Moving On

The original purpose behind The Fourteen Percent Ride has long since been fulfilled. So, I've decided that Mighty Proud will be the last posting. It just seems right.

But, don't worry. Or maybe you should. In any event, I plan to continue. I'll keep riding. And writing. Click here to come along in my new blog ~ The Long White Line. <-- check it out!


As I've ridden for the last two years, I've picked up on the fact that Shirley, my darling wife, has been more worried about my safety than impressed with my "accomplishments." How do I know this? Well, when I'd come back and tell her, for example, that I'd hit 53.6 mph going down FO, she'd reply, "I don't want to hear it." Being the sensitive sort I figured out, after many such comments, that just maybe we were not on the same page here. But last week, she told me that she would "greatly reduce her focus on the 'fear for my safety' issue." We talked about the tour, looked at some maps, researched nutrition suggestions on the internet, and so on, just enjoying the idea of the ride. How nice is that? Thank you, Shirley!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Saturday Songfest

There are some constants in a long ride, I discovered. One is the white line along the side of the road. The following can be sung, I think, to the tune of I Walk the Line, which you can hear here

I keep a close watch on this pace of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I watch the road that glides beneath my wheels
I ride the line, the long white line

From Seattle to Skykomish in the rain
Stevens Pass, three thousand feet to gain
Wenatchee to the great Grand Coulee dam
I ride the line, the long white line

To Spokane and Kellogg, Idaho
Up Thompson Pass to Montana we do go
Thompson Falls and to Missoula town
I ride the line, the long white line

Many wonders on this ride I see
Western Highways 2 to 93
One more mile in a new place I will be
I ride the line, the long white line

I kept a close watch on that pace of mine
I kept my eyes wide open all the time
I watched the road that slid beneath my wheels
I rode the line, the long white line

Stories from the ride continue tomorrow...

See Johnny Cash sing I Walk the Line by clicking here

Friday, June 29, 2007

A Long One (Ride and Posting!)

Tuesday, June 19
Wenatchee to Electric City

What is the most common form of road kill out here? By my count, it is the bungee snake. Usually found hanging on to tarpaulins covering cargo on car tops, truck beds or trailers, you see them all over the shoulders. I guess they can only hang on for just so long and then have to give it up. You do see a lot more of the thin, multi-colored ones than the more sturdy black genus of this family of fauna. Natural selection at work.

Today was to be the first long ride on the Washington plains. Which it was. After the 7 mile, 6% climb 24 miles out of Wenatchee. It is a ride on the HIGH plains. A detail not explained until last night’s route briefing. But again, the climb is not so terribly difficult and is much different from yesterdays. Now we are pedaling up a dry valley. Lots of rocks, not too much vegetation. It is warm, but early enough to not be really hot. The road winds around the valley walls with great views down and then up on the other side. I catch up to Carol (Cycle America tour leader) part way up. She has a skull hanging from her handlebars. Not one of our riders, but what we decide later is probably a pronghorn.

After the climb the road drops back down into Waterville, the first quarter-point water station. I Gatorade up as the next 18 miles is described on the route sheet as “Rolling hills. Scarce shade. No Services." And that is a pretty good description. It was interesting and again much different from the last two days where we had tall forests, mountains and roiling rivers. Along one stretch I saw a number of dust devils. Most were small whirlwinds, but one larger one seemed to have aspirations of becoming a tornado. A mini-van had stopped on the side of the road and a young boy was videotaping this dance of dust in the empty field.

My chain came off as I downshifted to go up on the one of the many rollers. It went back on easily, but a few minutes later I picked up a piece of wire which became stuck in my rear derailleur. It was a pretty hefty wire and I was beginning to wonder if I could get it out. As I was fooling around with this, I could see our Penske luggage truck approaching. I decided to flag it down (you raise your hand in the air and make a fist to ask for assistance) to see if they had some wire cutters. But I was too late and they did not see the signal. However, it only took a few more seconds of maneuvering the wire before it dropped out. These two events were to be the only mechanical issues I had on the entire 620 mile ride. Not a single flat, broken cable. Nothing. I never, ever expected that.

After lunch we come quickly to a four mile descent. A Grand Canyonesque hole in the high plains. A spectacular ride down into a valley that looked to have been carved by eons of rushing water, but which was now bone dry.

