rebeccmeister: (Default)
Saturday morning, we once again got up at the crack of dawn, then ate delicious burritos and drank delicious coffee, and convinced ourselves to plop our posteriors back onto our bicycles.

Oh, with a slight modification. The infernal squishy seat on the Opus IV had to go. On the first morning, [personal profile] scrottie had asked if we could try out an old saddle off of one of my mom's bikes, so I tried one out for the ride from my parents' house to the starting line. That one felt like someone was putting a fist into an inappropriate part of my anatomy, so it wouldn't do, at all. Back to the squishy Respiro saddle.

By the end of Day 1, S and I were both suffering the consequences of riding on a bike saddle that was too wide and too squishy. The width of the thing made it difficult to sit back far enough, which forced more of my weight onto my arms and reduced my pedaling leverage. My arms were already having a difficult time of things because the Opus IV has a 20-inch front wheel and squishy padded handlebars that function, altogether, as a big, wiggling console. It's hard to take a hand off the bars for any length of time because steering can quickly go awry. Meanwhile, squishy saddles are terrible for S's posterior, and he was feeling the consequences too. So I got the idea to ask M if he might possibly have a spare saddle lying around somewhere, figuring that the worst of M's spare saddles would be far, far better than either of our current options.

M obliged, for he is the sort who never throws anything away. Blessed, blessed relief. The saddle he gave us was worn out, but it was a vast improvement.

On we went.

We traveled along pleasant Washington country roads all the way to Lynden, where it appeared that most of the remaining riders had just descended to eat breakfast. Calories chased with even more calories were sounding really good by then, so I pushed for a stop. Eventually we found ourselves outside of a Dutch bakery that had a reasonably short line, so we resupplied with an abundance of baked goods and drank a bit more coffee. Incidentally, I appreciated all of the beautiful floral displays in Lynden, reminiscent of the flowers I've seen in many European countryside towns.

Fabulous Dutch Bakery in Lynden, WA

We carried on, and quite soon came upon the small Canadian border crossing, which went incredibly quickly and smoothly. Bravo to all who facilitated that part!

So, Canada! We were in Canada for under three minutes before [personal profile] sytharin spotted a maple tree. Somewhere in the next stretch, S and my dad mashed the tandem up the steepest hill of the ride, and we reached the North Otter Rest Stop. I'd started noticing that at least one of the tandem's three chains was making extra noise, so it was time to seek out a mechanic again for some chain lube.

View of the triple chain setup on the Opus IV
Not one, not two, but THREE chains for the Opus IV!

The North Otter Stop was bustling, and the line for the mechanic was several people deep. Eventually, I noticed a second workstand, off to the side, and found a separate operation that was willing to loan me a bottle of chain lube.

Applying the chain lube took a long time, which meant I didn't eat enough. Fearing a repeat episode with El Crampo, I insisted on a lunch stop in a small settlement along the Fraser River. While we rode from North Otter to the Fraser River, we had noticed [personal profile] slydevil falling behind, so eventually [personal profile] sytharin said she'd drop back to hang out with L and we'd regroup at the next rest stop.

My lunch stop along the Fraser River was impromptu, and in the hubbub, we failed to catch L and R as they rode past. On the other hand, my egg salad sandwich served on a croissant was HEAVENLY and I don't regret it.

Onward. I was back in the saddle on the tandem. At mile 153, we reached an incredible bridge crossing up and over a branch of the Fraser River. Bicyclists and pedestrians could access the bridge via a spiral corkscrew ramp that spiraled around and around and around, for more than three turns, altogether. It was a hilarious affair.

As we continued to zig and zag towards Vancouver, the fatigue from the ride started to really catch up with me, so I traded off the tandem and back onto the Jolly Roger for a break. Then, time for another bridge crossing. Wanting to commemorate these lovely British Columbia bridges and beautiful views, I hung back for a photo:

Bridge crossing towards Vancouver, BC

Can you blame me, with scenery like this?


But when I caught up with S and my dad at the far end, a tragedy: there were no warnings anywhere about the hairpin turn at the far end of the bridge. Coming upon it, S had attempted to take the turn slowly and smoothly, but my dad lost confidence partway through and decided to bail out, which sent enough mass in the wrong direction that the Opus IV completely spilled.

It seemed that no one was seriously injured, so they dusted themselves off and walked a short ways ahead to start up again. Here I should also note that getting the Opus IV rolling is not a simple task: we devised a starting system where my dad braces the bike on both sides while the Captain prepares for takeoff, then the Captain says, "Ready, Steady, GO!", then my dad lifts his feet while the Captain hops off the ground and onto the saddle, whilst steering and starting to pedal. Remember that this all happens while managing the jiggling handlebar console, too.

Anyway. Along this stretch of the ride, while we were all feeling the effects of pedaling the Opus IV over 140 miles already, we encountered a new sort of trouble. All through Washington, the route was very clearly marked via a series of apple-shaped pavement blazes, which provided advance notice of turns and maneuvers, and then confirmed that we were on the correct route via extra blazes on the far side of each and every intersection.

Those excellent markings lulled us into complacency, for just after the second Fraser River bridge we hit a period of extreme confusion along the Lougheed Highway, where there were no helpful blazes to confirm and guide us on extremely busy suburban highway roads. We finally had to resort to relying upon the provided map and cue sheet for directions.

Managing the map and cue sheet while attempting to spot the poor road labels and pedaling up hills became one thing too many, while riding tired on a challenging bicycle and dodging other extremely tired zombie riders. From the Jolly Roger, I could tell that things were coming to a head between my two tandem-riding companions, but there really wasn't much I could do to smooth things out for the duo on the tandem. Eventually, we ground to a halt at an intersection, and my father requested a change-out in captains.

