she was riding with another rider. Us bikes like to stay close in the wind to make it easier on our humans and it was to be a very long day. Despite having kept a distance, a gust of wind came up and pushed her and her bike such that her front wheel touched another rider. Even a pro in that situation will go down…and down they did. A broken pelvis. Ouch. But, by the time she left, like a good athlete, she had mastered the art of crutch walking and was moving pretty good. We shall miss you!

Details 82 miles, 164 feet of climb (yes…flat, flat, flat) 14 strain

Reading List How the States Got Their Shape Mark Stein. The human heard the author on a talk show and he was quite entertaining with lots of anecdotes. So, we thought this could be a fun read now that we’re whipping through states. Alas, no….rather dry and the anecdotes were material that was omitted. Bummer. All books can’t be winners.

La, La, La, La, La

On PAC Tour you don’t get off-days. Every day is a biking day. But, sometimes, sometimes Mother Nature generates a fantastic tailwind on a shorter day turning the day into a play day. Cooler temperatures combined with a tailwind that converted a soft spin into 17mph meant no rush at the rest stops and plenty of time for chatting. What a fun day! I haven’t moved that quickly down the road for that much time in a very, very long time. Today I moved like a real bike! Woot!

Heck, today was so easy that even my human managed to break the cardinal rule of PAC Tour, “Thou shalt not arrive at the hotel before 3PM” by rolling in 15 minutes early. We tried to take it easy, keep it constrained, take longer at the rest stops, but when that wind carries you, you just want to play!!!!! And play, we did.

The route today was again fields and more fields of corn and soybeans and more corn and more soybeans. To add a little contrast to the view we were also in wind turbine country (hmmm….strong tailwind….wind turbines….correlation? Naw). It is amazing how cooler temperatures and a tailwind can make the same basic terrain pleasant and interesting when at 90+ and a headwind we all growled at the monotony, bikes and humans. But today we saw it as interesting. Tomorrow? Tomorrow is another day and time will tell what Mother Nature will throw at us as we roll out of Illinois and into Indiana.

Details. 100 miles 1109 feet of climbing 14 strain

Reading List Coyote America Dan Flores. This was an Audible freebie and surprisingly good. Natural history of the coyote, its migration from the west to the entire US as a urban predator.

Driftless II

Our first day in the Driftless was in Minnesota. While we did ride up one ridge, it was a gentle stair step climb and then it was one of those awesome ridge rides. After that was 42 miles on bike trail along the Root River, avoiding until the very end any lumps or bumps in the road. On our second day in the Driftless, this time in Wisconsin, Lon routed us over county highways, thus keeping the climbing to sedate gradients of no more than 8%.

So, Today? Today? May I say that today, while not as aggressive as the challenge rides so popular in this area, it was still significantly more aggressive than yesterday. Lon had us thinking another day of long, but not aggressive climbing and the initial ride was along numbered highways and county roads. But then…then…we turned onto a named street…and another…and the ups got steeper and the roads rougher…uh, oh.

As we rolled down (and up and down and up and down) County S near the second rest stop, we could see that after the rest stop we had yet another significant up….sigh….so as I told my human to eat enough, but not too much at that SAG….and then…then…we turned onto the road that would take us to the rest stop.

Ha! There before us was a wall of asphalt. If you wanted snacks, you had to climb that wall. Turn back to the gas station? Or dig deep into low gears? Up we went. Oh, now this was a Driftless climb. Someone’s GPS read 25%….I don’t think so. My front wheel never wanted to pop up so probably more like 20%. Still. Significant. Heart pounding. and leg burning for the human. But, thankfully short. And, thankfully, only one of those in 3 days of Driftless riding. We know there could have been more.

Funny thing, though, that up we had seen on County S before the break we were worried about? Felt pretty flat compared to that wall. And, shortly after tat we crossed over into Illinois and while still rolling terrain, more sedate climbs.

So, Wisconsin is completed and goes on the books as pretty terrain with rolling hills, but the worst roads so far. The highways were OK, but some of the backroads were patches of patches of patches with patched patches. Our fellow riders from Illinois say that Illinois roads will be worse and, hate to say it…after 1/2 day in Illinois they might be right. Time will tell.

Rumor has it tomorrow is a recovery ride for the Real Riders complete with a direct tailwind. So maybe my human will let me ride the whole day….I can but wish.

Details 79 miles 4583 feet of climb 14 strain

Reading List The Mocking Bird Next Door Marja Mills. Multi-year interview of Harper Lee and her sister.

Driftless Region

Oh, what a beautiful day! Today we rode from La Crosse, WI to Dodgeville through the driftless region, the area of Wisconsin (Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois) that was not flattened by glacier. While that means lots of beautiful hills, valleys, creeks and rivers that also means lots of hills on the roads, as well.

Lon was nice to us and kept us on county roads and off of any of the named roads like “Something Hollow” (which translates into..a really steep descent, a pretty flat section and then a crazy talk climb back out again). Still that does not by any means translate to flat, nor does it mean we didn’t see some steep sections; just that we didn’t see the 16-20% gradients that the backroads are “famous” for.

It is hard to imagine the human and I rode a 250K in this area before the Southern way back when. Today we were much slower, but….how can you complain about speed when the scenery is so nice? Oh, sure, maybe I’m a bit prejudiced, but I think the driftless ranks up with Whidbey Island, the river rides in Washington and Idaho, the rides in western South Dakota. OK…maybe it also has to do with so many days of hot, flat, not very interesting corn, soybeans and CAFOs that we just came out of before hitting the Minnesota driftless region. Naw….that can’t be all there is to it…

But, today, I’m back in the hotel room….and, guess what, Dear Reader? Yep….I’m once again a clothes line. Sigh….is there no place else to dry socks than my top tube?!?!?!?!?

Details 76 miles, 3888ft climb, 14.4 strain

Reading List Darwin’s Ghosts Rebecca Stott Evolution of the theory of evolution…ok, the history of evolution starting with the works of Aristotle and Arabic scholars up through Darwin.

“Do you ride trails?”

How many times do we hear this question about the trip? And how many times do we want to respond with, “Define ‘trails'” No, we’re not being snarky — well, this time….it is a serious question. Consider the interstate. Before it was the interstate, with high probability it was a highway; before it was a highway, a road; before a road, a trail. Most of the roads that connect cities were originally trails of some sort…be they animal migration routes, Native American routes, settler routes or early roads. So when we ride the interstate or road system, we are, in fact riding trails.

But…today we road bike trail. 42 contiguous miles of an absolutely gorgeous bike trail along the Root River. Shady. Cool. Wind blocking. And, best of all no traffic. No cars. No pickups. No semi-trailers. All for 42 wonderful miles. Ah….were every state so well platted as Minnesota.

Alas, although we left Minnesota on a high note, we did, indeed, leave Minnesota at the end of the day and are now in Wisconsin. Yet another state done. We’ll head into Dodgeville tomorrow and then out into Illinois the next day.

But, Dear Reader, tonight I and the other bikes are locked in a conference room. Hrrrmphh…like we have anything to conference about! While we’re stacked against tables and locked away, I hear some of the humans have great views of the Mississippi River from their rooms. But us bikes? Grrrr….I wonder where the human will dry socks and shorts tonight? At least locked up here I won’t have to suffer the indignity of being a clothes line. grumble .

Details 87 miles 1437 feet. 13.8 strain

Reading List Black Klansman Ron Stallworth We haven’t learned that much about undercover work since we road with Moots and her human. Different world.