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

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.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ridge of the Rockies

The "Ridge of the Rockies" is a cycling tour from Canada to Mexico. Susan Notorangelo and Lon Haldeman and their PAC Tour ( offer this event only every four years, and as my mother used to say, "if you want to do something, do it right away".

The official PAC Tour map. The tour is best described on the PAC web site: "The Ridge of the Rockies crosses the major passes of the Continental Divide in six states. This is a very mountainous route with long climbs and great descents. This will be a wonderful time of year to ride through the mountains."

I prepared for this ride with C&C centuries and Alpine rides, Brevets and finally the Cascade 1200K (
Dan, Mitchel, Lothar and John - the EFI Team
(picture courtesy of SIR Mitchel.

Cycling 2,000 miles (3,200km) from Canada to Mexico through the Rocky Mountains was certainly a unique and gratifying experience that might not repeat itself. For the first time I have experienced the intricacies of our nation from North to South across the Rockies. This ride was not only about the physical and mental challenge, but also experiencing our nation and most importantly meeting new people and making new friends.

Everybody headed home to pick up their lifes, Mitchel will continue to make sure suburbians have clean windows, Dan will continue to put people asleep, John will commence his transatlantic duties, Glenn will go back to his job and I will get back to riding my bike to work, where ample mandated on-line training courses are waiting for me. Phil will continue the challenge to fight obesity at Boeing, Anne will go back to her school, Walt will ride the Southern Transcontinental in September and Dianne will continue to heal. And then there are the fast dudes, Will, Jim, Ray, Lil, David, etc., riders I met over breakfast but never saw them during the rides. Well, there is one exception, Cat and Mark, the always started late, passed the slow guys around mile 20 but probably finished first. But there is always hope ... and another PAC tour and for sure more Brevets.

Aug 16: Las Cruces NM to El Paso TX
Rockies PAC Team 2008
A final 65 miles and 1,600' of climbing and our mission is accomplished. Before we headed out the mandatory group picture was taken - and we all showed up in our Sunday finest. When we rolled out the sky was overcast and the temperatures stayed pleasant for the entire day. The first 35 miles were flat like a pancake, followed by the one and only climb up Franklin Mountain.

PAC Riders in Pecan Groves
For the first 10 miles we rode through vast Pecan Groves and I manged to keep up for a limited time with the fast guys, a treat seldom experienced. After the long climb and fast descent we entered El Paso and the real world of Walmarts and Whataburgers.

Carlos the preacherman
On my ride into El Paso this guy passed me and started a conversation, probably an extension of an earlier one he had with Dan. Carlos is a man of faith from Juarez, the city of 2 million on the other side of the Rio Grande. He rides is road bike every Saturday in the US (he has dual citizenship) as we have shoulders, which makes life safer (even for a clergy man). Carlos has a flock of 600 sheep and his church cycling team consists os six riders, who compete in mountainbike races. He told me that Juarez is quite prosperous because of manufacturing - the goods go to the US, Europe and Asia. However, drug trafficing has its price - so far there were ~ 700 execution style killings in Juarez.

Carl and LH
This is Carl! He is a skinny fast dude who flies up those hills. You could reliably find him scrounching for a Belgian waffle and coffee every morning in the motel lobby at 0530 hours. But before he could eat his waffle he had to bring a cup of coffee to Martha, his wife and our fantastic and always cheerful lunch cook.

SIR Mitchel - redefining hard core
I am not sure how Mitchel from Seattle ended up on this PAC Tour, but he was one who refined the term 'hard core". He arrived with a new and untested saddle, which caused his H.... to rebell. And then there were those very long and steep climbs ..... and then on another day Mitchel crashed (no reason to tell how this happened), but he kept his smile and never sagged. And then there was the fast "Friedlaender Tandem Train" and Mitchel jumped on their wheel and I never saw him again.

