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.

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.