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.

Almost

I’m hanging out in Sharon waiting for the long ride to Everett. It so much nicer to go in the trailer than to fly. I mean, seriously, Dear Reader, you think you feel like you’re squashed when you fly? Try life as a bike. First you get taken apart, twisted around, put in a box and the lid is closed. Now you’re blind. No one to talk to. Just your contorted self as you’re picked up, thrown around and put into the very cold luggage hold. When you finally get to the destination you’re not just stiff, but some of your parts may not be working. Sure the human is getting better at packing me, but, trust me, the trailer is a luxury trip.

But, more than just the luxury of the road trip…can I admit, it is nice to be away from the human this week? As we all know, the human is slow….really slow…and now even slower than slow….but that doesn’t mean the human doesn’t over train. Oh…always. And, tapering? Oh, no…to the human no better time to get in “one more hard ride” than when we should be slowing it down.

Heck, before we left for Sharon, the human was all, “Come on, Edwina…look at these recovery numbers….back to back high 90’s. Time to get out and train!” Sigh….over and over I had to explain that, no, we cannot go out hard, we need to start pulling back. That’s why you bought that silly Whoop, human. Oh, wait, Dear Reader…..you don’t know about the human’s obsession with Whoop. Sit back…this is a long one.

So…back before the Southern killed by Covid the Destroyer, the human decided that we needed to monitor for overtraining. At the time, the thought was: resting heart rate. So, first, we got one of them there watch things to monitor resting heart rate. Problem was the watch didn’t do what we needed. First, it kept cheering about amazing step counts even when we were riding, not walking…don’t know which was weirder the cheering or counting steps for riding. We could have ignored that, but it didn’t really measure resting heart rate, but daily average heart rate. Blah. That doesn’t help. If we were riding, our average heart is higher. Duh!

So, the human did some research and bought in, hook, line and sinker to the Whoop concept. Whoop is a heart rate monitor. That’s it. No step counting (yay!) and no nonsensical cheering just for getting up off the couch. Ha! In fact, sometimes Whoop is often the grumpy coach, “That was a reasonable workout” or “Workouts that limit cardiovascular load are good for Recovery” (when we weren’t trying for recovery).

But mostly we just ignore those messages. What we care about is the Recovery score which tells us if the human is over or under achieving. Green means “all systems are primed”; Yellow means “feeling average, eh?”; and Red is “hmmm…have you been working hard or are you sick?”

As we were training, we used the recovery numbers to adjust our rides, putting the longer, harder rides onto Green days and pulling back on Red days. Each week we did more than the previous, but we never felt burned out. And, if the human woke up Green, it was no excuses, no malingering — a long ride.

But, more important, we were able to adjust after the second Covid shot. The human didn’t feel great and neither were the Whoop numbers. We pulled back until the numbers picked up. That seemed to work well and it kept the human from pushing when the body was down. Likewise, when the human really got sick, the Whoop numbers were clear enough that it kept the human from trying to push through — 1% recovery, crappy heart rate and HRV values. In the past, the human wouldn’t have just pushed forward, but by monitoring we were back on the road stronger sooner.

So, goofy as the strap is. And, obsessed as the human is, looking at those numbers, I guess it works for us. As we travel across the country, we will probably include our Recovery scores just for fun. Obviously, we will ride regardless of the numbers, but it should be interesting to see how they change. The theory states that while we will see Reds early on, that the body will adapt to the long back to back days and we won’t stay Red. We’ll see.

Reading List:

The Mosquito Timothy C. Winegard. One shall never hear “seasoning” in quite the same way again.

Bright, Shiny and Ready to Go

Training is over. And, I. Am. Ready!!! I’ve been cleaned up. Polished. New bearings. New cables. New cassette. New chain. New bar tape. New tires. Finally, after some sloppy, rainy rides, I am, once again, one, beeeeaaaauutttiffffulll bike. Best part? On Wednesday the humans will take Edwin and me down to Sharon to hitch a ride with Lon in the truck. Wheee! We’re going to Everett!

