Katy Trail Camping Trip Turns Bad

The Katy Trail is 200 plus miles and expanding.  A converted rail line turned into a trail for biking, running, and walking.  It is a great resource.  Over spring break my son-in-law and I decided to go camping. I mentioned that in my last post.   As it turned out the weather was horrible.  It rained, and stormed with lightning,  for days, without much of a break, and the weather was cold.  We scaled down our effort from 50 miles out to camp, and then riding back the same way, to just  25.  The weather report kept showing a break in the weather, but it never came.  Even the much less ambitious distance wasn’t possible for us.  We  had a tight schedule and we would not have been able to make it to our campsite before dark under the trail conditions, and get back on time.    We had to turn back without completing our trek.  What went wrong?

The surface of the trail, which I failed to get pictures of, was boggy and our speed was down to 7 mph or less.  And that with hard peddling.  I was in shape for the ride, having practiced with a fully loaded trailer, but it was a no go.  The combination of wet, despite pretty decent rain gear, the chill, and facing having to set  up camp in the dark under those conditions was too much for us.  So, here are some pictures of a the expedition that failed.  But, I am training to do it again.  The next obstacle?  Ticks.  I found my first this last Sunday.  Not from this jaunt, but from doing yard work.

Weekly Book Review: Across America by Bicycle

Across America by Bicycle:  Alice and Bobbi’s Summer on Wheels, was published by Terrace Books in 2010.  Two friends decided after they retired to ride together across America, from the West to the East coast.  The women were experienced cyclist who had bicycled rather longish trips before, but this was, by far, their longest effort.  They had a web site but it is now down, and the domain is up for sale.  But, the book is still available.  Why should you read it?

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First of all this is an inspiring story  of two women who took on an awesome challenge and completed it.  It is an inspiring and hopeful book.  The book talks about how their already close friendship became more solid, and the many helpful people they met along the way.  As a matter of fact, the people they met along the way  who helped them or just had some kind of impact no matter how fleeting, are a major theme in this book.  Also, this is my third book in this genre (books about people who bike across the United States), and that is  a surprisingly common theme in all of them so far.  In the upcoming weeks you will hear more about the other two books.

If you are contemplating a long ride, solo or with somebody else, this is a book for you to read.  The antidotes, and stories they tell provide wise insight.  They were smart, well prepared, but also flexible.  They camped some, stayed sometimes with people they met along the way, but also used hotels or other lodging.  The book has a lot of explicit, and implicit, advice to give anyone thinking of undertaking such a ride including a whole appendix about what each of them carried on their trek.  There is even an appendix that provides a detailed packing list, down to what went where, which provides an example of two good templates for anyone to start with.  One packed more weight than the other, but they were both rather frugal about the ounces they carried.

Bike Commuting

Started bicycling seriously as a lifestyle thing that brings me free exercise benefits. I hate the cost and dependency of cars.

 From my front door to my office door, by trail and some paved road, takes me 34 minutes each way.  Burning about 540 calories. I am paranoid about flats and leave early and use really good tires. So there is my cardio workout.

Thankfully I have an office with a closet so I preposition clothing and shoes to work in.  About three jackets, and five each of shirts and pants.  I just rotate.

Here is a picture of my Schwinn Searcher which I purchased in 1999.  This hybrid bike is perfect for commuting and has been extremely reliable. Geared just right for my commute which includes two pretty steep hills.

Steel frame, actually in my mind a good thing, and a bit on the heavy side this is my workhorse.  I just purchased a 2009 Surly Cross Check.  Jury is still out.

Thinking this might be my touring bike and recreational bike, and serving as a backup for the Schwinn.

Shoelaces?

Yes, this is a post about shoelaces.  Sort of.

No matter how, or how well, I tied my shoes they would come loose whenever I walked or ran.  It did not happen all the time, but it happened often enough for it to be bothersome, and, I suppose, somewhat dangerous. I also had problems whenever I rode my bike and my right shoelace would get caught between the chain and gear.  Last year when one of our local athletic stores (the kind that is locally owned and caters to serious bicyclist, runners, and swimmers) had their annual shoe sale I made a discovery.  A bucket full of these little doodads called cord locks.  I think they started out being used on clothing and sort of migrated to shoes.  I thought I would try a pair during an upcoming 5k because I did not want to stop in the heat of competition to tie my shoes.  A rookie mistake like putting your number on your back.  I have been hooked every since.

