Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ohio Ride

I wanted to venture out today on a long ride, so I first checked the weather to see from which direction the wind was coming. Southeast, all day, getting stronger as the day went on.

So, at 8:00 am, I mounted the Trek, and headed due east, into Ohio. This is the lake plain of the former Lake Maumee, left behind when the last glaciers melted. I have no idea when the lake disappeared, but it left a magnificent swamp, which has been drained, and now is magnificent farmland.

The price of wheat last fall was at an all-time high, and folks throughout this part of the midwest planted all the wheat they could get a hold of. This wheat was planted last fall after the soybeans where harvested, sprouted, then lay dormant over the winter, and woke up a little over a week ago and has started to grow. It'll be ready to harvest in mid-July.

I passed several double track roads like this one. They go on for miles, apparently providing access for farm machinery and probably little else.

After a while, I came to Paulding.

Paulding has a cool, old courthouse.

Back out on the lake plain.

Here's the Auglaize River. About 15 miles north of here is Defiance, OH, and where it empties into the Maumee River. From there, the Maumee flows maybe another 40 miles, into Lake Erie.

I've been looking forward to riding over this way for some time. County Road 171 runs along the Auglaize, and it's the only curvy road around for many, many miles.

In a landscape of straight roads every square mile (Thomas Jefferson's idea), it is pleasing to ride on a curvy road.

The terrain is different around the river. The landscape is much different here than a mile to the east or to the west.

The Auglaize was an important river to the Native Americans, and was important to the early history of our country.

Just outside of Oakwood, is this iron railroad bridge. They don't build 'em like this anymore.

Look at the limestone-block abutment. These blocks were cut from solid limestone, and have probably been in place for 100 years. Concrete doesn't last this long.

I followed Ohio State Road 66 south, and for a while, it followed the Auglaize.

Then it straightened out, as most roads do in this region.

I turned back to the west on this 1-lane road, T72. It had been recently paved, and I had the wind to my back, and the riding was good!

What's this? T72, my personal road, is a river road too?

Several miles north, when I was still headed east, I was looking for this, the Miami and Erie Canal. I didn't notice it, and I'm wondering if it may have been filled in and farmed over, as it has been in many places.

Here's the canal looking the other way. Many sections that haven't been filled in look like this. The Miami and Erie Canal is part of the canal system built in the 1830's throughout Ohio, and extended into Indiana. George Washington, in the 1780's, envisioned a waterway into the interior, west of the Appalachian Mountains. It took 50 years, but the system that was built far exceeded what George could have imagined. In 1851 the state of Indiana went bankrupt trying to pay for the Wabash and Erie Canal.

Further down, T72 turned to gravel, but the wind didn't let me down.

Getting closer to Indiana, T72 widened to two lanes.

Just east of the state line, a wind farm is being built. I was able to get close to one of the new windmills. These things are huge!

The plan is to build 55 wind turbines here. That will be quite a site once they are all in operation.

As I was riding, I noticed this coming down the road.

It's nacelle, which sits 240 feet above the ground. The generator is inside.

There it goes. Soon that turbine will be producing electricity to charge the batteries for my bike light.

Just past the grain bins lies Indiana.

Hope you were able to get out to ride today.

Happy riding!


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Double Trained

Every morning, around 7:20 or so, I start listening for the freight train on this line (Baltimore & Ohio). Sometimes it's a little early, sometimes it's a little late, but often I get stopped. These trains usually fly, so I don't have to wait long, but it's personal to me to get across this crossing before I get stopped. On the way home tonight, I got stopped by this bad boy.

While the train was passing, another came from the other direction. While this isn't unusual, it was fun to see both trains at the same time.

These Bradford pear trees began opening their flowers on Tuesday, and fully opened today. This is the fire house right across from my office in Auburn.

The birds are really beginning to sing loudly in the mornings. Spring is good!

Happy riding!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Odds & Ends

Easter Sunday fell on Georgia's birthday this year, so Alex and I avoided all extended family festivities to drive to Purdue University to spend the day with our now 19 year old daughter. It's hard to believe she's almost done with her first year of college. I must say, I think she's adapted to college much better than her parents have to being empty-nesters.

This is Georgia with her really good friend, James. This was the first time we got to meet him. The kid is OK - he's on a mountain bike racing team, and he skitters around on campus on a sweet fixie. He didn't have it handy, though, because he had it squirreled away in his room. Georgia showed me a photo of it at Christmas time.

On the bike scene, I've been hammering out the miles, and have been thinking about little else between working, and biking. The weather the last two weeks has been extremely windy (sounds like pretty much all of the country), and it's been cold. The week before last I was covered with snow one day, and pelted by sleet on the next.

I rode my first club ride on Saturday, and apparently caused a minor stir. Several people noticed how thin I was, but only Luis was brave enough to mention it. Apparently losing 45 lbs is pretty noticeable, especially in a short sleeved jersey and bike shorts. Come to think of it, that jersey actually felt a little on the large side. I still got smoked by the jocks, but I made it to within two miles of the finish before I was dropped. But I rode 8 miles to the start, and 8 miles home, so I had a few more miles in my legs than they did.

