Sunday, February 19, 2017

KATY TRAIL EXCERPT FROM GOTTA GO!

THE KATY TRAIL ADVENTURE
(225 miles across Missouri)



Short History

            Like many rail-trails, the Katy takes its name from the railroad that ceased operation and made available (not a precise description, but I’m not getting into the details) the right-of-way for recreational use.  The M-K-T (Missouri-Kansas-Texas) Railroad, phonetically shortened to Katy, tracks were regularly washed out by floods, and after the devastating flood of October, 1986 the decision not to repair the damage opened the door for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to acquire the property and begin planning the hike and bike trail.        Additionally, there were thirty-three miles of unused right-of-way from Sedalia to Clinton which became the western terminus.  The bonus of this addition is it varies the scenery from the river to prairie.  The section between St. Charles and Boonville is also designated as part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail (http://www.nps.gov/lecl/index.htm;).  There are plans to extend the trail to Kansas City, but that doesn’t appear to be close to happening anytime soon.

Why You Should Go

          A cyclist is just like any other collector.  Rather than continue to cycle in your own area, you gather other prizes.  The Katy Trail must be on your palmares (see Definitions).  Besides being a fine trophy, however, here are my reasons you should ride it:
1.     It is flat and well groomed (that is, very few large rocks, ruts, obstacles of any sort).
2.     Superior trailheads; clean facilities; water fountains
3.     Relatively easy access, being in the middle of the country.
4.     Great river scenery; nice prairie/farm scenery.
5.     Access to St. Louis and all that has to offer in the area of sightseeing.
6.     Wineries to visit; great for post-ride camaraderie.
7.     Plethora of B&Bs and other fine lodging from which to choose.
8.     Outstanding website to assist in your planning.
9.     Inexpensive guided/group rides available.
10.  Trailhead eateries are easily accessible and quite good.
11.  Trail is easily accessed by vehicle in case of emergencies; SAG wagon.
12.  Train transportation available. 

Preliminaries
             
            Unequivocally, the Katy Trail should be everyone’s initial rail-trail adventure.  It sets the standard when it comes to bike-friendly cycling.   The trail itself is crushed stone, well groomed and easily ridden on any type of bicycle, as long as the weather is dry.  It is still good when wet, but for that you should have a mountain bike or at least tires with tread.  The trailheads have water fountains and very clean rest rooms and some shelter.  While I actually prefer the convenience of a tree for most of my “business,” occasionally a clean rest room is much appreciated. 
            Until you become experienced in distance-cycling, you will underestimate the amount of water you must consume.  Having water fountains available is a rarity, and while I carried sufficient water in the Camelbak, found them to be quite useful.  Most of Katy Trail trailheads have eating establishments either on or near the trail.  If you only have a bicycle as transportation, you don’t want to be wandering around trying to find lunch.  Exploring off the trail is a different subject.  If you plan to explore on your bike, by all means, have at it (I don’t, so have no opinion one way or the other).  The towns are nicely spaced and most of the lodging is on or near the trail.  Their superior website, http://www.bikekatytrail.com/ (http://www.bikekatytrail.com/)gives you easily navigated information from which the whole itinerary can be planned.                                               The actual trail goes from Machens (near St. Louis) to Clinton, Missouri.  We opted to travel west-to-east (a slight loss of elevation:760 to 955 to 536 feet), stopping at St. Charles. At the time, this was the eastern terminus, about twelve miles short of Machens.  St. Charles put us within a couple of miles of the St. Louis airport at the end of the ride.  According to the website, Machens has a difficult access, and in 2012 numerous flats were reported due to thorns/stickers.  Since we didn’t ride this portion, I don’t have firsthand knowledge.  Riding east-to-west may suit your logistics better.  Per BusinessDictionary.com the actual definition of logistics: (Italics)Planning, execution, and control of the procurement, movement, and stationing of personnel, material, and other resources to achieve the objectives of a campaign, plan, project, or strategy.  Whatever works for you will be fine.
            In reading about various ways of traversing the trail, you will find that some folks park their cars at one end, ride to the other end, then take the Amtrak back to their cars.  This sounds like a cool adventure, but you need to research further and read the fine print.  For instance, the train doesn’t go to Clinton.  You would have to get off in Sedalia and cycle thirty-five miles.  There is a similar problem on the eastern end, in that you would catch the train to Kirkwood, cycling fifteen miles on city streets to the trailhead, or vice-versa.  It also leaves you with only your bike for transportation to and from eating establishments and sightseeing.
            One of the appealing aspects of doing the Katy Trail is the many wineries available.  There are seventeen wineries listed as on or close to the trail, and a handful of breweries or brewpubs.  You could plan your itinerary around visits to several. 
            On the subject of itinerary planning, here is my #1 Katy Trail tip: find out what date The Dollhouse B&B  (http://www.thedollhousebandb.com/)in Rhineland is available, and then work the rest of your riding around that date.


The Narrative

               Here is how our trip unfolded.   The beginning of any trip is the planning and logistics: where to go, getting there, where to stay, and where to eat (this last can be left until you arrive, but that is chancy).             
            One thing you learn about going on cycling vacations is you go where your friends are willing, and put off places where they are not.  For instance, none of my riding buddies would go to South Dakota to ride the Mickelson Trail.  Flying there is out of the question.  Driving from Texas (or anywhere, for that matter) is a really, really long way.  Since it is included in the book, you can tell I eventually overcame the obstacles.  Not so difficult is the Katy Trail, in the middle of the country, a long day’s drive of a mere seven hundred miles north of Round Rock, Texas.
            Byran and Vellen from Portland, Oregon and Ray from Columbia, South Carolina agreed this would be a great ride.  Unfortunately Ray had an accident and broke his leg just before the trip.  When making airplane reservations, keep all of your options open and research, research, research. Barry and I were driving from Georgetown, Texas; but Byran and Vellen needed help in finding relatively inexpensive flights if they were going to join us.  I tried multiple combinations, but the cost of flying from Portland to Kansas City, Springfield, or St. Louis made the trip too expensive.  I turned the quest over to Marilane (aka Miss Platinum) and unbelievably, she found a saving of $400 per person by having them fly into Austin, Texas and back to Portland out of St. Louis.  That made their trip doable and the decision as to which direction on the trail to travel became a non-issue.  Barry provided his large pick-up that easily carried the four bikes, gear, and luggage in the bed, and plenty of room for four passengers in the cab.

