2015 Tour Preparations

IMG_8867Spring touring preparations are now in full swing. Over the winter, conversations between my touring buddies (Shawn, Steve, and one other maybe) and me were occasional with no particular sense of urgency or excitement. But now, as April has almost passed us by, there are only three more weeks until we roll out of Red Wing, Minnesota to start the 2015 Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour. We are in the midst of that delightful eager anticipation wave, and we realize there are time limitations for our preparing.  So today seemed like a good day to clean up my Quickbeam a bit, and convert it from its recent fixed wheel configuration back to three speed mode.

IMG_8870There are a couple of things different for the bike this year. I’m thinking I’ll probably go with drop bars. Instead of only a Carradice saddlebag, I’ve added front and rear racks. The bar difference is simply a whim. I’ve enjoyed the drops when the bike was in fixed wheel mode, and just don’t feel compelled to convert back to albatross bars just yet. The racks were added because me and the boys are planning a three day self-supported tour out of La Crosse, Wisconsin immediately after the Lake Pepin event. So this configuration should help me carry along all my creature comforts. Today’s post tinker session test ride gave me one more dose of eager anticipation, and I’m almost giddy.

Destination: Spring Creek Bridge

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Since riding a bike for training purposes has been abandoned, other more frivolous objectives have been substituted for my bicycle outings. Sometimes the objective is camping or coffee brew-ups. Often the objective is reconnaissance.

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Numerous delightful places have been found after field investigation of interesting spots identified while perusing Google’s photos.

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There is a curved bridge on County Road 321 crossing Spring Creek up in Cooke County. That was the target destination for today. It was a simple out and back route.

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On the way out, the only sounds were a roaring wind and the flapping of my windbreaker and pants. It was a slow, persistent crawl that promoted keen observation, frequent stops for photos, and brief conversations with the livestock.

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The photo above shows the curved bridge coming into view. It’s the light spot among the trees just left of center and a little below the horizon.

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The bridge is relatively new. It stands out conspicuously in the midst of the same old gravel or dirt roads at both ends.  Even so, there are many similar locations in this part of Texas where old, feeble one-lane bridges have been replaced with higher, wider, safer ones.

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Encounter – Just past the trees that line the road on the left side, a farm truck came slowly slip-sliding toward me in the muddy road. I had pulled over to the left side to take a photo. The truck slowed even more, and stopped next to me. The passenger window was buzzed down, and the first thing I saw was a small child in a car seat.

As my eyes moved right toward the driver, a young mother leaned toward the open window, smiled, and said, “I’m trying to not splash you.”

I simply smiled and said, “Thank you!”

Then she said, “Have a great day!”, rolled up the window, and drove on.  How neighborly.

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On the way home, the fierce wind had transformed itself into my best friend. Extended climbs in the big ring were easier than pedaling downhill in the small ring only moments before.

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Speaking of neighbors, we have interesting ones.

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On the way back, the only sounds were the wind whistling across barbed wire strands and the hum of tires on the road. Even while moving at speed and being so close to home, it doesn’t hurt a thing to squeeze the brakes, pause, and take in a deep, refreshing look at that lovely Clear Creek valley.

“Snow Day” Off-Road Coffee

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It wasn’t really snow. But it was enough freezing rain and sleet that schools closed and a lot of folks opted to avoid driving on icy roads for the sake of getting to work. Since my commute is over 50 miles (one-way), and that makes for a lot of opportunities for things to go wrong, I was one of those who avoided the roads.

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Today’s outing was a completely off road adventure. It was in the mid-20s, windy, and the wind chill was in the low teens. Low gray clouds were sailing across the sky. Sleet was blowing against my bike and coating it in a thin glaze of ice. A great day for a ride, and all day to enjoy it.

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This is far from ideal Pondero conditions, but with so much time available it seemed like a good idea to show my northern buddies I don’t always run from the white stuff.

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It was slow going on uneven range land, riding on top of 2-3 inches of frozen sleet…and then breaking through. Rolling resistance was pretty high. So after a plodding, epic long off road search, an acceptable patch of ice was found in a grove of trees. It seemed a decent spot for a brew-up.

The hot, fresh coffee warmed my insides. The clouds flew silently by, and there was no sound except the wind and the crackling of ice-coated tree branches. As I repacked my gear, I mentally prepared myself for the long, cold ride back home.

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Fortunately, I returned to the house before I succumbed to frostbite and hypothermia. Although I have a reputation as a Leisure Consultant, perhaps you are impressed with my toughness, and you will pretend you don’t know that’s my house you see in the photo above.

Grass Cluster Coffee

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The sky had alternating streaks of lighter and darker gray. It looked like massive, upside down ocean swells rolling from north-to-south on a chilly 20-30mph wind. But the sun’s glare was not in my eyes and it wasn’t 107 degrees, so it was a lovely day.

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Brew-ups with a view are better, and water views are as pleasing, and as attention grabbing as campfires. A large grass cluster provides a suitable wind break for the morning’s activities.

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On the prairie land of north central Texas, a thousand shades of brown against a backdrop of gray sky is a common scene. Beautiful in its own way.

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Sipping coffee behind so many clusters of tall, brown grass, the ducks are oblivious to my presence until I stand to take a photo.

IMG_8267Mountains and oceans are nice. But brown grass prairie land has a special subtle beauty available to those who seek it.

Chase

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Back in the day when I attempted fitness and speed, every dog chase was a sporting challenge and an opportunity to turn on some speed. It was part of the adrenaline rush I sought in my rides. When I was in top form, even the fastest dogs struggled to keep pace and even the meanest ones were working too hard at sprinting to coordinate a lunge and jaw snap. But that is no longer the case.

These days I don’t even attempt to outrun chasing dogs. I watch them closely and try to determine whether they are out on a social call, or something more serious. If its social, we cruise along together, enjoy light conversation and one another’s company. Otherwise, I tend to speed up a little and zigzag across the road to try and disrupt their rhythm. I know there are plenty of strategies, products, and tools out there that might aid in my self-protection. Meh. I might try something else one of these days…

2Today’s ride, however, reminded me of my glory days. Two dogs had an early jump on me and were already at full speed across their yard before I noticed them. As usual, dogs chase me when I’m going uphill.  But my Quickbeam with Barlow Pass tires rolls pretty fast, I had a gentle tailwind, and was zipping along well myself. So well, in fact, that I reached their intended cut-off spot before they did and simply rolled away from them. Those feelings of fitness and smug superiority came flooding back, and it was sweet. Victory and glory are mine!

Disclosure – The dogs were the smallest Yorkie and Chihuahua I have ever seen.