Finishing 2017 Strong

As mentioned before, my days of late have been busy with work, school and renovations around the house. I haven’t made much, if any, time for cycling. That said, little points of interest have been poking me, prodding my sedentary self and giving me grand ideas for the coming months and year ahead.

After a conversation with a good friend the other day about goals achieved this year and other goals not so achieved, I have come to the determination that I want to get back on one wheel. Last Christmas my wife gave me a unicycle. I had wanted one for a long time and was excited to get out and give it a try, but I really didn’t know where to start. A quick google search led me to Mike Boyd’s Youtube channel. On his channel, called Learn Quick, he posts videos of his progress learning new skills. One of those was his unicycle video, which is truly brilliant and inspirational! I decided to not only use his tips to try to learn to ride the uni, but also video my progress.

Unfortunately, with only a couple sessions in the first two months of the year, I shelved the uni and haven’t touched it since. It sits in the corner, taunting me each time I notice it. The time has come to make good on my goal for the year. My plan is to recover my progress from earlier this year and learn to ride the uni before the end of 2017. That will require practice, but I’m confident I can make it happen.

Another fantastic bit of inspiration has come from my friend Janie Hayes and her blog of her Trans Am Bike Race 2017 adventure. Janie is truly an artist with words and will captivate you with her story. Despite knowing that I won’t be racing in 2018, by reading her posts, the question that has come up in my brain is, “could I give the Trans Am another go?” The answer is a resounding YES! I love the route and in many ways feel like I have unfinished business with the race. I am certainly proud of my 24 D 16H time in 2016, but my goals for that race were more ambitious. The thought of going back for another shot makes me excited and I found myself staring at spreadsheets last night until the wee hours, plotting what I would do if I toed the line again.

As I said, there won’t be any racing of the TABR/TD magnitude for me in 2018. That is, unless I would come across some sort of windfall that would make it feasible. I wouldn’t want to make a go at it without a completely funded budget for racing and with home projects and 2 kids in college, I don’t see it happening. There is, however, something that I could do.

Ever since my Trans Am tour in 2011, I have dreamed of writing a book. I have never considered myself a writer, but while blogging that trip, I had several people say they thought I should. I brushed it off, thinking that they must have poor taste. The fact is, I wasn’t confident in my writing and invalidated their responses because of my insecurities. Since then, I have taken some classes and the writing comes so easy to me. Add in that my class grades reflect the same positivity as my 2011 blog post praisers and I find myself more than intrigued.

I have spent some time brainstorming and writing around a couple of ideas. One in particular has me excited. I’m not certain how it will flesh out, but I anticipate maybe a road trip/cycling vacation with Jeneen in 2018 to do more research, capture photos and add in some stoke for the project. I’ll leave it at that for now, but I am SUPER excited about it!!!

As always, stay tuned. I will report my progress here and cannot wait to do so. First, I’m going to go show that unicycle who’s the boss!

The three amigos ride again!

Despite my lack of riding as of late and all the other responsibilities that have kept me out of the saddle, I came across a great opportunity to get out this morning and I just had to go. My friend Ben, who moved to Colorado this past summer, came back to spend a bit of time with family and wanted to get the old crew back together for a MTB ride at St Joe. I couldn’t pass it up!

The morning was a cool one with temps in the upper 30’s. Having not done any cool weather riding since last spring, I found it funny how I feel like I forget how to dress for temperatures. Last night, as I was getting my things together, I was uncertain what to wear. In the end, the base layer and leg warmers I chose were just right. I could have used some covers for my toes, but it was a short ride and I made it.

Ben, myself and our friend Lindell met at the Blankshire Trailhead. We said our hellos, got on our garb and hit the trail. Ben had his Weimaraner Toby along as well. We hit the paved path and took the first left on the MTB trail. I felt completely out of my element.

After having not ridden MTB much as of late, I was way out of practice. Add in that fall has fell, completely obscuring the trail with leaves and I was more than cautious. I babied the corners and was on high alert for big rocks. After an easy first couple miles, we got to the first of the climbs. St Joe doesn’t have anything too big, but I am so out of shape that I was winded quickly. Fortunately the guys stopped a few times and let me catch back on.

Once on the backside of the course, I started to get my mojo back a little. I wasn’t as puckered up on the downhills and that helped to keep momentum for the ups. The climbs still hurt. I have GOT to get back out on the bike more!

The original plan, according to the text thread, was to do two laps. When we got back to where we had started, I let the guys know I was going to be happy with just the one lap. They agreed that was all they wanted today as well and we headed back to the parking lot.

Overall it was a fantastic little morning ride. Only 7.2 slow miles, but it felt good to get back in the saddle and enjoy some time in the woods, especially with the old crew. Ben said he won’t be back for quite awhile, so I was glad I went. Good times!

There isn’t much savings in Daylight Savings Time

The nights are coming much more quickly these days and with it, they bring cooler temperatures. Sunsets before 4:45PM and sunrises dallying until near 7AM make for long, cold nights that plunge below freezing. I realize that is not much of a mark for some areas, but for us here in Southern Missouri, it is cold.