Haircut in TX (the lady of the Salon was not too familiar with my camera
Since I had to be back for work on Monday and there was not too much riding going on on our last dat I decided to get a hair cut. After crossing the Rio Grande from NM into TX, I found a unique Barbershop and got a hair cut (the lady of the house allowed me to bring my precious SEVEN into the Salon. I cannot remember having ever experienced such an elaborate haircut (well there is not much hair on my scalp anyway). The barber shaved my head, cleaned me with compressed air and gave me a back massage with some ill-defined vibrating device - and all this for $11.

Our last o/n stop at the Marriott, provided pure luxury, something we did not need during the past 19 days - riding our bikes was the luxury we enjoyed.

Typical PAC Tour Day
0530: Wake up
0600: Coffee and light breakfast in the motel lobby (normally meet Mitchel)
0615: Get in my cycling outfit
0630: PAC Tour b'fast
0650: Get bike ready
0700: Load luggage on truck and start ride
1500-1800: arrive in Motel
1900: Dinner with John, Dan, Mitchel and Glenn etc
2000: Ice cream at DQ or from gas station (Bunny ice cream)
2100: Watch Olympics
2130: Light out and iPOD on

Aug 15: Truth or Consequences NM to Las Cruces NM
Holstein horse in Caballo
80 miles and 2000' of climbing in the agricultural wonderland of New Mexico. Endless fields of Chilli Peppers and Pecan groves accompanied us for the entire day. Without the extensive irrigation network fostered by the Rio Grande southern New Mexico would also be a desert.

Glenn riding his Bike Friday
After only 6 hours on the road we arrived in Las Cruces, the second largest city in NM. Las Cruces is the center of an agricultural region. The construction of the Elephant Butte Dam was essential to provide irrigation water for the Mesilla Valley.

The median income for a household in Las Cruces is ~ $30,375 and ~ 23% of the population is below the poverty line. In contrast, in my home community Chevy Chase / Bethesda the median income for a household is ~ $99 and 3.3% of the population are below the poverty line (information from Wikipedia). For the historains, White Sands Proving Grounds, the infamous rocket range, is just outside Las Cruces. Trinity, the site of the first nuclear testing is in White Sands. Operation "paperclip" brought Wernher von Braun and his team to White Sands in the spring of 1945, where they started to work on the Apollo program.

Aug 14: Socorro NM to Truth or Consequences NM
Truth or Consequences This town was originally called "Hot Springs", and in 1950 it took the name of the popular radio program Truth or Consequences. It's host, Ralph Edwards, challened town in the US and announced that he would do the program from the first town that renamed itself after the show. He returned to T or C during the first weekend of May for the next fifty years to the event called the "Fiesta".

Endless rides in NM
Today we cycled 77 miles with 4,500' feet of climbing. We cycled again in the high desert and rollers interrupted long stretches of flat straight roads - time to take plenty of pictures and spend extra time at the rest stops.

Lon and Susan and beautiful yellow flowers
Although NM appears to have a arid climate, heavy downpours during monsun season (August/September> bring a wonderful flora to life. Those yellow flowers are hard core and work themselves through the asphalt.

PAC Riders

Vast empty river beds tell stories about floods after summer thunderstorms and monsun rain.

We have now cycled >1,840 miles and two days and a 150 miles separate us from Mexico. I am still in the EFI category.

Lon and Mitchel

Phil and Mitchel

Aug 13: Moriarty NM to Socorro NM
Straight, Flat and Hot
With 119 miles and 5000' of climbing this was our last long day. The central part of New Mexico is a high desert and sparsely populated. Most of the day we rode on empty and flat roads at an elevation of >6,000'. After 8.5 hours on the road I arrived in Socorro, the day's destination.

Prohibition Stout, the beer of the day. Apparently this is the first beer that has been brewed in Socorro since the Prohibition. We had dinner in an Italian restaurant that served 8 different Socorro micro brews.
On an economic level, the median income for a household in Socorro is $22,530 and about 32% of the population is below the poverty line. The countryside I saw is not in the best economic shape.

