Archive for May 2006
I posted more than 250 photos to Flickr, which seems like kind of a lot, so if anyone’s interested this link should get you to the ones that I think are the most interesting. This also includes some of my favorite photos that Anurang took. He also took more photos of me (for obvious reasons) than I did.
Note: There are 15 "pages" of photos. This link takes you to the last page so that you can browse backwards and therefore see things in roughly chronological order.
For those not familiar with Flickr, clicking on a photo will take you to a larger version as well as show you any comments that I or others have made about it. I am hoping to find time soon to start a Flickr PAC Tour Route 66 Group so that others can add their favorite photos from the trip.
Just a quick update:
Sunshine at the Navy Pier, even.
A fabulous breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s restaurant in downtown Chicago. Apple and cheese omelette: Who’d have guessed such a thing existed?
Now waiting at the airport to fly home….
(OK, the day started out pretty cold, but who cares if it’s cold as long as it doesn’t rain?)
Thanks to all my fellow Route 66 travelers and to PAC Tour for a once-(probably)-in-a-lifetime experience.
Distance: 101 miles
Climbing: Not that much.
Almost there! I’m on a tight schedule because our final dinner together is in about an hour, and I won’t have much time after that to finish whatever needs finishing.
Overall, today was a big improvement over yesterday. Here’s why:
It was shorter. The route card said 103 miles, so we only got a couple of freebie miles, but I still got in before 4:00, which makes a huge difference.
The wind let up a bit. We still had the same west/northwest wind all day, but it wasn’t nearly as strong. Still, for one long stretch a bunch of us did a rotating paceline to beat the wind and help pass the miles. It’s not like there was a lot of scenery to watch: mostly farm fields, although the little towns we passed were all nice.
The rain held off, mostly. We had a few showers off and on for the first 90 miles. Then it rained miserably for the last 10 into town. That just made getting into a hot shower that much more luxurious.
We were welcomed warmly in a couple of small Route 66 towns. The first one, Pontiac, had a nice little Route 66 museum. The local police met us just outside the town limits (or at least some of us). I was convinced that they were going to give us all tickets for not riding single file. Instead, we got a police escort to the museum by car and bike.
A few miles further up the road, in Odell, we were feted at a beautifully restored Sinclair gas station with hot dogs and homemade baked goodies. Lon had written to these folks months ago to let them know we were coming, but he hadn’t heard back and thought they’d probably forgotten about us. I think he just didn’t get their response because he hasn’t been home for 100 days.
At least two good ice cream stops today. I just had a shake at the Launching Pad Restaurant (home of the Gemini Giant) because I was still really full of homemade baked goods and a hot dog from Odell. Then, ten miles from the hotel, Lon, Franz, Phil and I stopped at a curious shack-like ice cream place in Joliet (don’t remember the name, and I don’t think it was on the route card) for soft-serve ice cream. There were no windows on the building except a small one where someone took your order.
As soon as we left the ice cream place, the skies decided to open in earnest but, so far as I know, everyone made it here in one piece. Tomorrow we have just 32 miles to ride to the end of Route 66 and then 16 miles from there to the hotel where I will take a shower and pack up my bike for the trip home.
Distance: 117 miles
Climbing: I have no idea. Not that much.
For more photos, be sure to check Flickr.
I’m too tired to blog. No, really, can’t I just take a nap instead?
This was supposed to be the longest day (in miles) of our trip, but the route card was incorrect and we ended up short by nine miles. If anyone complains to Lon about this, I will be happy to sign a letter supporting his or her commitment to a caring institution.
I got a pretty decent night’s sleep in anticipation, and I ate a big breakfast. I wasn’t sure what else I could do to prepare for 10 hours of cycling in winter (by Bay Area standards) temperatures, probable rain showers, and a steady west wind. Oh, I also brought my iPod shuffle with me in case I ended up riding alone for hours with nothing to look at but corn seedlings as tall as popsicle sticks.
The first few miles were kind of northeast, and the sky was dry. I listened to my iPod and waited for my feet to get cold before pulling over and putting on my booties. I actually wore a wool hat and wool long-fingered gloves for the entire day today. I stayed pretty warm as long as I was moving.
Jim Meyers and John Welch passed me while I was getting my booties on. I started up again and could see another rider gaining on me pretty soon. This was Lon. I had the good sense to ride on his right-hand side a while, which gave me a break from the wind. We switched sides before we caught up to Jim and John, though. I figured that four people ought to be able to cooperate to beat the wind, so I suggested that we work together. Lon got us all in an echelon-style paceline, which worked well since traffic was light.
