Saturday, March 31, 2018

Minus Ten Review- 13

We saw some beautiful roads during T.I.v8 recon
Ten years ago on the blog I was recovering from the big trip to the desert and looking at another Trans Iowa recon. That would have been for Trans Iowa v4, and it was another stressful run up to the big event. I learned a few things in 2008, and one of them was to NOT pack in four big events in life within five weeks time.

It didn't help that Trans Iowa recon was a wash when we tried doing it in December the year before. I learned that it was best to get the initial recon done in Fall when the weather and roads were at their best, generally speaking. Waiting until less than a month remained before Trans Iowa was.........not good. 

The other thing I recall was that this course was absolutely gorgeous. Too bad the Winter was so rough on the roads that year, because T.I.v4 was truncated and we didn't get to see what I considered to be the best parts of that course. There was one particular view that sticks with me to this very day. I'll have to get back up that way in Summer and plot out a route that encompasses that descent and some other areas around there that would be good to see by bicycle.

The amount of snow left piled along many stretches of the route was amazing for so late into the year. This was "almost April" and we passed by several 10 to 20 foot high drifts of snow along the road. We wondered aloud whether snow patches might still exist when we ran Trans Iowa. Of course, we didn't really believe that we would, but then again, we hadn't expected so many drifts of snow either. This melting of snow which occurred later was part of the undoing of T.I.v4, by the way.

This also marked the first time I had a cohort involved in recon since Jeff Kerkove and I did the T.I.v1 recon together. That was nice and David Pals was a great asset to me during his tenure as a Trans Iowa co-director. Without his help I am pretty sure Trans Iowa would have stopped a long time ago.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Friday News And Views

Tight fit- Note the snow build up on the fork
Its All About The Clearance, Clarence:

You know, when this whole gravel deal kicked into gear back about six years ago, I figured that the tires would all be, you know, not that big. I figured what we needed were good choices from 35mm to 40mm in size. That about 38mm tires would be the "normal" size.

Why wouldn't I have thought this? Previous to 2012, you couldn't get a "gravel tire". None really existed unless you counted Bruce Gordon's Rock & Road tire, which has a pretty aggressive tread, and is more "ATB" than "all-roads". Hybrid bike tires would work, width-wise, but the quality was awful. Touring tires existed in this size range, but they were heavy and had all this puncture protection stuff in them that made them ride terribly on gravel. A lot of people used Schwalbe Marathon tires previous to 2010, and those were mostly 35mm-40mm in size. It was what we had at hand to use at the time.

The widths seemed to work well. I took a survey of riders, maybe for T.I.v5 or v6, and this would have been 2009-2010, when the riders surveyed said 35mm tires were the best choice in width for them. So, what happened? Where did all the puffy, 42mm-45mm tires come from?

You may say, "Well, most tires are actually 40mm, aren't they?" Technically speaking, they should be, but in reality, they are anything but that. In years past, with 29"er tires, I got very used to finding out the newest 2.4" tire might make 2.25" in reality. Nothing, and I mean no tire, was ever the size the casing said it was for years. All narrower. Now with gravel tires, it is the complete opposite! 

Even on skinny rims these supposed 40's are actually 42mm wide.
 I don't know, maybe tire manufacturers are in a giving mood these last several years because almost no tire I have tested is actually the width it says on the hot patch. They almost all are bigger, and in some cases, waaaay bigger! 

Maybe you are okay with that. Maybe you like getting "more" for your money. But in the case of bicycles meant to handle 40's and no larger, it can be an issue. Take my Twin Six Standard Rando, for instance. A 40mm tire is about as large as I'd run on this bike with any confidence that I would not be jamming small stones between the top of the tread and the mono-stay end on the bike. I know- Twin Six says it will fit a Rock & Road, and while you can get one under there, there ain't much room. This is really a 40mm tire bike, or smaller.

I'm going to run the 700's on here for a bit, but 650B tires are going back on real soon, and it will be interesting to see if the wider Irwin wheels I am testing allow the WTB Byway's to pass between the stays and fork legs. They worked with the narrower Velocity Aileron rims, but we will see......

Renegade Gents Race Rig.........most likely.
Workin' On Being A Renegade:

Next weekend is the Renegade Gents Race. I've often said that this is the funnest, good time bicycle ride/event I do all year. This also will mark the 8th consecutive year I've done this deal. All with the same bunch of Renegades, by the way.

It's a special event for me because I made good friends at this event that I would not have today otherwise. I marvel at what this event has become and I am sure it is a big deal now for the folks in Slater, Iowa where we will descend with about 350 riders or so. I think the first year there were way less than 100!

Anyway, I plan on riding the Raleigh Tamland with the 650B wheel set I have been testing on there. Our team captain is riding a fat bike this year and said to, "plan your pace accordingly", so I'll probably be over-biked for this, but then again- Our team captain is a very strong rider and is getting tuned up for Trans Iowa, so yeah..... We'll see about that easy pace! 

So, the bike will be as seen here with the bar tape switched out. I have this new stuff which is pretty rad and I cannot wait to try it out. It is kind of rubbery-tacky, and very cushioned. It comes from a company named "Marque" so I'll be gabbing about that later on. I may also have to clean and lube the drive train. It probably needs replacing, but you know what they say not to do just before an event, right? Hopefully it holds up. I am confident that it will.

Okay, Happy Easter, if you do that, and otherwise have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Ergon ST Core Saddle Review

The several layers of the Ergon ST Core Prime saddle
Bicycle saddles are one of the contact points for a rider and arguably the most important one. If you get on a bad-for-you saddle, then you won't be riding long, or at the very least, you will be in pain. Who wants to be in pain? (WAIT! Don't answer that! I don't want to know!)

Anyway, pain in the butt, (literally) saddles are no fun. I think we can all agree on that point. So, saddle technology has been something that has been changing a lot over the last 30 years. The segment has seen a ton of changes and it has made certain company's names and broken others. Ergon is one company that kind of hangs its hat on the the saddles it makes, and their newest one is unusual, but no less an Ergon than the others in the line.

Ergon USA made an offer to me and many other "social media influencers" to try out this new saddle. Now I wasn't paid or anything for this, and in fact, they told me I didn't have to say anything if I didn't want to. But I am, and here is what I'm going to say for now....... But first- The specs from the Ergon site:

  • CroMo rails,  7x7
  • Core made of Closed Cell Particle Foam (E-TPU)
  • MicroFiber cover
  • Padding made of Orthopedic Comfort Foam
  • Gender specific shapes and relief channels
  • Available in 2 sizes
  • Gender specific designs
  • S/M fit sit-bone width of 9-12 cm
  • M/L fits sit-bone width of 12-16 cm

I requested a M/L which fell in my range for fit. Once it arrived I noted the white "E-TPU" core and the nice MicroFiber cover. The saddle appears to be heavy, but in the hand it is remarkably light. I did not weigh it, so I will have to do that at some point.

