Second multi-day ride

Last night we drove to Cedar City and stayed at accomodations booked via Airbnb. First time experience with Airbnb. The host family was a young couple with two small kids and were welcoming and easy to work with. We didn’t know what to expect, but so far so good.

This morning we left around 9 and had a completely different experience than our last ride. For starters we had a strong tailwind for most of the day. Although we’re going to tell you some things we think we did better, all credit might go to the wind.

In addition to a great tail wind, the weather was great. It was probably in the upper 30s when we started and warmed nicely to 60 degrees by the end of our ride.

We rode 70 miles with 2700 feet of elevation gain. We selected this route because it has many similar characteristics to our days planned for Europe.

We did a much better job of pacing ourselves on the hills. I selected this route specifically because it didn’t have many segments steeper than 5 percent. The few that exceeded that were short. We had a better understanding of what to expect because I wrote some software to analyze the route in a way that makes it easier to compare to other rides we were familiar with. It helped to know in advance that every hill was within our reach.

It really helped to not push for speed – not even a little. We had plenty of time, so we took it. 

Finally, we were a little lighter today as we are not carrying camping gear – just camp food.

For lunch today we ate at a little diner in Enterprise. Classic diner. Not many vegan choices, no surprise, but we had a big fresh order of delicious fries and a salad each. It was yummy and a good break.

We are staying at another Airbnb tonight, and in this case we have the whole house. There is no restaurant – not even a gas station – so we are cooking a backpacking dinner tonight. Nothing says romantic dinner like Mountain House.

We are tired but happy. This is an out and back, so tomorrow we retrace our steps with slightly more vertical gain.

Day 3

Last night, after soaking in the hot springs, we thought we’d sleep well and be plenty warm. Not so much. Pete did seem to fall asleep pretty quickly, but I was sleepless until about 2am, I think because I was too​ cold. I was sure the temperature must be in the 20s, but when I checked my phone about 7am it was it the high 30s! We must be getting old. Our tent and sleeping bags were comfy, and the campground was practically deserted — except for an owl or two — but I just wasn’t warm enough.

After oatmeal by our campfire, we bundled up and headed​ out. The day began with thick cloud cover but warmed and brightened nicely by afternoon. For the first 10 miles we were on a stressful busy highway, but we able to finish most of the rest of our ride on farm roads, some of which were dirt. The dirt roads were slower but peaceful. The scenery was beautiful and the weather was honestly ideal. We had a little headwind but it was the least of the three days.

We finished in Logan about 3:30, with a total mileage of about 188. We were able to spend some time with our grandkids, which was delightful and rejuvenating. 

It was a great adventure, we learned a lot, and we enjoyed being with each other. We are better prepared and even more excited for our Europe trip!

I do think we’ll sleep well tonight! 

Day 2

Last night we stayed at the Largilliere Carriage House bed and breakfast in Soda Springs. We slept great and had an amazing breakfast of grilled vegetables, potatoes, vegan gluten free blueberry muffins, and fresh fruit. Thanks Robbie! By last evening I was questioning our choice of hobbies, but by the time breakfast was over we were all in once again.

Today was much better. We rode 62 miles from Soda Springs to Downata, a lot of it downhill (only 700 feet of climbing). We rode on old highway 30 which added 10 miles but bypassed a big hill and avoided a lot of traffic. Easily worth the extra miles. We had a tailwind for the first 20 miles and a headwind for the rest. The weather was at least 10 degrees warmer today. We also paid much better attention to our nutrition and pace.

Downey Idaho has no grocery stores and no restaurants. Luckily a kind lady at a Phillips 66 with a deli made us awesome salads using sandwich fixings. We also had fries and a Mounds bar.

We are camping tonight at Downata hot springs, posting this from the hot pool. :-):-):-) 

Headed toward the mountain in the distance
Idaho colors
Our hosts
Inside the bed and breakfast

First day of first multi-day tour

We loaded up our bike with about 60 pounds of gear (clothes, food, tent, sleeping bag, cooking gear, bike tools…) and left from 5 miles above Garden City headed for Soda Springs Idaho. It was a slog! We had a powerful headwind for 90 percent of the ride. The high temperature for the day was about 35 degrees F. I used a German route mapping program to set our path. I thought I had a route with minimal hills and all pavement. We ended up climbing about 1700 feet over 67 miles, with about 20 miles on a dirt road.

