Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Reconnecting and a Solo Double

It's been a week of getting in touch with several people I worked with as a specialist at the Flight Service Station in Huron, SD early in my career with the FAA. It began a week ago when Scott and Judy stopped by. They're both specialists at the Flight Service Station in Princeton, MN about 75 miles north although neither are employed with the FAA anymore since their jobs were contracted out to Lockheed Martin a few years ago. Scott and I worked together for a couple years in Huron before I transfered to where I am today. He left the FAA for a while to work on his college degree before hiring back on.

Scott has had a love of Corvettes for the 28 years I've known him. His newest (2008) is by far nicer than any other he's owned.

We used to golf together; a lot. We were competitive with each other and usually enjoyed ourselves most when the other was duffing a shot. A typical remark was something along the line of, 'oh, that's unfortunate' then a biting of the lip to keep from laughing knowing full well that the favor would be returned before long. Those were some fun times.

I was Facebook creeping a couple days later when I stumbled onto Larry Munson's profile. Larry was my supervisor at Huron. I honestly didn't expect to find Larry on Facebook but there he was. From his friends list I found another specialist, Jim Anez and sent both of them friend requests. I heard from each of them later in the day and we exchanged emails outlining the last 25 years of our lives. From Jim I also gleaned the email address for Joe Gray. Another very nice find for me. A reunion with them and others would be nice and probably not so out of the question as Joe lives in Las Vegas.

Tammy and I finally made it back to the glassblowing studio at Foci on Thursday. It had been two months since we were last there and it showed. It's such a humbling endeavor but we're both determined to learn the art. We'll be back again on Wednesday with plans to work with Steve, an experienced glassblower.

I was looking around on the Garmin Connect website earlier in the week to see what sort of rides others were logging in the area and I came across the annual Dawn to Dusk double century (200 miles) ride the Silver Cyclists from Lakeville had done the previous weekend. It was my plan a few weeks ago to do one of my own yet this summer but it didn't appear it was going to happen. I put in a nice effort last Tuesday with a 131 mile loop to St Peter and wondered if maybe I could at least put together a 150 mile ride to either Rochester, Mankato or Princeton depending on which way the wind was blowing for whatever day I decided on.

I kept my eye on the forecast over the next couple days while mentally preparing myself for at least a 150 mile effort with an outside shot at a full double century. We've lost nearly an hour of daylight off the end of the day and if my legs weren't up to it there was little chance I was going to conquer a double especially since I'd be out there alone with nobody to draft from.

The forecast was for temps in the upper 80s to lower 90s with light northeast winds. I've been saying all along this summer that I've been loving the heat. Did I really mean that? I set my alarm for 4:45 and hoped for the best.

The best it wasn't. I woke up to some very thick fog which nearly had me crawling back into bed. I got prepared anyway in case it looked okay once the sun worked its way around. Tammy saw the fog outside our bedroom window but didn't have her glasses on so I assured her it was only moisture on the windows. She said a prayer over me then went back to dreamland.

I rolled out at 6:35 with very little traffic and a similar amount of visibility. I measured it at 1/10 of a mile in most places but I at least had an 8 foot shoulder to work with for the first couple hours of the ride once I got to the main highway.

I was feeling good and glad to be making tracks before the real heat set in. I pedaled east along county road 46 working my way toward Hastings. The fog was more of a mist at times and I noticed I was becoming soaked as I rode along.

The loose plan was to head north out of Hastings and cross into Wisconsin at Prescott but just before I got to the bridge to cross the St Croix I noticed county road 21 off to my left which followed the river north along the Minnesota side. I'd been by this way dozens of times but had never noticed this road before. I had no hard plan so I opted for this route to add some exploration to the ride.

The fog began to lift south of Afton and I could finally stop wiping the mist off my glasses every few minutes.

Before long I was in Stillwater and wondering how it was that with all the riding I've done over the years this was my first time biking through this river town.  I got in line with the rest of the traffic heading across the river for Wisconsin and dialed my speed up to match theirs as I'd be taking the lane for this crossing.

