Photo by Jason DeVarennes



Friday, February 13, 2015

Oregon - Coast to Eugene

After taking advantage of the pleasantly cool coastal temperatures for a few days, it was now time to say farewell to the breezy seaside and head back over the coast range for a couple of nights in Eugene. Sadly, the temperature all along the Willamette Valley had been spiking into the 90s everyday, and the forecast did not show any relief on the horizon. (Although as I write this, it is almost 90 degrees colder than that here, so I'm having a little difficulty remembering why we weren't looking forward to riding in these conditions.)

Since we had winched ourselves up Ten Mile Creek the day before, we decided to avoid riding the same road in the same direction and instead chose to climb out of Yachats on Cummins Peak Road. It had nothing to do with which climb might be easier! Really! Well maybe, since we were back to hauling our gear, we decided to aim for the slightly easier option, where easier is a relative term. 

When I plotted the route on the computer, it looked like we'd get 80% of the climbing for the day in the first 15 miles, but that climbing was not insubstantial and we'd have a fair amount of gravel to boot. At least we'd get the big climb on the cooler coastal side, before descending into a furnace on the far side. 

We had a big day planned. I'd made a reservation at Velo B&B in Eugene, about 95 miles away.  I teased John that he could have, at most, 10 photo stops, since there would be no magic shortcut option.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Winter Bikes

As I work on this article, we have more than three feet of snow on the ground with a couple more feet on the way. Rumor has it that the groundhog was so fed up, he just packed his bags and moved to the other hemisphere. Sky high snowbanks line our roads and sidewalks.

Each time the roads are plowed, more and larger potholes emerge, although emerge may not be the proper word, as they are often hidden under puddles filled with slushy, sandy salt water. Then as the temperature goes down with the sun, scattered patches of ice make walking or riding a game of chance where suddenly you may find yourself Slip Sliding Away

Now take a good look at your fancy lightweight racing bike with its smooth narrow tires, shiny anodized parts and carbon rims. If nothing else, the lack of fenders makes it less than ideal for riding on wet, mucky, salty roads. Those high pressure, skinny tires lack grip on ice, bounce around on the uneven pavement or get swallowed up by deep ruts, cracks or potholes. The salt and sand will destroy the shiny finish on those anodized parts and grind away the carbon bits. Better just save that bike for dry rides on pristine pavement in warmer weather.

You need a winter bike!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Caring for your Wool

One of the many advantages of wool is the fact that it doesn't retain odor, and can be used many times between washings without getting stinky. I usually just hang my wool sweaters and jerseys to air out and only wash them when they are actually soiled, or if they do start to smell. 

This feature makes wool an ideal fabric for travel. 

The (slight) disadvantage of wool is that when you finally do need to wash it, it should be handled with care, as it were.

Wool naturally contains lanolin, a waxy substance secreted from the glands of wool-bearing animals. Lanolin helps protect their skin and keeps their wool soft and supple. Lanolin also repels water, making wool good in rainy weather. Detergents strip out the protective lanolin and can damage wool fibers, causing wool garments to full - puff up and get fuzzy.

There are a few well known detergents (Woolite among others) that claim to be made for wool. They may be milder than other detergents, but detergent really should be avoided if you hope to keep your woolies looking good for years.  

We recently started using a lanolin-based product, Kookaburra Wool Wash. It is designed specifically to protect and extend the life of wool garments. Rinsing is optional, simplifying hand-washing and shortening the machine wash cycle. According to Kookaburra's recommendations, we just run (only) the rinse cycle (on our front load washing machine) putting the wool wash in the fabric softener dispenser.

A reader here just recommended Eucalan, which appears to be very similar to Kookaburra Wool Wash. I now have a bottle of Eucalan on order, and look forward to trying it as well.  

Finally, remember that dryers are the enemy of wool. Woolies should be dried flat or hung on a rack or clothesline out of direct sunlight and away from any heat source.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Oregon - Another day of climbing at the coast

Yachats, eh?

We asked the ranger we met in the forestry office in Waldport, how to pronounce the name of the village 15 miles to the south. He laughed. He'd had this question many times before. He said people in Waldport jokingly call it "Yatch-hats", but the proper pronunciation is actually "Ya Hots" (baby!).

We had descended into "Ya Hots" a couple of days before and found a quaint coastal tourist village, complete with bakeries, caf├ęs, restaurants and motels. We had originally aimed for Waldport, in part because the Epic Route started from there, but also when looking on-line for lodging, I only found results in Waldport. Despite my claim that we try to tour without plans and reservations, I was a bit nervous when I only found a few potential places to stay, so I booked a cottage I had found online in Waldport.

Sadly, Waldport was just not as charming as Yachats appeared. And it was surprisingly lacking in good eateries. Pizza and burritos were good to fill the void, but where was the seafood?

Dressing for Winter Rides

On this very cold snowy day, I was reminded that it's been a while since I updated the article on dressing for cycling in the winter. So with some time on my hands during the blizzard of '15...

It is often said there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.

Both Fear Rothar and I are year-round cyclists, and have been for more than 30 years. In that time, we have learned and changed a few things, but the fundamentals haven't changed - dress in layers, starting with a good wicking baselayer, add additional layers as temperature dictates and top off with a wind/waterproof layer, as conditions merit. Complete the ensemble with good gloves, warm winter shoes and a proper hat.

In this article, I will talk in both general and specific terms. For instance I discuss what to look for in shoes and then I will include details for shoes that work well for me. In some cases I'll provide links to sources for harder to find items. In many cases, I'll suggest google or your local outdoor or bike shop.

