Category Archives: Uncategorized

Continental Divide!

Today, on our ride from Butte to Bozeman, we crossed the Continental Divide. That does not mean, of course, that it is all downhill from here, but it does mean that rivers will run towards the Mississippi River. And, you know, it feels like a milestone of sorts. We’re on our third state and we’ve crossed the Continental Divide! Woot!

Of course it won’t be the last divide we cross. While this was the Great Divide that extends from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, it is not the only divide in North America. There is a divide along the Appalachians and another, the St. Lawerence Divide, where water returns to or flows away from the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes divide is politically…uh…interesting as those that live just outside the divide want Great Lakes water, but need to petition both Canada and the US and set up guaranteed return flows to get the water. But…we don’t talk politics here….we talk bike riding. Depending upon the details of our route thru Pennsylvania and New York we will cross one or the other (or both) before the trip is over. Smaller milestones, but they will be milestones.

Today started out with a climb to the divide and then down onto high range. A lot of cattle. Irrigation systems. And…corn?!?!?! Seems a little early to see a large field of corn, but it was definitely corn. Being a Sunday morning, the roads were mostly empty and the riding was pleasant. But, as the temperature increased, so did the number of cars and trucks. While most drivers share the road, we have run into to too many, “Get off the road” types in the last couple of days.

Montana is not bicycle friendly. This is odd since the home of Adventure Cycling (the one, true source for long distance cycling maps) is located in Missoula, Montana. But outside Missoula….grrrr. One of our fellow human riders ended up in the hospital when a bottle was thrown at him the other day. Many of us were shouted at and passed with inches to spare. Sad, really. We just want to travel and see the country. We get that not everyone thinks bicycles are awesome (sigh…although, clearly we are and our humans are the bestest), but respect our right to be on the road and we’ll respect car drivers rights, too.

But, despite that, we are still having fun. Edwin lives in the lunch truck and his human helps every day with lunch. The higher altitude mixed with smoke means he cannot ride with us, but he’s still having fun. My human, on the other hand, is still embarrassing me and not riding the full distance. But, each day is stronger. Every mile ridden is a good mile. And, here, despite a few bad drivers, those good miles have been awesome.

Details. 75 miles (out of 100), 2566 feet of climbing (out of 4287). 12.5 strain

Reading List:

The Clock Mirage Joseph Mazur. We enjoyed Fluke so we picked this up from the library. A series of essays on time from the mathematical and physics perspective.

Explorers of the Nile Tim Jeal. The book was interesting and we tried to keep listening, but the reader was way too slow and soothing (I do not want my human lulled to sleep while riding…oh, sure, that might hurt the human, but definitely will hurt me!)

Basin and Range

We were convinced that over the last few days we’ve been riding out of the basin of a basin and range. Simply put (sorry, John McPhee, while we listened to Assembling California during a training ride and learned a lot, we will butcher the explanation)….anyway…simply put, the basin is a flat bowl shape between mountain ranges. Over the last few days we’ve been riding barely perceptual inclines. In fact, with tailwinds, the only way we knew we were going up was that the elevation plot on Ride with GPS showed the up tick.

Today, that uptick was greater with a very long stretch that never exceeded 2% and was usually less (for my Milwaukee readers…think Waukesha to Wales on the Glacial Drumlin except that for the Real Riders that lasted for 83 miles). Not bad, but deceptive false flats that can make you feel like you’re dragging a brake. The Real Riders did an hefty early morning stretch on the freeway and we picked them up after they got off.

While the last several days we’d been riding along wide winding rivers, the longer the day progressed and the higher the elevation became, the more the terrain changed. The rivers became more narrow and twistier. In places the river was no more than a creek (or “crick” in the vernacular). Then after lunch we had to cross the range with a four mile climb. It felt like a mountain climb with rock walls and pine, steep drop offs and switch backs, not much traffic. When we reached the top, there was a dam and behind the dam was a lake with boats and a huge vacation community. A bit of a “culture shock” but a fun (and pretty) change of views.

But, Dear Reader, I must confess, that while I (and others) have thought “basin and range” that, technically, Montana is not part of the basin and range (or at least per Wikipedia, if one trusts Wikipedia). But, we like the analogy and we’re sticking to it.

Details: 77 miles (out of 134), 3334 feet of climb (out of 5400), 14.0 strain

Reading List:

The Innovation Delusion Lee Vinsel An exploration on the fallacy of innovation culture. Some may have angst at the term “fallacy” there, but, give it a listen and you might be convinced.

