Any Road Tour – Day 1: who needs a canal anyway?

After a leisurely breakfast I packed my bike and nearly crippled it by getting the rear wheel all messed up with my cargo net. Ten minutes of cussing later, I base farewell to Mrs. Rootchopper and ride off to points north and west.

About five miles into the ride it occurred to me that I had failed to pack and important doodad, my Fiber Fix spoke. It’s a Kevlar cord that can replace a broken spoke, no tools required. So if I break a spoke I’m screwed. Yeah well….

I also forgot to pack a master link for my chain. This makes putting a broken chain together much easier. (Not that I’ve ever done it.)

I suppose I can stop at a bike shop and pick at least one of these items up.

The first 31 miles were a combination of my old bike commute and the old Vasa ride route to Potomac Maryland. A tailwind made the ride up the Mount Vernon Trail to DC a piece of cake.

I made my way along the river and under the Whitehurst Freeway. I passed a restaurant named Mate Sushi and thought of my Argentinian friend who is nuts about both mate and sushi. I carried on to the Capital Crescent Trail and ever so briefly on the C&O Canal towpath. As expected it was quite muddy. I thought about riding it but then decided to climb up to MacArthur Boulevard and use the roads.

I was dreading this short steep climb but it wasn’t so bad. My granny gear got its first of many uses today.

The rest of the ride to The kayakers put in near Old Anglers Inn was routine. I’ve done this ride scores of times.

I took a potty break. The restrooms have a covered sidewalk in front. When I came out, The Mule was dry as rain started to fall. Then skies opened up. I pulled out my bag of trail mix and munched a few handfuls. I can wait…..

The rain abated and I started the mile long climb to the top of Great Falls Park. Granny helped. The rains returned. My rain jacket and the physical effort were keeping me warm if not completely dry.

A left on River Road brought me to miles of big rolling hills. Big gear. Granny gear. Repeat.

I turned into Partnership Road and things got all kinds of farmy. Moo. Grain. Mud.

At Poolesville I stopped for lunch in the Watershed Cafe. I had a “veggie” sandwich (it had cheese in it) and some panther piss. ‘Twas yummy.

I asked the Google to plot a course for Frederick Maryland and so it did. The Google is good like that.

More farms and a few cute towns. I counted three purple houses. What’s up with that? Somehow the ride seemed downhill for miles and miles. And the route cleverly avoided Sugarloaf Mountain. My knees and back were pleased.

Now it was just a race against the rain. The skies grew darker as I rolled through funky Buckeystown.

Pedal, pedal.

I rode past English Muffin Road where Bimbo’s Bakery (I am not making this up) makes the nooks and crannies. I’d actually been to this area on a business trip a year or two ago.

I started seeking hotels but continued on playing chicken with the approaching storm. As raindrops started falling an Econolodge appeared.

As I rolled my bike into my room thunder roared from the dark clouds above. Timing is everything.

So I’m content with shelter, TV (I hope they have the Nats game), WiFi, and a Sheetz next door for fine dining.

68 miles down. 3,900 or so to go.

Advertisements

Any Road Tour: Last Days of Prep

Here’s what I did to get ready to hit the road:

  • Friday – Volunteered for Bike to Work Day in the rain
  • Saturday – Road to and from and during DC Bike Ride in the rain (45 miles). Watched 2 baseball games
  • Sunday – Road to Vienna VA to return Bike to Work Day materials (47 miles). Watched baseball game. Went to concert (Brandi Carlile) at The Anthem in DC.
  • Pulled together everything I’m bring on the tour. Put it in panniers and rode The Mule 1 mile to see if I distributed the weight properly. Mowed the lawn that had made use of a week of rain. Watched my last baseball game at home. (I’d love to go to the ballpark but there’s just no way.)

 

Image may contain: bicycle and outdoor

It weighs a ton. (I am bringing a second water bottle by the way.)

I also kept track of the problems with the C & O Canal towpath. Sort summary: mucho mas. Came up with a workaround to get me beyond the damage and the quagmire. Printed out some routing information that I will need. Did some last minute banking. Obsessively checked the weather forecast for tomorrow. (Rain. Thunderstorms. Typical DC area summer weather.)

So there you have it. Time to put up or shut up. Tomorrow I roll.

 

Any Road to the PNW – Pre-tour Anxiety

Construction, Fires, Floods, and Lions

I can’t sleep. All I can think about is the cascade of things that are going wrong with my bike tour and I haven’t even left home yet. From past experience I know that I have to go all mindful and concentrate on the here and now. This will be easier once I am rolling.

