So Did You Hear It Snowed?

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And man did it ever.  We had record-breaking snowfall here in Kansas, with places getting a total of over 20″ between Thursday and Monday.  Here in Emporia we had 17″.  Guess what that means?

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Bike time.  The snow came in two big storms.  The first one on Thursday (Feb 21st), and by far the worst, brought 10-12 inches, and was too deep to ride in.  The fat bikes are designed and built to be ridden on packed snowmobile trails, and anything over about 5 inches just bogs them down too much.  I got about 3 feet off my front porch and did the most awesome endo ever.  I spent the remainder of the day on facebook and the bike trainer.  The weather slowly warmed up over the next couple of days, and we had quite a bit of melting.  The snow-storm that came on Monday wasn’t near as severe as was predicted, mainly because the temperature Monday night never got below freezing, so the snow didn’t really stick.  Enough of the snow had melted by Tuesday morning that riding was possible, although pretty difficult at times.  I took off and hit the gravel roads south of town, as usual.

The temperature was slightly above freezing, and there was light snowfall when I took off.  Heading south, I actually worked up a pretty good sweat, and my sunglasses kept fogging up, but the riding was surprisingly easy.  Not too surprising, however, mainly due to the 30mph tailwind that was gusting to 45+mph.  The first time I headed west, I was about blown off the bike.  I continued west to road G, and headed south on that to Road 50, then turned around and started back.  

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I’ve never been to a spin class before, but I imagine that doing spin class in a walk-in freezer would have been far more enjoyable than the ride back, minus the shitty techno-pop that some call music.  It was a low gear grind the whole way back, but man was it a great workout (and it wasn’t on the trainer).  Again, the temperature was 33-34 degrees, so I was wearing a midweight poly-pro top and my 66North eVent Jacket.  I also had on a pair of cycling tights and an old (made in USA old) pair of Mountain Hardwear wind pants. I stayed warm, even a little too warm when I was riding south.  Even headed into the wind, the jacket and pants performed great.  I was slightly cool, but never cold.  Hands down the best part of this ride was the looks you’d get from people driving by.  With one exception, every single person who drove by stopped and asked if I needed anything.  Along one road, the snow was drifting pretty bad, and I had to walk a short section.  A car was stuck, and the man driving was on his phone calling for a tow.  The look on his face when I walked by pushing Pugsley was fricking priceless.  MAN I wish I’d have taken a picture.  To paraphrase my hero Clark W. Griswold “He wouldn’t have been more surprised if he woke up with his head sewn to the carpet.”  Haha.  Good times.

Around 11, the wind started to pick up, and it began snowing harder, so I decided to head for the house.

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I got home shortly before noon, and it was still snowing pretty hard.  By the time I got out of the shower, it had pretty much stopped.  Go figure.  Either way, it was a great ride, and it felt good to get outside, even though most people wouldn’t describe the conditions as “optimal.”

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This was taken at Soden’s Grove Bridge, heading out of town.

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Just south of Soden’s Grove Bridge.

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This was taken about 4-5 miles south of town.  The trees were a welcome windbreak and made a good stopping point.

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This one was on Soden’s Grove Bridge as well, headed out of town.

If you’re interested about snow riding, you should ask the people racing the Iditarod Trail Invitational.   It’s a race, either on bikes, skis, or foot, along the Iditarod Trail.  There is a 350 mile race to McGrath, or one can race the whole 1,100 miles to Nome.  Jill Homer has a great writeup about the history at Half Past Done.  Jay Petervary managed to shatter the 350 mile record this year, with a run of 2 days, 19 hours, and 16 minutes.  The old record, set by Pete Baysinger, was 3 days, 5 hours, and 40 minutes.  It absolutely amazes me what the human spirit is capable of.

See you down the (frozen) road,

Matt

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Man, where have the days gone?

 

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Ahh yes, it’s outage time.  You know when you fill up your car, turn the engine off, get gas, check the oil, clean the windows, buy a bag of FunYuns, and take a quick leak?  Outage is the nuclear equivalent of that.  The bad news is that means very little bike time.  The good news is… it’ll be over in a couple of months??  Yeah.  Actually there is a positive to having ~125 hours on a paycheck, and that’s reflected in a pretty healthy paycheck.  In context of the Tour Divide, that means not having to pinch pennies, or being forced to camp out in the rain rather than having a hot shower and hotel bed for the night.  It also means I can spend a little more on gear to go truly ultra-light.  Ounces equal pounds; pounds equal pain.  This saying not only applies to gear weight, but also to body weight.  I’m…getting there.

