Thursday, April 29, 2010

Is It Possible

to be completely "biked" out? To have ridden the local trails, paths and routes so many times that you just can't do it anymore?

For that matter, can one be totally "biked" out? I've got more bikes and stuff than any one person deserves - and really can't get enthusiastic about riding. It's gotten very easy to find something, anything to fill my time other than riding. I still love hanging around with people who do ride, supporting them in their efforts, but actually riding myself has gotten challenging. Hell, I have seriously entertained the idea of getting a motorcycle.

And yet, an epic ride has been occupying most of my thoughts of late. The Silk Road, the length of Africa, the Great Divide, Trans Am, Trans Europe. But I could see doing it on a motorcycle just as easily as on a bicycle. I'll be 55 in a few months so if I'm going to learn to ride a motorcycle well enough for such a trip, it'd better be soon, don't ya think?

Biking is what I do. It's what I've always done. Is it time for a change?


Saturday, April 24, 2010

In The Throne Room Of The God's of Mud

HC was a proud sponsor of Trans Iowa 6 this year, and Jim and I drove to Grinnell, Iowa to help out. By volunteering, you are guaranteed a spot in next year's race (if there is one) and Jim has this quaint notion of attempting it. I have his back but am not sure I will be joining him.

What is Trans Iowa? It is a race of just over 310 miles that must be completed in 36 hours. There are 3 checkpoints with cut off times and you have to make it by the time or you are out. What makes this particular event so insane is: 1) most of the route is on gravel or the far more challenging "b" farm roads (more on that in a sec); 2) you don't know the route for the next section until you get to the checkpoint. You can't scout it using Google maps; 3) You cannot receive any support whatsoever. You are completely on your own. Break down in the middle of some road at 2AM? No one is going to come get you. And finally, it snows and rains in Iowa in the spring so the road conditions can be absolutely horrendous, as you shall soon see.

58 riders massed at the start in downtown Grinnell this morning at 4AM.

Ken and Scott raring to go

And they're off.

Jim and I were assisting at Checkpoint 1, located in the small town of Monroe. The riders had to cover 45 miles and arrive no later than 8AM to stay in it. It had been raining most of the night and the drive down there was through heavy rain and lightening. It continued to rain for almost three hours.

The first riders made it to the check point at about 7:20. This group contained last year's winner, Joe Meiser as well as some other heavyweights of the this type of event. By my calculation, they averaged something like 12 mph to get to this point, no small feat considering the conditions. Riders reported that lightening struck the ground very near them and they were forced to walk a 1 mile stretch of "B" road that was impassable. B roads are essentially farm roads that get no maintenance -- they are what they are.

The fast group took off immediately and more riders came in as the 8AM deadline drew near. Of the 58 riders that started, only 21 made it to checkpoint 1 by 8AM. Ken and Scott missed it by several minutes but were in good spirits despite the fact they had to ride the 40+ miles back to Grinnell and their car.


All of the bikes and riders that made it to Monroe were covered in thick brown mud. Many reported their brakes were already on the way out and drive trains couldn't be far behind -- and they still had 267 miles to go!!

Once all the riders were through, Jim and I planned to do some riding of our own. We opted to retrace the race's route back to Grinnell, and either ride from there or nearby. The first 15 miles or so took us through gorgeous rolling farmland over roads that were soft but drivable.

Remember that section of "B" road the riders walked? This is what greeted us at the beginning of it:

Jim and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and drove on. The absence of other tire tracks should have been the clue we were idiots.

Good progress was made despite mud that was inches thick.

We made it most of the way up that big hill but completely lost traction. We managed to get the rig turned around and were on our way out when we got stock trying to re-cross an old wooden bridge covered in mud.

And, no cell phone coverage. So I hiked a ways out and up a hill until I could call AAA. AAA is awesome but they don't cover towing morons who get their vehicles stuck on roads they should not be on. But Angie of AAA did call me a wrecker that arrived about an hour later. Two guys, both of who I know were laughing inside, carefully pulled me out of the ditch and I was able to drive the rest of the way back to the county road. We followed them back to Monroe where we could settle the bill.

Here is how the exchange went as I paid the bill.

Ronnie: "What were you doing Bajaing down that road?"

Me: We were trying to retrace the route of that bike race.

Ronnie: "It's a good thing you didn't get caught over that first hill. We'd have to send the big wrecker".

I can only imagine that it resembles this:

So, if you're traveling the "B" roads of Iowa anywhere near Monroe and need a tow, call Ronnie at Hewitt's Service Center and tell him Baja sent you.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Bike version of The E-Camper

As my readers know, I recently had my Honda Element converted to this:

Now, I find that Target, of all places, is carrying a bike trailer called the Kamp-Rite Midget Bushtrekka that has similar characteristics. It's not light (56 pounds) or cheap ($850) but it is a very cool concept.

The company is based in Australia and also makes a single wheel trailer/camper that fits in a backpack called the TrailRat.

There's a whole crazy world out there, for sure,


Friday, April 9, 2010

This is Certainly Another Option

HC rickshaw conversion?


Great. Now What?

Bicycling Magazine just ranked Minneapolis as the #1 bike friendly city in the US, beating out perennial favorite Portland, Oregon. This, despite cold winters, particularly this last one during which road conditions were sub-optimal for all modes of transportation. We certainly have a lot to be thankful for here and this is a great place to ride.

Like most people, I look at "Best of . . ." lists with both interest and a healthy dose of skepticism, especially of the criteria used in selecting the winners. People who aren't involved in the cycling scene here would, after reading the reasons Minneapolis won, conclude that our success was based on the existence of but a few shops, and dominated by one or two individuals driving it all. This is really lazy journalism since these same sources are used over and over again whenever articles are written about cycling here in the Twin Cities.

The reality is that the cycling community here is comprised of a diverse variety of shops, craftsmen, clubs and individuals who are the heart and soul of what makes this area worthy of this recognition. An inquisitive journalist would do well to look beyond sources that are often more hype than substance, and peel away the layers. They will uncover an amazing story of ingenuity, creativity and plain old midwestern pragmatism.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Friday, April 2, 2010

Home Sweet Home

I made it back Thursday after a 15 hour drive from west of Denver. The plan was for an early morning ride but given the altitude (8500 feet) and the congestion in my chest and head, I opted to forgo it. Of course, maybe it was the fact that my buddy had planned the route up a road unofficially called "Oh My God" by the locals because most of them had uttered those words either ascending or descending it in the winter.

The first 500 miles of Eastern Colorado and Nebraska are mind numbingly boring. The only excitement came when an Aston Martin Vantage passed me at what I guess was in excess of 100 mph in Nebraska. It wasn't until a truck slowed its progress that I was able to snap this. I'll bet he can't camp in it, so there!

After leaving Flagstaff, I headed northeast into Utah, passing by Monument Valley. The Navajo that own and run Monument Valley don't allow camping within so I continued north towards Mexican Hat, Utah, so named for this interesting rock formation.

North of Mexican Hat is Valley of The Gods, described as a mini-Monument Valley. It's part of Glen Canyon Recreation Area so dry camping is permissible wherever one can find a spot. There is a 17 mile dirt road through it which affords magnificent views in every direction. It was also a full moon night so I was excited that my last night of camping would be in such a great spot. I was unable to accurately record the full moon by camera but, take my word, it was magnificent.

The approach.

Sunset and moon rise.

What I call "Thumbs Up" mesa.

Just me and the coyotes.

Next trip is in June when I head back to Utah to wrench on Cycle Utah. The snow should be gone by then so I am planning a combo driving/mountain biking trip over part of Hole in the Rock Road. Stay tuned.