BACK IN THE USA (though it was easier for one of us than the other)

These photos belonged with the last post. Yes, I thought it was going to rain, but it didn’t.

These are from August 8:

The ones I took aren’t being posted  due to internet problems. Sorry.

August 8, Tuesday, Brantford, Ontario to Niagra Falls, USA.

The riding today was different than it has been. For instance, just a few miles into what was ultimately an 80 mile ride I hit an unpaved trail that was a converted railroad track that was actually rideable. While it was of course slower than decent pavement, it wasn’t as jarring as many of the roads with the horizontal joints and there was no gravel or loose sand – or at least not much – so that although my average speed was way down, I often hit 15-16 mph, something I hadn’t been able to do on any of the previous unpaved roads.

The unpaved section of the trail lasted 20 miles or so and went through what seemed to be pretty isolated areas. I say, “seemed to be” because often the vegetation was so dense I couldn’t see on either side of the trail. Other times it went through fields or farmland and at times past homes. After a number of miles I was surprised to see a multistory building ahead of me and realized that I was now in an urban area.

The trail was amazing because of its length and condition. It even turned to pavement when it entered Dundas, a city of almost 25,000. Since I had no idea where I was, I asked what city I was in and was told Dundas.

I liked what I saw of Dundas. I don’t know if it is, but to me it had the feeling of a college town with vegetation. Plus, when I was on the streets, drivers were bike friendly, unlike some I encountered when I crossed back into the US.

The trail led me to Hamilton. a much larger city of 550,000+. (I knew I was in Hamilton only because I again asked someone while stopped at a light what city I was in.) Yes, this was very different than the towns with fewer, often much fewer, than 1,000 people that I have spent most of my time riding through.

A startling experience in Hamilton happened when Google told me to turn right onto a one way street that was going to my left. Just as I got to the intersection, I saw that there was a separate bike lane, with a barrier from the car traffic, that ran in both directions so that I could go the “wrong way” on a one way street. And with the barrier, I could do so and feel safe. Safe, but not particularly comfortable because the road was in poor condition. However, I was able to make decent progress until I was directed to another city street with no bike lane and no shoulder. The saving grace was that there were 2 lanes in each direction so I just staked out the right lane, riding down the middle of it. That was something I did when I rode a motorcycle; claim the whole lane so that cars don’t try to share the lane with you. It worked, too, with all of the cars that passed me doing so by using the left lane.

I was eventually led to another paved bike path that skirted a huge – not big or large, but huge – lake. Because I still didn’t really know where I was, I stopped at a park bench and asked what body of water it was. Turns out that it was Lake Ontario which, unless compared to the ocean or maybe Lake Michigan, easily qualifies as huge.

Although the rest of the ride wasn’t on large city streets, it wasn’t through the remote countryside that had characterized much of this trip.

However, the population density definitely started increasing as I got within 10 miles or so of the border. Google’s response, which I appreciated, was to route me onto residential streets where possible so that I avoided much, but not all, of the city riding. Plus I got a couple of 10% grade climbs that made me work a bit harder.

Approaching the boarder on my bike was interesting. I just pulled in behind a car and took my place in line. I can’t say that the customs officer seemed at all surprised when he saw me. Although he asked me what I had been doing in Canada, he didn’t ask me if I was bringing anything with me that I had bought there. I guess that was pretty unlikely unless I had been carrying diamonds because I wasn’t exactly pulling a trailer behind me and there isn’t any extra room on the bike.

Then, back in the USA!

Crossing the boarder on my bike into New York was exciting. Although I still have 7 riding days and hundreds of miles left, I will admit that the thought of having ridden my bike, alone, from Oregon to New York was exciting.

It turns out that my return to the US was easier than Ale’s. She was stopped, pulled out of line and questioned for nearly a half hour. And then suddenly handed back her passport and told to have a good day. I will say that from what I saw of Ale in the evening, the guard had done a pretty good job of preventing that from happening. She had clearly been stressed. But she did make it and alls well that ends well. Or so it has been said.

The weather has been very cooperative although I have actually worn my windbreaker a couple times, though not for a whole day.

Today we spent visiting Niagra Falls and that was fun. I will post some photos of what we saw but probably not now.

On to Rochester tomorrow.

Rick

Want To Make Your Summer Longer? Go On A Cross Country Bike Ride.

August 6, Sunday, Port Huron to London. Yes, Laura’s Ride officially became international this day. Although we were close to the Mexico border last summer, we never crossed over. This summer, we did cross the border, though the one to the north, not to the south. (I understand that Canada is planning a Wall to keep out all of the disaffected Americans who are trying to sneak in and that the plan is to get the USA to pay for it. Or maybe I am confusing that with some other crazy idea?)

Because bikes aren’t allowed on the bridge from Port Huron to the Canadian border, Ale drove me just over the bridge. The first few photos are from there.

I took off from there and enjoyed the roads, the lack of troublesome winds and the pretty countryside. I did 74 miles at 16.6 mph, which I was pleased with, especially since I did a few miles on unpaved roads which definitely reduces speed. There were enough rollers that I got in 1,550 feet of climbing. While I usually did my typical meandering up the hills, there were a couple of times that I actually pushed hard. It felt good, but I quickly talked myself out of that, reminding myself that I still have a lot of miles to go.

