Getting Back in the Saddle

Two years since my last post and the worst news is that I haven’t done a lot of cycling in that time. My job with UW-Extension is partly to blame. I’m having so much fun with that there hasn’t been much time for other things. But I’ve gone to an 80% schedule so hopefully that will be less of a factor.

Did have a nasty leg infection that sidelined me for a couple of months last summer. Plus there have been some changes in my family situation but I can’t really blame my lack of cycling on that.

And I haven’t gone without being active. Did a few short rides and did manage to do 70 miles on the Root River Trail in MN on my birthday. Bought a new kayak in 2019 and spent a lot of time on the Wisconsin River before the infection halted that.

But it’s another season and it’s time to get back on the bike, for a number of reasons.

Today is April 8th and it’s gorgeous outside. Being Wisconsin it’s supposed to snow 3 days from now so I took today off and I’m going to ride to my Spring Green ‘office’ for lunch.

 

Planning for 2017

The following is part of an idea that I need to be talked out of. This is a REALLY dumb idea. Someone please save me from this…

Been too long since my last post. 2016 was a good cycling year for me. I did four tours – three fully supported (SURF & TURF in Florida plus GRABAAWR & SAGBRAW in Wisconsin) and one self-supported X-Wisconsin tour. Finished with just over 2100 miles for the year which beat my goal of 2016 miles. No injuries and had a pretty good time.

The bad news was that I pretty much stopped biking after hitting my goal. Not good and my waistline shows it.

So what challenges and opportunities await in 2017? Well, first of all, I’ve started a new full-time job with UW-Extension/Grant County as their Resource (CNRED) agent. Exciting as that’s going to be, it doesn’t bode well for biking. Where do I find the time and motivation after my regular work day? Plus I don’t have the flexible schedule like last year that allowed me to do four tours.

And this morning I had an idea… (I really shouldn’t eat pizza before going to bed)…could I incorporate bicycling into my job?

I’m not talking about commuting to work. I might be able to do a bit of that but that’s not what I have in mind. I met with a gentleman from Cassville yesterday and part of our conversation involved cycling opportunities in the area and how that could be developed into more of a tourist draw. And that’s not the first time this topic has come up.

Now if you know anything about SW Wisconsin your first thought is likely to be about the beautiful scenery. And it IS magnificent. Throw in the Wisconsin River, the Mississippi River and a host of good sized trout streams and it’s stunning to say the least.

But back to bicycling. The glaciers missed this area so bluffs, ridges, rock outcroppings and valleys abound. From a bicyclist’s perspective the first thought that comes to mind is…HILLS! And boy do we have them. In fact, the thought of bicycling here can be rather daunting. Yet I know plenty of people who cycle regularly. Some are flat-valley cyclists, like your’s truly, but most of them not only take on the hills but love the challenge.

About 10 years ago UW-Extension and several state and local groups partnered in the creation of “Cycle Southwest” which resulted in the outline of 28 suggested bike loops in the SW corner of Wisconsin. I work in Grant County which makes up a large part of that area.

map was published in 2008 and could use an update. Plus, it was designed for avid bicyclists. Several of the routes are very challenging. I’ve tried some of them on for size and they were tough. But there are also cycling routes that might be more appealing to the average cyclist….say, someone like me.

Would it be worth the effort to revisit the potential for bicycling as a draw to our area and could a 68 year old, overweight and out-of-shape UW-Extension agent take a wheels-on approach to make this into a project?

P.S. Those 28 loops vary from 17 – 70 miles in length for a 936 mile total plus there’s another 120 mile point to point route following the banks of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers. (I didn’t total the elevation gain because that would scare the bejesus out of you.)

SAGBRAW 2016 – Summary

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Enjoyed SAGBRAW 2016

Much more relaxed pace than GRABAAWR due to different type of participant. Course was shorter and less challenging. I thought they did a good job of laying out an interesting and safe route. Perfectly marked and the cue sheets were right on but I never needed them because the course was so well marked.

Packed smart for the most part. Only item I really didn’t need was my DSLR camera as the iPad and phone cameras were more than adequate for my needs.

