just a ride

You’re the reason we don’t like bicycles!

“You’re the reason we don’t like bicycles!”

I looked to the left to see a Honda minivan, complete with 2 kids in car seats, traveling next to me. The driver had rolled down the passenger’s window and was screaming at me.

“What?”

“You broke the law. You didn’t stop at that stop sign and I hate you for it. Every car driver hates bicycles because you think you can break the law. Wha-whaa-wah-wha-wha-wha…”

I gave her a thumb up and nodded my head to signal “OK, I’m done with this,” and then grabbed the back break so she shot past me. She slowed to match my speed and continued to yell at me. I hit the gas and shot past her only to grab the brakes again as soon as she pulled up beside me. She got the point and drove off still yelling through the passenger’s window.

In all fairness, I did break the law. Instead of waiting a full 3 seconds at the stop sign, I only came to a quick stop and then rolled through the intersection (she was beside me; no cars were approaching from any other direction). So, she had a valid argument. But, was that enough reason for her to “hate” me and waste time telling me about it? I wonder how she would respond if I jumped in my car and followed her around the city, pointing out every one of her minor law infractions.

This little incident, just like every run in with a car driver, brought endless questions to mind. I kept coming back to one thought for the rest of the ride: Do I care if car drivers hate me? My answer was and will probably always be no. What I want is for them to not crash in to me. Otherwise, we are strangers passing on the road. I guess wanting them to not hit me infers that I expect their respect at a minimum. Continuing that line of thinking might be the reason so many drivers have problems with cyclists: they don’t see us as individuals on bikes. Instead, we are just another group of people lumped together to be hated as a whole.

That might be the real lesson for cyclists. Change won’t happen overnight or even in a summer or two. But, if we all take on the role of ambassador of goodwill, maybe over time motorists can be swayed. I know I have spoken with a few different irate drivers that, after a calm conversation, came to see things a bit differently. I also had to call the cops on a driver that became so pissed off he threatened to shoot me. But, if the cycling community rallied around obeying all laws—even full 3-second stops at stop signs—and respecting the car’s right of way, maybe, just maybe the positive approach will help drivers to respect our right to the roadway.

Hillbilly Snowboarding (and a Saturday Ride Report)

Ever see someone get road rash on snow?

Mom and the brothers came to town this weekend for a visit and a snowboarding trip to Snow Creek. That would be Missouri, not Colorado. This was our first time to ski Snow Creek and I have to say it was less than enjoyable. Overall, we had a good time…it’s hard for us to get together and not have fun. But, with temps in the 70’s and rain yesterday, the conditions weren’t good. It was more muddy ice than snow. That, and lift tickets were just as expensive as Colorado. Ouch!

I took two runs and called it quits. It was way too icy and muddy for me. Matt and Ben were a bit more daring and spent 3 hours sliding down the hill. Then, during the last run, on the flat section leading to the patio, Ben dug his front rail and absolutely blew it. He tried to tuck and roll but instead stuck his elbow, and then flipped and slid on his back and shoulder. He was rashed from shoulder to ass, with nasty diggers on the tops of both knees. He was fine…fine enough for us to laugh at him, but it had it hurt. It was a bad ending to bad boarding.

Zach and Traci spent the day on skis. In spite of the dicey conditions, Zach was able to learn how to ski. If only he could learn how to get on the lift with both skis…

Yesterday, I planned to join the Saturday Morning Group Ride but I couldn’t find the group! Sounds silly, I know, but with cool temps and wet roads I guessed everyone stayed home. I checked the lot and then cruised by JP’s and found no bikes. So I set out alone.  Turns out there was a group, but they did laps around the lake instead of the normal route.

There’s really not much story to tell, just 2 hours of tempo riding. I wanted to mention it, though, because the route has a few sections that everyone should know about, especially before next Saturday.

  • Longview Road is now open at Ward Road! Back to the old starting section?
  • Ward at 150 Hwy is still under construction. Southbound traffic now shifts just before/after crossing 150. The pavement is in terrible shape on both sides of the highway. Ride with caution!
  • 155th St/County Line Road had a fresh coat of chip-and-seal applied last fall. I think the paving crew had no idea what they were doing because 10-15% of the topping didn’t make it through the winter. In both directions, the new sealant has worn away to old black top. While chip-and-seal is rough, the remnants are much worse! From Pryor to Horridge is rougher than most gravel roads.
  • 71 Hwy Outer Road bridge over 150 Hwy is OPEN! It’s so nice to sail along without the stop light. But, the new bridge brings a whole new challenge…a 6% hump in the road.
  • Raytown Road is still the same as always. The only excitement this ride was the stiff east wind and listening to my tires bounce over the tar strips: ba-dump ba-dump ba-dump.

