Friday, May 11, 2018

2018: What is #10weeksto100

What is #10Weeksto100?  At its heart, it's a 10-week training framework to help the novice (or experienced) bicyclist prepare for bicycle rides of 3 hours or longer. However, it is more than just a calendar and mileage chart.

Whatever your interest or goal, the #10weeksto100 series will help you prepare for a fun and comfortable ride through a progressive, weekly riding plan. While this series is focused on a 100-mile ride, (also referred to as a century), this program can be used for preparing for rides of 50 miles (roughly 3 hours of saddle time) or more. In general, riding for 3-4 hours or more can be considered endurance riding. This series can also help you prepare for a multi-day bicycle tour or fund-raiser, such as a Tour De Cure or an MS 150.

It is important to understand that endurance training in cycling is preparing your body in three different ways:
  • Cardio Conditioning: Training your heart and lungs for long, steady workouts
  • Muscular Conditioning: Legs, back, shoulders, neck and arms all play a role in endurance riding
  • Mental Conditioning: This is developing the habits of training, nutrition, pacing and most of all, confidence. Your mental conditioning may also be in making the shift from shorter running or gym workouts to an “all-day” activity like a century or multi-day tour.

During the course of the series, I will also share advice on bike maintenance, clothing, gear and nutrition. I am going to assume you have the bicycle basics covered; a bike you are comfortable riding, a basic understanding of riding safely, and basic cycling skills like shifting. It is also important that you have a bike computer for tracking your speed and miles. You will learn more as you progress, and I am available to answer questions and give advice on all the related aspects.

Full Intro: #10weeksto100 - Preparing for Your First Long Ride or Century
Week 1:  Three Questions to Ask
Week 2:  The Training Plan
Week 3:  Faster is as Important as Farther
Week 4: Your Bike is Your Training Partner
Week 5: Getting Your Bike Gear in Order
Week 6: Training Aches and Pains
Week 7: How To Find the Time
Week 8: Drink, Eat, Repeat
Week 9: Be Visible, Be Predictable, Be Aware
Week 10: Ten Tips from Experience

Coaching vs. Mentoring: #10weeksto100 is intended as mentoring, rather than athlete specific coaching. That being the case, these are broad, general guidelines of a riding style and philosophy.

Medical Advisory: PLEASE consult your physician if you have a chronic condition requiring medication. Endurance riding and training, and the hydration and nutrition changes they bring about, may all have an impact on your medication’s effectiveness and daily needs.

Questions?  Contact me at, or message me via my Facebook page: The Ride So Far

Jay Hardcastle, May, 2018

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Friday, December 1, 2017

2017: DALMAC - Wrapping Up

The final afternoon of my sixth DALMAC (Dick Allen Lansing Mackinac) ride this summer. 

With the bridge behind us, we ride over a hill and drop down into St. Ignace.  The small bay is on our right, with a row of waterfront businesses and hotels between the road and the water.  We
Life is good in camp.
are riding with dozens of bikes, and Sunday morning tourist traffic.  St. Ignace is expecting 60,000 for the famous Bridge walk, and there is a Labor Day weekend street fair in progress. The main road is blocked down to just 2 lanes, and pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicles are now working there way along the crowded thoroughfare.

We find our regular breakfast spot, Bentley’s BML Cafe, a local landmark, and it appears little has changed in the 8 years since Steve, my son and I last ate here. (In fact, it probably hasn’t changed since before the bridge was built!)  The dining room is long and narrow, with a service counter the length of one wall, with tables and seating for about twice what you think the room could hold.  We are lucky to be seated right away in a booth, and place our order for second breakfast/first lunch.

Positive Mental Outlook!
The ride has been everything I expected, and more.  The weather, while cloudy and cool, has been dry and without challenging winds.   Even though the route had only minor changes from my last two rides, each day of riding felt fresh and added more to my mental album of DALMAC memories.

I can’t say enough about the being able to ride with a friend that I can share so many laughs with after almost 40 years.  And the experience of riding with my brother for an afternoon, and sharing M119 with him,  will always make this one special.

I had wondered about touring without two of my regular companions, an Eclipse handlebar bag and a ready camera.  I know it meant a lighter, faster bike, but I traded that for fewer pictures.    While an iPhone has a pretty good camera, it is not a camera in my sense of the word. I have taken some good pictures with it, but even with the latest feature changes, it does not offer the same readiness. And when I pull a camera up to my face and use a viewfinder, I just take better pictures, most of the time.

It's nice to know I still enjoy sleeping in a tent.  Maybe worse weather would have changed my thoughts on that, but I was always comfortable and rested in the morning. I hope I can look forward to many more nights of camping.
Did I mention the food?

It was also fun to tour with a GPS (the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt).  I like having navigation and the extra data is fun too.  I don’t feel I obsess to much on it, and looking back on the route, elevation and temperature data has been fun while writing this.   And besides, Steve always had his mapbook out if I had any questions; (I had mine packed, I just never pulled it out).

I was very happy with my bike; no flats, no mechanicals, it was a joy to ride.  The same for my riding clothing; everything worked and packed nicely.  I have come a long way from the days of relying on a wool sweater and a garbage bag because nothing was available or worked.  And no more suspenders, but I do prefer bib shorts.

We wrap-up a breakfast of shared stories and laughs and head back out to our bikes.  We have a few miles of riding to a St. Ignace school campus where we rejoin our baggage.   From there, the first leg or our journey home is back across the bridge to the Mackinac City. After a shower at the local high school, we help load our bags and bikes into one the rented sag cars, and a the driver is going to drop us off before he heads back to Lansing.

We are dropped off a mile west of the bridge at the Mackinac City high school, which is buzzing with DALMAC activity. Baggage for almost 500 riders is now scattered across a grassy lot near a picnic shelter behind the school. A couple of hundred bikes and riders are already checked in  The now empty baggage trucks are lined up, and riders are walking the bikes their bikes to the crew of loaders, who hang each bikes upright, securing the the wheels with zip ties the the steel frame of the box trucks.

Inside the school, we are able to buy a simple lunch from a band booster mom, and then we relax at picnic table.  It is early afternoon, and we will be hanging out for a couple of hours, since some of the last riders or doing a long day to finish either the 5 Day west route. It has turned into a beautiful sunny afternoon, and I am down to just a T-shirt.

