“Good” intentions are no excuse for an ignorant solution.

On Friday, May 31st, a bicyclist was killed outside of Salina, KS after being struck from behind by a vehicle whose driver fled the scene.Bicyclist Killed In Salina 2013-05-31. Photo courtesy KCWH.  The Salina Journal used the tragic event to suggest in an online article that cyclists should “stay in town to ride, find some enclosed area, find some other safe form of exercise, such as jogging, or, just give yourself a rest.” in an article entitled, “You’re not training for the Olympics”.  See http://t.co/tbftzyYedo .

My email to the executive editor follows.

Mr. Wearing:

I started to give you the benefit of the doubt about your intentions but, upon further consideration, I took offense with your article entitled “You’re not training for the Olympics.”  You propose, due to harvest season, that cyclists “stay in town to ride, find some enclosed area, find some other safe form of exercise, such as jogging, or, just give yourself a rest.”  Frankly, I like my chances against a combine better than against an inattentive, in town SUV driver with a cell phone plastered to his or her ear.

The condescending title of your article thinly veils your contempt for cyclists.  If the safety and well-being of cyclists was truly your intent, shouldn’t your focus been directed at the unsafe, inattentive drivers of motor vehicles?  There is no sign that the cowardly criminal that struck and killed Ms. Kline was engaged in an agricultural pursuit.  To use this tragic event to launch your platform against road cyclists is shameful.  Had the driver been involved in “the harvest”, would that have excused his negligence and heinous act of striking Ms. Kline, leaving her for dead?  Your article leans toward suggesting Ms. Kline was at fault for, heaven forbid, riding outside of town in a rural area.  You offer no discussion of the horrible crime committed by the hit and run driver. Why be concerned about the law when you can instead show your clear prejudice against cyclists?

Anti-cyclist road rage is apparently the “in” thing. Road rage against cyclists is increasingly reported as more and more people take to their bikes. According to the League of American Bicyclists, more than 9 million Americans describe themselves as “active cyclists” — weekend riders, off-road riders, commuters, and amateur or professional athletes.

All cyclists face the daily hazards of commuting in traffic, including dogs, road hazards, traffic codes, harassment and road rage. It’s unfortunate that harassment and road rage, intentional and potentially dangerous acts, are common.

You are apparently among the legion of drivers that feel aggrieved with anything or anyone that gets in the way of their smooth, speedy forward momentum. However, in the overall scheme of things, does a delay of 10 to 30 seconds in the driver’s otherwise carefully crafted schedule merit the abuse cyclists take?  And, heaven forbid that anything get in the way of the harvest which, in your mind, must justify reckless, imprudent, and inattentive driving.

I believe you need a review of the applicable Kansas statutes on bicycles and suggest you share them with your readers.  In relevant part:

- Motorists may not do anything, even something that otherwise appears legal, that endangers a bicyclist, pedestrian, or other motorist. Safety, not speed, is the highest consideration in traffic law.

- Bicycles may ride on any street except travel lanes of interstate highways or where prevented by local law.

- In Kansas, bicyclists may ride two abreast on roadways without exception.

- Bicyclists have the same rules, rights and responsibilities as other drivers.

- This means that motorists must treat bicycles as any other vehicle. For instance, do not pull out in front of a moving bicyclist, cut a bicyclist off, or pass a bicyclist unsafely.

- When traveling slower than traffic, bicyclists generally move to the right of the travel lanes, just as other slow-moving vehicles do. But do not expect bicyclists to hug the curb, dodge in and out between parked cars, or ride on a debris-covered shoulder. Bicycling that way is not safe, and the law requires bicyclists to ride safely.

- If the lane is too narrow to safely share between a bicycle and a motor vehicle, the bicycle may move towards the center of the lane to discourage motor vehicles from dangerously squeezing past in the lane. If you see a bicyclist riding in the middle of the lane in this way, the bicyclist is following the law. Slow and wait behind the bicyclist until it is safe to move into the next lane to pass.

- Bicyclists may sometimes ride the shoulder of the road when available. However, they are not required by law to do so. Obstacles in the shoulder such as glass, debris, or rough pavement may not be obvious to the motorist but may be very dangerous to the bicyclist.

- Bicycle lanes may not be blocked or used for parking. Motorists must signal and yield to any bicyclists in the lane before crossing a bicycle lane. As with shoulders, bicyclists may leave the bike lane for any number of reasons, including debris, obstacles, or to prepare for a turn.

- Motor vehicles are to give cyclists a minimum of 3′ clearance when passing.  (That means you can give greater clearance if able.)

A review of the driver’s handbook Kansas reveals the following:

- On public streets and highways, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as a motor vehicle operator.

- If you are following a bicyclist and need to make a right turn, you must yield to the cyclist. It is often safer to slow down and stay behind the cyclist until you are able to turn.

- Motorcyclists and bicyclists change speed and lane position when encountering bad road conditions, such as manhole covers, diagonal railroad tracks, road debris or in strong winds. Be ready to react.

- When you are passing, give motorcycles a full lane width. If possible, give a full lane to bicycles and mopeds, too. Do not squeeze past these road users. The bicycle is generally a slower moving vehicle and this may require you to slow down. Wait for a clear stretch of road before passing a cyclist in a lane too narrow to share.

- The operator of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction shall leave a safe distance when passing the bicycle, and shall maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle. Passing unsafely is a traffic offense punishable by driver license points, fines, and even jail, if a collision results.

- The law says who must yield the right-of-way; it does not give anyone the right-of-way. You must do everything you can to prevent striking a bicyclist as you would a pedestrian or another vehicle, regardless of the circumstances.

- Sharing the road with others, in a considerate manner, makes the road safer for everybody!

I went back and re-read all the applicable statutes and regulations . . . nope, nothing about staying off the roads during the harvest.  Very few of us that ride bikes are training for anything much less the Olympics.  We know that.  We ride for a variety of reasons: exercise, stress relief, commuting, the pure enjoyment of riding.   By law, we are permitted to use your precious county highways for these pursuits.  I suggest your article should have educated motorists and not scold cyclists.  Finally, to use a terrible tragedy the way you did is disrespectful to the victim and her family.

Respectfully,

Randy Schroer

A cyclist for all seasons including the harvest

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Forget about Lance, the USADA, Nike, Livestrong, Trek, UCI, Rabobank and. . .

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Beware the Local Bike Shop Ride – Ride Description vs. Ride Reality

I recently had my bike at my favorite bike shop for a minor repair.  While there I asked if they still hosted a Wednesday night ride.  I had seen a reference to their hosted rides on their website and thought I would check it out if the schedule worked out.  The ride was still on so I planned to try it the first convenient Wednesday.

My weekly ride schedule usually included Tuesday & Thursday rides during the work week.  After another commitment prevented my Tuesday ride, I loaded my bike the next morning so I could head over to the bike shop after work.

The shop is kind of on the other side of town but near an area I lived in through junior high.  The shop’s website described the ride as follows:  “Join us every Wednesday evening at 6:00 pm for a night ride. We will have an optional shortened route for a few weeks until we gain more light back. Bright clothing would be a good idea too. We will ride out and around . . . 20-25 miles total. This is a quick pace ride (17+ average) with the fastest group doing 23+ average. All paces are welcome, someone will keep up the back-end to make sure no one gets lost.”  Sounded good.  My usual Tuesday/Thursday ride is 20-25 miles and we average 17-19 mph.

As I’m unloading my bike, a large vehicle pulls in behind me with a bike mounted on top.  I glanced up and then had to take a serious second look to see a 1980’s Buick Regal hearse with a Yakima rack mounted up top.  Talk about serious re-purposing of a vehicle.  Several puns came to mind.  The”cycle” of life, “spinning” in the grave, “dying” to ride, etc., etc.

Image

If the driver had climbed out with a Rock Racing kit, the look would have been complete.

“That’s a negative, Ghost Rider. . . .”

