Tuesday, July 31, 2018

GTDRI '18: Report Part 2

Convenience store takeover in Traer, Iowa. We've used this store a lot in Trans Iowas.
This is the second, and final, part of my Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational report for 2018.

The riders were all outside now at the Traer convenience store, a spot we've been to before on this ride. It has also featured in at least four Trans Iowa events. So, it is a place some of us on the ride were familiar with. However; I figured that we'd been there long enough, even though it was only approaching eleven o'clock in the morning!

With a bit of a foreshadowing of the coming 27 miles to the gathered riders I eventually led us out of town up to Ridge Road and then South on "O" Avenue. In total, there would be four miles of Level B Roads on "O" Avenue, three of those miles being consecutive. These dirt roads were where we had come upon a Road Closed sign last year as the County was grading that section of dirt again. However; once we reached this section this year, it was clear that nothing had been done to those roads since that time. It was, once more, gloriously primitive.

More miles of Tama County dirt
So this stretch of dirt eventually comes out on a mile of very rolling gravel before turning West. We had gotten pretty strung out on the Level B section, so the riders stopped at the end of the dirt. As I was rolling up, Charlie, on a Cutthroat, called out that his Maxxis Ikon was going flat. It was a tubeless tire, and the sealant was mostly spewed out before it would seal up. Fortunately, Craig had some extra sealant, so the guys got to work on that.

Steve's blown out tube.
Just then, a loud "bang!" was heard. Steve was standing over his bike when his tire blew off the rim. It was a tubed tire, and with his spare tube he got to work fixing it. I didn't lend a hand, declaring to the group that I was off duty. That brought a round of chuckles.

With the repairs going on we had time to relax again. It was probably for the best, as we still were in a high pace mode after Traer. I knew that this wasn't going to be sustainable. I was a bit flummoxed too since I was doing a steady 12-13mph pace and getting dropped. You'd think it was a race or something......

But the big hills that were coming would take care of that, eventually. That and the miles. Our pace eventually did slow down some, but this was a group that was strong and eventually I was the slowpoke. Anyway, at this point I was still feeling pretty decent. Concerned, but decent. There were some monsters to overcome soon and then another wrench was thrown into the mix.

The bike I was using was a test bike for RidingGravel.com. It was equipped with a SRAM Apex 1 1X set up. I found out after we got rolling again, on a climb of N Avenue, that the three lowest gears were a no-go on the bike. I tried adjusting the cable, which seemed to clear it up, but between that and dismounting so a car could pass, well, that put me way off the back. Then having to huff it without the lowest gear, which I am sure wasn't low enough, was taxing. The guys were waiting at the top of another hill to let us stragglers catch on. That was nice.

One of my favorite Level B roads in Iowa, "II" Avenue in Tama County.
Then we had to skirt Highway 63 for a quarter mile, then cross over to the West. I was concerned a bit with such a large group that we would be safe. The sight line for cars coming from the South was okay, but still. I waited as a watchman to warn of any traffic coming from behind. Most of the group got across, but I had to stop the last few riders to allow for more cars which were almost upon us. Then we had to wait several minutes for another clear shot. Once that happened I made everyone go ahead of me and then I crossed last.

Obviously, this put me waaaaay off the back! Then the climb of "II" Avenue took forever, once again owing to the balky drivetrain I had to use. Craig and a buddy or two of his were waiting up near the climb for me. Craig rode it up with me and we traversed "II" together and found the group waiting at the end of that section of road.

Then it was onward to I Avenue. Probably the most "un-road" road we've ever used in a GTDRI. It deserves its own post, really, but here are some images:

Beginning of I Avenue
Middle of I Avenue- Image by Kyle Platts
End of I Avenue
If there weren't signs there, you'd never know this was a public road! But even though that seemed to be the highlight of the course, it maybe had its rival for the best thing of the day waiting a few miles up the road for us in Garwin. What happened next was totally unplanned! 

Residents of Garwin and GTDRI riders enjoying a little "potato water".
 When we pulled into Garwin I was still at the back and I figured on seeing a big crowd of cyclists at the Pronto convenience store, but there was no one there! One of my fellow companions shouted, "They are up there!", and pointed towards the run down, half deserted downtown of Garwin. Now, what in the world was going on! As I approached I could see what appeared to be lemonade and a lemonade stand with folks from my ride and a lot of other folks who appeared to be residents of the village.

There was a lot of chatter going on and someone asked if I'd like a little "potato water". Uh......sure, why not! I took one sip and the lights came on. It was lemonade laced with vodka. A kindly woman's voice with a distinct UK accent then asked if I would get onto the boulevard portion and out of the street. I then noted that the locals got a little tense when a car went by, as if, well......they were up to something. Well, they had a spoof of a bicycle race, ironically, which seemed to have been sponsored by the Garwin Bull Tap, and the lady with the UK accent? She was the bar owner and from Southern Wales, actually.

Apparently a couple of the GTDRI riders went into the bar and relieved them of a couple of PBR's, then they rejoined us and after a few refreshing "potato waters", we actually did go to the Pronto and resupplied and then a bunch of us had some tall boys right out in the parking lot.

Don't pass this chance up!
One might get the feeling that the rules of law are a little lax in being enforced in these parts. You'd be quite right, but then again- don't cross the locals. It's all fun and games until they feel slighted and it's best to play along and enjoy the scene, as much as one can. There are a lot of places like this in the rural areas of this country. Sometimes it is nice to visit them......

Anyway, they seemed to like us, so we were "in" and we had a great time there. Then the time was wasting away, and I figured we'd better get a move on, so I rustled up the rabble, such as they were, and the Guitar Ted Death Ride rode out of town in a cloud of dust Northward.

I actually felt pretty dang good for about.....five miles. Then I went to being really tired. Well, I wasn't bummed about that, because this had been- by far- the furthest I had ridden in one shot in a long, long time. Not how I planned the year to go, but there it is. So, I soldiered on and just took it easier. Obviously, everyone was well up the road on me and at the end of G Avenue's Level B, they were waiting on me. Then Jeremy Fry came back to escort me and we rode out the remaining miles. The Level B's of 190th being the last of the ride, then it was up the bastard hills on K Avenue to Ridge Road.

I've climbed K Avenue to Ridge Road a lot in the last, oh...12 years or so. But it sure doesn't help when your bicycle loses its three lowest gears and then you have to huff it, single speed style, in a too-high a gear. That about knocked me out right there and resulted in the opening image from yesterday's post!

Whew! I made it! Image by Jeremy Fry
So, I wandered in with a few others at the tail end of the ride, exhausted, and glad to be done. Before we finished I heard many thank you's and compliments on the route. The Level B heavy course was a lot of fun, and since conditions couldn't have been much better, it was an obvious home run of a day.