Besides the cut out which isn't really a "cut out", more of a relief channel, the saddle has a flat profile when viewed from the side. I will say up front that flat profile saddles have not been my favorites in years past. I generally find that a slight "bucket shape" or "sagged center" saddle type is more my jam. Saddles like WTB's, for instance. My favorite being the discontinued SST and the Pure series saddles. I generally run those "nose up" a bit and that tends to keep me from pedaling off the nose of a saddle.

So, now that you have a background in what I prefer, you can gauge the rest of this based upon my personal peccadilloes. Obviously everyone has unique physiology, so I wanted to make some statement of where I am coming from in that regard.

The set up of the ST Core saddle was straight forward. I had no issues getting the saddle in the clamp of my Salsa Shaft seat post and then getting my old Carousel Designs seat pack on there as well. There is nothing non-standard underneath this saddle that would prevent you from using most any accessory meant for under the saddle mounting. With the initial saddle set up being dead level, I tried it for a few rides, but as I anticipated, I needed to "nose it up" to keep myself from feeling like I was going to slide off the front of this saddle and also to hopefully be more comfortable. As I say- personal peccadilloes. Once the saddle was tilted up a hair all was in a happy place for me, so I continued the testing.

The saddle was mounted to my fixed gear Surly 1X1 and used for daily commuting
The bike I used this on to begin with was the Surly 1X1 commuter rig which I have currently set up in the fixed gear mode. The theory being here that with fixed gear, you pedal every inch of the way, so a shorter commute could reflect as much pedaling one might do in a longer ride. Anyway, I figured that this bike would be a good test mule because of the amount of pedaling I do when I ride it and pedaling can amplify issues with saddles. Plus, this saddle is touted as something that will move with the rider. What better way to find this out?

So, now after a solid month with this saddle pedaling over grassy fields, bike paths, broken up pavement, and "normal" city streets, I can say that, yes, there is something going on here.

My initial reaction was that I had forgotten to pump up my tires the day I first had this saddle on the bike. But I was mistaken, because it was the give of the saddle that was to blame. The rocking motion one makes while pedaling has no resistance since the saddle moves with the rider. When expected resistance isn't there, I almost always blame a low tire, because generally speaking, that's what is causing that sensation. However; my tires were pumped up, and then I knew the saddle was actually working as advertised. After the initial "nose up" adjustment, I have had no discomfort or numbness issues with this saddle either.

After a month of solid use, the Ergon ST Core looks "good" yet.
My first impressions of the saddle's core material was that it looked a little like a cheap gas station coffee cup, or cottage cheese. I like cottage cheese, so I am going with that. Anyway, I was very skeptical of the material's performance claims and even more so of how it would hold up. Obviously I feel like it works for riding, and it does smooth out road chatter and takes the edge off big bumps, but how did it hold up so far? Well, pretty well, actually.

Obviously there is some bonding agent that holds things together, so I was looking for signs of separation, or any degrading of the E-TPU material, maybe a little discoloration after being exposed to the elements. However; so far, I have noted nothing of the sort. I will continue to monitor this as I keep riding the saddle throughout the Spring.

Plans are to move this saddle over to another rig. Obviously, this is a shape that is meant for a more upright position, so one of my gravel bikes would be the wrong place to try it out. However; I am wanting to do another Fat Bike Century soon, and this saddle is a perfect fit for that activity since I have the proper position on a fat bike for this saddle.

The Ergon ST Core isn't an inexpensive saddle, despite it's "replacement saddle" looks. This is touted as a serious cyclist's saddle on par with touring saddles meant for longer rides. So, the Fat Bike Century idea fits this bill. Look for that to happen probably after Trans Iowa. Until then I'll continue on with the fixed gear Surly and see how it goes. Stay tuned for more soon.......Part Two HERE

Note: Ergon USA  sent over the Ergon ST Core saddle at no charge for testing and I was not paid nor bribed for this review.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Trans Iowa v14: Numbers And Stuff

Who will get the #1 plate?
Numbers Are In:

Trans Iowa number plates are in at HQ now and I get to sort through them and assign numbers to people. But before I get too far, there are some rules for the riders concerning these numbers.
  • Number plates MUST be VISIBLE at all times. So, if you have your number pinned to a jacket to start out, and later it gets warm enough to take off that jacket, you MUST MOVE THE NUMBER TO YOUR JERSEY. If, for instance, you have your number on your jersey and put on a jacket, YOU MUST MOVE THE NUMBER TO THE JACKET, But wouldn't it be just easier all around if you stuck the number on your bike and made sure it was secured so it wasn't blown off? Then you can swap around clothing at will without running afoul of this rule. If we cannot see your number you will be DQ'ed, so be careful! I have several observers that will be planted at certain points on course, so we will be watching you! Numbers should be on the handle bars for best compliance to this rule. 
  • Numbers Can Not Be Cut Or Modified In Any Way!
  • We will provide pins and twist ties which will be available at the Pre-Race Meat-Up.
  • Numbers will be picked up at sign in at the Pre-Race Meat-Up. 
Numbers are assigned in such a way that they will make sense to the volunteers and to myself, so beyond that there is no special significance to which number plate you receive. Yes......I have a #1 plate, but I do not have to use it, so there is that.....

My hope is that something will come through soon so that I can customize each plate, but time is running short, so that may or may not happen. We will see. I still plan on writing everyone's name on their plate and that will carry on the tradition I have started several Trans Iowas ago.

Three Q-Pro cue sheet holders specially customized for TIv14.
Special Customized Q-Pro Cue Sheet Holders From Bar Yak:

Bar Yak really outdid themselves this year with some super special customized Q-Pro Cue Sheet holders which are emblazoned with "Trans Iowa v14" on each.

This is something too cool not to be used in the event, so if you are on the roster, you should have gotten an e-mail from me Monday evening detailing how you can get in on the drawing for one of these. The entry period runs through till this coming Monday, April 2nd, at which time I am going to draw three names and get these out to those three lucky riders. That way they will have a chance to dial in the cue sheet holders and be able to use them at Trans Iowa v14.

Bar Yak is a rider driven company and this latest version of the Q-Pro incorporates several updates over previous versions. I have a version of this system and it really makes cue sheets an easy thing to use in any weather condition.

If you are on the T.I.v14 roster and you did not see the e-mail just comment below and I will make sure you get that. Thanks! Winners will be notified April 2nd by e-mail and I will be asking for a shipping address. Packages should go out then the following Tuesday, or at the latest, Wednesday. No purchase necessary, must be on the TIv14 roster to be eligible. Decisions of Guitar Ted regarding the drawing and shipping of these prizes will be final.

