Phil van Valkenberg introduced me to riding the back roads of Wisconsin. My bike was the key to independence as a child, became my transportation later, but Phil’s 1974 book “Wisconsin Bike Trips” (complete with maps) opened my eyes to a new world of riding. I soon discovered that the state published a county-by-county map book of all rural roads – now there were no limits.
Phil’s maps led me to the back roads, inspired me to load my bike with camping gear to tour, and ultimately led me to ride across the country in 2018. Now it is time for a new groundbreaking.
In addition to the ground-breaking ceremony for the new trail named in his honor, Phil is selling some old bikes to raise funds for the trail. The bikes include the 1977 Exxon Graftek pictured above. This was one of the first readily available carbon fiber bikes. I remember looking at it at Yellow Jersey – I’m not sure if it’s the same one Phil bought. If you’re a fan of drillium, check it out. The 1940 Hetchins has a Reynolds frame, drop bars, and Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub. He also has a Sekai 5000 – a 1975 steel road bike weighing in at 18.5 pounds – check out the cable routing – you can see it (and the others) on eBay.
I signed up for a century ride in two months – and another one the next week. Until today, I hadn’t ridden more than 40 miles in a day since last October. Personal commitments tied up my weekends when it wasn’t raining, and Wednesday night rides are usually only 30-40 miles in order to get them in after work and before dark.
Then there’s the little matter of a broken big toe, which kept me away from Wednesday night rides for a few weeks. Today was finally the day to start training in earnest. The forecast was for a high of 90 degrees (32 C). The ride started at 8 so we could get in some miles before it got hot, though it was already 75 (24) when we started.
I let the fast group go, recognizing someone I tried to keep up with last year. 20+ mph for 70 miles is not for me. I settled in with a group of 4 at a comfortable pace. One guy lagged behind and, when I stopped to read some texts, he caught up and he told he was going to “take it easy” because of the heat. I later found that meant “take it easy” until it got hot. Another rider lagged behind on the hills but set a fast pace on the flats. We yo-yoed through the morning. When we got to the straight, flattish, and windy section at the end, he disappeared off the front.
The first 35 miles were fine. We stopped for water and snacks and headed out a little more slowly, into the McKenzie Environmental Center, where we saw a small herd of bison grazing. It’s not every day you see bison in Wisconsin. At mile 50 I knew it would be a long day. The wind was beginning to be a factor. Give me hills over wind any day. At mile 60 I felt cramps. Since I know anatomy, I knew exactly which muscles were cramping, not that that helps any.
At mile 65 I felt all four heads of my quads seize on both legs. I had just enough time to get off the bike and walk stiff-legged to a wall in the shade to lean and try to stretch. I knew I had to stay on my feet. If I got down, I might not make it back up. I couldn’t stretch my quads without causing my hamstrings to spasm. I had to just stand there a while, slowly bending one knee at a time, to let them stretch. I finished the last of my water and my last electrolyte gummy. I had consumed a 6-pack of gummies (usually one or two suffice), and five bottles of water and other liquids. Still not enough. I rode slowly back to the car and drank the bottle of water that was waiting for me. Then it was time to start returning all the fluids I borrowed for the day. Despite the stops to relieve cramps, and the painfully slow last few miles, I had managed 68 miles and averaged >15mph. Maybe I’ll be ready in September. After a cool shower, I sat down to watch the Olympics and let others do the work.
I needed to replace those lost electrolytes. I made ½ gallon of margaritas for a retirement party at work. One of those quart Mason jars was drained but there was some left in the second jar. Lime juice is good, right? (Magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, but no sodium) Salt on the rim of the glass replaced the sodium.
WELL, this isn’t exactly the after-action report I’d hoped I’d be writing; rather than regaling you with tales of the ride I am instead addressing the Tamarack Fire’s impact on the ride. LAST Friday I, along with a bunch of other vendors, were at the Expo and basking in the glory of the next day’s…
We were to meet our friend Mark in Markleeville IRL last summer for the Death Ride. The ride was postponed a year due to the pandemic and we elected not to make the trip this year. The ride should have been last weekend, but wildfire was roaring through the area and Mark and others were forced to evacuate. Click the link for his report. In his report there is a link to the GoFundMe page for fire relief.
My first ride just for fun since breaking(?) a toe. It went better than I expected. No pain. It only hurts to walk. Time to start training for the two centuries in September.
In honor of the people of Alpine County I wore my 1992 Death Ride jersey for tonight’s ride. The smoke from those western fires is here and we rode through smaze, the sun just an orange ball with no brightness.
We rode through rolling farmland. The hay was just cut and baled, so instead of amber waves of grain interspersed with corn, it is just stubble and corn. I still love the alternating deep green and golden brown of the fields as they follow the contour of the hillside. As an added bonus, we get trees in the wet area at the bottom.