Being a hole such as it was, you can probably guess what comes next. A four mile climb. That’s what the route sheet said. However, after climbing out of the canyon, the road rolled along, with each "up" being higher than the preceding "down," so it was net climbing for many miles. The road finally levels off and I am riding again in the high plains. These long, relatively flat sections were some of the harder parts of the ride. A big part of that was mental, as you ride for an hour, look around and nothing has changed. The only real sign of progress is the mileage reading on your computer.

About 15 miles of this and I come up on another descent, this time into Coulee City, the second water stop. There is a lake up ahead, trapped behind Chief Joseph dam. Dropping down to lake level, the road goes across a low earthen embankment called Dry Falls dam. I think, “So this is where all of the dry that fills the canyons comes from.” The route sheet had BEACH! Noted at the water stop which was in a community park. The geese in the area apparently knew about the beach too. It was best to not walk too close to the water. I do not think anyone took a dip before heading out for the last 26 miles of the ride.

Leaving Coulee City, the route turns off onto Washington Highway 155, the road to Grand Coulee dam. Soon, I am riding along Banks Lake, the water to my left and towering rock cliffs on the right. The road is flat, the wind is pushing and I had recovered a bit at the water stop. This was good riding. Even the 2 mile climb that came out of nowhere wasn’t a problem. And it was followed by a two mile descent on the other side.

At 2:30 p.m., after 99.4 miles, I pull into Sunbanks Resort and Campground, just outside of Electric City, having ridden just over 7 hours, the longest day of riding for the entire week. Bill has already found a good campsite up against the trees. He procures refreshment while I shower. A long, interesting ride.

Today’s ride ~ 99.4 miles
Trip total ~ 254.3 miles
Ride time today ~ 7 hours 9 minutes

Thursday, June 28, 2007


I've added some pictures to the posts from the last three days...check them out!


Monday, June 18
Skykomish to Wenatchee

You only get to do something for the first time once. This trip provided an above average number of chances for firsts for me. First organized tour, first seven-days-in-a-row-of-riding in a week, first Cascade Mountains espresso stand, and so on. Today, my very first mountain pass. We are to leave Skykomish and climb up over the 4,061 foot Stevens Pass. Not a giant pass, as mountain passes go. But my first. We had about 3,100 feet of climbing from Skykomish - a surprise as I had thought the town was farther up than it was. While we had done 2,000 feet of climbing yesterday (according to the info on the queue sheet) our net altitude gain was only 940 feet.

Skykomish has apparently moved 600 feet up the hill. Yesterday's queue sheet said we would end our ride in the town at an altitude of 940 feet. Today's sheet says we start our ride in Skykomish at an altitude of 1,000 feet. I must have slept well last night - I did not notice the jump.

We set out on a misty, but not rainy, morning, still cool enough for tights and a jacket. After a short ride on Highway 2, a road we would get to know well, we turned off onto Iron Goat Trail. This was a great loop through the rain forest. About a mile in we go over a bridge spanning a swift running stream just below a waterfall. Wow.

We leave Iron Goat a bit farther up the mountain and begin the 7 mile climb to the top on Highway 2. The climb is not as hard as some around La Crosse; while longer, it is not so steep. To my left, the land falls away while to my right it rises with a rocky face. About 3/4's of the way up, the road bends to the right. Looking up ahead, I see a very dark cloud in the mist and wonder if I am about to get dumped on. Soon I can see that this dark spot is not a cloud, rather a large mountain on the other side of the cut to my left. The mist clears some more and I see a stream literally falling down the steep face. I stop, extract my camera from the little bag on the bar in front of me. I'm just in time to snap a picture of the mist as it closes in and obscures my view. This happens one more time, but the third time that the low clouds moved away I had a spectacular view of the mountain and got several good pictures, like the one below.

I continued the climb and soon a building came into view up ahead. While I thought it might be the top of the pass, the climb had not seemed as hard as I expected and was ready for for more uphill. But, it was in fact the top and I was soon standing under the Stevens Pass sign with Philip taking my picture. First mountain pass.

The result of climbing is the need to descend. It was cool and damp as I started down the eastern slope. And it started to sleet. This was not looking good. But it stopped as quickly as it started. I like descents - the ones around La Crosse anyway as that had been, until now, the sum total of my experience. But this was different. Not as steep, but long. Down, down down. It was harder than I thought it would be and on this descent, cold. So cold, the muscles in my abdomen started to cramp up. I tried to relax and just go with the flow. Once down, it was a nice ride to the picnic stop. And the picnic stop was in a great location, a roadside rest stop right on a swift moving river. Across the water we spot an osprey nested on the top of a dead tree.