The fully loaded bike is heavy! It is probably about 150 pounds. That isn’t a big deal on the level, but the hills are punishing. Maybe I shouldn’t have changed the gearing to give up better speed… The hills plus the headwind were exhausting! This was far harder than the centuries we’ve ridden on our road bikes.

We are exhausted but happy.

Natalie’s first post

Yes, this is Natalie. I’ll be posting here sometimes too. I’m here to let you know that I am seriously excited about this trip to Europe — AND our future trips as well! I am already thinking about Iceland, which is where I want us to go next. ?  So to all of you who think Pete is the only one excited about this, Nope! I am SOOO excited! I really really really am enjoying the bike, even more than I anticipated! And it was honestly not hard to get used to, as I feared it might be. I have loved all our longer distance road bike rides, and this is a way we can “see the world” but still have adventures too. It allows us to travel together more, in a way Pete will like better, and in a way I will love too. So stay tuned! 

Second ride

We rode our tandem again today. This time we rode from North Salt Lake to the marina, about 43 miles. We had a headwind both ways. I’m not kidding. We made a few rookie mistakes putting the bike together (it has to fold in half to fit in our truck) but everything turned out fine.

One thing I like the most about this bike is that we can easily talk to each other while we ride.

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A special kind of cheap

I just spent an hour trying to save $15 on a jacket for Natalie. Splitting the value of my time evenly with the salesperson, we are both valued at $7.50 hour. I’m a special kind of cheap.

My desire to get a few bucks off really doesn’t make sense when you consider that the jacket is too expensive even at $15, $25 or $40 off. I already crossed the “money is no object” barrier when I decided to get a Patagonia Houdini jacket for Natalie. It is super light, super compact, and waterproof – which is what we need to fit 3 weeks of clothing and gear into luggage about half the size of a normal carry on.

Redneck neckrest

Natalie wanted a neckrest. She needs one in Church too.  The bike has her laid back at an angle that requires exertion to hold her head up straight. Same problem in Church, just not so much… I started searching for something specifically made for a recumbent hard-shell seat. Most were over $100, some far over. Most didn’t look that great. I didn’t know if any of them would fit her seat. All would require me drilling holes in the seat. So I released my inner redneck:

Spatula ($5.99 at Smiths)

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Golf club covers ($22 for 4 on Amazon – and I was able to match the color to the bike… I have a few left over so I will check on mounting one in her pew at Church.)

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Super Velcro ($5.49 on Amazon for two small strips – slightly cheaper at Lowes.) This stuff isn’t velcro, but it is a similar concept, just far more robust. But $5 for about 4 inches? Sheesh.

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I finished the job with some foam padding from the garbage and some duct tape (to hold the foam in place under the golf club cover.)

Here is the finished product (total cost a little over $30.) We’ll see if it stays on…

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Finished product

Heroes

Our heroes change as our interests change. Today I tip my hat to Ethel MacDonald of Missoula Montana. Ethel is a great grandmother who took up tour cycling at the age of 65 and now, approaching 80, has put down 10,000 miles around the world solo riding on her pink Brompton folding bike (she actually has two bikes – a second one is stashed with a friend in Europe, making it easier for her to ride there.)

Here is a CNN article about her.

Respect.

 

First ride

Our tandem arrived on Wednesday. Saturday was our first opportunity to go for a ride. It was threatening to storm, be we were going to ride no matter what.  I was really worried we weren’t going to like it as much as I’d hoped – kind of like when I was a kid at Christmas and I’d imaging how magical everything was going to be on Christmas day, and then it wouldn’t be quite so magical and I’d mope around for a few days afterwards. I really had my hopes set high, so I knew it was likely the experience wouldn’t match my anticipation. I was also worried we would be super slow. The bike weighs a lot more than I had expected. I didn’t do my research well enough – I assumed it was going to be in the 50-60 pound range, but it turns out to be a 80-90 pounder.

We started on the frontage road near 72nd west and I-80. I took a spin around the parking lot alone to make sure I could control it before I subjected Natalie to my skills. It rode nicely – a little easier than the Azub. Natalie got into her seat and struggled a bit to clip in (we are using egg beater pedals, which are quite a bit different than what she used on her road bike.) Once clipped in she started pedaling while I kept my feet down to balance us if we struggled to stay upright. It was unnecessary. We were solid. I clipped in and we rode for a little over 30 minutes at about 18 miles per hour.

