Cycling To Grand Canyon…er Almost

The temperature was up and the sky as blue as the Pacific the morning we drove into Williams, Arizona. After acquiring permission to leave our car parked at the visitor’s center we unloading the Burley Sama and attaching the Bike Friday Trailer. Our plan was to ignore the Grand Canyon Train that was waiting at the depot and begin the sixty plus miles to the South Rim. However, when we approached the gathering of anxious passengers a gunfight broke out. With no convenient place to take cover we sat on our tandem like two clay pigeons and watched two masked men make off with the strongbox. They hadn’t cleared the platform before the Williams Marshall appeared from nowhere and shot them both dead. Two young fellows came from the coffee shop and dragged the outlaws around behind the building.

Since our departure was already delayed we parked the bike and paused for coffee. While there, the marshall and his two dead men entered from the back and ordered coffee.

We were an hour behind schedule when we departed, but no worries. We’d go as far as we could and then make accommidations to suit the situation (this is what cycling is all about – keeping it fun).

Road repair was underway and we traveled between a windrow of red, volcanic ash and the shoulder. No worries. The windrow provided a welcome barrier between us and the speeding tour buses.

Some disance north of Williams we came upon a StarMart. Not knowing what may lie head, we wheeled in for coffee and donuts before proceeding, a welcome break, indeed.

We were about forty miles north of Williams when thunderheads appeared on the horizon. With them came gusty winds and a few rain drops the size of my thumb. Weather at this altitude can turn on a dime – more rain, hail, even snow. And there was no shelter available other than what we brought with us, bungied to the lid of our trailer. The tent.

Small, roadside stands of stunted trees offered a break from the wind. After choosing one large enough to accommodate our Burley and trailer we pitched our tent and settled in for the duration.

Morning brought no change, but with twenty more miles to go plus another sixty back to Williams we decided to turn back.

The undulating road was endless. The wind was relentless. At the crest of one hill our legs had turned to rubber. Leaning the bike against a tree we sat down beneath it to rest.

“We’re out of food, aren’t we?” I asked.

“Almost,” my bride replied, producing a very small jar of peanut butter from a pocket and a plastic spoon from another. The jar was half empty, only three servings each. But delicious, nontheless.

At the bottom of that hill we encountered the windrows of red ash which the tour buses had churned into rusty slurry. And soon we appeared one in the same.

We were exhausted by the time we reached our beloved StarMart. Inside, two ladies were folding Grand Canyon sweatshirts. The expressions on their faces told us how we must have looked as we pushed through the door. After drinking a full pot of coffee and  devouring a dozen donuts we resumed out trek toward Williams.

The comfort of the motel room we rented under the critical eye of the manager was delightful.

Would I make the trip again? In a heartbeat.

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Bicycle Mobile Radio

Battery is mounted non the stem.

The HF radio is in the pouch hanging from the handlebar.

The ham stick is behind the seat by the flag.

I’ve been an amateur radio operator for a few years. My goal, back in 1989 when I first earned my license was to put a side-band station on the air that generated a kilowatt carrier. During those subsequent year I’ve tried many of the available digital modes. But none of them, with exception of Packet, caught my interest like that of the old tried and tested Morse code. Eventually, I abandoned my quest for the 1,000 Watt station and went the other way – low power, or QRP.

For a few years I concentrated on mobile radio, not with a car, but with a bicycle, and then a tricycle. I’m not a pioneer of this area, by any stretch. And I probably haven’t done as well as many others have. But I’ve had fun. A lot of fun.

One afternoon while pedaling around some Texas back roads with my five-Watt rig (about the same power required to light a Christmas tree lamp), I checked in with the Maritime Net. The net control was somewhere in Wisconsin, as I recall. I received a fair signal report – a home-run considering the power I was using.

I was preparing to sign when a Musher, a lady who drives sled dogs, broke in from North Dakota, stating she’d like to talk with a person on a bike.

That was my greatest distance with 5 Watts from the eat of a bicycle and a store-bought ham stick antenna.

Unicycling yet again

A few years ago I found an Internet journal featuring a young Australian man who was trying to earn his PhD on human endurance. In order to achieve his goal he chose to ride a unicycle along the southern shore of Australia, sharing the road with the ROAD TRAINS.

As I recall he posted his progress twice each week, and I watched it faithfully. It had to be a hair-raising experience. One day his entries stopped. I still don’t know if he achieved what he set out to do, or someone ran him over before he was able to finish his documentation.

