Sunday, November 19, 2017

#coffeneuring 2017: Cranksgiving

Yesterday I had the opportunity to combine a coffeeneuring ride with Cranksgiving. Cranksgiving is a combination of a food drive and an alley cat bike race. You get a manifesto with a number of supermarkets and items that you have to buy at each of them. The event started in 1999 in New York City, and as I learned from Jon Kendziera of Jonny Cycle, a veteran of the Madison bike scene, Madison had a couple Cranksgivings in the early 2000s. After a long hiatus, the event made it back to Madison.

Thanks to one of the sponsors, Cafe Domestique, there was good coffee at the start/finish at Revolution Cycles, allowing me to check off another coffeeneuring ride on the final weekend.

The alley cat was great fun, despite strong winds. My knowledge of the street and path network in Madison paid off and I finished second (in spite of a mishap where I lost my manifest and had to backtrace my route to find it again...). Sorry, not too many pictures, as I was too busy racing :)
A last minute tire change was in order... The Panaracer Paselas have been a real disappointment 

Start/finish at Revolution Cycles

Tasty Intelligentsia coffee, courtesy of Cafe Domestique

Le Mans-style start, with people placing their bikes on a green space and running there from the start location
Awards ceremony (Photo credit: Billy Calkins)

Friday, November 17, 2017

#coffeneuring 2017 #coffeeoutside at Donald County Park

Another gray coffeeneuring trip, this time to Donald County Park near Mount Horeb. With temperatures not much above freezing, #coffeeoutside was a somewhat cold affair. 

Townhall Road is one of my favorite roads around Madison, and it does indeed have a town hall
Military Ridge Trail at Neptune

Donald Rock
Ice Age Trail just outside of Madison

One of my favorite sounds

To combine the pleasurable with the useful, I checked out some new bike infrastructure on the west side and shot video footage for Madison Bikes.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

#coffeeneuring 2017: #coffeeoutside at Lake Kegonsa State Park

It was a dark and stormy night. Okay, it wasn't quite dark yet, and the wind was strong but didn't quite qualify as "stormy." After a slow Sunday I overcame the urge to just spend the rest of the day on the couch and went on another coffeeneuring excursion. My destination was Lake Kegonsa State Park, via Lower Yahara River Trail.

Wingra Park, with lots of geese

We haven't had much sun lately

New bike repair station in McFarland

Cute "Fish Tales" Little Free Library at a boat landing

Much of Lake Kegonsa is surrounded by private property. Public access is rare, and even the state park has little frontage on the water.

Lake Kegonsa State Park

On the menu: Just Coffee Humdinger, ground with a Zassenhaus Santiago and brewed with my Bialetti

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

#coffeneuring 2017: Stone Creek Coffee

My 2017 coffeeneuring season started slow: Instead of doing a 200-kilometer brevet, I let the weather forecast change my plans. Heavy rain was forecast all day, and so I snuck out early to ride to Stone Creek Coffee on Madison's east side. I had been to their Milwaukee location before, which is very pretentious but does serve great coffee. The pourover coffee I had here in Madison in contrast was mediocre. I suspect they may not have given it enough time to brew.
24 kilometers total distance, and lots of rain indeed.

It was football game day.

Marching band practice, as per usual with lots of bikes

Lakefront path

Stone Creek Coffee on East Washington Ave

My not-so-great pourover

Bathroom wall decoration

Made a detour to Batch Bakehouse to get a bingo stamp and tasty baked goods

Grey, grey, grey

Saturday, October 21, 2017

#coffeeneuring 2017: A Double Shot

Coffeeneuring ride 2 is in the books. Nate and I rode out to Blue Mound State Park for #coffeeoutside. Next stop was Crossroads Coffeehouse, which also happens to be a Madison Bike Bingo destination. Finished the ride with some more bingo stamps in Middleton. A wonderful day on the bike!

Nate climbing up to the top of Blue Mound

#coffeeoutside: Nate had brought his own coffee in a thermos; I made fresh coffee with my Bialetti Moka Express

Blue Mound East observation tower

Coffee making supplies, tools, and Bike Bingo card

My SOMA Grand Rando and Nate's Masi Randonneur cuddling

Highway K had been partly repaced; part of it was still gravel. All of it had an awesome tailwind

Slight downhill, with a tailwind. Doesn't get much better

Reeve Road

Short but steep climb up Fesenfeld Road

The highway from Black Earth into Cross Plains was a bit of a slog because of the strong crosswinds

Second coffee and Bike Bingo stop in Cross Plains. I had a very nice cold brew

Stagecoach Road was hardly recognizable: From narrow unstriped road with crappy surface to a wide two-laner with bike lanes

Bingo and cupcake stop at Bloom in Middleton

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Bike California, Day 3: Bodega Dunes to Gualala

In the middle of the night I woke up to the sound of rain falling on my tent. A quick check to make sure all zippers were closed and my shoes were under the vestibule, and I went back to sleep. When I got up just before sunrise, all traces of the night's rain had already disappeared. The sky was all blue and I took in the warming rays. Today would be a climbing day. Gualala was the only logical destination for the day.

While packing up, a RV camping neighbor came visit. He was visibly cold, despite his down vest, and clearly projected his own temperature perception on me, offering me a can of heated Starbucks Coffee. I much appreciated the gesture and gave the usual, "Well, I live in Wisconsin, so..." response.

