instant gramming

June 20, 2015

S24O: Westerville to Granville

Yesterday I set off on my first S24O--or Sub-24 hour Overnight.  The name, coined by bike industry heretic Grant Petersen, really just describes a bike camping trip that can be completed in fewer than 24 hours. 

I spent the entire morning agonizing over the weather radar on my computer screen, watching rain and probable storms move over my intended route, trying to strategize my departure.  The 27-mile route I crafted included a scenic dam crossing, long stretches of country roads, a shortcut through a golf course community, and (finally) a half dozen peaceful miles of rails-to-trails bike path.  But the rain would be unavoidable if I wanted to get to Granville at dinnertime saving enough light to set up camp. I left my house at 2:30pm.

It's pretty amazing--the feeling you get when you say "Fuck it" and go straight into an otherwise shitty situation and make the best of it. Walking between my back door and the garage on a rainy day sucks. But I somehow managed to bike for over four hours in rain over two days and it wasn't horrible. It was therapeutic even.

By the time I reached the bike path that would carry me the last 6 miles toward my destination, the clouds broke and I was able to dry out a bit.  This was fortunate because I was determined to eat a good meal in town and hadn't figured out what to do if I was completely soaked.

I reached Granville at 5 o'clock and was able to slip on a decent shirt before entering Brews Cafe.  I sat at the bar and ordered a really good Columbus beer and a disappointing turkey burger that at least filled me up. I chugged a glass of water and continued on my way toward camp.  I stopped at the main entrance to Denison University and for kicks (and without much thought) I mashed up the super steep road to the top of the hill. Silly, but it made me feel strong. I cruised down the backside of "The Hill," and made my way back to my old college home: The Homestead.  It's an exciting feeling you get when you travel the gravel road back into the woods, through an old farm field, and into the clearing where the community sits.  I was relieved to find that I arrived to an empty place--which gave me time to set up my tent and chill out a bit. Eventually the summer residents returned and it was nice to meet them. I took off again with an unloaded bike to pick up my "hostess gift:" beer (good stuff, not the customary Natty-Light) and avocados.  A bonfire was built and soon other guests arrived.  I think I crawled into my 1-man tent around 10:30.

Rain didn't come again until late in the night.  I woke up to distant thunder at 4:20am, realizing my phone battery was down to 4% charge and I had no charger. Shit. I fell back asleep for an hour, waking mostly to figure out how to get in touch with my family and make a plan for the day.  I set up my camp stove under a cabin roof overhang to make some coffee. I ate the food I had packed and then waited for other residents to wake. Nothing. 7 o'clock rolled around and my bike was packed.  I ended up waking one of the guys and asked to borrow his phone. I messaged C that I'd be leaving soon, realizing the rain wasn't going to let up, and that I figured I'd be slow and would account for a 3 hour trip.  Once I took off I was feeling rough, but was excited to get home and be dry.  The miles seemed to pass by more quickly--and it helped that the route was now familiar.  I made it home in exactly 2 hours. Everything was wet.

It was a great trip.  A vacation, really. It was exactly the vacation I've been dreaming about for a long time; exactly the vacation that I would never subject my wife or daughters to because I know that they would hate it. There were lots of miles that passed, in constant rain, where I was riding a fine line between misery and elation; uneasiness and calm.  It was a hard trip, but it was great.  Over 55 miles total. I had fun and was home by 10am the next day.

Hoover Reservoir

So wet. Not even worth wearing a rain coat--I was soaked to the bone underneath.

Hell yea! Rails-to-trails and a break in the clouds

Bike Against A Wall. Granville, Ohio

Treat Yo Self - dinner at Brews Cafe. Bad burger, great beer.

Obligatory Photo Op

No Cars, back to the woods


My tent, sheet, and spare clothes replaced with 2 six-packs and a couple avocados--my "hostess gift"


June 5, 2014

Role Model Badass

Found this video--I think this guy is the grandfather of a girl I went to school with. This guy is 72, and has competed in the Mohican 100 at least 12 times--finishing the 100k a total of 7 or 8 times, and the 100 mile race for his fourth time this year.

Amazing.

