Wednesday, June 30, 2010

red mountain pass

I borrowed this picture via Facebook from a Ride the Rockies rider. This "bike lane" on Red Mountain Pass was created by a micro-brewer in Ouray.

Red Mountain Pass and the "Million Dollar Highway" were part of last year's route for CRMBT. This year's route will offer some great passes, plus a ride up Mt Evans, and through Rocky Mountain National Park on Trail Ridge Road. Four more weeks to train: ride as much as possible, and hold my breath as long as I can. ;)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

Tomorrow my in-laws, Roger & Pat Bramel will have been married for 50 years! Two days later my wife and I will reach 25 years together. I thought that those kind of anniversaries only happened to old people, and that's not the case with the four of us. I'm truly sorry that we can't be together this weekend, but we're planning a get-together for later this summer to celebrate all the married-ness.

I've heard horror stories about in-laws, and I've watched "Everybody Loves Raymond", but I couldn't ask for better in-laws than Roger and Pat. They''re both retired school teachers. I think it's in Roger's blood, because over the years I've learned something from spending time with him. I don't let him teach me anything about chemistry, but I have learned things about gardening, fishing, and golf. Roger is one of those people who can talk to anyone, and find something they have in common, and make them feel like talking to them is where he wants to be at that moment.

My mother-in-law, Pat, has a sense of humor close to mine, and we've laughed together often over the years. She's always made me feel so welcome in their home, and family. There have been times when I was able to make it home during the summer but Beth was not. I didn't hesitate to invite myself to spend time with them in town or at the lake. I'm incredibly lucky to have both of my parents still around. And I'm doubly blessed to have Pat and Roger in my life as well. Happy Anniversary to you, Roger and Pat! We'll see you in August.

Love, Jeff

Thursday, June 24, 2010

bak to the real world

I ended my ride across Kansas with 543.4 miles. The terrain and towns we went through reminded me a lot of riding around the eastern half of South Dakota. However, there was a whole different feel to this tour.
The daily distances were never very long, and if you wanted to do a century, you were on your own. Many riders doubled back on the same road far enough to get 100 miles in when they finished. They could hit the same SAG stops as everyone else, but the scenery must have looked pretty familiar.
It had an inclusive feel. Many riders would ride part of the day, or take turns riding days, with a personal SAG helping them out when they couldn't continue. For many it seemed it was more important to take part in Biking Across Kansas, than actually biking across Kansas. That's not how I like to approach a ride, but it's kind of nice.
There were meetings nightly that some riders chose not to attend, but as a first-timer I wanted to get the feel for the whole experience, so I faithfully went. At the meetings staff covered the next day's route, weather forecast, where we might find lunch along the way, and even a little history of the area. If you wanted to spend a lot of time checking out museums, historical markers and such, this would be a great tour on which to do it. They also asked that riders wore name tags all week, and sign out when you left in the morning, and sign in when you arrived.
Sometimes the reminders about breaking down to single file when cresting a hill, washing you hands before taking food or filling your water bottle made me feel like I was in grade school again, with a Penske truck rather than a short bus. But it served us well, and a lot of folks seemed to like the  camaraderie. I guess it's nice that strong riders can ride fast, do centuries, and have support for a ride across KS. And novices, or not-as-serious cyclists, can ride at their own pace, and still enjoy a multi-day, supported tour. 
I met a lot of friendly people from Kansas and several other states. And while we didn't become best friends, we spent time riding together, eating together, and laughing together. There was always a friendly face to say hi to as the week went on. I would like to do BAK again sometime, but it doesn't need to be soon. There are many other states I need to ride through, and Colorado keeps calling me back for some of the most beautiful, challenging rides I could want. But, as you know if you've read my blog before, anytime I can spend the week with nothing to worry about but where to ride, what to eat, and where to pitch my tent, it's a great week. If you love riding, you would love a week-long tour. Get out and ride!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

