Sunday, July 29, 2012

2.5 days on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail (Part II)

Ok, let's get this show back off the road....

Rosalia - Rock Lake

The ride from Tekoa to Rosalia took us from a lush, green landscape with rolling hills, to a more arid country.  Now, heading out of Rosalia, we came across a pine tree here and there, and then more.  I thought we must be heading north a bit, up towards the Ponderosa Pine forests that begin east of Spokane.  (If I'd bought the compass that goes on the stem cap to match Pat's thermometer/stem cap, I might've known for sure).

 I lagged behind a few times starting in this section.  I think I was feeling the effects of backtracking earlier to get my sleeping bag.  We had a slight upgrade, and usually the railroad grade doesn't bother me, but I might've been a little tired.  Luckily, we had a few stops to check out the scenery and abandoned buildings on the trail which allowed me to catch up.

Approaching Rock Lake:

A trestle over the creek that feeds into Rock Lake.  Don't strain your eyes, but if you look hard enough, you can see the remains of a boxcar to the left of the far end of the trestle:

Pat's fat bike next to the derailment:

Rest stop at Rock Lake:

Rock Lake is one long lake, but it was a very scenic enjoyable segment, with just a few challenges.  We had to portage around some rock fall a couple times, the trail completely blocked off in one spot by big boulders.  We unloaded the bikes and carried everything over the boulders. I unloaded the trailer, unhooked it and carried it over.  I was glad this time that all my gear was in the Dri-Sak so it was easy to carry in one trip, but other times, having all my stuff in one bag made it difficult to look and find things (like my pump - see below).

There's one section of the Rock Lake trail that a landowner won't let trail users onto, so you're supposed to detour off the trail.  Depending on how you look at it, it's not clearly marked on the trail where this section is. I mean, I don't remember any No Trespassing signs.

At the end of Rock Lake we got onto the road and went to the parking lot area to refill our bottles with some lake water.  The water was a little murky, perhaps stirred up by the boaters and campers nearby.  I tried using the filter-top on the bottle that came with my Steri-Pen, but it turned out it would take forever to get even a cup's worth of clear water in the still lake water, so I filled up from Pat's gravity filter.  Even though it was good water, I zapped it with the Steri-pen anyways - I wanted to get some use out of the $50 some bucks I spent on it.

I had a little moment of panic before we left as I couldn't find my pump. I'd noticed my back tire was a little low while riding on the pavement, and wanted to top off my tires. I knew the pump was the first thing I packed, but it didn't seem to be anywhere.  I didn't want to ask Eric or Pat if I could borrow their pump, because, one, that would just be too embarrassing, and two, I wasn't sure if they had Presta valve adapters on their pumps.  So, as we rode off to connect with the trail again, I kept my fingers crossed and hoped I didn't have a slow leak.

Back on the trail, just past Rock Lake. We had definitely left the rolling hills of the Palouse far behind and were now in the flat steppe land of eastern Washington:

Towards evening, it looked like some clouds and maybe a weather system was moving in, so we stopped to set up camp here.  I did find my pump while unpacking, which made me feel better.

We couldn't tell if there was much rain in the clouds, but I took the opportunity to set up my $7 emergency tube tent anyway. I went inside to test it out and see how comfy it was, but I couldn't get back up after laying down.  Even though it was still early, and I thought I should get up and talk to Eric and Pat,  I soon fell asleep.  I guess the extra backtracking I'd done earlier had caught up with me.

Next and final post on this trip: The wind began to howl

Friday, July 20, 2012

Panaracer Pasela TG - 2 weeks, 1 flat

Well, shoot, I knew the Pasela TG's aren't a real heavy duty puncture resistant tire, but I was hoping they'd roll over the usual assortment of small brads, staples, and glass on the streets without puncturing.   But I pulled my bike out last week to ride to work, and felt that funny loose feeling and discovered the back tire was flat.  The culprit? A staple, one of these pointy T50 style staples, about 3/8" (10mm) size.

I usually ride a foot or two from the curb for better visibility and less debris in my path, but this staple must not have had time to migrate over to the curb.  I swear, sometimes I think people in Spokane must toss nails, screws and staples out their truck windows like they're tossing candy in a parade.