The route I am taking keeps changing and troubles keep arising. First I was worried about road construction on the route west from Missoula Montana. Next I discovered that the passes to the central Cascades in Oregon are compromised from last years wildfires. (Can’t wait for this years. Derp.) Then I found out that the route down the Columbia River gorge to Portland Oregon is partially closed because of more forest fires. This would force me to ride along the Washington State side of the river, missing Multnomah Falls in the process. For the last few days torrential rains have been wiping out the 185-mile C & O Canal towpath from near DC to near Williamsport, at Mile 100. Needless to day, the free camping sites are probably a mess too. This morning I learned that a mountain lion killed a mountain biker about 30 miles east of Seattle.

That’s right fires, floods, and lions. Whose idea was this anyway?

The Packing List

So I have busied myself making a packing list. Here’s what I am bringing.

Camping

  • Two-person tent
  • Lightweight sleeping bag
  • Silk sleeping bag liner
  • Pillow
  • Bear bag (for keeping carnivores away from my food)
  • Carbiner and nylon rope (to hang the bag)
  • Toilet paper
  • Utensils
  • Ear plugs
  • Sleep mask (for hostels)

Personal

  • Prescription sunglasses
  • Shaving cream
  • Razor
  • Toothbrush
  • Floss
  • Medicine
    • Maintenance inhalers (4) (Asthma)
    • Rescue inhalers (1) (Asthma)
    • Eye drops (glaucoma)
    • Aspirin (blood clots)
    • Ibuprofen
    • Nighttime Ibuprofen
  • Sunscreen
  • Ear plugs
  • Chamois cream
  • Back up prescription glasses
  • Book (maybe 2. Probably ancient Tom Wolfe paperbacks)
  • Passport (for going into Canada or boarding a flight if I lose my other ID)

Clothes

  • Bike shorts (3)
  • Technical bike shirts (3)
  • Cotton t-shirt
  • Off -bike shorts
  • Belt
  • Technical underwear for either on or off bike
  • Socks (3)
  • Bike shoes
  • 1 old t-shirt to use as a rag after it gets worn
  • Floppy hat
  • Teva sandals
  • Rain pants
  • Rain jacket
  • Sunsleeves

Electronics

  • iPhone
  • iPhone cable and charger
  • iPhone earphones
  • Small back up battery
  • Head light
  • Head light charger
  • Taillight belt
  • Taillight belt charger
  • Camera
  • Camera charging cable

Bike Gear

  • The Mule (1991 Specialized Sequoia touring bike)
  • Water bottles (2)
  • Extra water bottle in pannier
  • Four Ortlieb roll top panniers (2 small for the front, 2 large for the rear)
  • Ortlieb medium handlebar bad with map case
  • Bicycling gloves
  • Multitool
  • Tire levers
  • Tubes (3)
  • Folding spare tire
  • Valve adapter
  • Topeak RoadMorph Pump
  • Lube
  • Lock
  • Cables
  • Zip ties
  • Duct tape

Other

  • Adventure Cycling Association Maps (14)
  • Rudi’s route to Little Orleans (A cue sheet to circumvent most of the C&O Canal. A very hilly route that I hope not to use.)
  • Trail mix
  • Energy bars/fruit

The new stuff for this tour is underlined. As you can see I have already crossed out a few items. I wouldn’t know what to do with a cable if I had to do a roadside repair so there’s no point in bringing them. And other than the fact that I can take pictures while riding, the camera is kind of useless. I can use my iPhone for photos, and it will force me to stop to take the pictures which is not a bad thing.

The Route

Whether I like it or not, the route is changing as I type. My current thinking is that instead of riding the canal directly west from DC, I use roads to get me about 100 to 110 miles upriver. So on day one will be spent riding on the roads to Fredrick Maryland. I’ll stay in a hotel. This replaces my first C&O Canal day. Day two will involve riding roads west from Fredrick picking up the Canal and the Western Maryland Rail Trail either at Williamsport or beyond and overnighting in Hancock Maryland at mile 125. (The bike shop has a bunkhouse with showers and WiFi and such.) Day three will be 60 miles of mud to Cumberland assuming the the trail is open. If not, the pooch is screwed. But I’ll mix my metaphors and blow up that bridge when I get to it.