I changed out to a fresh t-shirt and hit Ambient Ales to a loud round of applause from those present. N.Y. Roll bought me my first beer, and I had a nice sit down with a few of the riders and Tony and MG were there as well. Ambient Ales is the new brew pub in Reinbeck, but they haven't quite got their feet under them yet, so they sell other Iowa craft beers and some other brands at present. We availed ourselves of the excellent Topling Goliath offerings there. I ended my time with a selection from Evil Twin Brewing, the Imperial style Biscotti something or another, and then made my way back home.

That's the final chapter in the report on the 13th Annual Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. Tomorrow I will wrap up things with my final thoughts on the weekend, a quick look at gear, and some thoughts for the future of this ride.

Monday, July 30, 2018

GTDRI '18: Report Part 1

That's me doing my beast "I'm dead" imitation.
The 13th Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational was, in a word, excellent. Maybe the best one ever. I'm going to take a couple days to cover this one, so settle in....

Friday afternoon I was hearing that the weather forecast had been changed again. Now almost all hints of rain had been removed and the temperature was only to be into the mid-70's. Winds were to be mere breaths. It would be highly unusual for all three of these things to happen in late July. But it looked as though it would.

I blame this for the six confirmations on attendance for the ride which I received on Friday afternoon and into the evening. Poor weather, or heck, even typical July hot and humid would have checked the numbers on the ride to "normal" or less. As it was, it looked like we were going to have a largish group.

My plan was to get to sleep before ten o'clock, but a late family dinner out and then an emergency run to pick up some things for the gals of the house made it so I did not get to bed until 10:30pm. My alarm clock was set for 4:00am. It was going to be an okay night of sleep, but not the long, luxurious sleep I was hoping for.

Fortunately, I did do some things right like bulk up on water the previous three days and eat better. That was felt on Saturday, but the sleep thing was worrying me Friday night. Oh well! Like I said, I did some things right. One other thing I hadn't done right was to get in longer rides previous to this. My longest ride to date had been maybe 50-ish miles. Once. That wasn't necessarily good.

The setting full Moon was spectacular on Saturday morning.
So, the alarm went off and after three trips back to the house for things I almost forgot, I was off. It was super humid! I could hardly see a thing out the truck windows for a time. But that said, it was cool. In the upper 50's. That warm blanket of humidity kept the vest I was packing in the bag though.

I arrived at the furthest away parking lot I specified to use and no one else was around. That changed in a hurry when a couple of guys showed up, and then we got geared up and slowly tooled over to the Ambient Ales address. Along the way we passed the other lot I specified to use and there were a lot of cyclists there. Then we got down to the start and there were even more! Just before we took off a couple more winged it into the street's parking slots and we ended up having something like 20 guys take the start.

Just a part of the group at the first stop of the ride in the first section of Level B Road.
We had MG from Lincoln, Kyle and Charlie from Cedar Rapids, Rick and Dan from Des Moines, and Steve from Charles City. We had quite a few from the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area, and an old co-worker, Craig, and his friend from Ames. Jeremy caught us later, as did Travis, who is from Wisconsin, I believe.  I ended up figuring we had about 25 people, all told. That's a tie for the record at a GTDRI, I'm pretty sure.

Well, with all the folks we didn't get rolling until close to 6:30am, but it was okay. The group, remarkably, was sticking together. I was a bit surprised, to be honest. I figured that with so many people of varying abilities I would be having stragglers, but we didn't. Well, unless you count me, but that will come later......

I was riding up front with my friends MG and Tony amongst others. It was awesome to ride with MG again. It had been far too long. We were having fun and I suggested we stop in the first Level B to allow for a nature break. I was amazed at the turnout. Everyone seemed to be getting on and having a good time too. Plus, the weather was spectacular. No wind, Sun, but cool, and it just seemed perfect for riding. Many remarked throughout the ride about the weather, so it wasn't just me.

MG (L) and Kyle Platts lead a long group of cyclists through another Level B Road section.
The opening miles of the GTDRI course were flattish, not too difficult, and sprinkled with several flatter Level B Roads. We rode on one from T.I.v4, and then past Dysart at about Mile 25. Then the course went South and we took in that same dirt road which led to the artifacts on that old farmstead that mystified us the previous year. Here we stopped again.

I gave a little history on the place aided by Tony, who knew the folks that maintained the yard there. Then after a bit of picture taking, munching on vittles, and drinking of water, we were off again. The route now bore more Westward and skirted the Iowa version of the "Bohemian Alps", a hilly area South of Traer and East of Toledo.

By this point into the ride we were getting into the 40 mile mark and I was looking forward to getting to Traer to resupply on food and water. Then I realized that it was only 9:30am! We were burning up the road at a high pace and still the group was sticking together. I was doubly shocked. I figured this pace was not good, and I started pointing out that we needn't be in such a big hurry to finish. The whole point was to ride all day. Not "get done early". I mean, why not enjoy the scenery? It is kind of the point with courses I devise.

While wildflowers weren't as prevalent as in years past, this ditch did not disappoint.
The miles ticked away and by this point in the ride a couple of other things were evident. One was that the Sun had been out a while and it was getting hot. Not unbearably hot, but if we stopped, with no wind, it seemed really hot. The minute we'd get going again the "manufactured breeze" would chill me down again. Secondly, it was very dusty! I noted clouds of dust off our wheels and unless you were up front you were breathing in that crap. I ended up with some pretty agitated nasal passages after the ride. Thirdly- the Level B roads were a big hit with the riders!

Back in the pack it was rather dusty, as evidenced from this shot in a Level B Road just North of Clutier.
The ride was sticking together and we were rolling into Traer around a little past ten in the morning. We raided the convenience store there and then took our leisure for a while. I was in no hurry to get rolling again. One reason was that I knew what lay ahead. Besides preaching the "we don't have to be in such a hurry" line, I was telling the group that the next 27 miles were the worst for hills in the ride. Basically, the entire section to Garwin was difficult and there were no real easy parts. Conserving energy would help preserve ourselves for what lay ahead. Now I was to be helped in this area by a couple of unexpected happenings, but I didn't know that in Traer.

Stay tuned for Part Two of the 2018 GTDRI Report tomorrow.......

Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Touring Series: In A Blazer Of Glory

  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.

  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. I will also sprinkle in any modern images of places we visited when applicable and when I can find images that convey the same look as 1995. 

This brings the first part of the series to an end. The story of the Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour comes to an end with this post. There was another tour the next year which I will continue the series with. In between there will be a few interim posts bringing you all up to speed with things which were important the year following the Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour. Thanks for reading!