The machine he pedaled was very tall (I suppose to make himself more visible to the road traffic). It had handlebars on it and a cleat he used for mounting up. Watching a remote video of him getting started remind me of how cyclist put a Penny Farthing in motion.

Video from the Internet

Unicycling

As a young man I enjoyed individual challenges more than team sports. So I’ve always been drawn to bicycle racing. Though as a farm kid fresh out of the corn field, I knew nothing about team racing, drafting, supporting someone else so they could win. It was always the fella who simply give it all I had in order to reach my destination before anyone else.

Unicycling always interested me because it seemed to add yet another more difficult challenge. But back during the years when such an adventure was a possibility I didn’t know anyone who owned one.

While scanning this Australian website I was drawn to the games, especially American Football.What a hoot.

http://www.municycle.com.au/games_and_fun_stuff.html

No More Worries About Flat Tires

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Bicycle tires are a weak link in the cycling world. They fail when you need them the most and can be a pain to repair. More often than not, a flat tire is the death sentence for a bicycle whose owner doesn’t have the tools or the know-how to fix the flat. If an owner brings the bike it into the shop to be repaired, the busted tire is thrown in the refuse pile joining the approximately 1.3 billion bicycle tires that are disposed of every year because they have cracks or puncture marks. Instead of contributing to this growing collection of waste inflated tires, Nexo North America has a better idea — two tire models, Ever Tires and Nexo Tires, that never get a flat. Ever Tires is an airless tire …

I found this article on this morning’s Yahoo News listed under Lifestyle and posted by Digital Trends.
This is not a new concept. Solid rubber tires have been available, whatever size you require,  for bicycles for 20 years that I know of. The one in the photo has holes in the side walls to make it lighter. But it’s still going to be heavy and require more energy to keep in motion. Take it from me, when you are on a 100-mile-ride you need as much going for you as you can get.
Barb and I are experienced cyclists with thousands of bicycle miles in our wake. We would still be at it if she didn’t have arthritis her right knee and I wasn’t crowding 80 years of age. Reflecting on our experiences – a trip to Grand Canyon, pedaling across Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, cycling across Missouri’s Katy Trail, and thousands of day rides – I think the author of this post is mistaken.
I don’t think the author has seen how far his legs will take him.
The weak link is not the tires. The weak link is the person pedaling, traveling too far to pedal back. Been there. Done that.
Sure, flats are part of the cycling equation. They happen. Often. When we lived in the Arizona desert I fixed at least one flat each day. I can remove the wheel, remove the tire, patch the tube or replace it – whatever is required – and be ready to resume our trip in 10 minutes, or less.

Trust

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Barb and I were serious couch potatoes, and we weren’t sure what we should do about it. Walking was okay, but cycling had more appeal. After some discussion I went to the barn and retrieved our two old bikes – a Sears 10-speed Free Spirit, the other a 3-speed British Dunalt we’d brought back from the West Indies. Both had flat tires, loose spokes, and rusty chains. So off they went to the bicycle shop for whatever repair they required.

A week later we were pedaling about. However, as our destinations grew more distant, Barb‘s interest waned. We talked about owning a tandem. After a few days of discussing what we could afford I searched the yellow pages for a dealer. Collin’s Cycles considered themselves the local tandem experts, so I gave them a ring.

“Indeed! We are the experts,” boasted Tom, the manager.

Collin’s Cycle Shop had evidently occupied its present location for decades. The show windows displayed a few colorful bikes, but nothing we saw from the outside prepared us for what we found on the inside.

The scent of lubricating oils, tires, and plastic resins greeted us as we opened the door. The wooden floors squeaking beneath our weight reminded us of our bygone schoolhouse days. A quilting store could not have displayed more color than we saw here. Every nook and cranny was filled with bikes, clothing, helmets, shirts, jackets, and cycling shoes. Further back three mechanics trued wheels, adjusted shifters, and assembled newly arrived bikes. Tom left his project and met us midway.

In his mid-20s, he was the picture of a true athlete. After a brief tandem education he ushered us to his display. Each bike stood against a vertical support, its tires resting in a horizontal trough. They were in Latin motus, poetry in motion. We wanted one, but the cost was astounding.

“We are talking bicycles here, aren’t we?” I asked Tom, my eyes nailed to the four digit tag.

“Folks, quality and economy seldom travel together. Engineering and skilled workmanship are the trademark this Burley line. Check this weld,” he said, encouraging me to place a finger where the top bar joined the steering head.

