We are a group of friends who ride bikes. Some of us are fast, some of us are slow, all of us are half-fast. In 2018, one of us is riding coast to coast across the US. If we meet Sal Paradise, we'll let you know.
It’s not too late to join me on this epic journey. We’ll be leaving Everett, Washington on Father’s Day, June 17. Splashdown on Cape Ann, Massachusetts is Saturday, August 18. In between the route is split into 9 segments. You can join me for one or all.
For those of you from my neck of the woods, take a look at segment 6.
At the very least, maybe you could join us from Baraboo to Beaver Dam on Thursday, July 26. That’s almost Wednesday Night. A couple hundred extra riders would make quite a splash (and maybe get me kicked out early, who knows?)
If you can’t join us on the ride, and you’re on the west coast, join my friend Keith Greeninger some time this summer. He’ll be at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley on Father’s Day (the day we start to ride) and in Oregon and Washington in May. I’ve been looking for a way to work him into this, so I could link to a song he wrote several years ago but stays current.
For those who never worked in construction, most major cities have a spot somewhere (in this song it is K-Mart and Home Depot, in San Francisco it was Goodman Lumber in my day) where day workers (“casual labor” in a strange use of the language) gather in hopes that a contractor will come by in a truck and offer them work for a day.
This song is about a contractor looking for workers to build a wall, a border wall that gets higher in each retelling. He’s willing to hire undocumented workers.
Some of the half-fast cyclists are currently touring Catalunya (part of Spain to some, but not to the Catalunyans). One sent pictures of the climb of Rocacorba:
Photos by Tim Morton
As you can see, it is 13.8 km of climbing, gradients of ~10% (7-15% by report, though it looks from the sign at the summit as though the overall average is 6.5%). If you saw the whole series of photos (starting at km 5) the smile becomes more of a grimace as they got higher, though the smile comes back at the summit. I’ll have to remember that trick when I cross the continental divide – stop for pictures rather than rest breaks;)
One of the people I rode with this morning said that, at his work, they block his late afternoon schedule on Wednesdays and label it “church”. Today is Sunday, the day when many of the Christian persuasion go to church.
Three loads of laundry started the day, followed by 60 miles of church. We rode up Vermont Church Road which leads, of course, to Vermont Lutheran Church, home of the annual Bike Breakfast and Blessing of the Bikes. This year it will be Sunday, May 20. The church is, fittingly, at the top of a hill.
Church was not confined to this building. Today is one of those days when people say, “You couldn’t have asked for a nicer day!” I thought about what I would ask for. I couldn’t come up with anything.
I saw more motorcycles than bikes on the road. For that matter, I didn’t see any bikes going my way for about 25 miles.
I ended up in the fast group through no fault of my own. As you well know, I’m only half-fast. The first climb separated us and the guy next to me said, “I think that’s the end of the pack.” The four of us rode together for the next 30-some miles. There was a route option that we hadn’t discussed. We were on the “long route” and there was an “Alpe d’Huez Option” with two more big climbs. I was at the front of the group on a descent and took the easy way out. When next I looked back, no one had followed. I passed two other riders in the next mile and then saw no one until two of the original group caught me coming back into town. I was thankful for the company (and the lead-out through unfamiliar suburban territory).
The willows are in bloom. The countryside was filled with that glorious color we call “spring green” (to be confused with the town of the same name), the delicate yellow-green of blossoms that will give way to the fuller-bodied green of leaves.
Church wasn’t over yet. On the radio on the way home I heard Alison Krauss singing “Down in the River to Pray” on WVMO (You can listen on-line, as it is a low-power station that reaches the west side of town on a good day.)
Church was still in session with “Sunday Afternoon Live at the Chazen“, a live stream on the first Sunday of the month. If you keep reading, this won’t be the last you’ll hear of this program. I’ll be encouraging you to tune in August 5, 12:30 PM CDT. I’ll be in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Where will you be?
