After last year’s How not to ride STP, I embarked on this season determined to get in some great rides and procure for myself the coveted one-day rider patch. By adding thirty miles to the century course at today’s Flying Wheels, I managed to take a simple local ride and turn it into a very well-supported training ride.
Looking back on the 130-mile ride and realizing that STP is approaching quickly in a few weeks, I figure it’s time to check in with my list from last year and see how I’m doing at taking my own advice.
Saddle Time Despite a far busier schedule this year, I’ve managed to make the most of my free time and sneak in quite a few long rides on a healthy shoulder. Ranging from 40 miles to today’s 130-mile ride, my rear end has had plenty of time to get reacquainted with the saddle.
Tandem vs. Solo While I’ll certainly miss tucking in behind my Dad this year, we’ll both be riding solo and frankly, I’m stoked. Training alone has reminded me how much I enjoy riding my own way.
Pain Killer Don’t leave home without it. Around mile 75 this afternoon, I hit up the med tent for something to help kill the creeping pains in my knees and butt. Though the pain was certainly manageable, with another 55 miles left on the day I wasn’t taking any chances.
Hauling Gear I always fail to understand why people insist on carrying so much junk on their back in such a well supported ride and today was no exception. With regular water and food stops it seems silly to carry much more than a couple of water bottles and enough food to get you to the next stop. After three months of having to haul my own food and water for long CTS rides, I was happy to head out today without my water pack. With all my tools tucked into my saddle bag, a phone and jacket in my jersey pockets, I still had plenty of room for a bagel, banana and PB crackers to carry me to the next stop.
Hills vs Flats Here in the Pacific Northwest, there are very few “flats”. But for all the hoopla surrounding the Flying Wheels hills (nearly 3,000 feet of climbing), I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy some great “rolling” hills with a terrific tail-wind.
The Pits Flying Wheels provided food and water stops around every 15 miles, with the exception of a 30-mile stretch between stops on the century route. While I did actually stop at most of the stops to refuel and stock up, my time at each stop was limited to no more than 5 minutes, not counting any time spent waiting in line for the porta-potty. Grab some food, stand in line while eating, send email to Chris and friends about my status, fill up water bottles and head out. Any food that didn’t manage to make it into my mouth in those 5 minutes was shoved into my pockets for the next stretch.
With only a fraction of the number or riders expected on STP, today’s Flying Wheels was a pleasure to ride. The road free of personal support vehicles, riders were prepared to handle their own minor mechanical issues and kept their families and support to the finish line. In planning for your own STP adventure, please download the Pre-Ride Guide for more information about PSVs and convenient meeting points where family and friends can join the route for a quick hello while staying off of the main route.
Decent Training Suffice it to say that I feel much more prepared for STP this year over last year. The long miles are behind me as I round out my training with a few shorter rides in the next couple of weeks. While I’m still a bit daunted by the idea of adding another 70 miles to today’s total, it’s Portland-or-Bust and I’m ready to tackle the one-day ride. It may not be fun and it’s not likely to be pretty…but I’ll finish.
This year’s Flying Wheels was absolutely one of the best and most beautiful rides I’ve ever ridden. With 115 miles on the day I was feeling great and ready to get on with the home stretch. Another round of applause to Cascade for a terrific event.
yesterday the monsoon rains arrived. we woke up and mounted our bikes for a long slog in a constant drizzle. homeboy had grown weary of the truck traffic breathing down our necks, so he plotted a course on a parallel road. basically, there are three roads following the river north from Gifu: a highway that the government had shot through mountain tunnels and high bridges, a prefectural road 156 which much of the trucks use, and a series of often single lane roads hopping the riverbanks. the small roads took us through dozens of little neighborhoods…modest houses almost always with a rice paddy alongside.
the incessant rain wasn’t so bad, but an hour or two into the ride my right knee developed a pain where i have never had pain before. i’m not sure what’s causing it…i think it might be the wider stance of the touring crank. whatever the cause, an hour or two further on and i was gasping in agony. this was and continues to be a major problem…
eventually we made it to a town where the little road and 156 met up again, with a view of the amazing infrastructure of the big highway spanning tunnels set high into the mountain. we found a town info center, and i negotiated for the very helpful woman there to set us up in a ryokan (traditional inn).
this ryokan was like f%&#ing shangra la to us. we were filthy and just knackered. The Kanbe ryokan didn’t have a view, but it had clean tatami mat rooms (without centipedes) and served dinner with the room. after an induglent japanese bath, we got this huge spread of food. so many courses of japanese cuisine….shabu-shabu, pickled vegetables, potatoe soup, sashimi, seafood custard, and more. the room, all that, and breakfast for 6500 yen each. well spent.
however my knee is definitely not good. we are going to have to shorten our route because i can’t make a good pace. we’ll probably make a shortcut to Takayama rather than go to Shirokawa-go. At least the sun is out, but all roads forward go up into the mountains….
So James Ambler has been following Angelina Jolie around New York on a Trek mountain bike, taking her picture as she makes appearances to promote her new movie A Mighty Heart. He’s become such a fixture that Jolie and her kids have nicknamed him “Lance.”