Guru’s Gravel Grinder

Wow! I realized when I logged in that I haven’t made a post since the DK200. Maybe that says something about how tattered I felt after that epic rumble across Kansas gravel. It’s only fitting, I suppose, that my next entry is about, well, gravel.

First, a quick catch up on things since DK: work, family, bike–but only after a month completely off the bike. It’s pretty simple. When I finally swung a leg back over the top tube, I was focused on winding down all the long miles I rode leading up to the event and building shorter, more intense fitness for CX. The program I put together for myself seems to be working…I feel much faster on the bike and my 20-min effort times/distances are improving. I also added running into my training mix, and while I would never consider myself a runner, I actually find running 3-5 miles to be an enjoyable change from cycling.

Cool-MO-D Ready to rollAs a final hoorah before CX season kicks into gear, I thought I would join Chris Locke and the gang for some back-country MO road riding…that’d be gravel, of course! The ride this weekend was sponsored by chamois Butt’r and promised a tough 50-mile ride with plenty of hills north of Smithville Lake. Twenty-five to thirty riders showed up, with most wearing a team kit: Bicycle Shack, In-A-Tub, Monster/CRRT, Cow Town, Boulevard, and Renaissance. From the get-go, this was less a grinder, and more like a race. But, as I heard someone say, “it’s always a race when there’s more than 2 riders.” The pace wasn’t constantly fast but there were times when I wondered what prize was waiting at the line. But, at the end, 8 of us simply rolled in together, chatted for a while, and then headed off in our own directions. Sometimes not racing is better than the real thing.

Big shout out to Chris, Curt Shelman and Paceline Products for pulling together a great ride! Hopefully I’ll find time to squeeze in a few grinders during CX season…

On the way home, Brian and I stopped by Brodie’s Backyard BBQ for lunch. A solid 3 forks to this Smithville eatery. We both had the NC pulled-pork sandwich, which is layered with pork, an onion ring, and  coleslaw. The sandwich was impressive: tender meat, a great mix of flavors, and just the right portion size. I was blown away by the HOT BBQ sauce. It had a perfect mix of tangy, sweet and fire. I’ve marked this one as a definite revisit. If you’re ever in Smithville, look it up

Rain, Rain…

just won’t go away! I didn’t have it in me to be soaked this weekend, so my plans for a 200-mile weekend didn’t happen. I planned to ride 125 miles on Saturday and the remaining miles on Sunday.

Saturday, I woke up to the wonderful sight of the trees being bent in half by strong SSE winds (gusting to 30+ MPH). At least it wasn’t raining! I suited up and left the house just after 6:30 and it took forever to get going. Every time I picked up the pace, a gust of wind would sit me back on the saddle. Joy. I made my way to Mission Road, south to 199th and on to Peculiar and Harrisonville. As I headed east through Harrisonville (to Gunn City) I realized that I might be able to catch the Bicycle Shack Saturday ride. I turned around and let the strong tailwind blow me to Raytown.

I pulled into Casey’s at the same time as the pack. With 65 miles already in my legs, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to hammer back, especially knowing I would ride another 40 once we reached the college. But, “Go” means go, so I went. The start was much slower than normal despite the strong tail wind. After a few, Brian Quissell, Fireman Mark and I kicked up the pace and opened a small gap that stuck until the first hill on County Line. As soon as the group caught us, Brian and I dropped the gas again and used the hill to open another gap. This one stuck all the way home. We rolled in together with an average just over 24 MPH.

While we sat in the parking lot talking, dark heavy clouds rolled in from the south. I pulled out my phone and checked radar: heavy rain right on the door step. It took all of 1 second for everyone to pack up and head out. I was right there with them, and I decide that I wasn’t riding in the rain, no matter what goal I had for the day. Wind or rain, OK. Both…not so much. So, I turned for home. I rolled in the driveway with the first heavy raindrops plopping on my shoulders. It rained the rest of the day.

I thought I would make up some of the missed miles today, with a 3-hour ride in the AM and then a 2-hour ride in the afternoon. Yeah right. When I looked outside this morning, the winds had shifted to the west but were still blowing 15-30. And to top it off, it was raining. I went back to bed. I jumped on the trainer later in the morning and hammered out a 40K time trial. Back-to-back hard efforts were not on the schedule for this weekend. I plan to kick up the effort this week, with 2 hard week-day rides and then 2 long (100+) rides on the weekend…as long as it doesn’t rain.

Pedal PA

As it often happens, my job had me traveling most of this week. I left home early on Sunday and didn’t return until early, like 1 AM, on Thursday. In that time, I drove to Allentown, PA, south to Philadelphia and home again. I had meetings with 4 different customers and managed to squeeze in 2 bike rides.

