Sunday, December 19, 2010

I'm Not In Kansas Anymore - December 19, 2010

At St. Mary's University Trails
Last weekend we had 16.5 inches of snow here in La Crosse, Wisconsin on top of 5-7 inches that we received the prior weekend.  The snow was so deep last Sunday I could not get out on my Nordic skis but did try and then kicked myself for not bringing my snowshoes which would have worked perfectly.

This weekend I was able to get out for 30+K of skiing on both Saturday and Sunday by taking advantage of the trails here in La Crosse then driving up the Mississippi river for about 20 miles on the Minnesota side to ski in Winona.

Hixon Forest Trail Map
The trails in La Crosse are in the Hixon Forest which traces it roots to the founding of Grandad Bluff as a park.  The land was donated to the City of La Crosse in 1912.  The trails were a project of the Greater Area Chamber of Commerce and the La Crosse Park and Recreation Department.  A volunteer group, called the Hixon Groomers, provide grooming for both skating and classic skiing on some of the trails and the adjoining Forest Hills Golf Course. On Saturday I also saw several folks on snowshoes on some of the steeper narrow trails.  Great local place to ski!  My Garmin showed 15.58 K.

One of the Nice Hills at Saint Mary's
The trails in Winona are located at Saint Mary's University which I am told has a consistently good Nordic Ski Team.  With these nicely tucked away trails running through the bluffs I can see why!  Conditions were fabulous with mostly nice wide trails groomed for both skating and classic.  They were also quite challenging at times which makes for good American Birkebeiner training since that course is mainly all hills.  My Garmin showed 15.09K.

If you have never driven along the Mississippi River between Wisconsin and Minnesota you have to add it to your list.  Very pretty vistas with the river and then these very large bluffs that remind you of mountains!  I had never experienced the beauty of this area and had been coming to Wisconsin for 25 years prior to moving here to ski the Birkie. This picture was taken heading towards Winona on US Routes 14 and 61, which run together during this stretch.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Life on The Mississippi - October 23, 2010

I moved to La Crosse, Wisconsin at the beginning of October to take a position with the Gundersen Lutheran Health System as the Program Director for the MedLink AIR and Specialty Care critical care transport programs.  I feel very honored to be affiliated, not only with a great health system, but also with first class air and ground transport services.  The picture to the left is of the MedLink AIR Eurocopter EC-145 helicopter over the Gundersen Lutheran Hospital and Clinic in La Crosse.  To the west is the Mississippi River and Minnesota.

I have only been able to get out on four bicycle rides since arriving as I attended the Air Medical Transport Conference for part of one of the weeks in Florida and it has been raining this weekend.  La Crosse has a number of cyclists and Nordic skiers and I have been able to join the local listserv which is sponsored by the La Crosse Velo Club.  In general the cyclists I have met so far are in a class above my speed level of 16-18 MPH as they average 25-30 MPH.  This is especially hard as this area has some incredible hills with all the bluffs along both sides of the Mississippi River.  The picture to the left is on top of Granddad Bluff just to the east of La Crosse and to get up to it there is a mile long climb with a 13% grade at the start and then ranging from a 7-10% grade for the remainder of the hill.

The 600-ft high Granddad Bluff overlooks the Mississippi River Valley which includes the three states of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. Wisconsin Trails readers voted this "the most scenic view in the state" and I know from my first ride it was well worth the climb.  The picture to the left, looking east, is from Main Street which then turns into Bliss Road as it goes up the bluff.  Bliss Road is closed to cars because of heavy rains that washed out part of the side of the road but it is passable for hikers and cyclists.  My first two rides went up Granddad Bluff and can be viewed from my Garmin here for the Grandad Bluff La Crosse - October 7, 2010 41.9K Ride and here for the County Road YY MedLink - October 9, 2010 37.6K Ride.  On the October 7th ride I went out with Jen who is the leader on an organized ride and on October 9th I went out myself but ended up riding with another cyclist for part of the distance.