On Thursday, Ambler hit a nail and flatted. Rather than leave him behind, Jolie gave the punctured papparazzo a lift to their next destination in her SUV.
I know some of you are saying he should have turned it down, rather than riding in a gas-guzzling SUV, but Ambler happily accepted a hitch from one of the world’s most beautiful women, and spent about 30 minutes in her company. Ambler said Jolie was “really down to earth, really lovely.” Splash News has photos and video of Ambler describing the encounter.
Pam and I are at the Methow Valley Tour and blogging about it on Team Bike Hugger. Late summer last year Pam and I rode Mazama and the valley on a relaxed tour where we saw lots of yellow trucks and smoke.
after waking up from the spooky inn, we packed our stuff and made way to the kombini (convenience store). angelo wasn’t doing too well with the japanese food, but i like to pack it down before riding. especially since it’s still flat, and thus unlikely that i’ll redline my engine too soon and throw up. it would be a long day in the saddle. i don’t remember too much about that ride…it wasn’t terribly scenic…in fact it could have been anywhere florida, germany (the boring parts), what have you.
we get to gifu, go to the train station info center, and we manage to find a hotel called Monthly Sho. it’s a kind of business hotel, ie tiny rooms. one thing that sticks out is the tiny bathroom. it looks like it could have been popped out of a single fibre-glass mold…like the toilet seems molded into the wall. and they have a high-efficiency flush that sounds like an airplane toilet. evrything seems to be built light and cheap.
we went to get dinner and find an internet cafe, which had a keyboard that utterly confounded me. the restaurant and internet cafe were located in a large shopping corridor that you don’t really see in states. it’s hard to explain without pictures (for now at least), but imagine a shopping mall that was covered but open at the ends. bikes and even cars can drive through, but otherwise it feels a lot like a mall through, but without any large department stores.
one section has a ceiling of arrayed coloured light strips that sequentially illuminate to create waves of traveling colour. this was the section that contains all the hostess bars and other seedy establishments. i told angelo in no uncertain terms that now would be an inappropriate time to use the japanese word for “mafia”. it’s ” yakuza”, shhhhhhhhh
we made it back to the hotel wothout being fleeced of our yen by hookers or gangsters. but the next day the rains arrived…..
in his continuing travels in japan mark says: i finally have a computer that i’m not paying for by the minute and I’ve got the japanese keyboard sussed out for the most part…this goes back a few days to the 13th…
so we left kyoto yesterday afternoon around 3:30. just to let you know, that is awfully late to be leaving town by bicycle. we rode along a road with a lot of truck traffic, though once we got to the biwa-ko lake, there was a decent bike lane. most of the towns have bike lanes, but they are really just sidewalks puncutred by driveways every 10m. anyways, it starts getting dark (japan does not have daylight savings)…and then it’s pitch. we are on a one lane road with no light whatsoever and we are not going to make it to hikone. we find a hotel on the map, but they’ve no vacancies because of a high school trip. so we continue in darkness for another 30-40 minutes until we happen unto a youth hostel swathed in the darkness.
it’s definitely old traditional tatami mats and paper screen doors, and the landlady is a little bit onery. there are a couple of old japanese guys there. we get a room, but then another japanese traveler arrives and ends up sharing our room. the new guy is on his way to pick up a new 38ft american-made offshore powerboat. strangeness. (by the way, i am negotiating with hotels and conversing with travelers with my own meager language skills, thank you very much.) eventually we go to sleep.
i wake up in the middle of the night. the japanese guys, seemingly all of them, are talking in their sleep. with just the paper screen doors, you can hear everyone. what’s worse, the voices seem to be everywhere, disembodied, and almost chanting…it’s a little creepy. but i’m not really afraid of ghosts. but i do hate bugs…there’s something crawling on me.
the hanging lights in these places normally have a “night light” function that puts out just a wee bit of light…enough for my eyes to make out the room but not enough to read or make out fine detail. so when i whip off the cover from my futon, i can’t tell if it’s a centipede or millipede, but i can tell it’s about 4-5 inches long. millipedes are funny looking, but centipedes are poisonous…and i’m allergic to many bugs. everyone else is asleep, so i reach over and grab a water bottle and prepare myself…
oh, lord, guide my hand as i strike down this foul demon that in your infinite wisdom or whimsy, you have deemed to torment me. let not this thing send me searching for the japanese word for “anti-venom”. amen.
whack! whack! first strike hits but does not kill….second strike misses entirely, goddamn that thing was fast! that’s the confirmation as centipede, millipedes are dead slow. the thing shot into a dark crevice out of my reach. wonderful…it could come back…there could be more…and still the voices.
in the morning, we got up and rode out…there was no sign of the landlady.
Boing Boing, a directory of wonderful things, posted on an updated Urban Mobility Bike from Puma. We posted earlier on the original UM, in regards to travel and being urban. The bike is a design collaboration to benefit an earthquake charity and another example, like the Biomega at DWR, of bikes as designer items and pop culture.
She was downtown, at the corner of Stark and 6th in Portland, checking out the shops, purse at the ready … on her city cruiser bike. Argyle socks and the Portland Northwest urban look are a definite contrast to a stylish New Yorker.