Let me emphasize that one does not have to spend a fortune on equipment and clothes for winter riding. However I believe that good gear is worth its weight in gold - whether it is 0F and snowy or 35F and rainy. My winter arsenal includes a few pricey items, most notably, my winter shoes. If you are looking for bang for the buck for winter cycling comfort, winter boots are the place to start.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Oregon - Epic Gravel

Or More like Epic Photo Taking

As I mentioned in the previous post, our plan for Tuesday was to ride the Oregon Coast Gravel Epic route. The actual event was held a few weeks before our trip, but we found GPS tracks online, so we figured we could just go out on our own epic ride. 

We planned to stay in Waldport for a second night, thereby allowing us to do this very challenging route unencumbered. Since daylight hours were limited, we tried to get out early, but early is  relative when one is on vacation.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Oregon - To Waldport

Our plans for the second part of our Oregon holiday were somewhat fast and loose. Before the trip, we had talked about getting out to the coast as well as making our way to Eugene at some point, but otherwise didn't really have any firm plans.

This is typical for us when we tour on our own. Other folks might start out with two weeks worth of motel reservations and pre-planned routes, with detailed research about specific landmarks along the way. We just tend to make it up on the fly, rarely planning more than one or maybe two days at a time. With this flexibility, when we stumble upon something interesting, we can easily change things up to take in a new road, interesting village or cool looking hostel. This approach would drive some people crazy, and admittedly has occasionally resulted in some scurrying to find accommodation, but more often than not, we have discovered some amazing places that we might have otherwise missed.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Oregon - Salem and Corvallis

It's bittersweet when friends move away. Naturally, we miss seeing and riding with them on a regular basis, but it is also nice to have friends living in exotic travel destinations!

So I tried not to take it personally last year, when my entire 2011 Fleche team moved away. I really don't think it was to keep from having to take part in another Fleche, although admittedly, after 2011, Susan had actually vowed never to do another. Still, she could have just said no when I asked. She didn't actually have to relocate all the way across the country! And Dave and Dena didn't actually have to follow her lead and move away too!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Oregon - TREO

--The upcoming series of posts from our trip to Oregon in September is way, way overdue. Hopefully, over the next couple of weeks, as I finally sort through all these photos of cyclists wearing just shorts and sleeveless jerseys on days where the thermometer regularly topped 90F, the memories of hot weather will make me feel warm again during these mid-winter days when hardly any Fahrenheits are out and about. And if you are tired of reading about excessive rain in Ireland, read on...

Early in the summer, as my activity level seemed to be returning to normal, we started to talk about a cycling holiday. I had resumed regular riding and, while I was still battling pain, it was time for a proper cycling vacation.

For a while now, our friend Dan Morgan had been suggesting we take another trip to Oregon. We've done quite a bit of bike touring there over the years, and it's really not a hard sell. We love the area. Dan and his wife, Janet, live just west of Portland and have been gracious hosts to us on several occasions.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Rapha Festive 500 :: 2014 Edition

--Today we interrupt the way overdue series of posts from our trip to Ireland with a slightly more timely post about the 2014 edition of the Rapha Festive 500. But don't fret, I will finish the photo essay from Ireland, and next month I should even get the Oregon photos posted. ---

It's a slippery slope. You are used to being strong and fit and then you get injured. When you come back, you have memories of being strong and fit, but the legs and lungs seem to have forgotten. You get dropped. You are alone. It hurts. You get discouraged.

What do you do? Do you give up? It's a vicious circle. You want to get back to your old self. But you can't go fast or it hurts to go hard. So you ride slower. It hurts more. You ride slower still. And you are all alone. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Ireland - All About the Bikes

After 15 posts on our trip to Ireland last fall, what else could I possibly have to share about this trip...

Well a few folks have asked about our bikes and other gear. So I'll just do one final post all about the bikes.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Ireland - Duckett's Grove Under Sunshine

Saturday was our last full day in Ireland. Our flight out of Dublin was scheduled for early Sunday morning, so we'd need to clean, disassemble and pack bikes the night before. Of course, we also needed to get back to Dublin. Fortunately, chauffeur-extraordinaire, David, was ever-accommodating!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Ireland - Carlow

For us, no trip to Ireland would be complete without a journey down to Carlow. While John grew up in Dublin, his parents were from County Carlow. He, along with his brothers and sisters spent many a summer working and playing at his grandparent's farm. Most of his extended family still live in County Carlow and John's sister, Daphne bought a house there a few years ago, and extended an invitation for us to come stay whenever we'd like. She may grow to regret that.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ireland - The Sally Gap

Since we'd been hitching lifts with David for a couple of days, when he was called back into work in Dublin, we found ourselves back on the east coast as well.

I really can't complain though. The sun was out and the winds were calm.

Now while I had managed to get down to Blessington a couple times during the week that John was working, John had not yet gotten out to ride his favorite old local roads himself and was eager to head down that way.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Ireland - Slieve League Cliffs

In our desperate quest to have a day of cycling without rain, we were again lured north by the fiction foisted upon us as a weather forecast. So yet again, we loaded up the car and drove north, this time aiming for the fishing port of Killybegs, gateway to the rugged coastline of southern Donegal. 

Sadly, David also got word that he might be needed to work in Dublin the following day. So we feared this might be our last day on the road together. Therefore we decided to try to take in two of the landmarks that for John are symbolic of Donegal, the Glengesh Pass and the Slieve League Cliffs.