Thursday, November 2, 2017

That was the Midnight Century, son!

I’m not sure what 60’s or 70’s song movie or tv show I’m trying to reference in that post title. Maybe the Lone Ranger: Who was that masked man? That was the Lone Ranger, son.

When the time for the Midnight Century rolls around on the first Saturday in August, I start hearing that old Creedence Clearwater song (via Leadbelly and countless others) in my head: “Let the Midnight Special, shine a light on me” and I try to replace the words with Midnight Century specific lyrics. Still working on that.

So, yes, that was the Midnight Century a few months ago rolling through the county, shining bike lights on dark country roads and paths. And I’m just now getting around to blogging it, after a suitable amount of time reflecting on the ride. Except, now I’ve forgotten most of it.

I do remember having the bright idea a week before of riding it backwards, that is forwards in a counterclockwise direction to spice it up a bit. I'm not sure if it'd be easier or about the same mixture of fun, contemplative riding, cursing, and misery. Hank was up for it, but I didn’t look too closely at the route with with my backwards glasses on.

The evening of the ride I debated the perennial pros and cons of the Vaya vs. Fargo - lower gears and bigger knobbier tires on the Fargo versus higher gears and smooth rolling tires on the Vaya. I settled on the Vaya again, knowing I'd be wishing I was on the Fargo on the Liberty Lake hills, and also those washboard gravel roads before Spangle.

I finally left home around 11:40pm, hightailing it down to Browns Addition. I was late, and was expecting to see the group leaving as I rode on Pacific Ave towards the The Elk. A block away, I spied a couple bike lights and figured it was maybe a couple stragglers. But no, as I reached the Elk it wasn’t quite midnight yet and there was a contingent of 20-30 bikers milling about. No time for fries, coffee, and beer.

I briefly discussed with Hank and Eric about riding the route backwards, and we went with forwards. I wasn't too sure about way finding backwards in the dark, but next year for sure it'll be in reverse.

With a bit of staggered hesitancy, the group took off at 11:59pm or so, there not being any official starting horn or gun, and no leader.  My strategy this year was to just take it easy on the Centennial Trail portion out to the state line, instead of racing fast with the group. Then I would just plug along. Eric was taking it easy also, so we rode together behind the main group.

We chatted along, and Eric peeled off after crossing I-90 to visit some friends in Liberty Lake, saying he'd see me at breakfast at Central Food. I replied, if I make it that far! Like the last year or so, I was out of shape having not ridden much in the summer heat beyond commuting.

Okay, this is the point in the blog post where I say this has gone on long enough, let's just get the story over. I'm basically a lazy writer. So random thoughts from here on out.

This was the 2nd year in a row where I didn't miss a certain turn and I rode by the purple or blue house mentioned in the cue sheet. The website seems to be down, so I can't look at the cue sheet and tell you which rode this was on. **update: website back up and it’s the weird blue house on Idaho Rd., mile 26.6. The first couple years I went up Mission and missed Idaho Rd. **
And this was the first year I believe I didn't miss any turns. I tried to shortly after crossing I-90 when my Garmin was blinking at me, trying to tell me to turn the wrong way. Damn electronic subterfuge. I knew the turn didn't look right, and Hank rolled up and confirmed the course was the other thataway. I also accidentally hit the stop button on my timer, and had to restart the ride.

This is a typical scene out in the country:

3:46am: East 32nd Ave
A couple youngsters did the same as last year: stop for beer, catch up and pass me, stop for beer and snacks, pass me, stop for beer, etc., then never seeing them again until the end.

My legs felt felt like they made it through the Liberty Lake hills better than last year and so I was thinking my time this year might be better, but much later on when the sun rose I realized I was further along last year at the same time. Oh well.
5:57am: Excelsior Rd.
6:04am: Conner Rd. (wait, is Conner Rd on the route?)
There were some other stop-and-take-a-pic worthy scenes, but since I didn't bring my better camera, I didn't. Sometimes the iPhone takes just as well or better pics and now I'm sorry I didn't. I could use pics instead of words to pad out this post.

