Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Have barely ridden the bike for more than a week, except for a quick 15-miler to visit my grandmother. My achilles tendons are still sore from the North Shore Century, and of course there's been this:

That, my friends, is one huuuuuge low-pressure system centered directly on my house. It extends from Lake Superior (at the very top) to the Gulf of Mexico (at the bottom) where it can suck enormous amounts of moisture from the warm, oily waters, transport it north, and dump it on my local bike trails in a never-ending series of showers and spitting drizzles. This thing has been sitting exactly where it is for close to five days now. It's forecast to ... move ... very ... slowly ... off to the east after tomorrow. Good riddance.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Well, I done did it. I completed the North Shore Century ride yesterday. My first-ever century.

The stats: 108 miles total in 7 hours 43 minutes (yeah, I know, a glacial 14 mph average speed. I'm blaming the headwind on the return route).

The iPhone is hard to use one-handed. My regular
camera died the night before the ride.

This in a light drizzle that ended for a while, returned, then became a steady light rain over the last 30 miles. Air temperature hovered at about 60 degrees. It really was only uncomfortable at the rest stops, when you'd stop working the muscles and the cold could seep in.

(You'll notice there are few pictures with this entry. That's because my Nikon died the night before the ride, and it was raining too hard to risk using my iPhone.)

The event itself, organized the by Evanston Bicycle Club, was well-run. The route meandered through some very interesting  neighborhoods and past dozens of local landmarks -- from the Adlai Stevenson historic home in Lake County to the mesmerizing Baha'i Temple in Wilmette. The route is fairly flat (yay! After my escapade in mountainous southern Ohio just a few days before, I didn't want to see any more hills).

My only complaint would be the roughness of the roads; some of them were chewed to pieces for miles at a stretch. Really hard on the hands and slowed me down.

Never having done this before, I was fascinated by the group dynamics; small bands of 5-15 riders would self-organize by riding speed, and help each other spot hazards (like the incessant potholes) and the spray-painted direction markers on the pavement. If someone took a wrong turn (not hard to to with the rain cascading down your glasses), they would call out or even chase the rider down.

The rest stops had much more than the standard bananas, cut-up Clif bars and water. There were watermelons, grapes, bagels, home-made brownies and other baked goodies, and barrels of sports drink. At the half-way stop in Kenosha, there was hot potato soup. Very much appreciated.

I had not intended to take the scenic route, but herd instinct took over after the Kenosha stop and I followed a group of guys who looked like they knew what they were doing. Ended up at the Washington Park Velodrome, which is a bicycle racing track. It's an oval track with very steeply banked turns at each end. Well, the gate was open. I got on the track, cranked it up and took two turns around, mindful of the wet conditions. It was pretty freaky in the turns, canted over at about a 30-degree angle, with centripetal force sticking me to the pavement.

The downside: the velodrome route was an optional side-trip that added five miles to the total. Urrrgh.
This is what the last third of the ride looked like to me.
It was raining steadily.
I don't remember much of the last 25 miles. I was deep in grim-determination mode. I do remember passing the Glenview Naval Air Station, and a long, wonderful stretch of bicycle path along Sheridan Road (?).

At the 80-mile mark I knew I was going to finish. Despite the rain and the cold and the aching achilles tendons and the fact that I could barely see, I got a burst of energy. Maybe I was just sick of the discomfort and wanted to get it over with. Either way, my speed crept up and I started passing people.

Somewhere in Glencoe, the GPS read 99.8 ... 99.9 ... come on you son of a ... 100! I let out a whoop. Whatever happened, I had completed a century at that point. But there was still another eight miles to go.

I arrived at Dawes Park in Evanston disheveled, cold but oddly perky, which worried me a bit. I picked up my certificate of completion, limped back to my car and cranked up the heat as high as it would go.

I hope the weather's a bit better next year.

dsj 110919

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lebanon ride, Sept. 13, 2011

Visiting the kin in the Cincinnati area again, this time for a funeral. Had a morning free, and needed to get away from the sorrow and the drama for a while. We left home in a near-panic, so I didn’t have my Madone. Borrowed my sister-in-law’s old hybrid trek and set out generally northeast-ish after a delightful Waffle House breakfast.
You don't see these on the Prairie Path.
Damn, it sure isn’t Illinois around here. Hill after hill after hill.

After hill after hill after hill.

Yeesh. Probably wouldn’t have minded so much but that old Trek was *heavy* and the derailleur was badly in need of adjustment. Grind crunch curse wobble rattle rattle clunk! In Illinois you kind of point the bike in the direction you want to go, find a gear and take a nap -- now I really needed a good set of gears and they only worked in fits and starts.

