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.
My first supported bike tour was Cycle Oregon IV. This year is #31 (or is that XXXI?). I was talked into the ride by my friend Curtis Chock. Curtis was my roommate during my first ill-fated attempt at being a college student. It was the fall of 1971 and I enrolled at Immaculate Heart College in Hollywood. The college is long gone and the campus is now the home of the American Film Institute. I quickly discovered that I didn’t really want to be a college student. One semester of college netted me two lifelong friends, so it was a good investment after all.
Curtis was an art major and later became a chiropractor. He never let work get in the way of having a good time and frequently tried to enlist me in various trips. Even after I had kids he would call me up and ask me to go somewhere next week. Canyon de Chelly was the destination on a number of the trips I didn’t make. He never seemed to understand that I did not have a life conducive to jumping on an airplane to join him somewhere.
Luckily I had the sense to say yes a few times. Cycle Oregon was one of those times. We rode an average of 85 miles/day for a week. We rode over the Cascades and around Mt Hood. We rode through the high desert country. Every morning I arose early and they fed me breakfast. I would return to the campsite just as Curtis was getting up. We’d pack up and I would schlep the gear to a truck while he had breakfast. I’d hit the road, arriving in a new camp mid-afternoon. The trucks with our gear would be waiting. I’d pitch the tent and go take a shower. There was a portable shower truck that traveled with us. Curtis would roll in in time for us to have dinner together and talk over the day. At the end of the week we were told they fed us 7500 calories/day. I lost weight even though I had seconds a few times. That trip made me realize letting someone carry my gear was not necessarily a bad thing.
When Al (my first touring partner when I was 21) and I toured, we carried everything on our bikes except the fresh food we would buy for dinner. The ride into town with an unladen bike felt like flying. That ride seemed like the reward for riding all day like a pack mule. Preparing enough food every day to keep us fueled was a lot of work. Letting someone else prepare meals and carry gear seems awfully civilized now.
Curtis also convinced me to stay in a tent cabin in Yosemite National Park. We had lunch in the
white linen tablecloth Awahnee Hotel. (I made up for that with a solo winter trip there in my own tent. That’s a story for another time. For now, we’ll just say that it snowed 3 feet overnight and a bear stole all my food. How it got to it that high off the ground I’ll never know.) Before I knew Curtis I never understood why one would pay to go cross-country skiing. To me, the point of cross-country skiing was that you could go anywhere (hence the name cross-country). Paying to ski on groomed trails seemed silly – until he took me to Royal Gorge. Looking at the website now, it looks much fancier than it
was then. We drove to a parking lot that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere (and it was dark). We were met by a Sno-Cat pulling sleds. We piled into the sleds and were given lap robes for a trip into the woods. We arrived at a small lodge and were told to leave our skis outside. Each morning our skis would be freshly waxed (though it was this trip that helped me see the wisdom of waxless skis for California ski conditions). We could ski all day and be fed at night, with our skis ready to go the next morning.
As a child I remember seeing photos of Hollywood stars skiing in California. The starlets would be in bikinis. Being from Wisconsin I associated snow with cold and the pictures were unfathomable. On our weekend at Royal Gorge (at the end of ski season) it got warm enough that as the sun rose higher in the sky I took off more clothes. I finally skied nude, just to say that I did. Mostly I skied in gym shorts and gaiters.
Curtis had a knack for finding just the right gift for no particular occasion. I bought a new car and noticed that it came with a lighted hole for a cigarette lighter (all cars once came with cigarette lighters). I mentioned it off-handedly to Curtis when he was riding with me; how the light shined out of the hole in the dashboard. As soon as he got home he bought a cigarette lighter and mailed it to me to fill the hole. When he went to China to visit family he brought back a cashmere sweater which became my favorite cross-country ski sweater. He found out I didn’t have tights for cool weather riding, so he sent me a pair.
He was always buying new bikes. I remember his Jack Taylor (an old English frame
builder), his Merlin (a 1990s era titanium bike builder in New England), and his Bike Friday (a folding bike from Oregon). I got to ride the Bike Friday on a trip down the beach from Santa Monica to Newport Beach, with Curtis on the Merlin. We had dinner at a sidewalk café in Santa Monica afterward and froze. Southern California gets chilly when the sun goes down. That was my last trip with Curtis. He died on Christmas Day 2010.
Daylight Day! Wednesday, March 7 marked the first day of the season it was light enough to ride to and from work without lights. With luck there will be three more of those days before Daylight Savings Time plunges me back into morning darkness.