Otherwise, these Paselas ride smooth and fast.  Guess you can't have everything.

Friday night, and I'm blogging and watching American Pickers. It's a wild, wild, life!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

2.5 days on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail (part 1)

As you may recall or know, Pat (26inchSlicks blog) threw out an open invitation for others to join him on his cross-state bike tour.  I signed up for the first weekend section, intending to ride from Tekoa to Lind, and maybe further to Othello.  I took Friday (June 15th - already a month has gone by) and Monday off from work, and also Tuesday in case I made it further, or needed more time to recuperate.

I only knew Pat through his blog, and we had never met in person, so I emailed Pat and told him I if I didn't call him, would see him in Tekoa Friday afternoon.  Of course, me being me, I didn't call and he probably didn't know for sure if I was going to show up.  During the week before, doubts started to creep in my mind - should I really go? I didn't feel too well, hadn't been biking a whole lot, and I didn't want to slow him and Eric down.

But I slapped myself and said - whaddya mean you might not go? You bought a trailer, a bivy sack, water purifier, tons of trail mix and beef jerky, and who knows what else for the trip. This is a great opportunity.  Get on your bike and ride!

So Friday I got up, got a haircut, mowed the yard, went to REI for a few last minute items (extra tubes and a bandana to keep my scalp safe from the sun's rays), and finished packing. I had packed clothes,  food and miscellaneous items in a backpack and placed it in the yellow Dry-Sak bag in the trailer, along with the bivy sack, rain gear, emergency tube tent, tarp.  And a bottle of Rye Whiskey from Woodinville I bought at Rosauers for buddy Trevor, who was going to give me a ride to Tekoa.

I couldn't decide if I needed a sleeping bag or just a blanket, but I'd read about condensation building up in the bivy sack so I rolled up a sleeping bag inside a blue sleeping pad and strapped them to the trailer.  This sleeping bag caused me a bit of grief both during and after the trip.  Turns out my wife had claimed it for herself, and didn't know I was taking it on the trip.

Also at the last minute, I emptied a half-gallon milk container and filled it up with water and placed it inside the Dry-Sak also.  It came in handy during a dry section of the trail.

Two regrets:
1) I didn't make some no-bake cookies before I left.  I think I could've just survived the whole trip on no-bakes - peanut butter, oatmeal, cocoa and sugar. Perfect food.
2) I didn't ride to the Waste to Energy plant and weigh the bike and trailer. Pat's bike and gear weighed 100 lbs., and sometimes I felt my set-up was close.

I hooked up the trailer to my Trek 29er mountain bike and rode forth from our house to the bottom of Sunset Hill and Government Way to meet up with Trevor by Big Red's Hot Dog stand.   To get a feel for riding the bike with the fully loaded trailer off road, I rode part of the way there on the dirt trail off the TJ Meenach Bridge.  I popped out by the college on Fort George Wright Way, then on to Gov't Way.

Enough talk, time for pictures. The view from Gov't Way. It was a good decision to ride. A perfect day:

I met up with Pat and Eric at the Tekoa C&D Bar and Grill, and had a beer and a good fish n chips dinner there. Discovered I went to school in Ephrata with one of Pat's cousins. Small world.

We were soon on the trail and checking out the blocked off trestle over Tekoa.  I was immediately attacked by a horde of mosquitoes, but managed to get a few pictures taken after spraying myself down with bug repellant.  If I remember right, there is some funding in the pipeline for improvements on this section of the trail.

Pat and Eric

Eric was a little braver than Pat and I. This would be so fun to ride across.

Heading back out on the trail, the scenery was beautiful and the weather gorgeous.

The plan was to ride out 5-10 miles from Tekoa and find a good camping spot for the night. We found one just past this trestle.

Below:  My camping set-up, Pat's is in the background. I tried not to think about any creepy crawlers that might want to crawl in and spend the night with me in the bivy sack.  I liked not having to set up a tent. Lying in the bivy sack, looking at the stars - reminded me of sleeping out in the backyard when we were kids, but with a lot more coyotes singing in the distance.