Still, it was a pretty, warm, breezy day and the scenery is wonderful in that part of the world. And of course, I blundered into an excellent, paved bicycle trail. I swear, you can spit in any random direction down there and you’ll probably hit a paved bike trail. These trails would be celebrated as wonders of the world in Illinois. Here they’re just a fact of life.
I mean, look at this beautiful trail.

This turned out to be the “Lebanon-Countryside YMCA Trail,” an 8.2-mile spur off the Little Miami Scenic Trail. It winds through the backcountry from the Little Miami River into downtown Lebanon, Ohio.

Well alrighty then.

Obviously not rails-to-trails here: right-angle bends, steep hills. Scenic bean fields, forest, the occasional exurban backyard, a low-key industrial park.

I reached historic downtown Lebanon (does any little burg in America not call itself “historic” in a sad bid for some sense of place?) desperately thirsty, since there was no water bottle on the borrowed bike. After some searching I found a gas station with a soda fountain. I bought a 32-oz. Coke and two large bottles of water. In the same small strip mall was “Porky Capone BBQ,” a hole-in-wall that set my restaurant spider-senses tingling. Unfortunately, I was still digesting my Waffle House hash browns. I vowed to return for lunch.

Turns out Lebanon actually is historic. This passenger
train makes occasional runs into Mason.

Lebanon is also home to the Golden Lamb, the oldest hotel
in the state (Ohio).

I damn near threw a lung on the way home. Tried a different route back, which of course turned out to be even hillier than the way in. And the most direct road was closed for construction and impassable.

Finally, somehow, the road dumped me on the Rt. 741 near King’s Island Amusement Park and some sort of level ground. Total was a paltry 23.75 miles, but the Endo Mondo app on my iPhone only measures horizontal distance --  I’ll bet it was at least that far vertically as well.
Best damn barbecue joint in Ohio,
as far as I'm concerned. I will never again visit
the area without stopping here at least once.
Took a shower and headed back to Porky Capone. It was better than I had hoped. They served real slow-smoked barbecue. You can get a pulled pork sandwich served "nasty" -- with a big patty of coleslaw on top, just like it's supposed to be. Try the side of collard greens with vinegar and a spicy tingle. All served with small-town friendliness.
dsj 110913

Friday, September 2, 2011

Gotta get this off my chest

I am continually surprised by the amount of venom drivers display when they talk about bicyclists. They’ve all seen a bicyclist run a stop sign or stop light, and can harp about it for what seems like hours. Or they once had to slow down for a damned bicyclist because there wasn’t enough room to go around.

What a bunch of big babies.

I don’t blow through stop lights (unless there’s no traffic and the light obviously isn’t going to sense a bicycle), but I won’t halt for a stop sign if there is no traffic coming. Naperville has about three million gratuitous stop signs sprinkled at random intervals throughout its back streets. These signs are not elements of a rational traffic control plan: they’re intended to prevent cars from speeding. Whenever some whiny suburbanite calls city hall to complain about those crazy kids screeching down the back street with their thump-thump music blaring and endangering the children, a stop sign is born. I doubt that any stop sign, anywhere, was intended to slow down those crazy speeding bicycle riders.

I earned my kinetic energy with my own personal sweat. I can’t stop and start with two ounces of pressure from my big toe. Half the time I’m lugging 25 lbs. of groceries as well. I’m not gonna stop and start up again for no damn good reason if I don’t have to.

As for once in a great while a driver having to actually touch the brake pedal, twitch the steering wheel an inch to the left and back again to go around a bicyclist: awww, you’re so deprived by being delayed for 10 seconds. My heart bleeds for you.

You know what it is? Jealousy. Yep, I’m healthier than you. I’m losing weight and my wife is finding me more and more attractive. I’m actually enjoying my commute. I smile when I blow past a line of cars, knowing that the drivers are watching me and feeling envy and annoyance because they’re trapped in their expensive metal cages and here comes this handsome, fit bicyclist who’s getting lots more great sex than they are.

Neener neener neener.

Ah, that felt good.

Morning with lake and landfill

Been getting up early to run 10-12 miles. I'm in training for the North Shore Century -- only two weeks away now! Here was the view from the DuPage River Trail this morning, just after sunrise. That's Whalon Lake in Bolingbrook, looking north. The hill in the distance is the Greene Valley Landfill, which is what passes for terrain around here.

Getting kinda nervous about the century ride.My goal is to finish in some kind of reasonable time: I'm going to shoot for 7 hours, which comes out to an average of 15 mph. That seems to be my average speed on a long ride. Hope it's not too windy that day, or if there is, I hope it's from the north (tailwind on the return route).