This is a shameless attempt to save the the most advanced civilization in
history from imminent self destruction by eliminating carbon emission,
dependence on foreign sources of fuel,obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
Cycling accomplishes all those things at once and develops a better
understanding of ourselves, each other and our relationship to the cosmos.

Oh, horse puckey!
I like to ride bikes, have been doing it all my life.
The rest of that crap is just a fringe benefit,
and the blogosphere gives me a chance to share my interior
monologue with virtual rather than imaginary friends.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Unexpected benefit of winds

     Wind is one of those things we curse and thank on the same ride.  The weather had gotten oppressively hot.  Here in the upper midwest anything approaching the 80's is more than we can bear.  Fortunately, this heat wave was accompanied by some robust winds which helped part of  a Saturday ride and kept me from feeling overheated on the other part.  I passed on the annual club century expedition to the lake shore and opted for a lone trip to a local destination.  A small renaissance fair was being held and they are always an interesting walk around.  It was about twenty miles away and down wind on the way.  It made for a lively trip taking the high ground outside the river valley to get there.  
      The fair is a small but interesting production, full of rustic settings and merchants selling stuff that looked like it had some historical basis.  There were jousts and jugglers,
swordfights and singers and bands playing as well as lots of beer (ale is what they call it there).
Most people were dressed up in ornamental versions of sack cloth and leather
but it was nice to see a lady in furs rather than 
rough, raw leather most would choose.
There were a wild selection of fortune tellers, soothsayers
as well as one beguiling young snake charmer for entertainment.
   I was lucky.  I didn't find anything among the vendors I wanted to buy.  At least nothing I could carry safely home.  It was a good place for an unusual lunch of roasted turkey leg and ale before getting back into the wind.  For a change, I didn't resent the wind in my face on the way back.  I went home on the scenic route on a wooded trail in the river valley where the wind didn't slow me enough to make me swear too often.  It did serve to keep me from realizing how hot I had gotten and the fifty mile round trip didn't seem too exhausting until I had cooled off in the pool and laid around awhile, taking an unexpected nap in front a movie I had already seen.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Listening to the body and the bike.

 As I have reached a newer level of maturity ("newer level of maturity," is that a cute way to say old or what?) one thing I have begun to acknowledge is that I have to pay more attention to what my body is saying.   Sometimes after a week long tour it is screaming, "Lie down dumbass!"  I did.  Practically all week.  I rode my bike a few times to the store to get some more fruits and veggies to keep me away from the enticing chips and sweets, but I really haven't done more than that.  The problem was more than the normal rest, my right shoulder got strained somehow and I've been nursing it with lots of sleep and liniment.   It's better now.  I probably bunged up a muscle trying to ford one of the creeks on the IM trail.  I should get a Purple Brooks award for that.
   I feel better now, but have to pay attention to the Hunq which had a couple of wounds as well.  I didn't mention the flat tire which forced me to walk clear across Ottawa to get a spare.  Yep, something hit my brand spankin' new Big Ben and split it wide open across the Kevlar belt.  The gash was so wide I had to buy Gorilla Tape at a local hardware store to make a boot strong enough to hold any air at all.  After that I could walk 5 miles across town with it since the LBS in Ottawa (conveniently located on the IM trail) is only open for the convenience of the owners; Friday-Monday.  Well I did benefit from finding a tire which will serve well as a folding spare in the future.

  It's called an Iron Horse 29er and actually finished the ride.  I'm replacing it with a new Big Ben but will carry the Iron Horse as a spare in the future.  I found it at Farm and Fleet.  It was only 20 bucks and seems to fill the purpose.   It has a moderate tread in the middle which rolls quickly on pavement and is full of small knobs around the side which help on the softer trail surfaces.

It also has a Kevlar bead which means it folds quite neatly to be tucked into the saddlebag for a future emergency, which I assume will never happen now that I have a viable spare.
   The other wound to the Hunq was a subtle reminder of all the wisdom which has gone into the development of sealed bearings.  Aren't they great?  It reminded me of the day I chose my TREK 560 back in the 80's.  Specialized had a comparable model with the all new miracle sealed bearing everything which "never, needed maintainence or adjustment."  I chose the TREK with old fashioned bearings I could clean, inspect and adjust.  Well. these pedals proved my point.
Sealed bearings decide to fail on their schedule, without warning, no matter where in Buttheadistan you might be.  Believe me the trip between Chicago and Galesburg Illionis is that void in which exists that one aforementioned LBS in Ottawa.  Fortunately I was able to limp along on a cage slipped over the axle with no bearings until I came to a hardware store which had a pair of $5 mountain bike pedals.
Miraculously they were more comfortable than the VP Components Thin Gripsters.  With just 2 years and one month behind them, the Gripsters failed, the left first and the right a few days later.  I cannot recommend them to anybody.
            Needless to say, I am opting for serviceable bearings on the replacement.  I've been happy with the MKS paddles called the Lambda or Grip King, depending whose website you see.  I'm adding the spikes since that is a good idea on long trips and the only thing I would recommend as a legacy of the Gripsters.
This experience brings up a point people don't understand about technology.  All these minor adjustments which are sold has the "latest, greatest" advancements are OK for any spandex hamster riding close to home or in a charity ride with a sag wagon around.  For somebody who actually goes from one place to another on a bike, "new and shiny" can be a liability.  It makes friction shifting seem like a pretty darned good idea when you consider repairing a brifter out on the highway.
The Hunq has had a bath now, a new shoe for the back wheel and pedals I can tear apart, inspect and service.  While I was at it I replaced the large and small chainrings which were really worn.  I went down from 48 to 44 on the large and 26 to 24 on the small.  That should make the large chainring much more useful in the future and give me the ability to climb trees if need be.
We are both repaired and ready for the next great adventure.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Let the eating begin!

