Monday, November 23, 2009

gray day

The grass is still green, but the day is gray. With most of the trees bereft of their leaves the bike path looks like a different place to ride. There weren't many folks using the path, but you could see them coming from a long way back.

The sun is trying to make an appearance, though the forecast calls for a cameo at best. I like this time of year, but I'm not wild about winter. I understand that I need to live through the winter to truly appreciate the spring, but I don't need winter to test my patience. Take your time in getting here, do your thing and move on.

Then the splash of color I saw today will be joined by all the colors of spring; flowers blooming, birds in the air, and brightly colored cyclists on the trails.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

new ride?


When the route for the 2010 CRMBT was announced I wrote that after the first day the route followed roads I have never ridden. And after Echo Lake and Mt Evans, the roads are some that I've never even driven before. I enjoy riding familiar roads that I loved the first time, and look forward to new roads to travel. It got me thinking about the route on the first day. Going from Edwards to Frisco via Leadville will feature two sides of the Copper Triangle. I've driven this route and have ridden it twice, but every time going the other direction!
The second half of the day over Fremont Pass is roughly the same going either direction. But, going over Battle Mountain Summit and Tennessee Pass from north to south looks like a totally different experience from riding it south to north. One of the things I loved when I first rode this leg was coming out of Leadville at 10,200 feet, losing a couple hundred feet, then enjoying the next 30 miles which consist of climbing about 1200 feet, and descending about 4000 feet! The traditional Copper Triangle then takes you over Vail Pass, of which I'm not very fond. But riding in the mountains means you gotta climb.

So, next August our tour will start with some good climbs, with smaller descents, and a climb over Fremont before coasting down to Copper Mountain. Then it's on the bike path to Frisco which is a slight descent of about 600 feet over 6 or 7 miles. It's a good way to finish the day.

Frisco is also one of my favorite towns we've visited in Colorado. From there on the rides will all be new, and in some ways the first day will be a new experience too.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

veteran's day

Two years ago this month my father visited Washington DC with several other WWII veterans as part of an operation called Honor Flight. This group organized trips to the capital for veterans to be able to see their memorials and other symbols of what they fought to protect. The send-off from Fargo included a brass band, law enforcement and active military personnel, as well as members of the North Dakota Congressional delegation, along with hundreds of friends and family members.
Other members of Congress and former members greeted them in Washington, including Senator Bob Dole. They wore Honor Flight windbreakers and carried bags with snacks and bottled water. Wheelchairs were in abundance for anyone needing help getting from the bus to the many monuments they visited.

Mostly they were treated as the heroes they are, given the thanks that may be long overdue. On this Veteran’s Day I would like to thank my Dad, and all veterans who served to protect and defend the American life I too often take for granted. I promise to remember their sacrifice, remember their friends who gave their lives, and remember to be thankful for all those who serve today. May they be brave, and strong, and safe. And may we remember to thank them, and appreciate them, today and everyday.

“We can’t all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.” Will Rogers

p.s. Happy Birthday to my brother-in-law, Paul. He’s one of us.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

katy trail

I’ve read recently about some rails-to-trails rides, including: Wilkins' Cycling Weblog
The Katy is a trail built on a former rail line of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas, or MKT railroad. There’s hope that the trail will be extended to the Kansas City area sometime in the future, but for now it runs for more than 220 miles from Clinton, 80 miles southeast of Kansas City, to St. Charles, a suburb of St. Louis.

Several years ago I talked my brother, Jim, and nephew, Chuck, into driving from Phoenix, and my nephew, Nick from Fargo, to do a self supported tour of the Katy Trail. We met at my house on Saturday and after last-minute preparations, got up Sunday to head for Clinton. My wife, Beth, agreed to ride along and bring the truck back home, and pick us up 4 days later on the other side of the state. We figured that we only needed to average about 60 miles a day to ride the entire trail in the time we had.