The ride carries us through Leavenworth (no, not THAT Leavenworth), a town built to look like a Bavarian village then to Cashmere. After Cashmere, we get a little lost and backtrack about a mile. We are looking for Pioneer Road which changes to Easy Street when it crosses the highway. A pickup truck comes up to the stop sign where we are parked and we ask the driver if he knows where Easy Street is. He says, "If I knew where it was, I'd be on it right now." We meet Philip and the other Jack and talk things over, deciding finally that we were on the right track after all. We go back and eventually find the turn and continue on.

We finally make Wenatchee and choose a campsite near the school building to get some afternoon shade. Then, we get on the bikes and head into town, in search of new tire pumps and refreshment. We find both.

Dinner and a meeting in the school cafeteria then I go out and watch a baseball game at the diamond adjacent to where we are camping. After a couple of innings, I go up to the tent and watch the game from there. I close my eyes once and when I open them, the field is empty, players and spectators nowhere to be seen. I figure it is time to zip up the flaps, get in my sleeping bag and call it a day.

Today’s ride ~ 78.2 miles
Trip total ~ 149.3 miles
Ride time today ~ 5 hours 17 minutes

We added 5.6 miles and 33 minutes of riding as we tooled around Wenatchee. I did not ride an inch that I didn't count in the mileage, so it is now 154.9 miles on the trip.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Bigfoot Country

Sunday, June 17
Marysville to Skykomish

Part way through today's ride, I come to a walk-up/drive-through (and now bike-up) espresso stand on the highway up into the Cascades. This place is all right. There is a large wooden carving of Bigfoot there - the Harry and the Hendersons version, anyway. Part of the movie was filmed here. There is a sign in the picnic park adjacent to the coffee stand: Pet Area. I think Bigfoot put it there.

It had rained off and on, mostly on, all night and it was cool and damp when we got up about 5 a.m. Tights and jackets were in order. The ride started with a short jaunt to the restaurant for breakfast followed by a 10 mile ride south and west to Everett where we dipped our rear tires in Tulalip Bay before we headed east. (Read about the Tulalip Indian tribes by clicking here). The rain came and went as we rode out of town. We ride through Everett, Snohomish, Monroe and Sultan before lunch, getting farther and farther from the cityscapes. Lunch was just past Sultan and there was quite the spread. It was 36 miles into the ride and it felt good to get to get off the bike and eat. However, it did not take long to start feeling really chilly, so it was back on the road. One of the hardest parts of any ride are the first 2 miles after a 20 minute stop on a cool day. It is tough to get limbered up again.

Shortly after leaving the picnic stop (PS on the queue sheets) we go through Startup, Washington and, not too surprisingly, start the trip up into the Cascades. After Startup, we pass through Gold Bar then Baring. Baring is the second H2O stop, where we find water coolers and two canisters of powdered Gatorade. We are now climbing gradually and there are lush forests and rushing rivers. It is raining and I'm wet, but I could not be enjoying the experience any more than I am. It is just great.

It was in this stretch that I had gotten ahead of Bill, something that doesn't happen too often. So far ahead, in fact, that I could not see him on the few longer, straight stretches of road here in the foothills of the Cascades. I kept going, climbing more now until I reached the aforementioned espresso stand. Here, I clean off some of the muck from the bike, use the facilities (Port-a-potties we saw all during the trip were called Honey Pots. Cute.) and get a cup of espresso, all the while sneaking peeks down the hill for any sign of Bill. A mini-van pulls up and the driver says that if I'm looking for a rider in a yellow jacket then he was working on his bike, but would probably be along soon. I was relieved, figuring it wasn't any worse than a flat. Soon I see a yellow-jacketed rider coming up the hill; it is Philip, not Bill. We chat for a bit and he continues on. Finally, Bill pulls into the parking lot. A flat (which isn't too big a deal) stopped him. But then the problems started. First, he had only one tube and the repair failed soon after it was installed. I don't have a clear memory of the sequence of events, but it involved one of the other riders, a second tube, a failure of Bill's pump to inflate the tire prompting said other rider to offer use of his CO2 inflator and a realization that the rear tire was not in good shape, a worn through spot probably pinching the tube and causing the flats. Everything seemed in order and we rode on together. A short while later Bill’s tire softened. I used my pump to reinflate it and we rode on. Just a couple of miles from Skykomish, the tire was pretty flat again and I attached my pump, but to no avail. I could not get any air in and succeeded only in releasing much of the little pressure left. After a brief discussion, we decide I'll take off for Skykomish and Bill will walk. I expect to get a pump and come back. It is a short ride to the school which will serve as our overnight home. I cannot find a frame pump to carry back so I mount up to ride back and walk with Bill. Just then, Kathleen and Larry roll in and tell me Bill has gotten a ride; he pulls in just a few minutes later. A lady out walking her dogs near where we parted saw the situation and offered to carry Bill and his bike the remaining 2 miles into town.