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue John McWhorter. Linguistics. John McWhorter. Perfect diversion, as expected.

Real Bikes and Real Riders

So, Dear Reader, someone asked, “What is a typical real bike and rider?” Ha! As if there is a typical. One might say that PAC Tour riders come in all shapes and sizes, but…..human engines that can crank out 100 – 150 mile days are going to be fit with a high probability of a svelte build. But we have tall engines and short engines and in between engines.

Now, Dear Reader, some of you might think the human engines are young. And, some are. We have a 20 year old track sprinter from Peru, but we also have several riders over 70 with an average age of 59. While the human engines skew male, there are plenty of women with fast and slow riders of both genders. Yes, a very mixed set of humans.

But, more importantly….what about the bikes!!?!?!?!? After all, it is the bikes that I care about (and, Dear Reader, I hope you do, too!). For that, we find a few fine steel bikes in the crowd including another purrr-ty red Waterford. Ah….now that human has good taste in bikes, eh? There are a handful of titanium, but the vast majority of bikes are carbon fiber. Nothing against those carbon fiber bikes, but I do worry about their longevity. Sure those bikes may outlast their humans, but why limit yourself to the age of a single human?!?!?! All I can do is hope that their humans are taking good care of them. (chuckle…I did hear one rider thank her bike after today’s ride…ah…now that was sweet…sigh…I barely get a pat on the saddle some days my human is so shot).

But, that motely crew rides down the road with the really fast riders quickly finding themselves at the head of group and, over time, slower riders filtering towards the back. But, in the end, the riders cover the same distance and the same hills; some just take a little longer.

So, today was a short, easy day from St Regis to Missoula. Lovely backroads thru forests and farms were interspersed with the dreaded freeway riding that is common in the West. In some respects freeway riding is easier in that you have a 12′ shoulder and can keep a distance from the vehicles. But, if the shoulder has debris (like torn up tires with those evil, evil wires that can puncture my tires….ouch…they hurt) you have no choice but to stay on the shoulder and try to avoid the worst of the debris. But, today, the freeway riding was on and then off at the next exit which makes it a bit easier — no need to cross over on and off ramps.

Tomorrow a van bump for us and then a ride into Butte. Stronger again today, but playing it safe and sticking to 100 mile rides for a couple more days. The real bikes and riders are looking at 133 miles

Details: 78 miles, 2047 feet of climbing, 13.7 strain

Reading List: The Adventurer’s Son Roman Dial The story of a father’s search for his son in Costa Rica.

Huckleberry

Huckleberry: noun 1) any of a genus (Gaylussacia) of American shrubs of the heath family 2) used as “I am your huckleberry” to denote that one is the perfect person for the job.

Yep…a huckleberry day. At breakfast we had fresh huckleberries for our oatmeal, picked yesterday by PAC Tour crew. Smaller and tarter than a blueberry they made for a tasty treat.

Today’s ride was 140 miles and, grrrrrr, my human just isn’t up to that yet. Getting better. Getting stronger, but 140 miles in the heat was not in our cards. So, we hitched a ride with our huckleberry, aka PAC Tour crew driver who was, by definition the perfect person for the job, to get us to the 50 mile mark. We hit the road at 50 miles and road 90 into the hotel.

The road was flat and for the most part followed a river. There is something quite majestic about the rivers here in Montana — the rivers are wide and flat with mountain sized hills that make the river seem bigger; the hills are steep and green and make the rivers seem wider. Simply gorgeous. Fun day even when traffic got a little thick.

The last stretch was pretty, along the river, but hot and a head wind. Arriving into the hotel, the human was shot (and…uh…we weren’t real riders…we’d only done 90 miles, not 140 — think how the real riders felt)…but there, crossing the road, was Edwin’s human with a dairy free huckleberry shake….I don’t quite get the excitement, but the human was just gushing about it being the perfect ending of the day.

Details: 94.21 miles (out of 145) 1923 feet of climb (out of 2700) 15.3 strain

Reading List Women’s Work Elizabeth Wayland Barber The human heard the author speak at an AIA lecture. Half the audience were archaeology types; half were weavers. The author studies ancient textiles and their development over the millennia. The book was the extended version of the lecture. Fascinating if, like my human, you come from a family of weavers.