Tired, with fatigued wrists, I acquiesced. We were all tired, I could tell, and the only other thing I could tell was that I was probably the only person at that moment with enough extra cope to keep us all going. Also, have I mentioned that riding through suburbs is the worst?

We carried on. Finally, we reached the Port Moody Stop at the edge of Burrard Inlet. Everyone needed a break. S headed towards the bay for a dip in the ocean, while my father found some shade where he could rest and eat a snack. I tried to think of ways to locate L and R that didn't involve using cell phones. Eventually it occurred to me to check with the guy who was vigorously ringing the cowbell at the rest stop entrance: had he seen a rider with an octopus on her helmet?

Octopus atop basket
RAC's helmet

He had! She had just left, minutes before.

I concluded that it was too late to try and catch up with L and R. We were close enough to the end and it was still early enough in the day that I figured we'd be able to finish the ride, but it might not feel as much like a victorious conclusion as we might have liked, and we wouldn't have the extra moral support that L and R could lend.

S eventually returned from wading in the mud, we gathered up my father, and positioned the infernal Opus IV back onto the route. By this point, the only cyclists left at the stop were a small handful of battered-looking stragglers.

Riding a tandem can make a person acutely aware of certain unconscious cycling habits. Grinding up and down the hills along the Barnet Highway, I learned that when I am very tired and sore, I need to coast now and then for just a few seconds so I can shift my weight around and reposition my hands. Riding a tandem, these simple acts necessitate communication so that one's riding partner will stop the infernal pedaling already and allow the bike to coast.

Kind of like rowing a double.

At last, we survived the Barnet Highway, and at the end, started to encounter groups of stopped riders who were patiently waiting for struggling teammates. Good on you, teams. Those groups were a godsend; they helped sniff out the route ahead, and they also pushed all the beg buttons at the crossings so we could hang back and not have to go through the whole rigamarole of stopping and restarting the Opus IV.

The whole system worked well up until the very last hill. The last hill was just a little too much. My father was having a hard time reading the map to figure out how much further we needed to go. I was starting to seriously run out of gas, and on that last hill, the traffic light changed and brought us to a stop with an uphill start.

I proposed crossing the intersection on foot, so we did. Then I proposed that S dig around in the Jolly Roger's basket for a certain food item, an almond cake from the Dutch bakery in Lynden. So he did.

The almond cake wasn't quite as good as that rhubarb galette from the Sizun bakery during the Paris-Brest-Paris, but overall I'd say it came pretty darned close. I only regret that I didn't get two cakes instead of just one, so as to be able to enjoy one under at least slightly less duress. Note to self for future occasions.

Onward, along the neverending Adnac Bikeway. At least it was more pleasant than the traversal through the suburbs. Eventually, finally, we reached the upper end of False Creek, and the Waterfront Bike Path.

Can I just say that nothing is more harrowing than trying to operate an Opus IV tandem, heavily fatigued, on a bike path where small children are zooming to and fro on some sort of insane suicide mission?

Okay, maybe operating in a war zone.

At least the path designers had the foresight to separate the cyclists and the pedestrians, for the most part. The separation was successful up until the ultimate corner of the ride, where all of a sudden my mom leaped out of nowhere, ninja-Paparazzi-like, holding a tablet up in front of her, ready to capture a snap of that pivotal moment, my most supreme grumpy face.

We had made it to Vancouver. To party.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
[ profile] scrottie and I made it back to the home base in CA on Friday, after a solid 11 days of traveling for me. I don't know that I'll do a detailed blow-by-blow chronological recounting of our various adventures, but here are some initial thoughts and memorable moments. Also, a photo album with descriptions under the pictures.

We participated in the final two days of RAGBRAI, first from Ottumwa to Washington, then Washington to Muscatine a week from Saturday. We reached Muscatine in the early afternoon, with enough time to watch people wade into the Mississippi River and hoist their bikes over their heads for a victory photograph. Then we had some food and drinks at Contrary Brewing's brewpub while waiting out some of the afternoon heat and sun, pointed our bikes west, and pedaled back to Washington Saturday evening. Sunday evening, we made it back to Princess TinyHouse, parked in Ottumwa, IA. Monday, we drove from Ottumwa to Lincoln, and spent the evening and following morning catching up with my old boss and his family. Tuesday morning, we parked Princess TinyHouse and picked up a rental car, which we drove to Denver to visit with A and meet S. We spent a good part of Wednesday around Denver, then carried on to Fruita overnight. From Fruita, we took I-70 over to Highway 50, the Loneliest Road in America, and crossed mountain passes and desert valleys all the way out to Austin, Nevada, where we soaked in Spencer Hot Springs and flopped out for a nap in the scrub desert. On our last day, we reconnected with I-80 just outside of Reno and made it back to the house by midafternoon Friday.

They call RAGBRAI "Woodstock on Wheels." Overall, I found it to be more pleasant than the Seattle-to-Portland, for multiple reasons. For one thing, certain groups leapfrog along the route to sell foods and beverages to the riders. We appreciated the Iowa Craft Brewing tent in particular, although on a warm afternoon the hand-churned ice cream also hit the spot. For another thing, the distances are gentler on RAGBRAI, so it encourages riders with a broader range of aptitudes. Then there are the friendly people in the small towns, who pull out all the stops.

Originally, we had planned to roadtrip back to California in Princess TinyHouse, but as he thought things over, [ profile] scrottie decided it would probably be best to keep her in the Midwest, where storage is more affordable/less risky and from where he would be in a better position to bring her up to his mother's mechanic in Minneapolis. We considered various different options for the return trip, and eventually settled on renting a car to roadtrip back. That made for a lot of driving on my part, mostly counterbalanced by the fact that we took a different route from when we drove the moving truck out from Nebraska to California.