With any unfamiliar ride and group of riders,  there is a tendency to measure one’s self against the “competition”.  It was a mixed group of about 30 riders.  About 2/3 had matching racing team jerseys but, overall, it looked like I would hold my own pretty well.  This was based largely on the “knowledge” that the ride would be about 20-24 miles with a 17+ average speed for those not planning on being in the “fastest group”.  Although not very familiar with the planned route, I was secure in the knowledge that there would be a regular rider around who knew the turns.

I’m used to group rides being fairly social but this group wasn’t very chatty.  No discussion of the route or ride leadership.  We just started pedaling when one guy decided it was time to go.  Shortly after we started out, I asked the guy next to me who was sporting one of the race team jerseys, “So, what’s the general route?”  “The general route?”, he replied.  “Yeah, what’s the route?  I’ve not done this ride before.”

Uh, oh.  A rookie mistake on my part.  This guy wanted no part of playing guide and rattled off a half dozen road names while accelerating away.  Ok, then.  Plan B would require staying with the pack.  This was still not considered a problem as I was confident in the knowledge I can hold a 17-19 mph pace.

This is where ride description ran smack into ride reality with the description left to eat reality’s dust.  After negotiating a few neighborhoods to get to the main route, the pace picked up to about 25 mph.  I’m still feeling pretty good.  The route was pretty flat and 20-25 is within my skill set depending on the elevation and conditions.  After about 15 miles, I’m thinking it’s at least that far back to the start and there had not been much direction change to suggest we were ready to head that direction.  I had fallen back into a group of 5-6 with a slight gap between us and the main group.  The gap was just enough to force us to miss a traffic signal change.  Waiting cars on the cross street prevented a sprint through the light and we had to wait for it to cycle through its progression as the main group kept spinning away at 20+.

The light changed green and I gave it everything I had to start closing the gap.  I could still see the group ahead and was hoping they would get snagged at a traffic light ahead.  Didn’t happen.  With my legs protesting the approach of my anaroebic threshold, I take a peak over my shoulder to discover the rest of my small group had bailed somewhere.  There was no one behind me.  Myth #1 (20-25 miles total) was history.  Myth #2 (17+ average pace) died within the first 5 miles.  Myth #3 (All paces welcome.  Someone will keep up the back end) was now equally false.  This ride now boiled down to the fastest group (23 average) and me (hanging on at  an average speed of about 19).

I can just barely make out the group ahead as they hang a right.  By the time I get to the turn, they are long gone and lost to sight by a series of rollers.  The good news is that I recognized the name of the road and had a rough idea of a way back to the start without simply backtracking.  I made another turn on a road with another familiar name but never caught sight of the group again.

Concerned about waning daylight and diminishing cell phone power, I hustled in the general direction of the start until I intersected with an early part of the route.  Up ahead, I see riders from the fast group.  Apparently having cut the corner on the ride route, I was back on track.  One minor course correction later, I’m back at my vehicle and loaded up.  Final tally:  27 miles with an average speed of 18.3.  From what I gathered, the main group had done 30 miles with an average of 23-25.

Looking back at the store web site, I found a link to a route map for their “long ride” which is what they had done.  With the right conditions, I think I could hang on a little better and longer but can’t guarantee I can put together a 30 mile ride at a 23 mph pace.  Maybe. . .if I drop another 5 lbs. and upgrade my wheelset. . . .  A guy can dream, can’t he?

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San Diego Gran Fondo 2012 – Episode III “Will the Three-peat be Sweet?”

The Kansas cyclists returned to their

homes in Overland Park.

Committed to riding another Gran Fondo,

they turned their focus to recruiting a legendary

Jedi cyclist from the far-east burg of Scottsville, NY

to join their team.

Little does the team know that

STAR EVENTS has secretly

begun  a takeover of their favored

Gran Fondo event.

Uncertain as to the specifics of the 2012 ride

the team went on with a winter of training

hoping the details would come together

and allow for a return to San Diego….

The ride log for 2011 ended with a total of 3,623.85 miles and early indications suggested it would be a mild winter allowing for continuation of our regular weekend rides.  In spite of the decent temperatures and lack of early snow, the shorter daylight hours still required a shift to indoor training in place of our usual evening rides.  2012 continued the “winter that never was” as we saw less than 3 inches of snow for the entire season.  The precipitation that did fall was considerate enough to do so in the middle of the week allowing for dry roads on the weekends. See “Res ipsa loquitur” post.

Mike and Megan (see “San Diego Gran Fondo 2010) married in Kansas City in October 2011.  The guest list included the Yust’s from Scottsville, NY, family friends of the bride and her family.  Bill Yust was Dan’s riding partner when he lived in New York.  I had heard tales from Dan about Bill, their rides around the Finger Lakes, the surrounding hills, Bill’s dedication to the bike, and yoga expertise.  Bill had been kept up to date by Dan on our cycling exploits including the 2010 and 2011 San Diego Gran Fondos.  At the wedding reception, it didn’t take long for us to plant the seed in Bill’s mind for our proposed return to San Diego for the 2012 and his inaugural Gran Fondo.

However, frequent checking of the Gran Fondo website failed to give any sign that plans were under way for continuation of the ride in 2012.  We started to explore other options but none held the appeal of San Diego.  Now familiar with the area and loyal fans of its culinary offerings, we held out hope for news that ride details would be forthcoming.  Finally, we were lightly rewarded with a report that Star Events, a company that specialized in organizing high quality sports events but primarily triathlons, had purchased Gran Fondo USA.  In its place, Star Events created Gran Fondo World with plans to host high quality cycling events around the world with a new title sponsor, Cannondale.  First up would be San Diego but the relatively late announcement and limited April date options due to the way Easter fell on the calendar were starting to cause us some concern.  I scoured the internet for updates and contact information.  With some success, I was able to piece together assurances that the event would take place.  We waited impatiently for a few weeks and when the formal announcement came out with registration details, we jumped on firming up travel plans.

Kansas City to San Diego would be a simple Southwest flight for me and Dan.  Bill’s itinerary from Scottsville, NY would rival the plot from “Planes, Trains & Automobiles”.  Dan and I would also benefit from being able to economically fly our bikes with us and our non-stop flight minimized the odds of getting to San Diego without a bike to ride.  Bill entrusted delivery of his bike to a company specializing in shipping bikes to events.  The three of us and our Scott, LeMond, and Serrota bikes all arrived safely in San Diego on Thursday, April 12th.  After getting situated at the Embassy Suites, we headed out for dinner.

I had recently become a fan of the Food Network show “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives” and had seen an episode featuring what looked like a great place in Gilbert, AZ which my wife, father-in-law, and I ate at during a March trip to Phoenix (http://joesfarmgrill.com/).  So, with the San Diego trip coming up, I checked the show’s website and found there were several featured restaurants in San Diego.  Dan was already familiar with one place, Hodad’s (http://hodadies.com/home/).  With a place just a mile from where we were staying, it was a must-do and did not disappoint.

Having checked another place off the Triple D bucket list, I would have been content to head back to the hotel but I see Dan firing off text messages after which he reports he has secured access for us to a “secret bar”.  OK, Bill and I were game.  Let’s check it out.  Via text directions, we were steered a few blocks and found ourselves standing in front of an otherwise innocuous looking bar & grill.  Dan checks inside and comes back out to retrieve us.  We stroll in and see what looks like a pretty nice place with patrons dining at tables and a few at the well-placed bar.  We keep walking past everyone until we’re in a back hallway that looks like it has only two destinations, the restrooms or the kitchen.  At the end of the hall, kegs were stacked from the floor to the ceiling.  Clearly a dead-end until, when pushed, the wall of kegs swings in revealing a hostess ready to take jackets and direct us inside to the “Noble Experiment.”

Seating only 32, the bartenders and waitresses provided individualized attention.  The drink menu listed only 8 drinks but with the “Dealer’s choice” the options were almost unlimited.  You had to only name your preferred alcohol and the bona fide mixologists would do their magic in creating a custom cocktail.  Very cool place and a fitting start to our Gran Fondo adventure.