Book Raffle:

I also received five copies of Nick Legan's "Gravel Cycling" to be raffled off at the Pre-Race Meat-Up. Whomever shows up at the Grinnell Steakhouse Friday, April 27th and is signed on to ride in Trans Iowa will be eligible for this book.

I also talked about this in the e-mail I sent out and the publisher allowed me to share a special link which shows a bit of the book. The part I got to share was Nick's pre-event checklist, which is timely for the Trans Iowa rider. Again- If you are on the roster and you did not get the e-mail, let me know and I will forward you that.

Okay, that's about it for this update. Recon for the course will happen soon, and then I will print cue sheets and after that I will be customizing number plates for each rider. Then it will be the final stretch to T.I.v14 and another whirlwind of a weekend.

Stay tuned for more soon.......

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

State Of Tubelessness: Ten Years Down The Road- Part 2

So, yesterday I hit on the overall historical background for tubeless tires, focusing on why there is no single standard and why certain tires do not fit certain rims. before I go much further, I also wanted to point out that this issue- tires marked the same size as rims but do not fit well with each other, is not the sole domain of tubeless/tubeless ready tires. There have been certain combinations of clincher rims and tires throughout the decades that were tough, or nigh unto impossible, to mount to each other. One famous example of that is Continental Gatorskin tires and Trek matrix rims. Mechanics shudder with disdain when presented with this combination to work on.

So, moving on from there, I wanted to get more in to what I have experienced personally within the last several years in terms of tubeless tire usage. I am pretty much "tube free" when it comes to gravel bikes. I cannot remember the last time I rolled tubed tires on gravel. It's been a couple of years at least. Mountain bikes are generally tubeless for me, but a couple of my single speeds have been reverted back to tubed set ups just because they get ridden so rarely anymore. Fat bikes are all tubed here, and my utilitarian bikes are tubed for the most part, with the exception of my Surly 1X1.

Despite the casing failure, we were able to limp the bike back to Emporia!
So, I spend a fair amount of time using both types of tires. But for this post, I'll stick to my tubeless stories. One of the standout situations I have been involved with was my DK200 experience in 2016. Back when I was doing mtb tire reviews, I got a set of Maxxis Ikon tires. The really expensive ones. (Note- I actually paid out of pocket for those tires.) Anyway, they were full on XC geek tires, were really light, and were not tubeless rated. Keep in mind that the lightest set ups, still in 2018, are folding bead tires set up tubeless on Stan's rims. This is exactly what I did with the Ikons. They were mounted to Sun Ringle' Black Flag wheels, which used Stan's dimension bead seats. (In fact, many say Stan's rims are made by Sun Ringle') Anyway, I wasn't too keen on removing those tires because I wanted to wear them out. I paid a lot for them and nothing else that big rolled that well on my Fargo at the time.

So it was that at the DK200 I was on a pre-ride and the casing gave up the ghost. (See image to the left) Well, you can read all about it here, but the point was that tires were needed ASAP and I found some Teravail Sparwoods that would fit the bill, but maybe not my rims! The mechanic couldn't get the tires to fit on the Stan's dimension rims because the Sparwoods must have been made closer to a UST dimension. I ended up having to lever both tires on myself, and I knew that if I cut one on the flint the next day during my own ride, I was going to be dead in the water because there was no field servicing that set up!

Fortunately I was able to complete that ride and I actually left those Sparwoods on until last year when I replaced the tires for some Terrene test tires I had to review. At that point the Sparwoods came off, but they required a pair of tire levers and some muscle to dismount.

The Teravail Sparwood and Black Flag wheel combo was almost a no-go as far as fit went.
 Then there is the opposite end of the spectrum- tires that won't mount for various reasons. I have had trouble with tires that seem to be a good fit but will refuse to mount up, or that require "special techniques" to mount tubeless. I'm specifically NOT referring to tires that are fat bike tires, mtb tires, or non-tubeless rated rims or tires. These have been tires in the 40mm range, meant to be tubeless, and just are really stubborn about being set up.

Of these tires, there is one common thread- they all had some sort of puncture protection layer or an anti-stretch bead technology. This made the airing up/bead seating process very difficult, if not impossible. The sidewalls of the tires didn't want  to be moved by air blasts from compressors, and therefore a temporary seal was hard to get initiated, which is critical for a successful tubeless tire installation.

Another critical feature is the valve stem. Tubeless valve stems are one of the biggest reasons tubeless installations are difficult or why tubeless set ups sometimes fail. There are good stems and really bad ones. Then the valve hole is another possibility for failure. If the stem cannot effectively seal at the hole it passes through, you will have a headache on your hands. Also worth noting is that after a time tubeless valve stems get corroded by sealant, and this mainly where the core seats into the outer portion of the stem. Replacing cores often will help with this.

Sealants are another ongoing development in the tubeless marketplace. There are basically two kinds of sealant. You either use a glycol based sealant, like the trucking, ag, and industrial industries use, or a latex based sealant like most bicycle sealants have used since Stan's developed his basic latex formula back in the 90's. Glycol based sealants have also been used in bicycle tires. You may know Slime, and that is a glycol based sealant that typically doesn't dry up in tires. Latex works faster and is lighter, (usually) than glycol based sealants for the same volume, but these sealants dry out faster.

These carbon rims made by Irwin Cycling are so precisely made they make going tubeless a breeze.
I've tried just about all of them, and some that you haven't heard of. Glycol has been the worst of the two types for me, with the notable exception of Slime. Latex sealants perform best from my standpoint. Stan's, Orange Seal, GEAX, (Maybe no longer made?), Caffe Latex, and MG's home brew sealant have been my best.

So, you can see how so many standards, choices, and ways of doing things can add up to situations that could be awesome or somewhat less than satisfying. In my opinion, if you stick to a system- using true tubeless components, and/or a one brand solution, (tire/rim) the issues can be put to rest. For instance, a WTB TCS set up is pretty bomber. So is the Bontrager one. There are others.

I have also noted that many rim and tire manufacturers are really stepping up their game in regard to precision molding techniques which have really made things fit and seal so much better than before. I think the trend is toward more uniformity, but it has been a slow road.

You'd think by now we'd have it figured out!

That's it for this "State Of Tubelessness" series. Hit me with any questions in the comments. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

State Of Tubelessness: Ten Years Down The Road- Part 1

Some wheels, like these Irwin Cycling wheels here, make going tubeless super easy.
The other day I noted a thread in the forum that was started by someone a bit befuddled by the terminologies and what they meant when it comes to gravel tires. What rims fit which tires? What is UST? and more.

This prompted me to read through the thread and I did stop and add some context to it. But that said, it appears that there are a lot of confused individuals out there yet in 2018 when it comes to tubeless tires for bicycles.