Physical issues – With three tours and nearly 1700 miles under my belt before this event I was fairly well prepared. Still have to do hills in stages due to the shortage of breath related to chronic bronchitis but that’s just something I have to accept. The day I had 20+ miles of headwind really took it out of me. I should have pushed harder in the early morning to roll up more miles before the winds picked up plus I also need to get down to my drop bars to cut wind resistance. I think it would make a difference.

Hammock camping gear performed well. Three nights I had to improvise a bit as suitable trees weren’t readily available but I made do including the night I had to put up the rain fly even though I was on a tennis court.

Temps were warm but that’s not a real problem for me and it never rained which was fortunate. Bugs were a bit of an issue some nights but not a major deal.

Here are the summary statistics:

Day One – Michicot to DePere – 36.9 miles, 3:17 saddle time, 11.1 mph ave.
Day Two – De-Pere to Sturgeon Bay – 64.7 miles, 5:57 saddle time, 10.8 mph ave.
Day Three – Sturgeon Bay to Ellison Bay – 54.2 miles. 4:42 saddle time, 11.4 mph ave.
Day Four – Washington Island loop – 29.2 miles, 3:25 saddle time, 9.6 mph ave.
Day Five – Ellison Bay to Algoma – 66.5 miles, 6:24 saddle time, 10.3 mph ave.
Day Six – Algoma to Mishicot – 46.1 miles, 3:46 saddle time, 11.8 mph ave.

TOTALS – 297.6 miles, 27:31 saddle time, 10.8 mph ave.

Had an actual total of 311 miles which included incidental miles around each community, etc. Total for season is now 1995 miles.

This was worth doing.

SAGBRAW- Day Six

Friday, August 5, 2016 – Packed up by 5:30am, breakfast at 6 and then off for today’s final 44 mile ride to Michicot – cooler than yesterday and sunny. 1948 miles total for season.

9.8 miles – first rest stop, 53 minutes saddle time, 10.9 mph ave, 7:29am.

20 miles – 1:44 saddle time, 11.4 mph ave, 8:26am – windy but not in my face so it’s ok. Sunny, warm and very pleasant.

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End of the road!

Water stop at 23 miles, steep hill leaving Kewaunee.

30 miles – on Lakeshore Road and the views are magnificent. 2:34 saddle time, 11.6 mph ave, 9:30am.

Stopped at last water station
at 39 miles and took an ice cream break at the convenience store there.

End of ride- 46.1 miles – 3:46 saddle time, 11.8 mph ave, 11:10am. Ride into town was flat, fast and the wind at my back. What a nice finish to my first SAGBRAW.

SAGBRAW- Day Five

Thursday, August 4, 2016 – Awake at 5am, warm and clear, breakfast is off site and about 4 miles  away, hit the road about 5:30.

Breakfast at the resort was great.

14.66 miles – 1:17 saddle time, 11.3 mph ave, 7:36am – warm  and calm, at water stop and taking a break.

20:00 miles – 1:48 saddle time,  11.0 mph ave, 8:19 am – in Fish Creek.

Big hill leaving Fish Creek with steep incline and nasty s-curve about half way up.

Stopped at Chocolate Chicken for ice cream in Egg Harbor at the 28 mile mark.

31.9 miles – water stop, 2:52 saddle time, 11.0 mph ave, 9:52am – took a 45 minute break at the park here. Beautiful view.

40 miles – 3:34 saddle time, 11.1 mph ave, 11:28am.

Stopped for lunch in Sturgeon Bay. Took close to an hour which was longer than I would have preferred. Good lunch though.

50 miles – 4:37 saddle time, 10.8 mph ave, 1:35pm – temp has gone into the mid 80s and the wind has picked up significantly. Plus it’s from the south and that’s our direction for most of the remaining miles.

60 miles – 5:40 saddle time, 10.5 mph ave, 2:45pm – very warm and this headwind is downright brutal. 5 miles to go.

Finish at Algoma High Sckool – 66.5 miles – 6:24 saddle time, 10.3 mph ave, 3:30pm. I’m exhausted and having trouble finding a suitable setup site for my hammock.

