Saturday, August 23, 2014

NP Banks Vernonia 100k. Again.

Really, the nicest perm pop ever when it is hot, because 2/3 of it is on the Banks Vernonia Rail Trail, in the shade.

The trail

I would be riding with Ray O and Steve B (RUSA's newest member, joined the day before the ride :-) )

Sweetpea was (is) still in pieces, so I thought it might be time to take the Lemond Zurich out for its annual ride.  The tires needed air.  The last time I rode it, I was really hurting after 50 miles, so I gave it a spin in the driveway to figure out why.  The saddle seemed awfully high.  Dropping the saddle meant that I could no longer use the Detours High Tail rear bag - it would rub on the wheel all the time, rather than occasionally.  The trials and travails of a short person with a teeny bike and 700c wheels.  Maybe a different seatpost would let me mount the bag higher...  Two seatposts from the bike parts bin later - no.  Gave that up.  Again, rummaging around the bike parts and accessories selection, I found a seat bag that had some degree of capacity and didn't come near the rear wheel.  I think it used to be black, but it is faded brown.  So.

Would you look at those scrawny, underfed tires?

It was surprisingly chilly at the start.  Armwarmers, vest, legwarmers.

We all met up at the North Plains McDonalds.  I arrived first, and ate some more breakfast - sausage burrito and orange juice.

And away we went.  There is a gravel stretch by the lumber mill, and here I was riding the Lemond, with its scrawny, underfed tires.  Cautious, steady pedaling got me through it.

We stopped at the first info control, so Steve could find the answer.  Lost the all the outerwear at the trailhead.  Lots of people setting out to use the trail.  Ray said that was the most he'd seen on a weekday.  Romulus and Remus were not in evidence, nor were their feral chicken friends.   More gravel bits, all successfully navigated.  I guess after riding on sand last week, I am getting better at non-pavement.

The sweetpeas are still blooming, but the Queen Anne's Lace was the most prominent wildflower, white against the dried grasses.

Vernonia Lake, sparkling in the sun

Looped around Vernonia Lake, again stopping for Steve to get the info control answer.   Given that this was his first RUSA ride EVER, we were mentoring on how to go about it :-)

Bikes at Vernonia Lake

We then stopped at Black Bear for coffee and an expedient food item, before heading back.  Still cool in the trees.

Ray and Steve at the Black Bear.  Steve's first RUSA activity ever.

I saw a deer bounding across the trail on the return.



The last 10 miles featured a headwind, but we plowed along.  Found Ray in North Plains, chatting with someone in an SIR jersey, who turned out to be Alan W.  After a brief chat, I left, because I was hoping to finish in under 6 hours.

And so, at 5:38 elapsed (a PR for this route!), there I was at the McDs.  Diet Coke, lots of salty french fries...

Finished.  All time PR for this perm pop. :-)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Finding the Grand Traverse Lighthouse

Executive summary: it is still there

Grand Traverse Lighthouse

After taking July off, it was time to start the next R-12 cycle.  Being in Michigan, and there being only one 200k perm in the area (another in the design phase), well, it was off to the lighthouse again.

Fitz was golfing somewhere between Glen Arbor and Leland last Monday, and he thought that would be a great day for me to ride.  Fortunately, the weather cooperated.

Rode the familiar 3 miles into town, and over to Glen's Market for the start.  We were out of trash bags (trash pickup is two days a week, and it has to be in the official bag), so I bought a few more.  I'd drop them off on my way out.

Purchase at the start

7am, and off.  The best picture of the day that I did not take was heading up the biggest roller out of town - I looked up and saw two deer silhouetted against the sky, as they crossed the road.  I did stop to get a sunrise picture at the Assembly Beach, dropped off the trash bags, and continued north.

Crystal Lake Sunrise

This was a good ride for wildlife spotting - besides the deer at the beginning, I saw several more, and had to ride carefully to avoid a couple of collisions.  Also a squirrel, which was aiming for my front wheel, and several flocks of wild turkeys.  It is amusing to see the turkey heads poking up from the tall growth in fields.