Skykomish is a very small town just west of an 8 mile rail tunnel built in the 1920's. The railroad was the town's economy, but in recent years it has moved its operations farther west. It left a lot of the town saturated in fuel oil and the cleanup has only just begun. It was "indoor camping" tonight where we had the gym to roll out our sleeping bags. Some of us pitched tents in the hallways to allow them to dry. Having done that, it seemed logical to sleep in them. So, when the time came, some of us did. Dinner was served in the school cafeteria by the local Lions Club and we got a lesson on town history after the meal. That was very interesting, but the only time during the trip where this was offered. A folk-rock band entertained us after our meeting and we learned that the multi-talented Victoria (Cycle America staff) could also play the bass guitar. To bed early, to reflect on a truly amazing day for me.

Today’s ride ~ 71.1 miles
Trip total ~ 71.1 miles
Ride time today ~ 4 hours 40 minutes

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What Am I Doing Here?

Saturday, June 16
Minneapolis to Marysville, Washington

Have you ever washed your hands in a lavatory in England? My experience has been that there are sinks there with dual water controls and a single spout where, when you place your hands under it, you feel not a flow of warm water but two distinctly different streams, one quite cold and the other hot. No mixing out to an average at all. That’s kind of how I felt about the ride. On one hand, I was confident. A lot of miles and a lot of hills around La Crosse should have me ready. On the other hand, there were so many things I had not done…over 600 miles in one week, 7 straight days of riding, multiple near 100 mile days including 3 in a row. And mountains. Not bluffs. Mountains. Hot and cold. Equal measures of confidence and apprehension.

As we descend into Seattle the pilot reports broken clouds. I didn’t know they were that fragile. He manages to manuever through them with no damage to the plane, however. We get our bags and bikes and wait for the Cycle America transportation. It shows up at more or less the appointed time although we do have a bit of a wait for others arriving on different flights. Here I am, sitting in the second row of the van, surrounded by people (who I would later learn were “tour junkies”) on their third or seventh or whatever cycling tour. Three ladies are sharing experiences. One cannot remember how many marathons she has run; another has done several triathlons, including the Ironman in Hawaii. The third is apparently just warming up by riding from Seattle to Boston. In January she plans a big ride: Cairo to Johannesburg. Africa. The thought runs through my mind, “What am I doing here?” Well, I think, I’m here to have fun, to see a good part of the Pacific Northwest and to find out what I can do on a big ride.

We reassemble our bikes and set up the tents at Pilchuck High School in Marysville, Washington, about 45 miles north of the Seattle airport. After signing in, we take the vans into town for dinner at a local restaurant. Our first lasagna meal. It will not be our last. It is Strawberry Festival time in Marysville and there is a big parade. We thought everyone had come out to welcome us and see us off on our big adventure. Oh well. Later, an organizational meeting in the gym where we meet each other and the staff. The routers describe tomorrow's ride and hand out the first of our 7 queue sheets, detailing the route. Something else to learn. Then, to the tents. I wake up during the night to the sound of rain tip-tapping on my tent. It doesn’t matter. I’m ready to ride.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Ending the Suspense

Fearing that the suspense may be too much for some readers, I'll reveal that yes, I did make it through the seven days of the Northwest Sampler tour. Six hundred twenty miles in 7 days; 41 hours on the seat. From Pilchuck High School in Marysville, Washington to the University of Montana campus in Missoula. The one word summary: Awesome! Details to come. I'm still working on how to describe each day, share the experiences, explain the feelings.

