Saturday, July 2, 2022

Spring Green to Madison...leading to rest day. 55 miles w/ 2800' climbing

Mr. Rogers says…It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…

 Today dawned with a misty haze spread over the rolling hills and valleys around the Wisconsin River valley. It was lovely. Soon after 9am the sun burned off the haze and we were greeted with blue skies and scudding clouds with a gentle northerly breeze. Though all of us were somewhat spent from riding a bit over 900 miles over the past 9 days, we pedaled enthusiastically toward Madison with the promise of a rest day upcoming. That, along with the pleasant cycling conditions, the bucolic country roads, and relatively short distance to cover made for a good day to ride a bicycle. And to top it off, from a personal viewpoint, I knew Amy would be waiting for me in Madison…best day ever! The past 30 days is the longest I’ve been apart from Amy, and if I have any say in the matter, it’ll be the last time I’m apart from her for such an extended period of time. My friend, Mark Johnson, an accomplished blue water sailor, asked me to assist in crewing his 52’ catamaran from South Africa to Fortaleza in late summer. It’s a 45-day passage. I love sailing, but I think I’ll pass on that adventure for now.

Let’s discuss a bit about my equipment and asset management required for a long-distance endurance ride (you can drop the ‘et’ to get the drift of what I’m referring to with asset management). I’m riding a carbon fiber frame made to my specifications by Allied Cycle Works located in Rogers, Arkansas. It’s a 61+ cm frame. It’s incredibly stiff in the bottom bracket (for non-cyclists, that’s the area of the crankset), yet it’s supple through the headset (that’s the area that supports the handlebars) allowing for a ride that absorbs the punishing blows of a rough road. The carbon fiber frame is further reinforced through Allied’s proprietary use of Innegra, a material that’s blended with the carbon fiber sheets to enhance impact resistance and prevent catastrophic frame failure in the event of a mishap…bottom line, it makes the bike more durable without sacrificing weight or performance. My bike at 61+ cm is considered large. However, it has a short wheelbase, which allows it to corner like it’s on rails. This is very important on long descents with tight turns, enabling you to lean the bike over at a radical angle while maintaining speed and your line. This is particularly important if you’re descending at 35 mph with cyclists around you, all of whom are trusting that you will hold your line, not drifting to the outside of the turn. As previously noted, being a competent and predictable cyclist makes you a good cycling mate.

 As to asset management, my experience is that you start with a bike that’s properly set up for you. That means a frame that fits you and is appropriate for the type of riding you want to engage in. A saddle that fits your sit bones, and is set at the right height, tilt, and fore and aft setting, and handlebars that are at the right height and reach. After having the bike properly fit, you need to have the proper cycling clothing. Of utmost importance are cycling shorts. Cycling shorts are made with a cushioned crotch area called a chamois. Regardless of the style of shorts you use, you should always use shorts with a padded chamois. Your nether regions will thank you. For long distance endurance cycling, it’s also advisable to use a chamois cream, such as Chamois Butter or Assos Cream. This will help reduce skin irritation due to the constant friction created through the pedaling motion. I find that it’s also helpful to frequently change my position on the saddle and on the handlebars in order to prevent pressure points from developing. Following a ride, you should change from your cycling shorts and shower as soon as possible. After a long ride I also find it very useful to apply Desitin (yes, the diaper rash stuff…) prophylactically to prevent chaffing sores. The stuff really works. Some of this may seem to fall into the category of TMI, but I believe you’re better off informed and prepared regardless of the level of cycling you aspire to enjoy. In any event, I hope you find it useful…and ride on!

Until next time…sleep tight!

La Crosse, WI to Spring Green, WI 103 mile, 5010' climbing

La Crosse, WI to Spring Green, WI

Today’s ride was a good precursor to what we can expect to encounter as we proceed through the eastern states of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. The farm to market roads are quaint, dotted with well kept farm homes and tidy barns. The roads also have more of a tendency to follow the lay of the land when going up and over bluffs, ridges, and hills. While out west, with the significant amount of snow that impedes winter travel, the grade of roads rarely exceeds 8%. East of the Mississippi, however, the road engineers establishing a road centerline basically aimed their theodolites straight up a hill, figuring the closest distance between two points is a straight line. That said, we encountered a few climbs today with grades of 10% to 15%. Of course, they aren’t as long as the western roads going over Rocky Mountain passes, but at a length of 1 mile they certainly get your attention. Personally, I like the lay of the land we will be in for the next few weeks. It reminds me of home in Middle Tennessee.

