Sun, 26 Sep 2004

Nice ride, nasty fall

Several weeks ago, I learned that some riders were meeting at the local bike shop Sunday mornings for a group ride. I've joined them most Sundays since. They've been interesting rides.

This morning, I rode with Joe and Steve. Both are training for the Coeur d'Alene Ironman next June. The first time Steve joined us on a Sunday ride, I didn't recognize him, initially. Half way through the ride, I discovered we knew each other. He lived just around the corner from us for 5 or 6 years before moving out of the neighborhood. Our kids were good friends is Junior High and High School.

Today, we rode from the bike shop, Wheelsport, on Sullivan Road south on Highway 27 to the Palouse Highway, west to Valley-Chapel Road. Valley-Chapel Road is one of my favorite rides. It runs along a beautiful section of the Hangman Valley. There's little weekend traffic and the road is smooth and well maintained.

The route features a challenging climb from the Hangman Valley up on to the Palouse. The views from the high wheat fields are fantastic. There is an old chapel and cemetery on the route just west of the small community of Mt. Hope.

Steve's wife, Pam, had a food booth at the Farm Chicks' Antique show in Fairfield. We planned to drop by on our ride and say hello. I knew the that if we continued east past the cemetery and through Mt. Hope, we'd hit Highway 27 again about 6 miles north of Fairfield. Not familiar with other roads in the area we didn't know for certain, but suspected a turn south at the cemetery would likely lead us to Fairfield.

It did, but it was a longer than expected, hilly detour. We rode almost into Waverly at the southern most point of the route and a looped back north into Fairfield.

We were rewarded for our effort with some of Pam's famous baked goods. The chocolate treats fulled our ride back home but caused my stomach to churn in rhythm with my legs for awhile.

For much of the ride back north on Highway 27 we shared the work at the front with Joe doing 80% of the work and Steve and I helping where we could. (Joe is an incredibly strong, talented rider. Attempting to keep up with him on these Sunday morning rides has really improved my fitness. They are real workouts for me.)

Just north of Mica with maybe 6 or 8 miles of riding left, Steve got his front wheel overlapped with Joe's back wheel. I was at the back and luckily saw the trouble from the start and was able to get clear. Steve was in the aero bars and couldn't get to his brakes in time. He bumped Joe's back wheel 3 times before hitting the pavement and sliding off into the dirt.

Joe almost went down. That last bump knocked his back wheel sideways and he went skidding off the shoulder into the dirt but avoided a fall. I went clear to the left and managed to stay out of the fray.

Steve was scraped up—elbows, knees, hands, shoulder, and hip. But he wasn't badly damaged—no deep lacerations or broken bones. He was more embarrassed than hurt. Steve is an excellent athlete. He's been running with a passion since 1997 and competes frequently in marathons. But cycling is new. Riding in a pace-line has its dangers and Steve learned one of them today. I'm sure he'll be quite sore for a week, but at least no one was badly injured.

If not for Steve's fall, it would have been a near perfect ride. We covered 70 very hilly miles in 3 hours 40 minutes. I was quite pleased with that. I was suffering and holding the group back a bit near Waverly and Fairfield, but Pam's treats gave me the energy to finish strong. On the way out, I had my best time of the year up the grade on Highway 27—under 6 minutes. Overall, I think it was one of my strongest performances of the year. I'm hoping for more good riding weather in the weeks to come and more rides like this one, minus the crash.

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Wed, 22 Sep 2004

Mad Cow

Yesterday, on my ride to work I was surprised to see a huge cow enter the street just ahead of me. It made it's entry from behind a business on Sprague Avenue and McDonald Road and went trotting up McDonald at a good clip, detouring briefly to trample sprinkler heads and lawn ornaments before heading east down Main.

As I passed Main I could see the cow headed into the sun flinging streams of snot left and right as its head bobbed and blowing clouds of steam.

The cow was really moving and looked mighty unhappy. I didn't want to get too close being quite vulnerable on my open-air, two-wheeled vehicle. But a block later, realizing I had a digital camera in the handlebar bag, I made a U-turn and went back in search of the runaway.

I missed the photo op, though. The beast had disappeared.