The bike loading crew hangs my Domane.
I will riding back to Lansing in the cab of a baggage truck, but not as the driver, only riding shotgun to keep the driver company. This is my second time to take the baggage truck option, in `79, Steve grabbed me as a last minute baggage truck driver, and I recruited my own shotgun companion.

While waiting, Steve and I are chatting with the ride director, Joel Wickham, and a couple of committee chairs. One is in charge of meals, and interested in comments on the highs, (Central Lake’s barbeque) and the lows, (Pellston overcooked oatmeal).  We also hear from some ambitious riders, who having raced up to cross the bridge, took the St. Ignace ferry across to Mackinac Island, rode around the island, and then got on the Mackinac City ferry.

I can see the wheels turning in the Joel's head on hearing this.  I have to admit, it would be nice to have a few more Mackinaw City experiences once up here, and I file possibility that away for my next time.

At one point, Steve and I get tagged for errand, as the bike check in crew needs some more zip ties.   After a quick drive to the downtown tourist strip, we find a full hardware store above one of the tourist shops.  It is kind of a surprise, but when you realize this on the edge of huge outdoor area and just off a small harbor, it alls makes sense.

It looks square from here.
Back at the school, our next task is handing out the box dinners for the riders returning by charter bus. There are 5 busses, 70 riders per bus. It is noticed that some baggage isn’t claimed, and another riders is unable to find his baggage.  It turns out there is some confusion with his family as to which of the end points his bag was supposed to go to.  Meanwhile the unclaimed bags to in the directors truck.

By 5 pm, things are winding down and ready roll out  We distribute the last of the box lunches on the buses, and finish loading the tables and administrative supplies from check-in into the baggage trucks and the directors van.  Steve is riding back with Joel, and we will catch up back at MSU. I climb into the cab with my driver.  He has been doing this same task, driving back a baggage truck, for almost 20 years.   With a last check with the director, we hit the road.

It is a half mile back to I-75, and then we are on interstate almost all the way back.  We are on the road less than an hour, and we are passed by each of the tour busses; but then pass them again when they pull over for the big rest stop at Claire.  The sun finally sets south of Claire, and we then pass through another string of towns before finally hitting Lansing.  My five days of riding north, is now all rewound by 5 hours of driving, in this case non-stop.  

We pull into the parking lot, the fourth baggage truck to arrive. Three loads of bikes are now laid out on the grassing medians of the parking lot, and a crew of about a dozen volunteers is waiting to unload this truck.  Working under a pair of portable flood lights rented just for this, the door is rolled up, the ramp is pulled, and using side cutters, the the bikes are methodically cut down, and handed to volunteers at the top of a ramp, and we form a human conveyor belt. It took over an hour to load truck with 70 plus bikes, but we have them unloaded in less than 15 minutes.  I was asked if I had ever handled this many bikes before, and I have to explain, yes (besides DALMAC), twice a year for 5 years, working bike sales for a shop in Indianapolis.

Thanks to Steve and Maria, many more miles ahead!
I find Steve, and we gather our baggage from the directors van I thank the event director, and end up with a crew hat; it’s nice to considered part of the team.  We are able to quickly find bikes and load up my van for the drive back to Steve's house.   We finally pull into his driveway about 11 PM.  It has been almost 18 hours since we broke camp in Pellston.   We head inside, and it does not take long to fall asleep.

The three of us enjoy a light breakfast in their kitchen.  Maria is pleased to hear we had safe and dry ride.  Steve is going to rest his ankle for a few days. (It turns out to be fine after some rest, a little bit of overuse, go figure!)

At breakfast, Maria mentions riding DALMAC next year; It would be fun to ride with the 2 of them again, but I will probably skip a year at least, but know I will be back sooner than 8 years.   I would like to end up with at least 4 more, since 10 is nice round number.  I especially want to make DALMAC 2024, and I also want to try the ride around the island after crossing the bridge. It’s fun to look ahead, and recall riding a few days ago with that couple in their mid-70’; I have a lot riding to look forward to.

We finish our breakfast and I am soon on my way home, another 4 hours in the car ahead of me.  I have an early start, and get a call from Linda checking on my progress.  If I am home by 1 PM, she asks, would I like to get the tandem out for ride to lunch? But only, she says, if I am interested in getting back on a bike.

I make the drive non-stop.  We had a fun ride to lunch.

Not all those who wander are lost.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

2017: DALMAC Day 5 - It's All About the Bridge

The fifth day of my sixth DALMAC (Dick Allen Lansing Mackinac) ride this summer. 

Today is all about Big Mac!
There were a few more brief showers during the night, but none that persisted. It was slightly warmer in the morning, but the overcast was going to continue, but rather than tights, I pulled out the knickers, a long sleeve jersey and a wind jacket. As I finish dressing, I am packing everything for the last day.  I have one full 5-gallon Zip-Loc of dirty clothes, and I shuffle things around around to have clothes for the trip to Lansing easy to find at the end of the ride.  My tent will to be packed wet until I get home on Monday.  With my packing almost complete, I look for Steve and then we head into the school for breakfast.

Checking your baggage.
I get some bad news from Steve at breakfast.  His ankle is still very sore from his fall yesterday, and he doesn’t want to ride north of St. Ignace to Rudyard.  This will cut about 30 miles from the planned day.  I have to admit, it is very disappointing news.  I am feeling great and was looking to forward to riding inland on some roads I hadn’t ridden since a UP trip in 1979.  But I had committed to riding with my friend, and I settle into the change of plans.  We need to make sure we put our bags on the right truck for St. Ignace, and we still have to make the bridge crossing before the cut off.

We move quickly along with breakfast, as is everyone else.  Once outside, we gather our bags and load them on the baggage truck, and then are the on the road again.  The normal route from Pellston has been to go straight north on US31, but due to construction, this years route adds an extra 10 miles before we reach the bridge.  All the riders must be on the bridge by 10 am, otherwise you will not be allowed to cross.  Leaving town, we notice a few riders heading north on US31 and taking the chances on the construction zone. Not a choice I would make, and I wish them well.