We took a pit stop at the marina and then headed back to the car. We were a little slower returning as a headwind had picked up. We probably averaged about 16 miles per hour. Natalie was able to look around, take her phone out to take pictures and videos, and enjoy the ride. She had been apprehensive about what it would feel like to ride on the back – it turns out she likes it.

We overshot our truck on the way back to add a few more miles to our ride. Riding a bit over 20 miles. We are looking forward to our next ride.

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This is how we roll (last summer)

Natalie and I stayed in Garden City on Sunday night and left early Monday morning with the intent to ride 100 miles – up to Bern Idaho, over to Montpelier Idaho, over to Liberty, and then around bear lake. At about the 15 mile mark we both had to swerve to miss broken glass. Luckily we both missed it. About a mile later Natalie lost all of the air in her front tire (right when she had her hand off her handlebars drinking from her water bottle.) She almost wrecked, dropped the bottle, and came to a stop. We are running tubeless and I could see a little bit of sealant coming out of the hole. I could tell the hole was pretty big but it looked like the sealant had barely been able to plug it after the air blew out. I didn’t want to waste time with a tube, so I used a CO2 and inflated her tire and we were off. It lasted about 10 seconds. Too much pressure blew the same hole. So I took the tire off, put a patch on the inside of the tire (I had some that were made for tubeless setups) and then tried to inflate the tire. Unfortunately, the inflator was clogged with sealant, so it didn’t pressurize the tire fast enough to seat the bead, so I wasted the C02 cartridge. I had two left, so instead of risking another I put a tube on and used the third C02 to get us on the road. We only had one cartridge left and one tube, and still wanted to ride 85 miles. I thought maybe I could buy something in Montpelier. Spoiler alert – the answer is no.

As we took off riding I thought to myself “Natalie should have been more alert and swerved better to miss the glass.” I also thought about how I shouldn’t have wasted the first C02 – next time I will patch the tire first.

As we approached Paris Natalie said “Pete, your rear tire looks funny.” Shortly thereafter “it is spurting orange stuff every once in a while.” Apparently I too need to improve my swerving skills. The hole in my tire was different – a 1 cm slit that didn’t go all the way through the tire but a small hole nearby – so sealant leaking out the small hole but it was also moving horizontally under the tread toward the other slit. It was like my tire was running a re-tread which has started to separate. Having learned my lesson and being close to Paris we rode into Paris, stopped at the first gas station, deflated my tire, patched the inside, and then went to re-inflate using the gas station’s air hose and an adaptor on my valve. Unfortunately, the gas station’s air setup was from the early 1960s and wouldn’t work with my valve+adapter. It wasn’t made to seat over the valve stem, so I couldn’t get it to hit the presta core to release air. I used my last C02 cartridge and Natalie’s non-clogged inflator. Unfortunately Natalie’s non-clogged inflator wasn’t non-clogged (double negative!) and once again I didn’t seat the bead. I’ve used these inflators for 2 year with tubeless and never had this happen. I put in a tube, hoping that the mechanics of the valve would be slightly different (in particular, I was hoping the threading would allow the adaptor to screw further into the presta valve, allowing the core to extend into the adaptor further.) This worked and I was able to get about 50 pounds into my back tire.

We called all the sporting goods stores in Montpelier (there were two, plus a taxidermy place) but nobody would pick up. It seemed like too big of a risk to ride the 10 miles to Montpelier because our next flat meant someone was riding back to Garden City alone to get the truck (and heaven forbid they get a flat.) So we abandoned our 100-mile plan and turned around and headed back to Garden City. We had seen an ad for a bike shop in St. Charles and assumed it was one for all the rentals that ride around the lake. It wasn’t likely to have 622×23 presta tubes, but we still had hope. On the south side of St. Charles, just out of town, we saw the sign, but there wasn’t a bike shop near it. There was a tractor being washed in a driveway, but I couldn’t see the farmer. I rode down the dirt lane thinking there was still a chance there was a bike shop somewhere, but it looked more and more like simple farm homes with lots of space between them.

At the end of the lane there was another sign for the bike shop, but nothing that looked like a bike shop – just a home with a detached garage. I rode up and a young mother walked out with her daughter. The bike shop was in the garage, it was her dad’s, he was at a family reunion that day, and she was just leaving for work. However, being rural Idaho, she let me look around the garage to see what he had. He had the tubes we needed and a frame pump. Unfortunately nothing had prices marked and she couldn’t reach her dad to find out how much they were. After a little work her sister was able to track down the prices ($7 for the tubes, $25 for the pump) – not bad. We had one check each in our saddle packs, so we wrote a check and left with three tubes and a pump. I borrowed his floor pump to put 100 pounds of pressure in both Natalie’s front and my rear tire. We were so grateful that this random farm/bike shop in rural Idaho carried exactly what we needed.