While I have written of the lakeshore path on my morning commute, I tend to post photos of the lake as seen from the path, rather than the path itself. Today you get the path in early morning sunlight. The lake is at the right edge of the photo.
This weekend I hope to get out and ride some real miles. Thirty at a time doesn’t cut it when I want to ride 100 in a day in two months, then do it again the next weekend.
Tadej Pogačar has won the Tour de France. If you care, you already know that. If you don’t, there must be some other reason to read this.
Pogačar is the youngest rider to win the Tour twice. At 22, he is still eligible to win the Best Young Rider jersey three more times. He dominated the Tour, winning three of the four jerseys. He proved himself to be a well-rounded rider, winning a time trial as well as mountain stages. He proved himself to be an aggressive rider, attacking on climbs when he didn’t have to, when other riders would have been content to follow wheels and know they still kept the overall lead; and his joyous grin when he stood on the podium was infectious.
The green jersey is another story. Mark Cavendish is a one trick pony if there ever was one. While the story of his return is a good one (he was a late addition to his team), as a road racer he does only one thing well. He is the best in the world at accelerating from 40 to 45 mph over the course of 200 meters after being led to that point by his teammates. He tied Eddy Merckx’s all-time record for Tour de France stage wins. Merckx was a complete rider, winning sprints, time trials, mountain stages, the hour record, tours, one day classics… Cavendish wins sprints. He was very nearly the Lanterne Rouge (last place overall for the Tour), beating only two of the 141 riders to finish the race. One of those was his teammate and super domestique Tim Declercq (AKA “The Tractor”).
Cavendish’s hope to break Merckx’s record came down to the final stage. While the final stage is viewed as a formality in terms of the overall win, it is a big deal to others. Finishing with 8 laps on the Champs-Élysées, it gives breakaway riders a chance to be seen by millions out in front, not just out in front in some obscure spot in the French countryside. The breakaways are inevitably caught (this year not until the ultimate lap of the Champs-Élysées), to set up a final moment of glory for the sprinters. Here was Cavendish’s chance to break the record in front of the Paris crowd.
He was beaten to the line by Wout van Aert, a finish I find fitting. Van Aert is a complete cyclist. He won the stage up the iconic Mont Ventoux. He won the final time trial on the penultimate day of the tour, and then he beat Mark Cavendish in the final sprint. He also won the world cyclocross championship three times consecutively. When compared with Merckx after the tour, van Aert said, “Eddy Merckx won the GC of the Tour five times and he won basically every race in the world of cycling. I’m just a really little cyclist compared with Eddy.”
My new favorite bike racer is Guillaume Martin, author of “Socrate à vélo”. Martin is the son of an Aikido teacher and a drama teacher. He holds a Master’s degree in philosophy. “Socrates on a Bike” is said to place famous philosophers in the peloton and discuss them as bike racers with regard to their philosophies. I say “is said to”, as I am relying on the words of others from their reading in French and writing reviews in English. As I don’t read French and have not found the book in English, this is hearsay. Speaking of French, there was a time that French was the language of the peloton. To be accepted among Tour riders, one had to speak some French. At the end of this year’s tour, Tadej Pogačar, a Slovenian speaking in Paris, gave his speech in English. To me, that is sad. The ride is in France, the top three riders were Slovenian, Danish, and Ecuadorian, and he spoke English to the crowd. [Editor’s note: I briefly passed through Richard Carapaz’s home town of Tulcán, Ecuador, just over the border from Ipiales, Colombia, in 1977. Sadly, I have no memory of the town, with my first stop being in Ibarra, 126 km to the south.I found my journal from that trip. There was not much about Tulcán, but I did find this, written in Colombia in my last days before returning to the US (March, 1977): “The brain can efficiently store and retrieve just so many visual images…and to share those images with another is then difficult, indeed. My poor head overflows with images that will remain primarily private…”]
The Death Ride
The 2021 edition of the Death Ride was to have been Sunday, July 18. It was billed as the 4oth Anniversary and the “Death Ride Resurgence.” The 2020 edition was billed the same way but canceled due to the pandemic. This year’s was canceled at the last minute due to encroaching wildfire. Mark, please post a comment here to let us know you’re OK.
Back on the bike
I was able to remove my toe splint without cutting it off, so the swelling is down. Saturday I was able to clip into a pedal – I’ve been riding with one foot clipped in and the other with my heel on the pedal to avoid pressure to the broken toe. I still walk funny, pushing off from my little toe instead of my big toe, but I think I am ready to rejoin the Wednesday Night Bike Ride. This week is a hard and hilly route, so we’ll see.
Or maybe just the kayak
“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats…in or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems to really matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination, or whether you reach some where else, or whether you never get anywhere at all…” The Water Rat in The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. I guess I’ll hit the water now…