A new plan has arisen, so a special post comes today. I’ve decided to leave my bike home.
Instead I will be riding a multi-speed unicycle, in honor of Ben Linder‘s (1959-1987) epic ride down the west coast of the US. Ben was an engineer from Portland Oregon, educated at the University of Washington.
Upon graduation he went to Nicaragua. He worked initially in Managua, commuting to work via unicycle and performing with a local circus. He subsequently moved to the El Cuá, where he worked to build a hydroelectric dam on a small stream to electrify a rural community. It was while working on this project that he was assassinated by US government-funded terrorists.
While I never met Ben, I worked with his Matagalpa roommate and visited his grave. Ben was both a dedicated engineer working to make the world a better place, and a clown performing as a juggling unicyclist. He was murdered 30 years ago this month.
I need to get some miles in on the unicycle to train. I don’t plan to juggle coast-to-coast – I want to see the scenery.
April 1, 2018
P.S. Whitecaps on the lake mean no ice from shore-to-shore; 25 mph wind means surf’s up! Grab your board cuz there’s nothing like surfing 32 degree (F) water!
On October 30, 2017 I took the bike for a shakedown cruise after some parts changes. The photo below is the bike as I intend to ride it across the country.
I’ve swapped out the wheels, mounting the custom wheels from Yellow Jersey. I’ve switched to a Terry saddle. Georgena Terry became famous for designing the first saddle made to fit a woman’s body. She was successful enough that she designed and made a lot of other products, including saddles made for men and designed for long-term comfort. I’m hoping she’s right. For the geekier of you, it is a “Fly Carbon” model. She also built bicycle frames proportioned for women.
I switched to more conventional water bottle cages – what came with the bike were plastic studs onto which a special bottle mounts directly, with no cage, saving a few grams. I wanted to be able to use my bigger bottles, so switched those. Along with the new wheels were a new cogset and chain, so I wanted to make sure everything shifted smoothly before putting the bike away for the winter. The sleet visible on the roadside and on my jacket was just a bonus.
The picture is from a Half-fast fall ride. For several years now, a group of 4-6 of us meet for breakfast at the Blue Spoon Cafe in Prairie du Sac, take a roundabout route to Baraboo (across the Merrimac Ferry, through Devil’s Lake State Park or up Devil’s Delight Road) for lunch at the Little Village Cafe. After lunch we take a different route back to the Blue Spoon for hors d’oeuvre (not to be confused with hors categorie).
One more picture, just because I haven’t figured out where to put it. This little frog was on my brake hood one morning in Door County on a camping trip. My first attempt at a photo with a cell phone and not a “real” camera, so it appears the focal point was the brake lever, not the frog. Sorry.
Any book has an acknowledgments or dedication page, where the writer thanks everybody who helped along the way. It is time for that now, before I hit the road.
First I need to thank the folks at work who made this possible, particularly Sarah, Noreen, and Jane. Without their understanding and willingness to see this dream/plan come true, I’d be working all summer, not riding. Yes, I promise to come back. Retirement is nowhere in sight. When I asked for this time off, I didn’t realize the excrement was about to strike the air-circulating appliance. Jane has since retired and I hope she is sitting back, enjoying life, and reading my blog. Thanks, Jane, for all you’ve done over the years. Once, years ago, my son called me at work. He had been hit by a car. Jane immediately offered a ride home, knowing I was on my bike and she could get me there faster and be available to transport my son, if need be.
Since the time I wrote this post, a number of other changes have happened at work. It turns out I won’t be the only one gone this summer, so I need to thank everyone who will be there working while we are short-handed.
Next is my first riding partner, Al. In high school we rode motorcycles together. After that we switched to bikes. We often rode side by side, in the same gear and at the same cadence. We were a matched pair. My first loaded tours were with Al. It was with Al that I sprinted to a highway wayside in a gathering thunderstorm, pitched a tent in record
time, and settled in. It was with Al that I got kicked out of said wayside by a county sheriff when the rain stopped. We were told he had better find us in a campground or out of his county by nightfall or we would be spending the night in his jail. He would be checking that wayside, and all waysides in the county, again. We found a campground after briefly considering an attempt at riding home in the dark. (This isn’t entirely true. Actually, we were in the campground and it was late at night when we considered packing up and riding home. We realized we needed fresh batteries for our lights and no stores were open.) There was a really good tailwind and only about 60 miles to go. I was also with Al on the backpacking trip in New Mexico which resulted in the ankle injury that brought me to my first new bike, the Motobecane I wrote about a few weeks ago.
Andy at Yellow Jersey built my first set of custom wheels back around 1980 (Campagnolo Record hubs, Weinmann concave rims). His partner Tim built the wheels that will make this trip (DT Swiss carbon ceramic hubs, Velocity rims [asymmetrical rear] – I thought aluminum rims would be better suited to the long journey than the carbon fiber rims that came with the bike).
Chris is the guy who sold me this bike after he had used it just long enough to break it in – he is the west coast sales rep for Wilier. The custom paint job was chosen by him.
