Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bike Tour of Nevada - June 2009

Leaving Reno
Vital Stats:

Total miles: Approximately 400
Elevation gain: 14,000 PLUS
Six Days with one rest day in Austin
Route - Highway 50 from Reno to Baker, Nevada. Nights spent at Lahontan Reservoir, Cold Springs Station, Austin, Eureka, Ely, Great Basin National Park.
Gear: Rivendell Allrounder Bike with an extra 45 lbs. of gear

Intro: Because I had some issues with my phone charger and didn't want to use my phone battery up I didn't post much during the week of the tour so here is a recap of the ride after the fact. Little did I know I just couldn't find my charger because it was hiding from me in my camelback bag.

Day 1

Greg and I started our day with a coffee at Bibo Coffee Co. before heading up Geiger Grade to Virginia City, down six-mile canyon to highway 50, and then a mostly flat ride out to Lahontan Reservoir to camp. We expected Geiger to be the biggest pass of the trip in overall elevation gain. It’s not particularly steep averaging just over 5% for about 8 miles. It was a good first test with a fully loaded bike.

After cresting Geiger we stopped in V.C. and ate the first of what would be too many cheeseburgers across the state. Highway 50 doesn’t necessarily offer a lot of culinary options but it makes up for it in scenery.

Descending six-mile canyon

After descending six-mile canyon we hit highway 50 and started heading east. The traffic was heavier here than any other point. We also had some road construction to contend with. Apparently the road crews were putting in the rumble strips on the new tarmac and had closed a stretch of the highway to one-lane. We got to ride the opposite shoulder while the car traffic waited. It was a little weird to be riding down the highway the wrong way on the left-hand shoulder.

Lahontan Reservoir

Lahontan was a beautiful place to camp and we thought we were going to get some interesting weather. The storm missed us but not the winds which kept me up half the night. That and the mouse that liked to climb in between the rain tarp and mesh of my tent. I kept waking up with the silhouette of a mouse over my head. I think it wanted my trail mix.

Morning Camp at Lahontan (tree swing at no extra charge)

Day 2 - Lahontan Reservoir to Cold Springs Station

The next morning we opted to forgo a real camp breakfast and ride the 20 miles into Fallon to eat. We loaded up on calories and left Jerry’s diner ready to get into the “real” Nevada landscape. We weren’t disappointed. After Fallon we stopped off at Grimes Petroglyphs for a quick walk and got buzzed by some “top gun” pilots from the Fallon Air Base.

Grimes Petroglyphs

Then it was down the road until we came to the Salt Flats and Sand Mountain. These are some of the features that make Nevada so beautiful. I think maybe people who know NV can often take these landscapes for granted because we ran into other cyclists who were struck by the stark beauty.

Salt Flats and Sand Mountain (below)

We were less impressed with the evidence of Mormon crickets that started to show up on the tarmac. Around the time we hit Middlegate (and had another Cheeseburger) we were seeing and hearing the huge crickets all over and Greg managed to take a few out with his fat pasela touring tires.

Mormon Cricket

After Middlegate we rode on to our final destination of Cold Springs Station, a private RV campground with huge solar panels. The family who runs the campground were having a birthday party and we were treated to a pretty impressive fireworks display after dinner. I didn’t expect a shower that night but I was pretty happy to have one.

Day 3 - Cold Springs Station to Austin

We broke camp and were about to ride on to Austin when I realized that the head of the bolt for my rear rack had popped off leaving part of my rack precariously perched on a thin piece of metal. Since the majority of the load I was carrying was in the rear I was a bit worried about it working loose. Never underestimate the power of a zip-tie. The zip-tie kept the road vibration from working the bolt out of the frame and we safely road the 50ish miles into Austin. The final climb was the first time that I had to use my granny gear on the trip.

All hail the mighty zip-tie!

Austin is a small town that receives a lot of motorcycle traffic. It's quite scenic but doesn't offer many services. We opted to take a rest day in town if only to wait for the True Value hardware store to open and replace the bolt that had broken on my rack. It also gave us a chance to hike up to Stokes Castle and down a few beers at the local watering hole, The International.