Cord lock for shoestrings

Cord lock for shoestrings

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Cord lock closeup.

This is the original pair that I am still using. I now own four additional pairs in various colors.  At first I thought they might break, come loose, or somehow otherwise fail to meet my satisfaction. They have exceeded all expectations, to the point I keep them on my training shoes, my competition shoes, and my beater shoes I wear for everyday use or to do house chores. I can honestly say that I no longer have issues with loose or tangled shoelaces, and the shoelaces last much longer.  I also discovered it is easier, and faster, to get my shoes on and off.  Plus there is a bonus use.  You know those running shorts, with the tie string, that keep coming loose on you when you run?  One of these bad boys makes that problem go away too.

You can see how I put them on.  The trick is to not to cut the laces too short, but yet keep them long enough so you can get in and out of the shoes.  As a general rule I cut the cords short enough so I cannot step on them.  That seems to be short enough so that they do not get caught up in the bicycle as well.

I suppose the one drawback is they look kind of geeky.  I don’t care. There are fancier methods such as stretchy shoe strings, with fancier fasteners,  but this is a simple fix.  I love things that work.  I really love simple things that work well.

Biking Ugly

I love to bike, but I don’t like doing it for exercise. Seems like I would rather run, or walk, most of the time.   Even I find that odd.  However, I do like bicycling as a means of transportation, and as a lifestyle choice.  Bicycles are a marvel of evolutionary engineering, and just get better all the time.  I am lucky to live in a town which, although not perfect, does provide an environment where bicycling is promoted, and encouraged.

Schwinn Hybrid

Schwinn Hybrid

I have a Schwinn hybrid that is at least ten  years old.  I bought it when click shifting was maybe one or two years into production. It has a steel frame, it has gotten a lot of use, and it was a perfect choice.  I am still completely satisfied with it.  I went from a racing bike, that I actually did race (that is another story), to a bike I could use on the trail system here, and that would be reliable transportation. It was a great purchase. I purchased it from Walt’s Bike Shop here in Columbia, and they offer lifetime free labor.  I just had it in for a tune up and they replaced the chain, and some cables.  It cost me around thirty dollars.

I think walking, or riding  your bike, as an alternative to taking a car is an absolute sane, and healthy way to live.  It is better for you, the environment, and certainly  your pocket book.  I can drive my car to work and burn no calories, or I can ride it to work and burn 400 for free, and enjoy the outdoors all at the same time.  Weather is seldom an issue except for severe thunder storms, or extreme winter weather.  I will not ride in the ice and snow.  I would LOVE to do without a car entirely, and use my bike for everything, and am getting closer to being able to do that, although replacing a car 100% here in the United States is  challenging.

All of these pictures are ones I took yesterday when I rode my bike to campus to meet with some students, and stop by our local public radio station, KOPN at 89.5, to pick up a free mug I got for joining as a member.  They were having a pledge drive that day.

KOPN Coffee Mug

The coffee mug that cost me 90 bucks but I get to make monthly payments on it.

If you use your bike to commute you have to have the right bike, rightly equipped. For example,  I am very paranoid about breaking down,  getting stranded,  and then missing a class.  It takes me about 30 minutes door-to-door leisurely riding averaging right at 10 or 11 miles per hour.  In case something happens I allow for an hour which provides time to either fix things up, or walk in pushing the bike.  I carry C02 cartridges, spare tubes (more than one – I have had two punctures on one ride only once, but it was enough), and a few tools.  Also, a tube repair kit which I have absolutely no faith in.  I have learned that fifty dollar tires are worth the price.  To domesticate an already placid, forgiving, and reliable ride I have added the following accessories:

bicycle saddle bags

Cheap eBay saddle bags. LOVE them. Large capacity, and somewhat water proof. Less than ten bucks.

Cheap, WalMart bell.  Works great.  It does kind of chime as you ride and hit bumps but that is kind of charming.

Cheap, WalMart bell. Works great. It does kind of chime as you ride and hit bumps, but I find that rather charming.

Fenders.  These drive me crazy with their rattling, and they are finicky as far as adjusting them so they make less noise (never no noise), or rub.

Fenders. These drive me crazy with their rattling, and they are finicky as far as adjusting them so they make less noise (never no noise), or rub. But they are worth the expense, and trouble.  My most expensive add-on accessory.