The Mohican 100 includes two races: 100k and 100 miles of mountain bike singletrack, dirt roads, and gravel, with 11,000 of elevation gain, across four Ohio counties.  I've previously listed it as a "bucket list" goal. I'm stoked to think that I've got hopefully 42 more years to work my way up to such a challenge.

Hopefully it will happen sooner.

November 3, 2013

Ride to the ride - Home to P1

Inspired by last week's adventure at the Hill'n'Dale Hundred, I crafted a new challenge for myself. A review of Google maps revealed that my favorite nearby mountain bike trail exists a mere 7.8 miles from my home. Probably 85-90% of that route is on a bike path. Not just any bike path, but the Ohio-to-Erie Trail: a multi-use path that connects the Ohio River with Lake Erie. I will mention that I live as far as 100 yards from that trail. My newly built Surly Ogre, in it's fully rigid state, just begs to travel on a mix of pavement and dirt. As luck would have it, despite days of rain, the mountain bike trails were open to riders, so I set out. I also made a point of testing out a homemade "snack bag"--a small zippered pouch attached to my top-tube and steer-tube, capable of holding snacks and things for easy access. Once I arrived at the Phase 1 mountain bike trail at Alum Creek State Park I opted to ride a loop on the 1.5 mile long "beginner" trail. Halfway back home I realized that I wasn't yet exhausted and how easy the commute was. What a shame that I had only ever driven there with my mountain bike hitched on the rear of the car. Total: ~17.1 miles.

October 27, 2013

Riding the Hill 'N' Dale Hundred

First, I want to thank my wife (C) for supporting me--both with moral support and physical support--for doing this ride. If she didn't agree to drive me up and convince me that she would be happy to entertain our daughters in the middle of Nowhere Ohio on a cloudy, windy, 40-degree day, I'm not sure I would have done it.  Knowing I had a ride to pick me up in a bad situation far from home was extremely comforting. I'm extremely grateful for the support C gives me even when I have a hard time finding confidence in myself.

And thanks to my mother- and father-in-law. They were generous enough to meet the girls in nearby Lodi to help entertain their granddaughters.  Just mentioning "Nanny and Jagee" is the magic password to transplant two young girls from cozy beds at 7:30 on a Saturday morning into cold car seats.
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Yesterday I participated in a ride called Hill 'N' Dale Hundred organized by Swallow Bicycle Works of Loveland, Ohio. A route of 100K (~62 mi) was mapped around Mohican State Park area, starting at Pleasant Hill Lake reservoir. This was marketed as a "choose your own adventure ride"--an unsupported jaunt where only a map and cue sheet were provided. More or less: every rider for him/herself. A few weeks prior to the ride, when it was announced, I realized it miraculously fell in a weekend on which we didn't have prior plans. The day I decided this was a fun idea I suspect it was 70-degress and sunny and I wasn't yet sick with a cold. This was the ride I've been wanting to do all year long.

Up until the moment I strapped my bike to the car I had unsuccessfully tried to talk myself out of the trip. In the days before the ride, temperatures plummeted, rain clouds took up residence, and I was coughing up loads of phlegm while binging on a smorgasbord of honey-infused tea, Ricola drops, and generic Tussin. At 7:31 am on the day of the ride, I told C I had decided not to ride. Without hesitation, C dismissed my lunacy. She reminded me of the alternative: staying at home all day without plans. That was all the motivation I needed.

We hurriedly woke the girls and packed for a day trip up north. Coffee from Starbucks (a grande bold coffee with an added shot of espresso for me) and breakfast from Tim Hortons were bought and we bolted up the highway. C and the girls dropped me off at the start point around 9:45am. The reported temperature at this time was about 38-degrees. Winds of 23 miles per hour accounted for a wind chill of 28-degrees. The sun peeked out as if to jump start our internal engines. A group of about 16 (?) of us bumbled around until everyone was mounted on their bikes.


