Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Korea Randonneuring

August 2009
Science, will bring me frequently to Korea (ROK) over the next three years and this will provide a unique opportunity to explore this country by bicycle.

Although cycling, and especially Randonneuring, is not very popular in Korea, I was able to track down one long-distance cyclist in Korea. Jan Boonstra, a native from the Netherlands, has been living in Korea for quite some time and he explored the entire (Southern) Peninsula (Jan's Korean cycling page)

Jan Boonstra's home page

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Fathersday in America - The Ensign and Lothar on the road

Here we are - driving across our great country to drop off the ensign's car in Oakland.

Our trusted companion:

Pumping gas kept us entertained:

Day 2: from Iowa to Omaha

On our way West, we visited Kay and his family.

Day 3: Omaha to Grand Junction

Day 4: Grand Junction to Moab

We arrived in Moab around noon and after a brief lunch with a "Derailleur Ale" we took a spin on the BarM loop and O loop trail.

Slickrock riding

Day 5: Riding the Slickrock trail

Father and son on Fathers Day. We did some family-style cycling on "Slickrock Trail" and the "Hurray Trail". Afterwards we had a late lunch, which we washed down with a "Polygamy Porter". Apparently their fitting logo is "Why have just one?"

Zach riding the slickrock trail:

Day 6: Moab to Salt Lake City

Day 7: Salt Lake City to Reno

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Gettysburg XC Invitational 2008

It is a tradition for the US Coast Guard XC team to participate in the Gettysburg Invitational and this year was no exception.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Kinki Fall Brevet

Prologue This is really all about 61 dedicated Randonneurs riding on the left side of the road, cue sheets with Chinese characters, extraordinary sea food, hot springs, and, yes, 600km in 40 hours. As my Randonneuring season with its memorable Brevets in Maryland and Bavaria, the stunning Cascade 1200 Grand Randonee and the NCDC and PA Fleches was winding down, an unexpected opportunity came up – riding a 600k in the land of the rising sun. Joining 60 other riders from Ausdax Kinki and from every corner of Japan should be a unique experience. Not being able to decipher the cue sheets with its myriad of Chinese characters I would need to bond with fellow riders and follow them along the shores of the Pacific through tiny fishing villages and through the rugged mountains speckled with hot springs and monasteries. Hitoshi Okada, the Kinki RBA, was rightly worried that I would take a wrong turn and get lost in the West Virginia of Japan and thus he asked a volunteer rider, Yutaka W, not to let me out of sight. Yutaka is a true samurai rider who recently finished the Canadian 2000k Grand Randonee in 135 hours - Chapeau. As my friends know I often ride for hours by myself and I wondered already what it would be like to be with a fellow rider for 40 hours. I pray to the Randonneur and culinary gods that Yutaka likes unique seafood and takes every opportunity to refuel with whatever the sea has to offer. After all, this ride is about enjoying life for 40 hours and teasing taste buds and not about swallowing kilometers. Since the NOAA web site informed me of a complete lack of moon light during the weekend of the ride, my Bavarian cycling Spetzl Ulli Schoenemann set me up with the new BM light attached directly to the front hub, an excellent way to easily mount the light. I had not taken my SEVEN for a spin since the PAC tour and after a thorough cleaning job it went back into the suitcase. United carried rider and bike across the Pacific. The vast majority of passengers on UA885 were from Asia, probably a testimony to the weak $. The route The ride starts in Izumisano, a city south of Osaka. We will circle the peninsula and cycle through Osaka, Wakayama and Mie Prefecture and then cross over back to Izimisano. Rinding 450 km along the Pacific should be stunning - although I have not factored in any rain or wind. Day 0 I woke up at 4 a.m., with my brain stuck 13 time zones to the East. Got my e-mails done and read Garrison Keillor, who always gets me laughing. Miso soup, fish and rice for breakfast - time to get the carb loading started. Heavy rain sets in - it's Typhoon season.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

NC-DC, A Gourmet Fleche well done

Team NC-DC enjoying their Gourmet Fleche. Somehow “Team NC-DC”, made up of a lawyer, a librarian, a software engineer and three federal employees, lacked critical skills of time management as the day progressed. Lynn, our esteemed librarian, had meticulously planned the Fleche, including the locations of controls with exact arrival and departure times.

Team NC-DC route. We departed Raleigh, NC at 0800 hours on March 21, 2008 heading towards Ocean Isle Beach. However, efforts to stay within the time frame established by Lynn were futile. Mike (Dayton) and Jerry (Phelps), living either off Hammer gels or genuine molassas from Big Ed’s, constantly pushed the pace, leaving Byron and I struggling at the end of the pack. Our desperate “SLOW DOWN” frequently died in the headwind. Well, this fast pace placed us many hours ahead of schedule.