sunrise over I-70

Last night didn't get below 76 degrees. Pretty toasty for sleeping in a tent. I slept on top of my pad, no sleeping bag, and kept both doors open for slight ventilation. I was awake at 4:30am, and even though it was a short final day, I figured I might as well get started. BAK was providing breakfast by Chris Cakes starting at 5:30, so I was all packed up with my bags on the truck and ready to roll when I went to breakfast. I was on the road by 6:00am with 30-some miles to go through Tonganoxie, onto and through Leavenworth to the Missouri River.
Some ladies from the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce had visited Eudora the night before and gave us a slight detour from our published route that took us by some great old mansions and through their historic downtown. I think it was worth it.
We were met with a few sprinkles as we road into town, but mostly it was just overcast. It took a little while to find the part of the park with the boat ramp so you could get all the way to the river, but I finally made it for the obligatory shot of dipping my wheel in the water. A couple of other riders were at the river at the same time, and as we left, one of them said the weather looked like it was getting worse. Not two minutes later we were riding to the park where our "celebration lunch" was supposed to be served, in a torrential downpour. I was completely soaked from my halo headband to my water-filled Sidi shoes.
As riders made it to the park, we began to huddle under the few small shelters trying to dry off and warm-up. What a difference a few hours can make in Kansas! One woman walked across the street and asked a stranger to loan us a couple of towels. Beth was going to pick me up and have lunch with me in the park, but by this point I didn't care about barbecued chicken, I wanted coffee! I called her and asked her to meet me about the time I thought the luggage trucks would arrive. She timed it perfectly, and by11:00am I was in a warm car on my way home.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

biking across kansas winding down

My day on the bike got started at 7:00am again and I felt really good for the 32 miles to Ottawa. This was called out as a lunch possibility, but I was there before 9:00am. I could have really gone for a cafe with good coffee, a roll, or maybe a late breakfast. Without going too far off the route I saw a cafe sign that turned out to be converted to a Chinese restaurant, and not open to boot! I settled for a Casey's General Store and sat and visited with some riders while enjoying coffee and donuts. I also called home for a weather forecast because the sky looked dark. It appeared that our best bet was to get on our way, so I headed out.

I missed a turn somewhere, but knew there was a road I could take to get to Baldwin City from the west rather than the south like everyone else. There was a great downhill out of Baldwin City that had me going at least 40mph. I can't be exact because when I glanced at my computer it said 0mph. The sensor had been too close earlier in the week and I moved it out a little to stop the ticking. My weight over the fork in my tuck was enough to flex the carbon fiber and stop the computer from working. When I sat up again, it was fine. My legs felt like rubber for a couple hours in the afternoon as the temps climbed into the 90s with plenty of humidity. The last several miles to Eudora were from the south, and the slight tailwind helped me maintain 20mph all the way into town.
I was among the first riders in, and we waited for a sufficient number to unload all the bags from the Penske truck. I set up my tent next to the ball field on the other side of Padre's Cycle Inn, a service that will set up a tent, air mattress, and chair for you, put your bag in your tent, and have refreshment waiting for you when you ride in. I did rent a chair and a clean towel daily from Padre.
At each overnight there was an information board, lost & found, and a board to sign out when you left in the morning, and back in when you arrived in the afternoon. Amazingly there were items in the lost & found on the very first day, and the box seemed fuller every day. Maybe it was just "lost".
The city of Eudora scheduled their "summer in the park" celebration to coincide with BAK rolling into town. Aside from at least a dozen food vendors inside and out, there was entertainment all evening long. First a jazz quartet from the high school did a nice job with a few numbers. Then a solo act did several songs from the 70s up to the last few years. He really had a good voice and could play well too. Then a rock & roll trio played for more than two hours. After some prodding we got them to play Free Bird.
One more short day to go and I will have literally biked across Kansas. It was slightly more comfortable than it had been earlier as the sun went down over Eudora.

