Friday, January 31, 2014

Water, Water, Everywhere …

In California the rain isn’t falling and the state is in the throes of a damaging drought. State and local governments are using a variety of conservation methods to stretch the existing supply of fresh water. California has 840 miles of coastline on the Pacific Ocean, but that water is unfit for human consumption or for most agricultural applications because it contains salt.

In West Bend we have had slightly more snow than average. Right now the snow cover on my yard is a little more than 12 inches deep, so over my third of an acre I have something like 10,000 gallons of frozen water. If I could harvest it, that would be enough to supply all of my family’s water needs for an entire month. I won’t harvest it, of course, and sooner or later it will find its way into the ground or into the storm sewer and then on to the Milwaukee River and then on to Lake Michigan. And on its journey it will combine with the melted snow from my neighbors’ yards and the parks and the farmland, etcetera.

No, we’re not in any danger of running out of fresh water. What we need to ration—wait for it—is salt! At least, that’s what our Department of Public Works said yesterday:

“The City of West Bend will immediately begin conserving salt due to the current weather trend the region is experiencing. The change in operation philosophy is needed to maintain a reasonable supply of salt and preserve safety. In order to effectively conserve salt, deicing materials will only be applied to main roads, select hills, curves and intersections. By allocating salt, the city will be able to stretch operations further into the year and thereby assuring safer driving conditions in the long term. Treatment of main roads and intersections will remain unchanged, but drivers may notice a change, especially in residential areas.”

The problem is that we are getting small-but-frequent accumulations instead of large-but-infrequent ones. There were 19 snow treatment operations in December alone, and several more this month. To stay prepared for a big storm, the city now plans to be more conservative in its treatment of small ones.

What does that mean for local cyclists? It’s not great news. With major roads like Washington, Main, Decorah and Paradise getting most of the attention, the secondary roads—the roads we use most often—might be in rough shape for many weeks to come. That’s not just true within West Bend, but also in the surrounding areas where the same snowfall pattern has prevailed. As much as we suffer when we get clobbered by a 12-inch storm, from a road maintenance perspective it’s better than having six 2-inch storms.

I am not even thinking about riding outside right now. My streak of consecutive months with at least one outdoor bike ride ends today. I rode outside in every month from February 2011 through December 2013, but not this month. We had just four days with a high temperature above the freezing mark, and those days were still unsuitable because of the wet, filthy roads and the very high winds. It just wasn’t worth the trouble.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Fishin’ For Ambition

As the coldest winter in 30 years drags on here in southeastern Wisconsin, it is pretty hard to get excited about the 2014 cycling season. I would not be surprised to see another late opening of the mountain bike trails and another shuffling of the early dates on the WORS calendar, just like last year.

Today I posted my ideal personal racing schedule for 2014. Last year I did most of what I predicted I would do. This year’s schedule is more ambitious and takes me in directions that I didn’t go in 2013. It may prove to be too much, or good results in the early mountain bike races may compel me to chase series points across the entire schedule, or I may decide to do even more on the road, but at least I now have something to motivate me to train harder. And that’s important right now, because the clock is ticking and I need to recommit to my indoor bike trainer.

Of course, the schedule as posted today doesn’t include cyclocross. It will be months before the WCA announces its 2014 dates. I will do some of those races but it would be silly of me to “save myself” for cyclocross. Let me have fun this spring and summer and then I will give to cyclocross whatever I have left when fall arrives.

Outside of competition, I'm really looking forward to the Washington County Bicycle Club season and to more hours and more miles on the road in general.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Citizen Of The World

A lot of those borders didn’t exist when I was there.
If you liked the map of American states I have visited, then this should be a nice companion piece. The map above shows all of the European countries I have visited. Throw in Canada and Mexico and you now have my entire résumé as a world traveler.

The world was quite different when I went to Europe in 1978. For one thing, the Iron Curtain was still down and my family could not visit many places that otherwise might have been appealing. Even southern Italy was closed to us … not by Soviet tanks but by the fear of violence following Aldo Moro’s assassination. My parents, my sister and I visited most of western Europe in the company of a friend who was in the United States Air Force. Our route often took us to American military bases where we did laundry and ate fried chicken. In that pre-Internet era, the military newspaper Stars and Stripes was my only link to the Major League Baseball season that I was missing. (We were in France while the Tour de France was going on, but at that time baseball was my only sporting concern.)

Our friend was stationed in Madrid, but as an officer he lived with his wife and sons in a suburban home. Arriving there early in the morning on the first day of our trip, I was wide awake and excited. Everyone else wanted to sleep, but the sun was already up so I grabbed a bike from the garage and headed out to explore the neighborhood. I didn’t know that its brakes weren’t working properly until I really needed them, and I’m lucky that I didn’t suffer a serious crash. That brief misadventure in Spain remains my only cycling experience on foreign roads.