That got us to the first rest stop. I ate some food, got more water, and walked over to the gas station (I think it was a gas station; I actually went in the back door) to use the restroom. As I came out, I saw Lon putting on his helmet, so I ran across the parking lot to my bike. Jim was still in the restroom, so Lon and I left the stop by ourselves. John Welch is too much of a nice guy to leave a buddy behind in the restroom.
Riding with Lon, I was working harder than I would have if I were by myself. Sometimes, I would be able to get a draft from him, but I have a sneaking suspicion that he speeds up when he knows you’re drafting him since he figures it’s your responsibility to keep up at that point. If you’re riding side by side, he’ll adjust his speed to match yours.
We rode together to the next rest stop (mile 46), which was near the Cozy Dog Diner. I don’t think Lon was planning to eat there, but he ended up having a bowl of chili (“the worst on the trip”), and a donut. Jim Hlavak (who wasn’t riding today) recommended the donuts, which he said were home made.
I had a cozy dog (a corn dog, as near as I could tell), and the last chocolate donut. It was really good. It was so greasy that after eating it you felt like you’d put Chapstick on your lips. I went and got another one (not chocolate) before I left. The Cozy Dog is an official Route 66 Roadside Attraction, which is a designation that I think is unique to Missouri and Illinois. It was owned by Bob Waldmire’s father, if I have this right, and there’s a lot of Route 66 memorabilia as well as a library. Bob Waldmire is the legendary artist/hippy/dude that Anurang and I saw working on a mural back in Arizona (or was it New Mexico?).
The Cozy Dog is on the southern end of Springfield, and after we passed through the city our direction shifted from due north to a more northeasterly tack, which made life much better. We covered 17 miles in the hour after we stopped at the Cozy Dog.
We didn’t stop again until we got to the town of Lincoln, where the third and final rest stop was set up across the highway from a Bonanza steakhouse. That’s a kind of all-you-can-eat place with lots of kitchsy country décor like samplers and quilts. I had a steak sandwich and a bunch of other stuff. Not great food, but lots of it.
We saw a bunch of other riders at the Bonanza: ahead of us were Lin and E on a tandem, Phil, and Franz. Lynette and a bunch of other riders who’d sagged that far were also there.
I couldn’t believe how cold it still was when we left. I forgot to mention that it had been spitting showers and drizzle off and on since before noon. As I pulled out of the restaurant parking lot, I saw Vicki and Tim Arnold, who had stopped for lunch at the previous town and who had been ahead of us all morning. We all tried to get on the tandem’s wheel, but only Franz and Phil were able to. Lon had to wait for an oncoming car, so he was a little back. I just couldn’t go hard after eating that meal. Even after trying for just a few minutes, I felt like I was going to be sick.
So, I dropped back and let Vicki and Tim chase the tandem (without success, I think, but I’m not sure), and Lon eventually caught up to me. He could easily have left me behind, but slowed down long enough for me to get a handle on my digestion, after which we kept a pretty steady pace for the rest of the afternoon.
We also stopped a few times, believe it or not, to check out some other Roadside Attractions, such as the Bunyon Man and Funk Grove maple sirup (yes, that’s how they spell it).
Oh, I forget to mention that at one point a man in a what appeared to be an unmarked police car rolled down his window as we prepared to make a turn and asked “Which one’s Lon?” The apprehension in Lon’s voice was obvious as he identified himself. You could tell he was worried that one of our riders had done something stupid, and he was about to get grief over it. Turned out the man (a parole officer, I think), was the brother of a cyclist Lon knows and just wanted to meet Lon and shake his hand. “I’m going to be doing what you’re doing in four years when I retire,” he said.
I hope he has better weather.
To be fair, everyone I’ve talked to in Illinois has apologized for the weather.
Anyway, in spite of our stops, we managed to make it to the motel before 5:00. I flopped on the bed and just lay there for a good 30 minutes. I knew though, that if I didn’t write something before dinner, I’d fall asleep before getting it done.
Distance: 72 miles
Climbing: 2,500 feet
Yesterday, I told myself that I needed to stop looking at the weather forecast. After all, there’s nothing I can do about it. I look at the forecast, see bad news, and immediately start worrying.
So, the first thing I did this morning was to check the weather forecast.
Amazingly, the forecast was better than it had been when I went to bed last night: Partly sunny skies in Saint Louis in the morning, followed by showers and cloudy skies in the afternoon.