Heading North, hoping for sun.
We start by backtracking, heading heading west for 5 miles before turning north. There is long uphill grade, the last hills from yesterday, and then a few miles of rollers, then we begin a long gradual down hill  the shores of Lake Michigan.  Riding north, a get few glimpses of the sun as it rises between the surrounding hills and high overcast.   Our long morning shadows are only with us briefly, as the sun soon bridges the gap, climbing above the clouds.

We are riding through some open fields, which soon give way to to trees as we get closer to the lake.  It is mostly pines now, and with only random bursts of color from turned trees and brush.  We had been warned about some rough pavement, but the roads seem fine, and the miles are falling quickly behind us.  We finally break through the trees to the sound of water, and ride for a short way on small sheltered inlet of Lake Michigan.  It is a wide expanse of water looking north west, with just a shadow of the UP visible across the water.  We ride east along the shore briefly before we turn inland again. After cresting a low forested dune there is short view of the south tower of the Mackinac Bridge, still almost 5 miles distant.

More Bike Route Sign south of St. Ignace
The Mackinac Bridge is unique and beautiful structure, set on the shores of the Straits of Mackinac, it connects Michigan's uppers and lower, crossing the Straits of Mackinac between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.  There are no large cities on either side, and the two 550 foot off-white towers, the graceful curves of the cable and roadway all unite the water, sky and shoreline as one.  It is vista I never tire of.

This brings another wave of recollections, draining any fatigue in my legs.  This will be my fifth time crossing the bridge by bike.  The first was in 1974, and was made under some very strange circumstances.  My then new bike had a poorly made rear wheel, which began breaking spokes during the 100 mile ride leading to the Mackinac City.  My wobbling rear wheel meant my rear brake was unusable as we started to cross the bridge.  I was able to finish the crossing, but then two more spokes “popped” as I rode down the span, and I limped into St. Ignace at 10 miles per hour, hoping to make the campground before the wheel collapsed completely.

For my second DALMAC in 1975, the crossing was washed out by wind and rain, and was made in the back of a baggage trucking, holding my bike upright as the truck swayed in the wind.  I did get a consolation prize, as the next morning we walked across the bridge, before starting the bike ride home with 3 friends from Jackson. (In all, my 1975 DALMAC was an 11-day, 1,000 mile trip.)

1979 Crossing: Beta Bikers, Suspenders,
Short Shorts and a Bell Biker Helmet
I was not back again until `79, and I was fully able to enjoy the crossing on a wonderful Sunday afternoon.  That DALMAC was part of my best year of riding to date, and the summer I met my soon to be wife.  On the bridge that afternoon, I had no idea it would be almost 30 years until circumstances allowed to return to DALMAC,  in `08, riding with Steve, and then in `09, on a tandem with my youngest son riding behind me.

We soon enter St. Ignace, and the traffic picks up as we approach the bridge.  Tomorrow is the annual bridge walk and thousands of tourists are arriving in town. We are also being joined by DALMAC riders coming in from the East route, who have been riding along the shoreline of Lake Huron from Cheboygan.  We pull into the staging area, and while Steve checks in with the event director, I ride across the parking lot to the bridge view park on the waterfront.  There is still a light overcast and the far side of the bridge is slightly obscured.  I should have asked someone to help with a picture, but I settle for a selfie, set my GoPro up on handlebars, ride back to connect with Steve, and we start across Big Mac.

Looking north, about to cross.
Probably the first coolest thing is the I75 sign; as you are now biking on the interstate highway system.   The actual suspension bridge is over a mile from shore, so we start riding a steel truss bridge taking us out to the the massive cable anchorages.  We leave the south shore behind as we climb over the water of the straits.  It’s a gentle grade, and you are riding up hill for the next 2 ½ miles to the center span.  Looking down, the individual waves soon give way to endless water.

Unless you have driven or ridden a mountain side road, you won’t have a frame of reference for a bridge this high and this long. The impact of the shoreline and water falling away as you ascend is magnified from the the point view of a bicycle, especially when you consider most bikes are taller than the bridge’s guard rails.  Though they came after my first DALMAC’s, I am reminded of rides in the Cascades and along Chuckanut Drive in Washington state.

Just soaking it all in.
The view is spectacular.  Looking east over the straits, Mackinac Island is comes into view, with both the Grand Hotel and Fort Michilimackinac visible.  Farther east the larger Bois Blanc Island is also visible.  While there are no great lakes freighters in sight, the wakes of island bound ferries and small craft criss-cross the waters below.

The right hand lane has been reserved for DALMAC riders. A light but steady flow of vehicles are traveling beside us in the left lane, along with two lanes of southbound traffic. Steve and I are riding among a group of about 100 riders, all with in about a 1/4 of roadway. We carefully pass a few them as the grade slowly steepens.

From my 1979 crossing, the stoker took my picture earlier.
On a bridge this size, expansion joints are unavoidable.  You ride over a few “normal” sized ones on the approach portion, and then you must cross some major one as you come to suspension portion of the bridge. These feature interlocking  2” wide, 3 feet long, “fingers and gaps” that are the width of the the entire roadway.  To allow a  bicycle to ride across these, large folding rubber matts have be placed over the joints in our lane of the bridge.  Another feature of of Big Mac is that on the suspension portion of the bridge the two inner lanes are open steel grates, and the tires of the passing cars and trucks now give off a loud buzz as they pass.

From the anchorages, the massive 30” main cables that support the vertical stays begin their graceful climb to the to the top of the first tower,  still over a ¼ mile away.  As we are riding along, you can’t help but notice the low guard rails, just beyond the 6” curbs.  It tends to encourage riding away from the side of the road, especially as you glance down through the bridge to water now 150 feet below. It is soon difficult to see the entire south tower, and the we cross another mat covered expansion joint as we pass through the massive columns.

The south tower falls behind and we are now riding the ¾ of mile long center span.  The main cables are now curving down to meet the center of the span.  At 200 feet above the water, you can truly understand how great the Great Lake are. A this height, the horizon is over a dozen miles away, and you are overlooking almost 500 square miles of Lake Huron, Lake Michigan and the two peninsulas of Michigan.  The morning overcast is finally breaking up, and bands of sunlight can be seen flashing on the blue waters to the east.

