Tour day four, five : ho boy we've got a story to tell

Once again I'm dictating into a phone. So if it doesn't make sense, just kind of read between the lines, it's the best I can do from where I'm at.

Day 4 begin the small sleepy town of Concrete Washington. It really strikes me as one of those towns that rolls up the sidewalks at a certain time? Possibly just a tourist kitschy town. But, clean room, great shower, decent television! I'll take it. 

The the road out was actually not that bad. It was relatively flat, which is what I expected. Some strange stuff though, for some reason there seems to be a lot of these Blue Fish on the road and I don't know why. But, sometime when I get home, I'll look it up. It'll bother me until then

upload.jpg

The the big milestone was getting to the North Cascades National Park. This is where I knew the climbing would actually begin. I prepared as much as I could back home, but to be honest, nothing prepared me for this. 

 

upload.jpg

The the opening day climb was about 2,000 feet total. I pretty much sucked it up in granny gear for the entire time, desperately looking for landmarks that match the map so I knew exactly how far I had to go. Honestly though, I don't know if it helped. I eventually did get over the Ridge, and got to my Campground which I chose because it was the last Campground along the way. Meaning less climbing for today.

Now now, something about this trip that's been freaking me out ever since I planned it. Bears. 

upload.jpg

This is is as close to a bear as I ever want to get. Yeah, Taxidermy, but still! So a lot of my decisions in the last week leading of this tour was made in fear of bears. I have a bear canister. I have sent proof bags. All of which was highly recommended to me.

I'm I'm getting a feeling I don't need any of it. 

But but that said, when I got into the campground, my Campground had this wonderful thing all the way in the back, about 20 ft away from the tent pad. 

upload.jpg

That that brown thing behind the bike? That's a bear vault. You put anything in there that smelly, and bears can't open it. So pretty much everything I owned on the bike went into that thing, I would have probably stuff the bike in there if I possibly could have. 

Come come to think of it, I would have slept in it if I could. 

Ends up ends up the night was very uneventful, really nothing happened other than early morning. Made breakfast this morning, piled everything on the bike, and went. 

 

Well, well, except this little thing kept on yelling at me. 

Well, well, except this little thing kept on yelling at me. 

Today started today started the real grueling climbs. I knew I had two of them to conquer, did not account for the false one at the beginning. And the problem started right away. 

It it really feels like something in the mechanism of the bike is Gummy or sticking or something. I'm down Hills I have to Pedal in order to gain speed. This shouldn't happen. I got about 15 some odd miles Inn, and I realize that the problem was not going to go away on its own. The problem is, there's absolutely nothing out there. No gas stations, no rest stops, no nothing. 

This this also serve to be a problem, because I also ran out of water. Thankfully, my paranoia before the ride cause me to buy a water purification system. That came in handy today and may have saved my tail. But it still had a major problem, mainly the bike was almost impossible to Pedal. 

So so just before the second major climb of the day, I decided to walk the bike. And I sent a text message through the satellite GPS that just said hope for trail angels. And I got one. 

upload.jpg

Technically, technically, I got two. These gentlemen are from Spain, and they're touring the parks of America. When I put my thumb out they pulled over immediately we piled the bike in, they made more than ample room for me, and they hauled me over the major climbs of the day. I can't tell you how absolutely grateful I am that they did this. 

upload.jpg

They actually they actually took me to The Bike Barn that I'm at tonight. They said they were doing it to put more Good Karma into the world? I cannot express how grateful I am I did.

upload.jpg

 It ends up that just outside of the Bike Barn, there's a place in Mazama that has all these organic homegrown stuff. So I picked up some food there, and after being dropped off at the Bike Barn, I put it into the mini fridge at happens to be here.

I I didn't take a picture of it yet, but this place has an outdoor shower. If you have any modesty, toss it out the window when you go bike touring. 

upload.jpg

All in all, today was a very interesting, long, but good day. I'm currently sharing this location with another gentleman who just rolled in. He's a longtime tour cyclists, so he might be helping me shave down my pack. All I know is tomorrow, I'm rolling into a major town. They have a bike shop, I'll have them look at the bike. And I might stop at the post office to jettisons some stuff. I'm not sure yet.

So so I'm going to have dinner, which is going to be ssandwiches. Going to be drinking a metric boatload of water, and getting ready for tomorrow. I may take a blank day tomorrow, depends on what happens at the bike shop. I really don't know.