After yesterday’s drowning, this sounded like perfect picnic weather. And since today was such a short day, who knows, maybe there wouldn’t be any rain at all…
I left the motel with Lon, Susan, and possibly Jim Hlavka. I thought that would be easier than reading the route card and getting lost. We were just about the last ones out of the motel, but we overtook a few people on the eight-mile ride to breakfast. As a bonus, I got to hear Susan’s reminiscences about growing up in Saint Louis and to hear both of them chew out a driver who shouted something nasty at us and then got stuck at a red light.
Breakfast was fun, although we all carefully locked our bikes. Then we rode to the famous Arch, where we stopped for some pictures and gawking.
Next, we tried to get on to the St. Louis Riverfront trail, but the first floodgate was closed, so we ended up taking a somewhat unpleasant street route instead. Franz later told us that a local showed him and some others how to get onto the trail a different way.
Everyone eventually wound up at the famous Chain of Rocks Bridge, which is now open only to bikes and pedestrians. We had it pretty much to ourselves, and the view was wonderful, with downtown Saint Louis sparkling in bright sunshine in the distance and the rapids of the Confluence below us. We said goodbye to Susan Notorangelo before crossing the bridge; she’s staying in Saint Louis for a family wedding.
The next few miles featured some vintage concrete pavement, another bridge over a canal, and at mile 32 a really pretty bike path. I was riding with Franz now. Being from Northern California, I was shocked at how quickly the weather changed, even though I had read the forecast. Before I knew it, we were riding with the partly sunny skies to our right and a giant, menacing black swirl of clouds to our left. The wind was picking up, and it was from the west, which sort of helped us most of the time. We picked up the pace in a (futile) effort to outrun the rain.
All we really got was a shower, but it was enough for both of us to put our rain jackets on. The temperature dropped, too. I don’t think Lon ever expected that we’d be cycling in the mid 50’s in Illinois in May.
The showers let up as we got to the town of Livingstone, where Franz and I decided to stop at a recommended (by the route card) café for the Country Inn Motel. This was a great, cheap lunch; I had fried chicken, bread, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, Mr. Pibb, and a giant piece of coconut cream pie for less than $10.
Lon and several other riders rolled in while we were eating. We left with Lon and, almost immediately, the rain showers started again. Back with the jackets. A few more miles and the showers stopped and we had to stop, too, to take off the jackets (at least Lon and I did; Franz seems to have a great tolerance for wearing his rain jacket).
The rain was more of a nuisance than anything else; the wind was more of a factor. This was a strong cross wind when we were heading north and a slight tailwind when we were heading north east. On the rare occasions when we went due east, we really flew. This is the same wind it’s predicted that we’ll have for more than 120 miles tomorrow. The terrain is very flat, so the wind is the big obstacle.
Somewhere, we picked up Reed and Jim H., and Jim led us into Litchfield at a pulse-pounding pace. He’s got more than 20 years on me, but it was all I could do to hold on. Reed, who’s no slouch himself, also just managed to keep up, although he stayed far enough back to make sure that he wasn’t getting a draft. “I finally realized, ‘Hey, he’s not riding tomorrow,’” Reed told me as we both dropped back for the last mile or two into town. Jim’s one of our crew, so he rides only on alternate days. Plus, he later told me that he spotted at least four Eastern bluebirds.
During a fair bit of the final northward stretch toward Litchfield, we were paralleling some abandoned Route 66 pavement on our right. Lon rode across the median to check this out for a while. It looked pretty bumpy, but when he was ready to catch back up to us he just did that fast thing he does and he was suddenly ahead of us. The pavement ended with a guardrail-style barrier, but he somehow navigated between that and a ditch to get right back onto the highway without losing any ground.
We were among the very first in to the motel, so I managed to get some laundry done and reorganize my bag before dinner (at the excellent Ariston Restaurant, which is the most high-falutin’ place we’ve seen since La Posada). It’s a relief to know that I won’t (cross fingers) need to do any more laundry on this trip.
We’ve reached a point where I can actually envisage the remaining days – the end is actually in sight. But first, we need to make it to Bloomington on the longest (mileage) day of our trip.
Distance: 108 miles
Climbing: 5,200 feet
Well, that was a doozie.
We got an early start this morning, with bags loaded at 7:30 and everyone on the road not much later. It wasn’t raining when we left, but it was pretty obvious that rain was in the cards. This was Day 3 of the “three-day rain event,” and it did not disappoint.
My legs actually felt pretty good once they got warmed up on the hill leaving our motel. The first twenty miles of short up and down hills went pretty quickly. I rode by myself today more than any other of this trip – I just wanted to concentrate on getting to the other end of the route card as quickly as possible.