ROUND ROCK, TEXAS TO CLINTON, MISSOURI – 700 Miles

            We pulled into the Clinton Hampton Inn after thirteen hours of driving and were cordially greeted and quickly checked into our rooms.  Both Byran and Vellen fell to assembling their bicycles and Barry and I assisted, mostly by staying out of their way and merely lending moral support.  Too many hands spoil the soup.  If they needed something handed to them, they could ask.                                                                                                                                             Clinton’s tourist draw, other than the terminus of the Katy Trail for cyclists, is bass and crappie fishermen who come to ply their skills on Truman Lake.  It is about 100 miles from Kansas City, and not on a direct route to anywhere.   It has a typical small-town downtown area.  However, the history is quite interesting.  For instance, one of the original commissioners was Daniel Morgan Boone (son of THE Daniel Boone).  The town was named for the governor of New York, Dewitt Clinton.  They did strip-mining of coal until that ran out.  How it became the “Baby Chick Capital of the World” is a testament to entrepreneurship.  Be sure to allot time and visit the Henry County Museum.  There are no wineries.      
            While unloading our bikes and luggage in the parking lot, a car with a pair of bikes on the back came in, and a couple disembarked and came over to introduce themselves.  Barry and Ann had ridden the trail before and were quite helpful in their hints and directions from the motel to the trailhead.  They planned six days to complete the journey and then take the train ($16 per person, $10 per bike) back (see previous remarks about the train).  Cyclists are by and large friendly and helpful; you should always be prepared for random acts of kindness.                                            Not having a SAG driver (something I highly recommend, but couldn’t have on this trip), our method getting all of our stuff from one stop to the next included a designated-driver to take the truck to the next stop, cycle back on the trail to meet the others, and turn around and join them back to the end.  We deviated from our plan for the first day, because Barry wanted to cycle the whole segment.  So, he and Byran drove to Sedalia, then cycled back to Clinton, while Vellen and I went opposite.  We met on the trail, visited a few minutes, and then Vellen and I continued to the end, picked up the truck, drove back to Clinton, picked up the guys at the trailhead, had dinner, and drove back to Sedalia.  The things we do to be sure our friends have their wishes fulfilled.  This is not a recommended option, in that it takes a whole lot of time and gas.


CLINTON TO SEDALIA – 40 Miles

            Armed with directions, Vellen and I struck out confidently.  Right, left, right, left, right.  That seemed reasonable enough.  The last right didn’t look correct, so I turned left instead.  Dead reckoning.  Dead wrong.  That cost us about a mile, or fifteen minutes.  The trail is well groomed and we were both on high dollar suspended mountain bikes, so the moderate pace did not tax our bodies at all.  Thus we had time to enjoy our surroundings.   
            The inconspicuous trailhead is situated next to the highway that leads to Sedalia, near a Ford Dealership, so we mentally marked the location, since that would be our destination this afternoon when we picked up Barry and Byran.  The highway and trail paralleled for at least ten miles.
            The rolling landscape did not provide any spectacular backdrops, just prairie type grasses or farmland.  I have read accounts of people waxing ecstatic about prairie grasses, but, sorry, I can’t get worked up about it.  Even so, the setting exuded peacefulness as we cycled through, having the trail to ourselves, only our tires on the crushed limestone making any noise.
            We stopped a few times, commenting that it appeared we were climbing a lot.  Climbing as in incline, not like up a hill.  I don’t think we changed gears, and am positive our heart rate didn’t exceed 100bpm.  Sure enough, we came to a sign on the trail that indicated the high point of the Katy Trail, 955 feet.   We started out around 760 feet, so it’s not like we needed a lot of gears, but now “it’s all downhill from here.”
            Barry called (another good reason to make the Katy Trail your first, it has cell service the whole way) to say they were on the trail back toward us, and I estimated where we would meet.  Sure enough, they came into view when expected.  We stopped, exchanged pleasantries (ok, this is four guys, we exchanged barbs), gave a preview of what to expect, switched truck keys from Barry to me, got directions to the truck, and moved out in our respective directions.
            Barry’s directions were easy enough: 1) Get off the trail just before you cross the trestle, and 2) stay on the sidewalk up to the Visitors Center, which is where he parked the truck.
A little over an hour later, Vellen and I came into Sedalia and recognized the trestle.  There appeared to be no trail leading down the very steep, weedy embankment to the sidewalk, so we contemplated our next move for a few minutes while trying to spot the truck and/or visitors center. 
            A man with a dog came walking across the bridge and we stopped to ask for directions.  Unfortunately, he was a moving van driver with a delivery in Sedalia and didn’t know much about the area.  But this turned into a longish conversation because in exchanging “where are you froms” found out he grew up in the Portland area.  This little bond helped, because eventually the talk returned to where the truck was, and even though he was just passing through, he remembered the visitors’ center, and pointed it out to us, up the hill (which was also our first choice, in that Barry said go UP to the visitors center).  We said our thanks and good-byes and gingerly walked our bikes down the embankment, got on the sidewalk and made it to the truck.  The visitors’ center was closed.  I really could have used their restroom.  In any case, we loaded the bikes, dragged the map out (Barry has a GPS, I don’t know how to use it), and drove to the hotel to check in.
            Hotel Bothwell (http://www.hotelbothwell.com/), Sedalia – I had been hesitant to book us into a hotel, but the rates were reasonable and reviews good.  When Vellen and I walked in, we were cordially greeted and given our rooms.  They had room for our bikes in their secure basement, eliminating the need to take up space in our living quarters.  This hotel was built in 1928.  The elevator to the rooms is modern, but the one to the basement requires an employee to operate.  Cool!  The guys liked the rooms in the Hampton Inn, but I told them we had penthouse suites in the Hotel Bothwell.  Many old hotels have taken out walls to turn two rooms into one, and that appeared the case for our rooms.  I checked out the bathroom and in truth, described it as compact.  But when I dragged Barry’s luggage to his side of the room, discovered a second, similar bathroom.  Each had a sink and commode, and one had a shower and the other a tub.  I believe this to be my first room with two potties.  Well, not really a penthouse suite, but very spacious, nicely appointed, and quite clean.  Perhaps we wouldn’t have been so pleased with the accommodations if we had known of its haunted history (http://www.paranormalquest.net/HauntedHistory,BothwellHotel.html).