We rode by a Frank Lloyd Wright designed home, Taliesin, named in honor of the medieval Welsh bard. However, the upright and conservative civic leaders of Spring Green, WI dubbed it the ‘Love Cottage’, as Wright built it as a getaway for assignations with his mistress, Martha ‘Mamah’ Borthwick Cheney, the wife of one of his clients. It was scandalous. So much so that the offended local citizens call upon the high sheriff to arrest Wright for indecency. That did not come to pass. However, tragedy did strike the relationship, for one hot August day, Mamah, along with her two children and 3 of the construction staff were brutally murdered by a deranged cook. To cover the horror of his crime, he set the house on fire, burning it to the ground. Wright was reportedly somewhat distraught, more so about the house. In short order he established a relationship with another woman that had written him letters of condolences. After finally convincing his wife to give him a divorce, he married the woman. A fickle man. Of note, Wright rebuilt Taliesin, however it burned down a 2nd time due to faulty wiring. So, with the 3rd time being the charm, he tried again, and that is the home we see today, preserved for posterity.

Until tomorrow…sleep tight!

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Austin, MN to La Crosse, WI


Austin to La Crosse WI

Go Packers! Today, we crossed into our 8th state, Wisconsin. We are now honorary cheese heads!

It was a long day at 117 miles with about 3000’ of climbing. For a period of time we took tremendous pleasure in riding on a bike path that extended for almost 50 miles. It passed through rolling farm land hard along the Root River, which completes its run at the mighty Mississippi just south of La Crosse. The bike path was created from a former narrow gauge railroad bed. It was well used by cyclists of all ages and types, and apparently has given impetus to several service businesses in small towns along the way, catering to cyclists enjoying the path. I’m not certain as to how it was funded, but it appeared to me to be a sound investment for cyclists, local businesses, and nearby townships.

One of the many townships located along the bike path is Rushford, established in 1854. In the period prior to the Civil War, the underground railroad was active in the area from Rushford to the Mississippi River. Several leading citizens of Rushford were ardent abolitionists, willing to defy the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 (part of the 1850 Compromise, a tangled and tortured conciliation that simply kicked the can down the road toward the inevitable…). In doing so they established safe houses along the upper Mississippi and the Root, giving succor, hope, and shelter to runaway slaves prior to facilitating their evacuation to Canada. All involved, runaways and abolitionists, were brave souls, indeed. Rushford was established on the belief that all people, regardless of color or creed, have value. And the town’s founders came together time and again to demonstrate that belief with their actions prior to the Civil War and following the war. A wonderful example for us all, I expect.

Also, good tidings are coming, as our Madison rest day is almost here, and with it, my long awaited reunion with Amy. Yay!

Until tomorrow…sleep tight!

Monday, June 27, 2022

Fairmont to Austin, MN

 Fairmont to Austin, MN

Today was a short day, 80 miles with about 1600 Ft of climbing. It’s interesting in that I label 80 miles a short day. In any other place 80 miles is a full day’s work. But on this tour, we count our blessings when we have a day’s measure less than 100 miles. Perspective…

Most of us know the jingle, ‘In the valley of the jolly…ho, ho, ho, green giant’. When I was a kid I recall that tag line being played during commercial breaks of my favorite shows…The Legend of Davey Crockett, Bonanza, Get Smart…and many others. Today I got to get up close and personal with the big guy. He’s located in Blue Earth, MN. A few fun facts about him: He’s located in Blue Earth as acknowledgement of the long standing relationship of the areas pea and corn farmers with the Green Giant company. He’s a bit over 55’ tall, and he weighs about 8,000 lbs. Every winter since 1962 he’s received a red scarf to ward off the bitter cold of Minnesota winters, and in 1962 it also helped the Green Giant company launch their frozen foods business.

Speaking of food, let’s talk calorie burn and food consumption. At rest, a man my size (75”, 205lbs) burns about 2500 calories per day on a normal day. With the level of exertion required for riding a bike for about 7 hours per day at a relatively fast pace (avg @ 17 to 18 mph), an additional 7500 calories are called upon to support that effort. A conservative estimate is that I’m burning about 10,000 calories per day. To compensate for that energy burn, I’m consuming mass quantities of food. A typical breakfast is 4 eggs, 6 slices of bacon, 2 sausage patties, a bowl of fruit, a bagel, muffin, or English muffin, glass of juice, and yogurt. Usually I also consume a banana just before my first pedal stroke. Lunch is a stacked sandwich of turkey and cheese, some sort of pasta or bean salad, two cookies, and some fruit. Dinner is at least 10oz of meat, a large helping of some sort of starch (potatoes or rice), two servings of vegetables, bread, and of course, a large helping of dessert, something chocolate if available, or carrot cake. During the riding day, In between feeding sessions, I consume at least 3 gel packs or energy bars while on the bike. At the feeding stations (about every 20 miles), I’ll consume a banana, energy bar, and two fistfuls of mixed nuts. Along with this, I’ll consume about 4 to 5 bottles of electrolyte solution along the way. My preference for electrolyte replenishment is both LMNT powder mixed in my water, along with 2 Salt Stick pills every hour. At the conclusion of the ride, I’ll down a Muscle Milk drink with 30 grams of protein, to aid in muscle recovery. With all this, believe it or not, I still wake up hungry, and I believe I’ve lost about 5 lbs. So, if you like to eat, and you want to drop a few pounds, I have just the program for you!