We rode about 1 minute when the 100 pounds of pressure in my rear tube caused my rear tire to completely fail. That larger slit I had mentioned earlier – with a little pressure the tube was able to blow through it. I had tubes, I had a pump, but I didn’t have an extra rear tire. Natalie took my rear tire around her neck, like a high-fashion biker necklace and hurried back hoping to catch the woman before she drove away and hoping they had a 622×23 tire. I started carrying my bike back toward the shop. Natalie was able to catch the woman as she was driving away, she called her brother-in-law who was the farmer who had been washing his tractor, and the two of them had found a tire that would fit. We used our second check to pay for the tire and one more tube and I started to mount it.

In the process of mounting the rear tire I pinched the tube, so when I aired it up there was a quick pop and another flat. This just seemed appropriate for the way things were going, so we laughed, used my next tube, tried to be super careful, and aired this one up fine. Everything held. We were ready to roll. The nice farmer gave us his number and offered to come rescue us later, as he had to drive to Montpelier anyway. Luckily he wasn’t needed. The remaining 100 miles were uneventful, other than we got tired. The last 10 miles from Laketown to Garden City were the least pleasant – head wind, fatigue, narrow shoulder, and lots of traffic. We had stopped in Laketown at the gas station and I had thought apple juice sounded good to me. I drank too much and finished the ride ready to throw up. But we finished. We drove to Logan and jumped off the bridge near first dam. It felt so good to cool off. We had dinner with Sam, Peitra, and Orion and then headed home.

I remember Vance was rightfully skeptical of my logic for using tubeless tires. While they have been great for avoiding flats – in this case it didn’t work out so well for us.

Even though it felt for a while that nothing was working out for us – especially when I blew my tire, in hindsight everything worked out perfectly (except the original flats.) We flatted 10 miles from a random bike shop in the middle of rural Idaho, we were able to ride to the shop instead of walk, the shop had everything we needed, we caught someone at home just before she left for work, and she was willing to call her brother-in-law in from his farm work to help us. I was a little mad at myself for putting 100 pounds of pressure in my rear tire as we left the bike shop the first time. That certainly caused it to fail. However, it would have eventually failed, and by failing right away we were still close enough to the bike shop to resolve the problem. Otherwise it would have failed an hour later, when we were far from the ability to fix it. Everything worked out perfectly.
🙂

Finding the right ride

Figuring out which bike to buy was difficult. Last summer we went on a few 100 mile rides (I’ll post an email describing one of them.) Although we had a few problems on each ride, we really enjoyed it. But I ran into a few problems. First, the pressure from my seat for extended periods of time was causing nerve damage and giving me prostate infections. I’ve tried several different seats, but I’m coming to the conclusion that I need to limit my rides to 2-3 hours. Second, my hands were going numb (tingling, not fully numb), and staying that way for several weeks. This may be carpel tunnel from my keyboard, rock climbing injuries, or a result of the pressure on my hands from the handlebars. Next, my lower back is somewhat fused, and I had one doctor tell me I should stop riding because it would cause damage above the part that was fusing (another doctor tells me it is fine.) And finally, Natalie and I ride at slightly different speeds. As long as we stick together she can leverage my draft to keep her speed up, but at times I lose track of where she is only to find we are separated by hundreds of yards. Also, as my pace pushes her limits, she is constantly working really hard to keep her speed, which isn’t mentally relaxing for her.

I don’t want to give up riding. I like biking too much. It has become a common hobby for us. So I started shopping for recumbents. I realize that these look strange, are uncommon, and have a stereo-typed rider of someone who is over-educated and under-exercised. But they address all of the physical issues I am dealing with on a bike. Unfortunately, the market for recumbents is small and there are no nearby dealers for the bikes I’m interested in buying. So at the end of summer I flew to Cincinnati for a recumbent bike convention so I could ride several of the bikes that were interesting to me.  My favorite bike at the show was the Cruz bike. It just felt good. It is the bike I eventually want to buy. However, it wouldn’t do anything to help with the speed difference problem. The other bike I really enjoyed was the Azub tandem. A tandem eliminates the speed difference problem but it creates a new problem – it will be slower. As I thought through my options I decided that speed isn’t the goal – physical exertion and exercise is. The tandem, lumbering along, will give us a chance to exercise together in the outdoors. Next question: which tandem?