A Guitar Ted Productions Series
 The tour was over, but we had one day to get back home. We were in a state park near Manistique, Michigan waiting on a ride home.  Here is what happened on Sunday, the eighth day after we had left Dewar, Iowa. 

I was awoken out of a deep sleep by the sound of the tent zipper going up. It was my wife's head that I saw poking into the door. Wow! It was still dark out and they were here already! Steve's girlfriend and my wife drove up all through the night to get us. Now it was time to start packing up the goods and cramming five people into a late 80's era Blazer. 

We were all ready to go as the gray light of dawn had just started peeking over the horizon. I thought the bikes looked naked and forlorn up on the roof rack stripped of their panniers. That was my last memory of Michigan. I climbed into the Blazer and was in a half asleep stupor for several hours afterward.

I kind of perked up as we went through the Green Bay area. I started joining in the chit-chat now and the miles went by on into the afternoon. Soon we were approaching Iowa again. I was really anxious to get back to Waterloo and get out of the sardine can like conditions I had suffered since leaving Michigan. As we got closer to Dubuque, we noticed that the Blazer smelled hot and it wasn't running so well. Steve thought we should stop and check the oil. So, after a quart of oil and some concerned looks, we were off. Steve's girlfriend, Brenda announced that we would be taking it slower, and the Blazer didn't have the power to climb the steep hills of Southwestern Wisconsin anymore at top speed. I was worried and a bit disappointed. This meant I'd get home even later than I had wished.

Steve's future wife, Brenda, and the blown up Blazer outside of Dubuque

Well, for those of you familiar with Highway 20 coming out of Dubuque to the west, (circa 1994) you know that there is a long, long climb to the top of a hill where there is a gas station perched at the crest. It was here that the ol' Blazer gave up the ghost. Blew the motor! It was a crazy, funny, sad, and depressing thing all together in one moment. Steve pronounced the rig dead by going in and buying a six pack and sitting it on top of the smoldering motor's air cleaner. 

Now we had no ride home and 90 miles to go. Brenda got a hold of her parents, who were gracious enough to come out and fetch Troy, my wife, and I and take us home. It seemed like an interminably long time for them to get there, but they finally did. Steve and Brenda stayed behind with the Blazer. I had no idea what they were going to do, and at that point, I was so tired and mentally fried, I didn't care. The westering sun was on my face, I was in a big Buick, and we were going home. That was all I cared about right then and there.

That was it. The end of the adventure. Brenda and Steve came back with the Blazer on Monday and brought my stuff along with it. I eventually got home and went back to my routine at the bike shop. Troy did as well. The old Mongoose mountain bike did well, but the saddle on it, an old Avocet touring model, had given me no end of grief on the last days of the ride. Troy said I should ceremonially burn it. I thought that was a cool idea, but I didn't do it. 
This was a weird day. Admittedly, and not revealed in the above text, I was pretty hung over. We drank a truckload of beer the night before and I think we were awakened at around 4:30am. So, I didn't get much sleep. Then we were all crammed into this S-10 Blazer, so five adults, gear, and bits from our bikes we couldn't let sit in the wind. It was a very uncomfortable experience. 
Knowing what I know now about S-10's, I believe the oil cooler hose was leaking badly, (a common S-10 issue) and the oil probably got too low before we discovered why the motor was loosing power. But anyway..... We were stranded and while the scene was a bit humorous and all, I was desperate to get home and sleep in my own bed. I don't really have a memory of anything past getting into the Buick and being in the back seat. After we got home, everything just became routine again. Nothing memorable about that!   

Next Week: Some final thoughts on The Beg Borrow, and Bastard Tour and a look ahead at what is in store for the Touring Series.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Minus Ten Review - 30

Ten years ago on the blog here I was getting the message out that 29"ers weren't a fad anymore, and that RAGBRAI was being affected by technology where folks were bailing on the ride due to the instantaneous availability of weather forecasts. Weather apps were in their infancy, but smart phones were just hitting the scene and notifications were becoming a thing.

But as for me, there were two things about the end of the month ten years ago that stood out for me. One was that I rode again on the South side of Ingawanis for the second time ever. Yep! It was 2008 when the trails back there finally got attention and were "properly" cleared. If you look at the image here, you'll note that "cleared" then meant a completely different thing than it does now. Anyway, the point is that this was a mark in time where riding the South side started to take over riding the North side, for all of us, and now we don't ever ride the North side, which was unthinkable ten years ago.

The second thing was that I notice that a LOT of my images are broken and don't show up now. For you that sucks. To me it marks the beginning of the end of "phase one" of my blogging career, such as it is. Promises made by Mr. Grahl, then owner/proprietor of the "Crooked Cog Network", started to be broken. By the end of the year it was painfully clear that there was going to be a huge sea change in the situation I had found myself in. But that tale will unravel here as the weeks unfold.....

Friday, July 27, 2018

Friday News And Views

Touring Series Notes:

Every Sunday for the last several months, (with the exception of last Sunday), I have been re-posting stories from my original series, "Touring Tuesdays", which ran in 2008-2009. In these re-postings I have been adding imagery where it makes sense and tagging the ends of each post with additional remembrances and information. The series for the first tour, the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard" Tour", will end this Sunday.

I've gotten some feedback on the re-posts which has been positive and has encouraged me to continue on with re-posting the second tour's stories, which I had dubbed "The Race Against Death Tour". The interim time between tours, (they happened a year apart from each other), is also documented and I will be re-posting that material and will likely be expounding a bit more on that. If you thought you knew Guitar Ted, you will want to check that out. There are some surprises in this part of the story.

So, if you enjoyed those stories and want more, tune in this Sunday for the final "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard" tour post called "In A Blazer Of Glory". Then hang on for the continuing story coming out every Sunday after that.

GTDRI Set To Go Tomorrow:

Of course, tomorrow morning in Reinbeck, Iowa, the 13th Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational gravel grinder group ride is going to happen starting at 6:00am. The weather looks cool, maybe a shower later in the day, but actually pretty decent as late July weather can be pretty brutal.

I have about 8 guys committed via e-mail and comment that are supposed to be showing up. We may get a few to several more that just show up. There generally are a few "surprise" folks that just show up and ride. That will be fun to see if it happens again this year. Last year it was Kevin Fox who drove all night from Omaha, Nebraska to come and join us.

So, I was asked a couple nights ago, "Why do you call it the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational?" That's maybe a question you may have pondered, so here ya go.......

From February 1997 until September of 2002 I worked as a car mechanic. During that time I routinely put in 10-11 hour days and got maybe 20 minutes of break time split into two segments during a day. The rest of the time I was working hard! This place was busy and the work was the most physically demanding I have done. Therefore; there wasn't much physical energy left for anything afterward, especially cycling. I would go weeks at a pop without touching a bike.