SEDALIA TO BOONVILLE – 40 Miles

            I hadn’t read about it in the literature, but the hotel provided a continental breakfast, similar to the Hampton Inn, and sufficient for cyclists.  While we fortified ourselves and got ready for the day, we conversed with other cyclists who, we found out, were on a Sierra Club ride.  It seemed one of the guys, not very experienced, had purchased a new saddle just before the trip, and found out the hard way that soft and wide saddles are poor choices for any distance.  Apparently they rubbed him the wrong way and he contemplated dropping out because serious damage could be done if he kept going in that condition.  The bike shop in Sedalia opened at 10am and even though it would put him hours behind, he thought about purchasing a more appropriate saddle. 
            Barry hesitated a few seconds, mulling his next move, then offered this stranger an appropriate saddle.  Now, cyclists are accustomed to carrying spare tubes, and sometimes tires, but no one ever carries a spare saddle.  On this trip, Barry did (there actually is a reason: he also was breaking in a new saddle, so if it didn’t work out, he could switch.  In his case, his Brooks leather saddle worked for him quite well).  The look on the guy’s face was priceless. 
Barry retrieved the saddle from the pick-up, and both groups were able to depart on time, albeit we left earlier than they.  I drove today, so missed the very pretty Sedalia trailhead and had to depend on my companions to take a picture.
            The Depot is right on the trail and a great place to stop.  Historical Exhibits show the influence of the railroad on town growth.  Sedalia annually hosts the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival and the State Fair (not at the same time, generally June and July respectively).  If contemporary art interests you, there is the Daum Museum.
            Again, the highway and trail were together for a lot of the trip.  I found Boonville, parked at Holiday Inn Express, and let the host, Nick, know we would be checking in later.  He gave me directions to the trail entrance, not quite within sight but close enough.  When I got to the trail, I called to let them know I had reached my starting point, and began. 
            Knowing our pace once I met up with the guys would be “gawk and go,” I pushed my speed to maximum sustainable and enjoyed myself immensely.  At the Pilot Grove trailhead, I pulled over to say “hi” to Barry and Ann, the couple we first met in Clinton and again in Sedalia at the hotel.  Conversation over, after mentally noting the open store, I headed up the trail and in less than an hour we had merged back into a foursome. 
            They told me I missed only the Sedalia trailhead and I told them about the store being open and that would be our mid-morning snack stop.  Barry and Ann had warned us that many eating establishments closed on Mondays, so we should eat when we could and carry emergency sustenance.
             One of the things I do on these trips is stop or slow down when crossing creeks, just in case it made for a good picture.  Such an opportunity presented itself on Bonne Femme Creek.  I took two, one with the trestle as a frame and one without.  It looks good on the computer screen, and maybe a 16x20 picture is in the future.  I have a lot of creek pictures and not enough wall space.
            The hosts at our accommodations really made me look like I knew what I was doing.  They didn’t exactly fall over themselves, but appeared to be genuinely happy for us to be their guests, and while our needs were few, anything we asked for was supplied.  Again, we had a secure room for our bikes.  Again, a recommendation to an excellent eating establishment brought us to the Steinhouse, the only one open (other than fast food) because of it being Monday. 
            We drove to downtown Boonville and parked across the street from the Steinhouse, the oldest continuously operated restaurant in Boonville.  We opened the door and stepped from the brilliant sunlight into the darkened restaurant, with a substantial bar along the right side.  On the first barstool sat an old crone with a drink in her hand.  I mention this only because I didn’t immediately recognize her as a prop.  I contend the change of lighting, my poor eyesight and proper manners in not staring at people caused the oversight.  Maybe I’m just oblivious.  In any case, it made me the butt of crude remarks the whole evening.  We were only five minutes ahead of the Sierra Club group, so our orders were underway when they got there, thank goodness.
           