Usually the worst part of the ride is the last 20 or so miles on the highway and the Fish Lake Trail, where I just plod along thinking about real food like scrambled eggs and cheese. This year it seems to go better, but those last 5 miles were a killer. No difficult climbing involved, just nice easy rolling on pavement, I don't know why I dislike it so much. Maybe because it is so straight and boring and I've ridden it a million times.

So....I finished in the slowest time ever for me at least: 10 hours 28 minutes.  I didn't even feel presentable enough to eat breakfast at Central Food.

I haven't gone on any real long rides since, but as I'm typing this up I'm getting the urge to head out and get another long one in before the snow really flies. Belsby Road is calling, and so is Euclid Rd.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

San Antonio BCycle

Apparently, I never told you about our trip to San Antonio last year.  Debbie had a conference down there, and I tagged along for a few days. San Antonio is famous for its River Walk which is cool and all that, but Spokane has an actual river running through it (which we have tried to hide partly behind a behemoth Convention Center). Ok, got that little bit of civic rivalry out of the way.

Like Spokane, San Anton had a world's fair - the HemisFair '68 - and they got a Space Needle like structure out of the deal.  Gotta admit, better than our pavilion. San Antonio has better margaritas, which help with the heat and high humidity there in late September.  Oh yeah San Antonio has the Alamo. And nearby missions, which you can visit following the Mission Trail via hiking, biking, or <gasp> motorized vehicle.

The River Walk. Lots of good food and humidity. No swimming. 

Another thing San Antonio has is a bike share program called San Antonio BCycleBCycle is a company that runs bike share programs in quite a few cities in the US of A.  Here's a map of the cities they operate in - maybe they'd like to add Spokane to the list.

One day we walked over to the Alamo, where I checked out a bike station:

And the Alamo:

The next day we bought a 24 hour pass for $12 at a station close to our hotel and the Riverwalk. San Antonio's bike share is based on trips under an hour,  "Designed for short trips and quick adventures around town". After checking out a bike, you have to dock it again at another station (or the same) within 60 minutes, otherwise you're charged an extra $2.  We had handy maps of the system, and our plan was to ride to a couple of the 4 Missions on the Mission Trail.  It's about a 16 mile ride to visit all four. After coffee and breakfast, we started out on our not so quick adventure.

On the street to connect to the walk/bike path to the first mission

The bikes are clunkers, but fun to ride.  I fit my backpack in the basket up front.

On the Mission Reach section of the River Walk.  Once out of the city, the San Antonio river looks like a real river.

Here's where I should insert a picture of the first Mission we stopped at, Mission Concepcion.

Except I can't find any.  Maybe I backed them up to external drive and am too lazy to find them, or maybe I let Debbie do the Mission pic taking.  We docked our bikes, looked around, and undocked them using the same debit card we used to buy the pass.  Then we started on our way to Mission San Jose, a little mindful of our 60 minute window.  But it turns out we didn't need to worry, as we always made it to next BCycle station with time to spare.

After Mission San Jose I thought maybe we could turn around...but we couldn't just go that far and not see the other two missions.

The rest of the story: we made it to the other two missions, and ran out of water on the way back.  It was a very hot day, and we stopped at a park to refill our bottles.   Docked our bikes, couldn't get any water out of the water fountain.  Saw a little stray kitten I wanted to take home, but that wasn't happening.  

Went to undock the bikes, and my card didn't quite slide in right.  Couldn't undock the bikes. Looked at the bus schedule, couldn't figure it out.  I called BCycle and in short order they sent a van over with some water.  After fiddling with the card reader for a bit, he was able to open up the docks and get bikes out for us.  He said sometimes people put gum in the slots or other stuff, but this one he wasn't sure why it wasn't working.  Good quick response for us dehydrated tourists.  Back on the road, there was another station within a few blocks we could've walked to if we had to.  We made it back to town, and stopped in a little coffee shop that had the best lemonade.

