Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Just like touring . . . except when it isn't

Roger and I were offered the loan of a friend's tandem bicycle, and so we've begun to ride again together. I much prefer the tandem to my own bike, even though this ride is NOT the Silver Queen.

For one thing, I prefer being with Roger, and not worried about whether I am falling behind or holding him up. And my hands get numb so quickly; I am way more comfortable being able to change up my position to keep myself more comfortable. Another issue, which may seem odd given that I have spent six months riding a bicycle lately, is that I actually haven't been responsible for piloting the bike at all in that time. I sat on the back, pedaled, called out hazards and cars coming up from behind, and occasionally used the disk brake. But I never shifted, braked, or steered. Turns out my bike handling skills are really rusty! Never a particularly adept cyclist, I am at this point like a complete novice. When we have gone out with our friends, I am extremely nervous in the group. A nervous cyclist is a plague on the pelaton! You don't want to be riding near someone who is nervous.

Mostly, since getting back to Redlands, I have ridden on a few short rides with Roger. I spent one week going out with Marsha, another of our friends that was coming back from some down time and wanted to take it slow. That works for me, usually. But Roger wanted me to join the group again, and so we took off last Tuesday on Harro's tandem - a nice white Burley. As I said, it's not the same ride, but the bike is comfortable and it fits pretty well. The frame is smaller, so our seat posts are up higher, which gives me a different perspective on the road. I've found that I can't stand comfortably to pedal because my legs hit my handlebars, but that's not too big a deal. Our first outing, I felt like the bike was real "twitchy" but in truth, that was probably more a factor of losing the weight of the packs than the difference in the bikes. The stoker position does not have drop handlebars, and I have found myself reaching down for them several times - so that tells me our next bike will need drops like I had before! (We were on the way down San Tim Canyon yesterday with a great tailwind, and I took both hands off the handlebars, intending to settle into the drops. I almost fell forward onto Roger's back as I realized quickly there was no place for my hands to go!)

I miss my bell.  I may have to ask Roger to move it over to Harro's bike so I can have it while we are riding it. It's funny how many times I have moved to ring it - but there's nothing there. I also have found that I really, really want to have my disk brake - even though I don't typically apply any pressure to it.  I tap it from time to time just to give myself a feeling like I have some control. I'm afraid there is no remedy for this.

On our first outing with the new bike, we headed over to Riverside. Roger was feeling something "odd" in his pedals, and finally figured out what was going on. He had apparently not tightened them well enough when he put our pedals on the cranks, and his right pedal was working itself out. We stopped and he tried fixing it by putting the bolt in from the back side, hoping to straighten out the threads. This seemed to take care of the problem for a while, but on the way back home, we had to stop again when, all of a sudden, his foot - with the pedal attached - came loose from the crank arm!
Roger is just a passenger for now!

This time there was no remedy. The threads were all munged up at this point, so we determined that we'd just ride back home on my power.  This is the "just like touring" part of the post. So many times on our trip, we had to improvise a fix for some little (or rather large) problem. Most of these problems caused me anxiety at first, and then relief and sometimes amusement as we figured out what to do to address them (We'll zip-tie the rack to the frame! but of course!) This little problem was not worth any anxiety at all!  By the time it occurred, we were over by the warehouses, with nothing but flat riding to get home. We'd planned to take a portion of the Orange Blossom Trail, and that worked out well as we didn't even have to contend with auto traffic for most of the trip. We even had one of our buddies doing "traffic duty" like the motorcycle cops do for a funeral procession! Clay would ride ahead to the street crossing, then stop in the road so we could ride through without having to stop.  He'd then come up from behind, catch us, and do it again. I felt like a minor celebrity in a motorcade!

And then, when is it NOT like touring? Well, that's easy. We'd planned to do a long ride yesterday, out to Bautista Canyon. This is about 90 miles - one of our favorite long days that goes out towards the mountain southeast of here, and then up a lovely canyon. This time of year, the sycamores and other plants are really beautiful, and we were thinking it would make a good head-clearing trip for us. And then, before bed Monday night, we checked the weather. Ooops! Thirty mph headwinds all the way home were projected for Tuesday, beginning about 11:00 am and strengthening through the afternoon. So . . . no. We decided not to do the ride. We can do it anytime - there's no reason to battle wind like that if you don't have to. And that's the part of this post that's NOT like touring. When we were on the road, I think we only took one day off due to weather. That was in Tucumcari, New Mexico, where we were facing similar winds and were able to see that the next day would be much better for us. Other than that, we rode. You pretty much have to, unless you really have no schedule at all. Since we wanted to get around the loop in something approaching six months, we could not just sit around and wait for better weather. I remember the most drastic example of this was our passage through Oregon. Rain on eight out of ten days. Had we waited for clear skies, perhaps we would be waiting there still!

And then yesterday, having decided that we would not fight the winds but instead look to ride them home, we elected to go over to Beaumont and return home down San Tim Canyon. This is one of our favorite routes when the winds are strong. One of our friends that came along was happy to join us as he'd been off the bike for a bit and wanted something "not too taxing."  Well, the ride back down the canyon was splendid - right up to the point when it was not. We had a good time all the way to Live Oak Canyon, coasting along for much of the way and enjoying the fall colors. But wouldn't you know it? Someone had hit a utility pole adjacent to the road, and the pole was down with live wires between Live Oak and Alessandro. So instead of being a few minutes from the end of our ride, we were faced with a climb up Live Oak Canyon and over Sunset. Our "fast and breezy" ride home turned into another hour on the road. And guess what?  That's just like touring!  You never know what you are going to run into when you're touring, because you haven't ridden the roads before. You hope that Google Maps is giving you good information, but you never really know 'til you get there. "Bonus miles" are a common occurrence on a tour, as you find your way, retrace your route from a wrong turn, or learn the restaurant you hoped to dine at has gone out of business.

So we will continue our excellent adventures both on and off the bike - just like touring.

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