So far I’ve been doing really good about generally eating right and I’m getting a solid hour a day on the bike trainer.  I have the next couple of days off and I’m hoping to get a long ride (100+) on Wednesday.  Last Tuesday I went out and hit around 110 miles, with every hill I could find.  

 

 

ImageThese were taken at Teterville.  It was an oil town in the 1920’s and 30’s, but is now abandoned and all that remains are the big rock and a few building foundations.  It has an amazing view, however, and is stunning when everything is green.  In the bottom picture, you can see part of a large herd of wild horses that graze this area.  It’s south and west of Madison, and due east of Cassoday.  I HIGHLY recommend making this trip, and when you do, go up the hill.  It makes it seem that much more worth it. (I want to have my ashes tossed into a strong south wind here.  That way, they blow all over all three people at my funeral, and they can get a piece of my mind and kiss my ass at the same time. Ha!)Image

I’m going to need every inch of climbing I can get, because there’s a LOT on the Divide, as in enough to go to the top of Mount Everest seven times.  Like I said, a lot of climbing.  Ohh, did I also mention it’s 2,745 miles long?  I digress.  

Another thing I really need to get up to speed on is the maps and route.  I’ve got the GPX file, the Adventure Cycling route maps, and cue sheets, and I’m also working on a towns and services directory along the route.  My navigation plan goes like this.  Redundancy will be key, but with as little weight as possible.  My primary means of navigating will be the GPS.  Secondary will be using my iPhone as a GPS.  If my primary GPS goes down, even without cell reception I’ll still be able to see if I’m on route or not.  I’ll just be following a red line on a blank screen, but if I’m not on that red line, I’m off route.  Third will be maps.  I probably won’t carry cue sheets, b/c the maps have cues on them, but I will upload the cue sheets to my phone, as well as having pictures of the maps on there as well.  

Along with navigation comes the playbook.  I need to come up with a plan of how best to tackle this thing.  I’m going to look up as many people who have completed it in 24-25 days and try to figure out what I feel is the best way to do this.  Distance per day, riding times, etc.  These will be different for every racer, obviously, but at least I’ll have a general idea of what lies ahead.  Personally I feel the way for me to do this is to break the race down into different sections and tackle each, one at a time.  

For now, I feel I have a pretty good setup for doing this, but here’s something I found that I think will alleviate my last big worry, and that was water storage.  Salsa has been making their Anything Cage for a while.  It’s a large water bottle cage that mounts on certain forks.  The guy who made my frame bag, Jeremy Cleaveland, came up with what he calls the “Everything Bag.”  It’s a redesign on the Salsa cage, and with one on each fork holding a 48oz Nalgene bottle, will enable me to carry an additional three liters of water, and not on my back.  

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There’s a nasty rumor that you can also fit a handle of whiskey, but I’m sure it’s nothing more than just a rumor.  Has to be.

With these, that means I won’t have to carry any weight at all on my back, although I will still pack a small ultralight backpack to hold extra food or in case of emergency and I have to walk a few miles.  I’ll be able to hold four liters in my framebag in an MSR Drom-Lite, three liters on the fork, and another 24 oz in a water bottle.  I can also use the bottle for mixing up Emergen-C or gatorade or what-not.  I’ll also bring a 2-Liter Platypus bladder for emergencies or extra dry stretches, and keep it in my seat-bag.  That will put my total water capacity at just under 2 1/2 gallons, although I won’t be carrying near that much most of the time.  

This race seems to have taken over most of my free time.  For example, tonight, instead of watching the KU – K-State game or the State of the Union Address, I’m writing this blog, and then will read over the maps, head to bed, and dream about a very large slice of apple pie in Pie Town.

See you down the road,

Matt

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2,745

Ok, big announcement number #1 time.  I didn’t get the job I was hoping for, but after pouting for two days, crossing my arms, stomping my feet, sticking my bottom lip out and swearing I was going to move to Alaska, I’m over it.  Side note, I’m not moving to Alaska.  I’m a better tourist than citizen, plus the cost of living is ridiculous.  Anyways…

Before I put in an application for a new job, I had put in for vacation to race the Tour Divide and it was approved, so I’m going to stick with that plan.  I’ve mentioned it before, but here’s for all you new people.  It’s a 2,745 mile mountain bike race from Banff, AB Canada to the Mexican Border in Antelope Wells, NM.  I’ll put it in perspective for you:

