Monday, May 31, 2010

North to Michigan!

On Saturday and Sunday, Alex and I met up with Alex's sister, Brooke, and her husband, Anders, to bike the 33 mile Kal-Haven Trail in Michigan. The trail is located on a former railroad bed that extends from Kalamazoo to South Haven, which is located on Lake Michigan. It is now its own state park - the Kal-Haven Trail State Park.

The weather was unseasonably hot - in the upper 80's both days. The skies were sunny, but the humidity was low. These dame's rockets along the trail approved of the weather.

Our goal was to ride to the half-way point on Saturday, then ride back to our motel in South Haven. Shortly after we left the trailhead at South Haven, we descended a gentle hill to ride along side the back end of the harbor at South Haven. This harbor was used to load grain on to small ships in the late 1800's and early 1900's, until rail expansion across the midwest improved. When locks and dams were built up and down the Mississippi, it became more economical to ship grain to terminals via rail to ports on the Mississippi, which then was loaded on to barges and headed toward New Orleans.

The demise of this rail line years ago is to the benefit of thousands of bikers, hikers, and snowmobilers today. The trail is mostly crushed lime, carefully graded and compacted. I saw several road bikes on the trail both days with skinny tires, which for the most part were having no problems. There is a section, about 3 miles long toward Kalamazoo, where the state park is widening the trail where there is some loose material on the sides of the trail. As long as we stayed in the middle 12' of the trail, the surface was fine.

Bill, Alex, Brooke, Anders at the half-way mark in Bloomindale.

Alex and Brooke on the trail.

Another view of Bloomingdale - yes, that is an oil derrick. I believe most of the oil has been pumped from this area. We saw only one pump running, and the lady in the depot museum said that pump is pumping salt water, which is applied to the trail surface to help settle and bind the crushed lime.

The state park folks did a very nice job respecting the railroad heritage.

On day two, we rode from Bloomingdale to Kalamazoo and back. This is a view of the widened trail surface. This area is very well compacted and graded. It made for a great riding surface. The only down side I see to riding on a lime surface such as this is that my fender-less bike kicked up fine gravel which pelted my legs and collected in my shoes. This was a small price to pay for riding on a smooth, car free trail. Probably 97% of the trail is covered with woods, which was a blessing on hot, sunny days.

The trail widening project is at least partly funded by Recovery Act funds.

This is the end of the state park trail in K-zoo. There is another trail that connects here and takes trail users into the heart of Kalamazoo.

Apparently people aren't the only trail users. This snapping turtle was moving down the trail also.

Only 4 miles from the end is the small town of Gobles, where we found Jan's Trailside Cafe only 1/2 block from the trail. The bikes out front told us there was something good inside. Although Jan no longer has her ice cream shop, she still serves ice cream in her cafe next door. So I had a sandwich and a chocolate malt. Plus plenty of ice water. Good stuff when the temp is 90 degrees!

A couple of sweet Rivies.

The Kal-Haven trail has no tunnels or high bridges, but is very well maintained and well used. I'd recommend this ride for anyone who wants a safe, rural ride. We had a great time!

Happy riding!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Weekend of Bike

On Saturday, Michael of Ear to the Breeze blog, came up from Bloomington to ride the Bike 101 Lakes ride in Fremont, Indiana. The ride was 106 miles through 3 states: Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. The weather was the best biking weather I've experienced this year. The morning was cool, in the low 50's, but warmed into the low 60's by early afternoon. And the wind was light for the first time in two weeks. The only funky thing about the ride was the mass start at 9:00 am.

We passed by these Big Bud tractors - back in the 1970's these were the Cadillac of big farm equipment. The largest farm tractor ever made was a model 747.

Unfortunately my camera battery died, so I was not able to take anymore photos. The ride, however, was excellent. Michael and I cruised at 17mph for mile after mile. About 3/4 of the way, we adopted a fellow who was in need of food and water. He followed us to the next sag stop, where we waited until he was properly fed and watered. Michael and I took turns pulling him for the last 25 miles or so.

You'll want to check out Michael's blog when he writes about his experience on this ride - he is magically able to produce his camera faster than I can blink my eye. He must have taken 100 photos on this ride.

Today, Sunday, I rode the May Madness ride sponsored by Fort Wayne's bike club, the 3 Rivers VeloSport club. The ride started in Roanoke (Indiana) and headed south to Huntington, then over to the small burg of Andrews before heading back to Huntington then back to Roanoke. One thing I like about organized rides are the people I meet and ride with. They all seem to be interested in bikes. Since this ride was sponsored by 3RVS, I knew a bunch of the folks I rode with, so it was a good time. At least until I got to Andrews.

The wind blew us from Roanoke all the way to Andrews - about 38 miles - at a mighty speed. We were cruising at 20 to 23mph! Once we turned back to the east in Andrews, however, great pain set in. The next 20 miles back to Roanoke was a real suffer fest. In addition, there were 3 killer hills up and out of the Wabash Valley. Add in a 15 - 20mph headwind, well, you get the picture. I was passed by two different groups of people I've ridden with before many times. I really tried to keep up with each group, but I couldn't keep up the 17mph pace going into the wind, even with the benefit of draft created by the other riders.

It took longer for me to travel the last 20 miles than it took me to ride the first 38 miles to Andrews. I was happy to see my truck, and I have to say I blinked a couple times when I saw it to make sure it wasn't an apparition. Anyway, as tough as the biking was, it was a good training ride. Now for some rest and recovery.

Happy riding!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

New Wheel Ahead

About 20 years ago I re-built the rear wheel on my Trek 500 using an Araya rim. It's lasted quite a while, but frankly, I'm tired of having to true the damn thing after every other ride.

I took the spokes off, cleaned up the hub, and mailed it off today to Peter White in New Hampshire. I'm asking him to re-build the wheel again, this time with a Mavic Open Sport rim with swaged spokes.

Peter built the rear wheel for my Tricross, and after 5,200 miles on it, I've had no problems at all. Not even a tiny wobble.

So, I'm looking forward to getting my new wheel for the Trek. I've been riding the Trek on weekend club rides because it's faster than my Tricross, and with the Trek, I have more of a chance of being with the lead group near the end of the rides. At least until the sprint starts.

Although I don't aspire to beating those folks, I'd at least like to not have to true my wheel anymore.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It's a Comfort Thing

After a busy week of travel away from home and the bike, I've been able to ride each of the last three days. And despite the high winds, it's been sweet. Tonight I rode east over to Grabill. A half mile from the feed mill here I could smell the savoriness of ground soybeans and supplement. It's a comfort thing. Comfort food. For goats.

On the other side of town, another savory treat. Comfort food. For Bill.

Happy riding!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

I need bike!

It's been a busy week, with very little bike time. I leave early Sunday morning for a full week of travel for work. No bike.

The following week after I get home, lots of bike!

I did the club ride today - only 4 people showed. The high winds should have made for slow riding, but 1 guy (not me) kept pushing the pace. We were going to do 60 miles, but decided to turn around in Decatur. We ended up doing 38, but for today, that was plenty.

Happy riding!