So, once a year, during a slower weekend in Summer, I would take a Saturday off and get on my road bike, (Yes! I actually owned road bikes then!), and I would ride county blacktops all day, solo, until I bonked spectacularly. I didn't really have a handle on nutrition for long rides yet then. Anyway, I would come home looking like a rat that had been drug through a knothole and thus these rides became to be called "death rides".

So, after the first Trans Iowa in 2005 I got the gravel bug and decided to revive the "death ride" concept in 2006. Only I renamed it, and well.......you know the rest.

Look for a detailed report on the GTDRI Monday.

That's all I have for this week. Enjoy your weekend and I hope that you all get to ride your favorite bikes this weekend, whatever those might be. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Enough With The "Gravel Bikes" Already!

Just because you can doesn't mean you should. Case in point- The Alex Moulton "Gravel Bike".
A week and a half ago I posted about how e-mtb and e-bikes in general were scooping up all the R&D dollars in the cycling industry. Well, what is left over is being put to work by many marketing departments in efforts to find ways to attach "gravel" to products.

It's getting bad when you get press releases for "gravel specific clothing" that is just cycling clothing done in muted colors with small details changed from full on race kits. You know......how cycling clothing should be done anyway? Yeah..... That's another subject.

But what I wanted to zero in on today was that I am seeing more and more companies jump on the gravel train with bicycles that are, well......interesting in some cases, but downright goofy in others. I've seen no less than three different e-biked gravel rigs offered. To me , that is the epitome of weird. A bike that, in all likelihood, the battery won't last for more than one ride, since, well, range is limited with many of these rigs.

Then there is the Kinesis brand out of the UK. They have had a great business doing bikes for the UK's Winter season and Audax riding for years. Suddenly these bikes became "gravel bikes" and they just introduced a new, more "road-ish" version. To be fair, these bikes get rave reviews, but the marketing..... Yeah. Also- I've nothing against those Kinesis rigs. I wouldn't mind trying one myself. They look great. Especially the titanium version, which I think would be really lovely.

The State Bicycle Warhawk
Not that there aren't legitimate entries into the genre' these days. Take for instance the State Bicycle Warhawk. Besides the militaristic name, the rig seems okay and the geo actually isn't bad. You could do worse for sub-$600.00, which is pretty great value in a single speed these days.

But the thing is, the term "gravel" is beaten to death, and I am growing weary of it. Especially when it gets tagged to everything, or so it seems, in cycling these days. I figure if it is burning me out, it is wearing on many of you as well.

What's worse, it takes energy away from what could be a liberating movement in cycling. The whole "not-roadie, not mtb" thing could be the marketing boon that cycling always has wanted. Getting away from the racing thing, or the "make it easier" thing, when it could be about something more life changing, world changing, and yes- revolutionary. 

Of course, average marketing people aren't interested in this. They look for the low hanging fruit and blast it with the "AK-47 of Advertising" until our eyes and ears bleed. Then they find the next thing to hook consumers into with, whatever seems easiest, whatever is trending, and blast away at that.

You could say I was part of the problem. I may resemble that remark, but I could also point you to several blog posts done circa 2011-2012 where I expound upon how an "all-road" approach to cycling could bridge the gap between roadie racer and mtb shredder, inviting a wider swath of the public out to cycle for adventure and fun.

But whatever.....Just stop it with the pasting of the term "gravel" on to all your products already!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

GTDRI '18: The Rig

The Otso Cycles Waheela
So, this may seem weird to some of you out there, but the bicycle I will ride this weekend isn't even mine. Nope! It wasn't my rig last year either. Another common thread here is that both last year and this year I will be riding bikes from Otso Cycles.

Last year it was the stainless steel tubed Warakin. This year it will be the steel tubed Waheela. But this year I have suspension and dropper capabilities!

Much has been made of where gravel cycling is going in terms of style, features, and uses. There are a growing number of cyclists who are looking to do more back road stuff with an option to throw in single track. Yes......mountain biking. Look, I get it, just ride a 29"er hard tail, right. "Not so fast!", say this sort of bike's champions. They claim that a gravel bike has the aero and speed they want on gravel, two track, and dirt roads, but with a bit of suspension and a dropper you can also thread in some light single track options as well.

So, this is what I will be exploring with the Waheela. On the GTDRI course we will see a couple of places where it is nigh unto mtb territory. I also will be exploring how, or even if, high speed gravel descending is affected by having a dropper post. My initial tests show that there is a benefit. But I have to see how it plays out in the country.

Interestingly, this bike will accept a 29" x 2.0" WTB Nineline with plenty of room to spare in the back, but the front suspension lowers Fox used were from a 650B fork, so the front tire hit the arch. Bah! So, instead I will be going with the 650B x 47mm Byways I have mounted up on the carbon Aon GX 35's I have. A quick e-mail to Otso resulted in the finding that if you run a 29"er wheel up front, only the Lithic rigid carbon fork is currently compatible.

So, I will be doing some experimenting again in the Lab and the beast will arise from there today in full GTDRI regalia. It should be a scene.

Stay tuned......

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

GTDRI '18- Update

Fine Details:

Okay, the GTDRI, (Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational) is set to go off this Saturday at 6:00am in front of Ambient Ales in Reinbeck Iowa. These are the pertinent details you need to have in hand if you are planning on coming. I have heard from about a half dozen people with solid "yes" answers to my ride, so I expect at least a decent sized bunch to show up.

Route Details: 
  • There should be a solid 25% of the mileage in dirt roads on this 102+ mile length route. 
  • We will pass by Dysart, but I really do not want to have to stop there. It would add two miles- out and back- to get to the Dysart Casey's convenience store. 
  • The first planned stop will be in Traer at about Mile 49. 
  • The second planned stop will be at Mile 76 in Garwin, Iowa
  • After Garwin there will be approximately 27 miles to finish up at Ambient Ales. 
  • Start Time: 6:00am in front of  Ambient Ales
  • Finish time: Approximately 6:00pm. This will depend upon weather, the group, and winds. 
  • Plan to meet rain or shine. If it rains we are going to wing it. The dirt roads won't be rideable. The route could be completely different. Be prepared for chaos and adventure if the weather goes pear shaped.The route could be 25 miles or a century if that happens. 
  • Plot A Route gpx file  Available HERE
  • The ride has no fee, no swag, no prizes. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU!! 
  • Be prepared to ride at least 50 miles with all food, water, and repair items you think you will need to be self supported. 
  • NO SAG AVAILABLE! Plan accordingly
  • Cell service WILL BE SKETCHY!
  • There will be farm dogs and possibly wild animals. 
  • There will be deep, fresh gravel, dirt, and maybe some sand. 
  • We will cross highways and run alongside HWY 63 for a 1/2 mile total in two different places. 
  • This ride will be primarily in Tama County with short forays in to Grundy County and Benton County. 

