Saturday, August 31, 2013

Welcome to Oregon

We arrived in Oregon this afternoon. We've already availed ourselves of awesome local coffee and blackberry milkshakes. We are staying with a friend outside of Portland tonight. The first photo was our view as we flew in. The second is of the sign for the bike assembly area in the airport. How have I missed this place.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Weekend in Missouri: The Missouri State Fair and a 4-H Reunion

This past weekend was all nostalgia and memories.  I was in 4-H for almost ten years as a child and teenager. I have great memories of the activities, the projects, the camps, trips, and most of all, the friends I made at county 4-H events. Most of the non-family people that I am still in close touch with from that period of my life are 4-H friends. This year, one of the women from my former club decided that we should have a Johnson County, Missouri 4-H reunion at the Missouri State Fair. For non-4-Hers, the State Fair was a huge event for 4-H kids. Even if you didn't show livestock, which I didn't, there is an entire building at the fair dedicated to showing the best 4-H projects from all of the county fairs across the state.  We would go to the fair when I was growing up to see our projects and to see what other clubs were doing around the state.

I decided I couldn't miss the reunion and the chance to see the fair again.  Once the flights were booked, the rest of my long weekend filled up pretty quickly.
I borrowed a bike while I was there. I enjoyed riding roads I had only driven before or hadn't ridden since I was a kid. This was Thursday morning. Every single vehicle that passed me (a total of about six) waved. This is looking west towards my hometown.
Big round bales in a field on my ride.
Helianthus divericatus (Woodland Sunflower) along the road in Pertle Springs Park in Warrensburg, Missouri.
Water lilies on the lake in Pertle Springs Park.
Friday night, I joined friends at a pre-season Chiefs Game at Arrowhead Stadium.
Friday night, I stayed with the friends above. I woke up absurdly early - before everyone else - and found a beautiful sunrise over the fields.
Saturday, we went to the Missouri State Fair. We were a bit confused by the weather:  At a normal fair, it will be hot enough to fry eggs on the pavement. Baking in the blazing hot sun and sweating through your clothes was just part of the charm and experience. This year, the high was only around 80, which just seemed odd. I am not complaining.
Johnson County, Missouri's banner in the 4-H building.
The Midway. I'm pretty sure that most of the rides haven't seen any maintenance since I was in high school.
The farm equipment at the fair. This combine will set you back nearly $350,000.
Fair food.
 I'm not sure if the sign is accurate, but we had a pretty good time people watching.
The ferris wheel in the fading light. I couldn't have asked for a better weekend.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Skyline Drive Century: 105 Beautiful Miles

Skyline Drive is one of my favorite places for training rides (I've written several times about rides in the north and central districts). The road is in great condition, most of the time traffic is reasonable, it has more than enough challenging climbing, and most of all, the scenery is stunning. Michael, a friend, and I have talked for a long time about trying to ride the entire length of Skyline Drive (105 miles, ~9200 feet of climbing) in one day, but the logistics were daunting. Setting up a car shuttle would require nearly a whole day and we needed vehicles at both ends that could carry three bikes and three people. On top of that, we would likely be tired enough by the end that we wouldn't want to drive all the way home. Then Horizontal Tread offered to be a support driver for us. Another friend in Charlottesville, Virginia offered to let us stay there after the ride and a plan came together. We arranged for Horizontal Tread to leave his truck in Front Royal, Virginia and he would drive our car, meeting us at points along the way.

We started under gray skies, climbing six miles to the top of the first hill. By milepost 14, rain fell steadily, which wasn't too bad until we reached the top of that hill and began to descend. Since the road was wet, I had to stay on my breaks for most of the two-mile descent and the spray from my tires soaked my shoes. Still, before I knew it, we arrived at Thornton Gap, a third of the way into our ride. We didn't linger because we were soaked and it was chilly. We ate a bit and began the next long climb: five miles up to the top of Pinnacles. Not too long after reaching the top, the rain stopped and the sun broke through the clouds. The bright side of the rain? There was very little traffic. While I was climbing near Big Meadows, riding right on the white line, something in the ditch caught my eye. I looked over and there was a bear cub in the brush, within arm's reach (I didn't reach). That is, hands down, the closest I have ever been to a bear. Michael was riding right behind me and he said he saw the mother glance out of the brush at us.

We had lunch and a long break at Big Meadows. The roads had dried, so we were able to descend without squeezing the brakes the entire time, making the ride easier and more fun. After climbing for miles, there is nothing like the reward of descending a winding mountain road at 35 mph. By the time we reached Swift Run Gap, it had clouded over again, but it stayed dry. Traffic was non-existent in the south district. I don't think we were passed by a dozen cars in our last 38 miles. We finished at Rockfish Gap 105 miles and 11 hours after we started. It was an amazing, hard, exhausting, exhilerating ride. We couldn't have done it without Horizontal Tread's help. Big thanks to him and to our friend in Charlottesville who hosted us after the ride.

Pictures (click to enlarge):
Climbing the first big hill of the ride. This is from an overlook near milepost 6. It hadn't started raining yet.
By milepost 14, rain steadily fell. By the time we reached Hogback Overlook at milepost 21, it was pouring. We rode in the rain for a couple of hours.
Lillium superbum (Turk's Cap Lily) near Pinnacles Overlook. These are over five feet tall.
Looking east from Skyline Drive after the storm passed. The unstable weather meant really interesting cloud formations.
A Fritillary (not sure which one) butterfly on Asclepias exaltata (Tall Milkweed).  There were butterflies feeding on flowers all along our ride. This was near Stony Man.
Skipper butterflies on A. exaltata.
Lunch at Big Meadows.
We took a short break at an overlook in the South District. A car pulled up a couple offered to take our picture.
We were grinding up a gentle climb near milepost 95 in the south district, when Michael loudly whispered, "Bear!"  It watched us for a few minutes and then bounded off into the woods. I have a good zoom on my camera, so I wasn't as close as this appears.
More clouds rolling in near the end of the ride.
 Milepost 105, just a few hundred yards from the car.
 105 miles from Front Royal, where we started.
The reading on my bike computer at the end.  105 miles and 9200 feet of climbing.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Perfect Day: Cycling Up to High Rock, Maryland

We had a perfect day on the road on Sunday.  It was an almost unheard of day for August:  high 70s, sunny and clear.  We had a bit of a headwind for a significant part of the day, but even that wasn't enough to dampen spirits as we climbed up to High Rock. We even found some wineberries along the side of the road towards the end of the ride.
 Looking west from the northern terminus of the Catoctin Trail.
 A 1929 (?) Ford at PenMar Park.
 On top of High Rock.
Solanum dulcamara (Bittersweet Nightshade - non-native) along the roadside.