On October 16th I went out for a longer ride that started out with a large group of riders.  After the first mile long hill on County Road K, however, I could not keep up with the fast pace so I went on my own exploring the country side to the east and south of La Crosse.  It was a gorgeous sunny day with temperatures in mid 60's and a 5-6 MPH wind from the south.  There is beautiful farm land which includes both rolling hills and very lengthy climbs and descents.  The picture to the left is of a farm just to the southeast of Chaseburg, Wisconsin.

This area of Wisconsin has a number of Amish communities and during this ride I saw a number of covered wagons, farms, and furniture shops.  The picture to the left is from an Amish farm and you can tell by the way they bale their corn stalks.  After the forth mile long climb I came out of the bluffs at Genoa, Wisconsin which sits right on the Mississippi River and is about 17 miles south of La Crosse.  Unfortunately I had my 8th flat tire of the season with a steel pin going through my new Kevlar back tire on the last climb. With all my experience changing flats, however, I was again climbing the hill on Wisconsin Highway 56.

This picture was taken north of Genoa on Wisconsin Route 35.  The river is very scenic here and the highway includes a nice wide shoulder.  It was also a welcome relief to have some flat land and the wind at my back to finish the 92.4K ride.  The map from my Garmin can be viewed here Amish Country Ride - October 16, 2010.

On Sunday, October 17th I went out with Tom, who is cyclist I met on the Saturday ride and who also works at Gundersen Lutheran as an Ophthalmologist.   Tom, like me attended Michigan State University, and we went out for a late afternoon 54.2K ride.  Temperatures were cooler than Saturday in the high 50's without much wind and Tom showed me one of the regular routes that many cyclists do on County Road M.  The ride can be viewed from my Garmin here County Road M - October 17, 2010. 

Except for a few hearty souls the cycling season pretty much ends in La Crosse at the end of October which is when I usually switch over to roller skiing to get ready for the Nordic ski season anyhow.  Fortunately there are a number of Nordic skiers here in La Crosse so I look forward to training with them on roller skis and then actually skiing with a few local trails in the area.  Depending on snow levels, the best skiing will usually be found further north.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tour de BBQ - October 2, 2010

The Quivira Park Bike Group joined the Tour de BBQ Ride which is the LIVESTRONG Army of Kansas City’s signature fundraising event on Saturday, October 2, 2010. The proceeds benefit the Lance Armstrong Foundation and The University of Kansas Cancer Center.  This was the 2nd year for the Tour de BBQ Ride and there were over 2,000 riders compared to over 400 in 2009, so quite a statement for the bicycling community in Kansas City.

All the events, including the start and finish were at the Power and Light District, which has become a premier dining, entertainment and shopping district in the heart of downtown Kansas City.  Attractions include the Midland Theater by AMC, The AMC Mainstreet Movie Theater, and the KC Live! Entertainment District. There are also more than 50 restaurants, bars, shops, and entertainment venues in this new nine-block neighborhood which links the Convention Center to the Sprint Arena. 

We had a good contingent of riders, friends, and spouses who showed up for the ride, which included 15, 35, and 62 mile distances to choose from.  Most of our group did the 62 mile course or a 100 kilometer Metric Century.  All the SAG stops were at famous BBQ restaurants in the Kansas City area so the course got a bit convoluted in areas especially when there was construction.  The volunteers and great food made up for this, however.  I did not personally eat any of the BBQ until the end, because first, I do not especially like BBQ and second, I like to eat just performance food while exercising.

Carlo and his wife completed the course on their tandem bike and were quite fast on the downhills and a bit slower on the uphills given the weight of the bike.  Picture of me is on College Boulevard in Olathe and this and many of the others were taken by Rob Rhodes.

The route can be viewed from my Garmin.  Total distance was 100.12K and average speed was fairly slow at 22.4 KPH given all the turns and stops, especially in the downtown urban areas.

After the ride Smash Mouth performed a number of their classic hits in the KC Live outdoor area, which made for a wonderful ending to a great ride.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Randy's Urban Ramble - September 29, 2010

Randy Rasa, webmaster for the Kansas Cyclist website and the co-producer of the Kansas Cyclist Podcast, and I went on a nice 83 kilometer ride in the late afternoon into the evening.  Randy wanted to hear David Herlihy read some passages from his book called The Lost Cyclist at the Kansas City Public Library Plaza Branch at 18:30.  The event was sponsored by Rainy Day Books.  I did not read the book or attend the reading since we got their late and we had heard that the library was not the safest place to leave our bikes even when locked.  So I caught up on some e-mail and RSS news on my iPhone while Randy joined about 25 others listening to David inside.