First, up and over Sutter Road.  The pavement is still pretty cracked, but there were bits of what seemed to be smooth patch.  There was a stop by the Platte River rafting folks - construction had closed one lane over the bridge, and we had to wait for the traffic light.  Then the rolling climbs up and over to Empire, and, of course, the Empire Dome of Mystery. (see the picture text below for the mystery revealed)

Empire is just over that hill, by the spaceship. Details revealed:

I continued on to Glen Arbor, had a brief pause, and then on to Leland.  This is the longest stretch of the ride with farms, homes, and not much else.  Well, views of Lakes Michigan and Leelanau, from time to time.  Last year I was delayed by construction and a flagger who wasn't going to let me ride through.  This year, no construction, and the new pavement is wonderful.  This stretch also yielded the first sighting of a USBR35 sign!

USBR 35!

I had planned to get a sandwich in Leland, so pulled over at a deli right in town.  Ate my sandwich outside, and watched a local boy on a bike stop and very closely inspect my bike.  Bikes up here are either mountain bikes, cruisers, the occasional fully-loaded tourer, or fairly high-zoot road bikes.  Not rando bikes with luggage.

Next, the lumpiest part of the route - Leland to Northport.  Only 11 miles, but... yeah.  Biggest climb of the route - 280 feet over 6 miles.  Starting to get hot and sticky as well, as the route went away from the coast to cross over the Leelanau Peninsula to the east side.  Whoof.  Finally into Northport.  I didn't stop, but continued through town (it is picturesque), and northward to the state park and lighthouse.  There is a shady stretch along Northport Bay, before heading inland to the tip of the peninsula.

Pretty purple stuff blooming all along the route

Arrived at the park, left my bike in the rack (you can't take it any further to the lighthouse), and went into the gift shop to get a Coke and a RUBBER STAMP on my card.  Parks which have a passport type program are really good for this.  Sat on a bench in the shade, sucked down the Coke, refilled my bottles, and headed back.

Grand Traverse Lighthouse

Rubber stamp at a control!

Didn't stop in Northport.  The climb out is steeper than the climb in - 280 feet over 3 miles.  The wind was supposed to be from the north by this time of day, but I didn't feel it here.

Rusty roofs and red barns

Eventually got back to Leland, where I stopped at the Mercantile and picked up various food objects to consume on the sidewalk.  Some golfer guy found me there, chatted for a few, then went off to find real food and something other than the sidewalk to sit on.  I finished the yogurt and Red Bull, stashed the banana for later, refilled bottles, and continued on.

Snacks in Leland on the return

Arrived in Glen Arbor, and fruitlessly roamed the C-store for V8.  None, but I had my emergency stash, and drank it.  Only 30 more miles to go.  Hot and sticky.

Sleeping Bear Dunes, from Glen Lakes

I do like riding over the causeway between the Glen Lakes.  I should have stopped and dunked myself in the lake!  The tailwind showed up from time to time, and not too much longer, I was in Empire.

Empire town sign, on the return

Perhaps I spent a bit more time there than I should have.  I was enjoying a cold drink and some snacks, and a guy who wasn't in a hurry to start his run wanted to talk about my bike.  I also gave him a quick tutorial on one of the running apps, because he didn't know how to get it started.  Plus, there was that climb...

I spun my way up, went up and down the next two shorter grades, then slogged on south.  Finally started to see the "local" landmarks - the Manitou Fine Northwoods Dining, where someone would encounter a famous golf course designer a few nights hence, then, finally, the climb up Sutter Rd.

Now it was just a matter of zipping along M-22 into town, with those few big rollers to get over.  Dinged the bell as I rode by the cottage, but didn't see Fitz on the screen porch.

Over the hills, into town, and made a beeline for Stormcloud Brewing, the new (and only) brewpub in town.
Scored a glass of mead (they have cider on the menu, but are always out of it), paid for it on the spot (receipt!), then wandered out to the patio and shared a table with some folks passing through town.  Called Fitz, and he joined us.  Pizza and salad.  And some delightful dinner companions.

Finished. Stormcloud Brewing, Frankfort. Mead.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Little Lakes and Big: First Ride of the new Michigan Perm Pop

Over the last couple of years, when we visit up in Michigan, I bring my bike.  I finally developed a 200k perm, and more recently, a 100k perm, because I can only ride around the lake so many times.

My development process for the 100k was to have a vague idea of where I wanted to ride, then rummage around on Ride With GPS and the Strava Heatmap, to see the roads which cyclists preferred.  I'd try to use Google Street View, but it is sufficiently remote up here that anything other than major roads is not yet visited by the Google cameras.