I've heard from enough folks that I feel we need to be sensitive to parking issues. There is a park on the West side of Reinbeck two blocks South of the Casey's convenience store which is on Highway 175. Turn South on College Street then Right on 3rd Ave to the parking area. It's a short ride over to Broad Street where we will start the ride.

There is also a municipal lot located on the corner of Broad Street and Clark.

NOTE: I assume no liability for your car or belongings during this ride.



The latest is that it should be stellar weather. Light winds and a slight chance for a pop up thunderstorm, but the temperatures will be in the mid-70's by late afternoon. It may be a bit on the chilly side to start out, so be prepared. A light wind jacket, vest, or arm warmers may be wise. If you are averse to getting wet, bring rain gear, but I suspect you won't be getting it out. Just a feeling.......

That said, there are NO PROVISIONS FOR YOUR SAFETY MADE BY MYSELF. You are going to have to make a call if the weather gets bad that is best for yourself and deal with the consequences. This is an UNSUPPORTED RIDE, and I am at the mercy of the elements and circumstances as much as you will be. If we get caught out in bad weather, it will be every man and woman for themselves. Just so you know.......

Ambient Ales should be open for business after the ride, but they do NOT SERVE FOOD! Your best bet is to get to Casey's and grab some pizza afterward.

NOTE: Please respond to this post about attendance.


Monday, July 23, 2018

pMCD Update: The Build And First Ride Report

Wolf Tooth head sets are the bomb!
The Build:

I started building up the pMCD frame Wednesday night but a text message that evening kind of made me put the brakes on the build till Friday. It was okay, since the turn in plans eventually was something that was better than I was going to do in the first place.

When I build a bicycle up from a frame and fork, the very first order of business is to get the head set in. Now you may want to do it a different way, but to my way of thinking, a frame is a bad unicycle until the fork is on it!

So, I installed the purple Wolf Tooth head set first and then came the conundrum of where to cut the steer tube. I did not measure the stock steer tube length, but it is looooong! I decided to go with 11 1/2" length and cut it there, because I didn't want to leave myself short with no option to have a healthy amount of exposed steer tube. However, Mike Varley of Black Mountain Cycles had designed the frame to have an extended head tube so that steer tube spacer use would be at a minimum. So, with that unknown hanging out there, I measured bikes I already have here and approximated as best I could, with an eye towards leaving too much steer tube rather than cutting it close.

I'm glad that I did, because it came out that I had too much steer tube, but not a ridiculous amount. For the record, I think I cut off about three inches! I know I could go lower, but I'll try riding it with different arrangements of the stem and spacers until I arrive at what I like. Then there will be a final cut and that will be that.

Wheels Manufacturing angular contact bearing bottom bracket here. Made in the USA!
After a head set gets installed and a fork is mounted, the next task I go after is to get the bottom bracket in there. You can scooter if you'd like, but a bicycle is pretty worthless without a crank set and pedals.

Mike Varley preps every frame before it leaves his Black Mountain Cycles shop to you, so the threading on the bottom bracket was super smooth and allowed easy installation of my Wheels Manufacturing angular contact bearing bottom bracket. Then I slotted in my Shimano CX series 46T/36T crank set for 11spd.

Now normally at this point I'd set up a stem and handle bar, and then work on mounting controls. However; part of the text mentioned above made me decide not to go that way. Instead, I mounted my Spyre brakes and tested them with the Irwin Cycling Aon GX 35  carbon wheels I already had waiting on this build. I ended up having to spacer out the rear caliper a bit, but otherwise I had zero issues getting things to line up.

I tried running a few cable housings just to get a feel for how I would route things. The cable routing is really well thought out on this bike. Everything going to the rear of the bike is full run housing. The front brake, obviously being a disc, is as well. Only the front derailleur is a bottom run, exposed cable set up. That may seem weird, but here is why that is actually brilliant. The break in the housing run from the shifter goes to a traditionally mounted road bike style cable stop with a barrel adjuster. This means no oddball in-line cable adjuster is necessary and the front derailleur can be easily adjusted on the fly. Those worried about mud fouling the cable have too much time to think about things. In all my years of riding, that style of cable run has never been the reason my front derailleur did not work. Your mileage may vary......

The finished product. (Well......almost finished!)
Friday I received a set of Whisky No. 9 Carbon 24F handle bars. In that package was also a No. 7 Carbon seat post. Friday evening I spent down in the Lab putting it all together. There were some old parts from my Raleigh Tamland Two. The Ultegra levers, front and rear derailleurs, and the aforementioned calipers for the brakes. I got a new SRAM 11-36T 11 speed cassette and I used a Shimano 11 speed chain, the new Ultegra one with the quick link. (Yay!) The stem was my Redshift Sports ShockStop stem in the 90mm length. The saddle is my Brooks Cambium from the old T-6 I sold.

Tires are an old set of WTB Riddler 45mm tires that barely went on. Those Irwin rims fit tires tightly! I won't be worrying about throwing off a tire if one goes flat, and burping a tire seems very unlikely. I used an old beat up set of Shimano SPD's and added three purple Velocity Bottle Traps. I got three pink ones, but the purple looked better to my eyes.

Then it was nearly time to ride after I set up my tires tubeless with "MG's Special Sauce", (a home brew recipe- you cannot buy it from the bike shop!), and that was successful due to one product. That would be Uncle Dick's Bead Slip. No issues with getting the tires straight and even using Uncle Dick's. Note- I'm not sure where you get this stuff anymore, but if I find out I'll let ya know.

Whiskey No. 7 Carbon post
The Whisky components look great on the bike. I like the "ghost" branding and the sheen of the black is cool. The only issue with that post is that it uses a thumb wheel up under the saddle as one of the securing fasteners. It is easier to use than some I've encountered, so at least there wasn't any swearing.

The handle bar is much the same as far as looks. The shape is very similar to a Cowchipper, but different...... It's hard to describe. The flare is 24° but the reach seems less and the drop seems less. Not by much either. And this bar features flat sections to accommodate cable runs and a little wider 31.8mm center clamp section that makes mounting accessories easier.

The bar was covered in the Marque handle bar tape salvaged from the T-6 when I sold it. Then I capped off the Whiskey Components bar's ends with pink bar end caps. It all is good with the pink frame and helps tie the look together since the parts look more like an ensemble instead of a hodge podge.