Stokes Castle

Day 4 - Austin to Eureka

The beginning of the 4th day greeted us with climbing out of Austin since it is perched half way up one of the steepest climbs of the trip. Much of the day was spent riding across one of the more desolate stretches of Highway 50 and some beautiful peaks. We also ran into a group of 4 cyclists that we were to leapfrog several times over the course of the next few days. Katherine, Ross, Drew and Tony are riding across the U.S. on their way to Connecticut for the Lea Foundation. They are raising awareness for the fight against Leukemia. After arriving in Eureka we had a nice Chinese dinner with them.

Greg on the open road

Unlike Austin, which seems like it is barely hanging on as a town, Eureka felt like a thriving metropolis with a brand new Fire Department building and, of course, the famous Opera House. We settled down for a night in the Jackson Hotel and prepared for the next day.

Pretty self-explanatory

Day 5 - Eureka to Ely

Day 5 was in many ways to be the most challenging because of the lack of services along the route and the 4 passes we had ahead of us. It was also epic because of the incredible views going up and over the mountains. It was approximately 78 miles without any services. The most challenging thing about the day was looking at the Adventure Cycling map of the route and expecting a nice descent into Ely and instead facing a hot slog with a headwind over the last 15 miles when we were both tired and ready for a break.

I seem awfully happy considering how many passes I rode over today.

I'm not sure precisely what Harry Reid has done to piss off so many Ely residents but these signs were everywhere. Ironically Senator Reid's name also appears on the "walk of fame" outside one of their nicer hotels in old downtown area.

Not really very clever

That night we relaxed with a beer and our friends heading to Connecticut.

Our friends cycling across the U.S. for Lea's Foundation

Day 6 - Ely to Baker and Great Basin National Park

About to descend Connors Pass (ominous clouds and 40 mph winds ahead)

The final day proved to be in many ways the most fun of he entire trip because of the scenery and also because we had our first dose of "weather." Up to that point the days had been typical with clear skies and highs in the 80s and lows in the 50s. As we left Ely we could see some clouds heading our way and as we reached the Connors Pass the storm hit. I had tailwinds pushing me down the mountain and paused at Majors Junction to wait for Greg. Even though we had gusts of up to 40 mph and rain on the horizon we kept descending and crossed Spring Valley quickly. I hit speeds of 55 mph which matched the fastest speed I have ever reached on a bike from descending Monitor Pass a few years ago on the Death Ride. Unfortunately, I was only able to get a photo of my computer as I hit 50 mph.

The rain hit us as we started the base of the climb up to Sacramento Pass. The wet and the relief from the sun was welcome. We also had some great views of Wheeler Peak.

Spring Valley

and I thought this was the last real climb of the day...I was so wrong

From Sacramento Pass we descended into Baker, Nevada, a little hamlet with lots of personality. Unlike many of the other little towns we passed through on our way across the state, Baker includes some more interesting culinary delights. Silver Jack's was selling some decent wine and brie. Unfortunately for us we had what was to be our most challenging climb ahead of us from Baker up into Great Basin National Park and into our final campsite. The steepest pitch of the climb was probably around 8% which isn't terrible but with a fully loaded bike and over 8 miles in can get a bit tiring. If that wasn't enough the last 3 miles of the climb was on a dirt road with a headwind and stinging rain in our faces and thunder and lightning around us. No complaints because the camp was beautiful and the kind of rides that challenge you as a cyclist make for some of your best memories after they are done.

Baker, Nevada

On the way out of Baker we saw the little spot where my sister-in-law and her husband are refurbishing a train car to turn into a Bakery. What better place to open a bakery than in Baker, Nevada.

Finally, the entrance to the park

Greg muscling it up the steepest climb of the tour with rain, a head wind, dirt, and lightning in the distance.

We passed this sign on the way up to the camp site...beware vicious man-eating marmots!

After the night spent in Great Basin National Park we unloaded the bikes and took a spin to the Visitor Center and a tour of Lehman Caves.