What do you do after you return from 7 days on a bicycle? Laundry. I have the second load of clothes in the wash now. I pity the TSA checked luggage inspector who opened up the bag where I had my cycling clothes stashed. He earned his pay yesterday. The bike is next. Clean it. Reassemble it. Get it ready to ride again. Yes, I'll ride again soon. And I am already looking at a tour for next year. Awesome.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Did I Make It?

Were the climbs and descents of the mountain passes and the long rides in the high plains too much? Or did the 2,050 miles of training pay off? The answers will be revealed in the next week (or so). Stay tuned for the rest of the story...

Friday, June 15, 2007

Going, going, ....

Almost gone. This is the last posting before the ride, From now on, I'll be writing in my journal. That's it to the right. I do not plan to add to the blog during the ride, but will add one posting for each day of the trip in the week or so after I return.

There is a new link in the "Some Links..." section on the sidebar. It is a live (updated once each 5 minutes) view of Stevens Pass, where we will go "over the top" of the Cascades sometime on Monday.

Thanks for working through the training with me. I hope you enjoy the ride too. Me, I'm looking forward to it with much anticipation and more than a little apprehension.

Tracking Tools

Here are maps of our ride. I'm not sure of the exact highways we will use -- we get briefed every evening about the next day's ride but have no information of the specifics now.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I was talking to Pavak about screw compressors. Engineer stuff. When the phone rang -- actually, when it made one of those unnatural sounds that passes for a ring these days -- I turned around and looked at the info screen. An 800 number. A nuisance call. We kept talking. Then an email notice popped up on my computer. Something caught my eye: the words "Flight Cancellation Notice." Our flight would not leave for 36 hours; what could this be about? I looked at the message. Well, well. It was our flight. Later I would discover that phone call was from Northwest with a computer generated voice breaking the news in that special way only a computer generated voice can. Saturday morning's La Crosse to Minneapolis leg was cancelled. Thirty-six hours, a day and a half, before scheduled departure. You must be kidding. We were rebooked already, though. On the 6:37 PM flight. The Seattle leg scheduled to arrive there at 11:40 p.m. That would work; arrive at the airport, collect the bags, including the bikes, make arrangements for transportation to the school in Marysville, Washington, get to the school, set up tents in the dark. Then get up at 5:30 a.m. to start a day-long ride with something like 5,000 feet of climbing. Yep, that works.

I called Northwest right away. The agent I spoke with was very helpful and the situation was not her fault. Still... sheesh! Looking at options (there were few) we decided to drive to Minneapolis. I worked this out with the agent, getting back our seats on the morning flight to Seattle. After a bit we finalized the plan. Drive to Minneapolis on Friday night stay in a hotel near the airport then fly out to Seattle at 8:00 a.m. We drive back to La Crosse after returning from Missoula. This is a good start, and we haven't even started yet.

Later, I took the bike up to Bill's and we started the packing process. First, we remove the pedals. No sweat, since they are not put on tightly. Except for one, the right pedal on my Trek. I thought we would never get it off; we even talked about getting the bike to the shop tomorrow. But finally, I got the pedal to break loose by tapping on the wrench with a hammer. In the process, I managed to whack my thumb and now have a wonderful bruise to show for it. We get the bikes packed, I go home, finish the other packing. What a day.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

It's Hard to Stop A Train(ing Program)

I've borrowed from my company's slogan for this post, to announce that, hard though it is, it is possible to stop training. Today proves it. My last ride that isn't part of THE RIDE. I've stopped training. Another ride up Bliss Road with several side trips gave me 22 miles for the day. This evening I started the process of packing up the bike for the trip west. A good cleaning, remove the aero bars. Tomorrow night, up to Bill's for a little more disassembly and loading into the case.

How to sum up the training program? As noted earlier, for all of the riding I've done I'm still in La Crosse. Here are some measures of just much riding I've done to end up here in my kitchen, writing this post:

Days ridden: 50 (49 since April 2)
Distance ridden: 2054.9 miles
Days riding 100 miles or more: 3
Days riding 50 miles or more: 14
Time on the seat: 135.8 hours
Training on the Trek: 34 days, 1286.1 miles
Training on the Bianchi: 16 days, 768.8 miles

Time and mileage work out to 15.3 miles per hour. The 136 hours is 17 eight hour days. I've ridden 3.4 times the tour distance of 605 miles and averaged 41.1 miles per day ridden, only 1/2 of the average of the tour's 86 miles per day. I've consumed an unknown, but considerable, quantity of Gatorade, quite a few bottles of orange juice at local Kwik Trips, and a nearly equal number of the Glazer doughnuts. I had not a single flat tire, unlike last year when there was an epidemic. The good thing about that, though, is that I can change out a tube on a rear wheel in about 5 minutes. That news being all the better in that I did not have to prove it this year.