Since we didn't rent a car during our visit, the BCycle was a great way to get around and see more of the city than we would've on foot.  We told a husband of one of Debbie's co-wprkers who was also along, and the next day he got a pass and went all over town.

Back in Spokane, the city has an $80,000 federal grant to study and design a system (see Spokesman-Review article).  There's talk of starting with stations downtown in Riverfront Park and Kendall Yards. Being a downtown office worker, I'd like this.  I walk over to Kendall Yards sometimes for lunch, and this would be a quicker and easy way to get there, without having to haul my bike down from the office.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Fargo Rival 27.5+

It's Sprootz' fault.
I haven't seen hide nor tail of him for a year or two now, but he's getting the blame. Or credit.

Way back when, Surly introduced the Krampus. A flat bar machine with 3" tires. I'm not sure if it was the first of its kind, but it caught my eye. In between a fatbike and a mountain bike, it looks like it might even be good on snow. Fast forward a few years, and there are tons of plus bikes. I've been eying the Salsa Rival since it was introduced last year. 1 x 11s drivetrain, 27.5+ tires.  The fever waxed and waned, I wasn't really needing or wanting another bike. I did figure I have a couple bikes I can sell so I'll end up with less bikes. Then I got all mr.-money-mustache and decided I didn't really need a new bike.

Sometime in spring I started looking at the bike more seriously and a shop in town had a large Fargo 29er that I sat on but didn't test ride. It actually didn't feel too big - I think the geometry changed or it might've been the Woodchipper 2 bars - but I wanted to find a medium. I mentioned the 27.5+ and asked if they'd be getting any more Fargos in, and he said oh yeah. REI had some available online and at certain select stores but I was hoping to get one at a LBS.

Then the mediums disappeared from REI online and I panicked. I couldn't find one at any Salsa dealers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, or Montana. What? I just decided I'd go for it and they disappear. Universal Cycles in Portland, Ore. said they wouldn't get anymore. Salsa said they were out till the 2018 models. Well, maybe I can wait and there'll be a better-to-my-liking color scheme.

I emailed REI and asked them about the mediums. Their rep replied they did actually have some in select stores, and the closest one to me is in Bend.  He suggested I check with them first before driving down, which I did and it's a good thing because the medium they had was still in a box.  They said they'd build it up, and I drove down the next weekend.

I test-rode it, and the sizing felt good. The only thing I was concerned about was in very tight turns my knees might hit the ends of the handlebars if I wasn't paying attention. Briefly thought about trying the large cuz I like my bikes big, but went for the frame closer to my frame.

It's a fun bike to ride. Of course I said that about my other Fargo and Pugs Neck Romancer when I first got them, but it's just a little bit more so.  It handles corners great, with none of the self steer onthe Pugs, but still easily rolls over rocks and roots out at Riverside State Park.

Now I'm thinking what to do with the brown and orange Fargo. It's a great bike, and right now I need it because 2" tires are the largest Amtrak allows. I will probably keep it for my bikepacking rig. My mountain bike is sold, and maybe the cross bike is next.

Ok so how does Sprootz get any blame in this? Can't remember exactly how it went, but more than a year ago he mentioned how he could use me as an excuse/reason (maybe to the mrs.) to justify a new bike. This worked both ways for us.  I hadn't gotten a new bike for awhile, and he'd gotten a nice e-bike and maybe another, too. So, somewhat irrationally, that got thrown into the calculations. That, and the current world situation and I developed an eat, drink, and be merry attitude.

Funny thing, after buying it in late spring, I haven't ridden a whole lot this summer - too dang hot! I'm looking forward to putting many miles on it this fall, and maybe into winter.  I want to see how it does on snow.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Wolf Tooth Doo-Dad & Banjo Brothers Frame Pack

I like my Revelate Tangle half-frame bag, but it's difficult to fit water bottles under it on the frame.  I have a tall water bottle on the down tube that protrudes up into the bag, and isn't easy to retrieve. On the seat tube I can fit a short 12oz Hydro-Flask under the Revelate, good for coffee or cold-brews.