The pictures were taken on an old bridge on Kenneth Street and 151st Street that crosses the Blue River.  Randy likes to find old bridges.  It was a beautiful day with temperatures in the high 70's and then when coming back from The Plaza in the dark down to the high 60's.  I usually don't like to ride at night but with proper lighting it is amazing how much less traffic there were on roads that I cycle on all the time.

Another interesting part of the ride was riding down the Blue River Parkway in Missouri and then entering Swope Park in Kansas City.  The parkway is a wonderful ride as the pavement is smooth, there is not much traffic and it follows along the Blue River and also numerous mountain biking trails.  With all the recent rain there was a spot where the road was partially destroyed but it was no problem getting by on bicycles.  See picture to the left.  We did not have much time to explore Swope Park since we were late for the reading but it is an incredible place.  See link for more information.

A map of the ride is available from my Garmin.  Total distance was 83.11K and our average speed was 22.7 KPH.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Quivira Park Bike Group Ride 18 - September 11, 2010

For the Quivira Park Bike Group Ride 18 we rode the Lake Lenexa Route, which is a 38.7 mile course that includes the famous "Oh My Ogg Hill".  The weather was in the low 70's at the start and low 80's at the end of the ride with a fairly brisk wind from the northwest of about 8-10 MPH.  Humidity was in the mid-range so a very nice morning.

We had 18 riders and not pictured to the left is Joe who had to cut out early before the SAG stop at the Charles J. Stump Park, which is our usual SAG for this route.  The picture was taken at the children's playground at the park.  Notice the dinosaur!

Rob, our resident bicycle photographer and the Chief Photographer with KCTV-5 and KSMO-62 here in Kansas City, took a number of great pictures.  This one is of the group leaving Quivira Park.  Unfortunately a number of times we got so spread out we kept some of the faster riders waiting.  One wait was when Dan, a new rider, and I thought there were still some riders behind us before we made the turn onto College Road and so we backtracked only to find them at the Black Hoof Park, at Lake Lenexa one of our meet-up spots.

We also had a slight delay because Marshall had a flat soon after we started down 127th Street so we stopped at the Johnson County Library on Black Bob Road to change it out.  Thanks to the Quivira Park Bike Group Pit Crew we had him up and rolling again in about 15 minutes.  Joe also got to use his first CO2 cartridge!  I don't want to talk about how many I have used with all my flats this year.  Fortunately the new tires with Kevlar are working great!

This picture shows us going up Ogg Road on the "Oh My Ogg Hill".  It is hard to tell from this picture but the hill has about a 14 degrees rate of climb at this point and then keeps going up after the road turns to the right.  Lots of fun if you like hills!

The last picture shows Dan and Chris exhausted after the long climb up Ogg.  A map of the entire route can be uploaded from my Garmin and it includes the distance to and from my house.  Total distance was 72.09 kilometers and average speed was 23.6 KPH for my ride.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Quivira Park Bike Group Ride 17 - September 4, 2010

The Quivira Park Bike Group Ride 17 took the new Cleveland Route today.  It was an absolute gorgeous day with temperatures in the mid 50's at the start and low 70's at the end.  Best of all was there was very low humidity and zero wind - yes, zero wind!  Hard to believe in Kansas where it seems to be windy all the time.  This was probably the best day I have ever had cycling in Kansas and I heard the same from many of the riders.  Just a picture perfect day!

The Group in Cleveland, Missouri
This photograph was taken at the SAG stop in Cleveland, Missouri.  For more information on Cleveland see my blog post Cleveland Mapping Ride from August 19, 2010.