Monday, June 21, 2010

bak 2010 - council grove and osage city

I took my time getting going this morning, and rolled out of Herington at about 7:00am. The route took us on some nice rollers and I was making good time so I skipped the first SAG stop about 10 miles from town.
There was another stop as we neared Council Grove, and the SAG hags had a Christmas theme with Santa, elves and reindeer. Holiday music was playing and red and green sprinkled sugar cookies were served.
An 1825 treaty signed with a council from the Osage nation allowed wagon traffic to pass through this area on the Santa Fe Trail. The council would convene under a large grove of trees, giving the town it's name. At one time this was the last place to get supplies as pioneers headed westward.

The Santa Fe Trail was used until the railroad reached Junction City in 1866. This KATY depot was part of the Missouri, Kansas, Texas line. The abbreviated MKT came to be called KATY, and the Katy Trail in Missouri is the nation's longest rail-to-trail project.
Late morning had us riding into the Flint Hills. They gave us some good climbs and welcome descents.
There were reminders of travelers on horseback through these hills as travelers on two wheels pedaled by.
About 17 miles from our destination of Osage City we passed through Allen. A young lady with a sign stood by the turn into town inviting us to partake of baked goods and cold drinks. But we were there before they were ready for us. There was nothing going on downtown, except for a few folks heading into the bar. I went in and had a soda and the last piece of peanut butter-chocolate pie. The girls had their goodies out by the time I passed again, so I stopped and bought a bottle of water and some cookies for my pocket. The last SAG of the day was 10 miles down the road, set up in a gravel driveway with lawn chairs and shade trees. I rested and ate my cookies and visited with some of the Wichita contingent. I finished with 64.3 miles on the day, and walked the few blocks to Market Street for dinner.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

bak 2010 - I Heart Herington

The plan was to take a little easy today. I didn't leave Minneapolis until 8:00am. Some nice country roads, smooth pavement and little traffic, had me riding faster than I had planned. Like my buddy, Pat, says "Take what the road gives you". Eight or nine miles out of town there was a SAG stop, and I saw John from VA as we refilled our bottles. We rode together and visited for several miles. When he dropped back I pushed on. The next SAG stop was in Talmage, where the SAG hags had a patriotic theme going.
As we neared Abilene we crossed I-70 to the south for the first time this week. I made the 43 miles to Abilene in less than 3 hours so I joined a small group waiting for the Pizza Hut to open at 11:00 so I could carbo-load at the buffet. After they opened they informed us that the buffet wouldn't be ready until 11:30, so I headed back to an old drive-thru and enjoyed burger, fries, and root beer on the ledge of their flower bed.
Then I spent some time taking pictures of the Eisenhower library, museum, and home. My parents and I had driven out to Abilene and spent the day here several years ago, and my Dad was able to tell us of his experience with some of the vehicles and weapons on display.
As we headed out of town we waited with the rest of the traffic for a train to pass. Shortly after the crossing I spotted some Shetland ponies and goats, one of which seemed as curious about me as I was about him. Maybe he was just looking for a handout. Perhaps pie?
22 miles from Abilene, a couple hours after lunch, we rolled into Hope, KS and they had cold water and homemade ice cream for us in the city park.
Our destination for the day was Herington. Honestly I had never heard of Herington, but the welcome they gave us surpassed many warm welcomes we had already received. First they had asked the tour organizers to have us come into town from the west and south. Less traffic on these roads, and the chance to see more of their town made it a great suggestion. We rolled by beautiful little lakes, a charming old downtown, and some great neighborhoods. Every person we saw waved to us. Many had welcome signs on their lawns, or in the windows of their businesses. As we turned off of Main St. volunteers handed us small bags of snack mix, and as we rolled into the high school we were handed a small cup of cold Gatorade. At every turn volunteers in yellow vests were there to direct us, and stop traffic for us!
They had food vendors set up at the school. Benches made from 2 x 12s and straw bales were in place for us to sit and eat and visit with the locals who came to welcome us and see what 800 people riding across KS look like. The dogs look different in Herington, but like I told the school superintendent who was present to help riders get on the shuttle downtown, answer questions, etc. " I live in Olathe, but Herrington is my new favroite town in Kansas".