As soon at the main cables begin to rise to the next tower, you can feel the road begin to drop, and you are now descending to the the north shore.  The pedaling is now easier, and for the first time on the bridge you are free to coast.  We pass through the north tower and over the third of set of covered expansion joints, and now the grade is even steeper, and you are almost touching the brakes, as you quickly roll down to the north anchorage and across final set of mats.  From that point, another section of truss bridge brings you down to almost a water level, and the final half-mile runs on solid ground, a causeway on the water that brings you to the north shore.

Steve and I reconnect, riding along side for the post crossing picture (unfortunately we have not heard from the photographer, yet?).  We ride together into the rest stop gathering area, taking our first real break after 35 quick miles.   We ask someone to take a picture, and and then head into town for breakfast.  Our riding will soon be done, but we still have a long day ahead of us.

Concludes in 2017: DALMAC - Wrapping Up

Day 5 by the numbers:
Start: Pellston
Finish: St. Ignace
Mileage:  39.3 (368 Total Miles)
Riding Time: 2 hours, 50 Minutes
Lunch:  St. Ignace
Elevation: + 1596 / - 1699 ft

Finishing with a friend, the best reward!

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

2017: DALMAC Day 4 - Century Day

The fourth fourth day of my sixth DALMAC (Dick Allen Lansing Mackinac) ride this summer. 

Sharing something special with a brother.
The best dinner of the trip, and a good night’s sleep, are all good omens for a century ride. Breakfast was good too, a plate of eggs and bacon, oatmeal, muffins and fruit. Yes, that probably sounds like a couple of breakfasts, but it will be a long day. After breakfast I head outside and finish sealing up my bags before I put them on the truck.  Then I head back to set the day's route on my GPS, turn on my running lights, and put on my helmet, glasses and gloves.  With a nod to Steve, we roll out.

The itinerary today reads like a Michigan travel brochure; Lake Charlevoix, Boyne City, Walloon Lake (Hemingway country), Petosky and Harbor Springs.  Agriculture has given way to forests, and we ride through a mix of pines, maples and other varieties, with a few of the trees already changing colors.  The sky is overcast, but the threatened showers never materialize.

The early fog is quickly burning off, despite the cool, jacket and tights temps. We start with a 200 foot climb in the first miles, and quickly give it back on a curving descent. About halfway down the hill a cluster of riders are aiding a fallen rider.  We pause to check, but the situation is in hand, and little we can offer, and the sirens of the first responders can be heard in the distance. Steve makes a call to update the ride director before we  move along. (We learn later the rider lost control on the descent, and was banged up pretty badly, but his injuries were not life threatening.)
A foggy start.

A few miles down the road we have our first stop, at the fire station in East Jordan. This is also a bake sale, benefiting the fire department that is hosting us. Just like the day before, the theme is pie, and I am offered a piece of fresh baked ABC pie; apple, blueberry cherry. The pie and coffee are a welcome break, even at just 14 miles into the day.

There is special bond with this department, after their paramedics saved the life of a DALMAC 2009 rider who suffered a heart attack on the infamous Wall.  The Wall is ⅓ of a mile long, 20% grade climb a few miles north of here on our route. After the rescue, the DALMAC Fund gave a gift to the department, and they been hosting this sag and the bake sale.

Did I mention the pie?
After pie we roll on through East Jordan, riding briefly along the shore of Lake Charlevoix. The then takes out of the town, and the grade gradually picks up. I work my through my cassette, and then it's just my legs versus the steepening grade of the Wall.  I have to lean into the handlebars as I near the top to keep the front wheel firmly on the pavement. I crest the hill a few yards ahead of Steve, and we meet and pause to catch our breath and have another rider take our picture, before continuing on.

After the Wall, we have only a short short respite before the next climb.  The descent from The Wall, drops us to below our starting point before another set of climbs over the hills above Petosky. We enter town on steep descent to where we join US31 as it wraps around Little Traverse Bay.

Arriving in Petosky is special this DALMAC, because I will be connecting with my brother Jeff, who is going to ride with us for the next 30 miles.  Jeff and his wife have a vacation condo in Petosky, and we have been planning to meet here since mid-summer.  He began riding seriously about 10 years ago, and is now an avid bicycle advocate for trails in southeastern Michigan.  Jeff and I have done some short rides over the last few years, but this is the first time we have met on an organized ride together since high school.

Top of the wall! 
We meet a McDonalds, where I have second breakfast, and we sit for a few minutes for introductions and to catch up.  Jeff’s wife Debbie will be picking him up later in the afternoon at Legg’s Inn in Cross Village. We wrap up our meals, and Jeff heads out to unloads his bikes, and after a few pictures we are on our way again.

Jeff guides across across US31, and we head toward a shoreline trail that parallels the DALMAC route.  We get a few glimpses of Little Traverse Bay, before the trail continues along the boundaries of Petosky State Park. We then return to the main road, and turn back toward the water on a side road. This takes us to the shoreline drive leading into Harbor Springs.   Founded in 1880, Harbor Springs was then a popular summer resort for turn-of-the-century business owner from Michigan and the Midwest.  For the next 2 miles we ride past dozens of brightly painted 3 and 4 story summer “cottages” built during that era, featuring elaborate bric-à-brac trim on their wide front porches, all fronted by immaculate lawns and elaborate garden leading down to the the water front road.

Lake Michigan from along M119.
We leave the waterfront, and ride through the center of town, and then up a short steep climb to the bluffs overlooking the bay.  We are now on M119, Michigan’s famous Tunnel of Trees route.  Our next 20 miles follows the twisting road through forested coastal dunes, and sometimes narrows to a single lane.  We take the “low-road” option, a route Jeff has not ridden before, and he is already looking forward to sharing this route later with Debbie.

We climb back up to the main route, and the random breaks in the trees provide scenic vistas of the blue water below us. We have soon left the bay behind and are now looking out over Lake Michigan.  As I ride, I flash back to that first ride on this road, some 40 years before, as a 17-year old, traveling alone for the first time, doing something completely different from what I experienced any time growing up.  Riding this road for the first time in 1974 shaped my life and the love of riding.