Friday called for bike assembly and plans to take our bikes on the train north to the stop near La Jolla for a ride past Torrey Pines then on to Solano Beach for a mandatory stop at Pizza Port before catching the train back to San Diego.  There was a threat of rain but the radar showed it was dry up north.  So, we bought our tickets and did a short ride around the harbor and by the USS Midway before returning to the station to wait for our departure time.  We had no sooner boarded the train when it began to rain.  We checked the radar on our phones and it still looked dry around Solano Beach so we amended our plans to go on up to Solano.  Unfortunately, the rain followed.  Needing no more of an excuse to hole up in the Pizza Port, we headed across the street from the train station and ducked inside.  The rain made no effort to let up so we had “no choice” but to order a pizza and a couple of rounds of the local brew before returning on a southbound train.

Back in San Diego, it had stopped raining and the roads were dry.   Great!  We could salvage the day with a ride up and around Balboa Park!  Wrong.  After a few blocks of heading the opposite direction from the hotel, the sky opened up and the wind decided to blow.  Highly reminiscent of our 2010 Gran Fondo, we got soaked in a quick ride back to the hotel.  Left only to plan our next meal, we cleaned up and headed to another downtown San Diego favorite, Karl Strauss Brewing Company.  Have you detected the theme of this trip yet? (http://www.karlstrauss.com/PAGES/Eats/Downtown.html).  Karl Strauss’ was followed by a dessert stop at another favored destination, Cafe Zucherro (http://www.cafezucchero.com/Home.html), where you will find the most amazing dessert case filled with cheesecakes, tiramisu, cannolis, gelato, etc., etc.  It was just a good thing that the weekend would include lots of riding.

The weather had cleared up and Saturday morning produced windy but sunny conditions.  After checking in for packet pick-up and the bike expo, we headed to the Farmers’ Market in Little Italy for what was now another Gran Fondo tradition of samples, fresh juice, and grilled paninis.  If crowd watching didn’t prove entertaining enough, there was always Smilin’ Jack and his accordion.  If you were wondering and even if you weren’t, Jack would let you know he also performed at the only French restaurant in Little Italy.

Ride plans called for a final tune-up across the bay on Coronado Island.  The ferry ride put us squarely in a sailing race which offered some great photo ops.  Once on the other side, we pedaled our way over to Hotel del Coronado for a look around.  After parking the bikes and heading up to the hotel for a peak, I looked back to see a couple of Japanese tourists posing with my bike.  OK, whatever.  After returning to my bike, they wanted to have their picture taken with me and my bike.  Amused, I was happy to oblige but now wonder if I have been tagged on some Japanese Facebook page.  If I had been thinking, I would have asked that a picture also be taken with my camera.  Oh well.

Back on the bikes, we rode down Silver Strand Blvd to Imperial Beach and then back to the pier for the return trip across the bay.  Having misread the schedule, we found that we had an hour to kill before the next ferry.  Given the opportunity to further stimulate the local economy, we waited it out at the Coronado Brewing Company (http://www.coronadobrewingcompany.com/) where we managed to have time for a quick refreshment.

Gran Fondo roughly translates to “Big Ride” in Italian and any big ride mandates a good carb loading meal the night before.  Buon Appetito fit the bill as it had the year before and we loaded up on a great pasta dinner Saturday night before returning to the hotel for final ride preparations.  (http://www.buonappetito.signonsandiego.com/)  The bikes were ready, the gear was laid out, and the forecast was calling for abundant sunshine and light winds.  All was good.  We deemed ourselves “GFR”. . . Gran Fondo Ready.

Early Sunday morning and after a pre-ride breakfast, we made our way to the staging area in Little Italy.  Participation numbers appeared down from the last two years but the area quickly filled with bikes representing just about every manufacturer and riders from 20 different states and 7 different countries.  Being Gran Fondo veterans, Dan and I had seen this before.  Bill, at his first Gran Fondo, was taking it all in.

The engines of our Ferrari escorts came to life with a throaty rumble signaling the start of the ride.  The familiar click, click, click of riders snapping into their pedals followed.  Unlike the past two years, we had a truly mass start as roughly 2,000 riders rolled out of Little Italy.  The route was comparable to 2011 with a few changes increasing the total mileage for the long route to nearly 108 miles.

Early and frequent railroad tracks caused an early rash of flat tires.  Bunching of riders, some of which probably weren’t acclimated to group riding, caused a couple of accidents with riders on the pavement clutching shoulders and probable broken collar bones.  The rest of us were able to negotiate the hazards and settle in for the ride to the Olympic Training Center where the rest stop preceded the timed KOM/QOM climb up Honey Springs Rd.  After one of the early CAT 2 climbs, Dan and I pulled over to regroup with Bill.  The day had started cool but was warming quickly.  Bill and Dan both had long sleeve high-vis, yellow jackets on.  Dan pulled his off while we watched down the hill for Bill.  Looking for the yellow, we were unaware Bill had stowed his jacket as well.  While waiting we heard the quote of the day, “Where’s the damn tow rope?”, from a rider sporting the blue, long route rider number on the front of his bike.  If he was looking for help already, he was in for a long day.

After waiting for a bit, I rode on to the training center while Dan backtracked down the hill.  With the early mechanical problems and accidents of others, he wanted to make sure Bill had not suffered some misfortune.  In the meantime, I get to the training center where Bill, cookie in hand, finds me.  With us looking for the wrong color, he had cruised right by us.  Dan arrived shortly and after stocking up on water & nutrition, we headed for the climb.

Of the 2,000 or so registered event riders, only 418 had accepted the challenge of the timed climb.  As described in posts for 2010 and 2011, the climb is a 6.55 mile affair with 1,736′ of elevation change.  The average grade is 5% but there are two particular stretches with a 9% grade.  We all settled into our own comfort zones and soon became separated.  I met Dan at the top and after a short break, we headed out for a much-needed “lunch” stop where we expected to find some nutrition.  In 2011, the stop was at one of the entrances to the Cleveland National Forest.  Anticipating the stop would be there again, we found an empty parking lot.  A few miles farther down the road near Alpine, we found the rest stop but no food.  Given that the registration required a declaration of which route we intended to ride giving the organizers a rough head count, the rest stop was woefully under-supplied.  Apologetic volunteers offered to fill water bottles but we were needing something more substantial as fuel to get us to the next rest stop.  Fortunately, we had brought Clif bars, gels, and Shot Bloks to get us through.  It wasn’t long before Bill joined us and encouraged Dan and I to again head out.

The route shifted to downhill mode and we enjoyed -6% grades while cruising at 40-45 mph.  I had the odd experience of having to brake behind a slower moving car that had slowed for a less aggressive rider.  We were both soon able to pass and I didn’t have to touch the brakes for nearly 5 miles.

Dan and I are not sure how or when but, as we approached the next major rest stop we come rolling up on Bill who, again, had slipped ahead of us.  I’m convinced he used some ancient Jedi/yoga master mind trick on us.  It happened one more time before we put an end to that and kept each other in sight until near the finish where we grouped up and rolled under the Gran Fondo Cannondale arch.  Including riding to and from the hotel, total mileage for the day topped out at 110.44 miles for Bill and me.  Dan, with his re-do of the first 2 mile climb was awarded an extra 4 miles.

Although the ride was done, sampling San Diego restaurants was not.  Right around the corner from our hotel was Kansas City Barbeque (http://www.kcbbq.net/).  Why, you ask, would a couple of guys from Kansas City want to have BBQ in San Diego when they can get it at home?  Well, in spite of the fact that there is never a bad time to have BBQ, Kansas City Barbeque also served as the bar in the 1986 movie “Top Gun”.  The place had to shut down for a day for filming various scenes but, in the end, paid off in spades as being a pretty good marketing decision.

A final meal with good friends in a great location after an epic ride made for a nearly perfect trip.  So, in reply to the title inquiry. . .

Yes.

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San Diego Gran Fondo 2011 – Episode II “Return of the Flatlanders”

Unrest remained on the cycling routes of Kansas.

Two local cyclist had covered thousands

of miles in preparation for another

Gran Fondo San Diego attempt.