Mike is just too big for a PO Box.According to ACP Fleche rules, no more than two hours are allowed at each individual control. This quirky fact dawned on us as we raced through the night entering the town of Atkinson (zip code 28421). The Post Office turned out to be the right place to burn off some of those extra hours.

Jerry ready to mail his letter. Special thanks to the US Postal Service for keeping an open door policy for homeless cyclists. After years of supporting Lance and his fellow riders, the USPS serves the Randonneurs.

Team NC-DC: Bob, Lynn, Jerry, Byron, Lothar and Mike. Tony, the RBA sent us off, sharply at 0700 hours on Good Friday. But let me track back to the beginning. Thanks to Lynn (Kristianson) I was added to the NC-DC team a few days before the ride. I accepted on the spot and there were no regrets. After I told Bill Beck, the captain of my other Fleche team (“Fleche in the Penn”) about this event he labeled me a “promiscuous flesher”.

The DC half of Team NC-DC drove down to Raleigh in Bob’s (Sheldon) car with a single and a tandem on the roof. Of notice, Bob’s car is 10 years old with only 60,000 miles on the odometer – a testimony to a bicycle commuter. While Bob, Lynne and Gordon stayed with Gordon’s son Adam, I took refuge with my NIH colleague Jerry, his wife Beth and two dogs in their “cabin” in the woods outside Raleigh.

Gordon loading carbs. Breakfast was served in “Big Ed’s”, caloric heaven of Raleigh. It seems to be the place to go if you do manual labor, but for lawyers, computer geeks and federal workers the food serves would certainly clog up their arteries, unless .... Gordon had opted not to ride but rather drive to Ocean Beach Isle to meet us at the finish in 24 hours. According to my father: "those who don’t work should at least eat!" After wolfing down enough calories to feed the entire city of Raleigh we were ready to roll ....

Mike and his bike = cool square It’s so rewarding to cycle into the sunrise, while others go to work. The morning was uneventful, a cool breeze, rolling hills and moving from an urban setting to the Hinterland of NC. As we progressed the dogs became faster and more vicious but there were moments when we rolled on.

Lunch was served at Janice’s Country Kitchen in Walstonburg, a town with a population of 240 and a per capita income of $ 19,500 (Wikipedia). We did our part to support the local economy and ate well.

Lynn crying/laughing when reading the lunch menu. After a quiet lunch, most of us endulged in a southerb BBQ pork sandwich with cole slaw, we continued on flat and monotonous country roads featuring little traffic and the dreaded headwind never materialized. Somehow it was the ideal Fleche and the opposite of what I experienced a week later in the Pennsylvania Fleche (to be posted soon). We could have asked for more ...

Jerry: living in style! Since this was a genuine Fleche, Lynn had decided on a French restaurant for dinner - the "Stone Leaf Cafe". This etablisament featured French and NC cuisine and Jerry endulged in wine, after all he is a single speed guy. Look: the jersey also gives him away as genuine french. Needless to say that we worked our way through numerous baskets of dinner rolls and butter.

Lynn and Mike engaged in a sophisticated debate on the role of art and french cuisine in a North Carolina Fleche. I think the consensus was that we should bring more appropriate attire along on our 2009 Fleche.

After a leasurely five course - two hour - dinner, we mounted our bikes and cycled into the night. 100 miles of flat road in 10 hours - a true challenge for the NC-DC Randonneurs and our leaders moved imediately into a big gear leaving Byron and I struggeling after this feast.

Another 2 hour stop We arrived at the next control sometimes around midnight, ready for more food and another nap.
Mr. Bicycle Bob eating his soup ....
...and then falling asleep

I guess big ash trays are in style in NC

Another 2 hour stop. We arrived in the wee hours at our mandatory 22 hour control. Lynn had picked a unique one - the Office of the County Sherrif. Everybdy picked their favorite activity, Lynn reading a good book - remember she is a librarian, Byron catching up on his sleep and Mike writing a letter home.

View from the bridge that links the mainland from our destination, Ocean Isle Beach

Finally, after an exhausting 24 hours with almost no headwind and no hills and endless hours hanging out at controls we arrived in Ocean Isle Beach. Jerry had a surprise for us - our very own NC-DC shirts to remind us for years to come of this wonderful event.

