Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Big Rack

A big rack indeed...What? Did you have something else in mind? This is a cycling blog after all and a rated "G" one at that:-)

Seriously though, I came across this rack while on a ride on the Outer Banks of North Carolina a couple weeks back. I was struck by it's size. Conclusion - it's either a bike rack for giants or Penny Farthings.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Vacation and Bike Tour Dreams

My wife and I, along with 3 other couples, spent last week on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We rented a 3 story, 7 bedroom, 9 bathroom home, complete with pool and hot tub. We were right on the beach. It was a gorgeous house. The weather was perfect. We all had a great time.

I digress, for this blog is not about my non-bike related activities. I did take my road bike along for the week. Unfortunately, it stayed in the truck the majority of the time. However, all was not lost for I was able to get out for one ride. Bob, Buck, Ray and I took a 15 mile round trip to the Currituck Light House.

Atop the lighthouse, as I leaned against the rail, enjoying the breathtaking view...

...an idea began to percolate in my mind. Along the Outer Banks of North Carolina are 5 light houses:


Bodie Island

Cape Hatteras

Ocracoke Island

Cape Lookout

Wouldn't it be cool to start where I am right now and do a 3 or 4 day tour along the Outer Banks and visit each of these light houses, while camping on the beach along the way? Now that's a great idea. Stay tuned - I got a sneaky feeling that "Tour de Lighthouse" just might be in my future next spring.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

GRT - Let's Get In

Let's get in... Those were the words that Ray uttered as we stood on the bank, enjoying the view on our final day. We were less than 5 miles from the end of the trail. In line with my tentative schedule, were were on track to arrive in the parking lot at 11 am, for the loading of the truck and the 4-1/2 hour drive home.

Ray, just 2 days earlier, was speeding along the trail intent on arriving "at the destination". Well he caught onto this touring thing pretty quick. He grasped the fact that bike touring isn't as much about "where you are going", than "where you are".

Let's get in... Right then and there, Ray wanted to put the ride on hold and get in the water. A hoard of reasons not to ran through my engineering mind in an instant.

- We only have a few miles to go.

- I don't really have any swimming clothes to change in to.

- We have a 4-1/2 hour drive to get home.

- We have a schedule to keep.

- If I get on my Brookes saddle all wet I could damage it.

- What will riding all wet do to proper butt care?

My logical mind wanted to protest, but strangely enough, I found myself taking off my shirt. The next thing you know, we were laid back in the middle of the river.

The water was perfect. The sky was a beautiful, clear blue. We were surrounded by breathtaking mountains.

We frolicked around in the water like kids for 30 minutes. I can honestly say, it was the best 30 minutes of bike touring that I've had the pleasure of enjoying in my life.

Thanks Ray for those 3 simple words, "let's get in."

Monday, September 13, 2010

GRT - Eating Like Kings

When I tour alone, I try to keep things light and simple. That philosophy extends even to my meals. In fact, my ideal menu consist of packing the Mini Trangia stove and food that necessitates nothing more than boiling water.

With this being Ray and Buck's first tour, I wanted to leave a good taste in their mouths (pun intended). As a result, my panniers were loaded to the brim with "real" food and we indeed - feasted like kings:

Friday Dinner - Spaghetti with pepperoni (garnished with red pepper flakes and Parmesan cheese). Garlic and cheese biscuits. Apple cobbler. Coffee.

Saturday Breakfast - Breakfast Burritos (eggs, pepper, onions, cheese and Spanish rice), Coffee.

Saturday Dinner - Chicken Jambalaya (with Tabasco hot sauce). Corn bread. Crumb cake was also on the menu, but we were too full to bother cooking it. Coffee.

Sunday Breakfast - Pancakes. Coffee.

I was a bit disappointed that our mutual friend, Bob, wasn't able to make the trip, I had a special meal prepared for him.

Don't worry Bob - I'll save it for next time.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

GRT - Perfecto Weather

I've done numerous bike tours over the years, ranging from a long weekend to a full week. During that time, I've experienced a broad spectrum of weather conditions. In fact one time, I took a 4 day road trip in which 2 of the days were in literally hurricane conditions. That story is too long for the likes of a blog post. Buy me a beer sometimes and I'll be glad to tell you the story.

Yet in all the bike tours I've had the pleasure of taking, the weather for our weekend ride on the Greenbrier River Trail, was hands down the absolute best.

The humidity was low.

The winds were mild.

The skies were clear with not a drop of rain falling along the entire eastern seaboard.

The highs during the day were the upper 70's - perfect for riding.

The lows at night were in the upper 50's - perfect for sleeping. Perfect that is unless you're Ray and Buck who decided to ignore my sage advice and fore go a sleeping bag. Their bedding consisted of something akin to Grandma's shawl.

Given the awesomeness of the weather - I suspect Ray and Buck have been lulled into thinking that all bike tours are like this. I didn't have the heart to tell them different. If they keep riding, they'll discover the truth eventually. I just hope that when the weather forecast is calling for a hurricane moving up the East coast - they have enough sense to stay home - I wish I had!

Friday, September 10, 2010

GRT - Beerless

On the first night of our trip, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I was aiming for a campsite that was completely remote. I managed to accomplish just that.

It wasn't until we were unpacked and the camp set up that I came to the realization of a serious tactical error. When we went through the last town, some 5 miles back, I failed to pick up any beer. For those of you who have followed this blog for any length of time, I know you think I'm pulling your leg. I can assure you that I may joke about a lot of things, but never when it concerns beer.