One photo is of Linda, a local rider I met when I lost internet service – having to do with international connections- and didn’t know which way to turn. Thank you, Linda, your directions worked and got me to a town on the way to London that had internet service, finally.

Speaking of London. My secretary, Maria – who just very recently became a grandmother due to Wyatt’s arrival – got a notice questioning whether a credit card charge in London was authorized. She knew I was in Canada, but wondered why a charge in London was on my card. That was like when i was in Canada with Sandi, Kat and Sal and made hotel reservations for Jasper, not realizing that the hotel was in Jasper, Alabama, not Jasper, Canada. That made it very awkward when we tried to find the hotel when we arrived in Jasper to start our ride to Banff.

So, once again I finished the ride feeling good. In fact, I beat Ale to the hotel because she had also lost the use of her map due to internet problems and took longer to find our motel than I did. For the same reason we didn’t meet up during my ride and I had wondered what happened to her especially since I hadn’t stopped at any stores along the way so hadn’t gotten my customary cola infusion. Probably the hardest part of the ride was negotiating traffic in London – a city of 200,000+ – to find our lodging.

Oh, I should mention having been chased by a dog, twice. The first time I was riding on a pretty country road that was bordered by farms. I heard a man yelling at a large dog who was charging at me while barking furiously. While the literature had warned of potentially dangerous dogs last summer in the South, I hadn’t seen any such warnings for this ride. Since he had the angle on me, approaching from ahead of me, I thought that trying to race him would, as Sal would say, not be prudent. So I stopped, figuring that being stationary would be less enticing than is a moving bicycle. (I have noticed that virtually all dogs have something against bicyclists, it’s just that most have been either fenced or tied up.) I have to say that my confidence in my stopping strategy was enhanced by the fact that the large charging dog was a Golden Retriever and I don’t think I have met a Golden that I didn’t like. Well, stopping worked because the dog also stopped and without me moving, he even paid attention to his owner who told me how friendly his dog is when he caught up with him. While I believed that, I wasn’t sure what even a friendly dog would do while chasing a moving cyclist.

The next dog who came running at me, also from the front, wasn’t a Golden Retriever. However, I still thought that he was likely to be less aggressive if I stopped than if I tried to ride by in front of him. So I again stopped. This time there was no owner to rescue me, but when I stopped, so did the dog and he in fact ran back toward his house. When he got far enough away I made a break for it, only to have him surprise me as to how fast he was. But I had enough distance, and the right angle, that after he initially closed the gap, I pulled away and left him behind. May all of the other dogs I encounter be while I am walking and they just want a pet or 2.

We had an enjoyable dinner at a Hungarian restaurant. I hadn’t had experience with Hungarian food, but Ale, who has lived in Germany, said it was very much like German food. In addition to having a good dinner – unlike the prior night’s very unenjoyable Thai food – we met Joe and Irene, a local couple. We learned that they motorcycle and have an adult son who is into bike racing, both mountain and road bikes. Because I had on a Laura’s Ride North t-shirt on, we ended up talking about our ride. I am in the photo with them, a photo that was taken just because we enjoyed their company and because they insisted that I be included in the photo with them. That means that we took their picture before we knew of the very generous donation they made to Laura’s Ride North through the website, a donation they must have made immediately upon getting home. THANK YOU, Irene and Joe both for your generous donation and for your equally generous comment. Both help me know that this ride has been worthwhile and the contribution is also appreciated by those who benefit through Lazarex Cancer Foundation.

After dinner we walked a couple of blocks to London’s rib fest, a carnival that featured numerous BBQ food trucks and even more trophies displayed at each truck to show the awards their various categories of food had won at fests throughout the area. Some of Ale’s photos are included.

August 7, Monday,London to Brantford. The roads outside of London started out ok; not great, but ok. And then I hit about 6 miles that made me think it was payback for the very good roads I had yesterday. 6 miles of newly graveled roads, that is. Instead of riding at 18-20 mph, I was doing 8-10 mph while hoping that I didn’t duplicate last year’s feat of falling a few times. When the gravel road finally came to a crossing highway, I stopped, determined to go left or right even though Google told me to continue straight for another 7 miles of what I assumed would continue as gravel. The problem was that the internet service out there was virtually nonexistent so I didn’t know whether to turn left or right. When a pickup turned onto the dirt road I was on, I flagged it down and got directions that turned out to be great, leading me to paved roads that were generally smooth although they did degrade to having those damnable creases that are bone rattling. That was decidedly better than the gravel had been, though.

A plus of the gravel route was that I saw a horse and buggy driven by someone for whom I think it was his only source of transportation, other than walking. In fact, there were at least a couple of road signs featuring a horse drawn buggy. The second point of interest was that I saw the first sheep I have seen on this trip, though they were domestic, not wild. Alas, no big horns while we were in Wyoming. I also saw the first goats a couple of days ago.

Despite thinking I was way to the north, and even farther to the east, I rode into Oakland today. That seemed like an awful lot of pedaling to gain so little distance.