There were only two options that appealed to me, both made in Europe. The Azub Twin that I rode in Cincinnati and the Nazca Quetzal, a bike built in the Netherlands.  They are similar in cost and size. I like the looks of the Azub with under-seat steering. Also, having a front shock might make the ride a little better for the person in the front (captain). I like how the Azub seats can adjust forward and back to accommodate different riders without having to change the chain length. I like the height of the feet for the person in the back (the stoker.) And finally, there was the possibility I could order it from a company in Utah which carries Azub’s other products (trikes.) Despite all of this, I chose the Nazca. Probably the biggest reason was the responsiveness of the co-owner, Monique. I’ve exchanged more than 80 emails with her over the last few months. She always responds and is always helpful. I didn’t have the same experience with Azub. (I met the president of Cruz bikes in Cincinnati and like Monique, he has been super responsive and helpful.) In addition to her responsiveness, Nazca’s tandem was preferred by people who had ridden both. It has the same size of wheels front and back, which simplifies things when packing for an extended ride. Finally, their attention to build quality appears to be exceptional. Nazca is a really small company. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is two owners and a part-time bike mechanic. The other owner, Henk, designs their bikes. They send their designs to a custom frame builder for fabrication and painting, and then build up the bikes in their shop. I wish our trip to the Netherlands would have allowed for a visit. Although I prefer the looks of under-seat steering, I think there are good arguments for the aero steer option on the Nazca – primarily due to its simplicity. I like simple. I also like the seating of the captain on Nazca’s bike – it is a little bit behind the front wheel, which seems like a more stable option.

I ordered the bike in the middle of November and have been anxiously awaiting its arrival ever since. I am writing this at the end of January and hoping to see the bike near the first of February. It was shipped a week ago and is now stuck in customs. The customs debacle deserves its own post. Wait for it.

Here is a picture of Henk putting the finishing touches on our new ride.wp-1485260309974.jpg

 

Big plans for a big trip

Natalie loves to travel. Probably the best trip in her life was the summer she spent living in Europe while a college student. She still talks about the adventure and the friends she made. When we talk about our life goals, she often mentions the desire to travel the world.

I’m kinda cheap. Really cheap actually. I struggle to travel. I have to do it for work at times, which is fine, but we almost never take vacations as a family. In the last 5 years we have done a few family trips to Moab, Zion National Park, California, and Sun Valley Idaho. So am I slowly reforming. Maybe that is because as my kids grow older and are now mostly out of the house I long to be with them – and a family trip is a good excuse.

When the children were younger Natalie took them on several family vacations. I kind of look back in horror to realize I was so unsupportive of these trips that I stayed at home and left her to handle the logistics alone. Once in Kansas they drove to a resort town in southern Missouri and rented a platform boat. While living in Utah she took them to Arizona and the Grand Canyon. There have probably been a few others.

The trips Natalie and I have taken with just the two of us are few and far between. I remember a couple weekend trips in Virginia to simple Bed-and-Breakfasts. While living in Kansas we flew to Sacramento for a long weekend. And now, while living in Utah, I think we have one trip to Bryce Canyon National Park. The top of the stack is probably the Sacramento trip. Imagine that magic.

We have been on many backpacking trips in the mountains near our house, and one overnight bike trip. Given our active lifestyles, this works well for me, and Natalie loves these outings. However, it is clear I am falling short of expectations in this area of her life.

So we are going big. At the end of June we will fly to Amsterdam and ride our tandem bike (more on the bike in another post) through the Netherlands, a sliver of Germany, Belgium (spending her 50th birthday in the same town she celebrated her 20th birthday), and France, returning to Amsterdam 3 weeks later. In all we will ride about a thousand miles. On the days we ride we’ll cover about 80 miles per day. The balance of our time will be spent enjoying Europe’s history and geography.

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I’ll make several subsequent posts about the planning of this trip. Here are some of the topics I am thinking about:

  1. Selecting a bike
  2. Planning a route
  3. Gearing up
  4. Figuring out logistics (flights, hotels, and food)

I also plan post while we ride.

Welcome to our journey.