Is the human in shape? Ha! The problem with humans is…they get older and slower. Now, fine, hand crafted steel bicycles like myself? Oh, we get older, but we don’t get slower…we get finer. My human is getting older. We trained. We had our ups and downs. But we did the training. Problem is…well…old age and Covid the Destroyer has slowed us down. We will ride the Northern. We will ride as much as we can. But we’re fooling ourselves to think we won’t miss some time cutoffs. However, it will be the miles we ride that matter.

Training for a transcontinental ride is hard. We’ll be riding more than 700 miles a week. How many training miles is “enough” to make those numbers? The human and I have now trained 3 times for a transcontinental crossing. For the first, we were lacking in long rides; for the second, darn, the human was in shape. Well, up until the crash the week before. This time, we would have followed the second pattern, but there just wasn’t enough time. That, and ending 5 months of training with the human fracturing a bottom bracket, I mean pelvis, is not the way to successful training, eh?

So, instead of a long, hard week followed by 2 easier weeks, we consistently rode Lon’s “Rule of 300” (ok, we did overachieve and it was more like 350 miles most weeks). Overall, we averaged about the same number of miles/week as before, but in a much shorter time frame with fewer easy weeks, and obviously, fewer long weekends. In the mix of training, we did our obligatory intervals once a week (ha! like that does my human any good — now the human is just slow not abysmally slow!). And, every week we rode one 11 hour ride aiming for 50 feet/mile of climbing by adding hill repeats….up the hill and down the hill…up and down…up and down. Sigh….the climbs will longer on the trip, but at least we will only have to climb them once! We won’t have to turn around at the top, go down and do it again. And again. And again. Bleh.

Finally, last week we peaked our training with a 400 mile week felt better with more reserves than the first 300 mile week. This week we started the taper with a mere 300 miles. Feels wrong, but doing more at this point will not help us to be in better shape for the start on 10-July; overdoing it, on the other hand, may hurt us. Better to be a little over-tapered than to be a little over-trained. Or so the theory goes.

Are we then both ready? Well…I know that I’m ready. The human? Ask me in a couple of weeks.

Recent reading list:

  • Vanishing Fleece Clara Parkes. The human comes from a line of knitters and weavers so the life of a bale of wool, from sheep to yarn was a thread that kept stringing us along.
  • Turn Right at Machu Picchu Mark Adams. Machu Picchu remains on the human’s bucket list so we enjoyed the history, story and details. Equally important theme was the importance of the support team — one doesn’t hike the Inca trails solo. We won’t be riding the Northern solo…Pac Tour crew are our support and every mile we successfully ride will be supported by them.
  • The Woman They Could Not Silence Kate Moore. Sigh. We’ve come so far as a society and, yet, not far enough.

To Jinx or not to Jinx?

Ah…yes, dear Reader, that is the question. Do we talk about this year’s upcoming adventure? Or, by talking about it, will we send the adventure the way of our last great adventures….aka, no where? Alas…we have pondered this question long and held off, but….but….but….the human and I are in training again for this summer’s PAC Tour Northern Transcontinental. OK. There. I’ve said it. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting for the lightening to strike. Waiting, Waiting. Hmmmm…so far so good. OK, let’s talk.

Last year. Sigh…the year of isolation. The year of illness. The year of yearning for more. We were, of course, going to do the Southern crossing again last September, but, blah, Covid the Destroyer took care of that dream. It was to be our 3rd attempt: on the first attempt we were 116 miles short of the goal; on the second attempt we crashed out the week before; and the third attempt…well, Covid the Destroyer took care of that. Last March, the humans fell ill and we got very little riding in until late summer so there was no way we were going to ride across in September; finally the crossing was cancelled when Covid the Destroyer came through for a second pass. So, like many, we transferred our registration to this year’s Northern Crossing.

