Sunday, May 31, 2009

How did I miss this one?!

This was my favorite photo from my trip. It's the train bridge again. At 5:00 PM, the waxing moon was visible. I love when you can see the moon in daylight. I can't believe I forgot to post it!

May 2009 S24O Part 2: Camping, Return, and Lessons

I pulled into Hillsdale State Park at about 6:30 PM.

First order of business was to find a site and get set up. Here you see my bike, cooking setup, and tent.

My grandmother gave me this tent for my 14th birthday. It kind of disturbs me that means that I've had this tent more than half my life. It was really a "kid's tent" but since I'm a relatively stout guy at 5'6", I can still lay down in this thing if I do it just right. The blessing is that it is light, packs small, and by all rights holds its own as a solid backpacking tent. Even though there was no rain in the forecast, I went ahead and waterproofed it yesterday morning (forgot to mention that in my "prep"

I guess I also forgot to mention that I brought my camera. That should be obvious by now. I also brought a handheld GPS. I decided since I had nothing else to do, I'd take photos of interesting things near my camp site. This is a small stage for performances and concerts.

From the stage area, I could see the shower houses for the swimming beach.

Volleyball (kinda)

This is Leo from Tulsa, OK. And that's a seriously awesome Vee-Dub. Leo said I was the fourth person to ask to take pictures of this classic. Easy-going, he travels all over the place. He's in town to see a family member's Confirmation. From the time I showed up until I finally called it a night at 10:00 PM, I don't think Leo stopped noodling on that guitar. His riffs and my dad's soun a lot alike. I'm sure they'd have jammed well together.

Darkness is creeping in.

Boiling water for supper

After it got dark, I tried experimenting with the CHDK tools on my Canon PS A530. This is a 15-second exposure through the mesh top of my tent, with a relatively high ISO and then further enhancement to bring out the stars. Unfortunately, it also brough out the CCD noise. One of these days I'll be able to pony up for a decent DSLR.

At about 12:30 AM I was woken up by the bright flashes of lightning and clamorous thunder. Rain wasn't in the forecast, but sure enough, we had storms pop up out of nowhere. This is another long exposure which caught cloud-to-cloud lightning. Without a tripod, I just set the camera in the grass. That's why it looks like it was taken from the grass.

I gathered up most of the stuff (aside from the bike) and brought it into the tent. I put the rain fly on, and then a few minutes later it started pouring. Wave after wave of low-intensity thunderstorms rolled through, each lasting about 30 minutes with 10-30 minutes of quiet between them. I drifted in and out of sleep all night.

By 5:30 or so, the sun was coming back up. I made a quick breakfast (two eggs)

I then cleaned everything up, packed and left. I filled up my water bottles and rolled out at about 6:20.

I obviously took a different route back. I stayed on Old KC Road until 223rd, then darted across K-7's overpass and continued north on Webster to 199th. I took 199th to Woodland, and rode a mix of chip-seal, oiled dirt, oiled gravel and loose gravel to 175th, where this image sealed my camera's fate, completely filling my memory card.

The homeward ride took more than an hour longer than it took me to get out to my camp site. Part of this is due to the wind, which was a tailwind going out and a headwind returning. I was also just plain tired. I set myself on autopilot and let the legs mill the miles out.

Lessons Learned
All in all, this was a huge success. I havent been backpacking in ages. I didn't take anything that I ended up not using. The bedroll was a little off. I slept on the sleeping bag most of the night, and got inside when it got chilly in the tent. I really should have packed a little pillow, though. As far as food goes: Ramen sucks, but it's light and small. Eggs rock, but they're hard to keep safe on a journey like mine was. I wish I'd have brought something awith a little more substance than Ramen. Maybe some canned soup next time. Also, next time I plan on making a long ride like this, I'll see if anyone else has some suggestions of their own. I was glad that I took the time to water-seal the tent, and everything worked out great.

One final note: We're in the midst of an unstable economy, fuel prices are hiking on both increased AND decreased demand and all sorts of freaky signs are pointing to the apocalypse. Example: the people who normally hold signs reading 'The End is Near!' are now holding signs reading 'CLEARANCE! 70% OFF! EVERYTHING MUST GO!' It's pretty surreal to be traveling the countryside on your own seeing no cars for over an hour (on Woodland this morning) while not only carrying all three essentials of life (food, water, shelter) but doing so while averaging 12 MPH over the course of almost 70 miles in 24 hours while using an engine that can convert a staggering variety of raw organic mass into kinetic energy without much fanfare.

Doom-sayers, take note: you should be riding a bicycle.