So I created a plausible route and got it approved.  No one had yet signed up to ride it (amazingly enough, I am NOT the only rider on my 200k), so I would be the first rider.  I have driven the route as far south as Onekama, and know the stretch from Beulah around the lake to Frankfort quite well.  However, Onekama to Beulah would be all new.

Rode into town, and got my start proof of passage at the EZ Mart C-store.  This is the c-store of choice all around here.

Frankfort Perm Pop start

Headed south on M-22, aka USBR 35.  Lake Michigan was on my right somewhere over there.  Headed south through Elberta, and promptly started climbing.  It is hilly along the Lake Michigan shore.  Chugged up a couple of long ones, with respectably painful grades.  At the top of the second climb, I saw some bike tourists pulled over.  They had a trailer, so I expect they were recomposing at the top.  They cheered me on and gave me a very appreciated mist of water.

Passed through Arcadia (up and down), over Arcadia Lake (pretty; camera battery chose today to not be with me), up again, past the golf course, and finally, came to the Lake Michigan overlook.  So pretty.

Lake Michigan overlook, north of Onekama

Down again; surely I'd get to Onekama soon.  No, more up and down.  Did I mention the headwind? 

Finally I was there.  Found the ice cream shop, and enjoyed a scoop in a waffle cone.
Ice Cream control in Onekama, with identifying True Value Hardware in the background

Off to find Bear Lake, the second on-course control.  Note: there is an EZ-Mart on the corner where one turns onto 5th to go to Bear Lake.  Of course, it was a climb up :-)  then rolling through farmland, and eventually turning east for the last mile or so to Bear Lake.  Stopped at the EZ-Mart.  They had V8, which made me very happy.  It was hot and more humid than I am used to.

Bear Lake control (blow up to read the sign :-) )

The ride on Hwy 31 through Bear Lake was happily uneventful - it is a very busy highway closer to Traverse City - and turning left to ride along the lake was a delight.  Lots of cottages and people recreating in the lake.

The road then turns north, and rolls along for quite a while.  Then I got to where the road crossed Glover's Lane and... it wasn't paved.  Up here, not paved usually means sand.  Well, ok, it can't be that way for very long.  So I kept going, and it wasn't too bad for the first mile or so.  Hard packed, I could ride it.  Then it started washing out.  So I'd walk for awhile, and when it firmed up, I'd ride until I couldn't.
Imagine my surprise. Reroute is already designed.

Surely it would be paved around the corner.  After that... surely it would be paved at Taylor Rd.  Surely it would be paved at the next road...  And finally, it was paved.

As soon as I made the turn, I encountered a group of cyclists chugging up the other way.   We stopped and chatted briefly, then continued on our respective ways.  Getting hotter.  Time was getting short, too.  Would I make it to Beulah in time?

The terrain continued to be quite rolling.  Also quite pretty - farms.  Lots of blueberries and corn and roadside fruit stands.  But would I make the next control in time?  Finally I summitted, and enjoyed the precipitous descent to River Rd (16%.  Nice!)  Once I was at River Rd, I knew exactly where I was, and headed over to pick up the Betsie River Trail into Beulah.  But would I make it in time?  There might have been some flying low on the trail, and I entered Beulah with 10 minutes to spare.  Whew.

Got a bagel and cream cheese at the deli, and maybe spent a few more minutes than I should have, eating it.  15 more miles to go, all flat but for the climb out of the Crystal Lake Watershed - four big rollers.

I had had a unidirectional headwind the whole time, and it didn't let up for the 10 mile stretch along the north shore of Crystal Lake.  Sigh.  But once I made the turn south, the tailwind kicked in.

Past our cottage and one info control to make sure I rode around the lake :-) then over the big rollers.  I know exactly how long it takes me to ride into town, and knew I'd make it, so I backed off a bit.

Finished back in Frankfort.  Betsie Lake in the background

Finished at the EZ-Mart, then texted Fitz to see where he was.  I was planning to get another ice cream cone over at the Kool Spot in town, but he was headed for the beach.  Well, I could just as easily get an ice cream cone at the Crystal View at the beach, plus dunk my hot and sticky self in the lake.

So I turned around and rode back north, over those rollers again, then coasted down to the beach, parked the bike, got an ice cream, and joined everyone on the beach.

Aftermath, part 1.  Ride bike back to the Assembly Beach.  Fitz's bike in the background

Aftermath, part 2: dish of ice cream, then a dunk in the lake.

The lake was wonderful.  And the reroute is already scoped out.