Finally set up on the school tennis courts which are in a sad state of disrepair. Had to put up the rainfly as a storm was approaching. Never arrived but better safe than sorry. Had a light supper and then hit the sack. I was beat.

SAGBRAW – Day Four

Wednesday, August 3, 2016 – Rain skipped us last night, pretty warm evening so I didn’t use the underquilt but the bug net was a good idea. Woke up about 4am and couldn’t get back to sleep. Finally rolled out a little after 5 and fixed my flat tire. Leak around the stem so had to use a new tube. At least that didn’t happen on the road.

Went downtown for breakfast and then hit the road a little after 7am. Today’s a light day…just 7 miles to the car ferry to Washington Island and then we are free to roam at our leisure. Took my time and made several touristy stops including a swim at Schoolhouse Beach. Water felt great as it was pretty warm all day.

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“Where’s my beer? Oh, and I’ve got a bike here somewhere too.”

Found time for lunch, liquid refreshments and some ice cream as well before leaving the island…no, I wasn’t voted off.

Total for the day was 29.2 miles, 3:25 saddle time, 9.6 mph ave, 4:10pm – boy, did I dilly dally and shilly shally today…but that was the whole idea.

Sampling some more of those 34 beers at the Mink River Basin bar & restaurant while doing this post. Can’t stay too long as we have a 65 mile ride to Algoma tomorrow.

Oh well, one more won’t hurt.

SAGBRAW – Day Three

Tuesday, August 2, 2016 – Ok, that was weird, I dreamt of waking up three times before I actually woke up at 5:08am. Just plain strange. Heavy ground fog but seemed to be clear above. I think Rod Serling was in charge of set design this morning. Breakfast is off site so it’s pack  up and then eat. Hit the road about 6:40.

10 miles – 52 minutes saddle time, 11.3 mph ave, 7:13am, – sunny and no wind. Ground fog is gone.

21.2 miles – first water station, 1:50 saddle time, 11.4 mph ave, 8:17am – pretty flat, sunny with minimal breeze. Beautiful day.

30 miles – 2:36 saddle time, 11.4 mph ave, 9:20am – water station coming up at 34 miles…l’ll take a break there.

Cool spot for the water station break – Cave Point Park…Lake Michigan has washed a huge cave under the rock outcropping I’m standing on.

40 miles – 3:25 saddle time, 11.6 mph ave, 10:18am – beautiful day, continued slight breeze and sunny.

50 miles- 4:20 saddle time, 11.4 mph ave, 11:16am – Wanted to stop at Sister Bay for lunch and refreshments but it was packed and the one place that caught my attention with a ‘cold beer’ sign was closed…drat…on to Elison Bay.

Ellison Bay/Fitzgerald Park – 54.2 miles, 4:42 saddle time,  11.4 mph ave, 11:39am – found a good place to set up for the night.

Took a 2 hour plus nap and then headed downtown. Apparently this place only has two bar/restaurants but the Mink River Basin has 34 beers on tap and great food…and we spend two nights here…life is tough.

Two observations on this tour to date:

First, cyclists are overwhelming liberal politically. Scott Walker would be persona non grata here and that includes the views of people from other states who are on the tour.

Second, this a much more relaxed group than the folks at GRABAAWR. I’m amazed at how few people pass me on the route. Of our 330+ riders I’m finishing the daily route in the top 60. Riders are much more relaxed and into enjoying the ride.

And one final observation, I’m a solo rider. My speed is so erratic that I can’t keep pace with anyone. Had this happen at Bike Florida where a woman wanted to ride with me and our paces just didn’t match. There’s a rider here from Blue River who is at my overall speed level but I can’t keep a pace that works for others.

Plus I can’t carry on a conversation while riding in part because of my shortness of breath, especially on inclines. Some of the riders think I’m being unsocial. Talked with a rider at yesterday’s bar stop and he was surprised I even talked to him because I only had a  slight response when he passed me twice earlier on the route.

Things I didn’t expect.

Looks like it won’t rain tonight and that’s ok with me. Don’t need to test the rainfly for leaks.