BOONVILLE TO HARTSBURG – 44 Miles

            Holiday Inn Express is by the Interstate, several miles away from Boonville proper, which is located right on the river, so we enjoyed the first few miles of a good downhill into Boonville and across the Missouri River.  Before getting to the river we stopped at the trailhead for a photo op, and then rode over to the old bridge for more photos, then around the casino and over the new bridge, which thankfully had a protected bike lane.  From here on out we would have the Missouri River as a constant companion.
            Shortly after crossing the river and heading out of town, we passed a junk yard.  All of the males in Byran’s family take more than a passing interest in junked cars because they all purchase wrecks and refurbish them.  Thus, they are always on the lookout for used car parts.  Anyhow, we slowed enough for Byran to spy and pick up an old, faded stuffed duck that had seen better days.  The stuffing on one hand poked out, it only had one eye, the other being almost worn off; it truly had seen better days.  But Byran had plans.  He presented this wreck of a stuffed animal to Barry.  Of course, I have Moose (see Definitions) and Byran has Deputy Dog (which he rescued from the side of the road in 1999 during Cycle Montana), so he felt that in his inaugural ride with us, Barry needed a stuffed companion.  Barry immediately named this Katy, in honor of the trail, thus affixing the gender.  Later the name expanded to Junkyard Katy Boon.
            One of the big attractions for this ride is the opportunity to visit different wineries.  While three of us are commonsewers of alcohol, Barry really enjoys his red wines and had half a dozen or so wineries on his list of places to see.  So, as we rode along, I repeatedly mentioned we could have lunch at Les Bourgeois Winery & Bistro,( http://missouriwine.com/) just three-tenths of a mile off the trail.
            We had the Missouri River rolling majestically on our right and a steep rock cliff on our left.  True to his nature, Byran called “stopping” and pointed out a small cave.  I slowed, but didn’t stop to watch him explore, because fifty yards down the trail, I spotted what looked like a bike rack.  Sure enough, a two-bike rack had been installed next to the trail.  A narrow path led away from the trail, up the cliff.  Hidden behind the foliage, about ten feet up the path, a three-by-three sign indicating the winery just three-tenths of a mile UP.
            The operative word is UP.  I geared down into the small chain ring and prepared for a very steep, very rough trail.  Several times the front wheel came off the ground, several times my shoes came out of the pedals, several times I had to stop to let my heart rate drop back below the redline.  Eventually I completed the distance and rolled down the driveway to the bistro.  While waiting outside I took in the gorgeous view of the river, then went in to scope out the dining area and bar.  Very posh, but it looked like they would accept us in our cycling attire.
            After about ten minutes, it dawned on me that even pushing their bikes up the hill, the guys should have been here.  I couldn’t believe that cave could be so interesting.  I pedaled up the driveway and slowly descended. I came out to an empty trail, looking both ways. 
I called Barry, but his phone wasn’t picking up, so rode alone for about three miles.  Vellen called, his phone working well, so he caught the brunt of my venting.  They waited for me and in another mile we came together.  Our first winery became a missed opportunity.
            Having weathered the store closings on Monday, we looked forward to Hartsburg, with a winery only a few blocks from our lodging.  Our hostess, Cath Sherrer, greeted us with a plate of homemade cookies and gave us a quick tour of our rooms.  We inquired as to places to eat and were advised the tavern opened at 4pm (about a half an hour) and that comprised the only place in town to eat.  Keep in mind Hartsburg has a population of 108 or so hardy souls.
            We figured we would hang out at the winery for a while, and then go eat.  Cath advised that the winery didn’t open on Monday OR Tuesday (Note: the winery closed in 2011 and the location recently opened as a bistro).  Dang!  Today we missed our chance at two wineries.  We settled for beer, burgers and fries at the tavern.  Our diet truly suffered.
            Speaking of burgers, Hartsburg offered several interesting stories.  The intrepid travelers waited until four o’clock and walked past the closed winery on the way to the tavern.  We thought it hadn’t opened either when we couldn’t budge the door, but as we turned to walk away, the barkeeper swung it open.  It sticks really tight!  We left the empty barstools for the local regulars and made our way to a table and ordered beer and reviewed the minimalist menu.  Consensus was burgers and because we were hungry, double cheeseburgers and an order of fried mushrooms.
            The burgers took longer than we expected, but we had our beer and weren’t going anywhere.  Earlier, Vellen had struck up a conversation with a regular and here, at least, they weren’t hostile to cyclists.  Of course, we had changed out of our lycra.  Men in lycra seem to set some people off.                      The barkeeper finally came with our order and gave three of us our burgers and murmured that the rest of the order would be right out.  Ten minutes later, Vellen got his burger and mushrooms.  Perplexed at such a delay, we inquired further.  It seems the appliance that cooks the burgers could only do six at a time.  By ordering doubles, we exceeded capacity, so it took two rounds!  At least we knew they hadn’t been pre-cooked.           
            Now for the good part.  Satiated, we meandered down the street past the other lodging in town.  Out front were the Sierra Club cyclists, numbering around eight to ten.  They were having a post-ride glass of wine purchased by a SAG-spouse in Hermann (http://www.hermannmissouri.com/).  We chatted for a while until they finished and prepared to depart for dinner.  We asked if they were driving to Hermann, but no, they were walking up the street to the tavern….           
The next morning when we saw a few of them on the trail, they were complaining about the spotty service of their hamburgers.  Barry clued them in.
                       