I had “promised” that June in Missouri would bring sunshine and warm temperatures. I lied. It was a little cool and just starting to drizzle as we left the Clinton trailhead and headed through rolling farmland. The rain got harder and colder as the afternoon went on. We layered as best we could but were still getting more and more miserable as the cold rain felt like sleet on our faces. We ended up at a Casey’s General Store in Green Ridge eating pizza and drinking hot chocolate. Weird combination, but the pizza was good, and the hot chocolate was hot, so there you go.

We made it only as far as Sedalia, 35 miles down the road. We had dinner at an Applebee’s and set up camp on the state fairgrounds. That night we survived thunderstorms and lightning, and by morning it seemed like everything we owned was wet. The only other tent campers were a father and son from Georgia riding cross-country, including the Katy Trail east-to-west. They awoke to a large tree branch next to their tent, but no harm done. A cup of coffee from a kind RV camper and a fast food breakfast, and we were on our way..…to the laundromat.

It took us a few hours to get everything dry; sleeping bags, shoes. But by noon, the sun was coming out and we were enjoying some nice scenery as we neared the Missouri river. We made about 65 miles to Boonville and camped out at New Franklin. It was becoming obvious that we wouldn’t make it to St. Charles, but the scenery was getting better, the weather looked like it would improve, and after a nice night around a campfire we were ready to roll.

On Tuesday we rode next to some nice wetlands with lots of wildlife sightings, through the MKT tunnel into Rocheport, a beautiful little town with B&Bs and the Trailside CafĂ©. It’s a great place for lunch or an ice cream. And you can rent a bike next door. Now we were along the stretch of the trail with towering limestone bluffs on the north side and the Missouri river to the south. We weren’t worried about making time or miles, just enjoying the ride, stopping to watch a barge float by, take a nap in the shade.

We made it as far as Tebbetts, about 55 miles. There was a small city park where we could set up tents. And , across the street, Turner’s General Store. We had read in a guidebook that Mrs. Turner and her husband had opened the store in 1933, and she was still running it near the end of the century. We checked the door and it was closed, even though it was mid-afternoon. We waited out front and eventually she returned from somewhere and let us in. This would be an adventure too.

We picked up candy, chips, water, pop and some bread, and found some kind of turkey loaf in her cold section. Bless her soul, Mrs. Turner didn’t seem real confident about running the meat cutter. At this point Jim and Nick went outside to wait, thinking this may not end well. Chuck told her he had worked in restaurants and she gladly let him work the machine. She rang up all of our shopping on an ancient register, and came up with a total of just over $8.00. I told her I didn’t think that sounded right, so she let me come behind the counter and add it up. It ended up being closer to $30.00. She was appreciative and said that she had been told by people that she could trust bikers riding the Katy Trail.

More rain that night, but another nice day on Wednesday as we rode to McKittrick. We weren’t going to be able to make it much further so we went south over one of the few bridges over the river in that part of the state. Crossing the busy bridge we saw a small kitten that had been abandoned on the side of the road. Wet and cold, we made a nest in a handlebar bag and after getting directions, dropped her at the vet in Hermann, with a donation to help with the expense of finding a home for her.

We called Beth and told her where we would be when she came to retrieve us the next day. As we set up our tents in the beautiful city park near a small creek, the sheriff came and suggested we move to higher ground as they were expecting some flooding. We doubted the story, but moved anyway. Sure enough, we would have been swimming if we had stayed put. As it was, the ground near us became so wet that as we sat in the shelter waiting for Beth we watched in amazement as thousands, maybe millions of earthworms headed for higher ground. The concrete platform of the next shelter was totally covered in worms.

It was a great 4 days on the trail, our only disappointment that we couldn’t ride the whole way to St. Charles. I went back by myself that Labor Day weekend on Saturday morning. I parked at McKittrick and rode the last 75 miles to St. Charles. The campground mentioned in the guidebook turned out to not cater to tent campers, and I was too hot and tired to ride far for another campground, so I ended up at a motel for the night. In the early morning I got back on the trail and rode back to McKittrick, and drove home.

I would like to get back to the Katy Trail and ride the most scenic parts in small pieces. But, if they ever get it done I would love the idea of riding all the way across the state on the trail.