Clovis, New Mexico

Wednesday Evening 20 September
Day 11
Lon Loading Bikes at Dawn
Lon Loading Bikes at Dawn

While sitting at dinner this evening in K-Bobs Steakhouse, Lon had to ask me what day it was.  I wasn’t sure either and had to consult my iPhone.  K-Bobs is a chain, a typical PacTour restaurant.  I ordered a rare NY strip steak.  The friendly waitress served me a steak with a red flag that said rare.  It was cooked medium. Tasted ok though, I was hungry after riding 110 miles.

The tour has reached the midwest.  Total climbing for the day was less than 2000 feet – pretty small for 100 miles.  All day on U.S. 70, straight road stretched ahead of us seemed to be going uphill. Big John said that illusion is created by the curvature of the earth.  I’m not sure if it’s that or diffraction.

punctureNearClovis
Puncture Near Clovis

U.S. 70 has a wide shoulder littered with tire treads that contain fine wire staples.  People were flatting all day.  I rode one stretch with Bro’s Todd and Terry until one of them flatted.  I’m not sure which one because they’re twins riding their first tour together.  I helped them boot the tire and replace the tube, then flatted myself 200 yards up the road.

Bro's Todd and Terry
Bro’s Todd and Terry

 

 

Roswell, New Mexico

Tuesday Evening 19 September
Day 10
Are these light posts or alien antennas?
Main drag in Roswell – Are these light posts or alien antennas?

Recovery Day: Long gradual descent from 7200 ft to 3000 ft, only 98 miles and a 15 mph tailwind.  Some riders tacked on a couple extra miles so they could log sub 5 hour century PR’s.  I drove the lunch rig, prepped and served tuna salad. No rider pictures, everyone was going too fast.

In addition to a alien museum, Roswell sports a great Mexican restaurant next to the Best Western.  Today was Taco Tuesday – all the tacos you can eat for 89 cents.  Beer extra.  Martha and I enjoyed Chile Rellenos with spicy red sauce.  I couldn’t talk her into walking two miles down the main drag to visit the alien museum.

Bike Tech – More on Platform Pedals

After posting a blog entry on platform pedals a year ago, I’ve been thinking platform pedals are a superior choice for long tours like the one we’re doing. So far, my experience riding with platform pedals has supported this idea.

Advantages of clipless pedals and cleats
  • You can ride faster and more efficiently.  Actually I don’t believe this statement, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume it is true.  For a sprint or time trial, they might mean the difference between the podium and the lanterne rouge, but on a long tour any advantage is miniscule.
  • They look cool. Anyone who uses them is clearly a serious cyclist.
Disadvantages of clipless pedals and cleats
  • They are difficult to impossible to walk in.  Riders need to carry an extra pair of shoes. If you walk through heavy clay coil, some cleats like Speedplay’s get clogged with mud.
  • On long rides on hot days, riders feet swell.  Many stiff road shoes are uncomfortable.  On other tours, I learned to pour water in my shoes.  After many consecutive days they started to smell and grow stuff.
  • Riders go to great lengths to adjust cleat positions.  Even after all this attention, on long tours some riders develop knee problems or foot problems because the foot is locked onto the pedal in one position.
  • I’ve done seven long tours.  On nearly every one, at least one person has crashed because he couldn’t get his foot unclipped quickly enough.  I saw one person go home with a broken hip because of this kind of crash.  Ok, so you have to be a dork to crash like this, but when you’re tired you start acting dork like.  Why take the chance?
  • Cleats wear out, break at inopportune moments, need to be replaced.
My Experience So Far on this Trip
  • Riding with Keene sandals on platforms is incredibly comfortable.  The pedal provides my foot a wide base and low pressure on any part of the foot.  It’s easy to move my foot to different positions.
  • On a hot day, I can pour water on my waterproof Keenes to cool my feet.  Later I can hose them down.  They don’t stink or grow things.
  • The pedals I’m using are Forte Convert Mag XL – a wide aluminum body. Long spikes on the pedals provide a secure platform on which my feet do not slide.  However, I need to be careful not to whack my shins.
  • I cannot say I notice any degradation in speed or efficiency, either climbing hills or on flats.  Descending, my foot has slipped off a pedal once or twice.
  • I lost a day of riding because I didn’t tighten these pedals enough and stripped the thread in the crank.  Because platform pedals are bigger than my Speedplay pedals, they have a longer lever arm, exert more torque on the crank arm, and thus need to be tightened more.

