Pictures from the Road

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The 65 Mile Adventure - Part Two, The Way Home

More notes from our first cycling tour - the way home

Fast facts:
  • Miles ridden according to GPS: 65.8
  • Time pedaling: 6 hours, 58 minutes
  • Time standing: 1 hour, 20 minutes
  • Average moving speed: 9.5 MPH
Between these 66 miles and the previous 65 mile leg of the trip, we did a nice 130 odd miles over this extended weekend getaway, plus whatever in-town riding we did for sightseeing and dining. The time pedaling came off my GPS, but seems a little high to me. We left at 9:00am and arrived at the Blue Line in downtown Omaha at 5:00pm. It seemed that we did about two hours better on the way back than on the way out.

Starting Out

We thought we'd leave Shenandoah and hit the road at 7:00am, but with what typically happens, we were delayed due to sleeping in and extra time spent packing. The continental breakfast was yummy and also helped provide snacks, as we prepared some bagels and PB&J to eat on the trail.

The Saturday morning was glorious, but chilly with temperatures in the upper 20s to lower 30s. The sun was out, the wind was slight, but when it did gust, it was at our backs. Once we left the asphalt and hit gravel, we noticed right away that the day and a half of sun helped dry out the trail. Trail conditions make all the difference in the world on how easily we could cycle. When the trail was even a little damp, the extra resistance felt like someone was grabbing on and holding the rear wheel.

It didn't seem like we had as many problems with downed trees on the way back. Perhaps someone moved a few more over Friday. There were still a few that required dismount, and a few that could be dodged by careful shoulder riding.

By the time we hit Malvern, it was already quite warm out. Roxanne had completely changed clothes and was into her shorts and lightweight shirt. We stopped for a break at C&M's and had fries and sodas. There was a part of brightly colored cyclists eating there. They had lots of water bottles on their road bikes, but no luggage. I assume they were from Omaha or CB out on a day ride.

Once back on the trail toward CB, we started seeing many cyclists, runners and hikers. My guess is that the stretch between CB and Mineola is the highest trafficked stretch. We even passed a Boy Scout patrol out for a hike, uniformed and carrying full packs. It was fun seeing full families out on bikes, maybe for the first time this year.

We stopped at the trailhead in Council Bluffs and had a light bite to eat from our provisions. We then set out for the Blue Line Coffee Shop in downtown Omaha for our final hurrah. At this point I noticed that my left knee was really aching. I was able to compensate with my right leg, thanks to the technology of clipless pedals. Is knee pain like this normal on long rides?

The Blue Line would be our last bit of vacation before returning to normal life Saturday evening, so we wanted a nice bite to eat and final drinks. At the Blue Line I had the pleasure of introducing my wife to Brady, of steel-cut fame. Brady was out for a run and happened to be enjoying a soda when we arrived. I'd told Roxanne about Brady and Brady about Roxanne, so it was fun to introduce them to each other.

Finally we left the Blue Line and started home. We changed clothes and went to the in-law's house to pick up our daughter and return to being just ordinary Mom and Dad rather than the adventurous Cycle Touring Duo.