Shortly after I arrived at work, Jenny called. She wondered if I'd seen a cow on my way to work. Sure did! I told her. She'd gone to Buzzy's (a drive-thru espresso stand) for her tall-hot-skinny-single-white-coffee-mocha (sounds like a personal ad, eh?). There were cops everywhere, she said. One went racing through the Buzzy's parking lot while she waited in line. The girl that waited on her told her they were trying to capture an escaped cow.

This morning, there was an article in the Spokesman Review (subscription required) about it.

Apparently, a butcher shot the cow but didn't kill it. Police finally brought it down but not before they shot it several times. It changed officers and a police car, and I'm sure it frightened a fair number of school kids waiting for busses and walking to school.

You really never know what sights to expect when traveling on two wheels.

[/cycling] [link]

Tue, 21 Sep 2004

Tour Des Lacs

Jenny and I rode the Tour Des Lacs this past weekend. We rode the 84 mile Long Route with Cruise Saturday, and the 73 mile Three Lakes Route Sunday.

The weather forecast for the week leading up to the event was dismal. We were dreading the prospect of rain both days. We were lucky, though. It was cold both mornings, and the road was wet for the first 40 miles or so on Saturday, but it never rained on us. And Sunday we actually got some sun.

I fixed three flat tires on the ride. The first came early in the ride Saturday. I generally climb the hills at my own pace and wait for Jenny at the top. As I was topping a mile long climb, my cell phone gave the message alert tone. Who, I wondered, would be leaving me a voice mail message at 7AM on a Saturday morning?

It was Jenny. "Marc, I have flat tire. Do you think you can come back and help me with it?"

The long stream of riders struggling up the hill must have thought I'd lost my mind when I turned around and headed back to the bottom.

Jenny had company when I arrived. Another lady cyclist had pulled up to offer moral support. And a motorcycle was parked behind her with the emergency flashers on.

Those motorcycles were a frequent and welcomed sight on the tour. Volunteers patrolled the course, directing traffic, assisting cyclists in need, and calling for help when necessary.

All three were looking at the bike. Jenny and the motorcycle rider were fumbling with tire levers. None really knew how to change a flat. So I gave a detailed lesson as I replaced the tube in Jenny's front tire.

About 5 miles later, we rode up on a lady who had removed the front wheel from her bike and was staring at it with a puzzled expression. Do you need any help? I asked as we approached.

If you don't mind, she said. "I'll watch closely so I can fix it myself next time."

She had the exact same bike as Jenny. The only two I've seen. I gave another crash course in roadside tire repair and we were on our way again.

At the first food stop in Rockford, we saw the lady that had lent moral support to Jenny. Have you fixed any more flats? she asked.

Yes. In fact, I have. She hadn't expected my reply.

Really!? Yours or your wife's?

I told her the story. A few minutes later she found us again. Hey, she said, "This is my friend! We've been riding together. I was wondering where she was." She had her arm around the lady whose tire I had repaired.

What a coincidence. Out of 800 riders, the two we'd met so far were together.

The third flat was my own. On Sunday morning I discovered my rear tire was flat as we were leaving the hotel room. At least that time I had the comfort a chair and a warm room to make the repair.

In another coincidence, we met a couple that had ridden the Spokane Autumn Century the week before. They happened to be in the crash I wrote about. They were following the lady that cried out and crashed right behind me. Apparently she completely lost control of her bike as she approached the corner. The woman we met on the TDL said she saw it unfold in front of her and shouted over her shoulder, Rider down. Her partner didn't hear what she'd said. When he finally saw the rider down it was too late. He slid into his partner, taking them both down, as he tried to avoid the fallen rider.

Obviously, they weren't badly injured. We met them at the St. Maries food stop about 65 miles into the first day's ride. They were riding well.

Another sight that became familiar on the ride was the Bike Doctor. A gentleman from Wenatchee has a fully equipped bicycle repair business in a trailer he pulls behind his truck. We saw him at just about every food stop and he always seemed busy. We heard other cyclists talking happily about the repairs they'd had done while they waited.

I bought a pair of cleats from him. Jenny and I both had worn cleats, but I didn't replace them until after the ride, anyway. I just wanted to give the Bike Doctor a bit of business in hopes it would help make his weekend profitable. I'd like to see him on rides we do in the future. You never know when you might need a repair.