But but I will ask one thing, if you're enjoying the blog, or enjoying the live streams I do on Facebook, or enjoying the tracking, please share this stuff? It would mean the world to me if this just started to take off and I could make the goal of $5,000 donated to the pancreatic cancer Action Network. The best way to do that, is to share the tracking link and encourage people to donate through that. 

 

upload.jpg

Day two, three. Tactical blunders, and leaving the ocean side.

Once again, I am dictating this into a phone. So if things don't look right, just work with it. I'm really not in the mood to edit.

upload.jpg

D2 D2 was a massive tactical blunder on my behalf. Mainly, I misread the maps. What I thought would only be 60 some-odd miles ended up being 80 some-odd miles. This made for a very long day, and I wasn't even sure I could continue for day 3. But, you take your Simple Pleasures where you can. Like finding gas station food this actually pretty good. I ended up rolling into Anacortes very late at night, and my warmshowers hosts we're still waiting for us. 

 I say us, because I wasn't the only one staying there that night. There was a nice couple from I believe France, and another from Canada. And we all camped out on the lawn overnight.

In in the morning, my hosts had to go to a thing in downtown Anacortes, so I followed them around like a lost puppy for a few moments. But I had to wait until noon to get to The Bike Shop in town, so I could fix my kickstand which got loose on day two. So when and Anacortes during Art Festival, Festival!

upload.jpg

After after a little bit of a pep talk for my hosts last night, I hit the road for what ended up being a relatively flat day. Which was exactly what I needed. I was going to stop at a campground, but when I got there the campground was full up. So frantically I called ahead to the town of concrete and found a hotel in town here. Very interesting phone call, mainly me being completely out of breath, pedaling like crazy, and trying to explain that I'm on a bicycle a couple of miles away and please hold a room for me. 

upload.jpg

I ended I ended up finding this little gem of a hotel in the middle of what feels like nowhere. Honestly, Concrete, Washington feels like a tourist trap town, without all the kitch. Spent the nights in a clean, Memory Foam bed. Had a wonderful shower, and now it's back on the road.

If if all goes well, tonight I will be in the North Cascades, somewhere around the Diablo campground sites. Hopefully, all of my bear prep will come in handy right here. I don't think I'll have WiFi tonight, so no updates. But I will update when I can. Meanwhile, everyone stay safe. 

Tour day 1, hurry up and wait

I'm currently laying in a bed, dictating this to my phone. So if there are typos, or something licks wonky, that's going to happen. (For example, that was supposed to look wonky)

 Today was officially the first day of the tour. Although, I didn't get nearly as far as I wanted to. The Amtrak train ran late into Seattle. Another train, or bus, or something arrived simultaneously and they didn't have sufficient crew to unload the baggage of our train. Amtrak has this interesting deal where you can roll your bike onto the train, no boxing needed. But you have to pick up the bike yourself from the baggage car. Well, rather than wait for a baggage attendant, one of my fellow cyclists just tested the baggage car door, opened it, climbed in, and casually asked me "so which one is your bike?"

Lesson lesson learned come rules are meant to be broken. 

 So, baggage was late. So late in fact that I was worried about missing an appointment. If you don't already know, I am an ambassador for Nuun hydration. And I went to their Seattle headquarters today. I was actually worried about missing them, because it's Friday. But, they let me come in, and actually assemble all of the parts of my bike. For that, I am incredibly grateful.

A a couple of friends of mine recently moved to Seattle, so they met me there. We walked over to the cafe, and had lunch. I wish I could remember the name of the place, because they made really damn good burgers. I didn't want to leave, but we had to. I'm not going to see them for a while, so it was kind of sad. But, eventually, I got to keep going

upload.jpg

I then attempted to I then attempted to find REI. Not as easy as you think, cuz there's a lot of construction going on in downtown Seattle. That, and it was uphill a lot of away. I ended up finding a small outdoor store and buying one of the supplies there before finding REI. Picked up a bunch of stuff that I couldn't carry with me on the train (you know, things like bear mace!) Then attempted to find the Bremerton ferry

I I say that because finding it as an outsider? Not a as easy as you think. I actually found a police officer and ask him how to get to the Bremerton ferry. He grinned, and said "you've arrived!" He then told me to will my bike into the station to get a ticket. When I got up there, one of the regulars said I shouldn't have my bike there, and I should just take the road and board my bike like a normal vehicle.

upload.jpg

This ended up being the best call. I got on the next ship out. It's at this point that the story takes an interesting turn. There's an app for Tour cycling called warmshowers. It's definitely worth looking up if you are a tour cyclist. The first hosts for me on this trip are Janice and Gary, too incredibly kind-hearted people who are letting me stay at their home tonight. 

