Noluck

In a normal year, this would have been the first Wednesday Night potluck. I would have brought a rhubarb pie. Dave would have brought his famous braised asparagus, with cayenne and lots of garlic. This is not a normal year. While it was billed as a potluck, I saw half a dozen people at the park shelter. Too rich for my blood and, it appears, most others’.

The ride starts in Blue Mounds and immediately drops downhill to Tyrol Basin. With names like “Mounds” and “Basin” you could have guessed what direction we ride. In those first few downhill miles, it is best not to think about the fact that you will have to go back up at the end. Enjoy it while you can. The good news is that it’s not four miles back up. The bad news is that’s because the other side of the hill is steeper.

From Tyrol Basin the route follows the route of the Wright Stuff Century for a few miles, so they are roads filled with memories. We climb the famed Fesenfeld Road. I always know I’m near the top when I see this giant oak. One advantage to riding alone is that this is the first time I have stopped to take a picture of it.

From this tree there is a bit of up and down before a screaming downhill into a gentle left hand bend. The only problem is the traffic coming from the other way around that bend. Some of them might turn left across your path. Today the pavement is damp in the shady areas, which tend to be the downhills. Feeling the water sprayed onto your legs by the front wheel is a hint to feather the brakes.

In the next valley I met two friends in a field. Right after I took the picture, the sheep started over toward the fence, whether because it likes human company or thought I was coming with food, I don’t know. Not wanting to come between friends, I cross the road to shoot the historical marker.

At the midpoint of the ride we reach the lowest elevation. While it has been up and down to here, it has been mostly down; meaning from here it’s mostly up. There is a six mile lead-in to the infamous Mounds Park Road; six miles slightly uphill and usually with a headwind. Nothing like reaching the base of a climb already tired from six relentless miles – you can never stop pedaling for those six miles. Today the headwind was brisk, but I got lucky. A group of four strong riders overtook me at the beginning of that stretch. I tucked in behind and we rode it together. I took the last pull before the turnoff, so I paid my way. We rode faster and I felt fresher than if I’d done it alone.

The best part of Mounds Park Road is that, when the road flattens out to give you a rest, the slope decreases to 8 or 9%, unlike the double-digit grade most of the way. At the top we turn into a long and shady descent. Normally this is a fast drop, but less so today due to the wet pavement. Since I had a recent patient who was admitted after a 40 mph downhill crash, I was maybe more cautious than usual.

The final climb back to the park is, as regular readers know, my favorite stretch of road and the adopted highway of the half-fast cycling club. After the ride, I sit on a roadside bench, sipping a Scotch Ale and cheering on the other riders as they climb to the finish. It is the only channel on this TV, but it’s a good one.

Baiku

Bicycling magazine used to give away a bike each spring. Each year was a different contest. I never won. One year they wanted a picture of your bike to show why you needed a new one. I sent a photo of a bike I’d made from snow. I figured it would melt soon so I needed a new one. They disagreed.

Another year they wanted you to tell them why you should win a particular bike. I wrote a song called “My Serotta” to tell them why I should win the Serotta Ottrott. It was written to the tune of “My Sharona”. They were not convinced.

Then they asked for baikus – haikus about bikes. I sent a bunch. I didn’t win again. Here are rewritten versions of two of the losers – one about my daughter’s first ride, one about my imagined last ride.

First ride – age 5

Holding the saddle –
I let go as she rides off.
She doesn’t look back.

Last ride – age 95

Steep mountain descent.
Heart stops – dead before I land.
Body found smiling.

The Norway Maple in the yard of our old house (across the street from where we live now) succumbed last year. Counting growth rings is harder than it seems, so I don’t know how old it was. I’ll guess it was around 50 years old, having been mature when we moved in there 27 years ago. Our son (who was born that year) wanted a particular cutting board this year, so I was looking at cutting boards, and end grain maple boards (like butcher blocks) seemed like a top choice (though he chose edge grain walnut). Most are made by gluing a bunch of small pieces of wood together. I figured, what’s a stump but a big chunk of end-grain wood? Who needs glue?

So I took various saws across the street and started cutting. Once I got a slice free I had to get it relatively flat and smooth. “Relatively” is an important disclaimer there – cutting through 18 inches of wood and having two flat and parallel sides is easier said than done. But now I have a tree-shaped end-grain maple cutting board. I liked the shape of the tree rather than cutting it into a rectangle. I left a few scars intact – I’ll say it’s because I liked the way they looked, but I could also say I would have had to take off a lot of wood to get it totally smooth, and without a planer (and especially not one that can accept an 18 inch surface) to run it though. The colors are natural. It has been treated only with a food-grade mineral oil and wax mix.

It must be spring. The loons are passing through on their way to Canada. The robins are back. It is 75 degrees (24 Celsius) and sunny. The first warm Sunday of spring means it’s motorcycle crash day. Lots of people will be out for the first time, riding too fast, and not noticing the sand and gravel collected on curves. Wednesday Night Bike Rides start this week!

Shorts!

Today was the first day warm enough to ride in shorts. Wednesday was the first Wednesday Night Bike ride of the season. In 26 miles I saw 12 other riders – 6 going the other way on the road I was on (scattered over the 26 miles) and 6 seen in the distance on other roads. Social distancing seemed to work here. There were those who chastised the organization for not canceling its rides. Being a rather anarchic organization, they decided to trust us to do what is right. I think we did pretty well.