And I've spent... well, I'm not sure how much. It's the one statistic I haven't added up. I probably just don't want to know. But it will be worth it.

Total ~ 2054.9 miles

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


No tuneup ride, but there was some tuning up of the machinery. I took my bike in to have the shifting looked at. Since all the cables were replaced during the overhaul a few weeks ago, it seemed a good idea to have them checked before the ride. However, I was having an issue or two with the running gear and wanted the mechanic to look at the shifting from front to back. When I went in to retrieve the bike this afternoon, it had a new chain and rear cassette. One of the gears on the cassette had worn quite a bit and the others were on there way to a need-to-be-replaced state. Ditto for the chain. And now they are new. Just in time. But that's not all. One of my water bottles failed. I guess I've been riding too hard. And what does the failed water bottle say about my drinking while riding?

Bill had made a comment about "sparing no expense" in preparing for the ride. I thought it was a suggestion. Turns out, it was a prediction.

Total ~ 2032.9 miles

Monday, June 11, 2007


Winding down for sure. So I can wind it up starting this Sunday. Today, a quick 17.6 mile ride up Bliss Road, out to the highway and back. I plan only one more ride before the trip, probably Wednesday at noon. Another 17 mile warm up.

Today I attended my first writing class at WTC. I know, you are wondering why I’ve waited until now, 56 posts into the Blog, to learn to write. Just because the class started tonight. There are 18 students. Two guys. Sixteen of the other kind. Add Sue, our teacher, and we are outnumbered 17 to 2. I will miss next week’s class, but I will be writing in my journal each day so I suppose that counts. The assignment for next week is to write about a time we got into trouble as very young children. So, having no material, I guess it is just as well that this be the class I miss.

It remains to be seen how the riding I’ve done will get me through the tour. And how the class will get me through the telling of the experience. The tour and the story. How will they wind up?

Total ~ 2032.9 miles

Sunday, June 10, 2007

One Ton

Two thousand pounds. One ton. A lot of whatever it is in the pile. Today, my ride total for the year rolled on past 2,000 miles. A ton of riding. According to Google maps, my 2015.3 miles would have gotten me from La Crosse to Leucadia, California had I set out and kept going. Yet here I am, still in the 54601 zip code.

What do I have to show for all of this riding? Improved riding skills, to be tested in less than 7 days. I've lost 10 pounds and rearranged some of the remaining weight. I have really weird tan lines, especially on my head, which shows the pattern of my helmet ventilation openings. And in spite of having not gotten anywhere, I've seen some beautiful countryside. Up close. A ton of riding. A ton of experiences. A ton of fun. And a little suffering (special recognition in this category to the top of County FO), the investment required to gain that ton of great riding.

Today I finally did the O-K ride. OK, it was actually OK**2. If you know the FORTRAN computer programming language, you'll recognize K**2 as "K-squared" or KK. Heading out of Stoddard, I went up County O past the deer farm. Today, I just kept going, by County K and on to Enterprise Road. Along this stretch of rolling hills, I encountered more of the Amish one-horse shays (7) than cars (3). Then it was down Enterprise to County KK and back towards Chaseburg. A really nice ride with a fun descent; a hill with long, steep, fairly straight runs. There was, however, the one sharp curve with a thin covering of gravel. I had to brake. Brake! On a descent. Bummer. After the descent, the road wound through a scenic valley. A foliage-covered hill on my left and low fields to the right. KK eventually ends at Highway 162, which I took through Chaseburg. From there, I went out County K to Hohlfield Road, climbed the bluff along Wrobel Road and traversed the ridge back to County K on Brinkman Ridge Road. A local history lesson, written in road names. At home, the computer showed I had racked up 43.1 and gotten 15.3 miles into my second ton of riding.