The half-fast cycling club has ridden with me through the years – some of them I’ve ridden with off and on for 40 years, some less than that. It is a changing group of friends as some have given up on longer distance riding. Rosebud deserves a special shout out – I tried to get him to come along on this trip. He is one of the originals, from many years before the club name came along. We used to ride to Salmo Pond (right) to swim and have a picnic lunch before riding back home.
By the way, even those in the picture don’t know that I named us. They may disavow any knowledge or responsibility once they read this.
Various anonymous people on the west coast deserve thanks. When I was a stranger there I discovered the joys of club riding when I didn’t have an informal group of friends to ride with. They introduced me to century rides and the Death Ride. I never joined a club (like Groucho I wouldn’t join any club that would have me as a member) but rode with several. A particular guy from up in the mountains near Lake Tahoe was a riding partner for parts of several centuries. He rode with the Alta Alpina Cycling Club.
Ken, who tried to get me to leave my job and join him on a cross-country tour when he finished law school, made me realize I would do this trip someday, somehow. I didn’t join him then. His mom (my boss) would never have forgiven either of us.
Peter is my teacher/facilitator and taught me how to train. It is thanks to him that I know what I need to do to get ready for this trip and that I will do it. http://chenghsin.com/chenghsin-main.html
Greg at Cycle America, who has fielded phone calls from me and met with me in his office in a small town in Minnesota (Cannon Falls, on the way to Northfield from Wisconsin) to answer my questions, deserves mention. This probably won’t be the last one. I found a Cycle America brochure in my files from 1991 (one of the other times I was considering this trip). Greg didn’t agree to match those prices.
Jake, the well-tempered ear, who gave me some blogging guidance along the way. Jake said “more pictures”, so I’ve been adding pictures.
Finally, I need to thank my family. My mom, whose legacy helped to finance the trip; my brother, who insists that mom’s instructions were to spend our inheritances frivolously (I’m not sure I believe him, but I wasn’t there); my kids, whose dreams I supported as they grew up and who now support mine in turn; and my wife, who is willing to be a completely empty-nester for two months and knows how important this trip is to me.
P.S. I found out that a couple of unfinished posts scheduled for June leaked out somehow. Ignore those if you received them via email. Updated versions will come out on the intended dates. Some of the posts composed on my phone instead of desktop may come out looking weird. Let me know in the comments if that happens. (Or contact me directly if you know how to do that, as I’ve heard from one person that she isn’t able to comment online – we’re working on that.) On the computer I can see previews in desktop, tablet, and phone formats. On the phone, obviously, I can see only the phone format. If pictures are too small or too big, let me know.
Since I mentioned two lifelong friends from school, a memorial to David Okuma is in order. This has nothing to do with bikes.
David, like Curtis, was an LA native. He grew up in East LA and was buddies with some guys who later formed a band. He introduced me to that band when I stayed with him on a subsequent visit to LA. I liked the album so much he gave it to me. Later he introduced me to them literally, as he got us backstage passes when they opened for the Grateful Dead at Laguna Seca raceway near Monterey CA.
David was a rock ‘n’ roller, though not a musician. He worked in record stores all his life. He introduced me to a lot of music, some that I would never have listened to without him. He had to cull his record collection periodically so it would fit in his house. When he came to Madison I took him to hear the UW symphony and hiking in Parfrey’s Glen. I hope he forgave me for that.
When I asked David about Disneyland he told me it was only for tourists; he’d never been there. When I visited him in Pasadena, his first words were, “Do you want to go to Disneyland?” as he whipped out a pack of tickets from the entryway table. I reminded him of what he had told me ten years earlier. He said now that he had a child he had discovered Disneyland and they went there all the time. It was great. He figured his parents had told him that it was only for tourists because they couldn’t afford to take him there. He was not going to deprive his son that way. We went to Disneyland, which was overrun by Iowans, as this was December 30 or so and Iowa would be be playing in the Rose Bowl on January 1.
But back to that band he introduced me to: two of the greatest rock songs ever written appeared on the same album. The links below are to those two songs. The album opens with a lament about the death of dreams – a woman struck down in a drive-by shooting, a child killed by a reckless driver, a woman who gave up her life to be a wife. The other song is also about dreams – searching for a meaning to life and wondering about the answers you get – whether a seeker climbing to a mountain top, or an immigrant worker slaving in a sweat shop and wondering “Is this all there is?” The band, if you haven’t figured it out yet, is Los Lobos.
David died June 1, 2015. I’ve been told that Los Lobos were at his bedside for his last week.
P.S. Two people asked last week that I write about training. I thought that would be boring but was told “don’t make it boring”. So there are two posts scheduled for the week before the ride starts. I plan to update them periodically, since they currently contain only the first couple months of training.
P.P.S. I’m two steps closer to going on this trip! My passport arrived yesterday (the trip goes into Canada and my old passport expired 10 years ago) and so did my new phone. I’ve taken another step into the 21st century -first a carbon fiber bike, now a cell phone. Next thing you know, I’ll be using emojis!? This postscript was written on the phone with the add-on keyboard – you’ll hear more about that in the future.