I don't know if I'll ever take the same route again, along Highway 50, but I'm so very glad that we went that way this time. It evoked some of the sense that I get during visits to Montana, that whole "big sky and wide-open spaces" sensation, and I was also deeply happy to see more of the wild and crazy geology in Utah. If you ever have a chance, I highly recommend the drive along Highway 50.

And now, back to the lab.

Also, the Jolly Roger feels super light and responsive after riding around with a full load for touring for a couple of days. Which is hilarious when you consider that it weighs at least 40 pounds unloaded.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I stopped by the bike shop that's along my commute route this morning.

They carry the correct brands of tires (Schwalbe, Continental), and *almost* had the correct replacement saddle. They also had a bunch of the different Arkel panniers in stock, so I could actually look at them and consider my options for replacing the Overlands, and the reasonable budget brands of bike lights.

I want to like The Missing Link more than I actually like it. Blue Heron will probably get the majority of my business from now on. The replacement saddle will come in next week.

New commute

Dec. 2nd, 2015 10:32 am
rebeccmeister: (Default)
The new commute is almost night-and-day different from the Lincoln commute, except with respect to the fact that both routes are technically primarily on bike paths. I say "technically" because the bike path here has a million stop signs along it, whereas the path in Lincoln had exactly none. So while it makes for a reasonably nice commute, it doesn't promote quite the same Zen-like state that facilitates writing bike commute haikus.

This morning, riding along, I noticed that there was a woman up ahead of me who seemed to be going at a fairly similar pace. Eventually, I realized that it was [ profile] sytharin, so I caught up and we rode along together for a stretch. So that was fun.

I need to make some modifications to the Berkeley end of the route still. As a whole, the route goes: down a hill, along a bike path, then up a hill, with a couple of turns and traffic lights towards the Berkeley end of the route. As RAC has observed, while there's a lot of bike infrastructure here, most of what counts as infrastructure is stuff that has simply been slapped on top of the existing infrastructure, because there isn't a whole lot of space to put in things that are specifically for bikes without engaging in some extensive, expensive overhauls. Such overhauls tend to turn into politically intractable turf wars. I suspect that the bike path exists because it runs under the BART on land the government already owns. One of the roads that heads up the hill towards campus, Virginia Street, is labeled as a Bike Boulevard, which means there are giant bike symbols painted on the road, and purple signs that inform you that you are on a bike boulevard. There are also a handful of wayfinding signs, which are good to see, and strategic permeable membrane barricades to discourage motorists but allow cyclists to use the low-traffic road.

On the other hand, Virginia Street crosses two busy streets that lack any sort of signal control, which can lead to the stressful situation of being stopped at the intersection with cars piling up behind me while I wait for four lanes of traffic to clear. Californians aren't especially patient with other drivers, but in many cases they have learned to be patient with cyclists because there are just so.damn.many of us. However, the problem is that many people start riding bicycles here without ever learning traffic skills, so the bicycle-motorist relationship gets to be ambiguous. Some riders just willfully blow through intersections, which makes me anxious, and I presume makes motorists anxious as well. On the third hand, there are a ton of stop signs up everywhere, and if I were to stop at each and every one of the stop signs along my commute, it would probably double the amount of time the commute takes. Stopping and starting is also energetically expensive. To handle that, I am just going to make an effort to be as courteous as possible, stopping when appropriate and thanking people who stop and wait for me.

But back to the subject of crossing the busy roads. On Monday, on the ride home, I watched a cyclist approach one of these crossings, hop off her bicycle, walk it across in the crosswalk, and then hop back on. Whereas the bicycle-motorist relationship is a tad awkward and ambiguous, the motorist-pedestrian relationship seems to be much more clear: motorists MUST stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. I absolutely agree with this aspect of the hierarchy: pedestrians should universally have the right-of-way.

I tried this cyclist's strategy on my way home from work yesterday, and it worked magically well. I am still uncertain about how I feel about using it, though. It sounds like I may be able to avoid using it by fine-tuning my route further. But boy is there a lot to figure out with riding my bike here.

Here's one last major thing I'm puzzling over. In congested areas where the cars pile up at traffic lights, cyclists appear to nonchalantly forge ahead and jump the car line by passing on the right. This often occurs in between a row of parked cars and a row of stopped, waiting cars. In Arizona, I made the tactical decision to not engage in this style of passing-on-the-right because it can easily lead to a "right hook" accident (driver turning right cuts off the cyclist, who smashes into the side of the car). However, in Boston way back in the college days, I used to routinely do this along Mass Ave while biking to and from the boathouse, without major incident. I suspect drivers here are accustomed to paranoid checking for sneaker bicycles, but I don't see it as especially fair to jump the queue. Despite my reservations, I suspect I will start right-side queue-jumping anyway just because if I don't I will probably just piss off other cyclists who don't want to wait in the back of the car line. The main reason this could turn into a problem is that I need to continue NOT doing this when I go and ride my bike elsewhere.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I believe it was my good friend DM who first introduced me to the #bikecommutehaiku concept. I got inspired to write them while riding to and from campus in Texas because I was spending a lot of time on roads that weren't especially cognitively demanding but were busy with vehicles racing to and fro. Somehow they are also part of my reaction to the often solitary nature of bicycling, combined with the sensory experience of being on a bicycle.

For a similar reason, I've returned to composing them this fall, in part because I really love my bike commute and want to share the joy, and in part because this is the time when a lot of people hang up their bikes and do I-don't-know-what instead (hibernate?). I find that the sensory experience of bike commuting feels even more rich as the seasons turn.