The first ride was in Allentown. I found a route that looked promising on MapMyRide.com, but given the number of turns and roads traveled, I was hesitant to try it. There’s nothing like getting lost on a bike! Instead, I stopped by a local bike shop to ask for a challenging ride, preferably up one of the nearby mountains. That experience sealed the deal; I was riding Blue Mountain Road. The local bike dude (in the loosest of terms) proceeded to tell me that the ride was too difficult for me. Huh? This guy never asked any questions about my fitness level, he just assumed based on what I have no idea, that I wasn’t fit enough for that ride or the Hills of Emmaus route. Consider it a challenge.

I headed back to the hotel, wrote up a cryptic crib sheet, changed, and was out the door. After what seemed like turns on 50 different roads (missed a few turns here and added a few there…), I was finally on Blue Mountain Road and headed toward the skies. The road turned up and was challenging, but it never “kicked my ass” as was promised by bike shop dude. I reached the top, turned around, and headed back to the hotel. Along the way I spotted a group of 4 riders and decided to follow them…I needed more miles and was still looking for my ass to be kicked. After chasing for a mile or two, the road turned up again (the roads in the area are very similar to those in KC–contant short, steep grades). I caught the group just as the road leveled off and came to a stop sign. I rolled up, introduced myself and chatted for a few minutes. Unfortunately, their ride was over and everyone was headed home. So I turned around and headed to the hotel.

On the way back I noticed a sign for the Valley Preferred Cycling Center and decided to check it out. WOW! The cycling center is one of the best velodrome centers I’ve seen. Lighted for night riding, bleachers on both sides…unfortunately, it was closed so I didn’t get to see the track. But, I did see a huge message out front: “Father Breaks Record to Honor Daughters Fight Against Lupus.” Amateur cyclist Chris Paradysz bested the 24-hour track record at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center, going on to establish a new record of 416.09 miles biked in 24 hours. What a feat!

The next morning I left the Lehigh Valley and drove south into Philadelphia for a quick visit with a customer. Then, it was wagon west for home. Every turn in the Allegheny Mountains brought more and more spectacular views, not to mention the want to park and get out and ride. I finally couldn’t take it anymore. As I-76 turned up for a long grind over Bald Knob before dropping into Breezewood, PA I noticed a secondary road followed the turnpike. I decided this was the ride. I exited at Breezewood, turn back toward the mountain and saw it: markers for the BikePA Route-S. I drove over the hill to make certain I wanted to do this, and as soon as I found a parking spot, I suited up and hit it.

As they often say, pictures are worth a thousand words. I won’t stop with the pictures, but I’ll let them introduce this ride:

8 Percent Grade
10 percent grade

I parked in Hustontown, which was approximately 5 miles from the start of the climb–needed time to warm up the legs. The ride over was a lot like roads in KC–short, steep hills. Once I started climbing, though, I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. After a few miles at 3-5%, the road took a sharp turn up. According to the warning sign, it was 8% for almost three miles, followed immediately by 2.5 miles at 10%. Should I mention that I didn’t have mountain gears? I made my way up and then down and on to Breezewood, and then turned around and headed back to the car. The ride was insane and perhaps one of the best mountain rides I’ve completed. It was short, at 25 miles, but otherwise perfect. The road surface was better than the best roads around KC, the climb was demanding, and there was almost no traffic. What more can you ask for?

While changing, I decided to try a different route back to Breezewood, just to see what the area offered. What I found was even better than the roads of Route-S. Just to the south was a 7 or 8 mile drag at 8%. It wasn’t as wicked steep as the other road, but the climb was a lot longer. I had a fleeting thought of getting out and going for it. But, I had to be in Columbus for a meeting early the next morning. Maybe next time.

Cross Weather

Yesterday I snuck away for a long ride. In fact, this was the longest I’ve ridden since cross season started. My training log shows lots of riding, but almost every ride is either short, hard efforts of 1+ hour or medium, easy efforts of 2+ hours. I was missing long training rides. So, yesterday I took off for a 3-hour tour.

What a tour it turned out to be. The wind was steady out of the east when I rolled out of the driverway, so I turned into the wind and pedaled on. I eventually made my way north around JoCoMo, thinking I would coast home with a NNE tailwind. I couldn’t have gotten the weather any more wrong! Just before I turned south to head home, the wind shifted to due south, the clouds rolled in dark and heavy and it started to rain (again). The driving rain and constant headwind made for pretty miserable riding conditions. Throw in dropping temps and I considered calling the meat wagon. That’s when I remembered that this is cross weather. Better get used to it now rather than on the race course!

This weekend are rounds 3 & 4 of the de Stad series, with two days of racing that make up the Smithville Cyclocross Festival [flyer]. The event web site states that the course is surprisingly dry considering the last 4 days have been rain soaked. For some odd reason, I’m hoping for muddy conditions. It’s just not cross season until you taste mud while pedaling on frozen toes. See you tomorrow!