I have not been outside of the US since July 1980 when my family spent a couple of days in Canada as part of a larger trip. In recent years I have been challenged just to visit family and friends right here in America, so traveling overseas hasn’t even been the stuff of daydreams. It would be nice to visit the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia for the first time. And it would be nice to return to continental Europe as a cyclist. I can imagine myself taking on the cobbled roads and steep bergs that are used in the spring classics. Not this year, though.

In an earlier blog post I mentioned the possibility of a business trip to Atlanta, but that proposal now appears to be off the table. So, I am moving forward with plans to visit Pennsylvania in late March. Hopefully the weather will turn around by then, because I am going to need lots of time in the saddle while I’m on vacation.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

2014 ToAD Details Announced

Today the Tour of America’s Dairyland announced details for 10 of its 11 dates in 2014:

6/19 Shorewood Criterium Cycling Classic
6/20 East Troy Cycling Classic
6/21 Giro d’Grafton
6/22 Waukesha Carl Zach Cycling Classic
6/23 Milwaukee Mile Speedway Circuit Race
6/24 Schlitz Park Criterium
6/25 Elkhart Lake Race at Road America
6/26 to be announced in February
6/27 Fond du Lac Commonwealth Classic
6/28 ISCorp Downer Classic
6/29 East Tosa Gran Prix

I’m really tempted this year. First, USA Cycling combined road, track, mountain biking and cyclocross into a single license for 2014, meaning that I would not have to buy an add-on or one-day license to participate. Then, I scheduled a vacation from the 23rd through the 27th just to keep my options open. Now, I’m looking at those two racetrack dates—Road America and the Milwaukee Mile—and they look like fun.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

All Of This And Nothing

Interesting things are happening across the cycling world. The newly-crowned national cyclocross champions are tuning up for the world championships on Feb. 1-2, and a new season of UCI WorldTour road racing will begin this weekend with the Tour Down Under. If you embrace cycling in its many forms, then there really is no offseason. Every day brings news.

But in my humble corner of that world, things are pretty quiet. This is the time of year when I take care of all the underpinnings. I renewed my USA Cycling license. I bought my state trail pass and state parks vehicle sticker. I took my mountain bike to Pedal Moraine for a preseason tuneup. I even read a cycling book, a Christmas gift from my brother-in-law. I am making great progress in the home gym, rebuilding my left shoulder. I still haven’t logged any cycling miles in 2014, but I feel like my fitness is about right for mid-January. On Friday morning I will have my blood tested for high cholesterol, a hereditary condition I control with a generic statin. And soon I will see my doctor for a routine physical examination.

All of those things are worthwhile, but I would rather be riding and for me there is no place to ride right now. On the few days when the weather has been nice enough, road and trail conditions have been unacceptable. Nothing in the forecast looks tempting. I could use a vacation …

Or, at least, a business trip. My boss would like to bring our far-flung workgroup to Atlanta for a conference sometime in the first quarter of this year. (I have coworkers from Maine to Texas, many of whom I have never met in person.) If that conference happens, then I should have an opportunity to take my bike down south for a week. But right now it’s all speculation. A solo trip in March to see my mother in suburban Philadelphia seems more likely.

For now, I will keep plugging away indoors and on the snowshoes … a little uninspired, but still moving forward.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Thin Blue Paceline

Last year I participated in the Police Unity Tour Wisconsin Riders Spinathon and one month from today I hope to participate in the 2014 edition. The Spinathon is an indoor cycling event that benefits the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. The annual Police Unity Tour is a four-day bicycle journey of more than 300 miles from New Jersey to Washington DC. This year Wisconsin will be represented by numerous law enforcement agencies, including the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the police departments of West Bend, Slinger, Jackson and Hartford.

The Spinathon will be held on Saturday, Feb. 8, at Pleasant Valley Tennis & Fitness Club, 2754 Pleasant Valley Road in Jackson. Three different instructor-led training sessions will be offered: 8-9 a.m., 9:15-10:15 a.m., and 10:30-11:30 a.m. Last year I followed my own workout plan instead of following along with the instructors, and no one seemed to mind! You can do like I did and take your own bike and trainer, or you can use one of the club’s Spinning bikes. Register in advance (recommended, especially if you are not bringing your own bike) or at the club on the day of the event, beginning at 7:15 a.m. Your $25 registration fee gets you not just a fun morning of training, but also an event T-shirt, a water bottle, and one ticket to the summertime pig roast (and no, I don’t think the guys see the irony in a police-sponsored pig roast). If you raise more money, you get more stuff. See the brochure for all the details. If you want to help the cause by sending donations through me, I will be happy to accept them. If you are a Facebook user, you can indicate your desire to participate by going here, but don't forget to register officially!