Now, about making your summer longer. I was thinking of how often I have heard people say how their simmer had just flown by. And I was thinking of how for most of you, it seems like it has been only a short time since we left. Well, if you want to make the summer much longer, just use it for a cross country bike ride. Because for me it seems forever ago that we left Astoria. The time in the saddle seemed interminable. And I know that even the 8 few riding days that are left will seem much longer than just over a week. While I am very glad I have taken this journey, it has definitely stretched time out.

Tomorrow we return to the USA and the day after, in Niagra, will be the last rest day of the ride.

Good night for now,
Rick
P.S. I will for reasons to be explained then, answer questions about the number of flats and blown tires I have had after I reach Portsmouth.

 

 

Another One Down

Those of you who actually read my blogs know that I blew it yesterday. While I posted new photos that went with August 5, the text I posted was the same as my prior post. That’s what happens when you cut and paste. At least that is what happened when I cut and pasted.

Here is what I should have posted and it goes with the photos that I did post:

August 5, Saturday, Birch Run to Port Huron. Although scheduled for 87 miles, I had ridden an extra 17 miles yesterday so today was actually 70 miles. It was 70 miles with quite q bit of wind, but most of it was at my back. And what wasn’t at my back was a crosswind with no real headwinds to speak of. Of course the disadvantage was that the crosswind was blowing toward the highway which got a bit intimidating at times because there was virtually no shoulder. That just meant that I had to slow some because I didn’t like the thought of a sudden gust pushing me in front of someone going 50+ mph faster than I with 3,000+ more pounds than I am pedaling down the road. Despite those slower stretches, I still averaged 18 mph for the 70 miles. I would like to say it was because I am getting that much stronger, but I think that being pushed by the wind might have had something to do with it though I can’t say that I felt like I was being pushed. And I know what it feels like to be pushed while riding having had Freddie Rodriguez, a pro, push me up a hill when I wasn’t keeping up during a Morgan Stanley bikes for tots ride. His push totally flattened out the hill and he didn’t even breathe hard.

So, more green country today with one actual hill. I didn’t have to ask anyone for directions but there was one time that I didn’t take a Google turn because it would have meant 10 miles of a gravel surface. Instead I just kept going straight because I knew that would head to Port Huron, which it did.

The ride was easy enough that I didn’t stop for any junk food along the way, though I did stop a couple of times to stretch out the kink between my shoulder blades that seemed to develop from tensing up while I was fighting the crosswinds. And, of course, I stopped and had a coke and sandwich when Ale caught me even though there were only 12 miles to go. However, I only had part of 1 coke, unlike other days when I needed more than one.

So, 10 riding days to go and recently they have gotten easier. Though I am not counting on that continuing because as I have said before, most of that depends on the riding conditions and I have no idea what the roads, or winds, will be like in Canada, Vermont, New York and New Hampshire.

Did I just say Canada? Yes, I did. Because we are going to make this an International ride. Starting tomorrow. In fact, it even sounds like we are heading for Europe because tomorrow’s destination is London. On the other hand, we have already been in Rochester, Minnesota and Rochester, New York is in our future. So this London obviously isn’t in Great Britain, but in Ontario, Canada.

Ten riding days to go. While there is absolutely no reason for that to be significant to any of you, it is to me. Because at one time this trip seemed endless. Endless in terms of the miles I had ridden and endless in terms of the miles yet to be ridden. It seemed endless in terms of the number of days, the much greater number of hours, I would have to spend on the bike to reach Portsmouth. But with just 10 days of riding to go, the remaining distance and time is no longer endless. It’s easy to get one’s mind around just 10 days. I know there will still be times during rides when the miles, and hours, until I reach our destination will be intimidating. But now I will draw solace from knowing that only 10, or even fewer days remain until the very end. So what is another 50 or 60 miles out of 70, 80 or 90 miles to reach the day’s destination? As I know I said last year, this whole process is as much mental as physical, if not more so. Which might put me at a disadvantage, but that is a subject for another time.

The photos are limited today because I didn’t meet anyone and there wasn’t anything that I stopped to photograph. However, the early end of the ride was welcome because I can be pretty good at doing nothing.

I am hoping that the next few days are similar. I will let you know.

Rick

Starting To Count Down

August 3, Friday, Mt. Pleasant to Birch Run. Today had an interesting start. After a few miles my guide stopped talking to me so I stopped, erased the map and went to restart it. Only there was a problem. Even though I was in a small town, I didn’t have any phone or internet service so Google Maps wouldn’t work. The problem was that I didn’t know how to get to where I wanted to go. And I didn’t have a map. The first person I found didn’t know where there was AT&T service. I found a cafe that let me use their internet service. Once I got on line I was able to get directions again and even though there was no service, Google continued to give me directions. So that problem was resolved.