Aug 12: Espanola NM to Moriarty NM.
Hans and Ruth enjoying a long and asteep descent.

The original plan called for 75 miles of riding but route changes added 25 miles, and a total of 5300' of climbing were packed into a few hills (one was 15%). The first 30 miles took us on shoulders littered with glass and other debris and riders were hit again with plenty of flats. Eventually the "flat witch" also got me (#3 on that tours).

Aug 11: Chama NM to Espanola NM

New Mexico - Land of Enchantment
While the climate further north was rather moderate, heat and intense sun have hit us in New Mexico. Sun block lotion with a SPF of >45 is mandatory. With 82 miles and 3500' of climbing this was a short day - and enough opportunities opened up to take pictures of the stupendous views.

Mitchel taking a picture of Janet and Tom from Butte.
For hours we cruised through the desert and passed astounding rock formations in stunning colors. Millions of years have moulded and shaped amazing structures.

Ruth from Ithaca fixing a flat
PAC Tour Riders experienced frequent flats, mostly because of debris on the shoulders. In New Mexico it appears to be a sport to smash glass bottles on shoulders, with all its consequences. On that day Ruth had four flats. I had three flats and a bulged tire. On the positive side, often we had 5' wide shoulders separated from the road by a rumbling strip.

Aug 10: Durango CO to Chama NM
This Hot Spring was located on a family farm, which served as the center for lots of social activities in the 1920s.

With 122 miles and 8600' of climbing this was supposedly our last demanding day. From Durango to our lunch stop in Pagosa Springs at mile 73 it was smooth uphill sailing under blue and sunny skies. FYI: Downtown Pagosa Springs was the final destination for a duo of truckers in the 1975 country song "Wolf Creek Pass" by C.W. McCall.

After lunch thunderstorms rolled in and I cycled as hard as I could to stay in front of the storm, even skipping the now so mandatory picture when I cross State lines. Finally, over the last 10 miles or so, the storm caught up with me ... After 9 hours on the bike I rolled into the "Branding Iron Motel" and dinner consisted of chicken Fajitas and a pint of Steam Engine Works, a brew from Durango. Chama (EL 7,700') is a tiny village located in the NW corner of NM. It is not clear what the underlying economy is (after all, the PAC Tour stops only every for years), but tourism seems to play a key role. Moreover, ample employment comes from the many gambling enterprises on the reservations. For those who play the Lottery, "A ticket bought in Chama won the Powerball multi-state drawing of May 23, 2007, and the winner opted for the 29 million immediate payout".

After 13 days of cycling I have >1,400 miles and <74,000' of climbing in my legs. I am still on track to qualify for EFI Status. However, fatique is setting in ....

Aug 9: Montrose CO to Durango CO, 112 mi, 9200' climbing
Climbing Red Mountain
What a day, three major passes in the Colorado Rockies followed by spectacular decents. With 11,100' Red Mountain Pass was the main dish on the menu of the day.

At the summit - 11,116' EL

Aug 8: Grand Junction CO to Montrose CO, 119 mi, 7000' climbing
Mitchel climbing the Mesa
Wow, what a day - the ride was built around one 20 mile / 6000' climb to the Mesa and an equally stunning decent. The climb reminded me of those long Alpine climbs and in particular the Timmelsjoch from Oetz. The further south we travel, the higher the temperatures, and now I can even start in my sandals without socks (true summer riding). However, on the Mesa at 10,000' temperatures dropped.

Aug 7: Rangely CO to Grand Junction CO
Hooker, a new rider and apparently the fastest man in the West.
With only 94 miles and 3700' of climbing this was another day prone to spend more time at rest stops and chat.