Riding along on M119
I pull along side Jeff, who is two years younger, and yet knew some of what I was dealing with at home at the time.  For the first time I am able to share this memory with a family member.  In so many words, I tell him  "This is where it all started. Do you see why?”   He smiles back. He gets it.

The next town we encounter is Good Hart, and we stop at the general store for lunch.  It is busy place, with a steady stream of cars, motorcycles and bikes.  We all choose some sandwiches and drinks, but have a bit of scare when Steve takes a tumble on an uneven floor in the back. He is fine when he get back up, but is a little concerned he might have twisted his ankle.  Jeff and Steve take their selections outside to eat, but I am two people back in the checkout line, and end up behind 10 minutes of local chit chat and a lost mail drop.  I am finally outside by the time they finished eating, and pack away half my lunch so we can keep moving.

We have 8 more miles of twisting roads until we arrive at Cross Village.  Debbie had just arrived a few minutes before us, and they need to pack up quickly to head back to town for dinner with their kids and grandkids.  We say our so longs, and I give Jeff an M119 memento I had picked up in Bliss. Along the way we have made plans for century ride next summer near his home.  It has been a very good ride together.

Steve and I now have over 70 miles in and another 25 to go.  We are under overcast now, and heading inland.  We have three more fair sized hills to go, mostly long steady grades, but each rewards us with some nice long rollouts.  The temperature is in that not warm, not cold range where you need a jacket on the flats and descents, but with any effort to climb, you are soon unzipping.  With our socializing stops, we are now overtaking many tired slower riders, and I give a friendly encouragement as I pass.

Even though it is late afternoon, the overcast (and riding in sunglasses, of course) makes it feel later, but we still finish up by 4:30.

With 95 miles.

I find my baggage, and bring it to a likely tent spot.

I have 95 miles.

I about ready to unpack when I look up and see a floodlight overhead, and decide to move to a spot away from the building before I setup.

I have 95 miles.

I set my tent, open my chair and start to look for my clothes for the shower.

I have 95 miles.

I put my cycling shoes back on.

I walk back to my bike.  I have not yet ended my day on the GPS yet, so almost an hour after arriving, I am back on my bike for the 5 miles to make it 100, and an official (I have some very judgmental cycling friends) century.   This is my 6th DALMAC century and for the first time, I realize it has over 5,000 feet of climbing, a number that really surprises me.  Its very satisfying to feel this good after that kind of a ride.

Dick Allen speaks to the riders in Pellston.
I am late for the taco dinner, and it is the most disappointing meal of the trip (Oh, for some lasagna or baked potatoes!).  The only thing that saves me is the dessert table and oatmeal cookies.   This is the last night out, and one of the features is a short program by the ride director, some door prizes and hearing Dick Allen speak to us.   He comes in riding a recumbent trike, and gives a short presentation on the value of DALMAC, and the DALMAC Fund.  He even calls out Steve for his work on both.  He is also very excited that the foundation is going be working on changing its status to allow more fundraising and donations.  He gets a big round of applause and a standing ovation as he wraps up his talk.  The evening concludes with a some door prize drawings, with the grand prize a free DALMAC next year (alas, I didn't win).  The rider director gives a few final reminders about tomorrow's bridge crossing, and the evening wraps up.

How DALMAC takes care of charging!
The cafeteria slowly empties and everyone heads outside.  As I walk back toward my tent a party is going on at home on the edge of the school, and and they are releasing paper hot air balloons into the twilight sky.   I watch nearly a dozen climb and drift east with the breeze, disappearing into the overcast, to reappear briefly in a break in the clouds before finally fading from view in the darkening sky.
My charging station.

I grab a bag from my tent, finally ready to shower, but not looking forward to it, since I heard from everyone there is no hot, or even warm water.  My body can’t tolerate a cold shower, and I hope that it has improved now that the crowd has been through.  But after the long walk to the locker room, it’s pretty obvious the hot water is not even turned on, and I end freshening up at a sink and heading back to my tent.

On the walk back, I collect my gear from the charging station for the last time.   Back at my tent, check the weather for tomorrow, send a few emails and set my alarm for the morning. As I settle in for my final night in the tent for the trip, there is the gentle patter of light rain on my tent.  It only lasts a few minutes, and I finally drift off into a well deserved sleep.

Continues in 2017: DALMAC Day 5 - It's All About the Bridge

Day 4 by the numbers:
Start: Central Lake
Finish: Pellston
Mileage:  100.5 (328.4)
Riding Time: 7 hours
Lunch:  Petosky/Good Hart
Elevation: +5259 ft / -5158 ft

After 100 mile, back to US31!

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Saturday, November 11, 2017

2017: DALMAC Day 3 - Touring with Tech

The third day of my sixth DALMAC (Dick Allen Lansing Mackinac) ride this summer. 

Pure Michigan Hospitality! Boardman, MI.
Day 3 starts out as the coldest day so far. My weather app shows 37℉ at 6 AM as I am packing up for the day. This does mean the cold weather gear is coming out; tights, two jerseys, one a long sleeve, a winter cycling cap and fingered gloves. There is very heavy morning dew, so my tent will be packed wet and I will have to dry it this afternoon at the next overnight. (And my wet tent, along with 150 other wet tents in the baggage trucks, is why you double bag everything, even in your baggage.)

We are going to be riding downhill for most of the day, dropping from our current 1200 ft. to 600 ft. by late in the day. But we are still riding up and over enough of northern Michigan’s glacial moraines and inland dunes that despite the overall loss of elevation, the day will still have 1,900 feet of climbing in the 67 miles ahead.

Breakfast is a quieter affair with our downsized group. The breakfast fare is similar, and I enjoy a mix of eggs, sausage, oatmeal, a couple small pancakes and some fruit. After breakfast, it is back out to the bikes.  I change into my cycling shoes and zip my Keene’s into my bag, and then walk them to truck, carefully climbing the damp metal ramp.  It always seems harder to walk down the ramp then up, so I use the door’s handrail and step down off the bumper.

I am surprised at how many riders are already on the road as we mount up.  I felt no need to rush out on a cold morning and a relatively short day of riding.   In any case, we will still have plenty of company on the road.  We start off at a pace that soon takes care of the chill, heading north and quickly leaving the town behind.  We are now riding in mostly forest, with only a few scattered fields as evidence of past farming.

