Pondero’s Day Off

1

Warning – Photo heavy post.

It felt a little like playing hooky. There are plenty of things that should be done at work, and I’m probably behind on several of them. But I’ve been looking for a convenient opportunity to take off on a Friday for a non-camping overnighter. One-by-one the multiple appointments on my calendar for Friday disappeared. It looked like an opportunity to me. So I packed up a saddlebag on Thursday evening, and made arrangements with Mrs. Pondero to meet me for a late lunch in Lindsay, Texas.

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For me, a mini-tour like this, in a Texas August, means virtually all miles are before lunch. I was rolling by 6:15 am.

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I had made reservations at an inexpensive hotel in Bowie, Texas for the night. So I was able to travel with fairly minimal (for me) gear. There are, however, many miles with NO services. I carried lots of water.

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Several miles down the road, the sun finally rose out of the early morning haze. A classic Texas ranch land scene.

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This one kept a close eye on me as a passed by. Perhaps I should have made this the first photo since I was riding through towns that were a part of the Chisholm Trail.

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We don’t have what you’d call mountains in this part of north Texas, but we do have some rolling hills that offer occasional places to view distant horizons. I found later in my trip that this is even more true northwest of my house.

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I spent a fair amount of time searching for ways to maximize time off of highways and spend time on low traffic roads like this paved one.

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But most of my first day was spent on constantly rolling gravel roads.

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I learned that gravel roads west of my house are rougher, rockier, and sandier that I’m used to riding. There were many places that I would have preferred to have higher volume tires than my 38mm Lierres.

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All morning long…

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This late in the summer, and this far west, I don’t expect to find streams with flowing water. The few I find are flowing under bridges.

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In this case, however, I actually was so far away from any populated area the stream flowed right across the road.  Very strange for me.

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I didn’t get out much after riding in to Bowie and having a wonderfully satisfying burger for lunch. I showered, cooled off, and made good use of my hotel room while the sun blazed through the afternoon. I took a few minutes to think about not being at work. A little before sundown, I went out and rode through town a little, but didn’t get any particularly interesting photos.

The Longhorn Cafe is locally famous, and I can see why. My cheese and bacon omelet was fantastic, the staff was friendly, and the tab was surprisingly small.  The coffee was serviceable.

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It was another early start, but it didn’t take long to get into the rollers.

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There were hundreds of old homesteads, barns, and handsome farm/ranch homes along my tour route. I photographed only a few. This old tractor caught my eye and made me turnaround and snap a through-gate shot.

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Lots and lots of this.

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It was a beautiful morning, it wasn’t too hot yet, and it seemed time for a little cockpit image whimsy. Don’t you wish you were there?

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Montague County Courthouse. When I first moved up to north Texas, I learned that the locals pronounce “Montague” with only two syllables… (mon – tayg’)

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Up and down…

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…wind around. I got into a rhythm of using only my front derailleur. Big ring for downhills and middle ring for uphills…repeat until done.

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There were more paved roads on the second day, and less climbing. I was traveling mostly east and gradually losing a little elevation.

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Saint Jo is a charming little town. There appears to be a certain pride here and the square was beginning to fill up with a farmers market when I arrived.

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No action at the local custom boot maker as yet.

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But plenty of action at the coffee shop where I paused for some refreshment.

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I took my iced coffee and muffin to the park in the middle of the town square. I enjoyed the shade, breeze, and general goings on.

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Ah, here’s one of those old houses that has seen better days. Just off the frame was a gigantic bovine laying in the shade…couldn’t be bothered.

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Much of the day was on roads exposed fully to the sun.

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So when I’d pass through a small town crossroads (this one is Myra, Texas), I use the shade as a good excuse to check the cue sheet again.

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My tour ended at the Lindsay city park only 0.4 miles from Dieter Brothers Restaurant. I arrived in time to cool off, stretch my legs, and reflect back on my great fortune to get away for this mini-tour before meeting Mrs. Pondero for an outstanding BBQ lunch.

IMG_0136After lunch we brought the noble A. Homer Hilsen home. Best bike ever. He had just successfully completed a two-day rural road mini-tour (58 miles on Friday, and 55 miles on Saturday) in the middle of a blazing Texas summer. I think he was tired.

Just a Few Details

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A small single-prop airplane, purring like a kitten, sneaks up behind me in the dark.

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Tiny pebbles, tossed by knobby tires, land on the brim of my straw hat, rolling and rattling like pool table balls in a track from the pocket to the gathering end.

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Other pebbles, tossed into my sandals, gather there until I tilt my foot, flap my heel, and pour them out like gravel out of a dump truck bed.

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Like a diligent bartender shining shot glasses, I wipe the gravel dust off the inside of my enamel mug with a bandanna.

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Sitting at the picnic table sipping freshly-brewed coffee, remembering the good times like a lonely old man in a rural diner.

