Category Archives: Uncategorized

Ain’t a Dry Heat

As is the norm, the human rolled me out to the bike racks before breakfast. Nothing unusual until we stepped out the door. Eeeeyeeeww….the my tubes were immediately covered with a fog as well as the GPS; the human’s glasses also fogged up. The other humans chuckled as we walked past, enjoying the looks on riders faces as they stepped outside for the first time of the day. Yuck. At 5:45AM it was already 77 degrees and 200% humidity. What? You cannot have 200% humidity? OK, 300%? No? OK…has humid as humid gets. Not pleasant.

Regardless, even pokey, van riding riders needed to head down the road and, really, could it stay that humid? In case you’re wondering, the answer is yes. No evaporation of sweat…it either beaded up on the human or rolled off and dripped onto my tubes….yuck….knowing bike wash is coming at the end of the day is not enough to assuage the feeling of dripping, sunscreen laden sweat on my top tube. Blech.

The day had some clouds so for at least the early morning, the temperature stayed cool-ish. It could have been worse if the 90 degree temps had rolled in early. The route was, again, flat fields of corn and soybean with smaller CAFOs –no free ranging cattle here, although some of the CAFOs were pig, not cattle.

The odd thing is, the closer we get to Wisconsin, the more familiar the landscape appears. South Dakota had fields of corn and soy beans, too, but, here in Minnesota, the layout is more like Wisconsin. Taking an example, near and dear to the human’s bladder….in South Dakota the fields were contiguous and the farm equipment access areas not….uh…inducive to being discreet on the side of the road. But, here in Minnesota, like Wisconsin, large fields were divided with farm equipment roads, perfect for….well..not exactly hiding, but at least not being obvious.

But, more than that, the appearance of the buildings in the small towns are more like the small towns in Wisconsin. Gone now are the western building facades of vertical wood slats that clearly said you were in the West; now we have brick and stone and the styles more similar to those nearer to home. It shall be interesting as we travel further east to see how the image of small towns changes.

Details. 79 miles 505 feet of climbing (flat, flat farm roads). 15.5 strain

Reading List Spying on the South Tony Horowitz. Finished the book today. Well worth the 17 hours.

It’s All Relative

Humidity, that is. Today we crossed into Minnesota! Woot! The temperature today was “only” 95, but, oh, so very humid….so humid that the sweat on the humans doesn’t evaporate when travelling down the road at 17mph….humid. So, today may have been in the nineties, but we agree with the weather app that it feels like 105. Ouch.

And, today was open farmland so lots of sunshine and hot pavement under my tires. Occasionally some trees, but mostly corn, soy beans, and sometimes some cattle. So. Hot. Who’d’ve thunk we might be missing the dry 98’s of Montana already?!?!?!?

Alas, this has been a tough tour. There are still a significant number of Real Riders going for EFI (Every Fantabulous Inch) despite the heat and wind that has made EFI for this crossing an impressive feat, indeed.

But, alas, our numbers dwindle as 2 riders left in South Dakota. One to return to family (humans are, after all, pack animals even if they leave us bikes in the garage and don’t bring us into the house to be part of the pack…but I digress); the other rider left because, grrrr…his bike’s bottom bracket was poorly installed. Dear Reader, when you find your bike a good mechanic, please, please, please, appreciate that mechanic. Shower them with thanks, with beer, with cookies, with your business. Good mechanics are hard to find and, you know, us bikes really are fine machines that deserve the TLC of experienced hands. Ah, but, again, I digress.

South Dakota is now behind us. While the Eastern end of the state was flat and farmed, we really did enjoy the days in the Black Hills Forest, Custer State Park, and the Badlands. Those lands truly are gems and were worth the visit. If the cost of seeing those was miles and miles of flat farmland? Well…quite worth it. Next two days will be crossing Minnesota, looking for the Mighty Mississippi.

Details. 61 miles 692 feet of climbing (flat…flat…farmland). 12.6 strain

Reading List. Spying on the South Tony Horwitz. Modern recreation of Frederick Olmstead’s journeys through the south. Olmstead, creator of Central Park is also, by my account, the great grandfather of the Oak Leaf Trail in Milwaukee. Without his design of the Grand Necklace of Parks in Milwaukee, we wouldn’t have the greenway that became the Oak Leaf. Only 1/2-way but good book so far.