Smooth roads and clear skies!
We are on M66, a state highway with a little more vehicle traffic, but wide lanes and paved shoulders.  The cars and occasional trucks are very accommodating; it also helps that with the long, straight grades, there are dozens of cyclists, in bright clothing and some with daytime running lights, visible for a mile or two up the road.

About 8 miles down from the start, we turn off M66 to follow the “old M66”.  We lose the traffic, and but immediately start a mile-long grade to gain 200 feet, and by the top, being cold is not a concern.  We continue along the top of a ridge for a couple more miles, and then start a 3-mile descent, dropping twice the elevation we had just climbed.  I have ridden this twice before, and I remember the 30 mph roll-out on the tandem the last time.  I settle into the drops, fingers floating on over the brake levers, until the road brings us back to M66.

Steve finishes up the old M66 roll-out.
While writing these blogs, I realized how much I have ingrained today's tech into my riding, and to compare it to my early experience.  Weather is always available, where in the past, unless you had a portable radio, and could find a a local station, and caught the forecast, you were completely dependent on the ride organizers to post something on a bulletin board at a sag or during the overnights.  Likewise, the daily search for a working pay phone was part of my first DALMAC adventure; now texts, emails and Facebook posts flow readily back and forth between family and friends as I work my way north.

PIE!  The Boardman Church bake sale!
You lived by your map book and painted Dan Henry’s on those rides; now my GPS is loaded with the routes, and gives me turn by turn directions.   Speed was a rarely known data point, and mileage was recorded by a mechanical cyclometer, clicking away on my front hub.  My electronic minion on the handlebars collects speed, cadence, route, heart rate, elevation and temperature, minute by minute, all logged away and sent through my phone to a website later in the day.  This replaces the daily note books where I tried to track each day’s mileage, when I remembered to write it down.  And even that journal is replaced with an iPad, or the synced notes on my iPhone, where I also travel with a library of a half dozen books, and a dozen favorite albums.

The elevation data is also another interesting aspect of the GPS.  In the past, you remembered the big hills, but you never really thought about the constant changes of the terrain as you crossed the state.  Inland Michigan is almost 500 feet above the surrounding great Lakes, and crossed by many streams and small rivers.  The GPS elevation data really brings that to life.  It was also interesting to talk so some riders who were not using a GPS, one was a TCBA volunteer, who didn’t realize you could download the route and elevation profile to your phone.

An abandoned farm on Valley Road - near Kalkaska.
Lights are another big change; I have come a long way from the simple 6-watt generator and battery arm & leg light that came along on my early DALMAC rides. I have both front and rear daytime running lights which I have been using for the 2 full riding seasons. Both are visible for over half a mile, and I strongly recommend them for all road riders.  I am happy to see at least a 1/3 of the riders using them, and hope more will be using them next year.

After another stretch on M66, turn west to go up to the church at Boardman, where the congregation has hosted a DALMAC bake sale for many years.  I enjoy some pie, a sandwich and a GatorAde, and pick-up an extra cookie bar for the road.  It is still cool, but the sun is bright and day is slowly warming up as we head out again.   We are soon rolling north on M131 through Kalkaska, and then turn west on M72.

A few miles west of Kalkaska we turn of the main road on to Valley Road.  It is a relatively recent route change and new to me.  We are following a winding road through a mix of small hillside farms and forest; it reminds me of both riding in New England, and the roads in Traverse Bay area, another day’s ride north.  It is great improvement over the long run on a state highway that I recalled.

A "two-day" cookie!
Another dozen miles and we arrive in Rapid City for an official sag stop featuring 6” cookies, and a few miles later our lunch stop at a cafe in Alden.  We are on Torch Lake, and this is a summer resort area, so for many of the businesses, Labor Day is the end of summer. Yes, we will be followed in a few weeks by the Leafers, then the hunters after that and probably some snowmobilers in the months that follow.  But I grew up in a family that ran a small Michigan lakeside hotel for two generations; Labor Day in Michigan is always the end of The Season, of summer sun and play, the signal to return to school, work and life’s other obligations.

Our riding day finishes with a long stretch along the eastern shore of Torch Lake, though the lake is only occasionally glimpsed through the trees and between homes and cottages.  The road is freshly paved, and the traffic is light, and the day has warmed enough that I am down to a jersey and arm warmers.  We finally begin the last climb over the ridge before we drop into Central Lake, and another high school.

Now that's cooking!
At the school grounds, I find my bag and a spot for my tent, and soon have everything out and my tent drying.  The sun is bright, and the everyone is in a festive mood.  The weather is perfect for the outdoor barbecue the school is preparing, complete with an open grill and roasted sweet corn.  It’s a perfect end to the third day and over 220 miles so far.

After dinner, I take a short walk into town for some socializing with Steve and a few of his Lansing friends. It’s a very comfortable evening, though with the clear sky, it will probably cool off quickly, and it does.  We return to the school just before dark, and I settle into my tent for the night, looking forward to a good night’s sleep and another day of riding ahead.  Life is good.

Day 3 by the numbers:
Start: Lake City
Finish: Central Lake
Mileage:  67.1 (227.9)
Riding Time: 4 hours, 22 Minutes
Lunch:  Alden
Elevation: +1914 / -2498 ft

Continues in 2017: DALMAC Day 4 - Century Day

227 miles in, Life is Good

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

2017: DALMAC Day 2 - Sleep, Eat, Ride, Repeat

The second day of my sixth DALMAC (Dick Allen Lansing Mackinac) ride this summer. 

Ready to roll out under a hazy sunrise.
I wake at 5:30 am after a good night’s sleep. It has been a couple of years since I last slept in a tent and it feels so comfortable and familiar, and I wish I could do it more often. My family never camped when I was growing up, and DALMAC was my first camping trip.  From that first tour, it became a regular habit, with sometimes 2 or 3 weeks of trips and overnights a year, even as our family grew.  I wonder how many nights that now totals; 80? 90, 100? I still look forward to more.

I was up only once during the night, and even with the floodlights around the school, I was rewarded by a sky full of stars.  It’s nice to be heading north, away from the city lights, to be under a sky that is so alive with starlight.  (I will end up wishing I enjoyed that first my night more, as overcast would dominate the remaining evenings.)