One of our riders, Tim, and his wife recently had a baby girl so his father, Brian (pictured in center with red and white shirt on) was visiting with his wife and so he joined us for the ride.  It turns out that Brian who is turning 60 put us all to shame as he is a super triathlete who has done triathlons in all 50 states and will be working during his 60th year by doing triathlons around the world.  He was pushing even our faster riders, who I know are 30 or more years younger, with speeds approaching 40 KPH on some of the flats.

Peloton in Missouri
We are fortunate to have Rob, who is the Chief Photographer with KCTV-5 and KSMO-62 here in Kansas City, as one of our group riders.   He took the next three shots from his handy camera by shooting while riding.  Notice the beautiful blue sky in the first two pictures.

A map of the ride is available from my Garmin.  My total mileage was 100 kilometers, which included a warm up ride and some extra kilometers after the ride to get to a Metric Century!  My speed was close to 26 KPH but I was actually one of the slower riders so the temperature and lack of wind really added to the speed.

Peloton in Missouri

Rob and Ed

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Gringos Ride and More - August 23, 2010

Rob, Ed, and Steve
Steve and I rode from our neighborhood over to the Gringos Ride that leaves from 135th and Clairborne, just east of I-35 at the Santa Fe exit, in Olathe, Kansas every Monday night at 6:30pm.  Connie Connor organizes the ride, which like the Quivira Park Bike Group, is associated and listed on the calendar of the Johnson County Bicycle Club.  The picture to the left was taken at the Johnson County Fire and Rescue Station #3 which is at 19065 South Lackman Road at the corner of Lackman and 191st Streets.  This is the official SAG stop.

Ed and Steve
The ride follows the same route each week but has three options for short, medium, or a longer distances.  There is usually a pretty fast group which I have kept up with in past participation at least part of the way.  Today Rob went out with fast group and Steve and I stayed back with the more medium group.  We went the full distance but Steve and I cut off at the corner of 143rd and Lindenwood Drive to head back home and Rob went back to the start where his car was parked.

Rob, who is the Chief Photographer with KCTV-5 and KSMO-62 here in Kansas City, took the next three shots from his iPhone while were were heading back up Lindenwood.  Being a photographer he does a great job at getting action shots while riding which is not something I have mastered nor do I think want to try!

Steve does a lot of biking in the area and knows a lot of good side street alternatives to some of the busier roads.  I call him the Suburban Road King as every time I ride with him I find a new easier less traveled cut through.  On the map from my Garmin you can see some of the nice residential streets he takes.

Total distance for the ride was just over 58K at an average speed of just under 25 KMH.  There was a slight wind from the southeast but we hardly ever noticed it.  Temperatures were in the 90's and humidity around 50%.   We had to ride after sunset just before 8:00pm CDT but Steve has this DiNotte Tail Light on his bike that is absolutely blinding!  Since putting it on he says that cars really notice him.  I ride with headlight, and tail lights on my bike and helmet.

This picture is a great sunset shot by Rob of Steve.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Quivira Park Bike Group Ride 15 - August 21, 2010

A very nice ride this morning on the Quivira Park Bike Group's Kill Creek Park Route.  We had 13 riders and were quite fortunate as there was a series of thunderstorms and heavy rain starting Friday afternoon that did not end until late Friday night.  In some areas in the Kansas City metro area there was 2 1/2 to 3 inches of rain with several small stream flood warnings.  The streets were a bit wet at the beginning of the ride and except for some branches down we did not notice much of the impact of the storms.  We needed the rain since it has been so dry and hot but not in such a bolus amount.

We had a new rider, Tim who is a fellow Michigan State University Spartan, that helped push our fast group even faster as they averaged 20 MPH and with the humidity, which was around 95% during the ride, I took up with the slower group going around 15 MPH on average.  Temperatures were only in the mid 70's at the start and mid 80's at the end with only a 2-3 MPH breeze from the northwest.   The humidity was the factor for me, however.  In fact it was a six water bottle day for me and required an extra stop on the way back for ice water on 119th Street before we turned on Renner Road.  Pictured to the left from left to right are Ed, Griffin, Randy, Jim, Carlo, Greg, Joe, Bob, Marshall, Garrett, and Tim.