Total ~ 2015.3 miles

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Smart Choices

I purchased my Trek from Dr. Julio Bird just about one year ago. He had ridden about 250 miles on it according to the computer that was (and still is) on the bike when I bought it. I think he didn't care for all of the hills around here, so he decided to sell the bike and look for another, less taxing pursuit. Climbing Mt. Everest. He did that in May, 2002. But he took the easy, south face. I guess his buddies kidded him about that so this year he led a team attacking the more difficult north face. He did not make the summit, basically because he didn't have enough oxygen to reach the peak AND return. That return part is pretty important*, I think, although I am not a mountain climber myself so I can't really say for sure. In an interview after returning to La Crosse he said about the decision to turn back without reaching the top, "Half of me wanted to go for it..." Which half was that, I wonder? He is safely home and not planning to sell his used climbing equipment as he did with the Trek -- achieving the peak from the north face is still on his list of things to do.

In contrast to Julio, Bill and I chose to do something REALLY challenging: ride our bikes out County K and continue on to Avalanche before returning home via Coon Valley, Bohemian Valley and Barre Mills. On the ride, we attacked both of the more challenging west faces of County K, acheiving the summit each time. Then it was through the rolling hills of the Amish farmland, up the seemingly downhill section on Y, one of Wisconsin's now famous Mystery Spots (see the May 31 post for a brief review of Mystery Spot lore) and a stop at the Coon Valley base camp (aka Kwik Trip) for lunch. My choice? A hot dog and orange juice.

Bill and I parted company in Barre Mills; he headed for home and I made my way to the Bliss Road descent. On the way down, I looked at my mileage for the day - almost 90. I decided then to push the ride to 100 miles. First, a stop at the local Kwik Trip to refuel and then south, retracing the route of about 6 hours earlier. I rode down the river to Goose Island, a point about 5 miles from home. My ride distance was right at 95 miles so I turned around at the bottom of County K and finished with 100.3 miles.

A training note: Bill is ready. He has the ride-ahead-then-wait-for- Jack-to-catch-up thing down pat. In fact, he may have overtrained. But he'll be on his game in Washington, Idaho and Montana, I'm sure. He IS a good rider.

* Just in case you are wondering, I am impressed with Julio's accomplishments and was very glad to read that he had made the right choice, getting himself and his team safely home. Returning is, of course, the important thing.

Total ~ 1972.2 miles

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Final Push

The last week of training started today. With a day off. I've ridden 198 miles in the last 7 days; that's counting the 0 miles today, too! Tomorrow, Bill and I will take off for a long ride, pushing if not hitting 100 miles. This is as suggested in the Preparation Schedule on page 8 of the General Information booklet. After this, it's 3 two hour rides over the next six days and we are off.

It would have been a nice day to ride today. Of course it was a pretty nice day to not-ride too.

Total ~ 1871.9 miles

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Girls' Night Out

I can control the weather, I have discovered. Plan a ride and a storm front will start to move through the area about 15 minutes beforehand. Happened yesterday. Happened today. This time, rain AND hail. As it started to hail, the engineers at work wandered into the passageway under the building-long skylight to look up and watch the fairly large hailstones bounce off of the glass. With stunts like that, you'd think the gene pool would be pretty much depleted, wouldn't you? But we are a hearty bunch and will be around for a long time!

After all of the weather excitement, it turned into another beautiful evening. There was a plan afoot so I hustled to squeeze in a 22.7 mile ride, down the river to Mohawk Valley Road, up to the ridge top, over to and down County K and home.

The plan? I had suggested that the girls go out. Shirley and our daughters. I would stay with the three grandsons. They would be bathed and in bed before the ladies left, of course. And so it was. I sat in the kitchen, writing on my laptop and following the Braves' game on ESPN Gamecast. Surrounded by electronics. Monitors all around - my computer and two video and one audio "e-sitters," watching and/or listening to three grandsons in three separate rooms on two different floors. If you can do this, thank an engineer.

Total ~ 1871.9 miles

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Preparation per Instruction

"Remember, it's not a race; make it fun, not a chore." So it says in the official General Information brochure. Tonight I did some not-race training. After the long day at work yesterday, I'd thought about taking off in the early afternoon for a longer ride. But right at noon a line of weather began moving through the area and I stayed put. A 4:30 appointment out past Coon Valley meant no late afternoon start either. So, at 6:15 p.m. I was finally on the road. I decided to go through Stoddard and up County O again. Due to the lateness of the hour, I went out about 15 miles and turned around and came back. A reward for this decision was a spectacular light display as the sun, setting over the bluffs on the Minnesota side of the Mississippi, laid a shimmering, nearly white gold reflection on the river's surface.