HARTSBURG TO RHINELAND – 50 Miles

            We stopped in Tebetts for a mid-morning snack.  A notice on the bulletin board at the trailhead invited cyclists to eat there and gave times.  Although within sight, it didn’t appear open.  One of the Sierra Club riders walked over and came back with the report: it had been closed for two years!  About a half mile back, on the highway, stood the only convenience store in town, so the three of us dropped off the trail onto the road and rode back and loaded up on snickers, ice cream, stuff.
            As we paid for our purchase I mentioned she should put up a notice on the bulletin board because about ten cyclists opted to go five miles to the next town, Mokan, rather than come back a half mile.  She said she would, then observed that in Mokan, the cyclists would pay almost double what she charged for her snacks.  Check mark for us.
            Doll House Bed & Breakfast in Rhineland received good reviews, and came at the appropriate distance from Hartsburg, and so became my choice of lodging.  Obviously, my guardian angel took good care of me on this trip.  We stayed at six places and our reception in all six exceeded expectations.  But of the six, Amanda at the Doll House made this a most memorable experience. 
            The building itself is right next to the Katy Trail.  You might remember the story without remembering the details.  The flood of 1993 inundated a lot of Missouri.  Rhineland actually was flooded four times that year, and after the fourth one, the residents had had enough.  They moved their houses to higher ground (with the help of the Feds).  All but one.  I remember the television clip of the interview with this one owner.   Eventually he sold the structure to Amanda and her husband, and eventually, Amanda became a B&B entrepreneur.  This is her story, not mine, so when you stay here, be sure to have her give the details.
            Amanda exemplifies the Bed and Breakfast experience.  Not only do you receive a friendly greeting, she stays and chats and makes you feel more like an old friend visiting her house.  By the way, she lives up on higher ground with the rest of the town.  She keeps her house clean and neat, the beds are comfortable, the bathrooms modern and sparkling.  The piece de rĂ©sistance of your stay is her breakfast.  It is excellent in taste, substantial, and varied.  You can either enjoy or overlook the bit of whimsy in the themed bedrooms.  Even the name of the B&B shows her sense of humor and that is also a part of the details you need to explore when you stay.
            In addition to wine, Barry had been craving fried chicken.  But our experiences with taverns (not just on this trip) are you should stick to burgers unless proven otherwise.  Each town brought him a disappointment.  However, in Rhineland, we inquired of Amanda if (unnamed) winery was a good place to eat in Hermann (the much bigger town about five miles down the road).  Rhineland has about 150 residents and we were growing weary of burgers.  She said yes, but then, as an aside, mentioned that the restaurant in Rhineland served the best fried chicken anywhere. 
            Barry’s eyes lit up and another winery town went down the tubes.  The restaurant really served superior fried chicken.  They didn’t start preparing it until our order.  As far as I know, that hen might have been scratching for grubs when we walked through the doorway.  The mashed potatoes felt great and the twice-as-many-as-I-normally-eat, non-squeaky green beans satisfied the vegetable requirement.  The best part: once again we walked only one block to eat.

RHINELAND TO ST CHARLES – 65 Miles

            Not only did I have good fortune with the lodging choices, we had great weather.  Since making the reservations, we watched Missouri have rain, floods, earthquakes, and tornadoes.  The first four days of riding provided superior weather, from the mid-50s to 70 degrees, brilliant blue skies, and a wind mostly at our backs.  This day, only a miracle would keep us dry.  It was only a matter of how far would we get and how wet would we be when the rain came.  We all brought rain gear and today it came out of the luggage. 
            Vellen took his turn as designated-driver.  We said our good-byes to Amanda and started off.  Sunshine did not come into play this day.  My best guess put us between systems and we might pull it off without getting muddy.  Even so, our pace increased only slightly and stops to see creeks, rocks, river, etc. did not decrease.  Occasionally we looked over our shoulders and could see the building dark grey skies.
            At the Marthasville trailhead we stopped for a break, using the clean restrooms and chatting with a couple of college hikers, hiking from Columbia to St. Louis.  The conversation ceased when a large thunderclap rattled the surroundings.  Time to move on!  We made it a few miles down the trail before it started sprinkling.  The rain never did come down hard on us (we found out later that Vellen, coming from the other direction, had substantially more precipitation), but still enough for me to pull out all of my rain gear: helmet cover, jacket, rain pants, and booties.  Unfortunately, the jacket fit did not allow for Moose to hide underneath.  He really got wet and muddy.
            We expected to see Vellen but speculated he may have chosen better activities.  Of course, we were kidding; his failure to materialize began to occupy more and more of our conversation.  When we arrived in Defiance, there were a couple of taverns open and we took the opportunity to have lunch and get out of the weather.  They had a nice patio, empty, that served as a place to put our bikes and hang our wet and muddy rain gear.  Barry and I went inside to secure a table and Byran walked over to the trail to await Vellen.  A few minutes later they, too, came inside.  Beer and burgers, beer and burgers.  But at least we were warm and dry.
            We were in no mood to visit the winery located just outside the technically correct unincorporated community.  There are several.  We probably would have visited the Daniel Boone home, had we known it was there (on a guy’s vacation trip, very little time allocation is paid to sightseeing.  Thus due diligence had not been undertaken).
            After lunch, we went outside to leave, but the rain increased so we decided to wait.  Thunder and lightning, real close, convinced me to wait inside.  Another ten minutes and Barry came in to say the rain had passed.  Just in time: one of the locals had cornered Byran and was imparting his life story.
            Sure enough, the rain had slackened.  It turned cold, and Byran grabbed an old cardboard box to wrap around inside his wet jersey to help him retain body heat.  Once mounted and riding, the farther we rode the warmer we became, plus the sun threatened to break through the clouds.  It didn’t, but riding conditions improved although we still had mud fly off our tires and up our backs.
            St. Charles came into sight, and eventually the trailhead, where Vellen had parked.  The motel was about six miles away, so we loaded all the bikes and bade farewell to the Katy Trail.
While checking into the Hampton Inn in St Charles, four older guys (our age) on Harleys arrived.  The very jovial ladies at the desk got us squared away with the rooms and one of them came out to direct Byran and Vellen to where the hose was connected so they could wash the trail crud from their bikes.  Once packed, we went back inside and Barry asked about a good steak house.  Long story short, the very savvy ladies directed us to Longhorn Steak House and the Harley guys to Hooters.