(Maybe at this point I should point out that no companies or personages send this blogger any free stuff to review.  [Hint, hint...].  I buy bike things with my own hard earned allowance.   Speaking of, anybody need their lawn mowed?)

Wolf Tooth Components to the rescue. They developed the the B-RAD System, aka Bottle Relocation and Accessory Device.

I use the B-Rad 2 to lower the attaching points for the down tube cage and the taller water bottles fit great underneath the Tangle.  Only trouble is, now the cage interferes with the seat-tube bottle cage.  That's solved by another B-Rad to raise that one but of course there's no room now for even a 12 oz. bottle there.

So off to the internet I go looking for a little triangle shaped bag, something I've been thinking about for awhile. After some searching, I found just what I was looking for in the Banjo Brothers Frame Pack.  Only $35 bucks. The B-RAD isn't cheap at around $17 so that helps. Checked locally and didn't find any (ok, didn't look too hard - checked one store that was listed as a dealer) so ordered the medium from that universal place in Portland, Oregon. I gambled on the medium size, hoping my mid-size u-lock would fit in.

The u-lock fits, along with a tool kit and assorted sundries. I like having those on my bike so when I switch bags up front or use a backpack instead I don't have to make sure I transfer those items, too. There's room for a regular size bottle on the seat tube.  The only real complaint I have is there isn't a strap to snug the bag up next to the head tube so it tends to slide down. I think I can easily fix that.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Bikepacking setup in progress

this is what I have so far for this year's go at the John Wayne Pioneer Trail:

ceramic mug for laughs 
It's bulky up front, and I'd like to pare it down but will probably live with it. Might need a sleeping bag in September. Underneath and holding all those items is my Blackburn Top-It rack. Right now the idea is to use small bags like the Revelate handle bar bag shown instead of panniers cuz I ain't got no front panniers and don't want to buy any. I can fit a Platypus Platy bottle on top the front rack, too.  There's another handlebar bag above the sleeping bag and bivy, and dual feed bags. One of the feed bags might have to go as it's a little cramped up front; I can probably attach one on the Bindle.

I've biked with the sleeping bag and other items in a bag hanging from the handlebars before, but there's just not much room between the drops on the Woodchipper bars.  The new Woodchipper  2 bars on the new Fargo Rival have more width, and I could've switched them out I suppose but I like having a larger handlebar bag up front.

Instead of a rear rack and panniers like last time, I  picked up the Portland Design Works Bindle Rack which solves the saggy butt-rocket problem.  It's  holding the Salsa Terrapin dry bag which gives me a lot more room than the Revelate Pika I have. Inside I'm packing clothes and stuff in ditty bags to keep things separate and make it easier to get to things.  I also fit a Platypus flat bottle between the Bindle and Terrapin. More water storage!

I took it out for a spin, and the bike road smoothly, no wiggle waggle. We'll say how it works when I get it fully loaded.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

R2T: Ellensburg to Columbia River

I made it to the other side of Ellensburg.  Soon, there was a little rain, big threatening clouds and thunder off in the distance.  Big storm heading my way. I turn around and wait out the storm in a little shop a block away from the trailhead.  Winegar's - homemade ice cream and gourmet coffee, a perfect spot for me.  It was 5pm or so and with the storm not letting up, I called and made a hotel reservation.  Of course, the skies soon turned clear, and I debated about cancelling my reservation and moving on.  A little guiltily, I kept my res, and spent the night in comfort.

The trailhead is about a block from Winegar's on Alder Street and I looked around a little more closely in the morning.  Down Alder Street there's a set up for horses, RV Camping, and showers right close to the trail - part of the Kittitas Valley Event Center.  Looks like a good spot to camp, instead of forking over $'s for a hotel.  It's funny, but the day before I think I checked out the other side where the office is, but couldn't see where camping was.

On the trail again.

Why the John Wayne Pioneer Trail is named what it is:

 Just outside of Ellensburg and definitely on the dry, irrigated side of the state.