The roads of eastern Kansas,

repeatedly traveled by these mysterious riders,

had long been conquered.

The limited number of challenging climbs locally

did little to prepare them for the hills of California.

Knowing they had done all they could do

in spite of the elevation limitations,

the riders returned to San Diego for

another assault on Honey Springs Road. . .

The ride log for 2010 ended with a total of 3,529.89 miles but a measly 4 rides covering 119.23 miles in December due to early arrival of heavy snows.  2011 didn’t start better with another 4 rides in January and 5 in February as the winter of 2010-2011 went down as the 2nd snowiest winter in the 123 year history of Kansas City observations.  Fortunately, Gran Fondo had moved the San Diego ride to April.  With 5 extra weeks to prepare, Dan and I pushed it hard in March for an extra 323 training miles and tacked on another 100 the first week of April.

A birthday/Christmas gift to myself had also resulted in a new bike for 2011.  Confidence high from the base miles we had managed to put in and armed with an upgrade in equipment, we headed back to San Diego for what we hoped would be the dream ride we had envisioned but failed to find in 2010.

The forecast was much more promising than the previous year. Fortunately, rain/cold weather gear, readily available if necessary, remained packed for the duration.  We arrived in San Diego the Thursday evening before the ride.  Dan’s daughter had moved back to the Kansas City area a few months earlier and we would not have her SUV to haul our bike boxes and luggage to the hotel.  Assured by the hotel that their shuttle would accommodate our bikes, we took everything to the curb and waited for the bus.  The driver hesitated for a minute but found a way to load everything up.

Dan’s daughter’s move back to the midwest complicated logistics; however, no longer having our local support crew hardly proved an inconvenience.  Checked back in at the Sheraton where we stayed last year, we lucked out with first floor,  breeze way accommodations that would allow us to wheel in and out in almost a door to door fashion.  We would just have to transition from suburban to urban cyclists for the weekend.

Friday started out with bike assembly and a quick breakfast before we rolled out for our first warm-up ride of the weekend.  This year’s Gran Fondo route wouldn’t take us over the Coronado Bridge or along Coronado Island so we elected to take the ferry over to Coronado to see what we had missed during the previous year’s foul weather ride.  We boarded the ferry to find bike racks lining the center of the lower deck.  Clearly, we had not had an original notion since the trek over to Coronado for a ride down Silver Strand Blvd. is pretty popular.  The ride over to Coronado took us right by the USS Midway.  The Midway was commissioned in September 1945 after the conclusion of World War II.  Following deployments all over the world over a period of 47 years, she now serves as a museum.  Although now outdated by comparison to today’s carriers, the contrast with the late 1800’s era schooner sailing by was even more amazing.

We rolled off the pier on the Coronado side of the bay and after a quick spin around Hotel del Coronado, we enjoyed a sun-splashed ride down Silver Strand Blvd. to Imperial Beach and back.  Back across the bay in time for a late lunch, we hit another of Little Italy’s mandatory stops, Mona Lisa’s Italian Restaurant and Deli.  I highly recommend a Mona Lisa deluxe to go.

Saturday’s itinerary mandated a return to the Little Italy Farmer’s Market.  After loading up on fresh juice, various samples, and a quick Panini courtesy of the Panini Guy, we caught Amtrak’s Pacific Coaster up to Solano Beach with our bikes.  We rode down to La Jolla for a little sight-seeing.  The drop down into La Jolla was speedy but in the back of my mind I was cursing the fact that we would have to climb back up to Solano Beach.  The timed climb coming up on Sunday and its elevation chart were still imprinted on my brain and my legs protested a little in anticipation of the Sunday climbs yet to come.  Once back to Solano Beach, the wait time til the return train was perfect for a repeat of the previous year’s visit to Pizza Port for a couple of slices of pie and custom brews.

The Pizza Port stop did not diminish our need for more pre-ride carb loading and we found everything we needed at Buon Appetito in Little Italy which served up the best pasta dinner in recent memory.  Primed for our Gran Fondo rematch, we turned in early.  The forecast called for clear skies and pleasant temps, so sleep came easier than the previous year when forecast for rain added to our Gran Fondo rookie anxiety.

The morning of the ride could not have been better.  Slightly cool but with the sun ready to rise high in the sky, the riders assembled in Little Italy for Gran Fondo 2011.

 

The route would not take us over the Coronado Bridge this time; however, it was a fair trade for the perfect conditions.  However, similar to the 2010 ride, the first several miles were frustrating for many due to a rash of flat tires.  The number of railroad tracks in the early part of the route probably contributed but, seriously, a set of new tires would have allowed several to keep rolling.  We gave our new treads the credit for keeping us on the road instead of performing repairs on the shoulder.

The ride to the Olympic Training Center went fast and, unlike 2010 when the approaching hills were hidden in the low clouds, we had a good view of what lay ahead.  Still enjoying the perfect day, we were all smiles for the camera as we cruised by Otay Lakes.

The timed climb was still ahead.  Determined to shave several minutes off our previous time and armed with an idea of what the climb required, we maintained a quicker pace than the year before.  Dan again took team honors as the fastest climber but I bested my previous time by 15 minutes.  The 2011 route again changed things up from 2010 and, although we knew we had to go down, I don’t think we were prepared for the long, thrilling, winding descents that had us cruising at nearly 40 mph without even trying.  If the event cameras had been on the descent and not just before the climb, they would have captured big, holding on for dear life, grins.

With a handful of Cat 5 climbs between us and the finish, we enjoyed coasting for a bit.  Having managed the big climb and recovering on the descents, the last 50 miles needed to only be managed and the 2011 Gran Fondo would be in the books.  Finishing strong, we rolled under the finishing arch and pedaled our way to the Sheraton.  Total mileage for the day:  109.88.

It was again an epic and challenging ride.  We had no sooner returned to Overland Park when the conversation turned to whether we would return in 2012 or look for another challenge.  Fortunately, we still had all of 2011 to look forward to with several local miles to chase before having to make that decision.

Spoiler alert:  COMING SOON TO A BLOG NEAR YOU:  SAN DIEGO GRAN FONDO 2012 – EPISODE III “Will the Three-peat be Sweet?”

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It must be Spring!

Aahh. . .the sights and sounds of an early spring evening . . . birds singing, children playing in the yard before dinner, lawn mowers rumbling to life after a winter of disuse, obscenities yelled at a cyclist from the window of a passing vehicle. . .yes, it’s officially spring!

Amazing. . .not the profane language but the source.  This verbal assault came from a teen-aged, backseat passenger of a vehicle headed the opposite direction on a road with a raised median separating the opposing lanes of traffic.  There was literally two lanes and a grassy divider between him and me.  What was the problem?  I could not have been more out-of-the-way.  Was it just immaturity or a symptom of inexplicable intolerance of cyclists?

Daylight savings time combined with longer days brings out the bikes as weeknight rides reincorporate into the ride calendar.  The change of seasons includes drivers getting acclimated to the increased bike traffic on week nights and cyclists surviving the motorists’ learning curve.  With the number of ride opportunities increased, the chances of encountering an angry or inattentive driver rise as well.  With a new season of riding here, I thought I would dust off a story I wrote a couple of years ago.

It had been a nearly perfect ride. Cool but still-pleasant temperatures with little to no wind made our usual weeknight, 22-mile ride zip by quickly.

Riding on or near the white line and in single file, my neighbor and I were about three miles from home when a woman in a little white compact car pulled along, rolled down the window and, quite unprovoked, yelled a profanity before giving her car the gas.

Karma dealt the driver a red light and we had a chance to catch up. She had her window down again before we could ask what her problem was. She immediately launched into a tirade about how she didn’t appreciate us “clogging” up the road.

Really? We were as far to the right as we could go. Traffic was light and we were not impeding its flow. As I started to politely — well, at least not insultingly — explain the rules of the road and the rights of cyclists, she brandished her cell phone indicating she is going to call the police.