A sampler:
August 18, 2014 (Texas one):
Someone else wrote, "August morning chill / Squirrels dart across the road / Nuts! We must have nuts!"
And that inspired me to write: "August morning heat / Dead armadillo rotting / Hobo shower now."

August 21, 2014:
Rainclouds and headwind
Drippy drippy drippy wet
Hobo shower now.

August 24, 2014:
Up before sunrise
Trundling towards breakfast first
Bike-friendly Fridays

August 26, 2014:
Past the oil derrick
Roadways clogged with motorists;
Students returning

August 27, 2014:
Hints of autumn cool
Thunderstorms still forecasted
Batten the panniers!

September 18, 2014:
Thunderstorms again
Nervously checking forecasts
Poncho and fenders.

September 23, 2014 (sorta summarizes biking in Texas - witnessing the animal slaughter caused by speeding cars):
Dead raccoon, dead skunk
Dead snake, dead armadillo
Dead dog. None mine.

September 29, 2014:
Headlight is even worse than
No headlight at all

October 1, 2014:
Pollen's still around
Biking requires breathing

January 23, 2015:
Remembering I've
Neoprene booties at home,
But at work, shoes soaked.

-Just a few from the Nebraska period-
June 18, 2015 (upon seeing a small plastic dinosaur in the middle of the bike path):
Trailside dinosaur
Camera batteries dead
Just imagine it

May 4, 2015 (along the Antelope Creek bike path):
Shreds of thunderstorm
Waters send the creek flowing
Dodging the raindrops

October 27, 2015 (right after the new trailside coffee roaster/coffeeshop opened):
Sensory bike path:
The smell of roasting coffee
Wildflowers still bloom.
Fall colors near the Jane Snyder Trail Center

November 6, 2015 (now taking advantage of the trailside coffeeshop):
Coffeeshop bike ride
Autumn sunrise, fresh croissant
Life is pretty good.
Lovely morning for a coffeeshop bike ride

November 13, 2015 (coffeeshop before work, AND a bike commuter happy hour after work today - the latter with other people!!):
Bike-friendly Friday
Celebrate bikes everywhere
With breakfast or beer
Bike-friendly Friday, Lincoln, NE
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Work has been busy, to put it mildly, which means I've had a serious backlog of subjects I've wanted to cover. Here's a review of some of the logistics involved in traveling to another continent to embark on a bike ride.

The travel: Lincoln only has a small municipal airport with two American carriers. Most airlines charge a hefty fee for bicycles, plus there's the added expense of limited airline options and I generally don't care for American carriers for overseas flights. So instead I decided to take the train up to Chicago, where I would have many more options. I think the train ticket cost a total of around $120, plus another $10 to check my bicycle on the return trip (on the trip there, the station manager didn't quite know how to handle the situation so he didn't charge me). I could afford the time.

I had thought that the 5-hour gap between the train's scheduled arrival in downtown Chicago and the plane's departure would be adequate, even taking into account the inevitable Amtrak delay. I was wrong. The train encountered a downed tree across the track and wound up arriving in Chicago a few minutes after the flight had been scheduled to leave. However, for reasons I'll never quite know, the flight also got canceled, so Aer Lingus re-booked me for the following day for free. Phew. I was able to get a room at the Chicago youth hostel downtown and did some sightseeing. Not a huge deal, but if I were to do this again I would go for the 29-hour layover just to be on the safe side. The 25-hour layover on the return was very pleasant. But maybe I should plan on visiting fewer destinations in Europe, although overall I'm happy to have visited so many places. I am likely to forget this last point, but altogether I am thinking: head straight to Paris on the way out, then do some leisurely sightseeing after the ride is over. Better for resting up the legs and ensuring that the bike arrives.

By the way, neither Aer Lingus nor Virgin charges a bike fee for trans-Atlantic flights as of this posting. When you consider that most bike fees run around $125, that's around $250 in savings.

In 2011, I transported my aluminum/carbon fiber bike in a big, plastic, hard-sided case. It protected the bike all right, but was a huge pain in the ass to cart around because it had one small strap and tiny wheels. Ugh. So heavy. This time, I used the soft-sided bag that [ profile] scrottie bought in Amsterdam in 2011 when his cardboard box failed, and carted it around with a folding luggage cart. The bag has a shoulder strap, which let me shoulder and carry the bike up stairs and escalators, and the hand cart was rugged but comfortable enough that I walked with the bike for distances of up to 2 miles while traveling around (Brussels, in particular). My only complaint was that the whole thing was a bit too floppy. If I were to do this again I would try to figure out how to snug everything together better. It was floppy to the point where at one point it pressed one of the wheel guards onto the wheel, wearing a groove in it.

I saw some riders in Versailles who had packaged their bicycles up in coroplast boxes, which looked pretty good. I'd still say that some sort of rugged shoulder strap is indispensable. I got some raised eyebrows when I tried to carry on the bike on the return train trip from Paris to London, but eventually the officials just waved me through. Otherwise it would have cost me another 30 Euros to check the bike for that train leg.

When the ticket agent in the Chicago airport said my bike was "checked through," I got lulled into complacency, thinking that the outbound trip would be like our travels through Iceland, where I didn't see the checked luggage until we arrived in Amsterdam. That could have been why my bike took 2 extra days to show up in London, which cost me all the time I'd planned on spending in Brussels and the $250 I'd saved by taking an air carrier without bike fees (rebooking my train ticket). So, reconfirm this aspect of things when you check your bike. Those days in London were stressful.

