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About Pedaling

June 22nd, 2009
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Hooo doggy… a bit warm out there on the blacktop… heh… 97 in the shade when I got off the road, more with the humidity… woohoo…all good, cranked out 60 miles, thought about going for 90, for about a second, (till a hot blast of wind caught my face, as I sat in the shade of an overpass, looking onward.) The forecast has a bit of east in the wind tomorrow, we’ll see how it goes, would love to make up a day, but ya know, 100 degrees is freakin hot,

Anyway, speaking of overpasses, I made another milestone today, am finally able to ride on the interstate. Quite the change. Thought maybe I’d share a bit of the road with you all.

Surface plays a huge role in both speed and comfort. Smooth, seamless, aged asphalt is the best, keep it clear of debris and I am in heaven. I may roll a bit faster on concrete, but the cracks and regular joints (Bump>Roll-Roll>Bump>Roll-Roll>Bump>Roll-Roll>etc…), for twenty miles, or so, can get a bit tiresome. Every bump, crack and pebble I hit slows me down, a mile or two an hour might not seem like much, to most folk, but make a huge difference to a guy traveling at ten. My brother Tony, Liberty Rider #2, noted on the Jersey leg how much, even the different types of asphalt, effects pedaling. One of the surfaces I dread is a large stone mix that’ll leave my forearms vibrating for hours.

Surfaces change often, seeing a change ahead usually elicts a sigh, whose tone varies greatly…

The wind is another large factor, and I am always making it. Consider me pedaling at 10mph on a flat calm day, I have a 10mph wind pushing back at me… Even a 10mph tailwind, is to me a flat calm. A direct side wind is moved forward by my momentum and becomes a slight headwind. A sailor will tell you the math involved, but that is what they are talking about with “true” and “apparent” wind.

Probably needless to say that a strong, gusty, in your face headwind is the worst. The last few days have seen the track “staircase” west and south into south, and SSW winds. So while the west bits were a slight headwind, seeing a south turn ahead always saw me shaking my head with a, “here we go again…”. Though turning west was a relief of sorts, it was still great to get out of it finally, at the end of the day, and I am stoked that my southing is done.

I mentioned in yesterdays post a bit about cities. Big and small, they require termendous concentration. Disregarding the traffic and navigation issues, the road is a bear; city hot, and all bust up. Lots of construction zones and tube eating debris. Worse than the potholes and cracks are the parallel joints between concrete curbing and asphalt roadway. Often the joint is either a small ledge or the perfect width to grab my tire like a rut, and that could be very bad. And I have to ride along, inches away, for miles. I suppose the silver lining is that I have to concentrate so much on staying out of the ruts that I hardly notice the traffic… haha

I saw all kinds of roads navigating my way here, including dirt (which thankfully did not last long.) Knowing there is a major bridge ahead is always a bit nerve wracking. No matter how closely you pore over it on mapping software, until you actually see it, you don’t really know what you are facing. Holding up traffic on a narrow, long, high, bridge is never much fun. Ain’t no rest for the weary in such a situation. And, as a flat tire would make matters exponentially worse, the debris watch is heightened as well… It always feel like an accomplishment to cross a major one.

The country roads with little traffic are pleasant, but often hilly and rough. Usually no shoulders, as well. So some of them roads can become nightmares if they are local shortcuts, and heavily used during rush hours… I do just about everything I can to avoid slowing anyone down, what with the sign and mission and all… The mountain roads are usually always gorgeous, I hope to go back and see them sometime, on a motorcycle…

Route 66, though. That is a different animal altogether. I have not felt hurried or harrassed once while in the arms of the Mother Road, who has surely seen it all. It is like I am to be expected. My propoganda festooned cart, and I, merely add color and character to what must be America’s Most Charming Roadway. It truly has been a kick to pedal down Rt 66. Classic “Motor Courts” and filling stations, odd ball eateries and knick-knacks galore. Rolling through towns that have watched people pass through for decades. Motorcycle and Classic Car clubs, Solo and small group bikers packed for long hauls. I swear, if a Wagon Queen Family Truckster went by with a granny strapped to the roof, it would not look all that out of place.

Myriads of folk, out for a cruise…

The road itself varies by municiple jurisdiction. Most had been resurfaced, but some sections are the original jointed concrete (with no shoulder at all, just a 4in drop to dirt…), but, as I mentioned above, the travellers had no problem giving me space and time, often it was two lanes and I ambled along my own. The real traffic was on the interstate in the distance.  While I looked forward to reaching here where I can finally use them, I certainly am stoked that the routing led me down that legendary road. It was kinda the last thing on my mind while planning. Hadn’t really given it much thought. Now, after experiancing it’s magic, I hope to go back on my own dime and really amble along (in a vehicle with AC – haha)

And now it is the interstates. I like ’em. Actually feel safer with the wide shoulders and hign visibilty, (no blind corners and hilltops). Another plus is the fairly regular overpasses offering respite from the relentless heat. Chances are, if you ever see a bike parked under an overpass, you’ll see the rider splayed out in the shade on the cool concrete, and if you listen close, you might even hear the sigh… The final good thing about the interstates is the gentler grades, the hills more cut and the valleys more filled. Seeing parallel roads in the distance today happily reminded me of that.

They can get nasty at times, narrow bridges with little debris filled “shoulders”. Even worse can be “rotten” shoulders with gravel filled craters, or the monotonous jolts of a jointed roadway, all. day. long… Construction Zones are usually a bit dicey, as well. Like a bridge, you don’t know what you are facing till you see it. Saw the standard warning display today,”rightlane closed ahead.” It was still a ways up the road so I got off and onto an overpass to see what I could see. Still too far away, so I pedaled back onto the highway and hoped for the best, (while the work must leave room for normal wide loads, there can be narrow lanes for miles… While I am staisfied the flag array provides plenty visibilty, it can still be nerve wracking. ) As I pedaled up to it I was pleasently surprised by the sight of new lanes and the crews working the other side. The shoulder was actaully too new but the closed lane had been done earlier so I had a perfect track to myself for about ten miles… ahhhhhhh…

I don’t really know how much this all relates to the reason I’m out here, only to say that the road I’m travelling is a lot like life. Sometimes silky smooth, but usually a bit rough, with some better stretches. It sometimes changes directions and labels, loops around curious obstacles, sometimes even breaks and we have to find detours, which then become part of our road. But what is important is to keep pedeling on. Nothing of value comes easily, so embrace the hardship and press on, keeping eyes on the goal. I may sarcastically curse when I come up to a county line and see a crappy roadway ahead, but cannot stop.

That is unthinkable, the stakes are too high…

pedal pedal

The Mother Road

The Mother Road

Journal, Uncategorized

  1. June 22nd, 2009 at 20:00 | #1

    Michael, I love this write up, thank you for your honesty and for sharing with us. You are truely an inspiration to me.


  2. Joan
    June 22nd, 2009 at 21:05 | #2

    Thank you Michael for sharing with all of us. The stakes are too high to not keep going for all of us. You are an inspiration.

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