Hazy

Hazy. Hot. Smoke. Pick one. I’ll happily let you know, Dear Reader, when those words do not describe the “ambiance” of our day. While there haven’t been any active fires near us, distance views are hazy and we don’t see blue skies. One of our fellow human riders suggested installing an Instagram filter in our vision that inserts blue skies and fluffy clouds. Interesting idea, but…..how else will we appreciate the blue skies that are coming if we don’t see the haze today?!?!?!?

Today’s ride was fast and flat. For the real bikes with real human engines it was a recovery day, a day to play. And some of them did. My human and I rode along at an easy pace. With tailwinds and a flat ride we almost, almost started to feel good again. The views today were of farms and forests. Lest you think, “well, why travel all that way for farms and forests when you can get that back home?!?!?!” These farms came with mountains in the background and the forests were natural pine, not farmed pine. Definitely not like home. And, of course, quite gorgeous to view. Now, we did pay for it with some time on the highway and two bikes flatted because of the debris, but once off the highway? Oh, those quiet roads with excellent views…that is why we ride.

So…where’s Edwin? In the lunch truck. Edwin spends the nights alone since his human just isn’t up to riding. But Edwin’s human was spotted flipping burgers at lunch (yes, the vegan was flipping burgers).

Stats 83.3 miles 2421 ft climbin 17.2 strain

Reading List Sprinting Thorough No Mans Land Aiden Dobkin 1919 Tour de France and how it helped to rebuild the French psyche after WW I. Reading it made PAC Tour feel like a romp. Sure, we have to get up at 4:30 tomorrow because we have 140 miles to ride, but these guys got up at 2AM to ride 240 miles on poor roads. We get crew and other bikes and riders to support us; they got penalized for helping a rider or receiving assistance. We get depressed when we see the remains of forest fires; they saw the remains of trench warfare. We got it easy, but some might agree with the 1919 tour riders statement, “This isn’t a tour, it is a test.”

Smoke!

And hot, of course. We cannot avoid hot. But for the start of the ride, smoke was a bigger issue. Edwin’s human went out to work breakfast and immediately returned to get his mask. Last night there was a fire just over the hill from the hotel. Now, wait, Dear Reader, if you’re from the Midwest like me, let me define “hill”. That would be less than a mountain, but much bigger than what we’d call a hill — it was at least 750′.

While the fire was the night before, the smoke was still irritating leaving town. Our hotel was below the Coulee Dam (yep, glad that the dam didn’t spring a leak last night!) and our ride left the hotel…up the hill past the dam and then up into a 1300′ climb. Smoke, but early enough not to be hot. And….oooo….such a pretty ride. Open range with switchbacks. so we could watch the pretty bikes ahead of us and look back down the switchbacks at the riders coming up. At the top, the cattle were racing us up the slope. OK, maybe they just wanted to go up slope…naw…that’d be a boring answer.

Oh, what was that? I shouldn’t have been ahead of any riders because my human is slow as molasses on a cold, Wisconsin January? Well…that early in the day we still are ahead of riders. The human rushes us onto the bike so that we hit the road first wheel (or close to it). That can give us a 15-30 minute head start. The really fast riders pass us shortly and slowly over the morning the rest of the riders pass by. If we would ride to the end of the day we’d end up last wheel. But, the human is still playing it safe and sagging in from lunch. Tomorrow we’re going for the distance. Lest you be impressed, Dear Reader, tomorrow is a short “recovery” day. Sigh…that is where I have landed…fast, elegant touring bike who’s “going for the distance” is a recovery day for the real riders. Sigh…..

…but it could be worse. This has been a hard first four days for a tour. We lost one rider on day one when his bike lost traction on fresh-ish chip seal. Neither bike nor rider were looking good; the rider went to the ER with multiple injuries but will walk away. Same day a driver right hooked the 3 of 4 riders riding a paceline. WTF! Drove past the 4 riders and turned into the 3rd. The rider is fine, but the bike?!?! Oh…the bike needed repairs. Thankfully, PAC Tour has good mechanics.

Edwin’s human is not doing well with the smoke so Edwin is riding the truck while his human works. But….one of the riders took a tumble and while she is fine, her bike’s top tube is cracked (<expletive>cheap carbon fiber</expletive> wouldn’t happen with beee–aaa–utiful steel). Edwin’s human is about the same size so if the crack worsens Edwin may get to see extra road time.

But, yep, the crew is working hard. They always do, but with the smoke and the heat, the people issues make the job the job harder. The crew is awesome.

Tonight we’re in Spokane. A big city with real restaurants and even vegan food (apparently, that last bit is important to the humans so I added it….beats me why that matters….a little T-9 and some air (even with smoke) to my tires and I’m good to go!)