I shall return

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Peru 2007 - Joining Lon Haldeman in the Amazon

Birthday party for street kids The final leg of our Peru PAC Tour took us to Iquitos, known for its rubber barons as portrayed in Werner Herzog's epic movie "Fitzceraldo". On our last night we organized a "Birthday Party" for street children in a local restaurant. The 30+ kids enjoyed their chicken dinner and a T shirt (some wrapped up the dinner to take it home to their families). Lon organizes such a party every year and by now the kids know the Gringo cyclists.

Manana - let's start from the beginning. My life during the first part of 2007 was dedicated to PBP and then, after 83:31 hours, everything was over, creating a huge void and I was wondering whether life would ever be sweet again. Priscilla, my greatest fan and avid supporter of my passion, told me to get back on the bike; was it an act of self-preservation? She found the Peru Tour on the PAC TOUR web site and thought that Lon Haldeman’s approach to life, combining the passion for cycling and helping to build a better world, was admirable and something to join in.

On TACA bikes fly standby
Lon suggested bringing a bike that could be given to a local rider after the tour and my friend Maile had an old mountain bike and parts that found a good home in Peru. TACA airlines offered the cheapest tickets and the flight was scheduled to leave at 0500 hours from DC. When I showed up at the counter with my bike box I was told that everything in cardboard boxes was flying standby. Well, families returning to their home country had lined up with umpty cardboard boxes containing everything from swing sets to appliances, and as predicted my bike only arrived after our tour was over.

The principal and his new bike. I purchased another mountain bike in Tarapoto and it has now had a good home with the principal and students of the “School of the Dolphins” in Iquitos. Maile's bike finally arrived on our last day in Iquitos, just in time to assemble it and present it to the local cyclists and firemen.

Leaving Tarapoto for our cycling adventure in the Peruvian Amazon Air travel from Lima to TARAPOTO was uneventful but stepping off the plane was a reminder that we were getting closer to our destiny, the Amazon jungle. Heat and a buzzling city were motorcycle taxis reign greeted us. Our hotel, owned and operated by Koreans?? was a step down from Lima but still pleasant. We had an Internet connection, soap, hot water, towels, shampoo and an air conditioning unit that kept my room mate Terry awake for the better part of the night.

Crossing a continent. Our original plan to ride all the way from Tarapoto to Caynarachi and then on to Yurimaguas was doomed. The highway that eventually will link Brazil with the Pacific Ocean was under construction and the stretch from Tarapotyo to Caynarachi was closed every day from 0600 to 2200 hours due to blasting and construction.

Lon-Veronica and Terry. We therefore spent the entire day riding in the Lamas province and the plan was to go by truck at night to Caynarachi. Riding to Lamas was a welcome relief from the heat in Tarapoto. Lamas is located 700 meter above Tarapoto and after a 10 kilometer climb we enjoyed lunch in a refreshing highland breeze.

Upon our return to the hotel we loaded our gear onto three Toyota and Nissan trucks and took off on a dirt road heading to the mountain range, which would lead us into the Amazon basin. The word on the street was that the mountain road would open at 1800 hours. However, this was an overly optimistic assumption and more than 100 trucks lined the road waiting for it to be opened. Street vendors had set up shop and food and beverages were sold. Travel in Peru is different.

Finally, the road opened and cars and trucks took off like insects, passing each other to the left and right. People had been waiting in line for hours and now every second seemed to count. It was dark and the full moon illuminated the dense jungle that encroached the mud road. It had rained the day before and driving in the heavy mud with bald tires seemed like the right thing to do. It is hard to imagine us covering this stretch by bicycle (Lon had cycled on those mud highways in previous years).

Caynarachi We arrived in Caynarachi around 2200 hours and the Gringos were the attraction of the night. Young and old, males and females, dogs and even a street pig congregated around our trucks and offered their help to unload our gear. Caynarachi is a truck stop at the frontiers with only one hotel, small restaurants and street vendors. It is so insignificant that not even Wikipedia cares to covers it. The rooms were basic but the Internet Cafe in this hotel had at least 10 computers - the locals are connected to the world.

Internet Cafe and hotel in Caynarachi It would be possible for me to telecommute from the jungle - what and enticing concept. The restaurant was sort of interesting with big picture of various foods and dishes covering the walls. However, it turned out that the dishes served did not match those on the posters at all and the posters probably came from a yard sale.

As every day of the year, sunrise was at around 0600 and we had our now so mandatory “omlet with vegetables” breakfast at 0700 hours. Eggs seem to be a staple in this part of Peru and I saw crates of them stored at room temperature in every grocery store.