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My goal, as in fastest time I think possible, is around 24 days.  That’s an average of 119 miles per day.  Realistically I think it will be more like 25-26 days, but I prefer to be optimistic.  My primary goal is to finish.  That’s first and foremost.  Even if I don’t finish, however, it will still be an incredible adventure, and I’ll get to meet some really awesome people.  I’ve got a lot of preparation to do before then, however, most notably in the area of physical fitness.  At work we are getting ready to go into an outage, which means 60+ hour work-weeks, and it’s going to last until at LEAST mid-April.  My plan for work-outs involves a lot of HIIT (High-Intensity Interval training) on the stationary bike, and as many long rides as I can get.  The good part about outage is we won’t be switching shifts like we do now.  We’ll be on day-shift only, but it will be 12 & 1/2 hour days, with Tuesdays and Wednesdays off.  My plan for the week goes like this:

  • Monday – 1 hr Stat bike, med to low intensity, good upper body and core workout.
  • Tuesday – Long ride – 100 miles +
  • Wednesday – Long Ride – 100 miles +
  • Thursday – Rest day.  Light upper body and core, stretching
  • Friday – 45 mins HIIT on Stat bike
  • Saturday – 1 hour stat bike, medium intensity, focus on steady RPM
  • Sunday – 45 mins HIIT on Stat bike

Every other week we will supposedly have Monday off (*COUGH* BULLSHIT!), and if that occurs, I’ll do a two-night overnight to help get my gear straight and to get used to riding all day and sleeping outside.  I will also try to work in some extra arm, hand, neck, and core body exercises at work, if I can.  Also important is nutrition.  I’m planning on hitting up an sports-nutritionist at ESU tomorrow to develop a solid diet for doing this.  Hopefully they’ll do it for free (I’m the first person from Kansas to EVER even ATTEMPT this.  Will you PLEASE help me??!!).  We’ll see.  I also signed up for the Dirty Kanza again, and that’s two weeks before the grand depart, so it’ll be my big bang before I start two weeks of tapering.

Everyone always wants to see a gear list, so for all you (us) gear-heads, here it is for now:

  • Bike – 2012 Surly Karate Monkey (16″); 2×10 drivetrain with SRAM everything; SRAM Double-Tap Shifters; Salsa Woodchipper MTB drop handlebars; 29″ WTB Nano-Raptor Tires tubeless with Stan’s on DT Swiss Wheels; Avid BB-7 disc brakes, Shimano M520 SPD pedals (for now), Salsa Fargo Fork, and a Brooks B-17 Saddle.
  • Navigation – Garmin eTrex 20 GPS, Adventure Cycling Topo Maps, Adventure Cycling Cue Sheets, SPOT II (for tracking), GPS backup on iPhone (Motion-X GPS app).
  • Clothing – 2 cycling jerseys, 2 cycling shorts, cycling shoes, 2 pairs of socks, 2 sock liners, 1 pr gore-tex socks, 1 pr cycling gloves, 1 pr fleece gloves, 1 microfiber beanie hat, 1  Buff, 1 Smartwool mid-weight base layer, 1 pr cycling tights, 1 pr Marmot Precip pants, 1 66 North eVent (WPB) jacket, 1 Mont-Bell down jacket, 1 pr silk-weight arm warmers, prescription sunglasses and clear lens glasses, bike helmet.  (this list is VERY much subject to change)
  • Maintenance and Repair – two 29″ tire tubes, two spare spokes, assorted zip-ties, bicycle multi-tool, chain tool, mini-leatherman, small pump, tire levers, patch kit, small amount of Gorilla tape, extra screws, 1 spare plastic pedal, small bottle of loc-tite (this list also subject to change), chain lube and brush.
  • Bedroll – Western Mountaineering Iroquois Sleeping Bag (32 deg), Therma-Rest NeoAir XLite sleeping mattress, REI minimalist Bivy
  • Misc – small roll of TP, Chamois cream, sunscreen, lip balm, travel toothbrush, bottle Dr. Bronner’s soap, water purification tabs, multi-vitamins, iPod Nano and Shuffle, charging cables and wall charger, spare batteries, spare headlamp, small pkg foot powder, bear spray.
  • First Aid Kit – Asst bandaids, moleskin, Immodium AD, extra-strength Benadryl, Aleve, electrolyte tablets, emergency dental filling, tylenol PM, gauze, First Aid tape, small snake-bite kit, tweezers, extra water-purifying tablets, alcohol wipes.
  • Water Storage – 4L MSR DromLite bag, 1 24 oz water bottle,  2-1.5L Nalgene’s on Fork, spare 1L Platy bag.
  • Storage Bags – Frame Bag: Cleaveland Mountaineering; Viscasha Seat bag, jerry can, gas tank, and feedbags – Revelate Designs
  • Lighting – Princeton Tec Apex Extreme, Petzl Tikka XP as backup, red blinky on back.

Doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but I sure don’t want to be carrying a ton of weight.  Less is more is definitely the key to this thing, I think. Well, that and being bat-shit crazy, but hey, it just makes life that much more interesting.

So anyways, that was my big announcement I kept you all (mom) in the dark for.

See you down the (LOOOOOONG) road,

Matt

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It’s Ready.

The route is ready.  562.62 miles of Kansas gravel, over 26,000 feet of climbing, three historic American West wagon trails, five lakes, a presidential museum, a racetrack, heck there’s even a castle.  This thing is 40 miles longer than the Trans-Iowa and Dirty Kanza routes combined.  I’m calling it the CSF&O 550 – The Kansas Cannonball.  CSF&O is a take on how railroads used to be named, and stands for Chisholm, Santa Fe, and Oregon, because you’ll either be traveling on, or crossing, all three of these historic trails.  The Kansas Cannonball?  I dunno, I just thought it sounded cool.  My route – my name, haha.  Don’t be surprised if you do hear some cannons though, you’ll be within a couple of miles of Ft. Riley; proud home of the Big Red One, and also the 1918 Spanish Influenza.  Ok, so without further ado, here is the MapMyRide Link:

http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/167175718

***EDIT*** Here’s the link to the dropbox folder with the GPX and town list:  https://www.dropbox.com/sh/mjil001bs5rgthy/LZsb6xUd0n

If that doesn’t work, let me know. Since I’m unable to upload and share the GPX file directly, click the link, and then on the right side of the page click “Export This Route” then click the box “Download GPX File.”  This will save the GPX file to your computer for uploading on a GPS, smartphone, mapping software like Basecamp or Topofusion, or even Google Earth.  I also put together a list of towns and services along and near the route.  If you’re interested in those, shoot me a message, and I’ll be more than happy to email those to you. Ok, to get you all even more pumped about this, I’m going to end this with some pictures, either taken by myself or from Google Earth, from directly on the route.  Hope you enjoy! Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Hope you enjoy the pictures, and special thanks to Eric the Adventure Monkey for cross-posting this to his facebook and getting an insane amount of traffic and excitement generated! Thanks man, and I look forward to riding this with ya! See you down the most freakin’ bad-ass gravel-grinder ever, Matt

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If You Build It, They Will Come.

Ok, it’s almost finished.  Over the course of the last two and half days I mapped out a 550 mile gravel bicycle route that starts and ends here in Emporia (although you could theoretically start at any point on the loop).  What’s it look like?  Wait for it…

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The first portion got cut off for some reason, plus I need to tweak a few wrong turns, but there’s the gist of it.  The original plan was to go directly through some of bigger cities.  I changed my mind on this, instead giving deference to staying on gravel, although some pavement was unavoidable.  The route goes close enough that “hoteling” is easily doable, you will just have to go a few miles off-route to do so.  Camping is much more accessible, with the route going within a mile or less of numerous camping opportunities at area lakes.

What’s so great about it?  If you’re a history nerd like me, you’ll love it.  You’ll travel a fairly good stretch on parts of both the Chisholm and Oregon Trails, plus you’ll cross the Santa Fe Trail a couple of times as well.  There’s a really good chance you’ll see cowboys and Indians, wagon trains, wild mustangs, homestead ruins, buffalo, deer, coyote, quail, pheasants, prairie chickens, and some of the largest cattle herds in the US.  The cities on the route, or close to are: Emporia, Cassoday, El Dorado, Newton, Salina, Abilene, Junction City, Manhattan, Alma, Wamego, Topeka, Lawrence, and Lyndon.  That’s not the full list; I’ll compile that, along with the route cues, soon.  When I get those complete, I’ll post them on here along with the GPX file and PDF maps.

If you don’t have a dedicated GPS, you can also use a smartphone with a GPS chip (iPhone, etc).  The app I used to map the route was MotionXGPS for iPhone.  A smartphone will work, but you will probably need to bring a backup battery or a way to charge it on the go, because using the GPS in a smartphone sucks the battery in about 4-5 hours.  My GPS of choice for bikepacking is a Garmin eTrex 20.  Garmin’s upload and mapping software is pretty clunky, especially for the Mac.  If possible, I highly recommend using Topofusion.  It’s a much simpler and streamlined design.