A small saving grace in this utterly despicable situation is that I managed to tuck into my panniers a couple of beers from the night before. They were warm, but given my current plight, the best beer on the planet.

As I finished the second and final beer is when the relationship between myself and my fellow touring companions was strained for the first and only time on this tour. I calmly asked if they would be willing to ride to the nearest town and buy me some more. A request that they simultaneously and summarily rejected as ludicrous.

- Never mind that I had spent the last two weeks planning out every detail of this tour.

- Forget the fact that I bought and prepared all the food.

- So what that I helped them each select the proper bikes and outfitted those bikes with MY racks and panniers.

- Who cares that I had brought all of my vast experience and resources to bare so that they might have an awesome, trouble free weekend.

I uttered no complaint, all my efforts were but a labor of love. Now I make but one simple request of them and they trample it under foot with a reckless disregard for my selfless sacrifices.

The degree of their self centered attitude was truly manifested the following morning when a scant 3 miles down the trail we happened upon this establishment.

For the normal person, the pang of guilt upon such a discovery would have been incapacitating. However, Ray and Buck are obviously not normal people, cause despite my protest and eloquent articulation of their self-centered, shameful behavior, they displayed not a morsel of remorse.

A lesser man than I would have let spite eat away at the essence of who they are, but I chose on the other hand to use that negative energy for good. I spent the predominance of the remainder of that tour pedaling and mulling over in my mind an idea for an "instant beer". A concentrate of sorts that by simply adding water could be converted into that most lovely beverage among beverages - beer. I'll save the details for that idea for another post. Suffice it to say for now, I think I'm on the cusp of discovering something that will not only make me independently wealthy, but even more importantly, will be my contribution to the betterment of mankind. My legacy.

To think that this awesome gift to mankind was born because a humble, simple and selfless man (i.e. ME) refused to let the self centered act of his companions (i.e. Ray and Bob) make him bitter, but instead make him better. As a result future generations of mankind, no matter where they find themselves will be able to enjoy the unbridled ecstasy of GOOD beer.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Insulated Water Bottles

Bob is a long time biking buddy of mine. For as long as I can remember, Bob has always had a bit of a fetish for cold beverages while riding. To satisfy that fetish he has been a long time fan of Polar Water Bottles. Before a ride and during a ride, I have had to wait more than once for Bob to buy, steel, borrow, or generally finagle a bottle of ice to quench his unhealthy addiction.

I always felt as though Bob were a bit of a wimp for making such a fuss about the temperature of his liquid refreshment. Mind you, when it comes to beer I share his conviction, but apart from that, particularly when it involves your water bottle, well that's just plain ridiculous.

I've been cycling a long time. During that time, I've consumed more bottles of luke warm water than desert nomads. I even took it as a bit of a point of pride, and as such felt I were a better man than Bob. In my way of thinking, drinking ice cold water from a water bottle was akin to sipping on fruity drinks garnished with an umbrella.

This Summer has drastically changed my opinion in this regard. In Va, as in many areas of the country, we have been experiencing a heat wave of unparalleled proportions. A couple months back, I filled my water bottles with tap water, the same as I have for the past 20+ years. I jumped on my bike and not 5 miles down the road, the liquidy contents almost scalded my mouth. I rode the remaining 7 miles without drinking. Upon arriving in Colonial Williamsburg, I took long draughts from the water fountain. Before heading back to Yorktown, I refilled the bottles. I wasn't 5 miles down the road and wallah, I had hot chocolate, minus the chocolate. On my way home, I stopped at a local sport's store and became the proud new owner of my very own set of Polar Water Bottles.

Over the last couple months, my "on the bike" drinking habits have been revolutionized. I fill the bottles with ice, dump in some powdered sport's beverage and fill with water. I then enjoy, even in the hottest conditions, ice cold refreshment for nigh on 2 hours.

In closing, I've come to the conclusion that my good friend Bob, perhaps may not be as good a friend as I thought. He's been holding back on me. For years he's enjoyed the unbridled ecstasy of "on the bike", chilly, liquid passion; while I've had to settle for something akin to the consistency and temperature of piss. Am I bitter? You try drinking piss for 20 years and see what kind of taste it leaves in your mouth.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

GRT - In Camp

"A bike tour" represents so much more than just a bike ride. It encompasses riding, observing the surroundings, experiencing new things, meeting different people, battling the elements, separation from modern amenities and surviving solely on the stuff you bring along (including your ingenuity).

Camping is a part of the whole experience that I've come to enjoy as much as the riding. Good thing because the fact of the matter is, one spends more time in camp, than on the bike. My goal for this trip was to avoid public campgrounds with all their modern conveniences like electricity and running water. I wanted us to camp in the most remote areas possible. The Greenbrier River Trail accommodated that goal quite well in that they have primitive sites set up along the way. Those primitive sites consist of a picnic table, latrine, tent pad and if your lucky, a hand water pump.

Toward the end of our first day, we arrived in the town of Marlinton with the tentative plan to camp at the Marlinton Municipal Park. While the camping area was located toward the back of the park, it was still - way too urban for me. We pressed on another 5 miles or so to this jewel.

Remote - quiet - primitive - no electricity - no cell phone signal (yea) - no wireless internet (yea)- no water (darn) - perfect - except for the fact that they had no water (darn).

Once in camp, we are occupied with an assortment of activities:

Unloading our beasts of burden...

Setting up our tents...


Taking care of the call of nature...

Yet in the midst of all this bustling activity, as the sun sets, there's always time to relax by the soothing sound and glow of a campfire...