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.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Tired, just plain tired!

     It all started the day before I went on the week long trip too and from Zion Ill.  I was riding Byron down the street when I spied a little metal something one split second before my rear tire hit it.  It cut an ugly slice in the tire and made the tube irreparable.  Things happen right?  Fortunately, a new tube got me home.   I knew it wouldn't hold up long with that kind of gouge in it, but I had a spare tire in the garage.
      Then, my son came home from work to announce he'd had a flat coming into the garage.  Well, I was leaving for the week and he had the weekend to fix it.  Then it started raining.  The wet weather on the first day gave me two punctures on the trip from Chicago to Zion.  Admittedly, the tires on the Hunq were a season old, so I wasn't too surprised.   Then, a valve on the patched tube broke.  I bought a new tube from the shop in Zion for a spare.  Then I got another puncture, back to the bike shop to get another tube because, I apparently did an inadequate job patching the the other and it had a slow leak.  So two more punctures and repairs on the way home got me through the trip and my front tire was beginning to look like Swiss cheese.  I took both off and decided it was time to order new Big Ben's.  Incidentally they are made in two grades, one with Racegaurd tread and one with Kevlargaurd.  This time I bought the plain black, more expensive, grade with Racegaurd.  The stylish boutique colored Big Ben's have the cheaper Kevlargaurd.
      In the meantime, my son had his problems because  the spare tube he used wouldn't hold air.
I got home to check it out and found a hole, tried another tube and it blew!  I couldn't find the problem, replaced the rim tape examined the tire and tried another tube.  It held up alright....
until I came back out two hours later to find it flat.   I then I held the tire up to the light and found a small hole in the sidewall near the bead.  It had to be replaced.  
     So, the decisions all made, damage all done.  I thought.  I rode Sam to help paint the route for an upcoming charity ride and a rusty jagged piece of metal ripped my rear tire straight across.  I had to call for a ride on that one.  
We had three bikes tirelessly hanging in the garage because the tires I ordered have been delayed in a storm somewhere.  It also creates a serious issue with the LBS' in the area.  None of them keep Panaracer tires in stock, certainly not Schwalbe Big Ben.  Why?  Because they are either pushing high end uselessness to spandex hamsters who need Continental tires to fit their kit, or entry level utilitarian bikes to people who want ultra cheap.  Thanks to the interweb thing I survived the catastrophe and the fleet has new shoes.

 I think I changed 15 tires and/or tubes in 10 days and ordered 6 new tires to get through this
That's more than the past 5 years!  Hell, once I went 17 months without a flat.  This event caused  religious debate.  The experience invalidated Buddist fundamentals.  Karma does not exist!
I did nothing to deserve this shit!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Gunflint Trail vs. Sackville Large saddlebags

I just received what I hope to be an upgrade to my camping equipment. 
In the foreground is the Sackville Large Saddlesack.  No, it's not a matter of perspective,
it really is that much bigger than the Frost River Gunflint Trail.
I've used the Gunflint Trail for years, have loved it, and still do.
Even though it is quite large, many things are bulky and it is just adequate.
What I normally carry is three changes of clothing, my "kitchen," a pair of woolen tights and long sleeved shirt for sleeping.  It all scrunches down nicely and the flap just covers it when it's loaded.
Normally I will just clamp my rain gear to the outside with the Pletscher mousetrap.
There is plenty of room in the outer pockets for hygiene and personal items. but, as I found on my springtime trip, any change makes things difficult or impossible to pack.  When I went on the trip to the GAP/CO trails the substitution of long sleeved shirts and long pants pushed the whole thing beyond it's limits and I was strapping things on top before the trip was over.
Obviously the Sackville Saddlesack will be easier and more versatile to pack.  It also has a few added features.  Inside there is an additional flap to cover the contents.
The same gear fits with room to spare for raingear and maybe
 the hatchet which gets strapped outside most of the time.
There are not only two larger pockets on the sides, there are two facing either side of the saddle
 as well as a snap off sleeve on the top flap.  
So now I have 5 outside pockets which can prove to be very convenient.  
The top flap is longer and less likely to be stretched beyond it's limits.
The big reflective strip is a plus in my opinion.
The only real downside is having extra room. I managed a few offices and stores in my day, I know that extra space fills up.  I just hope I keep my head and use the extra space for convenience,
not more stuff to carry!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Misguided loyalties and bike paths