If in doubt, try everything, it's 85 miles to dinner.
I pull on today’s kit; each day is bagged separately in its own Zip-lock bag, and as I dress, the same camping habits kick-in. I reverse the prior night’s un-packing process, working methodically to break camp before breakfast.  I soon have everything back in its assigned place, and step outside into the early morning twilight to break down my tent.

I have my tent down and bags packed by 6:30, and Steve and I head into breakfast. It’s a cooler morning than yesterday, and will stay that way; yesterday we rode in the 60’s and low 70’s. Today are starting at near 50, and will have light winds out of the north, with a mid 60's high.  Based on the forecast, there is no need to break out the really cold weather gear, and I start out with arm warmers, leg warmers and a vest.

The breakfast line moves quickly, with offerings of scrambled eggs, bacon, oatmeal, pancakes, muffins, and juice.  The routes will split later today, so this is the last meal with the larger group.  The combined stop seemed to work well, and it was fun to have the extra time to socialize with some long time friends now heading out on the different route.  I make a point to say thanks to the students, parents and staff serving breakfast before leaving the cafeteria.

Was Team Roadkill on DALMAC?
It’s a sunny morning, and we are soon on the road at a steady, mile eating pace. Today’s route is unique in that we spend almost 25 miles without a turn, just the road name changing as we cross a county line.   After 18 miles we enter Beal, Michigan, a rural four-corner town. Like many towns in the days ahead, DALMAC traffic has been an annual tradition for decades or longer.  It’s a stop for a snack, but it has not warmed up enough to strip down yet, and we are soon back on the road.

The riding falls into a regular pattern, the small towns and sags coming up every dozen miles or so.  After Beal, Farwell, Lake George, Temple, and Falmouth are between us and our destination, Lake City.  The roads are wide, smooth and quiet, and for the most part, our bicycles are the predominate traffic.  While it is mostly farmland, woodlots are becoming more common with each mile we travel north.  Many of the farm houses we pass are now closed or abandoned, the result of small family farms giving way to larger consolidated operations.

The Marion High School ice cream stop - 10 years, at least!
While a popular lunch stop is an outdoor barbecue hosted by a local resort, with the cooler temps, we opt to ride further down the road for an indoor meal at a tavern in Lake George.  Another half dozen riders join us, and it’s fun reunion.  One of the riders is Pat Baughn, who had purchased his first tandem from me 30 years before, and rode it thousands of miles with his wife Becky.  Another couple is riding their tandem for their 20th something DALMAC, and they are both in the mid 70’s.  (It’s encouraging to know I have so many years of riding to look forward too!)  After lunch, they will be short cutting to their overnight on the 5 West route, so we won’t see them again until Sunday.

We frequently intersect SBR-20.
We have been climbing gradually all morning, gaining almost 400 feet, with most of that in the 10 miles before lunch.  We have forested rollers for the next few miles, and will spend the night at one of the highest points on the ride.  It is nice that is warming up, since at 60 miles, we have a traditional ice cream stop, a fund raiser for a small local high school.  This year it is the cross-country team making sundaes in the large grassy median of a rural intersection.  Dozens of riders are enjoying the stop, and I chat with a group of Indianapolis riders who I met at registration.  They are new to distance riding and struggling a bit, but still having fun.

Back on the road, it is still 25 miles to our overnight.  With 85 miles, this is the second longest day of this route.  The riding continues to be a mix of rolling forested hills and farmland, though now it is patches of farmland amidst the trees.  At 10 miles out there is the option for another food stop, and though tempting, we actually pass on the chance for pie.

Settled in for another night.
The last stretch of farmland gives quickly away to a town, and then the road T’s at Lake Missaukee and we are in Lake City.  Another mile takes us to the high school and the next ad-hoc campground.  The ritual of setting camp begins again as my bike is leaned against a fence, my bags are retrieved from the truck, and my tent goes up for another night. It has been another good day on the road, and time to start planning for tomorrow’s ride.

Day 2 by the numbers:
Start: Vestaberg
Finish: Lake City
Mileage:  86.5 (160.8)
Riding Time: 5 hours, 56 Minutes
Lunch:  Lake George
Elevation: + 2755 / - 2405 ft

Continues in 2017: DALMAC Day 3 - Touring with Tech
Sleep, Eat, Ride, Smile, Repeat!

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Monday, November 6, 2017

2017: DALMAC Day 1 It's Great To Be Back

The first day of my sixth DALMAC (Dick Allen Lansing Mackinac) ride this summer. 

My alarm goes off at 5:30 after a good night's sleep. Steve and I are working registration again, so I decide to wear street clothes to start, and pack a go bag with my riding kit for today.  After a quick breakfast, we load Steve's bike and all our bags for the drive over to MSU.  It's a very foggy morning, with a local fog advisory until 10:00am; I am okay that we will be starting a little later.

This morning I am working packet pickup, and have some fun welcoming rookie riders with a shout-out, or mentioning a connection to their home town.  There is a steady flow of riders to each table and route starting today, though my box seems slow to empty. With the mid-week start, many riders will wait until the last minute, or have bags dropped off and then pick up their packets at the first overnight.

Me and Steve, ready to roll again.
We end up working a couple of hours, and by 8:30, with the initial rush over, we hand off our work,  and Steve checks in with the ride director on a few last minute details (something he will be doing the entire ride by phone). We both grab our bags and finish changing into our riding gear.

The fog is clearing as we walk to my van to for our bikes and bags. Steve has two large roller duffle compared to my jumbo roller duffle. There are pros and cons to either approach. In my bag, all my gear dived between multiple 5-gallon Ziplock bags, to keep things dry and isolated from my camping gear,  which is sure to packed damp in the days ahead. My bag is close to 50 lbs., and can be a challenge to lift. But after 10 years and 2-3 trips a year, it is holding up well, so I am in no hurry to replace it.