All that said, the only cycling I have done as of late have been short trips on my towner bike to run errands, go to a friends house or meet a buddy for a beer. It is a slow time for riding, but I am ok with that. Other pieces of life have filled in the gaps.

After waiting far too long to do so, I have been working on the roof of our house. I’m doing a complete tear off and replacement, as well as replacing all the fascia boards. It is satisfying, but hard work, especially for a fella that spends his work days at a keyboard. Prior experience from days of yore gets called upon and I take my time. I am much slower roofing than I was at 19. I probably do better work though, as I am much more particular.

Another time sink as of late has been a personal endeavor. The reason I was roofing at the age of 19 was because I dropped out of college. After a tumultuous year at the University of Missouri- Columbia the year following high school, I came home and took a few classes at a local community college over the course of 3 semesters. Sadly, my heart wasn’t in it. Most of my classes I withdrew from and I did not pass the majority I kept. The frustrating part for my parents was that I certainly had the potential to do well, but the desire just wasn’t there. Even with the weight of disappointing my folks, I decided to scrap it all and went to work. What followed was a fast forward as I watched life start to unfold. Marriage, kids and life happened quickly. Before I knew it I had been out of school for 10 years and the thought of going back to college just didn’t seem like it was in the cards.

Suddenly around the holidays in 2001, I found myself unemployed due to a layoff. I decided to go for it and went back to that local community college. With life experience under my belt, school was easy and all my classes came up roses. I had a 4.0GPA on the classes I took and discovered I loved the challenge. As luck would have it however, I was called back from my layoff in the summer and school took a back seat once again.

Over the years that followed, I thought about going back many times, but I never got excited about it. This past spring, while having lunch with a friend, the subject came up. I said that getting my degree would be nice, but I wasn’t so sure at 45 that I wanted to go through the effort to make it happen. He encouraged me, I saw a spark of enthusiasm in myself and said I would look into it. Knowing this friend is the type of guy who will hold me to it, I decided I had better do more than just say I would call the school. I actually phoned the admissions office and asked to get a degree audit so I could find out how much I was short for my Associate of Arts. I was flabbergasted when I found I only needed 16 credit hours to get my two year degree.

The short version is that I went ahead and signed up for a couple classes to get things in motion. Now I am nearing the end of the semester and just wrapped up writing a research paper. Finals are approaching and I feel good about the prospects. I am only taking two classes, so the work load is minimal, but I am sitting on a 4.0GPA again. It feels good to be making strides at self improvement and doing well.

All that said, between work, school and family, my cycling has ebbed, but the saddle is certainly not forgotten. Soon enough I will be back at it and I can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store.

The Art of Falling

Usually my posts are text only- just a story about my adventures. It has worked well for me and I have liked it that way. As of late, specifically the past few days, I have taken on a little something new. I am learning to ride a unicycle! My intent had been to sit down and wax eloquent on my repeated attempts to stay on board the little one-wheeled contraption, but upon the suggestion of a few folks and having been inspired by a couple great creatives on Youtube, I have decided to try my hand at a vlog. So, new apparatus, new medium and new avenues for me to learn things.

Please check out my creation below. Be easy on me. It’s my first time shooting video in this manner and editing. If you find it interesting, please like the video and subscribe to my channel. If you have comments or suggestions of things you would like to see, feel free to comment here or on my Youtube page. I am really looking forward to sharing with this new-to-me tool. Without further ado, here is my video!

And so it begins….

First, a little bit of back story.

Last spring I was in the throws of training for Trans Iowa and Trans Am Bike Race. As often as I could, I would be out on the bike and regularly found myself doing long rides. After hours of saddle time alone in the hills of Southern Missouri and Illinois, I welcomed anyone who wanted to come out and ride with me and especially so if they wanted to do a long ride.

Bring in Jason Kulma, fellow TI vet and someone I see at local events off and on. We had met at the inaugural OT100MTB in 2014 when Jason hung out at the finish line after finishing up with the relay team he was on. I came in much later, actually in the middle of the night. He was hanging there at the finish cheering folks on as they came in. He chatted me up and a friendship was born. With Jason living right about 75 miles away in the outskirts of St Louis, it just made sense that we would then get together as we both prepared for TI and TABR for 2016.

One day as we were on the phone planning out a bikepacking weekend of training, we talked about our regular rides done around home. Jason commutes to and from work some 17 miles one way and I told him I was a bit jealous of that built in training. I also mentioned I would love to have a commuter-type bike, something cheap and unassuming that I wouldn’t be worried about leaving outside shops in town. I just hadn’t stumbled across what I was looking for. He mentioned that he was getting a new adventure rig to use for TI and TABR, which would bump his old adventure rig to the commuting role and in turn, leave his old commuter unused. I offered to buy it and he refused saying it was pretty wore out and he wouldn’t feel right taking money for it. I told him I could work with that and a deal was struck.