The next morning, Eric and I checked out the trestle from below:

On the road again, next stop Rosalia.

Things were rolling along fairly smoothly.  I was getting to know Eric and Pat, and our riding styles meshed.  I could feel a little drag from the trailer over the rockier stretches, but not much.

Just before we reached Rosalia,  I was riding in front and started to point out this sign before the bridge over the highway...

...when Eric asked me "hey Scott, was your sleeping bag inside your yellow bag?" I swung my head around to look behind me and didn't see my sleeping bag rolled up in the blue pad on top the trailer where it was supposed to be.  It had fell out!  I had been riding in front for awhile, and it would've been noticed if it fell out then.  I thought back and realized that the last time I was riding behind the others, was way, way back there on the trail. Maybe 5-10 miles?

Damn! I thought about just leaving it on the trail and doing without it or maybe finding a blanket or bag in Rosalia, but I thought chances of that were slim.  I also thought I should probably return home with it.  It might be noticed if it was missing.

So I unhooked the trailer, and while Eric and Pat headed into town to enjoy a nice breakfast, I  rode back as fast as I could.  After about 20 minutes, I started wondering if it rolled off the side of the road and I had missed it.  But I soon came across it, right where it jumped off the trailer.

I tied it to my handlebars and headed back.  Of course, there was a headwind and slight uphill on the way back and it seemed to take forever.  I rode into town and didn't see any sign of the others.  I passed some (motor) bikers in front of one of the stores, and they gave me a funny look (could've been my imagination).  But just as I was going to turn and ask them if they'd seen two other pedal bikers, they revved up and took off out of town.  I called Pat, and the bikers reached him just as I called. Over the din of the unbaffled engines, I figured out they were back at the entrance to town. I had taken a different exit off the trail into town, and so I had missed them heading back to meet up with me.  Eric had ridden back to where I left the trailer to see if I'd made it there yet.

I stopped at the store in town and picked up a pre-made cheeseburger wrapped in foil for a $1.39 before heading back.  It tasted great!  I also picked up a couple more bottles of water.  The first rule of riding off road in eastern Washington late spring/early summer:  Can never have enough water.

I headed back down the road and found Pat and Eric waiting for me - too bad I didn't get a picture of Pat sitting in a camp chair reading a book, waiting.  Luckily, the plan was to stop for eats in Rosalia, so we didn't get delayed vey much by my little escapade.

Next: the ride from Rosalia to Rock Lake, and an epic detour to Ralston. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Somewhere, Over the Prairie....

(A little late report of a bike ride from last week, but then I just started working on a post about my 2.5 days on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail from a couple weeks ago.)

My wife made a hair appt for the morning of July 4th, and decided to ride her bike there. Her hair stylist is up on the 5 Mile Prairie, which is on a bluff about 400 feet above the surrounding North Spokane area where we live.  After thinking about it, I said I'd ride along and do some exploring while she was getting her hair colored, cut, styled and whatnot.

Shortly after we left home we were traveling up Dell Drive to connect to 5 Mile Rd and Debbie was reconsidering her decision to ride there. Dell Drive is fairly steep, maybe steeper than 5 Mile Rd. But we kept going, and arrived in time for the appointment and I went exploring.

Two phone pics overlooking North Spokane:

The area is a mixture of newer housing developments:
just a wall around a vacant lot, blocking the view 
and areas that retain an older, rural character:

I forgot to eat anything before we left so I was getting a little hungry, and also thirsty for a cuppa joe, but there are no stores, restaurants or coffee shops up there.  Not even a drive-thru espresso stand!  I don't know what the deal is, but it might be due to the zoning for the area.  Maybe the residents don't want any businesses up there, wanting to preserve what's left of the rural character of the area. Just guesses on my part, perhaps someone will fill me in.  I understand the appeal of living out in the country, but...not even a coffee shop or small restaurant nearby? I don't think I could survive!

After a while, I went north on Strong Rd to the other side of the prairie. The pavement ended at the edge of the bluff and I spied a shopping center down below.  It took me a while to get my bearings, but I finally figured out it must be the Indian Trail Shopping Center:
There's coffee down there!