Lessons Learned
  • It's nice to relax and not be so worried about keeping a schedule. I'd still prefer to leave earlier and experience sunrise on the trail.
  • Bring hub wrenches; Roxanne's front hub is a bit wobbly, and a problem like that could really wreck a tour.
  • A front rack would have helped with weight distribution. When I started shedding layers into my rear bags on the warm Saturday, plus carrying our food, souvenirs and Roxanne's tools, I had a hard time with the weight on the back rack on the damp parts. I think moving some weight to the front wheel would help considerably.
  • I'm so glad each of us have racks. I can't imagine a trip like this with a backpack.
  • The 700Cx35 tires were probably the minimum width I'd recommend for riding soft gravel and damp earth. I think a wider tire would have helped to carry the load more easily
  • Technical fabricclothing (or old fashioned wool) should be used to replace Roxanne's sweatshirts. She got a little cold on the way out, due to perspiration clinging to her shirts.
  • The security of packing lots of trail mix, cereal bars and the like was comforting, especially not knowing what the trail had in store for us. However, when we were hungry and needed a break, it was no problem to stop into the next town for food. Maybe we didn't need to pack so much to eat. On the other hand, had an emergency arisen and we needed to stay overnight on the trail, we would have been well prepared.
  • Replace the grocery panniers with bags than can be closed. I lost a Tupperware lid and a sports drink bottle. I found the bottle on the way back. Roxanne's stowed sweatshirt bounced out once, but I saw it and picked it up.
  • My Garmin eTrex Vista did very well on battery save mode. I was amazed that I was able to get both legs of the trip on to a single pair of high powered Energizer E2 batteries. You don't need a GPS to ride the Wabash, but it was nice tracking distances and times into the towns.
  • An iPhone gets incredible battery life when not attached to any data network: wifi, 3G, or even Edge, and email fetching turned off.

I obtained a simple Kodak EasyShare camera for this trip. I hoped to use a less expensive camera over my Olympus so that I wouldn't worry so much about dropping it on the trail. I also wanted a simple camera that could fit in my pocket so I could snap some pics while riding.

Pictures leaving Omaha

Pictures leaving Shenandoah


I recorded a couple of short videos using the Kodak camera. The quality is low, but the camera made it easy to record the clips.

Vacationing In Shenandoah

Friday was a "do nothing/do anything" day on this short vacation. I wonder if Shenandoah is close enough to Omaha to be considered a "staycation" spot, but since we traveled 11 hours to get there, it felt like it was a world away.

We started with breakfast and then rode into Shenandoah's historic downtown shopping district. We looked in a few shops before spending some time at the Shenandoah Historical Society museum. The museum was a mix of local arts and crafts, natural history and exhibits of artifacts and photographs of Shenandoah and surrounding communities. The take-away here is that around 1880 all of these towns sprang up, thanks to the railroads. Then agriculture and the seed business fueled the development. In the early part of the 20th century, radio and music played important roles, as folks like the Everly Brothers got their start here.


It's like I can't eat the oatmeal fast enough.

Peas in a pod.

Score. A direct hit.

Bike racks on almost every downtown corner.

The mammoth skull is named "Homer."

Neither Shenandoah nor Coin had streetcars. But years before Photoshop existed, postcard companies "Photoshopped" them into the street scenes.

V-Mail predates E-Mail.

Iowa banned artifically colored margarine.

An X-ray shoe fitting machine.

Yo, yo. Scratch your records here.

An 1897 bicycle race.

Check out the teeth spacing and the odd chain links.

The Essex graduating class of 1900.

Oohh... they are so dreamy.



Vacation: Now that's what I'm talking about.

Back in Omaha, And Feeling Fine

We made it back to downtown Omaha by 5:00pm yesterday. There's lots of stuff to do around the house today, including Easter family stuff. Watch for a wrap up on the bike tour, plus some photos and video clips to appear here later.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Rest, Relaxation, and ... Laundry?!?

We could do this at home!

Actually, it's nice to be able to wash our sweaty cycling clothes before we head out tomorrow morning.

However, since we're using the house laundry soap, all day tomorrow I'll be sniffing the air thinking, "Who's following me?"

-- Post From My iPhone

Feeding The Facebook Monkey

Oh, the woes of addiction. It's nice that the hotel provides this PC for guests to use.

And to be fair, I spent some time blogging from it, as well.

-- Post From My iPhone

The 65 Mile Adventure - Part One, The Way Out

Notes from our first cycling tour

Fast facts:

  • Miles ridden according to GPS: 64.9
  • Time pedaling: 8 hours, 11 minutes
  • Time standing: 1 hour, 36 minutes
  • Average moving average speed: 9 MPH 7.9 MPH
We left the house around 9:00am. We had planned on leaving around 6:00am, but you know how those things go. Lots of things to do and get ready, both trip related, and regular house duties. And, this is supposed to be a relaxing vacation, so we slept in a bit.