I have, on occasion here on this blog, written a "State Of Tubelessness" post. The first one I could dig up was from 2010, but I had been writing about my trials and tribulations with tubeless tires almost from the onset of the blog in 2005. But for all intents and purposes, my real pursuit of going tubeless started in 2007, so I figured why not detail briefly what has happened over the past ten years in terms of tubeless tires for bicycles.

Obviously somewhere this all started and the beginnings of tubeless tires in our era started in the late 90's with a guy by the name of Stan Koziak. You know his company by the name of "Stan's", but the full name of the company is "Stan's NoTubes", which should give you a clue as to what sort of tires his system are meant for. Stan's was, and still is, a system for converting non-tubeless tires to tubeless usage. That specifically means folding bead and wire bead performance tires that were never meant to be tubeless. Of course, you can run tubeless tires on Stan's rims, but not all will fit.

A set of ZTR Flow rims I still have were tried with many tires in the past.
Once tubeless ready tires came to market, Stan's didn't push the conversion thing too hard. In fact, they dabbled in their own tires for a bit, but even that went by the wayside. Stan's just kept being Stan's and they kept growing as a company, mainly because tire and rim manufacturers couldn't get together on a single standard for tubeless tires. Not that it wasn't tried, or successful, because there is a standard, but it requires a licensing fee. Not something many companies are willing to pay for.

Of course, that standard is UST, or Uniform System Tubeless, which Mavic, Hutchinson, and Michelin first developed in 1999. Later a few other companies would adopt the standard, most notably GEAX/Vittoria, but for the most part, the stringent dimensions and testing protocol of UST wasn't adopted by the industry universally. This caused UST to be pretty much pigeonholed to the XC racer set, and most average mountain bikers were not getting into UST in the early 00's. The fact that true, air-tight tubeless tires were a lot heavier than their folding bead counterparts was also a part of this.

 Meanwhile, 29"ers were becoming a thing, and the rim and tire manufacturers were standing off from adopting any single standard until things shook themselves out. This sort of played into the hands of Stan's who were the "average person's" tubeless "system" of choice. Obviously, Stan's made for a lighter weight set up, because you used a folding bead tire, which in some cases could be well over 200 grams lighter than a UST tire. The trouble with Stan's was that non-tubeless, folding bead tires were difficult to get sealed, didn't last long, and some were failing spectacularly due to the added stresses present without a tube to reinforce the bead and sidewall.

That all began to change in the late 00's as Trek/Bontrager/Fisher began to push for tubeless systems that they could use on their bikes. Since Bontrager sold tires, a system where tire, plastic "TLR" rim strip, and rim was developed which was very user friendly and worked tremendously well. But like UST before it, this was not an "open standard", so other companies were developing their own systems to compete. Specialized had "2Bliss", WTB developed "TCS", and rim manufacturers that did not make tires and tire manufacturers that did not make rims were left wondering what to do.

Rim companies, like Velocity, kind of shot for a :middle ground" in terms of design.
Many companies did not want to err so far toward the UST dimensions that other components would not fit and vice versa. Some of the systems, like WTB's TCS,were close to UST, but some were not. The companies whose tires were not right on the UST mark did so to fit Stan's rims, which were very slightly oversized. But these tires would still fit some other companies rims, which were somewhere in between the UST and the older. standard climcher/tube variances. Rims, like Velocity USA's, were made to fit a broader range of tires as well. Other companies adopted Stan's dimensions, while others erred closer to UST.

So, in 2018, you can probably see why it is that people get confused. Fit issues exist, and remember, tolerances don't need to vary much so that very small variances can mean that some components will not be compatible with others, despite the labels saying 700c, or 622ISO. This gives people fits, because if labels match up, components should as well, or so the thinking goes. However, saying 622ISO is the "fine measurement all should be at", is like thinking every square mile in the country is the same size. They are not, and neither is everyone's rims and tires. That may sound weird, but if you've ever tried mounting a Michelin tubeless tire on a Stan's rim, you know what I mean. You might get the two mounted to one another, but woe be to you if you have a catastrophic failure on a ride and you think you are getting a tube in there.

Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow....

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Touring Series: To The Mighty Miss'!

A Guitar Ted Productions Series
 Welcome to "The Touring Series". This series is a re-posting of a story I told here on this blog in 2008. The story is about what I named the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". This was a fully loaded, self-supported bicycle tour from just Northeast of Waterloo, Iowa starting in a little village named Dewar and the goal was to get to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada in one week's time. The plan called for us to be picked up there and taken home by car.

When I returned home from this tour I wrote a rough draft manuscript of about half of the trip. It is 27 pages of hand written stuff, front and back, and this is what I will be posting to begin with. You'll be able to identify the 1994 manuscript material by my using italics to post it here. After the manuscript information ends, the rest of the story will be picked up from memories written down in 2008. That will appear as regular text here. As mentioned, cameras, smart phones, and the like did not exist for us in 1994, so images will be few. There are some though, and I will sprinkle those in when they are relevant.

We rejoin the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" as it rolls into Rushford, Minnesota.....

Here the Root River Trail ended. We were in the first "real city" we had been in all day. We could see bluffs all around us. That brought one thing straight into our minds: That the road ahead would be anything but level. For now though, we gave our full attention to the local grocery store.

Here I was instructed to get Pop Tarts, the "manna" of the tour. We once again parked ourselves on the curb in front and ate our fill. Disconcerted shoppers scurried by us, not quite knowing what to make of vagabonds of our sort.

We decided to leave town eastwards, on State 16 towards Houston. We found that the road had a paved shoulder, which was good. We also found a supply of hills. These hills were quite challenging for me and I often found myself off the back going up. Coming down though, gravity was my friend. Outweighing my companions by a good 75 pounds gave me a distinct gravity assisted boost. This allowed me to keep up with the other two; although I didn't enjoy my yo-yo pace much.

Houston, and many bluff towns along the Mighty Miss', have their name spelled out for you on the Bluffs
We were entering Houston, Minnesota, and we could tell, since they had a brightly painted sign at the edge of town proclaiming their burg as "the entrance to Bluff Country". Ha! The irony was not lost on us, and we stopped and took our pictures under the sign that bright, partly cloudy day. Afterwards, we found a convenience store to raid for early afternoon refueling.
As I pointed out earlier, children were always very curious of us and our doings. Always willing to talk. Such was the case with Andrew of Houston. It seemed that Andrew's brother was a lazy lout, as he was reported to be still sleeping, and Andrew's dad worked in a local turkey processing plant. He also informed us that there wasn't much to do in Houston, Minnesota. The one thing Andrew told us that we were particularly interested in, I didn't like hearing.

"How are the hills east of town here?", Steve asked of the young man.

He promptly replied, "They're hilly."

"That's not the right answer, son.", I told him with a smile. "Try again. I think you know a better answer!"