Details: 68 miles (out of 92), 3064 feet of climbing (out of 3700), 15.1 strain

Reading List Finders Keepers Craig Childs. We’ve read works by Childs before and enjoyed them. Part travelogue; part essay; part diatribe. This one was on archeological remains and whether they should remain in situ, collected, protected, etc.

HOT!

Don’t know how else to summarize it. Hot. 105 at lunch where we called it a day. Gotta give the human credit. No cramping up before lunch. But then….geez…how many bottles of electrolyte can a human drink in a day?!?!?! Guess I shouldn’t complain. We made it to lunch, we got over the big bump of the day and a series of rollers without incident. Yes! Not all of the humans fared as well today, but we learn and adapt.

The ride started with absolutely gorgeous valley views, then up through the pine forest (with evidence of the fire that went through 4 years back). After a long gently sloping 15 mile climb and an equal rip roaring descent, where the human only had to slow me down a few times, we ended up in high dessert. Pretty. But it started to get hot. Toasty hot.

But, with the rollers we would get some nice descents to help cool us off. And we had ice from the rest stop that lasted a few miles at least. Still…by lunch, my human was done for the day. We begged a ride off of Susan and came in with the crew. Methinks the crew was as fried and toasted as the riders…setting up and running that lunch stop in the heat. The crew works hard, but today was tough on them as well.

But, we got back in. The human cleaned me up, greased my chain and we’re ready for another day.

Details: 73 miles (out of 101), 4317 feet of climbing (out of 6000), 18.1 strain

Reading List

The Colossus Michael Hitzik Since we are tonight at the Coulee Dam, we thought it might be fun to learn about the Hoover Dam. But…it wasn’t our style so we bailed

The Third Chimpanzee Jared Diamond We finished the book. Still didn’t agree with many of his conclusions (uh…Clovis First is not agreed upon by the majority of archaeologists) but it raises good questions.

Fluke Joseph Mazur. Fun romp through probability and statistics. Not sure it makes good audio (0.000000014 reads better than hears), but fun.

Uh….

I don’t know how to describe today, Dear Reader. It was the most interesting and yet the most frustrating of days. The ride itself, of what we accomplished, was absolutely amazing. Edwin and his human joined us for the first 35 miles…that is always fun. The road stayed flat and fast (TTTTAAAIIIILWINDS!) for 50 miles and I almost felt like I had a real human engine, not my super slow human.

The road then started to pick up. No worries. The human and I did train up and down and up and down and up…all those hills back home. And the gradients weren’t really that bad. We were toodling along, stopping every 10 minutes to drink electrolytes and eat a bit of salty sweets “just in case”, enjoying the scenery….oh, the scenery….steep cliff covered in pine…following a river….rocky outcroppings….big waterfalls with pullouts and sight seers…little water falls down the rock faces right next to the road that cooled us off and sprayed a little water as we passed. It was great.

And then…..wham…the human did that cramping up thing….quads, hamstrings, calf muscles…even glutes and back. Not a pretty sight. But, as a good and helpful bicycle I carry things just for this event (the human is, alas, quite good at doing the human equivalent of taco-ing a wheel….without ever hitting a bump). So…we pumped her full of magnesium, calcium, salt, more electroyte drink and more salty sweets. So, did we ride then? Sigh, no. Then we walked. Oh, the indignity of being a most reliable and trustworthy bicycle to be walked along the roadside. Oh, sure, we got to really see Jones Falls as we walked by, but….sigh….to walk?

After a quarter mile, the human tried to ride….slow….(yeah…really slow), but we managed to ride into lunch. The lunch crew convinced us to sag in. Sigh…..it is only day two. But, you know, the lunch crew are fun (Edwin’s human was on that crew) and we had a great time. We sat and waited for the last riders at a gorgeous pullout. Chatting. Chilling. And then, around 4:30 we started to head off the mountain. We’d be home in 45 minutes, right?

Ha! Remember that heat dome, Dear Reader? Know what happens when this area of the country gets dry and…oh….lightening hits? Yep. Fire on the mountain. Two of them. And they feared that one was headed toward the roadway. Fire crews were out cutting a firebreak. This shut down the roadway. We waited for almost 45 minutes while the fire crews worked. It was a long wait, but it could have been worse…we could have had to turn around, pick up the riders still on the road and go back to the town we started from Still…frustrating as waiting was, it was fascinating to watch the action….helicopters ferrying water, the fire crews on the road and lets not forget the people in their cars, out of their cars, running up the road, down the road…as if that would make it go any faster. <chuckle />

Best ending of the day, tho. It is Sunday and we’re a little out of town…so pizza was delivered and waiting….the human is munching down…and I am resting….as a clothes rack. Yep….the human let me down today….I carried that human…I suffered the indignity of the walk and the van….and now? Now I am a clothes line…..sigh….tomorrow will be another day.