In general it's helpful to remember that Europeans are better about providing good "left luggage" services than Americans. I was able to store the packed bike at the youth hostel in London when I went out to the countryside for a few days, and stored it overnight at the Dublin airport on the return trip (~12 Euros) because I really didn't want to drag it in to town and back again. Youth hostels are generally accommodating on this front.

One other note on the Dublin airport, though. It took a LONG time to get through lines and all the way to the gate. Budget extra time for that airport.

Local navigation in France: Right before I left, I paid to upgrade to the full version of OpenStreetMaps. Worth every penny. I also wrote down the latitudes and longitudes for a whole bunch of miscellaneous important places. This system worked fantastically well for getting around town, as long as I remembered to use the appropriate navigation settings. I took some scary roads when I accidentally used motor vehicle settings instead of bicycle settings. Whoops.

I also downloaded a gpx route someone had shared for getting from Paris proper out to SQY, starting from the Arc de Triomphe. The route was excellent and scenic, with very few navigation points. The only hitch was that it led me to the 2011 gymnasium start instead of the Velodrome. I also wish I'd felt good enough to have just ridden back into Paris after PBP, especially after the experiences on the Metro. I wasn't able to extend my stay at the Versailles hotel for any more days because I hadn't booked the room early enough, but in the future I think it would be good to budget two full nights of sleep and recovery there before trying to travel anywhere else.

I also downloaded gpx files for the PBP route, but I never used my phone for this at all. The signs were adequate as long as I was attentive at certain key points. Instead I only used my phone for pictures and the nap timer (left the GPS off and left it in energy saver + airplane mode). Its battery held up fine for the entire ride, although I'd packed along a backup battery just in case.

One thing I did that was tremendously helpful: I wrote out information about all of the controls and service stops on a set of index cards, including my calculated closing times, the distances between controls, and the total distance I'd gone so far. I should note that the brevet card only lists control openings and closings for the 5:15 pm start, so if I hadn't done my own calculations in advance I would have had to do the math on the fly while sleep-deprived. Not so bad when there's just an hour difference, but it was better to have everything laid out clearly. Plus I wasn't riding with my brevet card face-open, whereas I had the index cards out in my map case instead of a cue sheet (tucked behind and not really used at all). Maybe I should have translated those to miles from kilometers. But hey, this was in France. I probably should have switched over my odometer to kms, too, but at the same time the conversions gave me something to try and think about when sleep-deprived and sometimes it's better if you can't quite do the math on how far you've gone and how far you have yet to go. If I were to do this again I would try to scope out more of the non-control towns where it is possible to get services much faster than at the controls. Knowing more locations of bars, tabac shops, and pharmacists could be useful.

Ride food. I'm generally reluctant to pack bunches of energy bars and electrolytes and the like. However, I was very glad that I had a packet of Nuun tabs along with me because there weren't enough other electrolyte sources along the ride. I also wish I'd packed at least a couple of energy bars, because they would have saved my butt on more than one occasion, like when I couldn't buy baguette sandwiches in SQY immediately prior to the ride because it was a Sunday and the mall was closed.

I won't waste my money again on the "pre-ride dinner" ticket. I kind of want to send it back to the organizers because I am still annoyed that they ran out of food.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Stage 3: Villaines to Fougeres (309 km)

Unlike the riders crashed out in the cafeteria at Villaines, I simply paused to eat, visited the toilets, refilled my bottles, and shoved on. As an old book puts it: Evening passed and morning followed: The First Day. Now it was Monday. Despite riding through the night, I felt strong and awake the second morning, riding through scenic towns on the way to Fougeres. It was wonderful to revisit some of the beautiful spots I remembered vividly from 2011, such as this small river and town in a valley. In the early morning, I had started to see evidence of the French enthusiasm for cyclists in the form of all sorts of bicycle-themed displays, but this was the first point where it seemed worthwhile to pause and take a picture because day had broken.

The bicycles of Paris-Brest-Paris

The bicycles of Paris-Brest-Paris

The French are a large part of the reason to participate in this event. In addition to the countless people serving up water, snacks, and drinks by the side of the road, there are many who stay up late into the night and early into the morning to help ensure that tired riders don't miss critical turns. Even the French cyclists carry this attitude; at certain points I was cheered and encouraged by fellow riders passing me while exclaiming, "Bravo, madame! Bon courage!" Same to you, monsieur! What good cheer!

And then there were these guys, two Italians wearing historic clothing and riding period bicycles with old-fashioned lanterns for headlights. I hope they were able to keep their smiles all the way through.

The bicycles of Paris-Brest-Paris

At the control in Fougeres, I scarfed down the following items from the cafeteria, and then it was time for another project.

The bicycles of Paris-Brest-Paris

I can't remember if I've blogged much about this, but over the spring brevet series in Nebraska, I had an equipment problem crop up. My seatpost saddle bolt started to loosen up just a hair, causing my seat to tilt back too far. When I took things apart to investigate the issue, I eventually figured out that I could flip around one of the toothed bracket pieces and things seemed to hold together okay, so I have continued to use that seatpost. However, in the week prior to my departure for Europe, while commuting on Froinlavin, at one point I felt the unmistakable tiny clump of the saddle slipping down a notch again, angling the nose ever so slightly upward.

My desire to get good miles under my belt during the early stages of PBP overrode the need to do anything about this tiny maladjustment up until I reached Fougeres. At that point, growing discomfort in my lower back made me resolve to deal with the situation. The adjustment would have been trivial except that it also involved removing and re-installing my trunk bag, but after 5-10 minutes of fiddling, I got things better positioned and was ready to roll again.