Thursday, February 9, 2017

CASSETTE WOES

     My previous post described the switching I did to get my road bike (Roark) ready to race.  Well, after the race I needed to reverse actions to get things back to normal.  In my first book,  Bicycle Journeys with Jerry, I opine that I'm a mechanical klutz and other than keeping the chain lubricated, leave maintenance to the mechanics at Bicycle Sport Shop.  I've progressed since then, but still require help when things get technical.
     It seemed straightforward, take off the two cassettes and put them back on to their regular wheels.  I used the Park chain whip without a problem removed the cassette from the Zipp and cleaned the cogs before remounting them on the Rolf wheels.  The time trial cogs, mounted on the Rolf wheels as an emergency back-up, came off-and-on in one smooth action.  I was rather happy at how easy it was.
      I put the Roark on the rack, spun the cranks and ran the chain up and down the cogs.  Smooth.  Ready to roll.  I put the Felt on the rack, spun the cranks, smooth.  Until I got to the 12 tooth cog (smallest).  Clack, clack, clack.  Dang!  For the next twenty minutes I went over everything.  I saw that the chain rubbed the front derailleur but couldn't understand why that would be since I touched nothing other than installing the wheel back on the bike.  Naturally, I took the wheel off and made sure I hadn't missed a spacer on added one.  All was good with the shifting until I got to the small cog.  Time to go to the experts.
     They are always so helpful and solicitous when I walk in pushing my Felt (they are when I bring in my Roark, too).  I explained the mysterious clacking and was assured they'd be back in a minute with the explanation.  Several minutes went by.  I needed a new bottle of chain lubricant, so purchased that and took it to the car and came back and waited some more.  It took quite a while, but they sleuthed until finding the answer: the cog was bent (out of alignment).   Pook, ding fu!  They also did a little adjusting, so that shifting remained smooth.
     Back home, I removed the wheel, took my magnifying glass and closely examined the cog.  I could see nothing wrong or out of the ordinary.  I put the wheel on the Roark, and got the same clacking result.  It's not that I distrusted the diagnosis, I just wanted to see what I'd missed.  I'm guessing I must have hit it somehow when putting it back on the bike.  Bah! So now I need a new 12 tooth Dura Ace cog.  I sure as heck don't want to purchase a whole new cogset.  I have several options, including using the Ultegra set on the Roark.  But races are just around the corner and I need to make up my mind.
     

Sunday, February 5, 2017

PACE BEND 6-12-24

     First, my hat's off to the twelve and twenty-four hour riders, and their crew.  Cold and drizzle is no fun.  Same to the six hour solo riders.
     Continuing from the previous post, since I decided to switch to the road bike, several changes had to be made.  While I really like my bomb-proof, fifteen year-old Rolf Vector Pros, there is no denying the Zipps roll faster.  So, I switched wheels.  But, if I wanted to stay in the big ring (more on that shortly), I had to also switch my 11-32 cogset to the Zipps.  I lubed the chain but didn't bother cleaning the bike since it was going to get filthy anyhow.  And, I went with Continental 4000's rather than racing tires.  So my bike was ready.
     Next, clothing.  I packed all my rain gear: booties, helmet cover, pants, jacket.  Given the forecast, I only expected to wear the jacket, but better safe than sorry.  I packed four kit changes, four pair of socks, tights, four shirts for base layers, one of which actually was a base layer garment.  Clif bars and a tube of Nuun, a gallon of water, one water bottle.  Two of my kits were skin suits, two regular jerseys.  I was hoping for maybe a dry lap, didn't happen.  I was prepared for riding, not prepared for waiting.  Angela brought her Snuggie.  I wished I had one to bring.
     On to the race itself.  We're talking fifty degrees and more or less racing in a cloud.  The road was wet, sometimes more wet than others, with sometimes drizzle messing with your glasses, sometimes not.  A light wind, but you could tell when it was in your face.  Lots of rollers, a couple of decent downhills.  Jim and I decided we would do two laps then hand off.  A lap was 6.12 (or .21 whatever), so we were looking at more or less twenty minutes for Jim and twenty-two minutes for me.  I started.
     To repeat, we were in it for fun and exercise, not that we had any expectations of placing well.  There were folks who were really serious about their racing.  That being said, I intended to give it my best.  That didn't happen (body, yes, bike no).  I knew last year that my shifters were beginning to wear out.  The left one (front chain ring) sometimes goes walkabout when I hit it.  Multiple clicks and cajoling might finally get it to switch.  This is all well and good on a recreation ride, not so much when racing.  That is why I left it in the big ring.  Well, maybe it was the cold and damp, but the right one started acting up.
     The start of the race tilts down then a big decent.  I brought the cadence up to speed and clicked for the next gear.  Nothing happened.  Four clicks later it finally moved, but by then I needed three more gears.  A whole bunch of clicking and swearing and I got it down, but by then everybody had moved away.  And because this is a rolling section, I needed some more clicks to bring it back up the cassette.  Then down, then up.  Bah!  Eventually, it started working right about 90% of the time.  Even with the shifting difficulties, I managed the first lap in twenty-one minutes.  And the second one, so I handed off to Jim after forty-two minutes.
     I waited around with a pullover, getting chilled, for his first lap, but then went to the car and changed my base layer to a dry one.  This was more of a chore than anticipated.  I made a big mistake in choosing my old skin suit to start the race.  It is one piece, with long sleeves.  To change the base layer, I needed to wriggle out of the upper part.  That accomplished, it was back to the pit to await my second section.  An aside, being old and cold means an over-active bladder.  Going in the skin suit was quite a chore.
     Jim was right on time, I was not.  I thought I was ready but had forgotten to take off my clip covers.  We lost maybe a minute, not that it mattered.  I thought my second section went faster than the first, but alas, I lost fifty-three seconds for the two loops.  This time I didn't wait for the cold to set in, but took a change of clothes to the car.  Picture this: sitting in the passenger seat, divesting a jacket, sweat shirt, rain jacket, then putting on a dry base layer and jersey, then removing the tights and replacing the shorts.  Fortunately the parking area was devoid of people.  I delayed putting on the rain jacket since it was wet inside and out.  Anyhow, I missed cheering Jim on for his second lap.
     He was a model of consistency.  I thought my third go around had more wind and a tad heavier drizzle.  In any case, I lost another minute.  I was protecting my protesting hamstrings.  Interesting enough, even given the cold and wet, I wasn't uncomfortable on the bike.  I certainly didn't get overheated.  I spent more minutes out of the aero bars on this go around, and my cadence slowed a bit.
     Once again I changed out the base layer, but this time it was quite easy.  I spent more time in the car with the engine running and heater blowing, and again missed Jim on his first lap.  The ladies, Annette and Angela, decided early on that they would alternate laps, thus not waiting the extra twenty minutes getting chilled.  I think my body needed the extra rest to recover.  Be that as it may, I dreaded what it would do on the forth foray.
     The hamstrings did not revolt, and I made it around, although losing another forty seconds.  Still, I originally figured forty-five minutes for the two laps, and my slowest was under that.  I packed up while Jim finished up, but managed to cheer him on to the second lap.  Done.
     I was more than done.  The race finished at 6:00 pm and awards were to be given out at 7:00 pm.  Refreshments were available, and a food truck.  I didn't think my body could handle hanging out for an hour, then the awards, then the seventy-five minute drive home in the dark and drizzle.  With apologies, I headed home.
     I slept well, but I need to spend today loosening up all the very tight areas which were abused yesterday.  All the knuckles on my hands are swollen. This afternoon I'll get my two bikes back to normal.  Maybe tomorrow I'll be back riding.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