I assured him we weren’t shelling out that kind of cash for a bike. Undaunted, he insisted we take for a spin since we were already there, and pointed to an alley two doors west of his store.

We gave it a shot, but Barb was not happy with my having total control. I had the brakes, the shifter, and the steering. Trust was all she had. After wobbling twenty yards along the alley we climbed off and pushed it back to the store.

“No dice, Tom. We can’t do it,“ I explained.

He was disappointed. But he had our phone number.

A couple of weeks passed before he called to tell us he’d received a new shipment of tandems. Perhaps we might like to drop by some afternoon and “kick the tires,” so to speak.

Bicycles and Key Chains

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During our younger years – not our youth – Barb and I were serious bicycle riders – tandem cyclists.

We thought switching from a “half-bike” to a tandem would be as simple as climbing on and pedaling away.

Wrong!

But that’s another story.

Tandem cycling redefines the term cooperation. We labored more than 250 miles before we both got the hang of it and could work in unison. After that we could accomplish together what neither of us could do alone on a single bike.

After retirement we had time. In our travels key chains caught her fancy. They were light and with each one came a memory.

Explanations:

The two silver feathers came from Grand Canyon, South Rim.

The silver bicycle-built-for-two came from an Oregon tandem bicycle rally.

The Route 66 came from Williams, Arizona.

The miniature pulley came from a marine museum on the Oregon Coast.

The round gold pan like medallion is from the Laura Ingles home where “Little House On The Prairie” was written in Mansfield, Missouri.

The red, joined heats have our names engraved and were given to her by one of our daughters.

The eagle to the right came from the Petrified Forest.

In the upper left corner is Texas, of course.

Participants In A Bike Rally

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Bonham, Texas 2003

This rally attracted more than one hundred cyclists. The rides were broken up into different distances – 5 miles, 10 miles, 60 miles, and 100 miles, beginning here and ending here. Barb and I were already in our sixties, so we chose the doable 10 mile ride.

Riding a tandem bicycle redefines the word teamwork. For us it was, in the beginning, it was impossible. But after we learned the art of cooperation we could achieve what neither of us could do alone. A water stop set up about six miles into the ride. We stopped and while we were there I was chatting with a retired county deputy who possessed a keen sense of humor. A couple arrived. They were red-faced, winded, and exhausted. “How far have we ridden?” the lady gasped. “One mile. You’ve come one mile,” the deputy stated with a poker face. When he saw the desperate expression he told her the truth and then laughed.

We returned  from our 10 mile jaunt within in a short time. The couple in the photo arrived about two hours later, having finished the 100 mile ride. They were experienced and tough as horse shoes. I think if someone would have challenged them to a second hundred they would have accepted. Continue reading

Why Do I Write

I’m an air force vet, been retired from the work force for going on 18 years, which makes me 79 years old come this autumn.

I don’t know if I’m a blogger or just a writer. With no ax to grind I doubt I’m much of a blogger. I more of a spinner of tales.

Writing seems to be what I do. An inner force compels me to make words. In following this call, I’ve used the Sears portable, an old Olympic upright founf at Goodwill for $3. I also wrote with a Commodore 64 using a word processor called Easy Script. Then, like many, I graduated to the 8088 XT. And finally, today, I use a Windows 7 desk top, an iPad, and a Nexus 7. Sometimes I even stoop to pencil and paper when the writer’s block is hounding me and brain storming is required..

This business began in 1964 while I was often on alert while serving with the Strategic Air Command. I often had time. 

Overdrive Magazine, a new trucker’s journal, was casting about for articles. They asked people to send them their hands-on driving experiences. I didn’t have many yarns to share, so I spun “The Hill” on a Sears portable and sent it in to Jim Drinkwater, the editor. He published it and then sent me a crisp $10 for my trouble.

I was hooked and never stopped spinning yarns related to the people who are amateur radio operators, truck drivers, motorcycle riders, bicycle riders, airplane pilots. Whatever needs telling at the time.

This entire thing boils down to three words: It’s a hobby..

Flat Tire

Beginning in the 1980s Barb and I purchased a tandem bicycle – a Burley Samba. Since I were already writing for a number of publications it was a natural that some of my scribbles should be slanted toward the cycle world. Bicycle Trader, a San Francisco publication ran a few of my stories, and Sannon Essex, an artist employed at the magazine offered to illustrate a few of my manuscripts. His work brought some of my stuff to life.

Flat Tires is one of them. It’s already 19-year-old newsprint and it’s showing its age.:

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