Our local trail organisation has been struggling with a problem.  They have been able to build a trail system from each end of town to the city business center but have not been able to complete a route through that area to connect the two trails.  There has been some controversy over four options so they decided to install  a "pop-up" lane for people to test what they consider the best option.  "Best" is not exactly an objective judgement here.  A local businessman who has been a generous donor to the organisation has pushed for the connector to meander through the business district .  I rode the proposed connector from trail head to trail head during a normal Friday afternoon,
 then returned by one of the three alternate routes . 
 I took a few photos I though were important.
 Coming from the western trail head as it now exists, a cyclist is met with 
the northbound leg of one of the busiest streets in the county.  
There is not only heavy traffic to negotiate, it is complicated by a railroad crossing.
 After timing a safe way to cross these three lanes of traffic,
 the cyclist would have to immediately wait to cross four lanes of Highway M-43 to reach the proposed lane which reduces the already busy Westnedge corridor from 3 lanes to 2.
 After making a left hand turn onto a side street, within a block
I had to cross the north bound leg of the traffic corridor at Park St.
 After meandering through a lane eliminating parking near busy government offices,
I found myself waiting on a median in the middle of another major traffic corridor at Rose St.
After Rose St. the "pop up" lane eliminated some more parking along Water Street until it 
meandered back to, again, cross Hwy 43 at another railroad crossing.
Once I lived through that experience, the proposed trail followed an unpaved neglected street which was the only truly safe improvement the trail had to offer.
 I finally reached the eastern end of the system and decided to see what one of
 the alternate routes was like during the same period.  
I went north one block to Ransom Street and rode west to the nearest trail intersection.
 I found little traffic and no disruption of parking on this route.
It's a straight shot, just north of all the major traffic corridors.
It's obvious that this route could use a little work, but I imagine it hasn't been a priority because it has little traffic--which makes it attractive to cyclists.  It doesn't return to the exact trail head, but intersects with the western part of the trail 2 blocks north of the main traffic corridor. 
 To provide access to businesses a sign would have to be installed to direct cyclists 
to the walking mall 3 blocks south. 
 Maybe it's just me, but I don't understand their priorities.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

It seemed like a good idea!

I had heard from several people on the Chainlink forum in Chicago that Illinois Beach is a good bikecamping destination.  It makes sense, it's about 50 miles north of The Loop and nearly all the trip can be made using dedicated bike paths.  I scheduled a ride on Amtrak to Union Station
which afforded a very shaky cell phone pic of the accommodations.  Boarding Amtrak with a bike these days is pretty easy.  The crew is helpful and polite and the space for the bikes is adequate, but that is all.  Negotiating the steps and narrow vestibule between cars is a challenge so I turned the handlebars sideways to make it easier.  Disembarking in Union Station requires a little patience.  It's always busy and I wait for the throngs of passengers to pass before getting off the train.  Going through the station I usually meet a few curious people for whom bike travel seems a novelty.  Hopefully, I inspired a few people to try it.  Managing the trip to the street is a real feat, it seems that escalators were not built with loaded touring bikes in mind.
On the street, things are different.  Chicago does seem to have bikes in mind.  There are bike routes and boulevards with speed humps throughout the downtown area now and the infamous Dearborn Avenue bike lane runs through the middle of the loop in it's semi-protected glory.
The trails going north reflect a lot of enthusiasm for the sport.