Today’s Fun

My anxiety woke me up at 5 a.m. I have to ride 45 miles round trip to Vienna Virginia to return Bike to Work Day materials. I had volunteered to staff a pit stop 1 1/2 miles from my house. What I didn’t know was that I was responsible for picking up and dropping off Bike to Work Day materials for the Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB), our suburban advocacy group, 23 miles away. This easy volunteering effort ballooned from a 3 hour commitment to about 12 hours. Suffice it to say, I’ll choose my volunteering events more carefully next time. On the plus side, I get to do a shake down ride on The Mule.

When I get home, I’ll watch the Nats game, do some laundry, and go a concert in DC. Hopefully, I can sleep in tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

Any Road or Fire and Rain

I chose Any Road to the PNW as the name of my bike tour but it’s beginning to look like I may have to change to Fire and Rain (hell, add Wind because the Great Plains are not exactly a light breeze).

Up until today, I have been focused on road closures in Idaho and Oregon. These closures are the result of fires from last summer. In the last several days, the mid-Atlantic has been hit with a rain event that will continue through the weekend. (Can’t wait to ride DC Bike Ride on Saturday!)

The rain is washing out sections of the C&O Canal towpath, the unpaved, flat route through the Appalachians. My friend Rudi has given me a workaround that will allow me to bypass more than one-half of the towpath. There will be some serious hills in the bargain.

There is no word about the western third of the towpath as well as the GAP trail from Cumberland to Pittsburgh.

Gee, I can’t wait to get started!

Any Road Indeed

There’s one week to go to lift off on my Any Road to the Pacific Northwest so I thought I’d check out some of the roads through the Cascades. I knew that a 50 mile section of Idaho State Highway 12 through the Lochsa River valley would be undergoing heavy construction. Now I have found out that a section of the road and trail along the Columbia River in Oregon, west of the Route 12 construction, will be closed outright. Last summer wildfires in this area damaged the trail and highway. I have two options.

Option One would be to stay on the Oregon side of the river and ride I-84 with its big rumble strips for tens of miles. Not fun, but there are plenty of services along the way.

Option Two is to cross over to the Washington side of the river. This road has much less traffic but services are “few and far between.” Basically, I’d have to carry food and water and lord knows where I’d sleep. The “few and far between” section is 83 miles long into “fierce headwinds.” We’re having fun now!

Another big drawback to Option Two is that I can cross back over to Oregon just east of Portland, but well west of Multnomah Falls. I really want to see the falls; it’s one of the must see places in the Pacific Northwest. FOMO lives.

Long story short, I have to stay flexible. When I get to Missoula I can talk to bike tourists and staff at Adventure Cycling for recommendations.

Little Nellie Cracks 20

For the last month I’ve been riding my Bike Friday New World Tourist nearly every day. I named it Little Nellie after a scene in You Only Live Twice. (It’s easily one of the stupidest dogfight scenes in movie history.)

The bike was designed to mimic the dimensions of The Mule, my Specialized Sequoia touring bike. It’s pretty close except for the little tires which kind of beat me up. My recent binge of lifting weights and doing physical therapy really helped keep me from aching on long rides though.

Today, Little Nellie hit 20,000 miles.

IMG_1118

I bought her in 2007 so that’s a shade under 2,0

00 miles per year. Near the end of my ride I stopped at Spok

es, my local bike shop. I asked Taylor, the service manager, to look it over. It was creaking and popping in ways that suggested trouble was brewing.

Taylor couldn’t find anything wrong in the usual places but he did find a crack in the weld that holds a hinge to the folding seat mast (into which the seatpost slides). I called Bike Friday and they asked me to send them a picture. I think they will replace it under warranty. Good thing it’s the seat mast, which can be replaced without shipping the entire bike to Bike Friday in Oregon.