Once I really got going, today was a real wind storm. I started by thinking that my wishes for a wind blowing to the east had finally come true but I was riding south wind was on a highway with a narrow shoulder. That meant that the crosswind was blowing me towards the traffic. I was thinking, “be careful what you wish for.” But before too long my route started heading east and then I was very thankful for the wind. Especially on the stretches where the road was reasonable. On balance, though, if I could have my way I would give up the tailwind in exchange for smooth surfaces. Especially if the exchange didn’t involve the tailwind switching into a head wind or a scary crosswind. However, since I don’t get my way about such things, I will take the conditions as they are. Because, of course, what alternative do I have? Other than not riding and that isn’t really an available option.

67 miles were scheduled for today and 87 for tomorrow’s ride to Port Huron. I started out intending to split the difference by riding 77 miles today, leaving 77 for tomorrow. However, I didn’t feel like stopping at 77 miles – though getting off of a 2 lane highway with no shoulders and more traffic than I liked was pretty appealing – so I kept riding for 84 miles. I only stopped then because Ale was coming to get me and at 84 miles I was supposed to turn onto a bike path and Ale wouldn’t be able to meet me if I took the path. So I pulled over,made myself comfortable on a patch of grass and waited for her. The wait didn’t take long.

During the ride I rode on a couple of miles on unpaved road and when I was directed to another multiple mile stretch, I just refused to turn onto it. I looked at the directions and hoped that if I kept riding in the direction I was headed that a better option would pop up, which it did. I avoided that stretch.

After riding a few more miles I was again faced with a gravel road. This time, however, I couldn’t just ignore the direction to continue onto the unpaved road because 2 of my 3 choices at the intersection- not including turning around – involved gravel roads and the unpaved choice went the wrong direction. Fortunately I saw someone outside at the one house at the intersection and I asked him for help. Warren, who is in one of the photos, told me which of the 2 gravel roads was shortest and how it would lead me in the right direction. I followed his suggestion and he was right. Thank you, Warren.

So, it’s now the end of the day and time for me to post.

Wait! You wonder what happened to yesterday the scheduled Ludington to Mt. Pleasant ride? Well, it didn’t happen. While on the ferry – the SS Badger – I heard a local telling some other passengers that they should take the time to visit Glenn Arbor and that it is in the prettiest part of Michigan. Well, the problem is that Glen Arbor is well more than an hour north of Ludington and Mt. Pleasant is to the east. Well, despite that I got dressed to ride yesterday morning but when Ale reported that thunder storms were predicted during the day, that was the deciding factor. So rather than riding, we enjoyed a great breakfast in Ludington – Swiss pancakes, or crepes, that we both thought were great – drove to Glen Arbor and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. By the way, Glen Arbor is not only on Lake Glen, but also Lake Michigan.

I will also say that both of us agree how pretty Michigan has been and that although Minnesota may be the state of a thousand lakes, we have seen far more in Michigan (actually, in Wisconsin, too).

Oh, yes, the countdown. I mentioned to Ale after today’s ride that there are only 12 riding days left. But I was wrong. There are now only 11 riding days left. And we will be entering Canada in 2 days and will have only 7 left after we actually leave Canada. Not that 11 days of riding is insignificant, but the end is beginning to be more than just a glimmer. Especially if I feel as good going forward as I have the past few days. Of course, as always, much will depend on the riding conditions. So, we’ll see.

Of course this also means that the number of days to donate before the ride is done are rapidly diminishing (which certainly isn’t to say that contributions won’t be gratefully accepted after I have dipped my wheel into the Atlantic in Portsmouth).

See you soon, both in terms of when I next write and when I will be home.

Rick

Starting To Count Down

August 3, Friday, Mt. Pleasant to Birch Run. Today was a real wind storm. I started by thinking that my wishes for a wind blowing to the east had finally come true but I was riding south wind was on a highway with a narrow shoulder. That meant that the crosswind was blowing me towards the traffic. I was thinking, “be careful what you wish for.” But before too long my route started heading east and then I was very thankful for the wind. Especially on the stretches where the road was reasonable. On balance, though, if I could have my way I would give up the tailwind in exchange for smooth surfaces. Especially if the exchange didn’t involve the tailwind switching into a head wind or a scary crosswind. However, since I don’t get my way about such things, I will take the conditions as they are. Because, of course, what alternative do I have? Other than not riding and that isn’t really an available option.

67 miles were scheduled for today and 87 for tomorrow’s ride to Port Huron. I started out intending to split the difference by riding 77 miles today, leaving 77 for tomorrow. However, I didn’t feel like stopping at 77 miles – though getting off of a 2 lane highway with no shoulders and more traffic than I liked was pretty appealing – so I kept riding for 84 miles. I only stopped then because Ale was coming to get me and at 84 miles I was supposed to turn onto a bike path and Ale wouldn’t be able to meet me if I took the path. So I pulled over,made myself comfortable on a patch of grass and waited for her. The wait didn’t take long.

During the ride I rode on a couple of miles on unpaved road and when I was directed to another multiple mile stretch, I just refused to turn onto it. I looked at the directions and hoped that if I kept riding in the direction I was headed that a better option would pop up, which it did. I avoided that stretch.