Details: 74.7 miles (out of 126), 3337 feet of climbing (out of 8000), 18.8 strain

Reading List Gathering Moss Robin Wall Kimmerer We’ve been saving this book for the trip….and what a better day to learn about moss than when viewing it on the rocks and the trees….ahh…

One Ride Down…33 Rides to Go

Well, Dear Reader, we rode our first ride, start to finish. Woot! Maybe the Jinx is gone and we’ll make it to the end. Yeah, the human is slow, but with first day fresh legs, not too bad. As the riders say…start slow and get in shape by the end of the first week. We shall see.

We did take it easy, always dropping into our wonderfully decadent 30/32 gear if the gradient popped up over 9%. But most of the day was less than that. Still we kept it steady with no strain on the legs if we could avoid it.

Oh, wait…where did we go? Oh, today was fun….well 80% of it was fun. We were up at the crack of dawn to catch the 7AM ferry to Whidbey Island. Once on the island, the fun began. Rolling hills. Ups and downs. Little towns. Fancy houses. Forests. As long as we were off the main highway, it really was quite nice. When we got stuck on the main highway? Uh…not so nice. Saturday on an island that tourists love? Yep. You can imagine it. So we savored the backroads when we could.

And…we shared those backroads with runners. Lots of distanced high fives and shouts of encouragement in both directions. Oh, and it wasn’t a little 5K, 10K or even a half or full marathon. Nope. Ragnar Relay. 220 mile relay race over 48 hours. The runners were nearing the end of the race. Too bad those runners couldn’t enjoy the downhills like we could — wheee…..makes the uphills almost worth it.

Tomorrow…we cross the mountain….wish us luck and strong legs!

Details: 95.3 miles, 5394 feet of climbing, 20.5 strain

Reading List:

The Alice Behind Wonderland Simon Winchester. He skirted away the issue of whether Dodgson was….uh…dodgy, but just for the history of photography, the short book was worth a listen.

The Third Chimpanzee Jared Diamond. We aren’t buying all of his conclusions, but still an interesting collection of selected scientific papers.

Photo Link

Reunited!

I made it! We rolled into Everett late Wednesday. For us bikes it was uneventful. For Lon & Crew some engine trouble. Not human engines, but the engine of the truck. So we arrived earlier than expected so the truck could go to the mechanic. Bad for the truck, but great for me. No mechanics for me today. Today I got to ride!!!! Wheeee….

Edwin, I and the humans went out for an easy 30 mile spin. It started kinda….uh…city bike trail with lots of debris, then we climbed a wall. Wall? Oh, yeah….quarter mile with an average gradient of 12.5%. Steep like Dodgeville, but much longer. Eeks! Not exactly an easy shake out ride and….uh….need I say I wonder how my human is going to get us into Sheridan next week. 3 miles of 10% surrounded by moderate mountain climbs. But it is all one mile at a time. Today we worry about today; tomorrow will take care of itself. And every mile ridden is a good mile.

After the wall, the ride flattened out and we rode around a lake, along a river and through several little down town areas. It was really quite a nice shake out ride. Even with the bramble warrior plants. Here in the Pacific Northwest, the roadsides are lush with wild plants. Raspberries, ferns, lots of ferns, white trumpet flowers, sweat pea, plants we had no clue how to describe and bramble. Bramble are definitely the warrior class of roadside plants. While raspberries and the others are happy to chill on the edges, brambles come out to attack. They send their tendrils into the road at tire height, try to get their thorns into my pretty new tires. And when tire height isn’t good enough, they try to lie in wait on the road with the hope that the human doesn’t see them. Today we outsmarted them.

Tomorrow the human will tweak my settings, grease my chain and we’ll be ready for the first leg of the trip on Saturday morning. We’ll wake up early and catch the ferry to Whidbey Island. We’ve been told it is a gorgeous ride. We’ll let you know Saturday night, Dear Reader. Until then.

Reading List: Nothing right now because we rode with Edwin and his human.

Listening List: Sigh…Edwin’s human is currently playing Peaches and Herb’s Reunited…sigh…sarcasm or silly? No clue.