Actually, Andrew did say that there was one doozy of a hill just outside of town, then it was pretty much going to be okay until the halfway point to Hokah. There he claimed there was another great hill. You know what? That little shaver was right!

That second hill- the one halfway to Hokah? Oh My! But I made it okay. Overall, I wasn't a hindrance to the others as I feared. maybe just a nuisance, or possibly a pest, but I made it. In fact, I felt in a groove, going my own pace up those hills.

Well, there isn't much to say about Hokah except that we went through it and pushed onwards towards Le Crescent where we would cross the Mississippi. Troy was anxious to put in some miles now. He was regretting all the morning stops. At Hokah, we were obliged to turn northwards and into a headwind. Troy let me draft behind him, and the Steve switched off with him and led me for awhile. Our pace was fast and we did not stop at Le Crescent. Well, except for traffic lights. Traffic was heavy here, as it is around all bridges leading over the "Mighty Miss".

We pushed on now towards the bridge and we were cruising on the right hand lane of a four lane highway. No headwind and a steady downhill to the river gave some slight relief to me here. We finally reached the bridge over the main channel, a two lane affair high above the river itself. I noticed that the bridge had an adjoining sidewalk which I desired to take. I noticed that Steve took no interest in getting on it and Troy was following him on a string. I yelled out, "Hey! Aren't we taking the...." Too late! The din of traffic drowned me out.

The sound of the car tires was very distinct and brought to mind one thing- Open grating! I don't like high places at all, so I kept my gaze fixed straight ahead and pedaled like a madman. Fear is a great motivator! I sped across and actually caught up with Troy and Steve. The steel knobs sticking up at each intersection of grating was a little tough to negotiate though. Apparently they are a reverse form of studded tires. This is what accounted for the loud noise of the tires all around me.

The bridge was past us now, but it was out of the frying pan and into the fire. Traffic was thick and loud. We did not have any clear idea of where we should go. 


Remember back a couple of installments ago when I thought I was going to have to die for being so stupid to think I could ride a whole week in hills? Well, the hills east of Houston made those hills seem like little rises. I wasn't doing too badly, considering the day I had before, but I wasn't doing well! I remember a few times feeling rather desperate, having lost sight of my two companions, and not knowing exactly where I was. Coming into Houston was one of those times I remember that being  the case. I was still a rank beginner at this, so anxiety levels were perhaps understandably high. 

Next :The Bastard Trail

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Minus Ten Review - 12

No dirt here folks. A trail in Franklin State Park near El Paso, Texas
Ten years ago this week I was in El Paso, Texas to visit my relatives and ride in the desert. This would have been the second time I had ridden down there.

It's hard to impart just how difficult it is to ride through these trails. Everything is a rock that you are riding on. They vary in size and shape, being loose, hard, bedrock, or deep gravel depending upon where you are. Since it typically is so rough, loose, and rocky, the going is very slow. I once rode about 15 miles, I think it was, and it took over 3 hours. I was just crawling, but then again, on that trip I had a hard tail.

The trip ten years ago was to test two rigs I had for Twenty Nine Inches. One was a rare Siren Song soft tail single speed. It was over-geared for the terrain but a nice bike. The Hi-Fi was a better match there but unfortunately I have no good recollection of that ride anymore. Not that particular one, anyway.

So, what I do know is that I liked riding there. While, as I say, it was tough going, it was very different than anything I've done before then or since. I enjoy it every time I get the chance to ride down there. Unfortunately, it has been several years since I've been able to. The last time I was there my father in law was in hospital, so we spent the main portion of the stay with him there, and then I got sick at the end and.......well, I'd rather forget that!

Here's a couple more shots of the trails down there for reference......

That's the Hi-Fi in the image there. 
I remember thinking this looked like a brick building had been razed here and someone made a path through the middle.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Friday News And Views

Bar Yak Q-Pro cue sheet holders. Image by Joe Stiller.
Trans Iowa v14 : Updates

With a hair over a month to go till T.I.v14 (!!!) I have been pretty busy with things behind the scenes. Cues were formatted and sent to my secret checker who will be going around the course solo to see if the cues really make sense or if they are wrong in spots. Once any revisions necessary have been made, I will go have the cues printed and we will collate them into the batches they need to be in. Volunteer boxes will be set up for each checkpoint, and for this year, the start as well.

Numbers have been ordered and should be here in four days. I will be seeing about customizing these a bit and, of course, be writing everyone's name on their designated plate. Then I will need to print up waivers, a special T.I.v14 "Welcome" letter, and get that packed away.

Prizing is beginning to be shipped here. Bar Yak is sending three Q-Pro Cue Sheet Holders and my intention is to get those out to three lucky riders before T.I.v14 so they can be used for the event. Velo Press and Nick Legan have sent out five copies of "Gravel Cycling" to be raffled off at the Pre-Race Meat-Up. I also have been promised some goodies from Pedal of Littleton, and I have a plan to include WTB tires and some other baubles which will all go to the riders.

Communications will be sent out to riders about the first of the month and volunteers will hear from me shortly after that. Meeting notes will be drawn up and a schedule made to meet goals all through April. It's going to be a busy month!

Wireless Di2? You knew it would happen.....
Shimano Patent Hints At Wireless Di2:

The big cycling media companies have uncovered a patent application by Shimano which seems to indicate that the cycling component company is getting set to introduce a wireless Di2. Current Di2 electronic shifting requires that hard wires run from each component to "junction boxes" and then to a battery for power supply.

While not a lot of fine detail exists concerning just how the Di2 wireless set up might work, one can already guess at the implications of such components. Obviously some sort of protocol for the radio waves must exist. SRAM developed their own, independent wireless standard, but it is not clear at this time if Shimano will use a currently established network or develop their own.

Then there is the functionality. It is obvious from the patent application schematic that one could probably use this as they would a typical mechanical Shimano group, but other possibilities are endless. Remote triggers, assignable functions, and Shimano's own SyncroShift technologies will probably all figure in to the new designs. Obviously, flat bar applications will also be developed which will bring Shimano a leg up on SRAM as that would be second generation Di2 for off road while SRAM has yet to introduce any version of E-Tap for off road. Although I would bet Sea Otter will be where that finally happens this year.

Do you want to run a 42T rear cog with your drop bar shifters? Image couresy of Wolf Tooth
Wolf Tooth Introduces Road Link:

The obvious move by SRAM to eliminate front derailleurs continues on the road side, but what about really low gears? Well, you can thank Wolf Tooth for being a "johnny-on-the-spot" and for making this "Road Link" for the new Shimano Shadow style road rear derailleurs.

Now you can get one of those 11 speed cassettes with the "ridicu-low" rear cogs and then ditch your front derailleur, or be a mad scientist and run a double anyway with several sub-one-to-one gears. Wolf Tooth says the Road Link is,"Optimized for use with 11-36t, 11-40t, 11-42t 11-speed cassettes" and that with a 11-42 it will work, but not to "factory spec shifting quality".