After riding a few more miles I was again faced with a gravel road. This time, however, I couldn’t just ignore the direction to continue onto the unpaved road because 2 of my 3 choices at the intersection- not including turning around – involved gravel roads and the unpaved choice went the wrong direction. Fortunately I saw someone outside at the one house at the intersection and I asked him for help. Warren, who is in one of the photos, told me which of the 2 gravel roads was shortest and how it would lead me in the right direction. I followed his suggestion and he was right. Thank you, Warren.

when I met Ale I for the first time on this trip put on a windbreaker and that was after putting on arm warmers for the first time this morning. The temperature wasn’t really cold but the wind did make it a bit chilly.

So, it’s now the end of the day and time for me to post.

Wait! You wonder what happened to yesterday, the scheduled Ludington to Mt. Pleasant ride? Well, it didn’t happen. While on the ferry – the SS Badger – I heard a local telling some other passengers that they should take the time to visit Glenn Arbor and that it is in the prettiest part of Michigan. Well, the problem is that Glen Arbor is well more than an hour north of Ludington and Mt. Pleasant is to the east. Well, despite that I got dressed to ride yesterday morning but when Ale reported that thunder storms were predicted during the day, that was the deciding factor. So rather than riding, we enjoyed a great breakfast in Ludington – Swiss pancakes, or crepes, that we both thought were great – drove to Glen Arbor and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. By the way, Glen Arbor is not only on Lake Glen, but also Lake Michigan.

I will also say that both of us agree how pretty Michigan has been and that although Minnesota may be the state of a thousand lakes, we have seen far more in Michigan (actually, in Wisconsin, too).

Oh, yes, the countdown. I mentioned to Ale after today’s ride that there are only 12 riding days left. But I was wrong. There are now only 11 riding days left. And we will be entering Canada in 2 days and will have only 7 left after we actually leave Canada. Not that 11 days of riding is insignificant, but the end is beginning to be more than just a glimmer. Especially if I feel as good going forward as I have the past few days. Of course, as always, much will depend on the riding conditions. So, we’ll see.

Of course this also means that the number of days to donate before the ride is done are rapidly diminishing (which certainly isn’t to say that contributions won’t be gratefully accepted after I have dipped my wheel into the Atlantic in Portsmouth).

See you soon, both in terms of when I next write and when I will be home.

Rick

A Blurry Mind

The problem of not posting shortly after a ride, at least for me, is that they all blend together. Hence the blurry mind.

I know that since the last ride I posted about we have gone from LaCrosse to Mauston, from Mauston to Fond du Lac and then on to Manitowoc, where I am as I write this. In fact, I am on the SS Badger, a ferry that will take us on a 4 hour cruise to Michigan, which will be our 7th state. I was about to say our 6th but that would have been ignoring something. More blurry mind.

Things blend together but I know there have been quite a few miles since La Crosse. I also know that there have been countless seams to keep me bouncing. But I also remember that there have been some very good roads, that temperatures have stayed below the 90’s and that the strong headwinds have not been a problem for a few days. I also know that the scenery has improved considerably from the high deserts of Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and much of South Dakota. Much more green and, together with a lot of farmland, green trees. Also, water, both in rivers and in lakes. All of which help make the ride more pleasant, at least for me.

Here I will apologize to Bobbie, a high school friend who has been following this trip and who has frequently posted her comments, which I appreciate.My apology to her because she has said how much she likes the country that I am inclined to characterize as barren and even bleak. She spent part of her career there as a geologist and no doubt appreciates things that I don’t even notice. It is valuable to hear different perspectives and hers helps explain why people actually live in some of these places that I would consider uninhabitable. I admit, though that I still think that most are there out of economic necessity, or because they don’t know any better, not out of choice. See how open minded I am?

I also recall that when I was complaining about the winds in Wyoming, Bobbie wrote that when she lived in that area she read about the constant winds and that higher than normal suicide rates had been attributed to those winds. I remember that I had wondered if many of the people with such thoughts had been trying to bicycle through the area.

Speaking of wind. I mentioned I am on the SS Badger, which is on Lake Michigan. I am sitting on the deck and am very grateful I am not having to ride in this windstorm. It could be dangerous. At least isn’t cold or raining. I am also glad that we purchased Dramamine recently because the rocking is definitely getting to me.

I just asked Ale to help me remember more about the last 3 days of riding. Most of what we came up with was that I wasn’t complaining about the roads as much. I would still get tired, especially after the start and when I still had 60 or even 50 miles to go. But typically after her catching me and helping me replenish, I would get s second wind. Maybe more accurately a first wind. But as the miles wound down, my energy seemed to increase. Somewhat like a horse when it is getting close to the barn. And speaking of horses, I have seen quite a few, especially in the last few days. And lots of cattle. But nary a sheep or goat, not on the entire trip.

We remember Mauston for the reasonably priced and decently tasting dinner with homemade bread that was notably unremarkable. That was especially true given the outstanding dinner we had had at Pogreba in La Crosse (my pork tenderloin, charred on the outside and medium rare, was excellent).