On Thursday I rode with two friends. They made me ride behind them, 10 feet downwind at all times. Since I work in a hospital and they are sheltering in place, they figured they had a better chance of catching it from me than vice-versa. A reasonable thought, even if I wear a mask and face shield at work, wear scrubs that get carried home in a sealed bag and washed separately from all other clothes, and wipe down door handles, Purell dispensers, the time clock, keyboards, refrigerator and microwave doors, stair railings, flush levers on toilets…several times per day at work. A housekeeper told me we ran out of the Purell that comes in bags to go into wall dispensers. The homemade stuff from the hospital pharmacy is too thin to go in there. I suggested we thicken it with cornstarch. He was amused but didn’t think it would work. I suggested a wine reduction sauce. He didn’t think that would work, either. The trouble with alcohol without aloe or other moisturizers is that it dries your skin, leading to cracking and openings for icky stuff (that’s the broad scientific term for bacteria, viruses, molds, and fungi) to enter the body; in other words, an opportunity to make things worse instead of better.

I spent the afternoon in a recorded webinar about therapy with COVID-19 patients. It helped to convince me not to volunteer, being a frail old man with asthma and therefore susceptible to unfavorable outcomes like death. A major focus was on seeing the non-COVID patients more often than we usually would, to help them recover faster and discharge home instead of to a rehab center where they are once again at risk. Each morning I pass through a gantlet of nursing staff to show my ID and assure them that I have been self-monitoring and I have no new symptoms.

This will be my first 100+ mile week since before surgery. The coots and loons are in town, a brief stopover on their semi-annual commute. I saw an egret today. The robins and redwing blackbirds are back in large numbers. I saw 11 hammocks hanging over the lawns behind the Lakeshore Dorms this afternoon – I thought the dorms were closed and the students all gone – but this must be where they are housing the students who have nowhere else to go.

Bike by Bill Davidson, photo and 30 years of miles by Half-fast Cycling Club

In honor of my bikes turning 30 this year, I’ve been riding the old and trusty steel steeds and the carbon fiber bike has remained hanging in the basement. The Bruce Gordon is seeing heavy commuting duty and a couple of rides in the countryside. The Davidson came off the trainer and has accompanied me for the past two days and 60 or so miles.

Some days are just too exquisite

to stop and take pictures. After careful deliberation,I have to say the New Glarus ride is my favorite of the Wednesday Night Bike Rides.

The Swiss who settled here called it New Glarus because it reminded them of home. While most of the cattle are now Holsteins and not Brown Swiss, there is still a Swiss atmosphere around here.

The ride started with a long and gradual climb. I didn’t realize how steep it was until gliding back down at 35 mph at the end of the ride. We turned onto Meadow Valley Road for a downhill followed by a few ups and downs. On to Farmers Grove Road for four miles of roller coaster hills, then to Dougherty Creek (which sounds sort of like “dirty crick” in case you’re not from around here). Four miles of following the creek through the woods and it was time to head back up top. A steep climb up Prairie View Road and to the left we saw the pale green of flowering grasses; to the right the deeper green of alfalfa and the deeper still of the thick woods along water courses. Steep valleys meandered off to the right – I thought about stopping for a picture but the scents, the light, the dark recesses in the wooded glens, the killdeers careening around while the hawks circled overhead were way too much to capture with a camera.

After another five miles of not having to think too much because there was no need to turn, we dipped down onto Holstein Prairie Road and another gradual climb with a few roller coasters for good measure. Back up on to a ridge for some great views before the next ear-to-ear grinning descent; and so it went for 30-some miles before we returned to New Glarus for pizza. New Glarus is also home to one of Wisconsin’s worst-kept secrets, the New Glarus Brewing Company. To avoid production pressures, they will not sell their beer outside of the state and, if a distributor is caught doing so, they lose their supply. I won’t say they are my favorite brewery, but I did have a bottle of their Uff-da at the end of last winter’s run and know I need to try it earlier in the season next year before it runs out.

Hats off to the unofficial Maglia Nera winner for 2019: Sho Hatsuyama of Team Nippo Vini Fantini Faizanè. He finished over 6 hours behind this year’s winner, Richard Carapaz of Movistar. Among the elite of the world, there are those who are not-so-elite. Just remember that he could still ride circles around any of us; and, in the third stage, he broke away in the first kilometer and rode a 145 km solo break until caught.

The adoption has been finalized and the results are in: 1.4 miles of highway that looked clean from a passing car yielded 22 pounds of trash. The biggest contributor was Anheuser-Busch, with more Busch Light beer cans than any other single item of trash. Add the Busch, Bud, and Bud Light cans and bottles, and they were breakaway winners.

Driving out, we passed through a serious-looking thunderstorm. Tim swore he saw Miss Gulch fly by on her bike (at 52 seconds in the video below).

The rain let up and it was a beautiful day by the time we finished. Gratuitous photos to follow.

On the way to work, looking east.
Storm on the way. A day like today, but on the way to work. Made it with minutes to spare before the deluge.
One year ago today – breakfast with Einstein, Jackson, WY.