To my delight we rode together as a pack the entire time. We would get spaced out slightly, but generally met up at points of interest or after nasty climbs. Grey clouds and increasing wind really started to break me. Around mile 20 I broke the news to a couple riders that I would be breaking away from the group at an alternative route on mile 30. I called C and told her of my plans, noting also my phone was low on battery [great planning!]. It was a fortuitous decision made not too soon. Around mile 23, I'd guess, we exited pavement for gravel back roads. Up hills no less. Pure brutality. Forsaking the group, knowing I'd be splitting off soon anyway, I walked my bike up two major gravel hills and cruised down their other sides. That's not to say I didn't try to bike up them, but my thighs started to spasm at the extreme effort so I opted out. My eyes began splitting time evenly between the terrain ahead and the odometer mounted on my stem.


The road on which I deviated from the planned route at least promised to drop me off in the town of Perrysville. Knowing I was nearing places of business was comforting even though the hills were long and car traffic was increasing. After a quick stop at a gas station I attempted to rejoin the planned route but was stymied by what appeared to be a wall of a road ahead of me. I literally couldn't see the top of the hill obscured by the trees in front of me. I shouted an expletive and backtracked to yet another alternate route that appeared to circumvent the damned hill. What I didn't account for was the exposure to winds in the openness.  I pushed hard against incessant headwinds, stopping at a farm to eat a Snickers bar.  To my chagrin the thing was FROZEN hard. I made it to an inviting gas station that sat at a major intersection but I decided to keep moving forward. That is until--while trying to coast down a hill--I was hit with such a gust of wind I said "F*ck it" and hobbled back humbly to that store.  I grabbed a bottle of chocolate milk and sent C a text to tell her where I'd be waiting. I was slightly disappointed that I didn't quite finish the ride, but was proud that I was able to participate in such an adventure. I biked about 42 miles, averaging 11 mph (with a maximum speed of 33 mph), over a total time of 3hr 44min.

I looked back at the weather data from Saturday. It was reported that at Mohican State Park, a high temp of 45-degrees was reached at 3:05pm. Wind speed was recorded as 27 mph, gusting up to 48 mph.



What I wore:
Long-sleeve merino wool baselayer
Short sleeve cycling jersey - I stashed one of 4 water bottles
Mountain Hardware Epic rain jacket (never took it off)
Pearl Izumi Cyclone gloves
Bib shorts
Pearl Izumi thermal knee warmers
Tall wool cycling socks
Toe covers (worn over top of my cycling shoes, purchased the day before the ride)
Buff-style neck warmer
Cotton cycling cap
Giro Reverb helmet

What I ate:
3/4 of PB&J sandwich
Shot Blocks - one pack
4 Water bottles
1 Snickers
1 packet of Scratch drink mix
(+ 1 bottle of chocolate milk to celebrate)

October 17, 2013

Video of the Colorado Trail (Race)

Found this really nice video of the CTR (Colorado Trail Race), but it shows the Colorado Trail from a first-person perspective. It condenses 550 miles into 13 minutes of really beautiful scenery along really breath-taking singletrack. Ellie sat on my lap and watched nearly the entire thing and agreed it felt like she was riding a bike in the mountains. She also graciously agreed (acquiesced?) that bikepacking this trail or one like it would be an awesome family vacation. It's well worth the watch--and the Bon Iver track on it is heart-squeezingly beautiful.

2013 Colorado Trail Race from Aaron Johnson on Vimeo.

August 23, 2013

MYOG: Make Your Own Gear

I've always been glad that we have a sewing machine but never have the motivation (or supplies) to make the things I want to make. Lately I've been interested in upping the cargo-carrying capacity of my bike by acquiring some rad bags that fit within the main triangle of frame (a "frame bag"), and along the top tube. Unfortunately a frame bag needs to be more or less custom, and professional models start around $130. Some internet searching revealed how simple it can be to make your own frame bag, so I am diving in to these new D.I.Y. waters.

I found some really detailed instructions and inspiration from the following resources:

I would really like to use some ultra-light and super-strong techy fabric called X-Pac, but it is expensive; so I've settled on a a coated (waterproof) ripstop fabric. You can see my purchase list below, from a company called Seattlefabrics.com.  Supposedly I will only need 1/2 a yard of fabric to make a simple frame bag, so I ordered over twice that to account for mess-ups, or hopefully some smaller accessory bags.



With the shipping estimate ($18?!), I am spending about $60, which will potentially provide me with 2 frame bags and more. I'm waiting on the stuff to arrive and will try to update after I get started.