Although my avocation is cycling, my vocation is the practice of law.  I generally don’t get too worked up when someone resorts to threatening legal action. It makes me think of the Br’er Fox and Br’er Rabbit tale, where being thrown in the briar patch isn’t much of a threat to Br’er Rabbit since it’s where he makes his home.

In my case, the law field, although occasionally thorny, is where I make a living.

“Honk at me! Throw something at me! Do whatever you please,” thought Innocent Cyclist. “Only please, Angry Motorist, please don’t call the police!”

“Fine,” I replied to the driver. “Let’s pull over up ahead. I’ll be happy to wait for them to arrive.”

She was not receptive to the suggestion, so I again tried to communicate that bicycles share the road and we were not in the wrong.

Finally, she went for the big guns. “I work for 14 lawyers!” she screamed, apparently with the perception that working in close proximity to lawyers must make her well-versed in the law and clearly right.  A form of legal training by osmosis, I guess.

“Run me off the road! Run me over! Back up and run me over again! Do whatever you please,” thought Innocent Cyclist. “Only please, Angry Motorist, please don’t sic your 14 lawyers after me!”

Set up for a perfect and true retort, I replied, “Lady, I am a lawyer!”

The light turned green and she roared off with the middle digit of her left hand firmly extended.

Anti-cyclist road rage is apparently the “in” thing. Road rage against cyclists is increasingly reported as more and more people take to their bikes. According to the League of American Bicyclists, more than 9 million Americans describe themselves as “active cyclists” — weekend riders, off-road riders, commuters, and amateur or professional athletes.

All cyclists face the daily hazards of commuting in traffic, including dogs, road hazards, traffic codes, harassment and road rage. It’s unfortunate that harassment and road rage, intentional and potentially dangerous acts, are common.

Drivers feel aggrieved with anything or anyone that gets in the way of their smooth, speedy forward momentum. However, in the overall scheme of things, does a delay of 10 to 30 seconds in the driver’s otherwise carefully crafted schedule merit the abuse cyclists take?

We’ve all seen the “Share the Road” signs.  Contrary to what often seems the popular interpretation, these signs are not advertisements of abuse and entertainment options ahead. I’ve been on the receiving end of side-mirror brush backs. I’ve endured firecrackers thrown and air horns blown out the window of passing cars. I’ve been harrassed by motorists who seemingly feel that anything in the road other than a car deserves to be physically pushed off it.

Independence, MO recently took the sadly necessary step of protecting people who travel on its streets by a method other than the automobile by passing an ordinance forbidding the harassment of cyclists. Violators face a potential $500 fine and jail time.  Kansas has recently joined the list of states utilizing the 3-foot rule.  What is the 3-foot rule?  In its simplicity the 3 foot rule requires motorists to give bicyclists a minimum of a 3-foot margin when passing them. To date, 20 states and Washington D.C. have passed a mandatory 3-foot passing law.

Funny and sad at the same time, some enterprising cyclists have taken to marketing various versions of the 3-foot rule in the form of jerseys.  We can only hope passing motorists take notice.

Cyclists, walkers and joggers should not be subjected to scorn for using an alternative and healthy means of getting around. Of course, non-motorists, especially bicyclists, have a responsibility to obey laws governing their use of the roads. However, in return, we have every right to expect our presence to be respected.

A review of the applicable Missouri and Kansas statutes on bicycles is in order. In summary:

- Motorists may not do anything, even something that otherwise appears to be legal, that endangers a bicyclist, pedestrian, or other motorist. Safety, not speed, is the highest consideration in traffic law.

- Bicycles may ride on any street except travel lanes of interstate highways or where prevented by local law.

- In Kansas, bicyclists may ride two abreast on roadways without exception. In Missouri, bicyclists may ride abreast when not impeding other vehicles.

- Bicyclists have the same rules, rights and responsibilities as other drivers. For example, bicyclists must stop at stop signs, signal turns, and drive on the right-hand side of the road.

- This means that motorists must treat bicycles as any other vehicle. For instance, do not pull out in front of a moving bicyclist, cut a bicyclist off, or pass a bicyclist unsafely.

- When traveling slower than traffic, bicyclists generally move to the right of the travel lanes, just as other slow-moving vehicles do. But do not expect bicyclists to hug the curb, dodge in and out between parked cars, or ride on a debris-covered shoulder. Bicycling that way is not safe, and the law requires bicyclists to ride safely.

- If the lane is too narrow to safely share between a bicycle and a motor vehicle, the bicycle may move towards the center of the lane to discourage motor vehicles from dangerously squeezing past in the lane. If you see a bicyclist riding in the middle of the lane in this way, the bicyclist is following the law. Slow and wait behind the bicyclist until it is safe to move into the next lane to pass.

- Bicyclists may sometimes ride the shoulder of the road when available. However, they are not required by law to do so. Obstacles in the shoulder such as glass, debris, or rough pavement may not be obvious to the motorist but may be very dangerous to the bicyclist.

- Bicycle lanes may not be blocked or used for parking. Motorists must signal and yield to any bicyclists in the lane before crossing a bicycle lane. As with shoulders, bicyclists may leave the bike lane for any number of reasons, including debris, obstacles, or to prepare for a turn.

A review of the driver’s handbooks for Missouri and Kansas reveals the following:

- On public streets and highways, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as a motor vehicle operator.

- If you are following a bicyclist and need to make a right turn, you must yield to the cyclist. It is often safer to slow down and stay behind the cyclist until you are able to turn.

- Motorcyclists and bicyclists change speed and lane position when encountering bad road conditions, such as manhole covers, diagonal railroad tracks, road debris or in strong winds. Be ready to react.  Author’s note:  You drive most of these roads as much or more than cyclists ride on them.  You know where the big pot holes are on the bridges and streets.  If you won’t bounce through them with your precious BMW with its high-tech, shock absorbing ride, don’t expect me to do so on my bike.

- When you are passing, give motorcycles a full lane width. If possible, give a full lane to bicycles and mopeds, too. Do not squeeze past these road users. The bicycle is generally a slower moving vehicle and this may require you to slow down. Wait for a clear stretch of road before passing a cyclist in a lane too narrow to share.

- The operator of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction shall leave a safe distance when passing the bicycle, and shall maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle. Passing unsafely is a traffic offense punishable by driver license points, fines, and even jail, if a collision results.

- The law says who must yield the right-of-way; it does not give anyone the right-of-way. You must do everything you can to prevent striking a bicyclist as you would a pedestrian or another vehicle, regardless of the circumstances.

- Sharing the road with others, in a considerate manner, makes the road safer for everybody!

So, Angry Motorist, before you enlist the aid of all 14 of the lawyers you work for, make sure they have brushed up on the law.

Grabbing up the tar-covered rabbit, Br’er Fox swung him around and around and then flung him head over heels into the briar patch. Br’er Rabbit let out such a scream as he fell that all of Br’er Fox’s fur stood straight up. Br’er Rabbit fell into the briar bushes with a crash and a mighty thump. Then there was silence.

Br’er Fox cocked one ear toward the briar patch, listening for whimpers of pain. But he heard nothing. Br’er Fox cocked the other ear toward the briar patch, listening for Br’er Rabbit’s death rattle. He heard nothing.

Then Br’er Fox heard someone calling his name. He turned around and looked up the hill. Br’er Rabbit was sitting on a log combing the tar out of his fur with a wood chip and looking smug.

“I was bred and born in the briar patch, Br’er Fox,” he called. “Born and bred in the briar patch.”

And Br’er Rabbit (Innocent Cyclist) skipped (pedaled) away as merry as a cricket while Br’er Fox (Angry Motorist) ground his (her) teeth in rage and went home.

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San Diego Gran Fondo 2010 – Episode I “The Weather Strikes Back”

(Ed. note:  Think opening crawl of a Star Wars movie.  Cue the John Williams composed theme music now. . .)

Boredom had engulfed the cycling routes of the Midwest.

The question of whether competing cycling clubs should merge was in dispute.

Adding to the uncertainty of the times,

short –sighted club organizers cancelled a favored century ride.