We’re about a third of the way through this transcontinental.  I’ll post an update of my experience near the end of the tour.

 

 

Ruidoso, New Mexico

Monday Evening 18 September
Day 9

Today was hard.  Only 105 miles, but over 6000 feet of climbing through the mountains of New Mexico.  But oh, what a beautiful ride!  Long straight gentle climbs through horse pastures into Lincoln County, home of Billy the Kid. A fast descent into lunch, then steeper climbs on winding roads into the Sierra Blanca mountains.  Everyone’s legs were trashed.

Seattle Gary and Stig Man caught me on a fast downhill just before lunch. I tried to sit in the back like a slacker, but Gary waved me around and we all took turns rotating through an echelon.  On the last few climbs into Ruidoso, Maitland Ian caught me and we rode together.  Amazing how that guy can climb after training on 30 foot hills in Florida.

Also, a full day of climbing provide a great test for my platform pedals.  I’m liking them a lot.

Waukegan John
Waukegan John
Fast Larry
Fast Larry
Dr Don
Dr Don

 

Socorro, New Mexico

Sunday Evening 17 September
Day 8
phillipHolman
Tucson Phil Going for the Record

Long day today, 155 miles, perhaps the longest of the day.  Lon thought it might be boring so he decided to make it a time trial.  That’s 155 miles riding at lactate threshold for whoever is fool enough to tackle the challenge.  Pactour has been doing this for the past several years.  This year crowned a new record, Tucson Phil, age 67, with a time of 7 hr 44 min.  For the math impaired, that’s an average speed of just over 20 mph, riding hills and a crosswind.

Pictures tell the story of the rest of this day.

Dr Jon
Dr Jon

Springerville, Arizona

Saturday Evening 16 September
Day 7
Train Approaches Winslow
Train Approaches Winslow

We’ve reached the point where everyone forgets what day it is, or how many days we’ve been riding. Just follow the routine: Wake, eat, ride, eat, sleep, repeat. Lawyers, tile layers, real estate moguls, doctors forget about work, just ride their bikes.

High Plains Ranch
High Plains Ranch

Riders said today was tough.  I thought it was easy.  Of course, I only rode 70 miles, they rode 120.  One of the benefits of working crew is being able to cherry pick the sections I ride on the days I ride.  I chose to skip the part where everyone else rode into headwinds on I 40 and a bunch of people got flats.  Instead I rode mostly alone along long quiet stretches across the Arizona high plateau.  With thirty miles to go, Spokane Bob caught me and we rode into Springerville together trading pulls.

Lon Haldeman
Lon Lets Loose
Lon Lets Loose

Lon and his wife Susan run this tour.  Lon was the first competitor to win Race Across America in 1982.  I remember watching him on ABC Wide World of Sports thinking that guy must be crazy.  Today he shared a story about that first race as we saw St. Johns in the distance.  He said, “That’s the first place we stopped to sleep on the first Raam.

I asked, “How long did you sleep?”

Three hours.

How far had you ridden?

Six hundred miles, thirty six hours.

I thought, this guy must be crazy.

Susan Notorangelo
Susan Cooks Potatoes
Susan Cooks Potatoes

His wife Susan is no wimp either.  She was the first female to win Raam.  A couple years later, she and Lon set a transcontinental record on a tandem which has yet to be broken.  Susan has decided to enjoy life and given up hard core cycling. She says we might see her riding downhill on a sunny day with a tailwind. Today she was cooking potatoes in a solar cooker she got from Captain Jack.

I’m thinking, this lady’s not Crazy.

Other Riders
SD Charlie
SD Charlie

Looks like SD Charlie has recovered from his desert ordeal.  He looked happy riding off the front today.  He stopped for a quick bite of lunch before heading down the road.

Spokane Bob rides a smooth wheel.  We traded pulls coming into Springerville. Actually he did most of the pulling, even though he had already ridden 100 miles when he caught me.  He’s also very gracious, saying as we rolled into Springerville, “Thanks for letting me ride with you.”

spokaneBobHits7K
Spokane Bob Hits 7K

 

 

Winslow, Arizona

Friday Evening, 15 September
Ponderosa Pine
Ponderosa Pine
Colorado Plateau
Colorado Plateau
Day 6

Another big climbing day, leaving Cottonwood, descending to the Verde River Valley, then climbing again to 7000 feet and riding the winding roads through pine forests of the Colorado Plateau.  Same wind that blew us up Mingus Mountain yesterday became headwinds when we turned southwest.  I remember this day fondly from when I rode this tour eleven years ago.  This year I didn’t get to do the climb because it was my work day.