The Robert McCrory path stretches from somewhere around Evanston to Wisconsin and has been designated part of US Bike Route 37.  The state park at Illinois Beach is a well maintained facility and charges $25 a night for their spots which are large enough for a bus and have electrical hookups.
Hanging out in Zion Saturday I found an excellent coffee shop which serves as a caffeine layover for this group every Saturday.  They take a casual "no drop" ride down from Kenosha each Saturday.
The weather was a bit more than "iffy" because we were dealing with the tail end of a hurricane blowing itself out across the nation.  Thunderstorms delivered bucketloads of rain and wet pavement brings, you guessed it, flat tires. 
The beach itself is a nice shoreline.  I'm sure the threatening weather reduced the crowd but even then I had the impression that this was a recreation spot past it's prime.
The concession stands and restroom facilities were abandoned and neglected.  It gave me a feeling that I was strolling through a post- apocalyptic dream.
I did meet two other groups traveling the route, one from Minneapolis who were traveling together to different destinations around the lake.
 Another was a group from Chicago making a weekend of the beaches/
During the morning on Sunday, I got a late start. Another storm come through.  It was a long day.  I planned to ride to Hammond, In. beyond Chicago.  It promised to be a 80-90 mile day and the going was slow.  Some of the trails are packed limestone and they were soft and slow.  The asphalt areas were a relief and the fact that the entire route to Hammond is on dedicated bike infrastructure is one huge relief.  I discovered there that I had left my backup battery on charge at the campsite.  OH, well, no photos for this leg.  I reached Hammond late and stayed with a Warmshowers host Bob Hohman.  Himself an experienced tourist and cyclist, we sat up and exchanged stories for the evening.
Monday promised to be another wet one.  Rain was forecast for the afternoon and I left Bob's house with a plan to follow the Erie trail to Griffith where I would move to the Oak Savannah trail to Hobart.  I was planning to stop for lunch in Hobart and do laundry.  
I have found it's always a good plan to have lunch near a laundromat when I get to my last change of clothes.  This time, things worked out perfectly.  I had a flat as a turned into the laundry, a bonus convenience!  Have lunch, do laundry and fix a flat while another thunderstorm passed!  How lucky could I get?  It gets better.  The storm passed but more were predicted so I decided to make a short day of it and stay at the Indiana Dunes  campground.  I didn't make much distance that day but the campground is a treat.  At only $18 a night, it's a relative bargain but there is no electricity at the sights.  That is good and bad.  The good part is that it discourages the big bus campers and the place doesn't turn into a trailer park in the summer.  On the other hand, I was forced to use the restroom outlets to charge my phone.  Again sparse pics for this trip.  Another little advantage a neighboring camper pointed out is the Chicago South Shore Line has a commuter stop at nearby Beverly Shores.  This could be a nice weekend getaway providing a ride into Chicago for a day-trip.
It's something to think about for the future.  The decision to stay there proved to be a lucky one, I was finishing dinner and had a healthy fire going when the storm hit.  The rain came so hard that it immediately extinguished the fire, and drove me to bed.  Then the real luck began!
 One of the millions of trees chose to snap in the wind and fall directly on me.  It was a live red oak which had a full bush of healthy foliage at the top.  Between the weight of the water on the leaves and an unusual gust of wind, it snapped.  The foliage landed just beyond me and the trunk gently settled on my tent with me trapped beneath.  While I was calling 911, a neighboring camper came to my rescue, .  They helped me out and we removed the tree.
My tent popped  up like nothing had happened!
The final day and a half  was more like a bike ride should be.
Not only did I enjoy sights and smells of vineyards developing in the western Michigan countryside, the skies were clear and the wind was at my back.
I found a few unusual sights in some out of the way places.
I had seen people collect John Deere, railroad signs and fixtures in odd places around the county
but here, just east of Dowagiac a farmer had adorned his front yard with a collection of oil company equipment.  It was a memorable journey, through the storms and dealing with multiple flat tires.  I found that, including USBR 35 in Michigan, it's possible to ride all the way from Wisconsin, through Chicago, around the tip of Lake Michigan and up the western coast of Michigan on dedicated bike routes.  Another thought for the future.