Strong Rd continues as a twisty gravel road down the hill. I couldn't resist, and even knowing I'd have to ride back up somehow, I headed down. The road down turned out to be steep and extremely washboardy in spots.  I picked up speed, and at times I didn't know if I could hold onto the handlebars.  Of course, it didn't help that I was riding my 'cross/commuter bike - the one with some low-level cantilever brakes that don't stop very well even on dry flat pavement.

Strong Road connects to Indian Trail Road, at the entrance to the Pacific Park area and about a half mile or more from the shopping center.  Alas, I didn't go get some coffee, as it was near time to meet back up with Debbie and our plan was to get breakfast afterwards. I turned around and headed back up the hill - gotta build those leg muscles for cyclocross season!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Mismatched Tires/The Lure of Wider Tires

(apologies to Jan Heine who wrote a post titled "the Lure of Racing Bikes" over at the Bicycle Quarterly blog Off the Beaten Path).

I started out commuting on a Huffy mountain bike, moved up to a Marin Muirwoods with Continental Town Ride 29 X 1.6 tires and now ride it or my Redline Conquest Sport beginner cyclocross bike with 32mm tires to work. I don't think I gave too much thought to tire width when I got the Marin, but I knew the wide tires were a benefit on the city streets compared to a road bike's narrow tires.

I've been riding the Redline to work for at least 1 1/2 years, and by the looks of the front tire, I thought they were lasting pretty good. I'd peer over the handlebars at the front tire and not see any wear.  Then one day I looked under the fender at the back tire and saw with a shock that the top of the tire had almost turned into a slick. First thought was "Guess I should pay closer attention!" (Also thought I should rotate my tires, but Sheldon Brown put an end to that thought in his article Tire Rotation.)

The 32 mm Kenda Eurotreks that came with the Redline worked fine, but had a slightly thick tread pattern that picked up a lot of road vibration on rougher streets. Finally, I could justify getting one of the tires I'd been considering switching to, like the Vittoria Randonneur Cross, Panaracer Pasela Tourguard, Bontrager H2, or Schwalbe Marathon. I also wanted to try a little wider tire for the rougher sections of the city streets I ride on.

In the meantime, I took my bike in for a tune-up, and when I went to pick it up, the rear tire had gone flat and the shop discovered a hole in the sidewall.

That's how I ended up with mismatched tires:
The shop had a 32 mm Bontrager Race tire with a smoother tread than the Kenda's that I decided to give a try, instead of the other tires I'd been thinking about.  It's more of a road bike style tire, and it's smooth and quick. But I don't feel comfortable on corners or gravel patches.  It felt like the tire was slipping around the corners, especially some faster turns I take where there's still some sand left on the streets from winter. And I wasn't sure how well they'd do in the rain.

After a couple weeks I started getting used to them, but still wanted something with a little more tread pattern. And the mismatched look was bothering me (ok I'm a little neurotic), so I broke down and ordered some Pasela Tourguards.  It helped that they're less expensive than the other tires.  I went for a little wider width, 35mm, despite concerns I'd have trouble fitting fenders over them on this bike.

 I cleaned the smudges on the sidewalls after this picture was taken,  even though they'll just get dirty again
They mounted easily, except in the process some black from the tread rubbed off on to my hands and transferred onto the sidewalls. I'm not sure about the sidewalls - they seem a little thin but I was aware of that before I bought them. Reviews are mixed, and some people report they cut easily, but I don't plan on riding off road much on them. Should be ok. I hope.

The writing on the sidewalls state to inflate to 90 psi, but that seems excessive so I inflated them to 80 and took them for a spin last night.  I like them.  Cornered well and the ride was smoother than the Kendas. Not as fast as the Race tires, but I can live with that. They don't list a minimum pressure, but I'm going to try about 65-75 psi and see how that works.

One problem - the tire did rub against the back fender and I'm pretty sure it'll rub against the front also. With some fiddling and trimming I might get the fenders to work, but perhaps this bike is meant for 32's at the widest with fenders.

Bicycle Times Issue 12 has a good review of 12 commuter style tires, including the Bontrager H2, Schwalbe Marathon and Kenda Kwik Trax.