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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A New Level of Epic: Dirty Kanza 200

When I got into cycling, well, I was a slug. I knew I needed to be more active, I had a heart attack at 32 for crying out loud. And after six months or so of fiendish, slavish workouts at the gym, I fell back into old habits (except for the heart meds) and stayed there for half a decade.

My friend Jennifer suggested I ride Bike MS about this time in 2009, and I signed up. I didn't own a bicycle at the time, but I signed up, and promptly bought a bike off a friend I was in a band with for $50. I reasoned at the time, rightly, that knowing I had Bike MS to get ready for would make me ride more often, farther, and more seriously. While I ended up replacing and upgrading quite a few components on that $50 bike by the time I got to Bike MS, I was able to do it piecemeal and that really mattered given my finances at the time. In the process, I got hooked on cycling.

Scheduling has kept me off Bike MS the past couple of years, but I have over 14,000 miles ridden since June 6, 2009. It didn't save me from bypass surgery, but it probably postponed it some and I'm sure it minimized the trauma and sped the recovery from that. Anyway, I'm getting stronger and faster post-op, my average speeds are coming up and my interest in riding at a more intense clip as really picked up.

That 20/20 hindsight shows me that I gradually got less and less into riding intensely as the heart disease manifested itself. The ultimate slippery slope, it's normal to be short of breath when exerting, and it's easy to start easing off a bit, then maybe next time it's a bit more. The bit is so tiny it's hard to perceive, but the next thing you know you're coming back from a touring trip walking your bike up hills that seem impossibly steep that you could have steamed up, albeit slowly, a year or two before.

I'm back to form, more or less, on the bike commuting, but I was hankering for something more, something to work toward. Touring an extended stretch is to amorphous, too unlikely to happen this year given that it's an election year (we do a lot of political printing where I work). Conventional racing leaves me cold, even if I could afford the appropriate gear.

I don't at the moment remember what put this in my head, but I've been feeling more and more that Dirty Kanza is the answer.

Those of you who know me as well as co-founder of Dirty Kanza Joel Dyke does probably just blew Coke or PBR out your nose when you read that. Sure, I've cycled for distance, but except for a couple of alleycats, I've never even entered a race, and I'm on record as saying gravel roads are made out of the shit they sweep off a proper road. What I've said about minimum maintenace roads is along the lines of, 'No, a road is built, and pickups making ruts in a pasture doesn't count as road construction no matter what level of maintenance.'

If you didn't know and didn't follow the link, Dirty Kanza is a 200+ mile race on nothing but gravel and minimum-maintenance roads. And I've ridden for distance, but my pr is 110 miles, and that was exclusively on pavement. With ample breaks. And no cut-off to make before they closed the course. To finish Dirty Kanza you basically have to manage a 10mph average speed including breaks. Meaning I'm talking about signing up for something that's more than double anything I've tackled before.

Which is why I think I need to do it. The 2014 event is this coming weekend, but I think I'm going to sign up for 2015 whenever that's open. I'm going to have to push my boundaries in a lot of areas: I'm going to need to get stronger at riding on gravel, maintaining a good pace on it even; I'm going to have to figure out some better hydration strategies since anything over 70 miles seems to throw me into cramps and if I want to finish on my bike in Emporia, I can't be lying in a ditch wishing I could straighten out my freakin' leg. I'm going to have to learn out to channel intensity for longer than I ever have before. Can I do it?

Corinna says I have the grit to do it, and I can't tell you how much it meant to me when she said that. If she didn't know about grit, she wouldn't have gotten to the freaking Olympics. See also that Memphis to Kansas City winter bike tour. See also that Cincinnati to Kansas City bike tour that included a 170 mile stage in a snowstorm, sharing the road only with snow plows. That's not all, not even the tip of the iceberg, but what's more, she's not the sort of wife who says stuff she doesn't believe to pump up her spouse (I've probably occasionally wished she was).

So there it is: I am setting out now to train for 2015's Dirty Kanza. Not the 'half pint' century, the whole thing, a double-century, on gravel roads through rugged, remote hills. A friend of a friend who rode it encouraged me saying it was a positive, life-changing event for him that ended with an ambulance ride and three bags of IV fluids. What an endorsement.

For someone who is casually riding 300 to 400 miles per month right now, on paved roads with food and water virtually oozing out of every curb, I think Dirty Kanza is the kind of target Bike MS seemed like when the only exercise I got was walking to my car.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Hyde Park Gallery

I was trying a different route home from work for variety's sake.

I think I have my usual route perfected after a couple of years trying different things. 12.5 miles is the shortest distance I can make it, and the standard route is railroad proof (some variations I've tried were fine except when Union Pacific parks across an intersection for half an hour, leaving you to either wait it out or backtrack and try an alternate route.

I glanced to my right and spotted a couple of tags, which lead me down an alley with quite a bit of quality writing.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Quisp Encounter

I had work to do when I got home, so when Corinna called me as I was getting ready to leave work, asking me to detour and pick her up from a reception over by UMKC, I wasn't thrilled. I love riding bikes with her, and the past year has been hard on that between my bypass surgery and her brain injury in a bike crash right before my surgery (if you think open heart surgery is a setback, I wouldn't trade places with her, TBI sucks even harder than heart disease).

But still, I needed to ride my bike straight home, damn it. The reception wasn't that far out of the way, but there was free food and beer there so of course I had a snack and a brew. Then we mount up and I'm damned if I'm going to stop again until we were passing by Patrick's house. I met Patrick not long before my cardiac reset, so Corinna had never met him. We stopped, had a fine time, Corinna stretching her back while me and Patrick kept drifting into one of those conversations we have. We don't actually agree on much, but we sure seem to like to discuss all these areas where we disagree, probably in part because the handful of things we do agree with each other on, well, the rest of the world has those things wrong. So Patrick might be a commie, but he's my kind of commie, and I might be a whatever it is I am but I guess I'm the the right kind of whatever it is.