On top of Douglas Pass
Our one and only long climb was early in the day taking us to a Douglas Pass at 8,200'. While climbing the light drizzle turned into quite a heavy rainstorm and the newly purchased PAC rain jacket could prove itself. The 10+ mile downhill (with some nasty rollers) made it all worthwhile.

The most interesting part of the ride was experiencing CO road construction. I finally learned first hand how a Chip Seal surface is generated (in CO it is called Slurry Seal). The leading truck sprays tar fluid onto the existing surface while the second truck dumps gravel onto the wet surface and spreads it out- so easy and so cheap! On the negative side, this surface is just rough and not pleasant to ride on. Since one lane was being resurfaced, traffic flow was alternating. However, CO safety laws apparently require that cyclists are led by a guide car. We had to wait patiently for ~ 30 min for a guide truck to show up. After this it was smooth sailing and we could watch a Chip Seal Road in the making. Dan, Mitchel, John and I had Pizza and Sam Adams at a local Pizza joint.

Dan has been my riding partner for many miles during the last 11 days. He is a PAC Tour veteran with <25,000 PAC miles under his belt. He also has a turtle bell on his bike.

Aug 6: Vernal UT to Rangely CO, 52 mi, 2000' climbing
Black eyed Susan and UT geology
This was a true resting day prepating us for the climbing to come over the next days. Nobody ever said this part of Colorado was flat. Chicken dinner at the local Italian Restaurant was topped off with an Avalanche the Choice of the Day.

Here is proof that there is a town named Dinosaur in the great State of Colorado and that I was there. Dinosaur, with a population of just around 300, is the westernmost town in CO just 3 miles from the Utah border. For the historians among the readers, Dinosaur was originally named Artesia and Brontosaurus the the main road in town.

Aug 5: Evanston WY to Vernal UT
Ruth from Ithaca enjoying her ride.
The Chef served serious dishes, 152 miles and 9000' climbing, both spicy and HOT. After 12.5 hours on the road I arrived in Vernal, and it had been a spectacular day. The scenery changed from a "High Desert" in Wyoming to dense lush forests at the Utah border to mining country inside this Southeastern corner of Utah.

Aug 4: Montpelier ID to Evanston WY
Mark Gunther performing during our lunch break. Pieces from Neal Young and others kept us for longer than usual at lunch.
With 93mils and 3200' of climbing this was our day of rest and also our warm-up ride for tomorrows Mile'n Bergfest. The ride took us along Bear Lake, a key water sport and recreational entity in ID and UT. We swooped from ID into Utah where we also experienced the only climb of the day. After lunch we crossed into WY where we took refuge in Evanston. Dinner was in a Mexican Restaurant and Choice of the Day for beer was bottled Pacifica.

Aug 3: Jackson WY to Montpelier ID
Morning view in Wyoming
After six days and 760 miles we are back in Idaho. While Randonneurs ride 1200k Brevets (750 miles) in 90 hours, the pace and scheduling of the PAC Tour is more civilized - regular sleep, dinner out and of course the obligatory microbrew.

The menu for today offered 117 miles, 3650' of climbing and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. We left Jackson Hole at 0715 hours in frigid temperatures (time to get those long gloves out) and the sun rising to our left (which means we were riding South). The route followed the Snake River and the flat course and absence of wind called for a short and easy day.

The world famous Afton Elkhorn Arch This arch is made of >3000 Elk antlers, and antlers can be found in many artistic creations in Wyoming.

After lunch the wind picked up considerably and the final 40 miles with two climbs and noxious headwinds took their toll. SIR Mitchel and I rolled into the Best Western in Montpellier, ID just before 1630 hours.

Most of MT, WY and ID seems to be made up of a high elevation plateau. We are riding at an elevation of ~6,000 feet and I wonder whether our kidneys are cranking out EPO to increase our hematocrits. For the science readers of this blog, just consider the vast STAT5 activity found in our cycling bodies. Erythropoiesis is enhanced, and growth hormone bursts enhance our muscle and liver physiology. Those who ride too hard will have inflammatory issues to deal with. And all this is regulated by our old friend STAT5.