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Beads of sweat accumulate on the back of my wrists, and sparkle like dew drops on early morning grass.

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The back half of the side slit in my MUSA shorts flaps in the breeze like a friendly wave.

 

Golden Hour

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The morning attempt at getting out in the cool of the day didn’t work out.  Sometimes that happens.

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Fortunately, early evening provided a second opportunity.

I had an hour for an out-n-back on my most local gravel road.  I shared it with the raging cicadas, wispy clouds, and some deer in the low-land shades, and I made cartoonish looking shadows in the road.

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I watched the sunset from a ridgetop as it turned the grasstips to gold.

On the way back, I saw a raccoon family presumably shaking the sleep from their eyes and marching to breakfast.  When I dropped into the trees lining Clear Creek, neon green flashing spots of lightening bugs (fireflies, if you aren’t from around here) speckled the darkness.

Near the end, I turned back and saw the last of another blazing hot Texas summer day crawling over the western horizon.

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Summer Music

1

Some people enjoy listening to music while bicycling.  So do I.

2

Tailwind

  • steady rhythm of breathing
  • bird song melody
  • castanet clatter of cicadas
  • snap, crackle, pop of tires on gravel
  • hot tar stickiness of tires on a pavement
  • rattling, swishing of leaves in trees
  • throaty bass of an idling tractor
  • orchestral complexity of every sound together

3

Headwind

  • steady roar like a never ending wave crash
  • hat band ends and shirt sleeves snapping and popping like a cracking bullwhip
  • and almost nothing else

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I don’t bring it with me.  I don’t wire it to my ears.  It’s out there, and I ride right through it.

5

Wisconsin by Three Speed – Part 2

1 You might want to go grab a cup of coffee, this could take awhile.  It seems I snapped a lot of photos during the last day and a half, and I was only able to omit a few.

At the end of the last post, Shawn and I had left Steve behind at a hotel in Wilton battling “vertigo”.  Ahead of us lay a small battle of loaded three speed bikes against “vertical”, but it didn’t exactly start out that way.

IMG_9305 IMG_9307 IMG_9310 IMG_9312 IMG_9314 IMG_9317 IMG_9318 At first, the roads were relatively mild, but we could see larger, steeper hills of Wildcat Mountain State Park as we approached Ontario.  Since our bodies were low on fuel, a small park in Ontario seemed a good place to pause a bit.

IMG_9319 Over lunch, Shawn launched a brilliant plan to make a route change.  Something seemed to compel us to explore the abandoned highway trail along the Kickapoo River instead of Wildcat Mountain.  We might have missed something grand on that mountain, but that river route was one of the prettiest segments of our entire trip.

IMG_9320 IMG_9321 IMG_9322 IMG_9325 IMG_9328 IMG_9329 IMG_9330 IMG_9333 IMG_9334 IMG_9335 IMG_9337 IMG_9338 IMG_9339 IMG_9340 IMG_9342 It was gorgeous day, the slopes were mild, and the quietness was refreshing.  It all passed by too quickly, but we still had a good way to go before our planned evening camp.  So we exited the Old Highway 131 Trail, made our way into La Farge, and refueled again.  I was actually feeling pretty good at that moment, but its a good thing I took on some food and fluids.  We were about to climb in earnest.

IMG_9344 IMG_9347 IMG_9349 IMG_9351 Shawn might correct me, but the way I remember it, we had four approximately 3-mile segments (up, down, up, down) until we reached Hwy 56.  Then we had about 4-5 miles of stiff headwind into Viroqua.  Details aside, I knew I was ready for a break.

IMG_9353 IMG_9354 IMG_9357 IMG_9358 IMG_9359 We rolled into downtown, spotted the Blue Dog Bike Shop, and went inside for a look around.  Since Mrs. Pondero’s honey brand is “Blue Dog Bee Ranch”, I figured this had to be a top notch place, and it was.  This shop in such a small town out classes a high majority of shops I see in big cities.  Besides the excellent, practical merchandise and coffee bar, the friendly folks in the shop tipped us to the Driftless Cafe for dinner…a perfect name for our tour theme and a delicious meal.

Bellies full, we made one more stop at the Viroqua Food Co-op for supplies before pedaling the last 4 miles of the day to Sidie Hollow County Park for the night.

IMG_9362 IMG_9367 IMG_9368 IMG_9370The park was beautiful and almost empty.  We set-up camp on a wide grassy area next to a flowing creek with that wonderful babbling sound.  Just before dark, we built a small fire and let it hypnotize us into a dull pre-sleep state.  I know we must have had a conversation while staring at those flames, but all I remember was staring at the flickering light, thinking that it had been a long eventful day since Norwalk, and I was very relaxed.  After crawling into the hammock, the creek flowed with my consciousness downstream.