There she be!
The Ride:

The Black Mountain Cycles rig is fun to ride for sure. Smooth? Oh yeah! But that may be because of the ShockStop stem and the Whiskey No. 7 post. That post has a sweet ride to it. Plus the Whisky No. 9 24F carbon bar also has a bit of give at the extensions so that when you are in the drops it feels smoother yet. Add in 45mm Riddler tires and it gets smooth fast. But that said, the frame is pretty nice in this regard. While the disc factor caused the fork to be stiffer than my rim brake BMC, it still can be seen working over the rough stuff on gravel. It isn't the "immovable object" that many carbon fiber forks are.

I stuck the bars at a height that was neither the highest I could go, nor the lowest. I'm close, but I'll be swapping around stem spacers till I get it figured out. But otherwise the position I was able to get is spot on. Not too much seat post is extended, and I don't have to get a crazy different length stem. In fact, I may go a touch longer depending upon where I end up at with bar height.

Something struck me as I was riding it. That was that I was feeling similar feelings to something I'd ridden in the past. The steel frame of the MCD felt somehow familiar. Then it hit me. The Vaya! I used to love that bike for its crazy ability to give back what you put into it, eventually. Kind of like winding up a spring and then it recoils. Anyway, the MCD felt like that, like the Vaya used to.

So, is it the uber-Vaya? Maybe. It just reminds me of that old bike. Only the Black Mountain Cycles bike has more features. More tire clearance, through axles, livelier tubing choices, a better steel fork, and smarter details. So, it is a different beast altogether.

I'll be doing some tweaking in the near future beyond the stem position. I may be switching bar tape, tweaking out the saddle position, and stuff like that. I'll also be doing a switch on the wheels to try 650B X 47mm tires. That said,  yes- I am happy. I like it, and I don't think this one will be going anywhere unless I am riding it in the near future.

Don't ask what it weighs, because I won't tell you. That isn't the point of this bike, but if you have other questions, I'm happy to answer them.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Special Post: Guitar Ted Death Ride 2018

Special Post:

With less than a week out from the 2018 version of the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational, I have a concern that needs to be dealt with. Apparently there seems to be the feeling that there may be a lot of people showing up for this year's ride. But that's the problem. It's a feeling only.

The average number of riders that usually show up- around ten or so- would be no big deal. Ten cars on Reinbeck's Broad Street would be seen as unusual, but it wouldn't be a big deal. However; if 20 plus cars show up, well, that's a different story.

So, if you think you are going to show up, please comment here or send me an e-mail at g.ted.productions@gmail.com so I can make an announcement on parking, if it will be necessary.


In other news- the course got lots of rain last week, so no recon was accomplished over the weekend. I hope to check out a couple things Wednesday, but no guarantees there. Stay tuned.......

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Minus Ten Review - 29

Remember kids, if you don't blog it, it never happened!
Ten years ago on the blog the week was dominated by posts about the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational, the third one, which started out in Hickory Hills County Park South of Waterloo here.

This one was unique as it featured a big event and people that haven't been back since. On the one hand there were a few riders in attendance that day of note. David Pals- then my co-director of Trans Iowa, Jason Boucher, then head of the Salsa Cycles brand, Matt Wills, and my good friend and brother, Matt Gersib were there. Jeff Bonsall and Michael Beck both rode in this edition of the GTDRI and have never been back. It was great having those guys along that year. Secondly was Jason Boucher;s special "secret bike". It was the first time anyone had seen a Salsa Cycles Fargo production bike outside of QBP folks.

Of course, we couldn't talk about the bike, and what is more, we didn't know what it was called, because Jason covered up the name on the top tube carefully with black electrical tape. Thus the name of this particular Fargo became "Black Electrical Tape". I wonder what ever became of that particular Fargo?

So, I was honored to have had that happen at my little ol' ride. The bike was really cool! Of course, I would say that, but even back then, before I had a Fargo, I thought this was such a great idea for a bicycle. And to boot, the first public outing of this bike was on a gravel adventure ride.

In fact, we didn't know it at the time, but the decal on the frame, "Adventure by Bike", was to become the catch phrase for Salsa Cycles, and then the rest of the industry also caught the bug. Bikepacking was yet to become a "thing", gravel adventuring was still in its infancy as a trend, and the Fargo helped spark all of that. So, again- I was floored looking back upon this event to understand a bit the magnitude of Jason bringing "Black Electrical Tape" to the ride.

All on a little deal called the "Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational". Who'da thunk it?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Friday News And Views

A map showing the long range plans for the state's bicycle trail network
Honorable Mention: 

It was pointed out to me by a friend on social media yesterday that the Iowa Department of Transportation's Long Range Plan for Bicycling and Pedestrians had a thinly veiled nod to Trans Iowa in it. Here is the particular paragraph in which TI was hinted at:

Unpaved road network
– Iowa has an extensive network of unpaved roads—gravel or earthen—totaling approximately 73,000 miles across the state. Many of these roads are classified as “Level B” roads by the counties, which mean they receive a very low level of maintenance and are used on an “at your own risk” basis. Iowa’s unpaved road network provides an opportunity for gravel road bicycling, a small yet growing form of bicycle riding and racing. This sport could encourage and support tourism and related economic development opportunities. A number of gravel road races and rides have occurred over the last few years and many have originated in Grinnell, which has become the de facto center of gravel road bicycling in Iowa

(Italics added for emphasis)

So, that was kind of neat. Trans Iowa, and Guitar Ted have been subjects of books, an Emmy winning documentary, has been mentioned by news and periodicals, and has been the cover story on a couple of well known cycling publications. Now it is (kind of) a part of a government report! But all that aside, I just hope that gravel cycling in Iowa stays strong and gets even more popular. 

 Bad Weather
The courthouse in Marshalltown seconds before the bell tower was ripped off. Image courtesy of KCCI TV
Tornadoes are a thing here in the Mid-West and you never know when, or if, you will be next in line to get hit. Thursday was a particulary bad day as tornadoes swept through central Iowa hitting the towns of Marshalltown, Pella, and Bondurant, Iowa along with several sightings of funnel clouds elsewhere. 

What is crazy about yesterday's storms is that they destroyed some significant businesses and damaged some important buildings. The famous historic Marshall County Courthouse got damaged, the big Pella manufacturing business, Vermeer was heavily damaged. Marshalltown's hospital was disabled and all patients had to be transferred. Another big manufacturing plant in Marshalltown was also heavily damaged. Tornadoes are very random, so having so many important structures damaged is very odd indeed. 

My thoughts are with all those affected. 

 Feedback From " Streets of Danger"-

The post the other day about how our media covers the issues surrounding cyclists safety and all brought a lot of sympathetic comments to the issue, but there were a couple that ran far deeper. I thought it was enlightening, so I thought I'd share a bit more concerning that. 

If you don't know what I am speaking of, here is that post's link. Please go back and get caught up so the rest makes sense here....