MY TIME TRIAL BIKE

     At the Bicycle Sport Shop club kickoff party the other night several of us were discussing the upcoming Pace Bend 6-12-24 race.  I was whining about the change of venue, in that I'd planned to ride my TT bike, but would now switch to the road bike in view of the terrain and possible rain.  I then remarked that in the seven years of racing time trials on this bike, it had never (ever) been wet.  I have never washed it, only a damp cloth on occasion to remove the dust.  Raised eyebrows.  True.  If it is wet out, I train on the road bike and aero bars.  I've been lucky in that actual races were dry (except one that I did on the road bike).
     I truly love my TT bike.  Jack (of Jack and Adams) spent a whole lot of time getting me fitted just right, and I can spend fifty-five minutes in an hour in the aero position.  It is a Felt B2 Pro, with Dura Ace and Zipp 404 and 808 wheels.  I became a minute faster overnight (See my March 23, 2009 post).
     After typing the last sentence I looked up my time trial results with this bike.  I've raced 51 times in Texas and podium'd 49 of them.  At Senior Games Nationals I placed 13th and 18th, but first from Texas.  I admit that most of the races had thin fields, and were age-grouped, so I don't get too chuffed up about it.  Besides, it's the bike that makes the difference.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

THE FIRST RACE OF 2017

     For starters, for me it isn't a race at all, just an opportunity to ride faster than normal.  But, let's start at the beginning.  Originally this six-hour race (there are also twelve and twenty-four simultaneously) was to be held at The Driveway.  I've never ridden it, just cheered the BSS racers and others, on Thursday evenings.  This was a perfect opportunity to experience the 1+mile course with little elevation on my TT bike, a much needed training ride in advance of my first actual race at the end of February.  Teamed up with Jim Hungerford, I anticipated six half-hour sections.
     Just like in real life, sometimes there are hurdles to overcome.  Due to construction delays, The Driveway would not be available and the venue was changed to Pace Bend Park.  Pook, Ding-fu!!  I've "raced" twice at Pace Bend and have also done a few practice rides.  There are no fond memories.
     Several years ago, like maybe ten, when I felt much stronger and in better shape, I thought I'd do the Walburg/Pace Bend weekend.  Walburg was a tough ride.  For Pace Bend, while I felt good warming up, my legs lasted about half a lap and I dnf'd in a hurry.  The next year, having learned my lesson, I skipped Walburg and toe'd the line full of vim and vigor. My plan was to be mid-pack, but somehow I mis-placed the start line.  Not by a lot, maybe twenty yards.  Once I realized the error, I moved up, but now at the back.  I was ready.  Too ready.  I botched the clip-in, needing two pedal strokes to get up and running.  That's all it took.  The pack was full gas from the get-go and I could never close the gap.  In my defense, these guys were ten years younger than me and I had no illusions of hanging with them for more than half the race anyhow.  I didn't finish last, but did the whole race more or less alone.
     From the start, Jim and I were just in it for the fun, so that hasn't changed.  Rather than passing the start/finish line every five or six minutes, it will be more like twenty to twenty-three.  We figure two loops before handing off, so something like four sections each.  Rather than my TT bike, I'll be on the road bike with aero bars, regular helmet.  Rain is forecast, but with luck will be done by the time we start.  If not, I'll have my rain gear.
     Check back next week to see how we fared.
   

