Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful For You

Happy Thanksgiving, gentle reader, this post is for you. When I started this blog in May 2010, I never imagined that someday I would have more than 1,000 visitors per month. At first it was pretty much just me in the role of a diarist. My earliest readers were friends and other cyclists from Washington County or thereabouts. But eventually I found a broader audience and now I don’t know every visitor on a first-name basis. In December this site should reach its 30,000th visitor, and sometime next spring I should make my 500th blog post. There’s more to do and more to say.

Since the inception of this blog you have had the ability to add comments to my posts. And I enjoy hearing from you, so I’m giving you an additional way to contact me. If you have questions or comments that you want to keep private or that don’t seem to fit with any particular post, use the new Send Me Email function. You can find it in the column on the right side of this page.

Now, I don’t expect to hear from everyone. Sometimes I can see the keywords that bring visitors from Google and not all of them are here for the cycling! This little post from July 2010 continues to attract people who apparently are looking for nothing more than a picture of Wally Gator, a goofy cartoon character from the early 1960s. It’s one of my most reliable sources of “hits.” But whatever brings you here, thanks.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Eisenbahn I Want To See

Did you ever wonder just where the Eisenbahn State Trail would take you if it kept going south instead of ending at Rusco Drive? Don’t get too excited; the railroad corridor is still in use by local industries. But it’s fun to fantasize and it’s not unrealistic that someday we will see additional development of the trail.

Just within Washington County, the Eisenbahn could be extended another 14.85 miles to the south:

From that point you would be less than five miles from the southern terminus of the Ozaukee Interurban Trail in Mequon and less than four miles from the eastern terminus of the Bugline Trail in Menomonee Falls.

Jackson would be the big winner. An extended Eisenbahn would bisect the village from north to south, forming the western boundary of Jackson Park. Just one block away from Jackson Elementary, the new trail would be an attractive route for school children. Get those kids riding to school at an early age and maybe they will follow the trail north to West Bend when they’re in middle school and high school. From Main Street in Jackson to Decorah Road in West Bend, it’s an easy 6.25-mile ride. For some kids, taking the trail would be quicker than riding the school bus.

Things get more complicated south of the county line. In Milwaukee County this rail line connects to many others and crosses a lot of surface streets. Once you link up with the Oak Leaf Trail, it probably doesn’t make sense to push farther south. But wouldn’t that be nice enough?

Extending the Eisenbahn to the north should be a no-brainer … someday. All of this takes money and coordination just to get off the ground, and then the willingness of local authorities to maintain the corridors that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the railroads make available. Today the trail ends in Eden but it’s not hard to imagine it extending another 6-7 miles north to Fond du Lac:

Once in Fond du Lac, the Eisenbahn would connect easily to the Wild Goose State Trail, the Prairie Trail, the Mascoutin Valley State Trail and the Peebles Trail. Fond du Lac is a major trail hub already. Imagine it with access to the Eisenbahn and to an extended Old Plank Road Trail, something that Fond du Lac County and Sheboygan County have been talking about since at least 2006.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

New Eisenbahn Access At MPTC

There’s a new access point for the Eisenbahn State Trail. A wide 0.10-mile trail now connects the parking lot of Moraine Park Technical College to the trail just northwest of the Milwaukee River. I don’t know if it will encourage more students to commute to school by bicycle, but it can’t be a bad thing.

For folks unfamiliar with the area, the map above needs a little explanation. There’s no trail access at River Drive, which passes under the trail, or at Woodford Road, which passes over the trail. The next-closest access points are 0.25 miles south at Northwestern Avenue and 0.62 miles north at Lighthouse Lane. That makes the new access from MPTC a nice development for people who live in the neighboring residential areas on the west side of the river.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Bicycle Rider Injured In West Bend

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
A 44-year-old bicyclist suffered minor injuries when he stopped short to avoid hitting a motor vehicle on Rivershores Drive in West Bend and flew over his bicycle shortly after 4 p.m. Friday.
West Bend Police said the unnamed bicyclist was riding northbound on the sidewalk of N. Main St., but veered onto a crosswalk to cross Rivershores Drive.
A motorist heading southbound on N. Main St. and turning onto Rivershores had to stop abruptly to avoid hitting the cyclist.
Police cited the bicyclist for failing to yield.
Maybe there is more to the story. If we can assume that the reporter has shared all of the relevant facts, then this one is on the bike rider and not on the motorist. This is a pretty hard intersection to screw up:

Google Maps Street View

It’s a two-way stop for traffic on Silverbrook/Rivershores; traffic on Main has the right-of-way. Sight lines are excellent and there are turning lanes on Main Street. In the picture above you can see the intersection from roughly the point of view of the southbound driver.

Just four weeks ago I explained West Bend’s rules for sidewalk riding. On Friday the injured rider wasn’t doing anything unlawful by being on the sidewalk in that part of town. But had he been on the road itself, then he would have had the right-of-way and it would have fallen to the motorist to yield. Riding on the sidewalk turns every cross street into an intersection at which a bike rider must stop. Riders who utilize the sidewalk already are less visible to motorists than they would be on the road. Sounds like the rider in this case was lucky not to be more seriously injured. Let’s hope this becomes a lesson learned.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Keeping One Streak Alive (At Least)

With my cyclocross bike I averaged 17.4 mph and topped out at 32.6 mph on today’s 26-mile ride.
Today I reached 4,000 miles of cycling. This is the fifth consecutive year in which I have reached that milestone, and the sixth time in my 10 years as a cyclist.