IMG_9378 I heard the chainsaw fire up at 6:30am, so decided to get up and putter about with some coffee for the chilly morning.  Shawn slept through it a little while longer.

IMG_9384 IMG_9386 IMG_9387 But he was up before long and tending the kitchen.  He produced delicious blueberry pancakes, and we feasted.

IMG_9391 IMG_9402 IMG_9413 IMG_9417 IMG_9419 IMG_9423 IMG_9428 IMG_9430 IMG_9434 After breakfast and packing up camp, we went down to the campground lake to have a look around.  It was a pleasant spot with all the hills and trees.  So I took a few glamour shots of the Quickbeam touring bike.

IMG_9436 These guys, and their brothers (I assume), cracked me up.  As best I could tell, it looked like four brothers, born in consecutive years, aged 6, 5, 4, and 3.  There were two adult men, maybe a father and grandfather.  These guys ambled all about covering a wide area.  They seemed quite independent and fearless carrying their life jackets, tools, and fishing gear.  I have no idea how the two men could possibly keep track of them.  I’m guessing these boys will become hardy men…if they survive.

IMG_9441 IMG_9442 IMG_9443 IMG_9444 IMG_9446 IMG_9450 IMG_9451 IMG_9452 IMG_9453 IMG_9455 IMG_9456 IMG_9457 IMG_9460 IMG_9462 IMG_9463 IMG_9464 IMG_9465 IMG_9466 After leaving the park, the next segment led us generally along the Bad Axe River toward the Mississippi River confluence.  It was idyllic rural and gravel roads winding and rolling through a wonderful green valley.  Each new hilltop and bend revealed a new eye pleasing view.

IMG_9467 IMG_9471 IMG_9472 Once reaching the Mississippi River, we used a wide shoulder roadway northward toward La Crosse.  We paused for a leisurely lunch by the locks near Genoa.

IMG_9473 IMG_9477 IMG_9478 IMG_9479 IMG_9480 We made it back to the Goose Island Campground in the late afternoon.  It was a far different place than it was the previous Sunday night.  We had light and only a whisper of wind as we set up camp.

IMG_9481 The sky, which had been cloudy all day, cleared nicely.  We watched the last sunset of our tour sink over the Mississippi River and hills of southern Minnesota.  Alas, here it was Wednesday night and Steve was still left stranded in a hotel in Wilton, where he had been since Tuesday morning.  The good news was that he was feeling much better, had actually been out riding around in town, and was eager for some company.

IMG_9485So Thursday morning, I dropped Shawn off in La Crosse.  He was scheduled to catch the train home that evening.  I said my farewell to Shawn and MooseMoose, and made my way to Wilton with Steve’s van.

Now that I’ve added multi-day touring to my overnight experiences, I can say I am smitten. I can’t wait to get out and do it again.  In fact, I am already scheming about new ways to do short excursions from my home this summer, and I have a trip brewing along the C&O Canal in the DC area in the fall.  More to come on that.

Wisconsin by Three Speed – Part 1

IMG_9222 I wanted to differentiate my Instagram posts for this part our our tour experience from the Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour with a unique hashtag.  I chose #WIx3spd.  Since the three of us traveled a goodly distance to participate in the Lake Pepin event, we decided to make the most of our travels by adding on three more days of self-supported touring in the SW Wisconsin Driftless Region.  This post covers roughly half of that.

IMG_9223 We arrived at the Goose Island Campground near La Crosse in the dark, and in the midst of a cold front blowing in with force.  The warm, humid air of the Red Wing/Wabasha area was quickly being replaced with unseasonably coolness.  It was a blustery 40 degrees as we brewed our coffee, ate our breakfast, and sorted our gear for departure.

IMG_9226 IMG_9228 We finally did escape for our journey, but needed to traverse La Crosse from south to north before reaching the much anticipated rail trail.

IMG_9229 Then there were miles and miles of no traffic, quiet trails.

IMG_9231 IMG_9234 IMG_9235 IMG_9236 IMG_9243 This is what I get for forcing a posed group photo.

IMG_9249 Yes, we’re on three speeds and touring with all our gear.  And we’re liking it.

IMG_9250Monday lunch in bustling downtown West Salem.

IMG_9251 IMG_9253 Sometimes, we’d just stop to look around and think about how lucky we were.

IMG_9254 IMG_9256 IMG_9259 Pro three speed touring rig.

IMG_9260 IMG_9261 This event was Shawn’s vision.  He planned the route, pitched the use of our three speeds, and we took the bait.  I’ve done plenty of overnighters, but I learned much about multi-day touring from this man.

IMG_9266 This was a fun stop where we had a lovely chat with the lady inside.  As it turns out, however, we ended up using some of her information that turned into a bit of less-than-positive adventure.