Thursday, January 19, 2017

NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION

     OK, I'm calling this desire to ride more a New Year's Resolution but it actually it just happens to be how things fall into place.  We start with Senior Games Nationals in June.  I skipped the ones in 2015 and was 12th and 17th in 2013.  I'm hoping to do better this year.  In order to do better, I need to race more (reality check: no where close to top eight).  Therefore the early months have me doing more time trials.
     The first scheduled race is late February, but Dame Fortune has inspired the good folks at The Driveway to host a 24 hour race Feb 4th.  They also offer 12 hour solo and team and 6 hour solo and 2 person team.  I intended to do the six hour solo but my friend Jim asked me to partner with him.  Serendipity.  Now I can do six 30 minute time trials (which I haven't broached to Jim yet).  Today I got on my time trial bike for the first time since last June.  Legs were good, my neck is killing me.
     As things turned out, I have two races in February, one in March, then the Senior Games State Finals the second week of April, USAC State Finals the third week of May, and then Nationals the first week in June.  If that isn't enough, I can go down to Castroville once a month.
     My good friends at VeloView Bike Tours have a gravel grinder in Arkansas right after I get home from Nationals.  Regular readers know that Arkansas is on my to-do list for 2017 and I was the first person signed up for this.  Right after returning home from Arkansas we have our annual get-together in the North Georgia Mountains (and yes, I take my bike).
     There are other local bike rides happening, so the first half of the year is full.  Last year I skipped the USAC State Road Race Championships and Tour de Gruene in the Fall.  They are back on the agenda this year.
     Every year my goal is 8,000 miles.  Every year I fall short.  Doesn't keep me from setting it.  I know if I do 800 miles per month, my speed and stamina are where they should be (January and December are down times).

Friday, December 30, 2016

HITTING THE ROAD, LITERALLY

     After a recent incident, I posted that in the last thirty years I'd crashed seven times and have been fortunate enough to have escaped without a breaking a bone.  That number was "off the top of my head" but now I have taken the time to remember all of them, not counting falling over after just getting my first set of clips.
     The first time came as I was following my son out of the neighborhood (McNeil Road and I-35 for those in the Round Rock area).  We have to cross railroad tracks.  Yes, we know how to cross them.  But for some reason, maybe traffic, he swerved and got caught and went down, and I swerved to miss him and also caught my wheel and went down.  More embarrassment than anything, we got up and continued riding.
     My second crash happened in the garage.  I recently purchased a set of rollers to assist in winter preparation for my coast-to-coast journey (2001).  Like a sophomore, I became over-confident.  The rollers were situated next to a wall so I could use it to help in balancing.  One day my mind wandered and when I finished my workout, I applied the brakes rather than put my hand on the wall.  Next thing I knew, I fell over (like that tv clip of the guy on a trike falling over).  No time to unclip. Big bruise on my hip.  Forever after, I don't use a wall, rather something I can get a hand around, like the side of my pick-up, or the back porch fence.
     The third time I was along the I-35 access road near Jarrell.  I had the right-of-way, but it was on an incline and my speed only in the 5 mph range.  I saw the pick-up slowing for his stop sign, mentally registered he was stopping and kept peddling.  Rather than a complete stop, he rolled through and we collided, my front wheel to his left front fender.  This was a long ride, therefore I had my Camelbak on, and it took the brunt of me and the bike hitting his fender.  He was most apologetic and paid for a new wheel, in addition to transporting me back to my car.  I only had a big bruise and minor road rash.
     The fourth time I got caught in a drizzle after a long dry spell.  The smooth asphalt was slick.  Anderson Mill and 620 for those in the area.  I cautiously made the right turn off 620 but the back wheel slid out from under me and I slid across the lane and into the raised median.  Neither I nor the bike sustained any damage.  But the reason I remember this so well is the lady going north, waiting for the red light to change.  She steadfastly refused to acknowledge my presence, only a few feet under her car door.  Lucky for me, I didn't have any traffic waiting for me to extricate myself and get righted.
     Number five was the scariest.  It was my Sunday morning ride, on Bee Cave Road just west of 360, going downhill at close to 40 mph.  As I approached Addie Roy Road, a stopped pick-up pulled out right in front of me.  I hit the brakes and swerved right, into Addie Roy, but my rear wheel slid on gravel and I went down really hard.  Again, the Camelbak rescued me, but I lay in the middle of the road for a good three minutes, just trying to breathe and mentally check my body.  The pick-up kept driving, but apparently his conscience got the better of him and he circled back (it took several minutes).  The irony in this was he was a cyclist going out to start his ride!  I had to call my wife to gather me and the bike up.
     Number six happened on a group ride.  Our group leader is very conscientious about safety, and always gives a briefing before we start out.  One of his points is that on left turns we shouldn't be cutting the corner into the lane of oncoming traffic, but keep it wide into our own lanes.  This was in the fall (actually winter, but it was when the trees shed their leaves).  On one particular corner the combination of turning wide and wet leaves in the gutter had me once again on the ground.  Pook ding-fu!  I had a cut finger, and my left knee had a few gashes.  I still have the tatoo they left, three years since, but it is slowly fading.
     And the last one.  Another group ride, Christmas Eve.  A nice twenty mile (was going to be thirty, but things happened so we cut it short) to downtown Austin and back.  I really enjoyed the riding, and tucked in behind a friend with whom I've ridden before.  We were on a concrete hike/bike trail when he lost concentration and wandered off into the grass.  A slight over-correction on his part, and slow reaction on mine, and wheels touched.  I went down in a hurry.  Again, I had the Camelbak, this time festooned with lights.  So many times, this type of crash results in a broken collarbone.  I escaped with only minor road rash.  Not even my jersey (my Christmas one) was torn.
     Each accident has taught me a lesson, and I remain quite thankful it didn't come with a broken bone.  Maybe after reading this, you too will change a bad habit or become more aware of your surroundings when out riding.  As Professor Moody would exclaim: CONSTANT VIGILANCE!