Okay, so what I got out of some of the feedback was that many of you recognized that this is really a cultural issue. This whole bicyclists getting struck down dead thing is basically a symptom of deeper issues the culture has with how our lives, especially in the US, are centered around cars. One of the things going around now is the ridiculous amount of car parking we give space for in our urban areas. That is one example of how deeply we went in for cars and how our lives are centered around these plastic, rubber, and metal cages. 

It's a really complex ship that will not get turned around easily. I think sometimes we get overwhelmed by the complexity and enormity of these issues, but in reality, all we can do is change small things now and leave it to future generations to finish up. This isn't an issue that happened overnight and it won't get solved in a week, next month, next year, or in the next decade, most likely. 
From Twitter yesterday. You knew it was going to happen again someday.....

  Tour Fans get Punchy, Act Like Nincompoops:

When I used to watch the Tour I was always amazed that the organizers allowed crowds to interact with the riders so closely. Obvious issues with this policy have caused troubles going way back. Most famous being the Eddy Merckx punch in 1975 and then Lance Armstrong getting taken down by an errant musette bag wielded by a fan. Now we have a rider taken out of the race due to fan interaction, another punching incident, and people spitting (again) at riders they don't like. 

The women are clamoring for their own version of the Tour. Maybe we should cancel next year's doper infested, boorish fan attended men's edition and start all over again with the women's version of the TDF. It has to be better than this circus side show. At least from what I am hearing. It's hard to ecape this stuff when you follow so many cyclists and industry folk on social media. 

Okay, so that's that for this week. I'll have some last minute updating on the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational for the 28th, and an update on the pMCD build, all coming next week. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Introducing The pMCD!

The "pMCD", a Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross Disc frame and fork.
I think it's been seven years ago now that I got my first Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross frame and fork. I chose it over some other choices at the time because it was the closest thing I could find to what I thought a gravel bike should be. Turns out that it did that job pretty well. So well that many other Monster Cross bikes were hitting the gravel roads with Black Mountain Cycles livery on the down tube. You know, I don't think Mike Varley of BMC, or anyone, saw that coming!

Now fast forward seven years and here I have received my second Black Mountain Cycles frame and fork. The main difference here is that this bike will have disc brakes and through axles. There are some other subtle changes, which I will get around to sharing as well. Some now, some later.

Mike Varley had hinted for years that a disc version might become available. You never know with smaller brands if hinted at plans will ever come true, so since this one has, I wanted to say, "Thanks Mike!" I know these projects are never easy, so I appreciate this.

Mike actually had e-mailed me about Trans Iowa prizing earlier this year, (BMC sponsored T.I.v14 with a frame/fork for the "Grittiest Ride" prize), and during those discussions at some point he e-mailed to let me know pink was a color for the new MCD frame/forks which were about to be announced for sale. I put my name in the line for a pink one then and there.

The fork is all new and features rack & fender mounts
The color pink for a bicycle doesn't seem like a good thing upon first thought, but after seeing a few pink bicycles and especially after seeing Nick Legan's pink BMC Monster Cross at the Dirty Kanza a few years ago, I decided I had to have a pink bicycle someday. I knew I was going to snag a disc Monster Cross whenever Mike decided to release one, and so the combination of pink and disc was a no-brainer.

The frame and fork arrived a day early even! So, I had some time to take a few beauty shots and then it was down into the Lab for the building process. No.........it isn't done yet. I had a couple of parts coming in today that were needed first, but in a surprise, I found out my build is taking a turn from original plans. Stay tuned for that twist.........

That means that I likely won't have this built until this weekend. Maybe early next week. There already have been a few changes to the original plan, even without the aforementioned "plot twist". In searching around for the bars and the Redshift Sports Shock Stop stem I was planning on putting on here, I found that my Ultegra 11spd levers were already mounted to the bars. Hmm........I thought I sent them away on a sale or used them on something, or.... Oh well! Here they were, all ready to cable up, so why not! Actually, those levers, the TRP Spyre brakes, the front derailleur, and the rear derailleur were off my Tamland originally.

Then I found out my 32mm CroMag purple anodized seat collar needed to be a 30mm one. Doh! So, I will be using the black one that came with the bike for now. I'll have to source a new purple collar later. There is one other purple bit to consider, but that should be here now and I'll have an update next week where I will tell you about that and the news I got today.

So, until then this will be on hold and I will be doing some minor stuff like mounting tires and what not until these new things come to pass. Stay tuned.......

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Streets Of Danger

Read the article HERE
Perusing Twitter yesterday I came across a Tweet by the Kansas Cyclist about how dangerous it is to commute by bicycle in Iowa. I guess my city of Waterloo came in 7th on the list of the Top Ten Worst.

My response is seen in the image of my Tweet to the left there. I guess what I was trying to portray is that- yes- commuting by bicycle here is dangerous, but it is everywhere. 

Supposedly there was a study and all, but look, when it comes down to it, things are just as bad or worse most everywhere in the USA. I mean, Waterloo, Iowa isn't that great to ride around in but we aren't especially bad. Distracted drivers are everywhere and they do not discriminate in who they mow down by region, state, or town.

And that's the thing, really. Distraction. That's the problem. Three foot passing laws and whole lane passing laws are fine, but who cares if those laws exist if people are distracted and don't see what they are hitting. I mean, that is something that is happening in Waterloo (just last week, as a matter of fact), and all over the nation. The problem isn't that we don't have laws and bicycle lanes, or that we do have those things. The problem is that people are distracted.


Fix that, and you will have solved the problem without the other stuff. Yeah, so Waterloo is a bad place to ride a bicycle. Big whoop. Nothing new about that and nothing unique about it either. Articles like this don't help anyone.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

pMCD Update: Getting Closer

The parts are accumulating on the desk at Guitar Ted Headquarters
The new rig from Black Mountain Cycles is very near to the Guitar Ted Headquarters now. I have a few more items coming yet, but things should come together very quickly once the frame and fork get here.

This has been an interesting purchase. Mike Varley has been very transparent throughout the process. He showed production images, provided shipping information, and even provided a link to follow the boat the frame and fork were in. Then he provided a FedEx tracking number with which I have been able to track the progress of the frame's travels with. Never before have I been able to follow the progress of a mass produced frame and fork like this. It's similar to how some custom builders treat their customers. The only thing better would have been if I had images of the frames being made. We probably could have had that as well.

The point is, this has been an engaging process and maybe it is a lesson for bigger companies. The "dot watching" thing for racing is a well known phenomena, but it works for bigger purchases as well which require lots of hand labor and are sourced from a far away land I'll likely never see. It makes things more "real", if that makes any sense, and I feel a more personal connection to this frame and fork than I did with my first Black Mountain Cycles purchase.