Did that make sense? No? Get over it, we had a brief (for us) visit, and after we saddled back up Corinna said she now understood how I could arrive home three hours late. It's true, and it was a relief to hear her acknowledge that this wasn't something that happens because I'm being a jerk.

Then, we're cruising by the Hobbs building int he West Bottoms and I'm sure as shit not going to stop for anything, right? I mean, I've already detoured and stopped at Patrick's, so no matter what, I have that work waiting for me at home, and my car is at work so I have to ride back in the morning, and that means getting up before 5:00 a.m. Not stopping.

As I passed the Hobbs, glancing down the alley it shares with All Packaging, I see a writer in the act of tagging up. And All Packaging, their walls aren't just tagged up, they're a national treasure of street art. I do a U-turn on 9th and head for the alley and Corinna barely starts to ask me what-the-fuck when she sees exactly why I can't help but stop. Quisp was putting the finishing touches on a new piece.

It's fucking Quisp. I've photographed his work for years, legal and otherwise, and all of a sudden I'm shaking his hand, a hand still wet with green paint. I've met a couple of writers before but never caught one in the act. And actually, I caught two or three. A woman gave me her card, I thought she was Femme, but according to the card it's Love. Another guy didn't give me a card but seemed friendly enough though I sensed he might not be comfortable with me photographing him. I only shot Quisp from behind actually, though a Google search tells me his visage is not all that secret. Given the outlaw-ish nature of some of this art, it's understandable that some of its creators prefer anonymity.

I would have stayed longer, but it was getting ridiculously late and remember, I was going to ride straight home in the first place, right? Imagine how it felt when we met a friend on the bridge we got married on two years ago, had to stop and talk. Again.

It was a long day when I finally finished the freelance gig I was rushing home to. After midnight when like I say I had to get up at 4:45 to do it all again.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Tour de Bier

I kind of can't believe this is my first Tour de Bier. It's totally my scene, go ride bikes all over, then drink great beer and eat, all with tons of people I love.

I guess as I got into bike commuting I got to be a little bit of a curmudgeon about group rides that charge a fee.

The Three O'Clock Ride (RIP, that was a great institution) didn't charge a fee. Critical Mass doesn't charge a fee. I carry spare tubes and a frame pump, a few tools, so I don't really need a SAG wagon in town, there's not much that's going to come up that I can't address and in the unlikely event that it did, I know people I can call for a rescue and if all that failed there's the bus and the 10/10 cab. I'll make it home one way or the other.

So I kind of adopted a policy that I don't pay people to let me ride my bike in town. I've poached some rides, just showed up and rolled with the crowd—and the one time I ended up taking advantage of the SAG nutrition, I paid the ride fee after the fact because I'm not trying to mooch.

Anyway, something broke through this time, and when the postcard came asking me to sign up, Corinna suggested I could take it out of my tithe fund. We both put 10% of our income into accounts designated for that. Twenty bucks to that homeless guy who hit you up for spare change? Tithe account. The tip to a waitress that actually exceeded the total of your check because she seemed to be having a terrible day? That's a tithe item. A friend launches a crowd-funding thing to keep kids from getting raped and mutilated in some third world country where raping and mutilating children is standard operating procedure, and you're skeptical of the mechanics of the aid but know and trust the person doing the ask? Tithe again. It can even go into an offering box at church.

I admit that a ticket to ride bikes and drink beer might not really pass a sniff test. It's really probably more of an entertainment budget line item. But BikeWalkKC, who organizes this drinking group with a riding problem, they do a lot of good work getting Kansas City to be a little less backward on the transportation front. Thus, they are a worthy cause, thus I guess it came out of the tithe account.

They have multiple routes, depending on what you want to bite off. I was going to do the 65, and with riding from home that'd be about an 80 mile day. My longest post-op day has been more like 30 miles, so I wasn't sure that was really what I wanted to do, but I love an epic.

The Waldo stops were decision time: the long route went down to Martin City and there was only one stop added to the trek if you took that leg. I could turn back and do the 35 miler, a respectable distance, and I'd get back while there was still food, beer and people to party with. At the pace I was on, by the time I got to Martin City and back to Kunckleheads, Maggie and Rachel would be loading up the trailer with the last of the gear, and as far as food and drink it'd probably be one cold hot dog and a bunch of dead soldiers if I was lucky.

I made the right decision. I still had 54 miles on the day, epic enough for me at this point, and I got an excellent lunch from Local Pig (one of the many excellent food trucks our lunch ticket was good for), and had a few fantastic Boulevard beers.

And got to hang with some of my favorite people. There was an interesting mingling of bike cultures, not just the roadies and the urban cyclists, but Knuckleheads is mainly known as a biker bar in the Harley Davidson sense. Both sorts of bikers drink gallons of beer, and both have their uniforms and acquisitive/covetous tendencies. One group tends to look askance at the other's spandex shorts, the other wouldn't be caught dead with a wallet on a chain. One group seems determined to have the largest, loudest internal combustion engine possible between their legs, the other takes pride in being the motor.

Anyway, we all seemed to get along, there was a good blues band playing, the weather was perfect.

And I managed to navigate the way back home despite all that Boulevard sloshing around in me. I've had people preach to me about how you can get a DUI on a bicycle, and I know that legally it's something that exists.

I don't know anyone who has actually gotten a DUI on a bike, and I know some people who have tried a lot harder than me.