Ok, I’m gonna go work on finishing this up, so I’m gonna end this post, but first I’m going to wash my car.  After almost 600 miles of gravel, including 7 hours of rain today, it’s looking a little awesome right now.

See you down the (gravel) road,

Matt

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Meep Meep.

This is going to be quick, but I had to share these.  If you didn’t know, I’m a huge Coyote and Roadrunner fan.  If you know me, I’m sure this immediately makes a lot of sense.  Today in the local paper was an article about a man who died while BASE jumping off of a radio antenna tower.  After reading this, I started browsing Youtube for Wile E. Coyote shorts.  I’m sure you can make the connection.  While doing so, I came across this:

and this:

Evidently Warner Brothers is remaking Looney Toons in CGI, and they’re doing a really damn good job of it.  I got a really good laugh from these, and I hope you enjoy them as well.  

See you down the road (I’ll be the one on the jet-powered ACME Fat-Bike),

Matt

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Big Announcement #2

Big announcement time.  I’m sure you’re asking what happened to the first one, and well, I may be switching jobs, so not sure if number one will happen or not.  Here’s number two.  Kansas needs a long-distance off-road bike-packing route.  The Dirty Kanza is a great start, but I’m talking a multi-day, gravel-grinding loop that starts and ends here in Emporia.  So on Tuesday I’m going to start mapping one.  I hope to have the GPX file done by Friday, and then start working on cue sheets.  I won’t be planning a race, at least this year, but will keep track of ITT’s (Individual Time Trials) for anyone interested, as long as they are verified by SPOT or GPS.  The towns I’m planning on including/ going near are Emporia, El Dorado, Newton, McPherson, Salina, Abilene, Manhattan, Wamego, Topeka, Lawrence, Ottawa, Osage City, Eskridge, and back to Emporia.  I’m also planning on including the single-track trails in Manhattan, Topeka, and Lawrence, so if you’re gonna ride cross tires, you might want to have some knobs on them.  This route will be able to either be bike-packed with plenty of camping opportunities at area lakes, or you can easily “hotel” it as well.  At least five of the towns have full-service bike shops, plus any other amenities that you may need.  Don’t get me wrong, though, this route will have PLENTY of wide-open spaces where seldom is heard a discouraging word.  I’m really excited to get this started!

What’s new with me?  Not too much, really.  Still on for the no-drinking thing, which for me is no easy task, but I made it through New Years.  Heck, I even went to a bar on New Year’s Eve and stayed sober.  That’s gotta be a good sign, right?  I tell you what, I felt a lot better in the morning this year than I did last year, believe you me!

So I decided I was going to try to do the Dirty Kanza route on my fat-bike, on snow-covered roads, in January.  I really didn’t plan it out, just decided the day before I was going to give it shot.  I started out at 6, and it was fairly cool, about 15, but there wasn’t any wind.  I got warmed up fairly quickly, but about an hour into the ride the wind picked up.  It was fairly stiff from the south, which happened to be the way I was going.  It continued to pick up speed, and then made a shift from the west about the same time I did.  More headwind.  I guesstimate it was about 20mph or so, and going up those hills into a headwind on a fat-bike made for a LONG ride.  I got about 6-7 miles from Cassoday, which is the first checkpoint on the DK (mile 65, I think), and after a couple of flats, decided to turn around.  My initial plan was just to backtrack along the route to Emporia, but along the way I realized I was only about 20 or so miles from Madison, which has a Casey’s General Store (gas station).  A Casey’s General Store means one thing: pizza.  That sounded good, so with the wind (generally) at my back, that’s where I ended up.  I stocked up on pizza, warmed up with some coffee, and was getting ready to head out for the last 20 miles back to Emporia.  I checked my phone, and had a voicemail from my Mom, who said she was in Olpe (about 10 miles away), and wondered if I wanted a ride.  At that point, the DK challenge was already ruined, so I balked.  If anyone ever asks if a Surly Pugsley can fit in the back of a Dodge Nitro, the answer is yes, if you take both the wheels off, haha.  Anyways, I got back home, warmed up with a hot shower, and then went over to the parent’s house for some chili.  My total mileage was around 107 for the day, which I was pretty happy with, given the headwinds, my lack of fitness, flat problems, my lack of fitness, and the snow-covered roads.  Did I mention I’m a lot more out of shape than I thought I was?  I’ll add that to the list of New Years Resolutions.  

See you at the gym,

Matt

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