My new REI tent passed the rain test
Unfortunately the coffee had dairy in it and I left it in the food box at the campsite for the next bike tourist. My own plan for getting coffee was to return the coffee shop in Duncan Mills, where I had also stopped yesterday—about an hour from the campground. I discovered a nice unpaved trail that connected the campground access road and the tiny village of Salmon Creek, cutting out one or two miles of highway riding.

But traffic was light anyway, and in this stretch the highway follows the beautiful coastline closely, making the ride pure joy. Instead of yesterday's dramatic clouds and strong wind, I had clear skies and soft morning light, transforming the landscape.

Again I crossed the mouth of the Russian River and followed Highway 116 upriver into Duncan Mills. After the coffee break, it was time to leave the Russian River valley toward Cazadero.
Russian River
I was mentally prepared for the climbing to start right away, but things started out mellow. The road to Cazadero follows Austin Creek, with Cazadero Highway on one side of the river, Austin Creek Road on the other. I took Austin Creek Road, which was amazing, with tall trees, the rushing river, and interesting residences lining the road. The only traffic I encountered were a road crew fixing yet another mud slide.

Dozens of totem poles on someone's property

Austin Creek
Switching to the other side of Austin Creek, onto Cazadero Highway

Soon I would arrive in Cazadero. My familiarity with Cazadero was limited to knowing that it is the name of SOMA's Cazadero tires. In addition to that, it is a little former logging town, with its highlight being the historic general store. The store is over 100 years old, and inside and out it still seems to have many of its original elements.

Soon after leaving Cazadero, the climbing began in earnest. King Ridge Road made the limitations of my gearing obvious quickly. With a low gear of 34/30, getting up the hills was a slog. My everyday bike has a fixed gear drivetrain, which provided me with the necessary strength to power up the hill at very low cadence. But this style of climbing is hard. In Wisconsin, I'm able to get away with it because the climbs are rarely longer than a mile or maybe two. But here the climb just kept going, the grade often going above 10%. And of course I had all my camping gear on the bike. The upside was that I had plenty of incentive to stop and take pictures of the amazing landscape around me.

High above the creek

More slides, taking my tires to the limits of traction
Up and up and up

While I encountered very little traffic, the area never felt particularly remote. Residences and farms would appear regularly, and I even saw a USPS delivery van huff up the steep inclines. Occasionally I also encountered what looked the road graffiti common in European bike racing, making me wonder if this road featured in any races. I later found out that King Ridge Road is part of the course for  Levi Leipheimer's Gran Fondos.

After much more climbing, I finally reached the actual ridge. I was pretty spent at that point, but the open vistas in all directions made the exhaustion easy to forget.

I stopped to sit down and eat something under a big, gnarled tree. Unfortunately, being up on the ridge meant that the cold wind from the ocean made things quite chilly, despite the sun. And my level of exhaustion probably didn't help keeping me warm. So I got going again rather quickly, most of the climbing now behind me. I passed the T-intersection of King Ridge, Hauser Bridge, and Tin Barn roads. Turning onto Hauser Bridge would have led me toward Salt Point State Park, my stretch goal for yesterday's ride. Let's just say I was very glad that I hadn't attempted to reach that goal yesterday.

Instead, I continued on Tin Barn Road. Another very scenic road, with my only complaint being the frequent cattle grates that made the downhill less enjoyable than it should have been. One curious sight were the long stretches of barbed wire fencing, with nothing but forest seemingly on the other side. My initial hypothesis was weed farm. What it actually was only became clear once I reached this gate:

Out here in the middle of nowhere is the enormous Odiyan Retreat, a 1000-acre Buddhist retreat. None of it is visible from the road, but the website and aerial imagery look very impressive:

Image: Google Maps

A little further on I reached Stewarts Point Rancheria, a little village of the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians. Turning onto Sakggs Point Road toward the ocean, things started looking really remote. In a deep valley of Redwood trees, the steep road was barely wide enough for two cars (not that I encountered many...). Even though riding down here required a lot of attention and hand strength for keeping my speed in check, I was very happy not to be going the other direction.

Without much transition, Skaggs Spring Road eventually brought me back to coast. I was definitely feeling symptoms of bonking, probably because the chilly winds had prevented me from stopping much. The sight of Stewarts Point Store, therefore, made me very happy.

My wholesome meal consisted of buckwheat noodle salad, a Pepsi, and a can of Torpedo--my go-to beer on this trip. Gualala was now in reach, just a little over 10 miles up the coast. While the food and drink had reinvigorated me, I was very happy not having to deal with more hills. What I did have to deal with, though, was a headwind. But again, the scenery helped, a lot. The highway hugs the coast, leading through “The Sea Ranch,” an expansive vacation/residential community with a distinctive architecture and design. The Wikipedia article about its history and design makes for an interesting read. Would vacation here, for sure.

While Gualala has camping options, I was ready for sleeping in a real bed. I aimed for what I assumed to be the cheapest motel, the Surf Inn. At this time of year, getting a room was no problem. While my room was simple, the location was amazing, overlooking the mouth of the Gualala River and the ocean. Just in time for sunset I walked to a nearby grocery store to gather dinner supplies.

I went a bit overboard. Turns out an avocado, hummus, a can of chili, a loaf of bread, and a 20oz bottle of strong IPA is a little much even for me, even after a hard day in the saddle.