As many cyclists will say, what a difference a degree will make! It turns out that it's still true. My lower back was instantaneously and miraculously happy again. In the long run I think my stubbornness contributed to the manifestation of other discomforts further down the road, but that's an aspect of myself I need to keep working on. Ounces of prevention and pounds of cure, and the like.

I had enough of my wits about me to remember that there's a castle in Fougeres! It is a little tricky to photograph from the route, but you can see a couple of the towers in this photo:

The bicycles of Paris-Brest-Paris

More importantly, in case you ever find yourself in Fougeres, it seems like a good idea to stop at the bar at the Fougeres castle, seen on the left side of the photo. Every good castle deserves a good castle bar.

Stage 4: Fougeres to Tinteniac (363 km)
I rode many sections of PBP alone, but in the company of ghosts, as memories of my 2011 attempt rose fresh to the surface. In 2011, by the time we reached Tinteniac, I was starting to feel the effects of riding straight through the first night and going up and down and up and down so many hills. At the controle, the man who stamped my brevet card asked me how I was doing, and I told him that I was very, very tired. In reply, he said, "When you are tired, just look out at the beautiful French countryside and you won't feel so tired anymore."

I listened and thought about his kind encouragement for the rest of the ride in 2011, and thought about his words many, many times on the road this year. If you were to ask me what would bring me back to PBP, the French countryside would be the number one answer.

The bicycles of Paris-Brest-Paris

The bicycles of Paris-Brest-Paris

This year, I simply paused for a baguette sandwich and a banana at Tinteniac, and pressed on.

Stage 5: Tinteniac to Quedillac (km 389)
I don't remember a whole lot from this part. Instead, here's a photo of a couple of the ElliptiGo riders. We leapfrogged quite a bit and rode together a bit, too. A couple of them used their reflective ducks to mark the travel arms of the ElliptiGos, so bicyclists wouldn't accidentally come up too close behind them at night. It's difficult for me to remember the names and faces of many of the other riders who rode alongside me and chatted for a bit. As another randonneusse commented, after a little while all of the middle-aged white guys start to blend together! Sorry, guys, but thank you for the company nonetheless.

The bicycles of Paris-Brest-Paris

Stage 6: Quedillac to Loudeac (km 448)
The ghosts surrounding Loudeac are strong. In 2011, on the outbound leg, S and I slept fitfully under a space blanket in a corner of the cafeteria, missing the worst of some thunderstorms. I was resolved to not sleep at Loudeac this time around because the conventional wisdom is that one can burn up too much time there waiting in very long lines for the showers, food, and sleeping cots. I did wait in the food line, and ate as much as I could of a huge plate of green beans (yum yum YUM), pasta with accidental meat sauce (ugh), and omelette (too intense for my stomach, ate most but not all). Then I set my phone's alarm for a 12-minute catnap in a small square of grass. Later on, another rider told me that when I lay down to sleep, there were a bunch of other riders sleeping in the same patch as well. When I got up, I was the only one left. I must have used an impressive repellent!

Stage 7: Loudeac to Saint Nicolas-du-Pelem (493 km)
Night fell. I also remember this section vividly from 2011. In 2011, the fog was pea-soup thick. S's fenders reached the point of irritability where we paused so he could rip them off, muttering curses. This time around, I didn't pause, but the section still felt treacherous. The hills are so steep and curvy that even with my much brighter generator light it was too terrifying to fly down them and reclaim as much energy as possible to climb back up.

I had been thinking I might try to sleep at Saint Nicolas, which turned out to be a "secret controle." However, when I pulled in, I could see a line sticking out of the sleeping accommodations, and I was starting to get tired of waiting in lines. I also didn't feel all that terribly exhausted, so instead I had a bowl of cafe-au-lait (in honor of my 2011 bowl there; the steam in my face felt amazing). I lay in the warm grass for another 12-minute catnap, then hopped back on my bicycle to forge onward to Carhaix.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
A week from today, I'll be on the train to Chicago, off for my wild trains, planes, and bicycling adventure. I'm excited but nervous because there are still a million little fiddly bits to figure out. Where will I sleep in Brussels? What's the route from the Chicago train station to the airport? Will I manage to disassemble and reassemble Froinlavin smoothly? At least I had some time to give Froinlavin a bath yesterday, after doing a more thorough mud-removal job on the Jolly Roger. The business from last weekend was really caked on.

Meanwhile, I've been accumulating bicycling-related links in various browser tabs.

From [ profile] thewronghands, information about the Foothills Trail near Mt. Rainier. I want to scrutinize this trail further, out of general interest in the region. It's also interesting to think about how to ride a trail that is missing sections.

A friend-of-a-friend is an awesome stats geek who is analyzing the bike count data automatically generated by the bike counters set up around Seattle. This reminds me that when my dad and I rode the tandem across the Fremont Bridge, it did indeed count us as two separate bicyclists, in case this is the kind of thing any of you wonder about.

The Nebraska Bicycling Alliance is still a very young organization, but its leader has been doing a lot of legwork to assess the statewide situation. Here's her report on how things are looking across Nebraska, and what's on the statewide agenda.