Pop's Macaroni Slop
Pop’s Macaroni Slop

Instead I made Pop’s Macaroni Slop for lunch.  I sort of invented this recipe fifteen years ago.  I thought it tasted great but Martha informed me it really sucked.  Then she taught me how to make it right.  The riders love it and I get credit for it.

Rider Stories

Waukegan John got to ride 15 bonus miles after he turned the wrong way at an intersection and rolled 7 1/2 miles downhill, had to turn around and come back into the wind.  That gave him 132 miles for today.

I chatted with Indiana Chris at Lunch.  Turns out the guy I thought was his brother is actually his dad.  That means we have a father-son team, in addition to a brother-brother team, and three married couples on this trip.  Unusual for Pactour.

Orlando Chris told me how he has never climbed hills like he has in the past couple days.  I asked him how he trained, and he said the highest hill outside Orlando is 30 above sea level.  He goes up a and down a lot.

Not a Yoga Pose
Not a Yoga Pose

Steilacoom Paul collapsed in the parking lot at lunch.  He still doesn’t know I took his picture.

Crew Snapshot
Ice for a Day
Ice for a Day

To start the day, we stopped at Walmart and bought fourteen bags of ice.  The nice old lady who was standing guard at the door wouldn’t let me leave without seeing a receipt first.  She said people try to rip them off regularly.

Tech Note Postscript

I’m beginning to hate WordPress.  The layout of this page sucks.  It looks right in edit mode, then is jacked up in display mode.  I want to ditch WordPress and just write html and everything will be exactly where it’s supposed to be.  No I’m too tired.  Long day tomorrow.

 

Cottonwood, Arizona

Thursday Evening 14 September
Day 5
Big John in the Bullseye
Big John in the Bullseye

Yesterday I was so busy driving the lunch rig, setting up for lunch, cooking dogs, tearing down, I had little chance to chat with other riders.  Everyone enjoyed a strong tail wind pushing them west on US 60 toward Wickenburg.  Nevertheless, three consecutive days with temps above 110 were taxing on everyone.  I was exhausted after a day of lunch duty so I’m sure people who were  riding felt worse.

Captain Jack
Captain Jack

I was starting to feel a bit antsy after a third day in a row not riding – more like an observer than a participant in this adventure. It’s easier to relate with riders like Captain Jack who know me from other trips where I actually rode my bike.  Jack and I savored the experience riding Seattle to Boston last summer.

This morning I chatted with Eastside Matt, a guy I knew from another trip ten years ago. He sports a typical climber’s body, lean and wiry.  First day of this trip I saw him flying up the mountain climb to Julian.  Third day of this trip, I saw him sitting glassy eyed on a lunch bench in 116 degree heat with ice around his neck.  He would get up, walk over to his bike, then walk back and sit down on the bench.  He said he did this three or four times.  Each time he looked at his bike, he just said, “No.”

Amazing what the desert heat will do to a strong guy.  Eventually his buddy Rich accompanied him the final twelve miles into Blythe. I expect Matt enjoyed a much more pleasant ride today, climbing in cooler temps over Mingus Mountain to Jerome.

Alamo Ted Clears the Grade
Alamo Ted Clears the Grade

enteringJeromeFrom what I could see, everyone was enjoying themselves today.  We had a 30 mph tailwind pushing us up Mingus Mountain.

The unsung hero of today turned out to be my wife Martha. Arizona drivers are jerks.  We know this because we live half the year in Arizona.  Perhaps they had a jerk convention in Cottonwood today because there were a bunch speeding over Mingus. She was driving the van and wouldn’t let one obnoxious driver pass because she didn’t want him harassing the riders in front.  Coming into Cottonwood, she was driving behind another group of riders when one of them crashed.  She stopped her car behind them and threw on the flashers.  A jerk driving a red Corvette behind her screamed at her that she was breaking the law by stopping in the middle of the road.  She shrugged her shoulders.  Martha does that sometimes.

Bike Tech

Back to me – Martha and I borrowed the Pactour Van and drove to Scottsdale to pick up a replacement for the crank I broke the first day of the trip.  The new crank is a Shimano Ultregra 8000, which replaces my older 6800.  The spider on the new crank will not fit the 6800 chainrings.  The new rings have the same teeth as my old ones – 50 x 34, but the crank arms are 172.5 mm, slightly longer than my old 170’s. I noticed a difference mainly when I was standing out of the saddle to climb – they provide a longer lever arm for rocking the bike.  I might need to lower the saddle a couple mm to avoid any knee problems.