Knowing knowing that I was running super late, Gary actually pick me up at the terminal. We stopped my bike on to his vehicle, and drove to hear. We had dinner, a nice conversation, and a lot of really good advice that I'm going to be heading for the next two months.  And and for that, I will be very grateful for.

Tomorrow tomorrow was a big push day. I'm going to attempt a 70 Miler up to Anacortes. I'm not sure what to expect, but I do know it's going to be quite warm so I'm planning accordingly. All of that said though? I'm just grateful to be here. I also know that the trip really starts tomorrow. We'll see how it goes. 

So so with that, I bid you all good night. 

T-2 days and counting.

Amtrak view of Wisconsin

Amtrak view of Wisconsin

Right now this is outside my window. I'm on an Amtrak going through Wisconsin. And this is my home for another 36 hours.

 The sleeper car is surprising soundproof. I can't hear the wheels at all from here. Down side is my door doesn't want to close. But it's nice in here.

Tomorrow I'll work on the mapping . Right now I'm enjoying the quiet and lack of having to do stuff.

The most terrifying piece of gear I own is a plastic jar.

This is, officially, the most terrifying thing I own.

Bear Canister

This is a "bear canister". You can guess the size of it from the 3 cans of chili / stew inside it, as well as the single serving spam and tuna packet, 2 freeze dried meals, 7-8 tubes of Nuun as well as 1/2 of a pouch of performance, a jar of peanut butter, 4 packets of instant oatmeal, box of quinoa and rice and so on already in there.

It's designed to stop bears from opening it to get at your food.

Full stop, repeat.

It is DESIGNED... to stop BEARS... from getting at your FOOD.

And I am required to have one of these as per the North Cascades NPS rules. Ok, that isn't ENTIRELY true, the rules to have one of these things is for backcountry hikers specifically. But when I called the NPS ranger station there, and explained what I was doing, I could hear "that tone". The sort of "I can't tell you what to do, BUT....." tone?

The man on the phone said that they have black bears, so I might be able to get away with just a hanging bag to protect my food and myself from wandering bears.  This was a relief, a small hanging sack is lightweight and I can easily use an on-site locker, no problems.  I asked him if bear mace was important too.  He said probably not, as the black bears really aren't that aggressive and.... he paused, and asked "Are... you going through MONTANA?" Yes, yes I am. "Ok, in Montana they have black bears AND grizzly bears that are a little more aggressive and..."

Ok, got it. Bear canister, bear mace. Got it, will get it, will carry with me clear through to Minnesota.

But as a result of this, well it's more weight. The thing only weighs about 2 pounds empty, but it's size is dictating my pack now as I have to work around it. Yes, they make smaller ones but they're only stubbier, not actually SMALLER.

So I'm jettisoning my camp chair, and replacing it with this bear canister to make it a camp stool. A bear can jump on the thing, I think it'll hold my weight. And instead of carrying my food in a front bag, that bag is now completely empty and will probably become a utility bag for...  I don't know what yet. Laundry detergent? cold weather clothes?  I have no idea yet.

But, yeah. I now own a thing that prevents bears from getting my food, because I'm biking through a section of country where WILD BEARS can get at my food.

I'm... kinda terrified about that....

T-4 days 'till my train ride out.  That's how long I've got to put the packing for a 1/2 continent bike ride puzzle together.

The tour ride featured in Pancreatic Cancer Action Network's site!

P7150361.JPG

The great people over at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network has run the story about the upcoming ride!  You can read about it on their page, right here!

And while you're there, you can also read about what they're doing to fight pancreatic cancer too.  Right now, the 5 year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is 9%.  This needs to change, and the way you can help MAKE that change is by supporting them with donations.

How do you turn a paved trail into a CX track?

...just add rain.

Glacial Drumlin Trail, July 2017

Glacial Drumlin Trail, July 2017

We had some storms last night, and I didn't think it was all that bad 'till I went for a shakedown ride with my touring bike.  This is about 1/4 mile from the access path.  I'm not kidding when I tell you that the main trunk of the tree on the left was wider around than my body.  This went down HARD in the night.  Obviously, this isn't the norm, but we were making our way around it as best we could.  I BARELY fit my bike under the tree on the left side there, which is good as I sure as heck couldn't lift the 60+ pounds of bike/gear OVER it.

I decided to stay here a while and call the DNR after some guy on a full tri-bike setup almost barreled into this at full tuck speed.  At least I could warn the speed riders who weren't used to going full cyclocross on this run.  While I was on hold, the WI DNR truck rolled down the trail with chainsaws in tow, cutting away the other downed trees on the path further up.  They had this mess cleared in about 10 minutes.