If you're a bike person, you might already have heard about this act of civil obedience in San Francisco recently. Man, stop signs are a contentious issue among cyclists. I will confess to blowing through them on many occasions, sometimes to [ profile] scrottie's consternation. But, for instance, why oh why do some cities insist on turning traffic circles into four-way stops?? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of the traffic circle? Anyway, the action by this group of San Franciscans made me chuckle a bit, and I'll be interested to learn how the situation progresses.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
My friend A is coming out for a visit next weekend and it would be useful for her to have a bike to ride around, so it was finally time to unbox Old Faithful and get it up and running again. Old Faithful is a Chicago-era Schwinn Collegiate, which means it's old and heavy and held together with clunky nuts and bolts. Upon unboxing, I was reminded of why it had been sitting for so long. The last person who used it was my roommate at the Villa Maria house, and he wasn't very careful with it. I'm still appalled by how callously he treated my things, with zero sign of gratitude. I would come home and find brake cables snapped, the wire pieces duct taped out of the way, and at some point the grips were off and tossed in a heap. Those were minor nuisances compared to the terrible state he left the rear wheel in:

Old and busted

Broken spokes all over. When I first got Old Faithful up and running as my backup bike for the Jolly Roger, before I got Froinlavin, I went through a series of spoke breaks and replacements. I still have 4-5 spare spokes, as I figured I would wind up having to continue the project. That assumed that I would only need to replace spokes one at a time, however. With the current state of the wheel, more drastic action was needed, most likely a full rebuild, truing, and dishing. Skills I don't yet have.

So I took the wheel over to one of the suggested local bike shops, where the mechanic felt the grindy, ancient hub and hmm'd a bit. This shop looks like it deals with its fair share of special projects, to judge by its awesome collection of vintage mountain bikes, but I don't know if they have much experience with these old Schwinns. When I was in Tempe, I popped in to the Ehrhardt's Schwinn Shop to ask about replacements or updates for these old wheels, and they just glumly said, "There aren't any." The current mechanic is optimistic that a British 26 x 1 3/8" wheel will just barely work as a more reasonable option compared to rebuilding the old wheel. The British wheels are ISO 590 mm, as opposed to the Schwinn 26 x 1 3/8 x 1 1/4 (as the mechanic was calling it), which is ISO 597 mm.

The tricky part will be the brake caliper reach, which is already quite long, and which will probably *barely* work with the British wheel size. Cross your fingers that this will work. Most likely I'll find out on Wednesday. If this doesn't work, I may wind up seeing about setting up the Schwinn with a rear coaster brake instead, or I might go through and learn a thing or two about wheel-building with the old hub and rim. My thinking is that I'd like to keep the thing rideable, one way or another, even if it winds up having a FrankenBike appearance. Otherwise I am just hauling around a big hunk of metal, and I already have enough of those to move across the country.

I did have better success with another small thing that had puzzled me for a long while. When I got the Schwinn, its horn had an old, cracking rubber bulb taped on with some electrical tape. Somewhere, I managed to find a replacement bulb, but I couldn't figure out how it was supposed to be reattached to the horn, as it looked like the horn was designed to be durable. Well. I finally figured out what must have happened. At some point, someone tried to use glue to hold a previous rubber bulb in place. After I scraped out the glue, the new bulb fit snugly in to the metal part, and the horn is good as new.

Horn repair

The ineffectual glue job is part of my Weston heritage. Who knows which Weston family member thought it might be a good horn repair method.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)

Hoo boy, what an adventure. I took photos on day one, but I think I want to go back to a non-smart-o-phone camera. Imminent battery death is irritating.

The pirate costumes and sea shanties definitely increased the net happiness in the world, as W put it. We had phenomenal weather, and aside from the "long" (1-mile) hill on day 1 and the hill up to the bridge on day 2, the hill-climbing was pretty tolerable. I didn't terrify my dad to death too badly on the downhills. Would I ever buy one of these contraptions? Probably not.

Today, my dad and I will take the train back up to Seattle so we can fetch the bikes. And that is all for now.

rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
There have been a few more moments of quietude today, which is a relief.

First things first, I got to meet [ profile] thewronghands IRL yesterday! And also [ profile] project_mayhem_. Our conversation reminded me, to some extent, of [ profile] gfrancie's description of our in-person conversations, where we wind up fitting in a good year's worth of discussion over the course of one brief visit. I love meeting LJ people in person because I know you-uns are folks who have long attention spans, and that sort of depth of knowing a person is meaningful for me. Elements of today's Questionable Content are related (although I don't know many people who are as strange an experience as Emily, heh).

This morning, my father and I got a ride from my father's friend A, to go and pick up the tandem we're planning to ride down to Portland. What a shop. Here's the owner, putting air in the tires. I think we'll manage better pictures of the tandem itself in upcoming days. It definitely turns a few heads.

Great source for innovative bicycles

There are a few more photos of bikes out in front of the shop. If you wish to see them click the above photo.

After a bit of fiddling with mechanical matters and some brief parking lot test rides, we carted the bike back to the house, had some lunch, and set off on a real test expedition.

So, let me tell you a bit about riding a hybrid recumbent / upright tandem. The stoker is the captain, controlling the steering of the front wheel with a set of connecting rods. The recumbent passenger provides the "landing gear," keeping the bike balanced and upright when stopped. We only almost fell over once! This particular tandem, the Opus 4, provides independent coasting for the recumbent rider, but the stoker is forced to pedal whenever the recumbent rider is pedaling. Not really a terrible compromise. The frame is adequately sturdy such that we didn't experience terrible wobble, but the wobble was noticeable. The riding experience is odd for the recumbent rider because he sits on top of the front wheel, but it's not an insurmountable problem and improves the overall turning radius and sense of handling for the stoker-captain.

So the more serious test-riding. We stuck with a mostly-flat route, out along the Burke-Gilman trail to Fremont, then over the Fremont Bridge (bike counter accurately determined we were two bicyclists), along the bike path on the south side of the Ship Canal, and out to the Myrtle Edwards Park trail. Over the course of things I determined that attempting to use the granny gear chainring just caused chainsuck, and that starting and stopping at every light in downtown Seattle traffic was slightly less than pleasant. Thankfully, drivers were patient with us and I just happily hogged lanes and rode all over the place, as appropriate. It was hard for me to take my hands off the handlebars, so my dad was in charge of signaling which direction to take, and I think he enjoyed getting to signal and then just having the bike go in the direction signaled.