We are on our bikes heading for Yurimaguas, a city that is literally at the end of the road. The road that eventually will connect the Pacific Ocean with Brazil ends here and the only way to move on is via boat or plane.

Barry and Lon The highway was brand new with a wide shoulder and it snakes through an ancient countryside with basic rural Peruvian villages. Two worlds meet. Modern trucks and Peruvian motocars pass villagers fetching water from ditches. Bernie who drove our support truck manned rest stops every 13 miles. Our empty water bottles, INCA COLA and Gatorade bottles are passed on the villagers who fill them with home made sugar cane and pinapple juice and sell them to those traveling through. It is a micro economy and everybody seems busy. I have not seen people just hanging out and the work ethics seem to be stellar.

Market in Yurimaguas. Wikipedia writes: Yurimaguas is a thriving port-town in the Loreto Region of northeastern Peruvian Amazonia. Historically associated with Maynas(Pais de los Maynas), the culturally diverse town is affectionately known as the "Pearl of the Huallaga" ("Perla del Huallaga"). Yurimaguas is located at the confluence of rachel the majestic Huallaga and Paranapura Rivers in the steamy rainforests of northeastern Peru. It is the capital of both Alto Amazonas Province and Yurimaguas District, and had a population estimated at about 64,000 inhabitants (2002).

The Amazon On Wednesday afternoon we went to the docks in Yurimaguas to find out at what time the Eduardo III would set sails and take us to Nauta. Big white letters stated “manana”, which was quite appropriate since she was supposed to leave on Thursday. The captain narrowed it to 1400 hours and we arrived at the boat at 1300 hours with Lon already predicting a 6 hour delay. Loading of the Eduardo III with rice, bananas, motorcycle parts, chicken and life stock lasted until 2200 and finally we set sail.

On the Eduardo III. We were the only Gringos on board and stayed on the upper deck. Our hammocks had been hung up by Walter, a longtime friend of Lon´s and employee of the Eduardo shipping company. More passengers were on the 2nd deck while the 1st deck was loaded with merchandise. Sailing down the river generated a very pleasant breeze and it chilled down at night. Many of us decided to sleep in the hammocks and enjoy the spectacular nights.

Sunrise on the Amazon is spectacular. The Eduardo III stopped at small and large villages, mainly loading more goods destined for the markets in Nauta and Iquitos. Lon had purchased five sets of books to be dropped off at five different schools on the way.

Delivering books. The schools are plain blue or green concrete buildings. One school had desks for the 24 kids but only 10 chairs. We made a note to purchase and ship 14 chairs to that school. This teacher also asked for a soccer ball for the kids. It appeared to me that the teachers were assigned to these remote communities, with the Amazon as the only access to the world. Some schools were in such emote villages that even the Eduardo did not stop at all or only for a few minutes. In those cases we took the speedboat to the village, while the Eduardo sailed on.

Outside our cabin. Terry Z and I shared a cabin but decided to sleep in hammocks on the open deck. Terry is the RAAM director and he talked me into riding RAAM as part of a four person team - and now I only need to find the $$.

Lon and Cristhan unloading in Nauta. After 36 hours our river journey came to an end and we disbarked in Nauta to continue our cycling quest. 100 km on a wonderfully paved road, and only my fat MTB tires and a flat slowed us down. Roadside stands provided the now so familiar nourishment and Inca Cola.

What the heck is this stuff?

Jack Wolff School- School of the Dolphins. In 2004 PAC Tour in association with the Christ Lutheran Church of Sharon, Wisconsin built a school in the Village of the Dolphins outside Iquitos. It is named “Jack Wolff School” in honor of this PAC Tour rider who had contributed much to the building of the school and died in a cycling accident. This school has grown over the years and during our visit Lon discussed future projects and funding.

Terry, Susan and Peggy with all "their children"

KM 46 School. One purpose of the tour was to scout out a site for a new school. Lon settled for a village 46 km outside Iquitos. This place is in a rather remote area that only can be reached by foot and children in the area had no access to formal education. We went to the village to negotiate with the locals the school project that is now rapidly moving forward (see Lon Haldeman’s blog at http://pactour.com).

Lothar befriending a boa. The boa
While in Iquitos we visited a native Indian village in the jungle. According to the chief, the tribe moved from Equador to Peru about fifty years ago to take full advantage of the tourism – globalization at its best. The boa is still contemplating whether to eat the well-fed Gringo.

Luna hands out invitations to street children in Iquitos. Several hours before the "Birthday party" we walked through Iquitos and handed out a invitations to a wide mix of children, boys and girls, young and teenagers.