While the local cycling clubs endlessly debated this chain of events,

two Kansas cyclists were secretly dispatched to a far-away land to learn more

about a new ride, something called Gran Fondo….

As the summer of 2009 transitioned into fall and the final rides of the year fell into place, my neighbor and regular riding partner, Dan, and I mused about trying to do one “big” cycling event each year. While researching possible rides, one in particular jumped out as a “must do”. . . .the 2010 Gran Fondo Colnago-San Diego.

As their website http://granfondousa.com/sandiego/ states, “Gran Fondo” is Italian for “Big Ride”. Gran Fondos are long distance, mass-participation cycling events – not races – that have become immensely popular.  Participation is open to recreational and competitive amateur cyclists.  Typically, thousands of riders of all abilities participate.

Some cyclists enter a Gran Fondo for the challenge and satisfaction of making it to the finish line; others want to push themselves and their friends; and some ride to win. Regardless, a Gran Fondo is an unforgettable cycling experience and several Gran Fondo’s have popped up around the country. San Diego had its inaugural Gran Fondo in 2009 and the repeat in 2010 was designed to be extraordinary. The Gran Fondo Colnago-San Diego offered three route options for cyclists of all abilities:

101 mile (162 km) Gran Fondo — Long Route

53 mile (85 km) Medio Corsa — Medium Route

32 mile (51 km) Family Fondo — Short Route

All three routes were set to take the riders over the famed Coronado Bridge.  Participation was limited and the ride “sold out” at roughly 3,000 riders. We, of course, had our sights set on the long route featuring a total of 5,500′ feet of climbing and the King of the Mountain challenge.  We would face a timed climb of roughly 7 miles, approximately 40 miles into the route, and up the winding Honey Springs Road. The climb ranged in grade from 3% to 12% with the steepest portion very near the summit. The total vertical of this portion of the ride would be 1,858 feet.

Dan’s daughter had previously moved to San Diego and lived in the Little Italy area near downtown which was also situated mere blocks from where the ride would start. With that kind of staging area and with Southwest flight credits in the bank, how could we resist signing up? We committed early once registration opened up and while still optimistic that we would be able to get plenty of training rides in over the winter. The previous year had produced a mild Midwest winter with little snow that allowed us to continue our long weekend rides. Combined with the regular dose of indoor training, we were convinced we could handle the century ride in early March in spite of the fact that we had not previously done a century before  the month of May. Little did we know that Mother Nature would have a nasty winter in store for 2010. By way of comparison, we were able to ride 158 outdoor miles in January 2009 and only 24 in 2010. February was better – 115 miles but still well shy of the 205 miles from February 2009.  They were a cold 115 miles driven in part by the panic which was starting to set in knowing the first Sunday in March would be a 101 mile effort. Far too much time was spent spinning indoors knowing it would help but not entirely translate to the road. The panic was tempered by our belief that the anticipated and much-needed San Diego climate would fill in any gaps in training.

We arrived in San Diego the Thursday night before the ride. We had never flown with our bikes before but, they arrived safe and sound courtesy of Southwest Airlines. As a side note, Southwest is one of the most bike-friendly airlines in the country with a baggage fee of $50.00 each way for a boxed bike. They popped up right away in the oversized luggage area. We woke up Friday to the expected sunny San Diego weather. After a casual breakfast and assembly of our bikes, we were set to soak up some SoCal culture.

We planned to ride up the coast a bit to take in the scenery and stretch the legs. Starting just north of La Jolle, we rode up the old Pacific Coast Hwy. 101 through Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas and to Carlsbad before turning around. With the ocean off to one side, we were clearly not in Kansas anymore, Toto! Truly nothing to compare it to back home. It was a great tune up ride and just what the doctor had ordered to counter Midwest winter doldrums.

The ride was highlighted by a stop on the way back at the Pizza Port in Solano Beach http://www.pizzaport.com/locations/solana-beach. With a handful of locations, this is where Pizza Port began. Even though it’s the smallest of the Pizza Ports, Solana Beach is the one with the most history (and some would say “character”). With great pizza and outstanding handcrafted brews, it was a must-do on our agenda. Although not our typical mid-ride fare, we were glad we took a break on their sidewalk patio while enjoying a pint and a slice of pizza while watching the world go by on the Coast Highway.

The weather took a turn on Saturday with rain off & on and we elected to not ride. There were other distractions and the much-anticipated University of Missouri and University of Kansas basketball game was on tap to close out the last game of the year before tournament play. For reasons I am not entirely certain of, there is a fairly large KU fan base in San Diego. I’m convinced I was the only MU supporter in the area. Dan’s daughter and her then boyfriend/now husband, Mike, both graduated from KU and we met them at one of the local KU joints to watch the game www.boardwalkmissionbeach.com .  Much like the weather, it turned out to be a gloomy day for Mizzou. However, with a trip to In & Out Burger for lunch and our pre-ride pasta dinner yet to come, it was all good.

One of the great Little Italy attractions is the Saturday farmer’s market. We had loaded up on fresh bread, vegetables, pasta and dessert that morning all to be saved and prepared that night for the mandatory pre-ride carb loading. We did not fail and put away more than our fair share before returning to the hotel for final preparations and a good night’s sleep.

The good night’s sleep was more of a wish than a reality as I must confess to feeling just a little anxious about the next day’s ride. I probably had spent just a little too much time looking at the elevation chart. The hills featured on our route were a touch more intimidating than the rollers of Missouri & Kansas. In addition, the forecast wasn’t looking good and the local meteorologists were all consistently reporting the likelihood of rain throughout the day. Well, this still didn’t seem terribly threatening. Honestly, how cold could a fluke San Diego rain storm be? And when was the last time the weather man was right about anything? However, I had also been checking Accuweather.com for the previous two weeks. In what turned out to be a very fortuitous decision, I had purchased a rain jacket and packed my cold weather gear at the last-minute.

The morning of the ride arrived and greeted us with gray skies and ominous clouds. It was not raining yet, but with an hour to go until start time it was pretty clear what we were in for.  A light drizzle turned into a serious and steady rain prior to the start. Those who were unable to seek shelter under the available awnings stood shoulder to shoulder, wheel to wheel trying to keep some semblance of good humor. Those that had rain jackets quickly donned them.  A few. . .amazingly few. . .packed it in before the ride even began. The remaining 3,000 or so cyclists from 49 states and 7 different countries sat anxiously awaiting the start. In the final moments, the rain pounded away with even more dedication. By the time we were ready to be led out by a line of Ferrari’s and celebrity riders, standard gear had become completely saturated and the water flooding the streets was running over the top of riders’ shoes and wheels on its way downhill.

With ample buildup, the start was signaled and the riders, chilled to the bone and losing patience, were allowed to roll out. Rolling down the streets otherwise deserted of traffic, the weather was temporarily shoved to the back burner and the mindset of the century rider began to set in. It quickly became obvious that this was no longer the ride to savor that we’d once expected. It was now a ride to endure and the satisfaction of the finish line would be the reward rather than the scenic vistas.

We made our way quickly to the bridge that would drop us into Coronado. Regularly closed to pedestrians, riding across was something I’d been really looking forward to. Pedaling in the lanes typically devoted to oncoming traffic, it was a quick climb to the top and a fast run down the other side for those of us fortunate enough to not get a flat. In all my years of participating in organized rides, I had never seen so many flats. There were more people changing tubes or waiting on mechanical assistance in the first 5 miles than I had seen in my previous 20 centuries combined.

While the scenery we had hoped for was not available, it was fairly impressive to ride along the ocean with the surf whipped up by the storm. The ride along the San Diego Bay was a relatively quick one, especially without the distraction of a sun-kissed shoreline. Aside from the occasional glance toward the rough sea and the sandbar along the road, my view was of the wheel in front of me. However, it was not a day to be drafting. The spray off the wheels in front forced us to ride slightly off to one side of the preceding rider.