The first rain shower came less than an hour into the ride. I stopped and put on all my rain stuff – and the rain quit. So, I took of my rain jacket but left the pants on.
Most of the day, we were riding frontage roads to I-44, with some really lovely scenery.
At around 45 miles, I stopped at another rest stop and decided to take off my rain pants but left my booties on. As I left, the rain started up again, but it wasn’t heavy enough to get me to put the rain pants back on. By mile 73, I was riding in just shorts, knee warmers, and a long-sleeved jersey. I stopped for a quick lunch at Hardee’s in Pacific, where I had two $1.19 cheeseburgers. “You mean the little bitty ones?” asked the counter lady.
As I left Hardee’s the rain started up again, but it still wasn’t enough to make me put on my rain stuff. I knew, though, that as the cold front moved in the temps could drop.
Since I was riding by myself, I paid very close attention to the directions on the route card. The two things I really didn’t need today were to get lost or to get a flat tire.
At around 90 miles, Lon’s route took us through what the card described as “steep rural roads next 6 miles.” This was where all hell broke loose.
When Lon says something’s steep, you’d better believe it. These were the steepest hills I’d seen since La Cienega Blvd. on the first day. And all of a sudden, I was riding in a real storm. Trees were bending in the wind and water was gushing down the street in sheets. I don’t think I’ve ever ridden in heavier rain. Lon later told me that he, Susan, and some others waited out that part of the storm in a Steak and Shake.
I quickly put all my raingear back on: jacket, pants, booties. It seemed like the strongest wind was actually pushing me up some of the hills. I kept thinking what a pretty ride it would have been under different circumstances. It was dramatic, though.
Once through this section, I got on Route 30 for most of the rest of the way – lots of traffic, which normally wouldn’t bother me too much, but visibility wasn’t great and I was trying very, very hard not to miss any turns.
Somehow, I made it in just a little after 4:00, with an average speed (including stops) of exactly 12 mph.
For dinner, we went to Phil’s Barbecue with a bunch of Susan’s relatives and then to Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard for dessert.
The weather tomorrow still looks bad, but at least it’s only a little over 70 miles.
Distance: 106 miles
Climbing: 4,000 feet
I’m going to try to make this short, because I have got to start getting to bed earlier.
Pavement was dry when I looked out the window this morning, but the NWS radar showed a big orange and red blotch headed our way. Sure enough, it was raining by the time we loaded our bags at 7:30, and for the next few hours, I was riding in an out-and-out thunderstorm.
You know that Jackson Browne song that goes “You love the thunder… you love the rain”?
That’s a stupid song.
Lon, Susan and some other folks left just a bit ahead of me, and when I got to the first rest stop in Conway at mile 26, they were just leaving. I set a personal record on this trip for being in and out of a rest stop – just grabbed some bars and went. It was still raining, but I imagined that it might be letting up just a little bit.
By the time I got to the rest stop in Lebanon, it had stopped raining, although the road was still quite wet. I tried riding with Lon and Franz from this point, but I couldn’t really stick with them on the endless corrugated Missouri rollers and, even if I could, the spray from their rear wheels made it seem like it was still raining. I think they slowed down for me, though, because I did follow them more or less all the way to the third rest stop, where Susan re-joined the group, having gone off in the van between stops two and three to mail off Lon’s defunct Macintosh to a repair center.
Vicki and Tim Arnold were riding with us off and on from this point, as well, and it was this group that had lunch at a nice German deli in Waynesville. By now, the sun was shining brightly, and I had stripped off my rain jacket, rain pants, wool gloves, booties, wool long-sleeved t-shirt, and knee warmers.
Lon, Susan and I all agreed that nice days are that much nicer when they follow a few hours of really horrific weather such as we had this morning. This part of Missouri is really beautiful, too.
After lunch, we got to ride some vintage concrete pavement to and through the “Devil’s Elbow” bridge (the term refers to a bend in the river that loggers hated, apparently) and through the “Big Notch.” I remembered this section from the 2001 Central Pac Tour because I had left my camera in the van on that day for fear of getting it wet. (Ever wonder why Missouri is so green?) This time I got some pictures.
Our next stop was at around 100 miles, in a little town called Newberg. Sodas and ice creams. Then a final big climb before getting to Rolla (with a brief stop at the Wolfman’s Trading Post, which is some kind of weird cross between folk art, a giant yard sale, and an adult video store).
Tomorrow: rain, maybe; climbing, definitely.