This thing is definitely going to take work to ride 200 miles, but I'm pretty sure I'm up for the challenge. I'm hoping my dad will be able to provide "engine assist" whenever we encounter hills, and will otherwise be able to relax and take it easy, once he's gotten his lumbar support pillow installed.

Unfortunately, I learned one last thing the hard way: when there are chainrings on both sides of the bottom bracket, it's necessary to roll up both pants legs. Methinks I will now convert these pants, with their fresh cuff tear, into knickers. Sigh.

Family coffee
Mid-ride coffee break at Espresso Vivace, plus preview of part of [ profile] sytharin's ride costume sitting on the table, wink wink.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I have ticketed a grand total of two bicycles in Lincoln, using my own version of these. I originally made a set of the tickets for [ profile] scrottie, who would sigh and say, as we walked around bike-tating (spectating awesome bicycles), "I wish I could give that bike a ticket for excessive awesomeness." But once I gave him a set, I couldn't help myself and started making more.

I tried to use them as a community-building item in Texas, putting info about one of the local cycling organizations on the back of the ticket. My friends were entertained by them, but that's all I ever heard back. I probably put about 50 tickets on various rad bikes around that campus, but got zero response. I've only ticketed two bikes in Lincoln. The second one was this bike:

Big dummy

which belongs to a local bike mechanic, and who saw me issue the ticket because I wasn't being very sneaky about it.

I was more sneaky about the first one, because it's a bike that I ride past every day on my way to work, and it really does make my day whenever I see it, I have no idea who the owner is, and I've never seen the owner.

Apparently ticket recipient #2 had already heard about ticket recipient #1's ticket. I had noticed that the ticket was still in place on bike #1 a few days later, when the bike was parked in a different location in the same general area (clearly, someone commutes on it).

This is such a different city.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Bicycling on my mind

I finally had breathing room yesterday to start thinking about plans for the Paris-Brest-Paris some more. To start, I outlined the 15 stages of the ride, and dug through some of my previous materials, such as the pictured "France Randonnees a Velo" map being helpfully held down by Emma. My 2011 number and frame badge are pictured at the lower left, along with the handwritten prescription for industrial-strength Ibuprofen written by the doctor at Carhaix. Wonder if it's still good, but I hope I never have to find out.

The Nebraska RBA has been good about getting our results validated and returning our brevet cards, so the four pictured brevet cards are my qualifiers for the 2015 PBP. I like that he has an "Audax Nebraska" rubber stamp. The Nebraska Bicycling Alliance ringleader (source of the pictured "Thank You" card) also either has a super-nice bicycling stamp, or a friend with said stamp.

I woke up at 5:30 this morning, and turned yesterday's rhubarb and sour cherries into compote, which I applied to waffles for breakfast.

Cherry-rhubarb compote

I like to add just enough sugar so the compote doesn't make my mouth pucker up. If I were more than one person, I might switch to whipping cream instead of ice cream as my waffle topping. Solo living compromises.

Then I rode over to the Great Plains Trails Network's thirteenth annual Trail Trek, where they put together adventures of all distances that make use of Lincoln's fine trail system.

I encountered a few young Trekkers on my way to the starting line:

Kids headed to the Trek

Although I suspect they joined the other kids completing the 8-mile trek. I just LOVE seeing kids out on bikes. If B lived out here, he'd have a whole posse of kids to ride with!

After ticketing this rad-tastical Big Dummy (owner works at one of the local bike shops):

Big dummy

I embarked on the 28-mile trek, as a volunteer, along with this gaggle of folks:

Words of wisdom for the 28-mile riders

The people wearing green shirts are volunteers, although there seemed to be an abundance of us on the 28-mile distance, and we didn't have a whole lot to do. Probably better that way, eh?

This bike, parked at the end, was also cool, although I didn't ticket it.


And now I am enjoying a mostly-quiet afternoon.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I am feeling surprisingly alert, for having just finished another 600k. The completion means I'm now up to four Super Randonneur Series (series of 200k, 300k, 400k, 600k). And you know what? I feel a sense of accomplishment. They are a major experience, let me tell you.


We managed to get almost five (5!) hours of sleep on Saturday night. Every extra hour feels so luxurious. Saturday's tailwind sections helped tremendously. It was also helpful to divide up the pulling across four riders instead of just two. But even two was better than one!

We saw a LIVE ARMADILLO! I was unable to photograph it.

I found a really nice cell phone just lying by the side of the road! (it belonged to one of our riders who had gotten ahead of the group; I gave it back after some heckling)

Our penultimate control was at a winery/brewpub. Oh man. It was so awesome. Beer really hits the spot before/during/after a bike ride. They also had appetizers that were substantive enough to fuel the last 30 miles - chips with spinach-artichoke dip, and a goat cheese/raspberry jam/black bean combination thing. I am so grateful that the Nebraska Randonneurs (all three of us, heh) like to stop at these kinds of places, and put the emphasis on enjoying the ride. Life's too short to freak out about setting new time records or whatever. I think the Colorado guy who showed up (and lost his phone) experienced a bit of culture shock, as he is apparently one of those people who does double century races. He really enjoyed the Nebraska roads, however. And he's right - they are remarkably clean and clear of glass or other puncture debris. I can say that now that the series is complete (my tires are balding and need replacement, so I've been superstitious up until now).

Time to bathe and maybe sleep some more. And stretch. And eat.


rebeccmeister: (Default)

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