I remember  Fond du Lac for Justin and Dave at Attitude Sports, a bike shop. I took my bike in for a new chain – pretty early given that it was new at the start of the ride – and Justin was great. He also replaced the rear brake pads, adjusted the rear brake that wasn’t seated quite right on the frame until he filed a smidgen off of the bracket and he adjusted the rear derailleur so it is shifting better than ever. When he learned about my ride, he told me that the shop’s owner, Dave, had done RAM 6 times, with him as mechanic. (For those who don’t ride, RAM is a bicycle race named Race Across America.) While that alone is impressive, what is extraordinary is that he placed in his last 5 efforts, culminated by 2 second place finishes in the last couple of years. To put that into perspective, you need to know that RAM is an internationally known event in the bike world and that it attracts pro riders. And Dave is in his late 40’s. I have to mention that the winner finishes in just a little more than a week. And I am only taking 2 months. One photo is of Justin and Dave standing with my bike in their store.

I basically followed Dave’s directions from Fond du Lac although they added a few miles to Google’s route. Of course, what’s a few extra miles to someone who rides across the country in little more than a week’s time? I’m not complaining, though. Because of his route I went through Lake Elkhart, a pretty vacation community on a lake and finished the ride by entering Manitowoc on Lakeshore Highway that runs along Lake Michigan.

A few miles outside of Manitowoc I came to a “Closed to Through Traffic” sign that I naturally ignored. I wasn’t interested in seeing how many miles the detour would add to what was already probably 1 of the 3 longest remaining rides of the trip. Am I glad I did that. Sal and Kat will know from our ride into Banff what it is like riding on a newly surfaced road; it was like glass and with no significant headwind, and no cars, it was heaven. The fact that it finally ended in a torn up road that chased me to the sidewalk for a few blocks was irrelevant. That stretch was what all cyclists should experience.

I will note that though there were no hills of consequence on the ride, I still climbed 2,000’+ and hit up to a 12% grade. Thank you for the lower gears I have mentioned. While I have climbed 18% at home on the prior cassette, as I have said, my long distance approach is to go up hills as easily as possible. And I won’t even pretend  that 12% is ever easy for me.

That climbing with no big hills obviously means a lot of rollers, some fairly steep. The advantage is that once over the top, the downhill speed often helped eat up some of the next climb. So, slooow climbs followed by 35 mph descents. Exciting.

Ale was checking into the motel when I got into Manitowoc where I was to meet her so I naturally waited for her at a bike shop, Heavy Pedals Bicycles. I met Mike and Dan there. Given that they also carried Specialized as did Attitude Sports, I wasn’t surprised that Dan, the owner, knows Dave. In fact they used to race together. Dan told me more about Dave that just confirms what an amazing cyclist he is. I included Mike and Dan’s photo for the hospitality they afforded me, including letting me use their changing room. At Dan’s suggestion we visited the maritime museum, which included a tour of an actual WWII submarine. We then ate at a local pub Dan recommended.

Now I am sitting in the middle of a windstorm enjoying a rest day. I will post from our room when I have internet access.

A note to Cheryl, since I don’t have your email address (mine is rickperez@perezmiller.com): the present plan is to ride into Rochester, NY on August 10. It would be great to see you and Chad, possibly for dinner?

Best,
Rick

 

This posting was delayed by a computer problem. It may have been because I managed to drop it and break the hard drive.

July 28, Friday, Mankato to Rochester. This day I had a severe case of highway envy. What is that? It is when I am riding on a shoulder with a bad surface separated by a 2′ wide rumble strip from a highway with a good surface. A good ride is only a couple of feet away but given all of the fast moving traffic on the other side of that narrow rumble strip, it might as well have been a mile away. The difference between the highway and the shoulder was worth a few miles per hour and the difference between a smooth ride and constant jarring. Hence my major case of highway envy.

The result was that the first half of the ride left me totally exhausted, physically and mentally. I was way more tired than I should have been and my mind was trying to come up with a good excuse for calling it a day.

Then Ale caught up with me. She, or at least the coke – as in cola, not powder – and often times food, has frequently been my savior. I can’t say I feel a rush from the coke but over ice in the middle of a ride I love it now. And given that I usually have felt better the second part of the ride than the first, I am inclined to give CocaCola a lot of credit. I need to swear off it when I get home to avoid looking like a blimp, or like many of the people we have seen on this trip.

The second part of the ride was better and I finished on a high. Enough of one that I wanted to see a movie so we went to see The Big Sick. Ale had been skeptical but we both enjoyed it. The movie was followed by a late dinner at a Japanese restaurant. Photos of my sushi and of Ale’s roll that was served in aluminum foil on a bed of flames are included. It was then too late to post.

July29, Saturday, Rochester to LaCrosse, WI. I started the day with a pretty negative attitude. I guess it was remembering how I started yesterday and I expected more bad roads. Plus, at times the thought of hundreds and hundreds of miles gets to be overwhelming.

I am happy to say that my pessimism was not warranted, at least not today. I started out on a highway that I probably shouldn’t have been on with a bike. Given the traffic, I tended to agree. Before I got to the 90, which goes all the way to La Crosse, I got off and checked the bike route. Although it added 5 miles, I figured I would take that alternative.