The ride inland began by cruising through some gentle, early climbs through well manicured suburbs along the Olympic parkway. The second rest stop was at the Olympic training center. This is where the transition from city to countryside took place. We were unable to see much of what lay ahead due to the fog which had settled in on the hilltops.  With only the knowledge that there was a big climb out there somewhere, we remounted and headed out. The numbers decreased significantly due to the route split for those electing to do the 53 mile route. The century riders and KOM crazies pressed on hoping for a break in the weather.

At 41 miles in, the climbing officially began. Each rider participating in the century route was provided a timing chip so they could take part in the timed climb for king/queen of the mountain prizes. Suspecting that my lack of outdoor training would be an issue, I was content to choose a comfortable grinding pace and make my way toward the top. The duration of the climb was around 7 miles highlighted by three separate markers indicating distance traveled and the grade of the next section. This added a challenging and double-edged element to what could have been just another piece to the puzzle. Was it better to know how much farther and what the grade was going to be in advance? The distance markers flipped-flopped back and forth from encouraging (Only 3 miles left!) to discouraging (There are 3 more miles left?).

My riding partner, Dan, is generally faster than I am and gradually pulled away.  Normally, we do a pretty good job of sticking together but this was every man for himself territory!  The regular curves in the road eventually took him out of my line of sight so I just kept plugging away at my pace. Eventually, the marker for the end of the timed climb came into view and was a welcome relief. Once at the top, a quick descent took riders to the 51 mile mark and the lunch destination. There was no break in the weather to be found. The air temperature was reported to be 40 degrees. Glasses fogged up leaving limited visibility and the cold rain transitioned in a few spots to light sleet.

I located Dan who was just about blue from the cold. He was suffering from his own version of a wardrobe malfunction and was on the verge of hypothermia. Without a rain jacket, gloves, or pants, he was quite literally chilled to the bone. Although a little wet and my feet were cold, I wasn’t terribly uncomfortable. I took a quick inventory of how I felt and decided to press on. Dan was able to catch a SAG to the finish. One of the volunteers called his daughter, Megan, to report one of her riders had been forced to abandon the ride and was coming down. Unfortunately, no name was given and the question became which of us it was. Megan called her mother who called my wife and the scramble for information about which one of us was still out on the road stretched from San Diego to Overland Park, KS. Finally, Dan was able to reach Megan on a borrowed cell phone. The question shifted to where I was on the route.

After loading up on food and the very popular vat of hot coffee, I found my way to my bike and continued to pedal on. However, as I prepared to head out on the back half of the ride, I overheard several local riders announcing that they were heading back the way they came. The rumor was that the route ahead was too washed out and descent would be too tricky in these conditions. Forewarned but not convinced, I chose to continue on the prescribed course.

Fortunately, the riders were right about some things and wrong about others. The roads had been flooded in places but nothing worse than we’d seen already. So many riders had either gone back the way in or abandoned due to conditions (physical, mental, and weather), long stretches of the return route were solo. Steep, curvy descents were well-marked and followed by sharp bends in the road and short steep climbs to follow. The next rest stop came into view and I had already decided that I would probably need to hit the remaining stops so I pulled in to top off on water and food. I noticed a familiar looking SUV sitting in the lot and found Megan waiting on my arrival to check my status. She had connected with her dad at the finish and had him back at the hotel for a much-needed hot shower and dry clothes. Worthy of a medal, she had taken it upon herself to drive out along the route to make sure I was doing OK. I reported I was doing pretty well and intended to press on. She said she would meet me at the next rest stop which was back at the Olympic center just to make sure.

Shortly after Megan left, one of the SAG volunteers called out to see if anyone had a spare tube. He was trying to assist a terribly dejected looking rider who had apparently already had two flats and was out of tubes and/or patches. The SAG had apparently gone through their limited extras. I had two tubes with me and offered one. The volunteer started to pull out his wallet and I promptly waved him off. Still in possession of a spare, I told him to just pay it forward someday in what I hoped would garner me enough good karma to make it to the finish without incident. The volunteer and rider both expressed their gratitude and good wishes for a successful finish were exchanged. I headed out while they started their repair.

I met Megan at the Olympic Center and, with only 20 miles to go, reported I was good for the duration. She took off and I soon continued along the route. With about 8 miles to go, a handful of riders, including myself, managed to get slightly off route. Armed with one guy’s GPS enabled phone, we got back on track and finished off the ride.  The finish line was more than a welcome sight and, with a certain amount of ironic timing, the sun broke through the clouds. I was greeted at the finish by Dan, Megan, and Mike, picked up my medal, and wasted no time in loading up. There was a hot shower in my immediate and necessary future along with a call home to report I was alive and well.

It was the most epic and challenging ride I had ever done. Anxious to return in 2011 with some idea what the route held in store and fingers crossed for more typical San Diego weather, Dan and I marked the calendar and kept the option of returning in our long distance sights. Dan vowed to have rain gear handy and I had several minutes to shave off the timed challenge. We went into the balance of 2010 hoping for a mild winter and plenty of miles in preparation for Gran Fondo 2011.

COMING SOON TO A BLOG NEAR YOU:  SAN DIEGO GRAN FONDO – EPISODE II “The Return of the Flatlanders” (2011)

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Res ipsa loquitur. . . .

Courtesy of Dan Weatherly and Creekside Cycle Club Productions.

p.s.  Turn up your speakers.

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Ride. . .I mean. . .Road to the White House

“30 seconds til we come to you, Bill,” squawked the news director’s voice in the ear piece of the network anchor.

“Don’t take too much time with this guy,” said the director.  “Most people don’t take this group seriously to begin with.  They’re just another bunch of overgrown, lycra clad, kids on bikes if you ask me.  OK, 4 . . .3 . . . 2 . . .you’re on!”

“Good evening.  I’m Bill Carson.  Tonight, we’re continuing our in-depth look at Decision 2012 by visiting with political action groups around the country to get their thoughts on the upcoming election.  This evening we’re joined by Wayne Randall, spokesman for a new group hoping to influence the outcome of the 2012 race for President.  Hello, Wayne, and welcome to our community,” Carson said in opening the segment.

“Hello, Bill.  Thank you for inviting me,” replied Randall.

“Our pleasure,” said Carson.  “Tell us something about your organization.  For starters, what is the name of your group?”

“Certainly,” answered Randall.  “We’re a political action committee comprised almost entirely of cyclists.  We have a few runners and swimmers as well as a fair number of tri-athletes; however, for the most part, we’re cyclists.  We wanted to just call ourselves CPAC for Cycling Political Action Committee but it turns out that Glenn Beck fellow is involved with the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC, so that was strike one.  Secondly, too many people got it confused with CPAP and we were just getting too many calls from wives trying to solve their husbands’ sleep apnea/snoring problems.  That’s a whole different ball game.”

“I understand,” interjected Carson as the director barked “Get on track!” through the tiny speaker in Carson’s ear.  “So what did you ultimately come up with?”

“DToM, with a little ‘o’,” replied Randall.  “Some thought it stood for ‘Defunct Tour of Missouri’ after the professional stage race torpedoed by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and his cronies in the Department of Tourism; however, it really stands for ‘Don’t Tread on Me’, the motto shown on the Gadsden Flag.  This flag was the first flag carried into battle by the Continental Marine Corps during the Revolutionary War.  The rattlesnake, native to the region encompassing the original thirteen colonies, was utilized by Benjamin Franklin as an emblem of the colonies dating back to 1751, symbolic of the virtues of vigilance, courage, strength, and magnanimity.  The flag was created by Colonel Christopher Gadsden in 1775 based on designs used by the first enlisted Marines.  The coiled rattlesnake has 13 rattles representing the colonies, and the motto ‘Don’t tread on me’ alludes to the American spirit of independence.  We even found a jersey from Voler incorporating the flag.”

“We wear this jersey to showcase our independent spirit, as well as to assert our right to share the road.  We thought about adding tire tread marks across the logo but decided that would kind of defeat the message.”

“That’s quite clever.  So, who does your group like for a potential Republican candidate?” asked Carson in an attempt to stay on topic.