Oh, back in October, I mentioned that I wanted to get down to 200 lbs. Well, I made it there sometime around mid-March, and since then I've been consistently staying right at 197 - 199 lbs. The size 40 pants that used to be tight on me are so loose that I can't really wear them anymore. I'm back to a size 36 - the same size I wore in high school, when I ran track and cross country. I'm only 7 pounds heavier now than I was 31 years ago. I'm hoping to be able to control myself and keep the weight off. If you or anyone you know is trying to lose weight, try SparkPeople. I've been following their free diet plan, counting calories, fat, and protein all the while. Once I dedicated myself to sincerely following the diet plan, and getting plenty of exercise, the weight came off steadily.

Since it's been windy, I haven't been commuting too much, but instead I try to knock out 25 - 35 miles after supper, which means I end up getting back home after dark. My new Ixon light is just the gravy for a dark night.

The high beam is outrageously bright. I haven't tested it on any significant downhills yet, but this sucker lights up the night. The low beam is just fine for general riding, and that's what I mostly use. It runs on 4 AA cells. I have re-chargeable lithium batteries in here, and I haven't had to recharge them yet. I did buy the original rechargeable batteries from Peter White, from whom I bought the light. But those batteries just never held much of a charge, and I felt I should have been getting more than 2 hours of use per charge. I went down the road to our Meijer store and bought some $7 rechargeable batteries, and they've been working great. I bought an extra set for my next brevet - the 400K coming up on May 14th.

It's been quite a while since I last posted, and I've got more to say, but it's getting late. I'll post some more stuff another day.

Happy riding!


Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Fun Randonnee

Yesterday I did another brevet with the Ohio Randonneurs. Yesterday's brevet was the 300K, the second in the Super Randonneur series I'm attempting this spring.

The high temp was forecast to be 72 F, with partly sunny skies in the afternoon, and I was really looking forward to riding at last in warm weather. The morning temp was 50 F, and that felt great to feel the warmth at 6:00 in the morning, when we started. Here we're receiving the final instructions from Regional Brevet Administrator, Bob Waddell.

We headed out - somewhere around 50 of us - and took over a small part of Springfield, OH. At 6:00 am, there was very little traffic.

We were out of Springfield and into the country after only a mile, pushed along by a decent tailwind that pushed us to the south. Fortunately, it was too dark to see my speedometer, or I probably would have slowed down immediately. We were bookin'!

Not too long after I took the photo above, the speedsters took off at a quick pace, and I was happy to let them go. After all, I've never ridden 300K at one time before, so I wanted to save some fuel for the last 275K.

I also realized that I left both of my water bottles in the hotel room - I had no water! I stopped at the first convenience store - about 20 miles after leaving Springfield.

Not too long after leaving the c store, the sun came up, and momentarily broke out of the fog.

After making several wrong turns and riding extra miles to get back back on course on the 200K brevet two weeks ago, I rigged up this map-holder. It's a medium binder clip secured with two zip strips.

There's Al up ahead. I rode most of the way with Al, who was from Michigan.

The route took us south from Springfield, then west, right between Dayton and Cincinnati. This is I-75.

Docked at the second control - 1/3 of the way done. That's my Trek in the foreground, with SKS fenders I installed last week. Al's Waterford is further away. The temp hadn't really warmed up much, and the clouds hadn't parted, but I was optimistic for sunny, warm weather soon even though it began raining as we left this control.

By the time we got to the United Dairy Farmers control at the halfway point in Oxford, it was raining pretty hard. Several people were inside shivering, and two UDF workers were busy following us around, furiously mopping up our drippings.

We were stopped by a train shortly after the rain let up - about 6 hours after it started. At this point, I was anxiously awaiting the parting of the clouds and the bountiful sunshine which would pour down upon us.

There's Al's front side. A P-B-P veteran, he kept a smile on his face the whole ride.

At 6:00 pm the sun came out! But it went back under at 6:15, and the clouds grew thick and dark.

Some of the trees were blooming.

The country side was beautiful down here, with narrow river valleys, wooded roads, and broad vistas. We traveled this road on the 200K, and I especially enjoyed this section of road. Try as I might with my camera, I can't capture the beauty of actually being there.

Just outside of Sparksville, was Bean Bag City. We passed this place on the 200K brevet. I'm curious what kind of bean bags they sell.

At about 7:30 pm, I got to the Little Miami Scenic Trail. We followed this for about 8 miles. Up ahead is Bill, whom I caught up to and finished the ride with.

By the time we got to the end of the rail-trail, it was dark. Bill and I rode the last 20 miles or so in the dark. Bill had a GPS, which he used to successfully guide us back to the finish. Even with a little flashlight, it's tough following a cue sheet and finding road signs.

Back in Springfield, near the end.

Each brevet is a learning experience. What I learned on this trip was to make a checklist and follow it. I was very happy I brought plenty of clothes, including a rain coat, even with a 10% chance of rain at the start.

What I especially enjoyed about this brevet was that this really was an adventure. Riding in darkness, hours of rain, hills, managing food, fluid, and electrolytes, the trip was great. The upcoming 400K still scares the hell out of me, but getting through the 300K with plenty of time to spare, and feeling good at the finish gives me hope that I'll be able to handle it.

Happy riding!