A Tale of Two PAC Tours

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom. Oh, wait, that is A Tale of Two Cities. But, today was definitely two different rides depending upon how fast you ride and whether you ride solo or in a group.

On the positive side, the temperature stayed lower today where “lower” is relative. However, to get that lower temperature, Mother Nature threw in a very, very strong headwind. It is hard to imagine any rider coming saying today was “fun”. Challenging? Brutal? Downright epically painful? Possibly. But not “fun.”

PAC Tour has time cutoffs for long days…oh, did I forgot to mention that this was a day of more than 140 miles, as well? Yes, 140+ miles and headwinds that showed that someone clearly did not talk nice to the weather gods this morning. But, I digress. Time cutoffs. Minimum time to a rest stop is 12 mph road time. This includes time spent at rest stops, time spent waiting for the human to pee on the side of the road, time spent waiting for the human to take pictures, etc. All time counts.

Today started well with light winds on a downhill. My pokey human managed to have a 16 mph road time one hour into the ride. Things were looking good; pleasant clouds looked like we wouldn’t bake as we road over South Dakota farm roads and the temperature was cool. And then a little more than an hour into the ride…..whump….the wind picked up….and not just a little. It went from barely noticeable to dangerous gusts. At one point the human and I struggled to stay upright until the winds settled in at just strong. Oh, it was going to be a long day.

But…here is where the world splits. The faster Real Riders were able to continue riding and meet the time cutoffs. While their speeds obviously dropped, they were riding above cutoff speed. They could continue, but their day would get very, very long. But, for the riders who ride on the edge of cutoffs every day? Oh, we were in trouble.

My human and I had that nice road time buffer one hour in….and by lunch, we were down under 12mph. And, we were not alone. Six of us failed to meet the cutoff and not just by a little and the gap between us and the faster riders was already more than an hour. So, we loaded into the van and headed towards town. Wisdom did prevail as we all opted to van all the way in instead of riding from the last sag.

I’ve said it before and I shall say it again…chapeau to the fast Real Riders who rode the whole day….today was tough. Chapeau!

Details 83 miles. 3478 feet of climb. 14.6 strain

Reading List

Over the Edge of the World Laurence Bergreen. Tale of Magellen’s voyage with the politics on and off the ship

Gut Giulia Enders. Mary Roach’s Gulp read better but still had interesting stories on human anatomy

Fly Over Country

Today was the first of 4 days of longer mileage over what is often referred to by Coasties as “flyover country.” Now, those people may think it is because they only see this country from the window of an airplane, but, I don’t think that is the definition and I think the phrase is really “fly country.” Egads. Stop for 3 minutes on the side of the road and every fly in a 5 mile radius descends upon you — human or bicycle, it doesn’t matter. There will be a fly.

And when the flies aren’t bothering you, the kamikaze grasshoppers and crickets are flying into my spokes. I just want to shout, “I’m too big for you to do damage. Just save yourself and me the negative karma for slicing you in two!!!!” But I don’t speak grasshopper or cricket.

Despite flies, crickets and grasshoppers, the highlight of today was the Badlands. That section of riding was worth the trip. Definitely not in the “lush green” category but, oh, so very interesting to view. Those miles flew by with so many things to see, observe and ponder.

Thankfully, the Badlands were early enough in the day because it was…..HOT….yep, just when we thought we’d gotten closer to areas of the country without super hot temperatures, the super hot temperatures arrive ahead of us. Sigh…that meant my human didn’t make the full ride. But….we got to ride the bestest part thru the Badlands. So all is good.

And….because I rode in with the luggage van I got into town well before the human. While the human was participating in, “How many riders and crew does it take to change a tire?” I got cleaned up by Edwin’s human. So very nice of him, but….alas, poor Edwin, continues to ride atop the van. Some day….some day he’ll ride again.

Details 95 miles, 1500′ of climbing (approximate…the human left the GPS on when I jumped into the van….oops). 14.9 strain

Reading List

Spirit Run Noe Alvarez. Run across North America’s native lands.