Until tomorrow…sleep well! And I can’t say it enough, thank you for your prayers and encouragement, as food alone can’t keep me going.

Sioux Falls to Fairmont, MN...our 7th state


Sioux Falls to Fairmont, MN

Sioux Falls to Fairmont, MN. 126 miles with 2100 ft of climbing.

Today we crossed into our 7th state, Minnesota. Known as the ‘land of 10,000 lakes’, we passed by some lovely ones today. As it was somewhat warm, one of our troop tried hailing a motor boat pulling some kids on tubes. We would have gladly parked our bikes to take a couple of turns being cast around the lake on the tubes. It looked delightful.

We had another long day in the saddle. Though that pretty much sums up every day on this tour. We had a bit everything with the wind…a bit over our left shoulder, a bit of a headwind, and a lot of a crosswind. We also caught the tail end of a thunderstorm, catching a moderate amount of rain. Though, considering the temperature, it was more relief than nuisance. Again, working as a team we managed to make reasonable headway while conserving energy. I would not want to have to go it alone today, or for that matter, any of the previous 5 days. And on that note, I’m pleased that we have exited South Dakota. It has much to offer a traveler…Sioux Falls, Mt. Rushmore, Badlands Natl Park, the Black Hills…but I’m glad the endless prairie seas are in the rear view mirror.

Of note, we passed our halfway mark in mileage. Hard to believe from how far we’ve traveled, what we’ve seen, experiences enjoyed, and at times challenges we’ve simply had to overcome. Time has a wonderful way of ameliorating unpleasant experiences. And though it has been just a short time since that dreadful 3 week period of being under the weather, I can truly looking back at the pictures of that period with pleasure. It wasn’t much fun at the time, but I’m glad I have the memories.

Thanks to everyone for your prayers, encouragement, and support!

Until tomorrow…sleep tight.

Mitchell to Sioux Falls

 Mitchell to Sioux Falls...73 miles w/ 2300' climbing

Yes, I’m beginning to repeat myself…in that we once again transited vast open areas of prairie land. And once again, we were bedeviled by a 20 mph wind out of the SE, and of course, we set an easterly course for the day’s journey. And while I’m no psychologist, I’m going out a limb and self-diagnose the onset of Amenophobia. I’m quite certain an Rx of a wind dead out of the west for the next several days will be a wonderful curative.

For now, we again relied on teamwork to lessen the wind’s impact on each of us individually. We’ve developed a solid group of cyclists. And now that I’m back up to about 80% of form, I’m pleased to be able to shoulder my share of the load.

Tonight we overnight in Sioux Falls. It is a delightful big town / little city situated abreast of the Big Sioux River. The falls are directly in the heart of the city. There is a 22 mile river trail that circumnavigates the city and surrounding area, basically following the flow of the river. It’s a lovely cruise, Amy and I did it last year on our mountain bikes, replete with numerous parks, golf courses, and historical markers.

In 2020, Sioux Falls was named one of the top five cities to retire to by AARP. The significant presence of top notch healthcare and the quality of life contributed to this ranking. And while the weather was agreeable during our brief visit (90* with 60% humidity) I would have to withhold weighing in on the viability of Sioux Falls as a retirement location until we visit on a hard January day.

Until tomorrow…sleep well!

Oacoma to Mitchell SD

 Oacoma to Mitchell

Today was a very similar to yesterday, only hotter, but also blessedly shorter. We covered 76 miles.

It was a welcome change to get to our quarters before 2pm, affording me the opportunity to do laundry and catch up on correspondence. As busy as our days are, on the bike 7 to 8 hours a day, having a short day was welcomed relief.

Everyone was still somewhat jarred from the heat and distance of yesterday’s ride. Today was somewhat akin to an active recovery ride. We continue to be tormented by a quartering wind, but again we had a strong group that shared the work load, allowing us to move along at a reasonable pace. We are beginning to have a very good understanding of the nuances of of individual riders, which is important when riding in a tight peloton at 20 mph. Once that learning occurs, the peloton can resemble a school of fish, in that a seemingly imperceptible action causing a rider adjacent to you to move slightly is easily adjusted to by the other riders in moving with the flow. That said, beyond gaining that sixth sense of motion, the most important favor you do for your fellow cyclists is to be predictable. Above all, beyond strength, beyond pulling power, a predictable cyclist makes for the best mate.

Until tomorrow…sleep tight!

Spring Green to Madison...leading to rest day. 55 miles w/ 2800' climbing Mr. Rogers says…It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…   To...