Ron, pictured to the left, did not have the time to do the whole route with us from Quivira Park, so he turned around at 151st Street and Gardner Road.  A map of the ride from my house can be uploaded from my Garmin.  Total distance was just under 78K and average speed was just under 25 KPH for me which includes a slow warm-up ride.

I am proud to report that with the four rides I did this week, it is the first time that I have completed 328 kilometers, or 204 miles, in one week!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cleveland Route Mapping Ride - August 19, 2010

195th Street View in Missouri
With the help of my Kansas Cyclist Podcast Partner, Randy Rasa, I mapped out a new route for the Quivira Park Bike Group down to Cleveland, Missouri.  Cleveland is a small town of just under 600 people located in Cass County.  The county was organized in 1835 and was first named Van Buren County but was later changed to Cass after Lewis Cass, a U.S. Senator from Michigan in 1849.  I could not find out much history of Cleveland from the official Cass County Website and even when checking their website and calling the Case County Historical Society.  They had some books but nothing on-line.  Randy and I did have the opportunity to speak to the town police officer at our SAG stop at a convenience store in Cleveland and he turns out to be a cyclist too!  Randy provided him his card from the Kansas Cyclist as the officer was interested in bicycle trails in the area.

Randy & Ed - Cleveland SAG Stop
We had a beautiful late afternoon for a ride with temperatures in the low 90's, humidity in the 50 percent range, and about a 8-10 MPH wind from the south.  I ran both my Garmin devices so that I could capture the entire ride from my house and the new Cleveland Route on the other.  The route goes from Quivira Park south on Quivira Street to 175th Street then over to Antioch south to 191st Street.  Below 179th Street Antioch has a nice 14 degree hill that has just been paved.  It is only as third as long as Ogg Hill on the Lake Lenexa Route, but the same degree of angle.  I have named the hill the "Antiache Hill" and it was actually much harder before being re-paved!

Randy - Corner of 195th & Prospect
The route covers some scenic rural Kansas and Missouri country side and is 55.05 miles long.  There are some nice rolling hills on State Highway Y in Missouri but for the most part is fairly flat.  From Cleveland the route works across 247th Street to Metcalf Road to 199th Street where there is another convenience store if needed in Stillwell.  The route gets back to Quivira Park by eventually getting to Pflumm from 191st via Antioch.  From Pflumm the route follows some of the other Quivira Park Bike Group routes by using 137th to Rosehill, to 133rd back to Quivira.

A map of my total ride from my house can be viewed from my Garmin.  Total distance was just under 93K and the average speed was just under 24 KPH.  As noted above, the new route from Quivira Park is at this link - Cleveland Route.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wednesday Morning Group Ride to Cedar Creek - August 18, 2010

I joined the Wednesday Morning Group Ride that leaves from BikeSource today.  It was cloudy but with delightful temperatures in the low 70's and hardly any wind.  There was a large turnout with many new riders which is always nice.  Jake, one of the regular riders pictured to the left with me, forgot his bike shoes so Bob, another rider, and I waited for him to drive home and then we booked to meet the group at the SAG stop in Lenexa once Jake was back.

Ron, as always, leads a good ride and begins each ride with a safety tip.  Today it was about obeying traffic laws and was especially relevant since we had a Kansas City Police Officer ride with us today.  Great guy and a very good rider.  Our ride went out to Cedar Creek, which is a beautiful planned community in Olathe, Kansas, which is a large area west and southwest of the Kansas City Metro Area.  There are some great hills and the Quivira Park Bike Group has a route called the Lake Lenexa Route that covers some of the same roads.  One of the riders had a flat but with help was back up and rolling in about 10 minutes.  The picture of the group was at the corner of Woodland Street and Northgate in Olathe during the flat repair.

When getting ready for the ride this morning one of our neighbor's daughter's was standing with her nanny and her younger sister and brother.  Morgan was upset because this was the first day of school and the bus forgot to pick her up.  I too had witnessed the bus not turning on our street and then not even stopping at the corner when she went running towards it.  Her nanny was concerned because she had the younger children and they were still in their pajamas so I volunteered to walk Morgan to school.  We had a delightful conversation about her new 1st grade teacher, her soccer team, how her sister and brother love piggy back rides from her, and that she was excited about school.  Since the bus had been late we were a bit tardy in getting to school, as several parents walking back from the school reminded us.  In any event, Morgan got to school safe and sound and only 5 minutes late.  Picture of Morgan and me is to the left.