    One of the great benefits a week on the road provides is the metabolic lift.  Those of us who are...shall we say, more mature, can always use the acceleration to cleanse the aging machine.  On the other hand, the battle after returning home is to not eat every damn thing in sight.
Grass, flowers, discarded cigar butts and rancid road kill all take on a different character when you are perpetually hungry.  It takes constant concentration to fill yourself with enough protein and roughage to keep the appetite at bay.  Don't even think of walking down the snack aisle at the store for a few weeks, not unless you want the indignity of paying for a few empty bags at the checkout counter.  
     As I mentioned in a previous post, I was without my chosen reality when my new phone decided to screw up.  The end result is that I have to rely on photos I have leached from the internet, but that means you might appreciate rather than laugh at them.
Overall the ride was interesting and somewhat adventurous.  I took Amtrak to Union Station, then the Metra to Joliet.  After a brief tour of downtown Joliet I began my trek across the Illinois Michigan Canal trail.  
     Like the CO canal, the IM was built a hundred or so years ago to provide barge traffic before the internal combustion engine was practical.  Now they just provide a scenic wildlife refuge for recreation.  The IM stretches from Joliet to the the Lasalle/ Peru area and connects with the Hennipen Canal somewhere around the Illinois River.
      Overall, the IM canal is not a bad ride, some places need maintenance and some don't.  It is primarily a crushed limestone trail along the old canal towepath.  Overgrown now with vegetation, the trail provides pleasant shade and welcome windbreak although the path itself is a slow surface to ride.  When I rode it out, the area between Morris and Ottawa had suffered some severe flood damage from the Illinois River.  On the ride back I completely avoided this section of the trail by taking highway 6.  There were three serious washouts and a lot of trees lying across the trail.  One washout was so severe that I was fortunate to encounter two tourists coming from the opposite direction.  We were able to help each other cross the chasm created by the floods and if either of them are reading this, I would be glad to post the photos of that interesting crossing if I hear from you. (hint, hint)  My phone was on the blink so I don't have any photos.
      After the ordeal on the IM canal I took to the road for a day to reach the class reunion.  My classmates of 1970 were impressed, astounded and some even intimidated that I had ridden my bike, but they got over it quick and it was a great weekend of reminiscence.
      The route back included more of the Hennepin canal trail which is a little different than the IM.
The greatest difference is geography.  The canal cuts through some of the richest farmland in the world.  It does not run adjacent to a river and consequently the route is a little dryer and faster.
On the downside there is less vegetation meaning little shade or windbreak.
     Both trails provide many opportunities for camping, both at sporadic campsites and some excellent day use areas, although drinking water sources are in short supply.  I had been warned of this and carried a 1.5 liter Camelbak on the trip.  Even then, I had to be conscious of managing the supply and not miss any opportunity to refill.   Small towns in the area are sparse and usually serviced by convenience stores generally several miles from the trail itself.   The IM canal cuts through a more heavily populated area than the Hennepin so there are some easier opportunities there.  One charming diversion was the town of Morris. There is just about any service you might need, and a downtown area revived with quaint shops, restaurants and taverns on each block.  When I rode through I noticed an outside stereo system on the streets playing "Up on Cripple Creek" by The Band and then  "Vincent" by Don McClean when I came back through.  There are a couple of good places to camp nearby.  It might be a nice night out for a diversion, looks like a party town.
     It was a good ride for the 6.5 days I was on the road.  I did a little more than 50 miles the days I rode the trails, and maybe 75 when I was on the street.  Neither trail had the extensive interpretive information I had enjoyed on the GAP/CO trails.  If the trails are in good shape, it is possible, at least in theory, to ride from Rock Island on the Mississipi river all the way across Illinois, past the south side of Chicago to the Indiana Dunes without spending more than 30-40 miles on the street. The trails, like most things in Illinois, have suffered from the political and economic conditions and could use a little work.   One of the rangers on the Hennepin trail section said there were only 5 people to maintain the entire facility.  So, I guess they do pretty well given what they have.  

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Out of Touch...with sunsets!

   Here we go.  Relying on modern technology I find myself cut of touch from my chosen world and stuck with the real one.  My new phone decided to develop a tumor or something and I can't navigate through the black spot on the screen.  I had to stop at a gas station and (gasp) ask directions before buying this quaint paper thing called a map.  You know, those convenient folding things with lines and words written down rather than digital stuff on demand.
     I found my way through a difficult trail section between Morris and Ottawa Il. and got to a campsite on the Hennepin Canal.
I was reminded of a primary reason for visiting central Illinois.

 No place in the world has theses colors and nobody knows why.  The sky becomes an azure blue spackled with wisps and plumes of fiery flamingo  pink changing gradually to dark violet.  As the violet spreads and the blue darkens Venus and Mars peek through like two prying eyes.
I'll be back on the road in a few days.