Interestingly I have been running an 11-36T cassette on my Raleigh Tamland for two years with a standard Ultegra 11 speed rear derailleur and nothing else special at all. I also set up my Twin Six Standard Rando the same way. That gets me a one to one ratio gear in the low 36T coupled with my inner ring on the crank which is also a 36T.

I haven't tried that with the new Shadow rear road derailleurs, so maybe that wouldn't work and I would need a Road Link. Or maybe not..... Sometimes we bicycle mechanics pull off stunts that "should not be done" and get away with it where the average humanoid cannot. Hard to say.

Well, we are supposed to get 8" of heavy wet snow this weekend. Yay! The rest of you, go ride your bikes! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Green Belt Report

Mostly good, some not so much, but rideable.
I needed a break from Trans Iowa non-sense and other gravelly pursuits Wednesday. I mostly just needed a pedal. So, I thought about the Green Belt. It seemed to me that the frost had mostly been drawn up out of the ground here and that things were firming up. Maybe the Green Belt was going to be okay to check out via fat bike.

It wasn't all that warm out, but it was Sunny. The area is nearly devoid of any signs of the past Winter and even hints of the grass turning green is evident here and there. There was only the specter of mud that may be a hindrance. I figured I might have to turn tail at some point if the trail was too greasy.

Starting out things were actually really good. In fact, I was surprised how dry it was. Of course, we went into Winter in almost drought conditions and that rain we got? Yeah, that just ran off because the ground was frozen, so it didn't do a bit of good as far as the water table goes. I noted that the Black Hawk Creek looked like it was at late August levels instead of being swollen with Spring run off. 

Things on the dirt were pretty good though. There would be the occasional bit of wet, sticky dirt, but I wasn't sinking in and causing ruts, so onward I went. The only trace of my passing was the imprint of the Bud's tread blocks. As it should be.

There were still traces of Winter to be found if you looked carefully. 
I was not really having any second thoughts about the Green Belt until I reached the usual water crossing points. The first is the reroute made a few years ago which bypassed where the culvert used to be. That bypass is now so eroded that you must dismount and traverse two small eroded in channels of water. Actually, going back to the original crossing and putting a culvert back in would be best. But I'm not very influential in the affairs of Waterloo Park and Rec, so it may never happen. Something will get done though, because as it stands now, they won't be able to get their end loader and brush hog mower through there. I expect some real nonsense to occur here come drier weather.

Marky-Mark was in remarkable shape. I was pleased to find it so clear and rideable. But going from the shelter on the West leg of the trail to where it joins the East leg means another water crossing dismount. That wet spot just North of there is water covered but rideable. Just hope that you don't have to put a foot down or lose your front wheel grip going through because the mud is extra thick and gooey there right now. You'd be a hot mess if you fell down in that.

Otherwise the Green Belt is recovering well and fat bike-able for now. That is until this weekend's nasty weather blows through.

Geezer Ride Postponed!

I'm sure no one is interested in roads like these with rain on top of it all!
Well, as my old friend Jeff Kerkove used to say about weather for Trans Iowa: "The weather is the wildcard." The same is true for any Spring time scheduled event in the Mid-West.

This Saturday looks downright ugly at this point. With snow a distinct possibility overnight Friday, and that after rain, the roads would be a complete mess. Added to that is the threat of continued showers, winds gusting from the East at well over 20mph, and you have a recipe for misery and hypothermic conditions.

Not gonna risk that for a ride aimed at beginners.

So, I have pulled the trigger on a postponement of the ride to April 14th, a Saturday, same time and same place as originally planned. This, hopefully, will end up being a better date with decent weather. There has been tremendous interest locally and regionally for this edition of the Geezer Ride, so I am happy to try to accommodate all with a riding experience that isn't quite so nasty.

Now if there are any questions or comments, feel free to drop them in the comment section or you can also discuss this event and keep tabs on it by visiting the Facebook Event Page for the Spring Geezer Ride 2018.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Will This New Materials Technology Revolutionize Cycling?

Graphene, found in tires now, and helmets, is poised to change everything- or will it?
Every so often something happens which opens the door to newer ways of doing the same old things in cycling. Like when steel rims were replaced by aluminum and then those aluminum rims were made stronger by heat treatment. Same idea- something to mount a tire on, but with better and better materials technology.

I recall in the 90's when carbon fiber was just making inroads as a material to be used for cycling. I was a bit apprehensive when I started out using a carbon fiber fork on a road bike in the 1990's. But who can imagine a lightweight road rocket without a carbon fork now? It's common place. Materials technology made it so.

And speaking of carbon fiber, how about this new stuff we've been seeing. Nanotubes, and now Graphene. Just what is Graphene anyway? I had a set of tires to try out from Vittoria with the stuff in them. I knew it was some atomic structure, and Vittoria had a bit of info on the stuff, but it wasn't until I found out helmet maker Catlike was using the stuff in helmets that I found a better explanation. Here's something from their site:

"Graphene is a totally new material, derived from graphite, comprised of very interesting physical and chemical properties. Its basic structure is formed by carbon atoms set out in a hexagonal shape. This creates layered structures (like a honeycomb) of a thick atom whose intercalation, along with the “Van der Waals” forces, achieve a material up to 200 times more resistant than steel, yet is extremely light.

This material exhibits enormous mechanical resistance and some unique electronic properties. Its extraordinary properties and its potential technical applications have made Graphene one of the most active research fields in materials’ physics."

A chart found on the Catlike site showing general uses for Graphene now.
Of course, tires are the big news in cycling regarding this Graphene stuff. It has been touted as a material that increases traction without affecting rolling resistance. It also increases wear life and offers better puncture protection. Sounds like magic? Or maybe B.S.? Yes, it does at first blush, but reports coming back from riders are proving that Graphene is actually the "real deal".

In an article posted to "Bike Europe" recently about Vittoria and Graphene technology, we get a picture painted for us describing Graphene's attributes by the Italian patent holder for the material: 

"In a statement Directa Plus says “The G+ use in tyres produces the joint effect of simultaneously reducing rolling resistance and increasing grip. The result is a tyre that is both faster and safer in turning under braking or in extreme weather conditions. In addition, the effectiveness of G+ reduces fuel consumption as well as increasing the lifespan of the tyre due to reduced wear. As a result the application of G+ offers economic efficiency as well as environmental sustainability.”"

As we can see from the quote, there appears to be a future for Graphene in automotive and e-bike fields. So, that would point to a wider use of the material there. But what if Graphene gets applied to carbon fiber parts for bicycles as well? Could it be a game changer like it appears it is well on its way to be doing in the tire field? It is intriguing to think about.....