In the end I don't know that I could have asked for much better of an experience riding across Nevada. It was beautiful, desolate, and pretty much everything I could have hoped for. I did realize that while I liked the loaded touring experience for a week-long trip I don't think I have much interest in a bike ride across America. Smaller trips seem ideally suited for this type of riding. Perhaps a the red rock loop down near Bryce and Zion is in my future.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Looking "Normal" on a Bike

It's a long way from Schpantz but here is an interesting article on the latest in cycling fashion. It's not quite the Rapha mentality but I can appreciate the sentiment.
"...the intersection of street fashion and bicycling certainly signals a swing in the pendulum from the days when bikers aspired to look like Lance Armstrong. Now, it seems, the hot new thing in cycling is to look like yourself."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Where does federal funding for bicycle projects come from anyway?

I came across this interesting overview of bicycle project funding and thought it worth passing along. It's a good primer of the various ways that bicycling can be supported by funding in communities no matter where they are in the U.S.


There's a common perception that funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects comes just from local and state revenue streams. Although local funding is certainly important, it's no longer the only game in town. Since 1990, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) has followed a new transportation strategy that has sought to increase the number of people walking and bicycling. Between 1992 and 2004, the federal government spent $3.17 billion on 10,012 pedestrian or bicycle projects, according to a recently published analysis led by a researcher from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Where does all that money actually come from? The bulk of it funnels through the federal Department of Transportation via an agency called the Federal Highway Administration. Although the Federal Highway Administration has focused historically on funding highways, DOT's major shift in strategy in 1990 resulted in a marked move toward a more multi-modal approach, according to the authors of the new analysis.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bike Tour Across Nevada

Dispatch from the road...

First night we'll be camping at Lahontan Reservoir. Should be about a 60 mile day. Not long but we had to get up and over Geiger with our big touring rigs. That granny gear is finally getting put to good use.

Bike Tour Across Nevada - Big Rig

Took the Rivendell out for a test spin. Everything looks and feels good. No weird rattles or shimmies as we embark on our bike tour across Nevada today. The first day will take us up Geiger Grade which will be the first real test with the 40 extra pounds of gear and water that I'll be carrying. Check back for updates and dispatches from Highway 50.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lance Rumors and The Nevada City Classic

These are not my legs (damnit!)

Rumors have been flying the last couple of days about Lance Armstrong riding the NV City Classic this Sunday but I finally got confirmation today. Head over the hill to see some great racing action on Sunday. I've loved every time I've gone over. As mentioned before I'll be heading the opposite way on Highway 50 on my own bike tour. I'm sorry I'll miss him, (and maybe Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer as well?) but I've seen them ride in Europe before so no complaints.

Tour de Nez 2009 and a Bicycle Tour Across Nevada

The Tour de Nez is almost upon us and I can't help but feel a bit sad. This will be the first year in a decade or so that I won't be able to attend. This year's event looks like a great line up of events and it's especially heartening that Friday includes the much missed downtown criterium (last year it was at the Grand Sierra Resort). The GSR course was fine but it lacked the charm of seeing cyclists take over the downtown of Reno.

Instead of the Tour de Nez I'll be packing up my touring bike and heading on a trip across Nevada along highway 50 with a friend. The trip will take us from our doorsteps to Great Basin National Park near Baker, Nevada. I may continue on to Utah (Cedar City or St. George) depending on timing. I'll post updates periodically and have a full ride report when I get back. No doubt I'll have plenty of video/photos/and stories to tell.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Carbo Loading the Dutch Way

The beerbike.co.uk rentals seats up to 22 people, including a nondrinking driver. A two-hour tour on the weekend costs about $34 per person, including beer. The bike is pitched on the website as “de biggest beer bike in the world with 30 liters of beer on board.”

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Most Beautiful Music I've Ever Heard - #9

"For a minute there I lost myself..."

