Friday, July 31, 2009

C&O and GAP Ride - Day 0 - Two Doubles Please

Have you ever noticed that in this event called life, things rarely go the way you plan them? No matter how thoroughly you research. No matter how meticulously you prepare. No matter how fastidiously you lay it out. No matter how varied your contingencies. Reality has a way of taking a great big dump right slap dab in the middle of it all.

This universal truth certainly reared its ugly head early on on this bike trip. The itinerary for the first day was as follows:

"We will drive to DC and meet up with Bob's son to hand over the vehicle. We will spend the remainder of the day in DC as cycling tourist. Since this is our last night in civilization, I envision an evening involving a succulent meal coupled with copious amounts of alcohol before we bed down in a nice motel (separate beds of course:-)"

Now doesn't that sound nice? Well let me tell you what really happened. We did not meet Bob's son in DC (strike 1). It turns out he couldn't get a train into the city. Therefore, we had to drive to Maryland to pick him up. We didn't get back to DC and our motel until well after 5:00 PM, which means we didn't have time to spend the day in DC as cycling tourist (strike 2).

Though these set-backs were disappointing, I took them in stride. The dump of reality that really made me wrinkle my nose was when we got to the room. Between the bikes and all the gear we had, it took 2 or 3 trips to transfer it all from the truck to the room. It was not until all the stuff was in our room that I took the time to look around. This is what caught my attention:Let me remind you of the small reference at the end of the aforementioned itinerary, "separate beds of course". I had painstakingly made the reservations through Priceline for 2 double beds. Does that look like two double beds to you? I called the front desk and politely explained to the lady that I was standing in my room looking at the sleeping arrangements. I specifically made reservations for 2 double beds and unless my eyes were playing tricks on me, I behold but 1 king. The lady went on to explain that since I made my reservations through a 3rd party, they were only obligated to save me a room, not necessarily my room of choice (strike 3).

I hung up the phone numb in shock. Mind you, had I been accompanied on this bike tour with a hot, blonde chick, I could have taken this set-back in stride. However - Bob is not hot! Bob is not blonde!! And above all, Bob is not a chick!!! Bob is a big, ugly, hairy guy. While I may be able to look over the big, ugly, hairy part - the "guy" part I simply could not brook.

It was at this point of utter despair that my reasoning mind kicked in. I'm about to embark on a week long bike trip with this big, hairy, ugly guy in which we will sleep in a tent that is much smaller that this king size bed. I took all the extra pillows and carefully arranged them down the middle of the bed, like the Great Wall of China, and accepted my fate like a gentleman. I can now say that Bob holds the distinct honor of being the first and only man that I have ever shared my bed with.

The life lessons in this story:

1. The quality of a person's life is not measured by how well it goes according to plan, but how adept one is at making adjustments.

2. When traveling with a hot, blonde chick - book your motel through Priceline. When traveling with a big, ugly, hairy guy - book your motel direct.

PS - Not all was lost - we did find a good mexican restaurant where we had a succulent meal coupled with copious amounts of alcohol (homerun).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

C&O and GAP Ride - A Preview

It is finished! Fully loaded and unsupported bike tour - 7 days - Two trails (C&O Canal and Great Allegheny Passage) - 370 miles - 2392 feet climbing - 75 locks - 4 tunnels - ... !

I've wrestled with how to tell you about this ride and have decided against giving you a mile by mile account of our itinerary. Instead, I'm going to tell you a series of stories that capture the sights I saw, the people I encountered, the lessons I learned and the memories I'll cherish.

So stay tuned over the next couple weeks as I post those stories. Also, I'm working on a web album and hopefully later this week I can post it on the right hand tool bar, so be on the look-out for that.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

C&O and GAP Ride - Preparation

In one week, Bob and I will embark on a week long, 318 mile, self supported bike tour. We will start in Washington, DC and ride the C&O Canal Towpath up to Cumberland, MD. From there we jump on The Great Allegheny Passage up to McKeesport, PA. I will be keeping a detailed journal, including pictures, of the ride and will tell you all about it when I get back.

However, I'm getting ahead of myself. Before we can ride, there is much preparation to be made:

The itinerary - one of the things we look forward to most relative to the trip is the freedom to do what we want, where we want and how we want. We do not want to over plan this trip. We do not want a hard and fast schedule that we must stick to. We want to get on our bikes each day and ride. We want to let the experiences surprise us. That being said, some amount of planning was in order. Our final itinerary, which we merely view as suggestions, consist of:

  • The start and finish for each day.

  • Things to see and do along the way.

  • Places to eat.

  • Places to buy beer (not a suggestion, but an absolute essential)

  • Places to shop.

  • Places to sleep.

