Acknowledgments

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

Motobecane Grand Jubile

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).

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2017 Wilier

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.

Rosebud (right) & I in pre-helmet days

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.

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Victor, Rosebud, your blogger, and Dave – at the birth of the Half-fast Cycling Club, whether they know it or not.

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 Ralston

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.

David

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.

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David and Kiyoshi (who is now at least 40)

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Curtis

My first supported bike tour was Cycle Oregon IV. This year is #31 (or is that XXXI?). I CycleOregonjpgwas 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

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Ahwahnee dining room

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

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Ahwahnee Hotel

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.

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Curtis skiing in the Sierra Nevada

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.

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and relaxing after a day of skiing

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

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Jack Taylor

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.

Weird clothes

People sometimes wonder why bicyclists wear such weird clothes.  Most of them make sense. This is the section for non-geeks, who wonder about the sanity of the bike geeks. I’ve been writing this post in my head since I bought my first bike shorts 40-some years ago.

Bike shorts. If you’ve ever ridden any distance in jeans, (cutoff or otherwise) you know why bike shorts were invented.  They’re shorts so they don’t impinge on knee movement. They have no inseam to chafe your inner thighs.  They fit snugly so they move with your leg rather than rub against your thigh as you pedal. They are padded because your pudendal nerve is right where the seams on jeans meet – if you press on that nerve long enough (like on a bike saddle), you go numb. There is something disconcerting about having to look to see if you’re peeing because you can’t feel anything. On bike shorts, there is no seam there.

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Chamois

The padding used to be chamois and is now synthetic. Chamois is very soft when new. Once it has gotten wet and dries again it needs to be moisturized, which led to the development of “chamois fat”, various patented concoctions to replace the natural fats washed out of chamois. (The chamois fat I used to use seemed to be fish oil based, so I could absorb all those good Omega-3 fatty acids.) (No, I don’t really mean that last part, and I hadn’t heard of Omega-3 fatty acids back in those days – but it did smell kinda like fish.) With synthetic chamois, some folks still use weird concoctions, but now they call them butters, for the pun. Bike shorts are (or used to be) black because bike saddles were leather, which was oiled for softness. The oil left visible stains on any other color. Saddles are now usually synthetic, as are shorts.

Jerseys. Frankly, jerseys are (in part) a vehicle for advertising, just like the coveralls NASCAR drivers wear. If you are a professional racer, your sponsors put their logos on your jersey so they can make money from your success. If companies are not paying you to ride, it is mostly silly to advertise their products on your body. Jerseys are made to wick away moisture (they used to be wool, as shorts used to be). They fit snugly so as not to flap in the breeze. They have a zipper for ventilation because it is easier to work than buttons or snaps while riding. They have pockets on the lower back because that’s the easiest place to reach and the stuff in your pockets doesn’t make your jersey sag, as it would if the pockets were in front. Jerseys tend to be brightly colored. That way, if a car runs you over, you know they were aiming for you rather than failing to see you.

handjpgGloves. See shorts. The pressure on your median and ulnar nerves (as well as vibration) tends to make your hands numb. Padded gloves prevent that. Leather palms protect your palms in a crash. The old-fashioned crocheted backs give you really neat tan lines. (Most gloves no longer have crocheted backs.) Gloves also allow you to run a hand over the surface of your tires if

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tire savers

you ride through glass (don’t try this without gloves), on the theory that when you run over a piece of glass it only goes partway through your tire but when you keep riding on it, the pressure drives it further into your tire so you get a flat. There used to be little gizmos called tire savers for the same purpose, with the idea that they would knock a piece of glass free before you ran over it a second time.

Helmets. Because a helmet is a lot cheaper than the treatment for a traumatic brain injury.

Shoes. Bike shoes have a stiff sole to transmit power to the pedals more effectively. This also protects from hot spots and numbness in your feet. If your feet are attached to your pedals (via the cleats that make people walk funny), the power transmission portion of your pedal stroke is doubled – you can both push and pull (or, more effectively, pedal in circles rather than just a series of alternating pushes). It helps to disconnect your shoe from your pedal before you stop.

By now you’re probably hoping I’ll get on the road already and write about the scenery and post pictures of exotic places instead of my garage door. Good luck with that.

P.S. Thanks to the half-fast club for a great birthday dinner on 2/27. Nothing like stretching a birthday for five weeks.