Are we nuts to try? Oh yeah. That’s a given. The Northern is harder — bigger mountains, longer rides, faster riders. And us? Uh…well…we’re training and we’re training hard, but…did I mention about not riding last spring? Oooo…that has really hurt and, let’s face it, my human is not getting any younger. To boot, Edwin’s human is not doing as well as mine. Edwin’s human has taken a lot longer to come back — only in the last week have we been able to ride a metric together. So that means the human and I are out solo most of the time. Well…not completely solo, Edwin’s human is a sweetie and brings us lunch on long days. As a fully PAC Tour trained crewmember, Edwin’s human, like all PAC Tour crew, is rider support extraordinaire. Just check out that spread for a single rider: soup in the thermos, juice, water, chocolate Silk, ladoos, bananas along with sunscreen and hand sanitizer. What more could a rider want?

So, we are in training, riding the Lon schedule of at least 300 miles a week. Unfortunately, for us, that is not 300 miles/week in 20 hours per the official Lon-schedule, but what we lack in speed, we make up for in enthusiasm and are riding now more than 300 miles in a week. Well, maybe. Since my human is still working, but remotely, we no longer have a daily commute. Instead the human puts in 4 hour indoor rides twice a week while participating in meetings (heee..hee…do they know that isn’t a fan, but a bike in the background?!?!?!). With indoor hours, it is hard to tell how far the human rides in a week. No matter how hard we train, though, it probably won’t keep us out of the van when we miss a time cutoff, but at least we can say we gave it a solid try and we will enjoy the time on the road we do get.

But, dear Reader, a request, if I may. Since the human and I are riding alone, we have taken to listening to books (through bone conducting headphones that keep both ears open to even the quietest of road noises, of course). We have listened to a wide variety of non-fiction books from psychology to behavioral economics (yeah, psychology by another name, but don’t tell that to a behavioral economist) to plant physiology to biographies to politics to history to …. we have read and enjoyed many books, most thanks to the public library, although occasionally we purchase a book. But….we get stuck in ruts (darn those recommendation engines). If you, dear Reader, have a non-fiction book that you found great, let us know. We are always looking for ways to expand our horizons. Today we listened to Looking for Calvin and Hobbes by Nevin Martell and tomorrow will be listening to Just as I Am by Cicely Tyson. The day after? Got a recommendation?

It is All Relative

No…not like Edwin and I are sibling bicycles…relative as in comparison, I guess.  Today we rode out of Tucson to Nogales.  Now, if you recall Dear Reader, I gushed last week about riding Mission Road (Happy New Year!).  After all, it is one of the prettiest roads to ride (even with the great, big honkin’ mine).  So, today’s route which began down Mission Road should have been awesome, right?  Well….

Yes, Mission Road was lovely and it was greener than last week, but…..Mother Nature seems to be a bit cranky and threw some headwinds at us.  Not the nagging headwinds of 5-10mph, not even irritating headwinds of 10-15mph….nope…..we got 25+mph headwinds all the way down Mission Road.  Ouch.  10mph moving average.  Just like that ride into Bisbee — strong headwinds with a slight incline.  We were worried, the human and I, that if those winds kept up we wouldn’t get to Nogales until after 6PM.

But, thankfully, those winds did scale back into *only* the irritating range.  Funny thing was, after Bisbee and after today’s segment on Mission Road, those irritating 15mph headwinds almost felt like a tailwind.  Yep, it is all relative.

But, everyone was tired coming in today after fighting headwinds for 80 miles.  New week; new group of riders.  While we’ve never met a rider group on PAC Tour we didn’t like, this group seems especially nice.  Should make for a fun week even if we are riding solo most of the time, the human and I — Edwin’s human is doing better, but this week he is crew (<chuckle>nothing like having an inside line to the chuck wagon to keep my human fueled and riding</chuckl>).