On the way, I saw another cyclist who appeared on a path while I was on the road. I passed him and waited where the 2 intersected and waved him down. Since his ride was heading in my direction, albeit for only a few miles, I joined him. He was riding a bit slower than I had been – except for one hill where I utilized my approach of climbing as slowly and easily as possible – but the company was worth it. I learned that Vic is an anesthesiologist nurse who is also married to a nurse. Thank you for the company, Vic.

The road was great, there was no wind, no traffic and the scenery had gotten green and pretty. It was fun.

We only rode together for about 5 miles, but it was a good start to the day. Vic’s photo is included.

The roads and the scenery both stayed good. And the ride stayed fun. Until I hit the first unpaved road. It was rideable but slow. And it wasn’t the only one today. But having chosen the bike route was worth it. The paved roads were good, actually better than just good. So was the absence of numerous big rigs whizzing by.

I did rebel, however, when Google maps was going to have me turn onto yet another gravel road, this one being 6 miles. I turned back a half mile to ask some advice from a woman I had seen doing some yard work in a VERY large yard. The result was that I turned back around and rode past Google’s suggestion. The road surface was great – Mary told me it had recently been repaved – and Google started giving me new directions that did not include unpaved roads. Since this route was more direct than the dirt road would have been, I have no idea why Google thought that the first direction made any sense. Thank you, Mary. I would have included her photo but she was the first person I have asked who declined. I think she is leery of the unknown and the internet, and smart phones, represent the unknown to her.

The last few miles into La Crosse were beautiful. I had been doing some climbing so had gained some elevation. The benefit was the view off to one side, with a lake and beautiful scenery. The road was smooth but with some of those damn seams. But the riding, both up and down, was fast. The ride down would have been much faster by almost anyone other than me. But I still enjoyed it and I did make it down safely.

The ride was marked by 2 landmarks. The first was a welcome to Wisconsin sign, a sign that marked our 6th state. The other was that we crossed the Mississippi River which is remarkable given that we saw that same river last year on our ride through the South.

I hadn’t realized that L Crosse is named after the Native American sport until I saw a welcome to La Crosse sculpture of 2 Native Americans playing the game.

So, another day that ended well.

We finished with a great meal. And yes, I had another beer. Beers and cokes. What is happening to me?

Tomorrow is going to be shorter, which is good, but I will reserve judgment until I see the riding surfaces and find out how the wind is blowing.

I hope that one day soon that I see the contribution total increase when I go to Laura’s Ride North. It has been stuck at $6,400 for a while now and I am hoping that changes.

Because this is ultimately about her, I also want to say that Laura’s birthday was the 27th. My warm thoughts go to Cheryl, her mother.

Rick

A 5th State And More Complaining About Roads

July 26, Wednesday; Sioux Falls to Worthington (71 miles)

The initial photo is me with the recently arrived Laura’s Ride North kit. (For those not familiar with bike jargon, a kit is the jersey shorts/bib combination which is typically coordinated if a kit.)

Except for 5+ miles on loose gravel with an almost muddy base, the day was uneventful. That portion of the rode was rideable, but barely because of the previous night’s rain. It was slow going and a bit tense because the almost muddy surface was a constant threat to tip me over. I know, some mountain bike experience would help but even then it wouldn’t have been easy with the narrow road tires.

Oh, wait. Of more significance is that we passed into our 5th state, Minnesota. That sounds a long way from home. Probably because it is.
I have found that in Minnesota the main highways have shoulders that aren’t at all bike friendly. While not as bad as the initial stretch in South Dakota which was unrideable because the “tar” was so soft, they are generally no better than C-; when the surface is ok, there are constant seams that are bumpy and when there are no seams, the surface is rough. Although there are exceptions, I have found the better riding surfaces are generally on less main roads.

Although there are no hills, I still did over 2,000′ of climbing just with the rollers.
Mostly today was to get a feel for how I might do on Thursday’s century. Basically I felt optimistic.

We finished the day at a Mexican restaurant that was actually run by Mexicans. We met a local couple who was both friendly and helpful (I had asked a waitress for something that was obviously forgotten and he – I am embarrassed to say I don’t remember his name, a common malady of mine lately – reminded the waitress of my request. The photo is of my carnita fajitas.

We then got back to the motel and I went to bed at 9:00 something I should have done tonight but here I am trying to get this out and it is already 10:14, which is too late.

July 27, Thursday; Worthington to Mankato 100 miles).

I figured today would be easy with the limited amount of climbing (still no real hills and only 1,250′ over 100 miles). Of course wind, temperatures or weather could change that. As can road conditions.

Well it wasn’t the heat because that topped out at 88. Nor was it the wind because although it was typically blowing into my face head on or at an angle, by this time it wasn’t hard enough to be a big problem. Instead it was the road. Or should I say the shoulders because the road itself looked fine. The problem was that the road wasn’t really feasible because of the traffic.

The first number of miles had an ok surface but the annoying bumpy seams. When I turned off the highway onto a connecting road, the surface was great, probably a B+, and I moved at a great clip even into the wind. Then I had to turn back onto a highway, Hwy. 60, and that is when it turned bad. I don’t know how well the photos show it, but there were 20+ miles of jarring, rattling riding because of cracked and pitted surfaces. That is not only slow but tiring. It gave me a bit of the feeling that riding over cobblestones would have.