Our first point of interest was downtown Omaha to cross the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, ab out six miles from home. Both of us cycle five to seven miles a day commuting to work, so this was the easiest part.

Even in the morning on a work day there were several people crossing the bridge. I feel this bridge will become an iconic image of Omaha, similar to the St. Louis Arch or San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge.

Our next stop was about 15 miles later at the trailhead to the Wabash Trace in Council Bluffs, Iowa. This ride was all cement or asphalt, so it was pretty easy, too.

At the trailhead is a park with a picnic shelter, trail map, and my favorite part; the portable toilets. We can't all do the Munson, so these plastic wonders are much appreciated.

So now we ride. Our trip between Council Bluffs and Mineola was the route of the Taco Ride. The ride had been moved to the Keystone for this week, but I think the trail was in decent shape. It's pretty well maintained between CB and Mineola, but could use a regrading.

After Mineola the next town is Silver City. There's no where to get a coffee for Roxanne there, though the bar is open in the late morning and early afternoon. So we pedal on to Malvern for coffee and lunch.
We notice that now the trail starts to change a bit. Instead of crushed gravel everywhere, the trail starts to give way to decomposing forest litter and moss. The tires sink in a bit, and gravel sticks to them, and dramatically change the riding experience.
We found several downed trees that we either had to go around, or in several cases, dismount and walk over. We moved a few ourselves.

Finally we make it Malvern after another 10 miles. We stop in to C and M's Cafe on Main Street. A farmer here tells me that it rained a few hours prior. The streets are still wet. Roxanne and I have some coffee and Dr. Pepper. We split a veggie sandwich and curly fries. After a restroom stop, we're off for Imogene, about 14 miles away.

Along the Trace are at least three train derailment sites. These are places where the train left the tracks and ended up in a creek. My guess is that's it too costly and difficult to remove the cars, so they were just left there. Maybe the line was abandoned since the engineers couldn't keep the cars on the rails.

There are dozens of bridges along the way. Between CB and Mineola you can see lots of tire wear on them. Once past Mineola, the wear is not as visible.

The trek past Malvern was difficult. The condition of the trail made it difficult to do better than 8 MPH; even slower in some places. Our bikes were loaded for touring, and the 700Cx35 tires sank in a bit. We certainly weren't rutting and thrashing, but the extra resistance from the slightly damp trail made it feel like we were riding in sticky sand. At times, a walk was welcome to ease the back and the frustration.

Cruising into Imogene we couldn't miss the Emerald Isle. A tiny bit of Ireland in the Iowa hills. Inside we found the bar had a little bit of everything. A full menu, snacks, pool tables, gambling machines, stage, dance floor, tables, and TV with the news on. We weren't hungry for dinner, but some potato chips, a Corona for me and a Fuzzy Navel for Roxanne hit the spot. It was just what we needed for the remaining nine miles to Shenandoah.

A little north of Shenandoah the trail becomes asphalt. That was nice. Then we hit the highways and ride on in to town. The hotel was a welcome sight. We showered, ate some of our own provisions, found more Dr. Pepper, and slept like babies.

Now it's Friday, our vacation day. We don't know for sure what we're doing yet, but I can tell you we're going to enjoy it.
Summary: Wow, what a blast! I really enjoyed the ride. I think Roxanne did, too. The trail condition makes a huge difference. When it was packed and dry, it was easy to do 10-15 MPH or better. But when it was more dirt than gravel (and damp, to boot) then 5-10 MPH was all we could expect. Roxanne's back is a little sore, as are my knees, and my thumb is numb. However, I've had more exhausting days spent traveling by air than on this 11 hour tour. It's such a great rush knowing that we planned for and executed a trip like this, using our own power, experience, and skill to accomplish it. I foresee more cycling tours in the future.