This is your Mind on Plants Michael Pollan

Not a PAC Tour Day…

….until it quite definitely was. Today was a tourist day. Starting in Custer, SD and finishing in Rapid City, we had the choice of multiple routes. The most relaxed were given an option of 40 miles to Crazy Horse and then to Mount Rushmore to join the group for the ride to Rapid City. The most aggressive of the Real Riders chose a 90 mile route with extra climbing. Those in the middle could choose 60-75 miles that took them through Custer State Park, past Mount Rushmore and into Rapid City. We chose the 60 mile option, but bypassed Mount Rushmore. So….

That meant we could take a later start in the morning. That drove my human nuts. Since we are so slow, the human has me set up and ready to hit the pavement as soon as the van is accepting gear bags. Then, the human is the first to load a bag, I get pulled off the rack and off we go as we try to get just a bit down the road before becoming last wheel. That has been the routine for every PAC Tour except Historic Towns (where we are more average). So, this morning? We’re riding a shorter route so, what do we do?!?!?!

Well….we started the day with a visit to a coffee shop. Oh, so very not PAC Tour….if you have over 100 miles to ride in a day and there are time cutoffs, a coffee shop stop is never, ever in the cards for slow riders. But today the human and I sat on the patio at the coffee shop and sipped chai feeling….well…..odd. Try as we may, the human was just itchin’ to ride so we headed into Custer State Park. What a gorgeous park. We took the short cut and skipped the wildlife viewing loop. So, instead of twisty roads with some steep climbs, we were met with one small uphill and a very, very long gentle downhill. Aaahhhh…..and because we took the short cut, we could toodle…..even bigger aaahhhhs. We even stopped at a lake, the visitor center, read road side maps and signs…..so very, very not PAC Tour.

But then, we joined up with the main route and met another rider. Time to start riding for real…and that meant climbing. OK…now it was PAC Tour again…12 miles of mostly up with a 3 mile sustained climb at the end. Yep…the party was over and it was time to be PAC Tour again. At the start we saw two herd of buffalo. Nothing like a few buffalo to force you to stop, take a break and enjoy the scenery. But the buffalo passed and it was time to face that climb. But, you know, we actually enjoyed it and we weren’t the only ones having fun. Some stopped to take pictures, passing us more than once; one of the fast bikes pretended to be a unicycle as they passed us. It was hard not to smile and have fun on that road — even the motorcyclists were chatty for a change.

But, alas, we came out of the park and into “civilization.” We skipped the option to visit Mount Rushmore as the human saw it many years ago. Besides, as we travelled up and over the ridge, in and out of the tunnels, we caught multiple views of it. And then, after lunch, there was more climbing on some smaller, quiet backroads. Overall, just an unusual day in the middle of the trip…a lazy, not very PAC Tour morning followed by enough climbing to make it a very PAC Tour day.

Details 55 miles, 3901 feet of climbing (71 feet/mile) 12.9 strain

Reading List A Most Remarkable Creature Jonathan Meiburg. A natural history essay focused around the Caracara of South America.

South Dakota

Another state boundary. We are now riding through our fifth state having crossed Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Riding through Wyoming we definitely saw a change in terrain with the land becoming greener and less desert-like as we travelled east. More important to me, however, were the Wyoming roads. Wyoming roads, when compared to Montana, had better, cleaner shoulders which meant my tires were safer from glass and tire wires….safer….not safe as a bicycle’s tires are never safe unless riding a velodrome. The human was happier in Wyoming as the drivers were nicer to us, as well. Only one close pass in nearly 3 days of riding. I was really angry with that driver because his pickup truck was pale yellow…..hrrmph….did that driver not realize we were related by paint?!?!?

Today we crossed into South Dakota after lunch and road through the Black Hills. The morning was greener than it had been, but in the afternoon? Ah…lush green grasses and trees. Every terrain has its own beauty and the grasslands and pastures of Montana and Wyoming were lovely at times, but….there is something about green grasses and trees. Yep…some days we ride to get from Point A to Point B but it is days like today that are why we ride. Ah…..

I did promise you, Dear Reader, to finally tell you when the forecast was no long hot, smoke and haze. Yay! It was none of the above. We did get rain, but mostly of the misty kind. But, by the time the ride was over, I was no longer a lovely yellow bicycle. Yuck. None of us bicycles came through the day without a layer of grime. But, you know? It just meant our humans gave us a little bit more TLC…greased our chains and washed us down top to bottom — not just our wheels. Bike wash is a mini spa for us bicycles.