Total ~ 1849.1

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

All Work and No Play

What a day for a ride! Wish I could have taken one. It was a day of meetings at work. On the phone all morning, final preparation over the lunch hour for a 1:00 p.m. meeting. A meeting that finally started at 3:30. And ended at almost 8:00 p.m. No ride. Man, what a bummer. I suppose I'll get over it. When that happens, I'll let you know. Maybe. Well, the bright side is that there is not much chance of over-training now.

Total ~ 1818.1 miles

Monday, June 4, 2007

Do As You Are Told

I always do as I am told. Well, for the purposes of this post, just suspend disbelief and accept it. There is a suggested Preparation Schedule in the General Information brochure that I received from Cycle America a couple of weeks ago. It showed a six-week period prior to the tour and suggested, among other things, that training be 4 days of riding per week with a day off every other day. Today is one of those days. Off days, that is. Sitting on the deck on an absolutely glorious afternoon. With Shirley. Not riding. This is a training plan I can live with!

Total ~ 1818.1 miles

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Not OK, But an ok Ride Nonetheless

It was going to be an OK ride today. Go to Stoddard then a mile up 162 to County O. After the climb on O, ride on across the ridge to the top of County K. Down K into Chaseburg then up K to Hamburg and the church at the high point. Descend and head home. An OK ride.

Before taking off, I looked at Radar showed rain encircling the city. Storms to the east were moving north, then circulating back around to the south. The nearest threat seemed to be a cell north of Winona. It looked as if I could get the ride in, so I headed down the river. The sky was mostly full of clouds, but patches of blue were peeking through here and there. Puffy white clouds, lit up by the sun at their lofty peaks. There were also sheets of blue-gray clouds to the south and west, some of these extending right to the ground, revealing heavy rain. But nothing, I thought, to interfere with the ride.

It is a nice ride up County O, the most uniform of the climbs around here, I think. Long, but without a lot of changing from steep-to-gradual and back as is the case on many of the hills. There is an elk (red deer, I've been told) ranch right at the top. A number of the large, majestic bulls were near the fence, watching with an alert curiosity as I rode by. It was at this point that I could look north, back towards La Crosse. Uh-oh. Really ugly storm clouds were rolling across the next ridge, right where I was heading. I rode on a bit, trying to gauge the situation. It did not take long to decide that I wasn't going to keep going and risk getting into the storm with the possibility of two descents on wet roads. Turning around, I headed down O and back into Stoddard where it was raining lightly. The ride up the river was dry, though, until the point where County K comes down to the highway. Light rain was falling here, but as I looked over my shoulder, up towards the bluffs, I could see the storm with sheets of rain sweeping out of the clouds. It was farther east than I had thought when looking at it from the top of County O, but I know I would have had to ride through it had I continued.

It wasn't the OK ride I had planned, but it was an ok ride of 29.6 miles.

Total ~ 1818.1 miles

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Ups and Downs

Up and down go the roads on today’s 91.1 mile ride through Cashton and Coon Valley. I know I ended up at the same altitude I started at, but I’m sure the ride was more up than down. As the day progressed, the difference between gently rolling hills and climbs blurred. Going up the Bliss Road and County II hills was no problem. But it was all downhill, in an uphill sort of way, after that. I ended up covering the route in an average of 15.1 mph – not really so bad for me, but it was a struggle from about the 25 mile point on. Bill cruised ahead on every leg and had ample rest time as I caught up.

Last week, I was feeling good about the 7 day, 86 mile per day ride across the Pacific Northwest. This week, not as good. Ups and downs. Like the roads from La Crosse to Cashton to Coon Valley and back.

Total ~ 1788.5 miles

Friday, June 1, 2007


There was the promise of rain today, so I took off for a noon ride. The now-standard Bliss Road-to-Highway 33 and back trek. With a reprise of the run up Bliss Road before returning home. A 23.4 mile mini-tour with two climbs. Out on County F, I saw two really large turkeys strutting along in a field on my right. A bit later, a single deer bounded across the road in front of me. There is a lot of wildlife around here.

The promise of rain was fulfilled this afternoon, spoiling my plan to ride up the hill again, this time to drop in at the Alpine Inn where we were welcoming some new engineers to our department at work. So I drove up, depriving the group of a promised show of colorful jersey, tight biking shorts and gaudy socks. Oh, the disappointment!

A covey of engineers, welcoming additions to the ranks, celebrating -- now that's wildlife!

Total ~ 1697.4 miles