I had a rib dinner in the only "family style" restaurant in town and Choice of the Day for beer was Fat Tire.

Aug 2: West Yellowstone MT to Jackson WY
Today was a perfect cycling day with 137 miles, 6000 feet of climbing and 10.5 hours on the road. Unlike the previous 4 days the wind had calmed down and riding was pure pleasure. After about one hour into the ride and a moderate climb we crossed the Continental Divide and entered the great State of IDAHO for a 100 mile loop. The last 20 miles of the day included a 3 mile climb to the 8,600' Teton Pass. As a scientist who has dedicated his career to mammary gland biology, climbing the Teton Pass was a must (picture taken by my buddy Glenn). Choice of the Day for beer was Teton Workhorse Ale.

Crossing the Continental Divide from MT to ID

We cycled 100 miles through a rural part of Idaho, with gas stations and stores only every 30-40 miles. Will rural life survive in our society so concentrated on the big metropolitan areas?

Aug 1: Bozeman MT to West Yellowstone MT
Cross Winds - after 8 hours on the road I pulled into the parking lot of our Motel, named appropriatly to reflect the story of the day. After 4 days and almost 500 miles we are still in Montana, a testimony of its size. With 90 miles and 4000' of climbing this day should have been another rest day, but the cycling gods recruited the wind gods Fuji and Anemoi and we were blasted for most of the 90 miles. We cycled from Bozeman up the Gallatin river/valley to West Yellowstone. The shoulder was frequently quite nearrow and RV traffic not light which did not favor the formation of larger groups. I cycled off and on with my new cycling buddies Dan (from Long Island),
Phil (he is in the business of health promotion and on track to make Boeing the number 1 in employee health), SIR Mitchel and of course our very own Glenn. The Bratwurst lunch was exquisite as always as was the Key Lime Pie prepared by Martha. Dan, Glenn, Mitcheel and I had dinner at ... and the Choice of the Day for beer was Moose Drool Honey Brown.

July 31: Butte MT to Bozeman MT
With 101 miles, 4200' of climbing and the usual obstacles (chip seal and headwind) confined to a rather short stretch, this was a day of R&R - I only spent 7.5 hours on the road. We had two major climbs and the first one up to the Continental divide was crowned by a long descent.

Today I rode a lot with my room mate and fellow DC randonneur Glenn Martin. Glenn brought his Bike Friday to the tour. That's how we appeared at the reststop at mile 52, two clueless cyclist ......

Our laundry drying at the highway. Every day the same routing. Getting up at 0530 hours, b'fast at 0600, loading the luggage at 0630 and heading out of the parking lot before 0700 hours, Return from the ride in the afternoon, washing the bike, laundry, dinner and in bed by 2100 (thank god for my iPOD shuffle). I had dinner at the worlds best BBQ place and the Choice of the Day for beer was Big Sky Honey Brown

July 30: Missoula MT to Butte MT, 134 mi, 5400' climbing - 10 hours on the road Montana not only has the biggest sky but also the biggest testicle Fest - I wonder what this is all about. Just as yesterday, the nagging nssty headwinds bothered us most of the day but they could not spoil the party. We had our first long climb to a pass with no name.

DC Randonneur Glenn Martin riding in Big Sky Montana. The 15+ mile descent into Anaconda was just delightful. Anaconda just like many other towns, is a mining town past its prime searching for a new identity. Most houses are cookie cutter versions for the 50s, an indication of a vast industrial expansion 50 years ago. Today the copper and other metals are coming from Peru and Africa. Tom from Butte told me that Montana has some of the biggest Superfund sites - a legacy of a neclected past.

My new cycling buddy Rick and I. Rick is in the business of "Health Promotion" and works for Boeing. His job is to keep 1000s of employees fit so that the company stays healthy. According to him, the battle agains obesity in the coperate sector is a losing one.