Today featured the Pro Arte Quartet. (A quartet founded in Belgium in 1911, they found themselves stranded in Madison, WI, USA when WWII broke out in Europe. They were offered an artist-in-residence position at the University of Wisconsin and they’re still here.) For the second half of the program they were joined by the Hunt Quartet (a graduate student quartet) for Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-flat minor. The standing ovation was well-deservedto my ears.
I suppose it would be stretching the metaphor to consider my post-ride beer with lunch at Monty’s Blue Plate Diner to be a sacrament. Monty’s is in a former gas station (run by a childhood neighbor’s dad and uncle as Havey Brothers Texaco) and is the first place my son entered upon moving to Madison. (I can’t say “set foot in”, as he was 3½ months old and didn’t walk in.) We had lunch there on the way home from the airport, so he hadn’t yet seen his new home. When he was two he asked for a job there, it being his favorite restaurant. The waiter promised him an application. He expressed his displeasure when we arrived home and he hadn’t received his application. He showed them by becoming a musician instead of a fast-food waiter. (One might argue they are not mutually exclusive.)
The ice cream at the walk-up ice cream stand after lunch likewise was probably not
sacramental, but the tulip was. And the bike sculpture is a final image from the walk home. Now to fold and put away that laundry from this morning and iron my shirts.
What to carry depends on a few things. If you’re on a self-supported tour, you carry everything you think you’ll need and can’t get along the way. Tent, sleeping bag, pad, stove, staple foods, snacks, clothes. You’ll buy fresh foods every day. Parts, tools, supplies for foreseeable repairs. If you are on a deluxe tour with hotels and restaurants, you carry next to nothing. My friend Ken, who rode across the country when he finished law school, joked that he was going to have a fitting brazed onto his bike frame to carry a credit card and would carry nothing else. He would eat in restaurants, sleep in hotels, and pay for anything and everything he needed.
I was on a supported tour some years ago and at the end of the week we were told that we had been provided 7500 calories/day. Carrying and preparing that much food is a lot of work – one reason I’m doing this as a supported tour. They will carry and cook food.
I’ll bring a tent, sleeping bag and pad (we’ll be camping every night); but they’ll carry that stuff – I’ll ride my bike. I would normally bring a pump. (I’m going to try CO2 inflators for emergencies on this trip, since the pump in my previous Davidson bike
picture won’t fit on this bike frame) I’ll carry a patch kit, tire levers, spare tubes, spare tire (though I’ll be riding on new tires), spare spokes (though I’ll be riding new wheels), spoke wrench, freehub removal tool to get at drive side spokes, a spare chain, connecting links, and chain tool, lubricant for chain and brakes (hubs, bottom bracket, and headset have ceramic sealed bearings and are fairly new so should not need any attention). Spare cables (though, again, I will have fairly new cables in place).
The company I’m riding with has mechanics available (for a fee) and the ability to order parts to be delivered along the way for anything I didn’t foresee. I will only carry what I reasonably expect to need on a given day. The rest will be available to me in the evenings (including a pump for keeping tire pressures optimal, so I’ll bring the CO2 inflators for emergencies only).
I’m having second thoughts on the day I edit this. In my youth, Campagnolo parts were available at every quality bike shop. Now the evil empire (Shimano) has such a stranglehold on the market that Campagnolo parts can be hard to find in the US. Should I be riding a Shimano-equipped bike to make it easier to get spares? Stay tuned.
I’ll also carry some favorite snacks, electrolyte replacement, multiple sets of riding clothes and mild detergent to wash them every night. The best prevention for saddle sores is to wear clean clothes every day and change as soon as the ride is over. After ride clothes will probably be pretty limited and basic. I will bring rainwear for riding.