Well......anyway...... Now the thing is almost here. I have nearly very part to build it up which has drained my resources down to almost nil, but I'll have just enough gas to get 'er done. I also wanted to finally name this build/bike. Usually I will go with "Project......" something or another, but that is getting old. It is also too obvious to use "Pink" something or another, but I wanted to give a nod to the color. So, I decided "pMCD" will do. "Pink Monster Cross Disc", obviously, and it is what it is. Besides, "pee-em-cee-dee" rolls off the tongue nicely.

Monday, July 16, 2018


Broken parts........Gah!
Well, that wasn't the weekend I was looking for! (Apologies to "Star Wars") Yeah, the recon of the Guitar Ted Death Ride course didn't happen. That was the first bummer. Of course, the wet weather we had on Friday and into Saturday pretty much made that impossible. Then I got caught up doing things with the family instead, which isn't bad. Not at all, that was good.

So, I figured Sunday might be better. Given that it is Summer and all, the heat of the day and whatever winds we may have gotten might be enough to dry out the dirt to the point I might be able to get through. I chose a piece of the beginning of the route to check out and got going in the afternoon. It wasn't a bad day, really. Not too hot and there was zero wind. That was kind of weird. But then again, we are getting into the "dog days" of Summer when it can be this way.

Things were just starting out and going well until I noticed the water bottle on the right fork leg was bouncing around violently. I stopped to find out that I had finally experienced what many others have with their Salsa Cycles Nickless cages- a break. Dang it! It broke right at the weld at the base by the lower bolt, like I have heard most of these do when they break. Well, I thought about it and decided I needed to carry that bottle in my jersey pocket and leave the cage on there. Without any weight in it, I figured it would be able to ride things out until I got back to the house.

They say we are the Tall Corn State. There might be something to that. 
I remounted and started back up the road. Then I saw it. That weird wobble in a tire that signals imminent death of the casing.......well, at some near future point. I wasn't sure I was seeing it right, so I kept going and watched it to see if it would be getting worse. I went about two more miles before I was certain I was seeing something. I decided to stop at a turning point which would take me even further away from town and make a call.

When I stopped it was evident that the casing was coming apart and the tire wasn't going to live a lot longer.How much further could I get? Well, one choice was to just take a chance that it would hold up and I'd get the ride in. Or.......it would blow out on a descent at 30+ mph, I'd cartwheel into the ditch, and well..........yeah. It might not be quite that dramatic, but I didn't want to find out. I made the turn back into town. Truncated rides suck, but catastrophic tire failures suck worse.

I made it back just fine and the tire will be removed and disposed of. But I was bummed that I didn't get out more than I did. At least I got out to pedal some!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Touring Series: Rained, Over, And Out


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.

  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. I will also sprinkle in any modern images of places we visited when applicable and when I can find images that convey the same look as 1995.

We join the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" on its seventh day out from the start as they are held up by rain in Manistique, Michigan.........

It wasn't too long before noon, and the rain was steadily falling. Each passing minute was a moment slipping away that was painfully palpable. The whole point of the tour had been to reach Canada, but now, so tantalizingly close and yet so far away, we all were increasingly aware that it was over. We were going to have to throw in the towel, and it wasn't anyone's fault. Not Steve's for Steven's Point, not for having stopped so many times, not for lack of effort. It was what it was.

We sat there and waited, and even when it did clear up, we all knew it was pointless to go on. Steve called his girlfriend, Troy made a phone call. We sat around waiting to find out where and when we would be picked up. I got something to eat and munched it quietly outside. Steve suddenly perked up and pointed out a bumper sticker on a pick up truck. "Shoot 'em all! Let God sort 'em out" it proclaimed. It was a bit of comic relief that somehow fit the moment and lightened the mood.

Troy came out and between he and Steve they figured out that there was a State Park just a bit back west out of Manistique up a black top road. We finally talked it over and decided to cash it in and spend the night there. As we rolled up the road, down a darkened tunnel through tall pine trees, I could sense the release of tension. Troy and Steve were joking and carrying on. It was a relief not to have a deadline anymore. We passed a rustic country store about a half mile from the park entrance that was selling beer. We made a mental note of that for later!

As we pulled in to Indian Lake State Park, we were dismayed to see that it was packed. We rolled up behind a couple of cars waiting to check in at the Ranger's Station and we thought about a possible Plan B in case we were turned away. As we reached the drive up window, (Ride up window?) we were met with wide eyes by a female park official. She stated the obvious by saying the Park was full, but then she said, "...but we will have to find you a place. Let's see what I can do." I said, "What?...." She replied, "Oh yeah, it's Michigan State law that if a hiker or cyclist asks for a camping spot in any State Park, we have to find them room." So, she looked and found that a spot had been unclaimed that was reserved. It was now ours. It happened to be directly across from the shower house!

We secured our spot. It was windy, with hurrying clouds from the north right off the lake. We set up our tents and bugged out back to that country store. Troy put two and a half cases of canned beer on the rack of his Voyager. I'm sure that exceeded his racks capacity! It was funny how Troy could wiggle the front half of his bike but the back half wouldn't move due to all the weight of the beer.

Once back at the campgrounds we drank lots of beer, laughed, played Frisbee, and kicked back for a bit. It was a lot of fun, and honestly, we should have done more of that maybe. Whatever......... The wind was wicked off the lake, and Steve's tent got zapped, so he moved his stuff in with me for the last night. We sat around and talked into the darkness, but all good things come to an end, and somewhere in an alcoholic haze I zipped my self into my sack and passed out breathing in the cold night air laced with the scent of pine trees.

That was it for the tour. But we still had to get home. The ride back would be an all day slog in Steve's girlfriends Blazer. Shouldn't be a big deal, and I was anxious to finally get back home.
Yeah........kind of anti-climatic, eh? Well, we came up 120 miles short of our goal, so that is why we weren't ashamed. Yeah, we could have made it sans a rainy day mid-week, and we knew that. (I will delve into more about the way we strategized and what was good and bad about that in a separate post.)
For the time being I wanted to focus on the dichotomy between the arrival in Manistique and leaving for Indian Lake State Park. The morning was all "speed touring", as it had been most of the week. The last hours were more like what people normally think of when touring. Fun, free, and careless. Oh, we had our moments, for sure, during the week, but the aftermath of not getting our goal was so liberating it was uncanny. 
In fact, I didn't want it to end, but I was also ready for a trip back home to "normal" life. It was odd. Part of me was never the same after that week. I kind of knew this as the evening wore on at Indian Lake. I remember watching the white caps crashing into the shore and thinking about how I'd had such an adventure and that, sadly, it was over. The sight of those wind driven waves still can be seen in my mind's eye.......

Next week: In A Blazer Of Glory