Planning: Any Road Will Take Me There

  • I’m thinking of naming my bike tour the Any Road Tour. The reason is I can’t seem to decide on a route let alone a destination. And as lyric thief George Harrison said, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.
  • So a special note to Tim Jones, Lindsey, and Brittany: I still don’t know if I’ll make it up to the Seattle area. As they say on the Facebook, it’s complicated. I should have a better idea if/when I get up your way in late June when I am somewhere near the Missouri Breaks.
  • The route options go through Missoula, Montana. They are:
    • Ride to Seattle directly from Missoula. Return home around July 22.
    • Ride through Portland then on to Astoria Oregon. Backtrack to Portland. Return home around July 24
    • Ride through Portland then on to Astoria Oregon. Continue north to Seattle. Return home around July 29
    • Ride to central Oregon Coast. Then to Portland. Then to Seattle. (I haven’t mapped this out). Return home around August 6.
    • Ride to central Oregon Coast then to Seattle by way of Astoria. Return home about August 6.
  • All these routes have pluses and minuses. And as Mrs. Rootchopper noted, I could make a separate, month-long tour out of them. (Seattle to Missoula to the central Oregon coast to Portland to Seattle, for example. Or maybe go south to Crater Lake…..)  So this routing uncertainty is a good problem to have.
  • I have met a couple of times with a local bike tourist named Marie. She and her husband Roy did nearly the same tour in 2015 and blogged about it. I didn’t want to read her blog because I thought it might include spoilers, but I finally gave in. It’s wonderfully written and contains all kinds of useful information.
  • I had lunch with Marie the other day. She gave me one of her Adventure Cycling maps of Oregon. And imparted some good advice
    • Feel free to wander from the ACA routes, especially east of the Rockies. There are some surprises, good and bad, to be had. The Google is a pretty good resource.
    • Each county seat in North Dakota has a motel (to sequester juries). So if I get sick of camping I can probably use the Google…
    • I will probably follow their route through the Twin Cities instead of around them. The ACA route goes east from St. Paul, then north, then west. Marie and Roy went northwest and re-connected with the ACA route.
  • Marie and Roy made the trip without camping. Other than staying with a friend or two, they just booked a hotel a day in advance and rode to it. They appeared to average about 2 miles per hour faster than I expect to ride.
  • With the weather finally settling into something resembling spring, I am getting antsy. I still have a few things to take care of for the trip, all of which happen just before I leave.

Recovery – Done

I let the cat out of the bag earlier today on Twitter and Facebook, but, in case you didn’t hear the news,  I went to my hematologist today. Based on the scans of my lungs, heart, and left leg, I am totally clear of blood clots. My blood work looked totally normal.

So he took me off Xarelto, the blood thinning medication I have been on for nearly five months. He told me to take a small dose of aspirin every day and to wear compression socks if I fly. I can now drink alcohol again, too.

He wished me well on my bike trip.

Lift off in two weeks.

New Legs

I’ve been dragging ass recently. I try to be mindful of overdoing things but lately I’ve been weight lifting and doing physical therapy and mowing the lawn and sitting in near 90 degree heat at a baseball game. On top of all that, during a recent two-week period, I rode 386 miles. I was worn out.

So I took yesterday off and did nothing physical at all, unless you count binge eating popcorn at the movies. Today I was still feeling a little tired but rode Little Nellie to the gym anyway.

Zoom.

Just one day of rest and my riding speed jumped about 3 miles per hour. I rode 28 miles and did my 40 minute weight training routing. And I feel infinitely better, physically and mentally. (I have no doubt that some of this mental boost is attributable to a Facetime chat last night with my son who lives in Thailand.)

Tonight I sat down and got back to my tour planning. I plotted out two routes.

Option A would take me to Missoula, Montana then northwest to Seattle. This one is 3,735 miles over 60 days. That averages to 63 miles per day. Very doable. I could add 87 miles to ride a bit more in Minnesota (basically to see the headwaters of the Mississippi River at Lake Itasca). That will add a couple of days.  The advantage of this route is that it passes through the northern Cascades. The disadvantage of this route is that it climbs over six mountain passes. Eek. Also, I wouldn’t actually get to the Pacific Ocean. I’d get to Puget Sound, if my geography serves me correctly.

Option B would take me from Missoula west down the Columbia River gorge to the Pacific coast at Astoria (or on to Cape Disappointment just so I can say I was there). Then I’d ride north to Bremerton, Washington and take a ferry to Seattle. With a few more days of horsing around this version of the trip totals 4,160 miles over 68 days. That works out to 62 miles per day. Doable.

Both of these routes simplify my return logistics considerably. All I have to do is find a place to pack up my bike and have it picked up for shipment home.  I can probably also ship my bike touring gear home with the same service. Then I book a flight and I’m done.

Option C which I have yet to work out would take me south from Missoula and across the middle of Oregon through Eugene to a coastal town called Florence. Then I’d be 180 miles from Portland. I’d have to skip Seattle for this trip.