It's hard to believe that it has been 12 years since OK Computer came out. I'm hard pressed to think of an album that has more of an impact on me. Unlike obvious "best ever album" picks this collection still resonates a timelessness unlike Nevermind or Sgt. Pepper which, though great, seem thoroughly linked to the time they came out. People use the words like "distopian" when talking about OKC which is fair but what strikes me is how gorgeous and lush the production is. You can see the influence of this album all over the place from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot to MGMT.

I can't help but love that this album only slowly found its audience. Reportedly it took over a year for it to go platinum and it was that year of discovery that partially makes OK Computer so close to my heart. I've played it thousands of times and still feel like I notice something new each time.

There are plenty of soaring moments spread throughout but none more noteworthy than final couple of minutes of Karma Police. It's the emotional highpoint of the album. Unfortunately the studio/video version is disabled on youtube but you can view it here. Below is a worthy live performance.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Car Free Broadway

The recent Tony Awards reminded me that I have been remiss in commenting on the recent "Car Free Broadway" developments in New York City. All it takes is a quick comparison of the two photos posted here at the NY Times site to see what a difference a nicely designed street makes.

Imagine narrow European-style roadways shared by pedestrians, cyclists and cars, all traveling at low speeds. Sidewalks made of recycled rubber in different colors under sleek energy-efficient lamps. Mini-islands jutting into the street, topped by trees and landscaping, designed to further slow traffic and add a dash of green.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Friday, June 05, 2009

Fenders Schmenders and a Bike Commute Challenge Wrapup

This year has been anxiety ridden in more ways than one. After getting "voluntarily transferred" (how's that for a euphemism) out of my amazing school because teacher allocations went down I've been feeling pretty bitter. Luckily I've been picked up in the district at another great school but no matter how good it is it's a bitter pill to not be in control of one's fate as far as your career goes. Never mind that there were questionable teachers with seniority that got to stay. I have some harrowing tales to tell of incompetence in a system that rewards based on seniority and nothing else. For folks who think seniority is the only way to fairly determine who gets to stay in a situation like what I just went through...well, I can't help but think of the 3 teachers who were tied for seniority and had to draw cards for the two positions available. It left me wondering why we go through the hours of an evaluation process every year.

All this is to say that the last couple of weeks have been a challenge as far as putting in the final miles to reach my 2,400 mile bike commute goal. I felt like I had to be ready to leave work in interview mode in case I got a call about a job. It came down to the last day of finals week and a perfectly timed downpour in the afternoon ride home. Wednesday's storm would have been too much for any fenders so I was soaked through by the time I got home but it was warm enough that it didn't matter. There's something to be said for riding in "weather" that makes a ride epic. It was a good end to the year even if it was officially the last ride of my era at Damonte Ranch High School.

Final mileage tally: 2,404 miles during the 2008-2009 academic year. My new commute for next year will be about half of what I had last year but instead of being mostly flat it will be mostly uphill in the morning and downhill on the way home. Maybe that will help my climbing legs next year!

On to summer and a bike ride across Nevada scheduled for late June!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Not The Best Idea

Some of the greatest ideas that humanity has ever come up with have emerged from France. This is not one of them:
Close to 200 prisoners will cycle around France next month, watched by scores of guards on bicycles, in the first penal version of the Tour de France, authorities said Monday.

The 196 prisoners will cycle in a pack and breakaway sprints will not be allowed. They will be accompanied by 124 guards and prison sports instructors. There will be no ranking, the idea being to foster values like teamwork and effort.

"It's a kind of escape for us, a chance to break away from the daily reality of prison," said Daniel, a 48-year-old prisoner in the western city of Nantes, at the official launch of the event. His last name was not given.

"If we behave well, we might be able to get released earlier, on probation," he told reporters.

The prisoners' Tour de France will take them 2,300 km (1,400 miles) around the country, starting in the northern city of Lille on June 4 and stopping in 17 towns, each of which has a prison. However, participants will sleep in hotels.

The finish line will be in Paris, following Tour de France tradition.

"This project aims to help these men reintegrate into society by fostering values like effort, teamwork and self-esteem," said Sylvie Marion of the prison authorities.

"We want to show them that with some training, you can achieve your goals and start a new life," she said.