Year  Miles
2013  4,001
2012  5,005
2011  5,113
2010  4,650
2009  4,800
2008  3,787
2007  4,410
2006  3,161
2005  3,050
2004  1,454

Back in 2008, I was certainly on my way to a 4,000-mile season when I crashed and broke my collarbone on Aug. 20. I didn’t ride again until 17 days later. Daylight waned and temperatures grew cold. I wasn’t as well prepared then as I am now, and I did my last ride of that season on Nov. 2.

This year I crashed and broke my collarbone on Sep. 8 and I didn’t ride again until 30 days later. Having the right clothing is allowing me to push deeper into the fall than I could five years ago, but working from home is the more important difference. Every day now comes with at least a chance for a lunch-hour ride. Today’s ride was my 12th on a weekday since resuming my season on Oct. 8. Getting to 4,000 miles became a worthy goal when I started riding again. I was stuck on 3,547 while I waited for the doctors to decide whether I would need surgery.

What’s left before the end of 2013? There’s a chance that I will break personal records for miles in November and December, but I’m not very motivated by those. If I come up short, then this will be the first season in which I didn’t establish any new monthly standards. Here are my existing records:

Month  Year     Miles
01     2012      117
02     2012      137
03     2012      516
04     2010      650
05     2009      750
06     2007      772
07     2011  1020
08     2011      756
09     2009      800
10     2010      532 (Tied in 2011)
11     2012      330
12     2012      175

As much as my non-cycling friends think I overdo it already, just imagine the numbers I could put up if I didn’t feel so restricted by bad weather …

Friday, November 8, 2013

Resurfacing The Eisenbahn

The Eisenbahn State Trail is being resurfaced north of West Bend. There’s a thick new layer of limestone screenings that runs for a little more than two miles from the end of the asphalt at Northwestern Avenue to the road crossing at the southern end of Sandy Ridge Road. The new surface is very smooth, but riding on it still requires greater effort than one would expend on asphalt at the same speed.

Did You Know …

  • When the City of West Bend decided to pave its section of the Eisenbahn, it assumed all maintenance for that part of the trail from Washington County.
  • Asphalt is more expensive to install but actually is the cheaper option in the long run because it lasts longer than limestone screenings.
(Asphalt also doesn't dry out and turn into a fine dust that gunks up your bike, but that's a blog post for another day.)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Time To Race Again?

Just one week ago I praised the reliability of my Toyota RAV4. I should have known not to tempt fate like that: on Friday it failed and I won’t get it back for at least one more day as the mechanics perform engine repairs that will cost me about $1,400. Ouch. I was considering a short solo vacation before the end of the year, but now it might be hard to find the money for such an unnecessary trip.

Some of my friends traveled to Michigan last weekend for The Iceman Cometh mountain bike race. Others stayed close to home for the WCA cyclocross races. I did a 30-mile road ride on Saturday and a 40-mile road ride on Sunday. I’m now just 123 miles away from my fifth consecutive 4,000-mile season, but I won’t reach 5,000 miles as I did in 2011 and 2012. Both of my weekend rides began with a familiar route in the direction of Covered Bridge Park, but then they became quite different.

The collarbone injury that kept me off the bike for a month cost me something like 600 miles. Since restarting my season on Oct. 8, I have ridden 330 miles. I’m still reasonably fit, though not as fit as I was on Sep. 7 when I raced so well in the cyclocross season opener. The state championships are just five weeks away and I would love to be on the starting line. But I need to see improvement in my top-end fitness and I need reasonable weather.

Now that Daylight Saving Time has ended, riding after work is out of the question. In the weeks to come I will look for opportunities to ride on my 1-hour lunch break and I will get back on the treadmills at Planet Fitness to burn some additional calories. Weekends will be used mostly for long-steady-distance rides, but to be prepared for the state championships I should add a couple of races to my plans. Here’s what remains on the schedule in Wisconsin:

11/09 Cam-Rock CX Classic @ Cambridge
11/10 Ripon College Cookie ’Cross @ Ripon
11/16 Blackhawk Border Bash @ Janesville
11/17 Kringle Kross @ Hales Corners
11/24 Booty Cross @ Madison

If I line up next weekend, it will be with the expectation of getting smoked. But competitive fire is a hell of a thing, and racing would be better training than anything I could do on my own. And bridging that two-week gap between Booty Cross and the state championships is Norge Ski Jump Cyclocross in Fox River Grove IL on Nov. 30. I’m sure I won’t be the only person who recognizes its potential as a final tuneup.

Let’s see what this week brings. High winds and rain are in the forecast for the next few days, and fewer hours of available daylight will have a depressing effect on me. If I can’t stay motivated enough to get on the indoor trainer when necessary, then thinking about the state championships is silly.