I was told recently by a person in the industry that Vittoria has the exclusive on Graphene for tires. I also found out a certain bicycle brand has been pressing Vittoria for them to make tires under their brand with Graphene in them, but they were rebuffed. This would point further to how important this material is and how it could significantly affect tire technology now and in the future.  

Maybe it will be a flash in the pan, but it would seem that in the years to come Graphene and its applications may be seen as a significant advancement just like the heat treating of aluminum for rims or carbon fiber frames and forks were in the past.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Fyxation Subzero Pedal Reviewed

Flat pedals are making a comeback these days. You may have noticed that many mountain bikers and fat bikers are turning to flat pedals again. Not only that, but so are commuters and even some gravel road riders. Bikepackers often use flats if they do rides in areas that require lots of walking. So, if you think all "serious cycling" is done with clipless pedals, well, you'd be very wrong in that assumption.

Long time readers also know that flat pedals figure into my own riding pretty heavily. I'm a big fan of Fyxation's Mesa MP pedals. I've been using them on many of my bikes, but my longest running set is on my Titanium Mukluk which has seen at least four Winters of use now with those pedals on that bike, plus a 100 mile ride on gravel a couple years ago. They show their age, for sure, but they aren't dead yet either!

Well, a month ago or so Fyxation told me about a new version of the Mesa pedal, the limited edition Mesa Subzero, which is based off of the Mesa MP, with the impact grade nylon pedal body and stainless steel pins for grip. The Mesa Subzero also features those things, but they have new graphics and colored pins and spindles. MSRP is $69.95. See the spec list here:
  • High impact nylon body built to take abuse
  • Smooth running sealed bearing and DU bushing
  • Electroplated cro-moly spindle
  • Electroplated stainless steel replaceable pins for added grip with shoes or boots
  • Nylon body doesn't suck heat out of your feet like alloy pedals do
  • Installs with 15mm open end wrench or 8mm hex wrench
  • Pin Spec - M3x0.5 x 7.5mm
  • Spindle Thread: 9/16
  • Height: 14mm
  • Width: 105mm
  • Weight: 351g/pair
  • Color: Black/Black, Gray/Black, Black/Blue, Black/Orange
So, obviously these went on my Blackborow DS. Fat biking can put a pedal into some pretty difficult situations. Considering I occasionally commuted on the bike as well, that makes the situation potentially worse. The salty, chemical stew mixed into the "car-slush" can be pretty corrosive.

But in reality, I think the next bike I stuck these on is even more of a test. My current commuter now that Winter has lost its grip on things here is the Surly 1X1 single speed. It isn't just a single speed, it is fixed gear single speed. Kind of makes sense and things can have been said to have come full circle here. A Fyxation pedal on a fixed gear commuter? Perfect.

I think this bike is tougher on pedals because there is no coasting, for one thing, and with my relatively stupid-low gear, I spin like a mad man. I think I'm running a 34T up front with a 19T in the rear. Yeah......low gear! But for sloshing through melting snow and ice, pushing through mud, and riding up and down some short steeps, it works well for me. The pedals have a nice, wide platform and the pins grip well, so despite the fact that I have no foot retention, my feet stay put even at high cadences. Of course, the low gear and big platform work great when grinding through a mud slough or a three inch fresh snowfall.

The fixed gear Surly saw all of that and a good curb smash to boot with no degradation in performance at all to the pedals. I did scratch up the pins a bit, but cosmetically the pedals still look great over all. If I could offer one bit of criticism it would be that the pedals middle section stands just a bit proud over the rest of the flat section, or it is even with the edges, which can result in the occasional, slight foot slip. I've never slipped off this pedal completely, mind you, but I think if the pedal was a bit "concave" in profile it would give a more secure grip on whatever footwear you use. I've been wearing some Keen hikers, so not really very "flat pedal friendly", but I gotta keep my feet warm and dry!

That said, I can't think of a much better bang for the buck than this pedal in terms of the looks, function, and long term performance. If these Subzero pedals last as long as my original Mesa MP's, and there is no reason to believe they won't, then the Subzero pedals are a great take on that classic design.

Fyxation Mesa MP Desert Series Image courtesy of Fyxation.
And Now For Something New:

Ironically, as I was typing up this review news was sent out declaring a new color series for the Mesa MP pedals. This is this products 6th anniversary of being on the market and Fyxation decided to celebrate with a Desert Series consisting of muted green, orange, and "sand" colored pedals. These are Mesa MP's that you may be familiar with, just in some new colors. These pedals are also available in black, blue, red, orange, green, and purple. MSRP is $59.99 for a pair. Check out the story on these from Fyxation here.

So, there ya go. The shop where I work sells a lot of these and there is a good reason why. You really cannot find much of anything as good or better for less cash. I'm convinced these pedals are long lasting, tough, and durable. They are fairly thin, so if you like that idea, they are some of the only options at this price point. If you ride in Winter, the nylon body material does not act as a heat sink and your feet stay warmer. I've heard from customers that have come back to the shop that say the same thing I feel is true about the cold weather performance. Of course, for the rest of the year they work well also.

Next up I am going to stick these on a gravel bike and try out riding on gravel with them for a while. I'll report back on how that goes, but if it is anything like my Fat Bike Century ride which was all on gravel, then it won't be anything other than a good report. We'll see.

NOTE: Fyxation sent over the Mesa Subzero pedals at no charge for test/review. I was not paid, nor bribed for this review and I strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Country Views: Geezer Ride Recon

Gravel track across the plains: It was a beautiful day to be on a bicycle.
I was hoping I could say, "What a difference a week makes", when I got back from my recon ride of the Geezer course Saturday. Last week it was a mushy, mucky mess. I took a day Wednesday to clean off the, what had become by then, cement, off my bike. It was a lot worse than I thought! I was sure hoping that by the time the weekend would come that things would clear up more.

And they mostly did. I decided to wait out the morning where we had seen a light coating of snow overnight and cooler temperatures for clear skies and warmer air in the afternoon. So, I didn't get out as soon as I wanted to so that I could cover the 40 mile course, but I decided that I would just have to push it and hope that the roads were clear and dry.

I started from the Prairie Grove Park car lot where we are to meet this coming Saturday. There was a light, Southeast wind and bright Sun. It was going to at least be comfortable and as pretty as "brown season" can be out there. On my way down the beginning stretches, I saw hundreds of Robins. No doubt more invaders looking to move North into Minnesota. Lots of Red Wing Blackbirds were now taking up posts on the fence rows and telephone polls, looking to establish their territories for breeding season and beyond.

Much to my relief the roads were dry, but there had been gravel laid down and it wasn't super fast. That is, until I turned on to Petrie Road and then to the South on Beck Road where I had been last week. The road was completely dry and the surface was fast! I noted the ruts I put into the road from my ride the week before. Not a particularly good memory there!