Ale caught me on this stretch and I will admit that the thought of putting the bike on the rack and staying in the truck was very tempting. But stubbornness won out and I got back on. Because this was a 4 lane stretch, I got off the shoulder and rode on the edge of the right lane since cars and trucks had plenty of room to move over to avoid me. This lasted for less than a mile when a miracle occurred, the shoulder jumped from a D+ to a B+. My speed immediately increased at least 5 mph, pedaling became easier and riding was fun. That didn’t last the entire ride but things never got as bad as that one long stretch had been.

The last few miles into Mankato following the bike route were fun. I was on a country road with a decent surface and no traffic with pretty scenery. And then I was on a bike path that was well designed and maintained with even less traffic.

The last couple of miles to the motel took forever because the directions never did make sense. The photo is of Grady, a Mankato resident who was on a ride that was headed by the road I needed to get to. Thank You, Grady, for leading me to where I needed to be.

Grady was riding a fat tire bike that he said makes him feel like he is floating over bumps. I could have used THAT today.
Another century is on tap for tomorrow. No predictions this time because I don’t know what either the wind or roads are going to be like. Though I admit that I don’t have much hope for good surfaces.

Despite all of my complaining about road surfaces, let me say that if you are going to ride across our country you better be prepared for less than ideal riding conditions. Oh, wait. I have some experience in riding across our country. Despite that I was still surprised by how bad the shoulders were today. Even with a fair amount of experience now, I can still say that today’s stretch was one of the worst I have ridden on (excluding surfaces that didn’t even pretend to be paved).

Until next time,
Rick

What A Difference A Pair Of Gloves Can Make

Yesterday started a few miles east of Mitchell, where I had left off the day before. Only 57 miles to Sioux Falls and that should have been a piece of cake.

Only it wasn’t. More headwinds. More rough shoulders. And lots of joints that regularly jolted me. But the main irritant was that my hands hurt whether I rode on the hoods or just stayed on top of the handlebars. It was bad enough that I couldn’t stay in a given position for more than a few seconds at a time. So I was constantly changing positions. And stopping far more often than I normally would. It was slow going and uncomfortable.

About 27 miles from Sioux Falls Ale caught up with me. That was the best thing that had happened for me for quite a while. Not because of the cold drink – Coca Cola – or the Subway sandwich Ale had gotten me, although both were great. Instead it was because I started looking at the Pearl Izumi riding gloves I had been using for the past few days and wondered if the padding might be part of the problem. Because I was desperate to do something, I decided to try a new pair of gloves I had in the truck.

The difference, improvement, was apparent as soon as I started riding. Although my hands were still somewhat sensitive from the earlier riding, for the first time in a few days – no doubt since I had been using the Pearl Izumi gloves – I could ride without having my hands in constant discomfort. What a difference. So much so that at the end of the last 27 miles I was feeling much better than when I had met Ale. So much better that I actually felt good. Instead of ending on a low, I ended on a high. I am even feeling somewhat optimistic heading into this next week.

In looking at the Pearl Izumi gloves, I think the problem is that the pads are positioned so that they focus pressure on parts of my hands rather than dispersing it. They might work for someone else – I happen to favor Pearl Izumi shorts – but they don’t work for me.
Sorry for spending so much time talking about my hands, but they were becoming a major issue for me. If the benefit of switching gloves lasts into my future rides, I feel much better about what is to come.

We finished the day with Indian food. Except that we should have ordered mild instead of medium hot, we enjoyed the meal. Ale had a desert that featured carrots that was labeled “the world’s desert.” While I wouldn’t call it that, it was good.

Well, today was our first rest day after 8 days of riding. It was definitely appreciated. And productive. We stocked up on water at Walmart, got a new cable to connect my Garmin to an external battery, at Walmart, got insect repellant in anticipation of Minnesota and Dramamine for the upcoming 4 hour boat ride, both at Walmart. And adhesive numbers so we could put “2017” on the car magnets. Yes, they also came from Walmart. Based on last year’s ride, we concluded that there isn’t much that you can’t find at Walmart.

1. I did, however, go to a bike store to buy a couple pair of new gloves, gloves that I think will work well. If not, I have 2 pairs that do.
We also saw the main attractions in Sioux Falls, St. Joseph’s Cathedral and Falls Park (photos included). After the latter, I told Ale that now there is no reason to visit Niagara Falls.

Finally, we went to FedEx and picked up the new kits that I had ordered for this ride but hadn’t arrived at home until a couple of days ago. Thank you to Sandi for getting them to me here. You will see what I am talking about in tomorrow’s photo.

Dinner was pizza for both of us with a Cesar Salad. We have yet to have a Cesar Salad on this trip that actually tastes like a Cesar Salad. Oh, well, that is but 1 of the many ways in which we are spoiled at home.

If you want more entertainment than my blog provides, you should go to Sandi’s postings on Laura’s Ride North on Facebook. She definitely brings more color than I do.

I am looking forward to riding tomorrow without constantly thinking about my hands.

Onward to Minnesota, our 5th state.

Best,
Rick