The next time I went up to meet Jason at his home and ride out on a weekend of training, I picked my new-to-me commuter up. It was a Voodoo Wazoo in metallic blue. I believe he said it was late 90’s vintage. It was steel frame and not rideable at the time as he had grabbed some stuff off of it. He sent me home with the bike minus saddle, tires and pedals. I could deal with that, seeing as it was F-R-E-E!!!

With my focus strictly on TI and TABR, the bike sat tire-less and saddle-less for months. Before it was all said and done, I cabbaged the set of carbon Easton handle bars off of it for my TABR rig replacing the heavier aluminum bars I had, leaving the old Wazoo looking more like a carcass than anything.

After TABR, one day it struck me that I had just about everything that I needed to get the old girl going, I just needed to do it. So….I did. I put my old, stock aluminum bars that the carbon Eastons had replaced onto the Wazoo. I then added a pair of pedals I had laying around that are flats on one side and Shimano SPD on the other. Those would be perfect for a towner. I pulled the Clement USH 35’s I used in Trans Iowa out and loaded them onto the wheels. The final piece was the saddle, which I did not have. I went to my local bike shop and was able to grab one that had been a take-off for $15. I added the killer saddle deal to the mix and had a finished product! Well, not really. I didn’t wrap the bars, but it was rideable. I never even threw my leg over it, but instead my son used it occasionally to ride to the school or park to play soccer. It was being utilized a bit and that was good enough.

Back to present day, or at least the last week or so. After months of not doing much at all and eating WAY too much, I have found it difficult to find the motivation to get out and ride. Even when the new year rang in, I still didn’t saddle up. I was starting to get the itch though. I decided to try out some things with the Wazoo. Maybe, just maybe, I could make a TI rig out of it?

I pulled my hand-built front wheel off of my road bike since it has a dynamo hub and loaded up one of the WTB Nano 40’s that I was graciously awarded for being a finisher of TI last year. Once I saw that the tire would have clearance, I then put the other tire on the back. I considered going all out and adding the B&M Lumotec from my road bike, but realized that I didn’t have a way to mount it on the Wazoo with its cantilever brakes. That could wait until I could get a new mount. I dug through my box of parts and goodies to find a package of new bar wrap and finally got the bars covered. Then just for kicks, I pulled my partial frame bag off the road bike and tried it on the Wazoo. It fit! Score! With a spare bottle cage and a quick pedal swap with the Crank Brothers pedals from my MTB added to the build, it was complete.

Having finished getting the Wazoo ready this evening, I decided there was no time like the present to finally get my first ride of the year. It was after 8:00pm and 3 hours after sunset, but I suited up and headed out with the intent to just ride south of town to Engler Park where there is a crushed limestone walking/biking path to test out the Nano’s.

Right away, I knew something wasn’t quite right. I clipped in on the walk in front of my house and pushed off, only to feel like I was about to endo over the bars. Had it really been that long since I had been on a bike? I adjusted the way I was sitting and headed out into the street. As I turned, my right shoe rubbed the front tire hard, nearly throwing me off the bike. That was something new. I rode on down the street feeling things out.

I headed south of town and out to Engler, then hit the gravel trail. It was a bit mushy in spots, but the Nano’s had no problem. When I found some areas with new, loose gravel, I stopped and aired down some. Too much I was afraid, but I rode on and the tires felt great! Perfect really!

In the end, I rode the path and then turned and came back the way I had come. I ended up getting back home with a gigantic 7.3 miles, but hey, I got my first one done!

The bike is what it is. In its time it was a nice ride. Times have changed and so have geometries. It has a short wheel base and the saddle sits forward, putting your center of mass more over the front end. It isn’t a comfortable ride for me at all, but I can appreciate it for an old steel bike.

I am a bit disappointed that I won’t be able to use it for 340 miles of gravel in April, but on the other hand, it will make a great little bike to ride around town occasionally to grab coffee or run an errand. My son will ride it and that is even better. I will likely do as I did last year and convert my MTB to a gravel grinder simply by adding different tires. My choice will certainly be the Nano 40’s. Those puppies were great on my little jaunt!

The best part of it all- I am finally back in the saddle. That makes me a bit excited. Quite a bit really. Ride on!

Hello? Is there anybody out there?????

hello

Have you ever been trying to reach someone, maybe by phone or email, and despite your desire to reach them, you get no response? Thoughts go through your mind… Did I say something to upset them? Do they just not like me? What gives?

Now imagine that by accident you had disabled their ability to reach you. That is pretty much what has happened on this blog. Doh!

homer-simpson-doh

For quite a long time, I have made post after post with absolutely no feedback from my audience. None. Not even a hearty, “You suck!” Just silence. I figured maybe nobody really looks at this or maybe it just isn’t that compelling to inspire someone to comment back.

Then today I decided to have my wife try to comment on a post. She couldn’t! After poking through the settings, I found the culprit- a checked box. After I removed that little tick, BINGO!!!! Everything seems to be working again.

Now, I understand that you may not want to comment or that you just don’t find my ramblings worth your words, but on the stray chance that you decide to tell me to go jump off a cliff, now you can. 🙂

I look forward to everyone’s replies!

stillsayshello