A lot of people give me a hard time when I say that I pay $25 a year for a rail-trail pass.  But the WI DNR is really awesome when it comes to clearing the trails.  It's well worth $25 a year.  And I should mention, if you need some firewood, there's a big 'ol pile of logs at about mile marker 1 on the Glacial Drumlin Trail right now.  But be warned, they're heavy.

Dissection of a DNF

Tour De Cure, Chicagoland, 2017

I took this picture in a SAG vehicle yesterday afternoon.  I attempted the 100 mile route of the Chicagoland Tour De Cure on Sunday.  I made it 87 in before I SAGged out.  you don't always get to finish gloriously.  But a lot went wrong, some I could control, some I couldn't.

Start line, Tour De Cure Chicagoland, 2017

Start line, Tour De Cure Chicagoland, 2017

I knew the temps would be tipping 95F (35C).  What I didn't think about was the wind.  Looking at the weather history, it was 18 MPH (28.9  KPH) SSW wind, sustained.  The pavement was baking, the wind wasn't cooling, it was like riding in an oven for 5-6 hours.  They provided ice for water bottles, the ice would melt in 15 minutes and the liquid inside was warm in the mouth.

I think I may have gotten a heat related problem too.  There was a while I couldn't drink fluids at all, which I wrote off at the time.  I also suffer from a bad case of "athletic denial".  I could break my ankle, and keep playing the sport because "It's not too bad."  (which, incidentally, I've done...)  So when I asked the volunteers at a rest stop "Do I look ok?" I really NEEDED to know, because I'll keep going out of stubbornness.  I ended up taking an hour at one stop becasue I KNEW I was hurting from heat illness.  But even then, I pushed through it.

this is what I look like waiting for my body to cool down...

this is what I look like waiting for my body to cool down...

The final straw was the clock.  I knew that the finish line closed down at 4 PM.  I was at mile 85 at 2:55 PM.  Simple math, I needed to average 15 MPH, into a roaring headwind, in heat, not stopping at the last resupply, to finish on time.  It wasn't going to happen.  A SAG vehicle came up behind me (I must have looked bad, they had the passenger window down and did a VERY slow roll behind me), I flagged them down, we racked the bike and I took the ride back to the start.

The factors I could manage, I did.  I had PLENTY of Nuun, and invented a new flavor (21 oz. of water, 1/2 tablet of Fruit Punch, 1 full scoop of Nuun blueberry/strawberry  performance, quite tasty!)  I packed light food, even if I didn't use all of it.  I had sunscreen & sun sleeves to manage UV.  But I can't manage my physical size.  6'4" tall and 280 means I just can't shed heat.  Oh yeah, and diabetics can't physically manage the heat as well as everyone else, so that's a huge factor too.

...because salt stains are sexy...

...because salt stains are sexy...

I'd like to think that if 1 factor was different, I'da made it no problem.  No wind, no excessive heat, speed up my rest stop down time, I didn't have to deal with diabetes, something?  But that's wishful thinking.  The weather was the same for the other finishers of the 100 mile course, I just didn't make it.  It's a matter of learning now.  It's already forcing me to make new plans for the tour in August, but I think that might be for the better.

There is an epilogue to the story, I did get a finishers medal.

finishers medal

The SAG vehicle dropped us off at the parking lot.  I dumped everything in my car, and went back to claim a few things.  I happened by the finish line, and there was one woman still giving out medals to the stragglers crossing the line just before 4.  She asked me if I had gotten one.  I said I hadn't, and she handed me one.  I told her "I didn't finish."

She tapped my "Red Rider" jersey, the jersey that only the diabetic riders wear, and said "You earned it."  I'm in a mixed mind about that.  I don't like "participation awards", but I also get the sentiment.  Had I just opted for a metric century, I'da finished.  So I take some solace in that.

Re Rider Banner

Redemption will come in June, on the 22nd I'll be riding the Milwaukee Tour De Cure event, I'm signed up for 70.  And since it's so close to home, I'm planning on biking out there, riding it, and then home.  The route is one I've done several times, so I know it well.  So I'm hoping to have that glorious finish, using what I learned from this one.

In the meanwhile, the event staff were great!  There were no problems, the SAG vehicles were VERY visible, there were no water shortages, so technically it was flawless on the rider's end.  The weather?  Well, they can't help that.  So thank you to the staff for putting this one on.  See you all in Milwaukee!