I plan to buy a cell phone for the trip (I don’t yet have one – update – now I do). I’ll carry it during the day to use as a camera so I can post photos (day one will include a picture of us dipping our wheels in the Pacific Ocean) and I plan to use it in the evenings to write this blog, rather than carry a computer. I’m bringing a solar charging system that I bought on IndieGoGo. I understand we will have showers available every night. I haven’t decided what books to bring (or if I’ll read on my phone like modern people do).
Most importantly, I will be bringing a nearly new and very light bike, with a wide gear range. I will be bringing a trained body. While I have ridden 130 miles in a day, crossing 5 mountain passes and climbing 15,000 feet; and I have ridden (an average of) 85 miles/day for 6 days; this is an endeavor way beyond anything I have done. I know how to train. I have trained for riding. I have trained for martial arts and other sports. This is quantitatively different, but qualitatively the same thing. I am also 65 years old, which was not the case for those other endeavors.
P.S The Giro d’Italia (one of the three Grand Tours in bike racing) began yesterday in Jerusalem. There are three stages in Israel before the tour moves to Italy. Stage 6 (Thursday) will be the first mountain stage.
P.P.S. Those of you who have already ridden across the country, use the comments to tell me if you think I’m a fool for bringing something you found unnecessary, or a bigger fool for leaving out something essential. If you just think I’m a fool in general, please keep that to yourself.
P.P.P.S. Spring may be here. 80 degrees on Monday, so my first back-to-back days getting out of town on the bike. 25 mph wind so I had to work heading south out of town. I saw a magnolia in bloom – thought I’d stop for a photo on the way back, but I returned a different way.
On Sunday, nothing was green in the countryside except some winter wheat poking up through the ground. On Wednesday, grass was green, a few trees were blooming – and I saw a snowy owl at the top of the last climb of the evening. A thunderstorm arrived minutes after I stopped for a post-ride pizza.
Thursday: Maples bloomed today, bleeding hearts bloomed today, buds on the apple tree. More rain. As soon as the sun comes back, more stuff will bloom.
My first longish ride of spring. 33 degrees when I left the house. 57 when I finished, but the sun (and lack of wind) when I relaxed with a post-ride Maibock at Capitol Brewery (since that’s where the ride started and ended) made it seem warmer. Since it was lunchtime and I was still far from home, I ate at a nearby diner. The flowers may not have figured out that it’s spring (but they’re coming along), but the spring peepers were out in force. Hard to believe that much sound comes from such tiny frogs.
I rode ~60 miles, which seemed like a lot until I remembered that on this day the year I rode the Death Ride, I was riding the Chico Wildflower Century. Of course, it wasn’t snowing mid-April that year (and I was 26 years younger).
Also this week, I went to two choral concerts. Saturday night was “Free Wheeling: A Tribute to the Bicycle”, which featured “Song Cycle: Vive la vélorution!” by Alexander and Joanna Forbes L’Estrange. Also on the program were six bicycling poems set to music, five of which were world
premieres, commissioned for this event.
Some of the singers were dressed in bike clothes and a couple of songs featured bike bells and tire pumps as percussion instruments. The choirs were accompanied by a sextet of piano, trumpet (and flugelhorn), trombone, bass, drums, and percussion. I will link to the whole piece, but among my favorites were: “Freewheeling” (featuring trumpet), “The men who ride for fun” (featuring male voices) and “A woman (wearing bloomers) on a wheel” (featuring female voices).
On Friday night I heard the Choral Arts Society Chorale performing “Would You Harbor Me? music of longing and belonging” with songs of the diaspora and the immigrant experience, featuring the song cycle “The Golden Door” by Ronald Perera, with the choir accompanied by violin, viola, cello, bass, flute, clarinets, and percussion. The piece included the words of immigrants at Ellis Island and an ad for passage to the US juxtaposed with the experience of riding in steerage from Europe. (The first seven songs at the above link are the piece, though not in the same order as performed Friday night).
The performance included a talk by the Artistic Director with information on local opportunities to get involved in supporting immigrants.