Spring is coming! A hint of green was noted in the field to the left here as I looked Southward into Tama County.
I took the course all the way South to Tama County and where we will get a reprieve from gravel for two miles going through Buckingham. Then I crossed Highway 63 and oh boy! That was a big surprise!

Want to work hard? Try pedaling over deep, chunky gravel laid over soft mud sometime!
See, we have this deal where the frost has to be drawn up out of the ground by the Sun's energy. When that happens on a gravel road it has the effect of "fluffing up" the road bed so it is like cookie dough. Either that or it makes goo out of the clay or black earth base. Talk about a situation where ruts can get out of control! Well, the County generally does a dump of big, chunky gravel until they know the frost is up to prevent the rutting issues. Try riding a bicycle over a patch like that and your legs won't be very happy with you. Oh! And you go very slow as well.

It was such a great day out. I could see for miles from some of the hill tops I ascended.
So I was on a time schedule. I had to get going! This slow, soft gravel was not good! I decided not to go any further West and just keep plodding through the worst gravel I'd ridden on since the week before. I took the next turn North and the road was a lot better, but still wet and gritty. I found out later that this area received a bit more snow and that might explain the wet gravel down there.

Eventually I felt that I needed a "nature break". It's harder when the crops are out and everything is wide open. It isn't hard to see that most of Iowa was actually part of the Great Plains at one time when it is "brown season". I finally came across an abandoned farmstead that was out of sight of any nearby farms and I stopped and did my business there without any issues. It was on top of a hill, and on this particular day, the view was spectacular. I could see for miles.

The bike may look cleaner than last week but the roads West of HWY 63 were messy.
The road going North was messy a lot of the way back. Soft, wet in spots, and even a touch of mud here and there. I was a bit surprised, but as I drew near to Hudson it seemed to clear up. I was off the proposed route at this point, but within a mile or two of the route all the way up until I peeled off Eastward on Griffith Road because I didn't want to go through Hudson as that would have slowed me down. I was pressed for time! I had to be back home before 7:00pm so my wife could go to a movie with my son and I was to hang out with my daughter.

As I flew down the final miles on Aker Road there was a complete calmness over the land. It was getting on toward Sunset, and I couldn't have had a much better ride. The country is just barely waking up from a Winter's slumber, and everything was still except the Western Meadowlarks which were flying about and whistling their distinctive call. In a way, although everything looked dead in the fields, it was a beautiful world to be in just then.

The ride was over, and I did make it home with plenty of time for my wife and son to get to their movie. Hopefully the Geezer Ride will have a similarly beautiful day and we will have even better roads.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Touring Series: Day Two: The Stonemason Of Petersen

A Guitar Ted Productions Series
 Welcome to "The Touring Series". This series is a re-posting of a story I told here on this blog in 2008. The story is about what I named the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". This was a fully loaded, self-supported bicycle tour from just Northeast of Waterloo, Iowa starting in a little village named Dewar and the goal was to get to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada in one week's time. The plan called for us to be picked up there and taken home by car.

When I returned home from this tour I wrote a rough draft manuscript of about half of the trip. It is 27 pages of hand written stuff, front and back, and this is what I will be posting to begin with. You'll be able to identify the 1994 manuscript material by my using italics to post it here. After the manuscript information ends, the rest of the story will be picked up from memories written down in 2008. That will appear as regular text here. As mentioned last week, cameras, smart phones, and the like did not exist for us in 1994, so images will be few. There are some though, and I will sprinkle those in when they are relevant.

We rejoin the tale of the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" with the beginning of Day Two that started out at the Old Barn campground on the Root River Trail.

Day two dawned cool and overcast. We had our first breakfast on the road: oatmeal. We decided to cover the Root River Trail north eastwards. We left around 7:30 am or so and hit the trail. The trail was overgrown above with trees and was made darker by their shadows. The sumac was already turning red and the hint of fall was seen here and there in the woods as we sped on our way. Well, maybe that is too strong a word for our early morning travel. Troy complained of, "...legs that feel like lead." I should have been making that complaint, but I felt fine. Before I left I stretched out according to Steve's directions and had some ibuprofen.

Soon it became apparent that the next town would be further than I had hoped. The trail kept meandering around the feet of the tall hills. Rising slightly, then falling a little as we went. One of the guys called for a halt at a little bridge at the foot of a steep hill that we had been skirting. Here it was that Troy felt compelled to defile this most innocent of structures with his vile expectorations. I promptly admonished him to no avail, but much to the amusement of Steve, who snapped a photo of the event.

After remounting and cruising along a while longer, we finally came upon the first small town on our mornings journey, Lanesboro. It looked very quaint, with morning hustle and bustle in high gear. We had a good pace going and did not stop to investigate further, although the town looked worthy of it.

The road to the next town was not as long but more anticipated. Steve knew of a business owner there that ran a small pie and coffee shop. The thought of a little extra fare for the belly sounded excellent at that time. However, when we reached Whalan it was as if the town was deserted. We spent about a half an hour wondering what to do when it was decided to just leave a note and depart. We left without prospects for pie and coffee being fulfilled, but our appetites demanded something. At the next town of Petersen, a concerted effort to find something to satisfy our hunger was made.

This city was at least awake and operating, if at only a slow pace. There were a few shops open, so we poked around and found out what people in these parts had to offer. It seemed that junk food was the order of the day. We managed to find a few tidbits and parked ourselves along a brick wall on a side street. My Fig Newton munching was interrupted by the appearance of three elderly gentlemen making their way slowly towards us. One of the trio looked nigh unto ancient. A man of 80 or 90 years, no doubt. He was responsible for the trios slow approach, his feet barely coming off the ground as he shuffled along in his old leather "shit kickers".

We exchanged pleasant "hellos" when the old man stopped and gazed upon us. "Why aren't you boys lookin' fer girls?", he said shortly.

I replied with, "Well, we would, but we don't see any around here."

"They're all in the bathroom!", the old man snorted, as he motioned towards the building we were leaning against.

"Oh!, Ha ha!", was our general response, being polite and all.

"Do you guys know who you are talkin' to?", one of the younger, but still elderly gents says, as he propped up the older man from behind, guiding him to their car.

"No!", we all said in unison.

"He's an old stonemason!"

"Oh, really...That's uh...great, uh......"

They were getting in their car as we all sat dumbfounded by what we had just experienced. It must have been a generation gap, perhaps, but I'd wager that the "gap" was between their ears!

We left the strange people of Petersen to ponder why all their women were in the bathroom while "Stonemasons" were about on the streets, and we hit the trail once again. Suddenly we came out of the valley we had been wandering in all morning and out into the open. We ran a straight path on towards Rushford. 

This was one of my chief memories of this tour and a story I've told countless times ever since. The Stonemason of Petersen incident was so bizarre that it seems made up, but it really happened that way!

Next: To The Mighty Miss'