Glenn, Dan (from Long Island) and I went to Perrkins for dinner, Salmon, grren beans with bacon and mashed potatoes with plenty of dark gravy. Since this family style restaurant did not have beer we picked up a 6 pack at a gas station. Choice of the Day was Salmon Slayer

July 29th: Kalispell MT to Missoula MT, 148 mi, 6600' climbing - 10.5 hours on the road
Not only cyclists have to cope with flats. A tire on Lon Haldeman's trailer leaked and nothing is better than a bicycle pump.
With 248 miles our first day was rather long but the 3600 feet of climbing were managable. However, the nasty and nagging headwind we experienced for the final 40 miles was a bummer. The cue sheet today was easy. After leaving Kalispell it said:

Mile 19: Quick left, Rt 83 toards the east
Mile 110: Right, Rt 200 West
Mile 148: On Right, Campus Inn

It cannot get easier.

I chatted with this fellow rider and he was heading East across the mountains. He thought that we had it backwards -riding from the cool Montana to hot Texas.

Glenn and I headed for the Press Club for dinner. This Sports bar had a wide selection of beers and my Choice of the Day was Cold Smoke

July 28th: Arrival in Kalispell MT
Flight from IAD to FCA through ORD. First impression of Montana: could be a place to retire. Temp in the 80s low humidity. After rider check in we had pizza and plenty of beer in a saloon followed by DQ ice cream. The wireless allows me to update the blog. I decided to support the local brewing businesses and have a different micro brew every night, Choice of the Day was Montana Black



In 2008 our tour begins in Kalispell, Montana located fifty miles south of the Canadian border. Our route follows along the valley of Flathead Lake. This will be one of our longest mileage days but also one of the flattest. The dense forests are good places to spot deer or bear crossing the road.

The next several days across Montana are some of the most scenic with many postcard quality picturesque rivers and mountain views. Each day will have some notable climbing as our route crosses the mountains of the Continental Divide region. The cycling roads are good with ridable shoulders and moderate tourist traffic.

By the the fourth day we are approaching the town of West Yellowstone, Montana. You will have the option to ride extra miles into Yellowstone National Park by passing through the west gate. The next day we continue south to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and finish the day with a tough climb over Teton Pass and a fast 9% descent into town for the final five miles.

Our route will cross many famous pioneer trails from the mid 1800’s. We traverse the Oregon Trail, Bozeman Trail and Lander cutoff during the first seven days of our tour. There will be plenty of roadside historic markers for history buffs. Each of our nightly stops will have points of interest and museums to learn more about the region.

One of our toughest, but also most scenic days, is the 147 miles from Evanston, Wyoming to Vernal, Utah. We ride through the Flaming Gorge region which has dozens of steep climbs that reward riders with cliff side overlooks of the valley far below. You will be reminded of why this tour is called the Ridge of the Rockies and recommended only for riders who like to climb mountains.

As we enter Colorado the mountains are taller and the passes are higher. We will average at least one major climb over 10,000 feet elevation for the each of the next six days. Some riders consider these days the best cycling of the tour. The climb over Grand Mesa heading toward Montrose is a classic ride with a good mix of mountains and farms. Equally spectacular are the passes near Orray, Silverton and Durango. These are the heart of the Rocky Mountains with constant steep climbs and fast descents.

The next state we enter is New Mexico. Juan de Onate de Salazar traveled this region and founded Santa Fe in 1598. He came north along the Rio Grande (river) and opened the Camino Real trade route from Mexico. This was the first “Super Highway” in America traveling north from Mexico into the Indian regions of New Mexico. He would also discover the Turquoise Trail that would connect Santa Fe with Albuquerque.

Our final five days will travel these same original routes through the Rio Grande Valley. The terrain will change from the towering peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the tan and brown hills of the desert southwest. This route has its share of hills and each day still contains about 4,000 feet of climbing every 100 miles.