Lunch time!
In the end, when I am done loading my bike and shifting my gear between bike and baggage, I end up putting a luggage tag on my overnight duffle for a few last-minute packing decisions, and tossing it on the baggage truck. With all up our gear finally on the truck, and after a final double check that I locked my car, I take a launch picture, and we are ready to roll

I am riding my Trek Domane 2.3. Rather than a touring bike, it’s a sport endurance bike. I am riding with an Arkel Tailrider rack trunk on their Randoneur seat post rack.  It is the first time I have ever done a multi-day tour without a handlebar bag for a camera. Now that I am using my iPhone for about half my photos, the need for a camera in the bag is not as imperative.  I am still carrying my pocket sized Nikon CoolPix for a "real" camera, and have along a a GoPro for some video later in the ride. I think I will have enough pictures.

Riding the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail
I am also touring on a bike without fenders, a decision was that was actually harder to make, especially considering my history on my second DALMAC.  All during August I went back and forth about riding the Domane or my Trek 920 adventure bike (new this year), with plush tires, full fenders and a full rear rack.  With the outlook for the week looking dry, I opted for the lighter, faster ride on the Domane. (My Trek 920 will get the nod the next DALMAC, when I plan to ride to the start.)

We first head north toward the Michigan State campus.  The very first thing we pass is the commuter parking that used to be called Y-Lot.  In the 70's, Y-Lot was the south edge of campus, and it was the starting point for many of TCBA's regular evening and weekend rides, and for many DALMACs.  It was at one of those Y-Lot weeknight rides that I met my wife.  As we continue across campus, crossing the Red Cedar, the new buildings are obvious, but some of the old landmarks where I visited and partied with friends are still visible.

Leaving campus, we ride through a half dozen miles of neighborhoods on the north east side of Lansing,  before heading out of the city on a quiet highway.  We soon enter the suburb of Dewitt, and come to our first sag stop for bagels and fruit.  We have only been on the road an hour, the sunny day has burned off the fog, and vest and arm-are put away for the day has we continue on.

Crossing the Pine River
Just a few miles beyond the sag I notice the first “Rural Internet Service” sign; a sure indication you are riding out in the country.   The miles are easy, under the bright sun with little wind.   Despite our late start, we still have plenty of company on the road. We are riding through fields of corn, beans hay, along with some large dairy operations.  Summer green is just starting to give way to harvest-time gold and browns, a reminder that this is almost September.  The terrain is easy and rolling, occasionally crossing small creeks and streams.  Bikes make up the majority of the traffic unless we are close to a town.

The next couple of hours of riding go by quickly, and we arrive Maple Rapids, a small 4 corner town, ready for lunch.  A little community park in the center of town has tables and chairs under a large open tent, put there for the riders passing through today and tomorrow.  The town is filled with riders, and we have to hunt to for a vacant wall near the tent to lean our bikes.  Steve then leads me across the street to an Amish run general store.  They are serving up deli sandwiches on fresh baked rolls and incredible baked goods, and I opt for a beef brisket sandwich, some chips, a raspberry cream cheese roll, along with some Gatorade.  It's a nice break, and good start to the routine for the days ahead. The bikes have thinned out as we leave town for the afternoon miles.

Another hour and half down the road Alma is the last town out for the day.  Alma is Dick Allen's home town, and DALMAC has had a sag stop here at a community park for many for years.  At the park, I come across a piece of playground equipment that my son Justin had climbed into on our DALMAC together in 2009.  He was 14 at the time, and almost 6 foot tall, but still climbed into a toddlers monkey bars.  I snap a picture on my phone and text it to him.  He soon replies back that he remembers the place, and we both share a smile across the years.

A picture perfect central Michigan farm vista.
From Alma, the route takes to the Fred Meijer Heartland rail trail for last 10 miles of the day.  After a short stretch leaving town, we are soon riding through rolling farmland in a tree shaded corridor overlooking acres of crops, with only an occasional glimpse of distant farms and homes.  We finally cross a slow moving river on an old railroad bridge, and then come back to the main road into Vestaberg.  A ¼ mile down the main road we roll into the school grounds for our first overnight.

We are arriving late in the afternoon, and it is already a colorful tent city for almost 500 riders, the combined totals of the 5-West and 5-UP (mine) routes. After parking our bikes along a fence on the school grounds, Steve and I find our bags, and look for a spot for our tents.  I now look carefully to be sure I am not under a floodlight, and even with no rain the forecast, that I am not in telltale low-spot.

My tent goes up quickly, and my camping habits come back like old friends; straps in stuff sacks, staff sacks combined, gear and bags settling in the customary locations in the corner of the tent to be found easily during the night, or the next morning.  It may appear to be OCD, but it just works.  I am finally ready to grab a shower, and that is when my first packing error becomes apparent; my after ride T-shirt is now back in my in van in East Lansing.  So I go through my outfits and find a t-shirt base layer, which will have to work for the rest of the week.

Dinner at Vestaberg High School
After my shower, Steve and I head to the cafeteria for dinner.  On the way we drop-off our tech gear for recharging.   To keep my phone handy, I charge it off a back-up battery, and then charge the battery later.  And I now have a single charger, with 5 USB outlets to charge everything in one shot.  With a headlight, 2 taillights, a GPS and the back up-battery, it saves a lot of time  (A lesson I learned, the hard way, a few years before on a multi-state tour.)

The dinner is Mexican food, served cafeteria style and it’s filling.  During dinner I get to chat with some other riders,  connecting by their rider jersey's or T-shirts.  Besides Michigan, there are lot jerseys from Ohio and Indiana, and some from even father common.   I even connect with some riders from of Jackson (near my smaller home town of Brooklyn), who Linda and I had ridden with on an LMB tour in June.

After dinner I head back to my tent, to finish some sorting and prepping for the next day.  I call home and send a few emails, and then catch the weather.  Tomorrow will be dry, but with a cooling trend in the forecast.  There is chance to rain over the weekend, but nothing like an all day rain.  I make a final tour of the campground to pick up the last of my gear from the charging station, confirm our starting plans with Steve, and then bed down for night.

It’s great to be back.

DALMAC 2017 Day 1 by the numbers:
Start: East Lansing
Finish: Vestaberg
Mileage:  74.3
Riding Time: 5 hours, 8 Minutes
Lunch:  Maple Rapids
Elevation1896 / - 1827 ft

It's great to be back!

Continues in 2017 DALMAC Day 2 - Sleep, Eat, Ride, Repeat

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