Details 114 miles, 3343 feet of elevation. 14.7 strain

Reading List. The Boys in the Boat Daniel James Brown. 1936 Olympic rowing team. Should have started this one in Washington as the crew was from Washington and Coulee Dam played a role.

10,000 PAC Tour Miles!

Today, I, Edwina, have rolled over the PAC Tour odometer and have ridden 10,000 miles with PAC Tour. Woot!

Now, Edwin’s human crossed the 10,000 mile mark long ago — crewed miles are PAC Tour miles (and, harder miles, as well). My human crossed the 10,000 mark of ridden miles coming into Powell. But, alas, not all the miles the human rode with PAC Tour were with me …. sigh…..

Back in 2005, before Edwin and I, the humans set out to challenge themselves with…chuckle….riding a metric every weekend in August. Seriously….at the time a metric century was a major undertaking and riding one every weekend was a challenge. Seems silly now, but….we all started somewhere. Anyway, one of the metrics the humans rode was this ride called Roun’da Manure out of Sharon, Wisconsin. It was there that the humans first learned of PAC Tour. But when they looked it up on-line…..whoooo-eee…PAC Tour was way, way, way out of their league (now it is just out of their league, but not quite as far away)

But, a few years later, when the humans were looking for a trip in Arizona, they saw that PAC Tour had a Historic Towns week. They were used to riding a week of metrics by then so…they gave PAC Tour a try. Little did they know they’d be hooked. So now, 7 Historic Town weeks later (and, still it doesn’t get old), 2 Training Weeks, 2 Century Weeks, Border to Border, 2 Northern Desert, Wisconsin Hill Country, Door County, a week in Vermont and the Southern in 2015…whew….that’s a lot of trips and a lot of miles. Add in this Northern…even with my human’s pathetic showing….I, Edwina, have now officially ridden 10,000 PAC Tour miles. I will now take a bow.

But, Dear Reader, I now need to ask….we know that PAC Tour tracks humans that have travelled 10,000 miles with them and the humans get a pretty purple jersey. We also can assume that I am not the first bicycle to have travelled 10,000 miles as PAC Tour does attract a nice selection of steel and titanium bicycles. But….I’ve seen humans in their pretty purple jersey but never a bike with a pretty purple license plate….hmmmm….I must report my mileage total to Susan and see what she says.

Today’s ride was a pleasant wind assisted ride from Sheridan, Wyoming to Gillette. At the end of the day the wind was really, really strong. Susan once joked with a rider, “if you can go uphill at 10mph, you’re not slow.” With that storm-induced tailwind we were doing 10.8mph and the GPS said 5.2% gradient. Woot that tailwind said we ain’t slow!!!!!!! (well…until we start out again tomorrow)

Details 105.4miles 3484 feet of climbing 14.4 strain

Reading List Forget the Alamo Bryan Burrough Myth vs history. The authors pull together current research against the myth and ethos of the Alamo.

Up, up and up some more?

Today was a day for the Real Riders. Today was a climb, a massive climb over the Bighorn mountains. And we’re not talking the pleasant passes we’ve traversed where a bike with a moderate human engine and a gear near 1:1 can toodle over. No….not at all. Today we are talking a climb that can challenge the best of the riders, a climb that makes the passes we have climbed look like rolling hills.

So, what makes it a challenge? Well, Dear Reader, the climb starts with a deceptive, but doable false flat of 2-3%. Not insurmountable for most riders, even your beginner. After 5 miles, the gradient kicks up and is now running 4-6%. This is now crossing into a more serious range, but still not insurmountable for most if it doesn’t go on too long. So, what’s the big deal? Oh, wait, Dear Reader, we have more road to climb. At 7 miles into this climb the Real Riders are now riding sustained 8% gradients that will continue for 2.5 miles. For my Milwaukee readers, this is like doing the ramps of the Tans Rd climb…but for 2.5 miles of it without respite and without the flats. Are they done after that? Oh, no. Not at all. Now the road tips up to 10% for the next 5.5 miles with an evil quarter mile of 14% gradient thrown in the middle. Now are they done? Sort of, but not quite.