As Mrs. Rootchopper pointed out earlier this evening, the Pacific northwest would be a pretty good stand alone tour.  Add it to the list!

Bicycles and Baseball: I Just Can’t Even…

Today was one of those rare weekday afternoon baseball games. The weather was pretty awesome. I decided to ride Little Nellie to the ballpark.

About 8 miles into the ride, a woman flagged me down next to a swampy area along the Mount Vernon Trail, just north of Old Town.

“Do you know how to change a tire?”

I said “Sure” as my brain noticed two things. First, she was an attractive, fit woman who was probably in her mid twenties. Second, when I was young and single, not once did an attractive, fit woman who was probably in her mid twenties ever ask me to help her change a tire. Not once.

I just can’t even…

I hopped off my bike. Two other bike riders stood by to see how tire changing is done. I thought “Don’t screw this up, you old dork.” Flat tire woman, whose name was Susie, already had the rear wheel (it’s always the rear wheel) off. She had used tire levers to remove the tire and tube.

She: “I put a dollar bill in the tire as a boot. Here’s my Road Morph pump.”

Me: “Marry me. You are the woman of my dreams.”

I didn’t ask how she knew the cool trick of covering the hole in the tire casing with a dollar bill. Nor did I ask how she knew had my favorite pump. (It looks like a little frame pump but converts to a miniature floor pump.) In fact, I had the same pump on my bike. She even knew enough not to mess around with lame patch kits when a replacement tube was so much faster and easier.

She had the whole thing down except actually putting the tire back together.

So I filled up the tube with some air. Put it in the tire. I started working the tire onto the rim. She reached for the levers. Her only mistake!

“Don’t use them to put the tire on. They puncture the tube.”

One tire bead went on. The other went on except for the last, stubborn little bit. I showed her how to push the tire on the far side of the rim into the well of the rim. Then I used the bottoms of the palms of my hands to nudge the last bit of bead over. She pumped it up a bit more. We checked to see if the tube was not sneaking out from beneath the bead. Nope. She filled it up noting that the gauge on the pump was kind of useless. I said “Use your fingers. Just pump until it’s hard to squeeze the tire.” Done.

And off I rode.

About three minutes later Susie blasted past me. “Thanks, again.”

I felt old. Again.

I just can’t even…

So I rode to the game. I sat along the first baseline just beyond the Nationals’ dugout. My seat was on the aisle in row T, about 20 rows up from the field. The sun was shining. The humidity was low. The wind was blowing out. The section I was in was getting a nice breeze from the big gap in the upper decks of the stadium behind us.

Two men were behind me drinking beer and making funny remarks. I had my official Alex Rodriquez glove on my left hand. Unlike ARod I was not taking performance enhancing drugs. Perhaps this was a mistake.

Anyway, life was good. Then. along about the third or fourth inning, Trey Turner, a right handed batter, came to the plate. Right-handed batters stand on the left side of home plate. (This just occurred to me after 62 years. Weird.) They tend to foul balls to the right side of the field. In other words, in our direction.

Turner hit a high fly ball. Foul. Over the Nationals dugout. Over the sections to our left. Over our heads. Then it came, improbably, straight down. The three of us stood. Looking up. I’ll be damned it’s going to land right. Here.

It grazed the front of the man behind me as he stood in the aisle next to us. He flinched to protect his beer. And the ball hit the concrete and bounced over his head about 10 rows behind us.

I just can’t even…

It never once occurred to me to stick the glove out and catch the damned ball. All around me I could hear fans say “He had a glove on!”

Translation: “LOSER!!!”

Complete humiliation.

I felt a strange kinship with my friend and fellow blogger Tim Jones. Tim and I went to school together for six years. He actually played sports in high school. He had and has no vices. (Except perhaps microdosing LSD, but that’s just a rumor.) I, on the other hand, spent my years of military high school incarceration taking PE classes and channeling Bluto Blutarski, who had yet to be invented.  These days, Tim is a comically horrific athlete. He sucks at racquetball. And, remarkably, he was a slower marathon runner than me.

In stark contrast, I am an inept fan. I just can’t even…

Recently, my vegan friend Klarence, who is a baseball fanatic of the first order, acquired a leather glove to catch foul balls. This was a major philosophical concession on her part. She rationalized that the glove was previously owned by a friend from West Virginia. It’s probably covered in coal dust from the mahns. It’s seriously used. Then it occurred to me, the ball is covered with horsehide.

I just can’t even…