Climbing Mingus on platform pedals was no big deal.  (Oh yeah, that’s right we had a tailwind.) I’m still thinking that for long tours, or possibly even most riding, the advantages of platform pedals might outweigh the disadvantages.  More on that as the experiment continues…

 

 

 

 

Blythe, California

Tuesday Evening 12 September
Day 3
Blythe Cotton
Blythe Cotton

Because today was one of my ride days, Susan said I could borrow her bike until I got mine fixed.  I was just about ready to get it set up when she co-opted me to slice cantaloupe.  By the time I was finished getting fruit ready, it was too late to start riding.  No problem.  I wasn’t all that thrilled on riding someone else’s bike, any bike for that matter, 103 flat miles through a desert oven.

Spokane Bob and Winchester John Approaching the Final Sag
Spokane Bob and Winchester John Approaching the Final Sag

It turned out Martha and I were needed for other duties anyway – shuttling back and forth between rest stops getting ice to suffering riders.  Normally, Pactour sets up rest stops every 25 – 30 miles.  Today it was every 10 – 15 miles.  I saw several riders near the front of the group – Spokane Bob, Winchester John, SD Charlie were riding strong at the front.

 

El Centro, California

Monday Evening, 11 September
Day Two- El Centro, California
Doug preps the Bullet Bike for the descent from Julian. Yesterday he got stopped by cops looking for a motor in this rig.
Doug preps the Bullet Bike for the descent from Julian. Yesterday he got stopped by cops looking for a motor in this rig.

I expected the second day to be easy: 88 miles, a long winding descent from Julian, then a brief roll across a nameless desert into the Imperial Valley and El Centro.  Wrong.  Rough road surface jarred the riders until their hands were numb.  Temperatures climbed past 100 degrees and the dry hot air sucked precious water and salt from their cores.

I drove the lunch rig down the twisting hill, and the crew set up and served lunch under a tree by a lake.  Hot dogs, cucumber salad, pickles, chips and soda.  Water, salt and sugar.

First rider to arrive was SD Charlie.  I figured he must be doing great after riding off the front all day. “How ya doin’, Charlie?”

“Bad. Heat is getting to me.”

He sat on a bench, slumped with his head down for ten minutes before touching the ice water I gave him.

Riders continued to arrive in small groups over the next three hours.  Most but not all looked wasted.  Spokane Bob, Big John from Kennett Square dripped sweat but looked strong.

Other riders slumped on benches, with ice socks draped over their necks. Ma Nancy had to force the smile that had come naturally the day before.  She rode off shepherding two other dudes – MI Broh and one other guy.

A rider to remain nameless shared a story unlike any I’ve heard before.  Feeling wasted, he stopped and sat against the shady side of a telephone pole.  Then he felt the irrepressible urge to relieve himself.  Number Two.  He dropped his shorts, squatted behind a rock, started feeling dizzy and fell over sideways.

Intrepids
Intrepids

Three intrepid riders were last to leave the lunch stop.  Xenia Brent, Albuquerque Karen and Alamo Ted.  I was impressed with their character.  They may have been the slowest riders this particular day, but they never whined or whimpered.  After chatting amiably while recovering at lunch, they rode the final stretch to El Centro together.  That’s what I call style!

Julian, California

Sunday Evening, 10 September
Day One – First Riding Day
Julian, California
Julian, California

Group departed San Diego at 6:30 AM and climbed 77 miles, 8000 feet to Julian, an old gold mining town turned tourist trap in the mountains east of San Diego.  Shortly after the miners arrived in the 19th century, some dude planted apple trees and they thrived.  Now Julian is famous for apple pies.  I didn’t try any.  There was a long line of people waiting outside Mom’s Apple Pie Shop, and I would have been surprised to find them as tasty as Martha’s creations.

Bike Tech
Stripped Threads
Stripped Threads

My experiment riding platform pedals was a failure, not because they were inefficient to ride, but rather because the right pedal came loose from the crank arm, stripped the threads and ruined my crank arm.  Upon arriving at Julian, we pulled the crank from the bottom bracket.  Now I’m looking for a replacement.

Tomorrow is our day to work.  I get to drive the lunch truck, and Martha, Debbie and I get to make lunch.  Susan told me I’m cooking hot dogs.  Guess that’s the man job.

I want to write more stories about the other riders in the group, and I’m pondering how to do that while preserving their privacy in this age of electronic trolls and goblins.