The ride was a real treat. We covered some back roads we haven't been on in the 13 years we've lived here, saw some great scenery, enjoyed the outdoors, met some fine people, and met a long standing goal—to do the Tour Des Lacs.

[/cycling] [link]

Mon, 13 Sep 2004

Jenny’s first century

Jenny in Spokane Autumn Century T-shirt Jenny did her fist century (100 miler), yesterday. We rode the Spokane Autumn Century together. The twenty-fifth annual event was organized by the Spokane Bicycle Club with many friendly, helpful volunteers and sponsors.

Every rider received a nice water bottle, seat bag, and coupons for some free, delicious food items. Thanks to the sponsors for the schwag! Among them: Two Wheel Transit, North Division Bicycle, Slick Rock Burrito, and Didier's Yogurt & More. T-shirts were available for an optional fee, which we elected, and we're really happy with them. They are navy blue, long sleeved, polyester, athletic T-shirts with a very nice design on the front commemorating the ride. They are, by far, the best T-shirts we've collected from such rides.

The cool (dare I say cold) drizzily weather for the first half or more of the ride was a challenge. Jenny doesn't tolerate the cold well, so it tested her mental toughness. She prevailed.

In the first few miles, the route descended a reasonably steep, winding road to the Spokane River. The road was rain slick. A woman ahead of me was braking hard to slow for a sharp right turn. I, in turn, had to brake hard to avoid overtaking her. As I was braking, I was thinking, Damn. Braking any harder would put me in a slide.

Just then, behind me, I heard a woman gasp then hit the pavement. More sounds of a crash followed. I pulled to the side and stopped forty or fifty yards down the road. Looking back, I could see riders piled up on the outside of the turn. Oncoming traffic had stopped and other cyclists were swarming around the downed riders, one of which was holding her head and either writhing in pain or trying to curl up and make her self a smaller target for any more riders headed her way.

There were a few anxious moments before I saw Jenny round the corner safely. Knowing she wasn't far behind me, I had been concerned she may have gone down in the fray.

Later, at a rest stop, I heard there were three riders involved with no serious injuries. Hopefully that is indeed the case and they'll be back on their bikes soon.

I got a wasp or hornet trapped in my helmet about the twenty mile mark. He had a good time stinging my bald head before I got stopped and released him. Then he made four or five angry dives at Jenny and I before leaving the scene. The little bugger had a bad case of road rage.

There were plenty of rest stops with food and drink. The best at a park in Deer Park—a small community north of Spokane. The route took us by that stop, twice. First, just before the half way point, then again sixteen miles before the finish.

At the first Deer Park stop, we were cold and tired. The only warmth we had was generated by the constant movement, especially the hill climbs. Stopped at the park, the heat quickly drained from us and getting back on the bikes was a challenge. The next few miles were tough.

Eventually, the rain stopped and we even got a bit of sun.

About the eighty mile mark, Jenny reached a point of near exhaustion. We stopped and she consumed a packet of GU she'd purchased last week at REI. That seemed to do the trick. Within the next few miles she'd regained her stamina and we continued to Deer Park for the final rest stop.

We had seen the same half-dozen riders at nearly every rest stop. We would pass them, they would pass us, but inevitably, we'd all end up an the rest stops together. On the final stretch from Deer Park back to Spokane, we saw them all, again. As we climbed some of the hills leading back to Spokane, we passed a couple of them. They passed while we were stopped over the top of one of the hills putting a thrown chain back on Jenny's bike. Then we passed them a final time on the last climb.

There were hot burritos and frozen yogurt waiting at the finish.

Next weekend, we ride the Tour Des Lacs, a two-day event. The first day we'll ride 85 miles with a cumulative elevation gain of 3500 feet that takes us around the south side of Lake Coeur d'Alene and into the city of Coeur d'Alene for the night. The next day is a 73 mile rolling route back to Spokane.

The forecast is for some of the same, cool, wet weather. Hopefully the weather will change for the better. We'd really like to ride in more pleasant conditions. But we'll take what we can get.

[/cycling] [link]

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