May 2009 S24O Part 1: Prep and getting there

Note: since there's so much photo content, I'm splitting this into two parts. (Part 2)

Sometime last year, I put together a route to get to Hillsdale Lake by bike.

My wife was heading out to see her sister this weekend, so I decided it would be the perfect excuse to go on my first S24O. More has been written about these than I could ever hope to digest, but I decided I'd treat it kind of like a backpacking trip.

Itemized manifest for the journey

2 packs of ramen noodles
2 eggs
Pat of butter
Salt and pepper packets
3 slices of whole-wheat bread folded in half with peanut butter
6 marshmallows for roasting. Just because.
2x 24oz water bottles
32oz water bottle

folding mess kit (almost identical to this one)
plastic knife, spoon, fork
Folding spatula (from this kit, I left the rest at home)
Propane burner
half-empty 16oz propane cylinder (left over from Memorial Day Weekend)
Waterproof matches

chamois (for the ride home)
cargo shorts (so I'm not walking around in chamois all night)
underwear (so I'm not freeballing)
2 pair of socks
Sun/Fishing hat

Gerber Evolution
Mini Mag-Lite
Plus my usual commuter tools:
Park MTB-3
Inner Tube
CO2 Inflater and spare cartridges

Small dome tent with stakes
Medium-weight sleeping bag (the only one I have)

This is how that looks all loaded up:

This one is for PM Summer, who has me thinking more and more about how stupid bike lanes are... especially in Olathe Kansas, where no stretch of bike lane is more than maybe one mile long before coming abruptly to an end and re-starting a ways later. Also, all bike lanes in this area seem to attract trash, glass, or fall to disrepair with pot-holes and huge gaps in road seams.

It's hard to tell here, but this is some chunky chip-seal pavement. On my journey, I would ride on asphalt, chip-seal, gravel, washboard dirt, oil-sealed dirt, oiled gravel, concrete, and even about 1/4 mile on rail bed, which uses large chunk gravel for filler.

An out-of-the way watering hole in Spring Hill

Opposed: Farm Co-Op

Here's the source of the washboard dirt I was telling you about. Woodland Road comes to an abrupt end near southern Spring Hill. I was planning on taking Woodland to 239th St. What did I do? I pushed onward, of course!

I needed both hands firmly at the helm for what came next, so I don't have any photos. What lay beyond those roadblocks was a washboard dirt trail where Woodland used to be, which goes down to a riverbed and looks to be making way for some kind of bridge. I ended up riding about a mile worth of no-man's-land where there wasn't anything actually resembling a trail or a road, and took that over to the rail bed. From there, I rode north again for about 1/4 mile to the torn-up crossing that will eventually connect two parts of 231st street together where they're currently cut off. I took 231st to Victory Road, which is gravel. I really don't mind gravel.

Back when I designed the route, cDude told me that there would be something "interesting" on my route and left it at that. I'd found out that he meant this old railroad bridge that was built in 1922.

If it weren't for that bridge, I'd be kicking myself. I should have taken 231st a bit further to Old KC Road, a fully paved paradise. That's okay, though. I wasn't on this ride to make good time. I just wanted an adventure, and I was getting one!

Old KC Road is mostly downhill going southwest. Combined with the slight northeast breeze, I was finally making some good time again, until it was time to slog the hills on 255th St.

Of course, there's always the wicked descent on the other side that makes the climb worthwhile!

At this point, you can see just a sliver of Hillsdale Lake. I'd arrived!

Continue to part 2

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A taste of bike touring

Perfect weather tempted me to try my first S24o and Apertome always makes this look so fun. Hillsdale Lake is about 35 miles away by bike so a big part of the excitement is getting there and back. I miss backpacking and this is similar enough. More photos and a list of goodies tomorrow.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Avenue of the Arts

I had to go pick up my bus pass from the HR office today and finally started looking at the exhibits for Avenue Of The Arts. Sorry for the crappy camera-phone pics. It's all I had with me.

Basically, I think a lot of this looks like trash, especially the middle one on the bottom row which is a canopy made of thousands of plastic bottles. It reminds me of this disaster I spotted last year:

I guess my definition of "art" differs from other peoples. I love art, but I just have a hard time calling scrap metal glued to the ground or a pile of trash arranged just so "art". I suppose that's what makes art what it is.

I can say that taking a few minutes to walk downtown was a nice break in my day, and I enjoyed catching some fresh air. The homeward commute was warm but refreshing, and it looks like we've got a nice weekend lined up. I might have something fun lined up, too. We'll see how that works.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


As I left home this morning, the weather was yet again straddling the line between misty and foggy. As I pulled up to the bus stop, I felt an actual rain drop. I was a little early, but only by a few minutes. Right before the bus is supposed to show up, I felt another drop. Then another. A minute or so later, there was a pleasant and tolerable pitter-patter of rain.