    The gear - I already had the majority of the gear from previous bike trips - such as panniers, tent, ground pad, sleeping bag, cooking gear, etc. However, an extended bike trip is a good excuse to buy more. Over the last couple of months, there has been what seems like a constant stream of stuff arriving at my front door. I can't speak for anyone else, but I can certainly say that I have been doing my part to keep UPS in business during these tough economic times. Behold my new toys - uhhh - I mean the stuff I absolutely need to survive (I inserted this clarification in the event my wife happens upon this blog):

    Packing - Now that I have all the gear, its time to pack. The biggest question is how am I going to get all of this:

    on this?
    Answer - divide and conquer.
    Piece of cake!!!
  • Friday, July 3, 2009

    2nd Century of 2009 - All Alone 100

    We like to think that we have control of our lives. The fact of the matter is, we are pawns in the hands of life. Case in point: I resolved to ride a century per month from May - Oct. I had not yet ridden one in June. It was the last Sunday of the month. As I sat at the dining room table, sipping on a fresh cup of coffee, I could have thought of at least a dozen things that I would like to do. However, deeper down than the coffee that surged through my veins, I knew there was but one thing on my plate this day. I had to ride a Century.

    At 7:30 am, after barely 2 cups of coffee, I pulled on Lycra and headed out to the garage. Due to my procrastination, I missed all the organized rides in June. This century would be a bare bones - no nonsense - solo affair. 1 man - 1 bike - 4 water bottles - 100 miles.

    I rode East for about 8 miles, stopping at a McDonald's just outside of Poquoson. I clip-clopped inside and ordered hot cakes and sausage along with a cup of coffee to wash it down. As I ate breakfast, a middle aged man with a Livestrong band on his wrist came in with his family. He came over to my table and said - "wow man, 4 water bottles, how far you planning on riding?" "A hundred miles", I unenthusiastically responded. He went on to tell me that in May he rode his 8th MS 150 in which he rode 2 consecutive centuries. I refrained from retorting that it is one thing to ride 100 miles with hundreds of other people, it's quite another to face it with no other company than one's own thoughts.

    As I finished my breakfast, my last human contact of the day was an elderly couple that approached my table. The man pointed out that my shoes made me walk funny. I pretended not to notice his eyes glaze over as I embarked on a detailed pontification of the functionality of clipless pedals. After that one sided technical exchange, they invited me to their church, where a group of members are avid cyclists. Maybe I will check it out some day.

    After breakfast, the ride started in earnest. At the 25 mile mark, I found myself in Yorktown. Without even stopping, I pulled onto the Colonial Parkway and headed for Williamsburg. At the 38 mile mark, I stopped in Williamsburg for a potty break. There must have been some kind of war enactment going on, cause the colonial area was transferred into a city of tents. Troops, all dressed in wool and wigs were all around. I was sweating profusely in lycra, I can't imagine their discomfort.

    I snacked on a pack of GU energy gel and rode on. Getting back on the parkway, I headed for Jamestown, where I stopped only long enough to savor another GU and then headed back to Williamsburg. I arrived there around 11:30 with 56 miles under my belt. My initial plan was to stop there for lunch, but I was warmed up, feeling good and the thought of stopping, cooling down, eating a big lunch and getting back on the bike, was not an appealing one. I rode on. I got back on the parkway and rode towards Yorktown. In Yorktown, I emptied my bladder, savored another GU, refilled a couple bottles and continued on my way.

    Between Yorktown and Newport News, the hunger, fatigue and boredom began to set in. I was not having a good time. I reached for another GU and washed it down with water. After 5 or 10 minutes, I began to feel better.

    I arrived back at my house with 87 miles complete. I stopped long enough to let the dogs out to potty, surf the net and switch to my Bike Friday. I even thought about drinking a beer. For those readers who are thinking about doing a solo century, allow me to give you these words of advice. After 87 miles - DO NOT STOP - DO NOT LET THE DOGS OUT - DO NOT SURF THE NET - and for God's sake - DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT DRINKING A BEER!!! When I got back on the bike, after nearly an hour of docile activities, I possessed not a shred of physical, mental or emotional energy in my body. Those last 13 miles were pure "H - E - DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS".

    Through a sheer act of determination, I set my face, like a flint, on the Garmin Edge and counted until it read 100.2 miles. I pulled back into my driveway and made a B-Line for the beer. I had done it. 1 man - 1, no, 2 bikes - 4 water bottles - 100 miles - ?? post ride beers (I'm not real sure - I lost count).

    June Recap - New Year's Resolutions

    June is fast fading in the past. Time to review my New Year Resolutions:

    1. Drive my truck to work less than 25% of the time. (GRADE = A)

    Year to Date:
    Bike = 87
    Bus = 18
    Truck = 8

    Truck driven to work 7% of the time. While I am still under my goal, I lowered my grade from an A+ to an A. That's because I drove my truck to work 3 times in June. Mind you, I have some pretty good excuses for all 3 instances, but that's just what they are - excuses. Hopefully I can get back on track in July and leave the truck at home.

    2. Complete a Triathlon. (GRADE = DNF)
    Dropped in April. Upped the number of centuries from 3 to 6.

    3. Ride at least 6 centuries. (GRADE = A+)
    I procrastinated until the last possible moment to ride a century in June. It wasn't an organized ride, but a solo affair. I dubbed it the "All Alone 100". I'm preparing a blog to describe it, it will be out later today. Since I possessed the will power and discipline to ride 100 miles all by my lonesome, I decided to up my grade to an A+.

    4. Start blogging and create a web site for "". (GRADE = A)
    I was able to average a little over 1.5 blogs a week in June. That's a little down from April and May, but I was out of town for a week and didn't have internet access. Still not too shabby.