Now, as I said, today was a day for the Real Riders. This was their climb. This was their goal. But, not to just ride it. Nope. They raced it. There was a starting clock and a stop clock and they road to beat the best times up those 15 miles. Shudder. But they did it. The fastest time was 1:28 by a smooth climber. An impressive time. Fastest times for 60 and 70 year old males were set as well as for 60 year old woman. But our favorite time was from Bacchetta II and her human. Her human held the record for a recumbent and now 11 years older, but clearly wiser and faster, took 17 minutes from her previous record setting time. Woot!

Chapeau to the Real Riders. An impressive showing all. Chapeau!

Rain!

Singing in the rain….just singing in the rain! Seriously. Yes, Dear Reader, there was never such a group of bicycles and their humans made so happy by a little drizzly rain. The morning was overcast with little bits of drizzle. Most of the time the dots never connected on the road and only once did it rain long enough to even merit a, “Hmmm…should I think about a jacket?” moment for the human (the answer was, of course, “Heck, no!”). Even as a bicycle, I normally don’t like that water sprayed over my parts, but, you know, it felt rather nice not to be riding on hot asphalt yet another day.

Alas, as we all were chipper at the second rest stop, the sun came out (we even, shock of all shocks saw blue sky again!) but within 5 miles the temperatures had risen back up to low 90’s. But with a nice, cooling wind, even the low 90’s can feel pleasant these days.

Today we crossed into Wyoming at lunch. Now, one might think that we wouldn’t be able to see the difference, but interestingly, our ride after lunch was through former sea. Instead of angular rock outcroppings, the bluffs were sedimentary layered rock. Still steep to cross, but large flat plains that went on for miles.

But, Dear Reader, I must admit to feeling a bit guilty. My human and I have been riding as much as the human can and we’ve been having fun (well…except for those high heat days). But Edwin, oh, poor Edwin, only got out to ride with us twice…the shake down pre-ride and the first leg of the second day. From that point Edwin got relegated to living in the lunch truck. Not the best place to spend the night, but he was doing OK. His human? Smoke. Elevation. Post Covid. Yeah, not up to riding. Poor Edwin. A bike without a human. And, without a human, Edwin has now joined the team bikes and is living day and night atop the lunch van. Sigh….poor Edwin. We hope to get him out of exile in Minnesota where the elevation is lower and the smoke is gone.

Details. 105 miles, 4774 feet of climb. 13.6 strain

Reading List. Fooled by Randomness Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Signal to noise ratio and why we are fooled by the noise.

Hot!

I know. I know. I know that I promised you, Dear Reader that I would not mention the temperature or the smoke until it was happy news. But….expletive….it was hot!

What gets me, Dear Reader, is how the humans wail about the heat. It is the topic of every conversation. But, you know….the humans get cold beverages. They get ice. And they even get ice socks to put over their necks. But us bikes? Hrrrmph…we get…bupkis.

And here’s the thing…we bikes work hard to suspend those ungrateful humans 3 feet above the pavement. Three feet! And where are we, the bikes? Rolling our tires on the pavement…the black asphalt pavement. Where is it the hottest? On the pavement…the black asphalt pavement. And if having to tolerate the heat of the pavement isn’t enough….today, they rode us down the dirtiest freeway shoulder we have ever had the displeasure of riding. Ouch! All those little wires trying to puncture our tires…and our tires were so very, very hot. All I can say is that it was not a pleasant ride for us bikes either. Hrrrmph.

But, that said, once we climbed over the bump of the day, it was all downhill. So at least we got to move quickly. The last miles into Columbus came with strong headwinds that erased the downhill, but we made it. And now the human is changing my front tire because I held my breath and I held in the air until I got to the hotel room. Maybe, maybe I’ll get some respect now. Hrrrmpph.

Details 103.4 miles 1650 feet of climbing 14.1 strain

Reading List Dead Wake Erik Larson. I think the author was on a recommended reading list, but the recommended book was not available at the library, so we picked up this one. This one was on the Lusitania. Looking forward to more by the author…after all, any author that can keep your attention for 8 hours when…uh…you know what the ending will be, is pretty good.