“Well,” paused Randall.  “That’s a touchy subject and our core group remains undecided.  We really would like to see a candidate that might be willing to join us on a group ride.  Maybe someone who can form a coalition of cooperation within the peloton.  You know . . . willing to take a pull at the front and not try an unnecessary, energy wasting breakaway.  As far as the current declared candidates, we’re not certain Ron Paul’s 76-year-old legs can keep up and, we don’t think we want to see Newt Gingrich in cycling apparel . . . think stuffed sausage.”

“Thanks for that visual,” Carson interrupted sarcastically.

“Well, you get my point,” Randall replied.  He then continued,  “We’re afraid Rick Perry would forget the third part of the campaign route.  Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have the physiques to handle the attire but we’re going to watch for a bit to see if they have the endurance to complete a long race.”

“We’re actually thinking about drafting a candidate from the ranks of professional cyclists,” continued Randall.  “You would think the obvious choice would be Lance Armstrong.  However, as with Rick Perry, we don’t think the country is ready for another Texan in the White House.  Then, you have to factor in the baggage he brings with him.  Plus, there’s a rumor floating around that he would want to repaint the White House yellow.

“We thought about Christian Vande Velde.  He just makes the age cut-off as a bicentennial baby born in 1976 but is a little too accident prone.  Been there, done that with Gerald Ford.”

“We like George Hincapie for the number 2 spot on the ticket.  He’s certainly had his share of big stage wins but really works better leading out the train to set up big sprint finishes by another member of his team.  He also helped pull Lance to seven Tour de France titles and, most recently, helped Cadel Evans take the top podium spot on the Champs-Élysées.  We like Levi Leipheimer for the number 1 spot.  Levi has a little better GC pedigree and has proven himself dominant in the seven to nine-day stage races with multiple Tour of California titles, the Tour of Utah, Tour of the Gila, as well as in Europe where we think the respect he has garnered will help with foreign policy.  Plus, both Hincapie and Leipheimer look great in the stars and stripes as former U.S. national road race and time trial champions,” finished Randall.

“Well, that certainly sounds interesting but, how do you propose to get either on the primary ballots?  You’ve already missed the Iowa caucus and, most likely, all the deadlines for the state primaries coming up,” observed Carson.  “You’ve heard how Gingrich and Perry are being blocked from the Virginia primary.  How do you propose to get around those rules?”

“Frankly,” started Randall, “we’re not entirely certain either party meets our needs and a third-party or independent candidate is certainly an option for us.  Taking a page out of Harry Truman’s whistle-stop campaign against Thomas Dewey, we’re giving thought to a cycling version.  The RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa), BRAG (Bike Ride Across Georgia), BRAN (Nebraska), BAK (Kansas), and Bicycle Across America rides all give us and our candidate a chance to cover a lot of miles and deliver our message to a lot of people.”

“That’s pretty ambitious,” Carson responded.  “What would your platform consist of?”

“Glad you asked,” said Randall.  “Dependency on foreign oil is a big concern.  Reminiscent of notions bounced around during the 70’s oil embargo,  we’d like to see a complete ban on motor vehicle use on the weekends freeing up thousands of miles of roadway to cyclists.  Barring that, we would propose that lanes now used for cars be dedicated to bikes with a lane along the shoulder designated for car use.  It would look something like the photo I have here.” 

Carson sat there with an incredulous expression and was at a loss for words.

“Just kidding,” laughed Randall.  “If you think the debate over health care was ugly, try taking American’s cars from them!  Some think we’re already certifiable for riding as much as we do on our skinny tires and narrow saddles but we’re not that crazy!  Honestly, though, we would like to see some stimulus money go toward improving bike routes throughout our cities.  Ideally, we would like improved shoulders and dedicated bike lanes along the nation’s roadways.  After all, they are called ‘road bikes’ for a reason.  So many cities have added corporate parks in the suburbs to provide work locations close to where we live.  Wouldn’t it be great if these parks offered bike lockers and shower facilities to allow more of us to ride to work, reduce dependency on our vehicles, improve air quality with lower emissions, and generally improve our health and fitness?  What a great example to set for our children that have given up riding bikes for inside activities and virtual games.  Remember when the prospect of getting a new bike rivaled the anticipation of Christmas morning?  Those days are in the past but might be recaptured to some degree.  Bicycle dedicated highways may be a fictitious notion but, maybe, in the not so distant future, it will be the grown-ups who will be so anxious to go to the bike shop to pick up a new ride.”

“We’d also like to see a national referendum on educating the driving public about the rights of cyclists to use the road.  Did you know that the League of American Wheelmen, the original incarnation of the League of American Bicyclists, is credited with getting paved roads in this country before the reign of the automobile?  Of course, cyclists have a responsibility to respect the rules of the road but, honestly, I think we can all get along.  Other than that, we’re no different from any other group that is looking for a President that can lead the country and a Congress that works effectively to improve the life of every American without the inefficiency of partisan politics.  It may be a dream but is, nevertheless, a goal.”

“Those are certainly some interesting thoughts, Wayne.  Thank you for sharing your time with us this evening,” Carson said in response to the “Good lord!  Wrap it up!  We’re out of time!” heard through the ear piece.

“My pleasure, Bill,” responded Randall.

“If you’ll pardon the pun, that’s all we have for this news cycle ,” concluded Carson.  “Join us again tomorrow night when we hear from the Avocado Growers Guild and their vision for a greener America.  Good night.”

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The North Wind and the Sun – A New “Spin” on an Old Fable.

It was an early January day, cold but not miserable, generally sunny, and without snow on the ground.  The North Wind, bored with the decency of the weather, decided to pick a fight with the Sun.  The North Wind boasted of great strength. The Sun argued that there was great power in gentleness.

“We shall have a contest,” said the Sun.

Far below, a group of cyclists traveled a winding road. They rode in close formation with each regularly taking a pull at the front.  Their switches were precise.  Although consisting of several cyclists, they operated as one with each benefiting from the draft provided by the rider ahead.  Focused on the rear wheel in front, the cyclists did not move an unnecessary muscle or let an eye wander to observe the countryside which was only a blur viewed peripherally.

“As a test of strength,” said the Sun, “Let us see which of us can get that group of cyclists to break formation and slow to observe that which they are missing.”

“It will be quite simple for me to force them into a chaotic mess,” bragged the Wind.  “They may be forced to stop altogether!”

The Wind switched directions to blow directly into the face of the lead cyclist and blew so hard, the birds clung to the trees. The world was filled with dust and leaves. But the harder the wind blew down the road, the tighter the cyclists pulled together.  The gaps between the wheels shrunk until only an inch or two separated one bike from the next.  The riders tucked in to reduce surface exposure and lessen the resistance.  Although the pace dropped slightly, the peloton continued down the road undaunted.

The Wind changed strategies and directions, coming at the cyclists from various angles and stiff side wind gusts.  The cyclists countered by reforming their straight line into an echelon angled across the road.  Each successive rider took up a position on the left hip of the preceding rider when the Wind came across from the right and moved to the right hip when the Wind came across from the left.  Still the peloton was unswerving and hardly delayed as their wheels continued to spin at a high revolution.

“Nice try,” said the Sun.  “Only a group of cyclists that has covered thousands of miles together to the point of each knowing the tendencies and abilities of each other as well as they know their own could withstand such an onslaught without concern that one might not hold the line, swerve, wobble, or otherwise cause a massive pileup of bodies and equipment.”

Then, the Sun came out from behind a cloud. Sun warmed the air and the frosty ground. The cyclists relaxed and moved their hands from the drops to the grips on their handlebars.

The sun grew slowly brighter and brighter.

Soon the cyclists felt warm.  Content that they had mastered the worst the day could offer, each sat up and began to soft pedal through the last part of the route.  No longer needing to maximize a draft, they pulled along side each other and mentioned to one another what a beautiful day it had become and how lovely the countryside looked.

“How did you do that?” said the Wind.

“It was easy,” said the Sun, “I lit the day. Through gentleness I got my way.  Gentle persuasion most usually works better than force.”

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