The bus was running late at this point. I felt the rain pick up its intensity ever so slightly, then I heard it: A wall of water approaching me. Looking into the distance, I could see my visibility getting shorter and shorter as the horizon became enshrouded by torrential downpour. A line was rushing toward me. Ahead of that line, the parking lot was speckled with little drops. Behind that line, a sheet of water engulfed everything. Within a minute, I was soaked through, as if I'd been cast into the swimming pool at a kegger. A nice man offered me a seat in his Saturn. I obliged, but it didn't help much.

Six minutes later, the bus would finally roll through. Scurrying as if their lives depended on it, the transit denizens stormed the bus, holding anything and everything above their heads in a futile attempt to remain dry. It didn't work.

It's now my lunch time. The collar of my shirt and my waistband are still damp.

The kicker? I had a poncho with me yesterday. I forgot to put it back in my panniers after making a grocery run last night.

Protip: Check the radar, newbie.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Metric Century, Interrupted

By noon on Sunday, I was ready for a vacation from my vacation. The skies were partly cloudy, temps were in the 80s and a pleasant breeze was coming out of the East. Without a solid destination on my mind, I decided I'd go out for a ride, and it didn't take me long to decide that I'd like to make a Metric out of it.

I took Santa Fe Trail Drive through Old Town Lenexa to get to Pflumm, then headed due south to 175th. At that point, I decided to let the breeze push me along.

175th St just West of Pflumm.

Many cyclists were out and about. I saw at least two dozen bikes on the road, and aside from two couples enjoying the day, the rest of them were loners in various states of discipline, from plain-clothes guys on cheap mountain bikes to time-trial-equipped Triathletes getting some training.

When you get down to 175th St, most of what you see is farmland, especially once you get away from the Eastern border of Johnson County (which is mostly cookie-cutter suburban sprawl)

With a tailwind, I was staying close to the speed limit along 175th. Too bad I got stopped by the train. 175th is known for its spacious, well-kept shoulders. This is a popular road for cyclists and is a stretch used very often on our Dark Side Rides.

Just a few hundred yards from Gardner city limit, I saw a dead armadillo on the shoulder. cDude and I saw one just north of Pleasanton on the 200k permanent last year, and fellow Great-Plains cyclist Dan Schmatz was taken out of commission by one on the inaugural Tour of Missouri. This is the farthest north I've ever seen one, though. I don't get all worked up about climate change, but this might be enough to make me think there might be more than meets the eye...

Another guy pulled over while I was taking a picture, and we talked for a while. He'd never seen one before, and he's lived in the area all his life.

On a bizarre tangent, my wife had me zoom into the armadillo to full resolution and whilst panning around the image, I saw a tattoo on the guy's leg. Below is a tight crop of the above photo.

It kind of freaked me out. "Kampf" is German for "Struggle" and I am guessing his whole tattoo says "Mein Kampf" -- the title of Adolf Hitler's semi-autobiography/manifesto which happens to be the calling of neo-nazism around the world. Therefore, I am deducing that the guy who stopped to admire the armadillo with me is likely some kind of extremist.

I'm not judging, because he seemed like a nice enough guy there talking to me, but I did find it interesting to catch it only much later. It's amazing the things you see in photos.

I had determined that I'd try to find a good impromptu route down to Hillsdale lake, so I turned south on Clare Road, just a ways after finding the armadillo. I'd eventually like to pack a night's worth of stuff onto my bike (tent, a light bedroll, some nourishment) and do a S24O at Hillsdale.

My "Metric" got cut to about half the length I was shooting for due to something back on the home-front, so I didn't find my way to the lake. That's okay, though. I don't get to go on many solo recreation rides just for the sake of riding, and this was a great way to decompress and free my spirit for a while on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

This morning, my eyes popped open at 04:30 and I couldn't get back to sleep. Knowing I'd need it later on, I whipped up a pot of coffee. This mug was sent to me from two nice chaps in England who were working together on VNC at the time. Variants of VNC are still used today for remotely-controlling computers with a graphical interface.

In other geeky news: I finally got my MacBook back up to par thanks to my fellow bike fiend, The Clemonator, who's sadly laid up recovering from knee surgery. He upgraded his MacBook Pro's hard drive and gave me the sloppy seconds, a 200GBer that's more than ample for my needs. I'm finally back in action with all my photo editing goodies again!

100% relative humidity and a thick, misty fog made for sweaty pavement and a damp, yet not quite rainy ride this morning. I love mist. I hate road grime. Fenders rock my bike commuting world!

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