The roads in Wisconsin are tough to beat; at least any of them I've ever been on. Not that Minnesota's roads are bad; maybe it's less traffic. I'm sure that plays a part.

I made my first stop at 65 miles in New Richmond. My focus was on making sure I was taking in some protein in addition to the usual carbs. This wasn't my typical day in the saddle.

FIve hours into the ride and I was still waiting for the day's heat to arrive. The low overcast that hung just above me was doing a good job of holding the temperature down and I was fine with that but it wasn't putting my new insulated water bottles to the test. I wanted to see if it's true that they can keep drinks cool on a warm summer day as this was my first ride with them.

I picked up highway 63 and headed south through Baldwin thinking about the last time I was on this road on my bike. It was July, 1981 and I was on a three day trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula for a family reunion.  I was 24 and thunderstorms forced me to have to combine three days of riding into two. I'd do 196 miles the third day with my mom meeting me out on the road and driving behind me the final four miles with her headlights lighting my way.

At 92 miles along this stretch of road my cellphone chirped to alert me to a new email message. There was no traffic in sight so I reached back and grabbed my phone. It was an email from Joe Gray and it looked to be lengthy. It had been 25 years since I'd heard from him since leaving Huron Flight Service. I read the first couple paragraphs and they brought a smile to my face but I closed the message down opting to read it later when I could more fully enjoy what he had to say.

It was around this time that I had to make a decision as to how far this ride was going to be. I could head west toward River Falls and Prescott for home and a sure 150 miles or I could press on south and east toward Maiden Rock for what would be my longest ride in years.

I phoned Tammy and asked her if she could get a distance for me from Maiden Rock to Lakeville. Less than two minutes later she texted back the answer: 68.2 miles. I did some quick calculations that took into account the amount of remaining daylight and mulled over my options.

Did I mention that I've got the most awesome wife? I wasn't going to do this ride because she's been stuck at home nursing a back injury and I figured my place was close by her but she insisted I go. I feigned disapproval of her insistance but I'm sure she saw through it.

I descended into Maiden Rock with just over 120 miles done. A large group of motorcycles was cruising through town which caused me to have to wait before crossing the street to my next much needed stop for fuel.

I hurried to get back on the road. I was now committed to doing at least 200 miles and didn't have a lot of extra time to play with. What if I had a mechanical issue or two? I wanted somewhat of a cushion but there wasn't much of one to be had. I attacked the hills the best I could northwest of Maiden Rock and Bay City but my right knee was beginning to protest. My left wouldn't be far behind.

I rolled into Prescott with 48 miles to go and caught my first glimpse of the sun all day. I was having a hard time keeping enough calories in me to propel me. A Chuckwagon sandwich would have to suffice. I grabbed a couple bottles of Powerade for the usual 2 for $3 price and stood outside while I ate my sandwich with my shoes off trying to give my toes a break as they were beginning to protest as well.

I crossed back over the Hastings bridge noting how much the day had improved from earlier.

I was feeling good about being back on the Minnesota side of the river with a direct shot home not much more than an hour away but I needed more miles than what a direct route would give me. I worked my way south and west toward Vermillion (my last fuel stop) then highway 52 to Hampton before the final push west toward Farmington and into Lakeville.

I considered adding some style points at the end by tacking on an additional few miles with a loop around Orchard lake but I was losing daylight fast and didn't want to do anything stupid that would mess up a fine day.

I settled for one style point with a total of 201 miles and 15 minutes of daylight to spare.

Funny, but as I was finishing the ride I was thinking how this will likely be my last 100+ mile ride of the year and I'll shift my focus to shorter stuff.

Really, that's funny because by the time I got out of the shower I was already looking forward to my next adventure.


Larry M. said...

WOW, Kevin! I guess that post means you're still riding bike occasionally! Nice!

Kevin said...

A little. ;)

Hopefully there's a treck through South Dakota when my working days are done. You'll be on my list of stops.

Larry M. said...

Cool! We'll have a nice cold glass of iced tea waiting!