IMG_9273 IMG_9275 IMG_9277 IMG_9281 After riding fairly straight and level rail trails for a few hours, we were eager for some new interesting scenery.  We eventually made it to a long tunnel (more than 3600 feet, I think) and rode right through a hillside.

IMG_9283 IMG_9286 IMG_9287 IMG_9290 IMG_9293This is where we spent Monday night…Norwalk Village Park.  The information provided to us by the kind lady in Sparta helped us decide to stop here instead of riding on to Wilton.  Because, yes, the showers would be available.  It was cold and windy, but this city park restroom was heated, had showers, and had hot water.  Unfortunately, the restrooms had also been so “defiled” (as Shawn phrased it), that we tended to use the women’s side instead…and then only minimally.  At least we had a fierce “guardian lion” to keep us safe.

You might not be able to tell it in my two photos of Steve above, but this is also where on Tuesday morning that Steve informed us that he had been struck with vertigo so severe he thought he couldn’t ride anymore.

IMG_9296 IMG_9297 Steve’s news had us scratching our heads and exploring options and alternatives.  Eventually, he decided that he could probably make the 5-6 miles (including another shorter tunnel) to Wilton, where he had booked a hotel room for two nights.  So we broke camp, rode carefully to Wilton, deposited Steve in his hotel room, and found him some make-do medication in the local convenience store.  And we left him there.

IMG_9301 IMG_9302With a fair amount of sadness (and guilt), Shawn and I pedaled out of Wilton and into a completely different tour experience.  Not only did we have a man down, but the terrain was about to become more challenging.

Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour 2015 – Day Two

1Day two of the LPTST was vastly different for me than last year.  Since main riding buddy, Steve (above), was ill last year, I spent much of the second day riding solo.  Since I didn’t know about the various alternate routes, I tended to stay on the main route along the lake.  The main route is fine and includes many great views of the water, but the alternates offer more elevation variation, challenge, and much less traffic.  This year I had two riding buddies, Steve and Shawn, we took the roads less traveled, and it (as the saying goes) made all the difference.

I intended a smaller number of “highlight” photos, and I actually edited many out.  But this post is still photo heavy because these images evoke too many happy thoughts to omit.

IMG_9120Early in the day, happy to be on low traffic roads, and before any major climbs

IMG_9123Climbs looming in the distance

IMG_9126 Three-speedin’ through the green

IMG_9128 Shawn seems to always climb with a great attitude

IMG_9131 Steve climbing up through high humidity air

IMG_9132 IMG_9134 After the initial steep climb to the plateau, the roads wound left and right and the going was somewhat easier

IMG_9138 It was quite blustery up top, mostly tailwind, and we rolled on just out of reach of the rain showers

IMG_9143 IMG_9144 Pausing to admire a view of  Lake Pepin…way down there

IMG_9146 The interesting variation in old barns is impossible to describe, we loved riding by them all day and admiring them

IMG_9150 Using the tree as a wind block for our stoves at the Lake City brew-up

IMG_9153 IMG_9154 Just ride…until its time to stop for tea (or coffee)

IMG_9155 Hanging out lakeside with my lollygagging buddies

IMG_9157 You’ll have to take my word that its a Bald Eagle.  We don’t see these where I come from, so it was a thrill for me.

IMG_9161 IMG_9166 IMG_9167 IMG_9168 Jon, the Shirt Tail Organizer, leaves Lake City on a lovely tandem.  He had a stoker on the first day.

IMG_9171 Ahhh…empty gravel roads, just like back home…well, not exactly

IMG_9172 IMG_9173 IMG_9175 IMG_9178 Last year there was an old one lane bridge here.  This year, the wide, new monstrosity was much less pleasant to the eyes.  But we used it as re-grouping place anyway.

IMG_9179 IMG_9183 The traditional Frontenac wall gathering and photo-op.

IMG_9185 You don’t see the Dursley-Pederson bicycle every day.  Hmmm…maybe I try a bow tie next time…

IMG_9187 IMG_9189 Top of wall view

IMG_9190 IMG_9194 This Hill Avenue alternate route is as pretty as they come

IMG_9197 IMG_9198 IMG_9202 Don’t let this fancy dressed lady fool you…she is a strong rider.

IMG_9207 While pretty, Hill Avenue does include one challenging climb.  Although this isn’t the hardest part, its still much steeper than it looks in the photo.

IMG_9212 Noel, in many ways, is the heart and soul of this tour.  I want to ride like this man when I’m his age.  Everyone loves Noel.

IMG_9213 IMG_9214 IMG_9216 IMG_9218 Flower Valley Road is a long, gradual uphill which included (yes) wildflowers blooming all along the way.

IMG_9219After this came the rushing descent into Red Wing, and the bittersweet end of the LPTST for another year.  For three of us, however, there was more three speed touring ahead.  I’ll speak to that in my next post.