There's a closed trestle that crosses I-90 a few miles from this spot, and you have to detour.  I rode past a ways before turning back and taking the detour.  The trail is more scenic than the road, with some nice rock cutouts.

 On the south side of I-90 on the detour, the Renslow Trestle in the distance.

There's some debate amongst bikers if it's ok to skip the detour and stay on the trail.  The problem is you might have to cross private land from the trail down to a road that crosses under I-90 to the other side.  From what I could see from the other side, there's a short little trail leading down to the road.

Looking at the old railbed from the trestle.  I can't remember for sure now, but I think this was closed off and I rode down below then up a dirt trail back to the JWPT.

 My left pedal felt a little wonky riding up, but once I got going again on the flat and slightly downhill trail it felt fine.

This section is part of the Army's Yakima Training Center.  It's a live fire training exercise area which closes the trail sometimes.  It's a good idea to check ahead of time before riding.  The Friends of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail website says it's closed August 1-15 this year.
Getting my registration card.
The Army West Trailhead
This section is very sandy, and from what I hear is a real pain to bike up going in the other direction.  But it's not bad heading east, beginning the long descent to the Columbia River.

The Boylston Tunnel.  I missed the sign for a detour around it.

the detour pic, out of order.

Reminds me of parts of the Columbia Plateau Trail.

Not your usual Eastern Washington Basalt rock.

There's potable water just off the trail here at the tank in the distance.  It's just a few miles from the  Columbia and Vantage, but I stopped for a rest and to top-off my bottles.  And my favorite trail snack - Bumble Bee Snack on the Run - tuna or chicken salad and crackers.
edit 2/4/18 to add: the Potable water is before the tank in the distance. In the google map screen shot below, it is at the odd shaped concrete pads above the big square one.

That's the Columbia on the left in the distance

The Army East Trailhead

The Beverly Bridge at the Columbia River.  A fire in the area burned the railroad ties on this end making it impassable.  It was always closed off due to safety concerns, but before the fire there was talk of ways to cross over it.

To get across the river you ride north on Huntzinger Road to Vantage, where you can bike across on the I-90 bridge (no shoulder, dangerous, not recommended) or hitch a ride.  Another possibility I've looked into is biking south on Huntzinger Rd past Wanapum Dam, follow some dirt roads past Priest Rapids, around the bend in the river, and cross the river on Highway 24 near Desert Aire, then back north to Beverly.  It looks like a long way around.

So anyway, I'm biking on the road to Vantage.  It's a little hilly and I'm biking up and down some steeper grades. Suddenly my left pedal is wobbly.  I had forgotten about it, and hadn't checked it out any further.  I stop and take a look at it and discover it's barely hanging on to the arm.  The threads in the crank arm are almost completely stripped.  Well, shoot.  I hobble into Vantage and ponder my next move.  I get the pedal back on fairly tight, but I'm sure it's not going to last long.  I don't want to break down in some remote spot across the river.  No bike shops within a 100 miles at least.  This is my only bike I have set up with tubeless tires, and I'm heading into goathead country.

Somewhat reluctantly, I do what not-so-intrepid explorers do and called my wife for a ride home.

The plan now is to try again in September.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

R2T: Lake Easton to Ellensburg photo dump

Lake Easton was a good camping spot, and I got going a little late in the morning. A little warn out from my Issaquah escapade. A Bunch of pics from there to Ellensburg:

a party float! tempting

 Cle Elum

There's a Barbecue joint here in the old train depot, but it was unfortunately closed Monday.  I hung around for a bit, borrowing their electricity to recharge phone/batteries and ate some snacks.

On the dry side of the state now, but got a few rain drops.

Enter at your own risk! I dutifully signed the waiver, gathered up my courage, girded my loins, and forged onward.

Party Barn! A roadside attraction tempting me to get off track.


In Ellensburg, there was a nice trailhead with directions through town to the next trailhead.

ok that's it for now, shouldn't take me too long to post pics from Ellensburg to the Columbia River.