A map of the ride can be viewed from my Garmin and the route starts at the Oak Hill Elementary School down to the start at BikeSource and back to my house.  Total distance was 52K and average speed was 24.3 KPH.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunflowers to Roses Bike Tour - August 15, 2010

I participated in the Sunflowers to Roses Bike Tour today with the Quivira Park Bike Group as we put a team together for the ride.  This is the 8th annual event and it is a fundraiser for the LIVESTRONG Foundation, Cancer Action, and the University of Kansas Cancer Center.  Our team included Carlo, Chris, Greg, Jake, Joe, John, Larry, Marshall, Patrick, Rob, Ron, Wayne, and I.   The link for making donations can be found at the Quivira Park Bike Group's Fundraiser Page.  We would certainly appreciate your support as we still have not met our goal as of this post and would like to do so to benefit cancer research.

I have to apologize in advance to our team as things were crowded before, during, and after the ride so I was not able to find everyone to get a group shot or even a small group or individual photo.  I did see everyone except Rob, however, as I ran into Marshall at the SAG in Spring Hill, Larry several times on the course, Wayne at the start, and rode at some time or another with everyone else.  Sorry I did not get pictures of Greg, Jake, Marshall, Patrick, Rob, and Wayne.  The picture to the left is before the ride right after the sun came up.  Pictured from left to right are Carlo, Joe, and John.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day and especially since we had been on another long streak of very hot and humid weather with heat index warnings for the last week - so a welcome relief.  I heard from race organizers that many riders signed up on the day of the race because of the nice weather.  Temperatures were in the low 70's at the start and low 80's at the end with humidity only around 50%.  We had about a 10 MPH wind from the north but had a nice pace line coming back and it was actually refreshing to have a cool wind for a change.  Pictured to the left after the ride are Joe, Larry, and Jon who rides on the Wednesday rides with Larry and me.  Pictured below are Joe, myself, and Ron also after the ride.

The event was very well organized with SAG stops well placed and stocked.  I heard, because of the influx of riders at the last minute, that they ran out of maps but I never even pulled mine out during the ride.  It was helpful to have an overview, however.  Posting on the website in advance of the ride could have prevented this issue. The course was fairly well marked but some of the signs on the turns were missing so that could have been a problem for some of the slower riders.  We were always in site of others so we basically just went with the flow.  I heard some of the signs were stolen.  My only suggestions to improve the ride would be to use paint on the road at all turns and intersections as the Johnson County Bike Club does for their rides.  Additionally it is a real pet peeve of mine that distances are not correct.  I signed up for the 72 mile ride (116 kilometers) and my Garmin only showed 65.28 miles or 105.06 kilometers.  I can't understand why the distance can not be exact especially since I have very accurate distances for the Quivira Park Bike Group rides by just uploading my Garmin.

All in all, however, a wonderful ride and none of it could happen without a great group of volunteers.  There were several and all were very helpful before the ride, at all the SAGs, and at the end with all the food and drink that was provided to riders.  Pictured to the left is Ron who leads the Wednesday ride.  In talking to him he thought the best way to support this important fundraiser was to volunteer and that he did.  He was at registration at the start and assisting the food distribution at the end.  Also a big thanks to my son, Jake and his friend Evan who helped setup tables and with the children's area while riders were out.  Jake is on the left and Evan on the right in the picture below.

The ride started and ended at BikeSource of Kansas City in Overland Park at 135th and Quivira. Race package pick up was also held a the store and they provided a 20% discount on certain items for riders which was very nice.  I purchased some new tires for Jake's bike as part of this program. A map of the 72 Mile Course can be uploaded from my Garmin.  Total distance was just over a 105K and average speed was about 26.1 KPH.

A very special thanks to my sister and brother-in-law, Gretchen and Doug; my parents; fellow cyclists, Steve and Carlo; and high school friend, David for their generous support of my ride and for all those that sponsored other members of the Quivira Park Bike Group