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Stories Archives

Review: Twenty Miles per Cookie

I followed the Family on Bikes as they made their way from Alaska to Argentina a couple of years ago. I was hoping to meet them when they rode through Argentina while we lived there. But they took the direct route to the end of the world instead of riding east to Buenos Aires and then back west as they traveled to Ushuaia. Their plan saved them quite a number of miles, so I certainly don’t blame them.

Trip Through the US

I was casually aware of their first big family bike trip through the US, but I didn’t realize it was a year-long adventure until I read Nancy’s book Twenty Miles per Cookie. They covered 9300 miles in 19 US states and 5 Mexican states. It sounds like it was a great adventure.

Twenty Miles per Cookie book cover

Starting Out

The family left Boise, Idaho and worked their way to the Pacific coast. Like most bike adventure books I have read, the first part of the book was much more detailed on daily activities than the rest of the book. This is because the author is trying to set the stage for the types of challenges they faced on a regular basis. You are supposed to assume that many of these challenges followed them throughout the trip and therefore would become boring to read about on each page of the book.

The Vogel family’s challenges were very much like any other long-distance cycling trip. Each day they needed to find a place to stay and figure out how to have enough food and water to make it there. They had to pedal through bad weather and challenging terrain. The big difference in the Vogal bike trip a

nd others I have read about is that this was the first time I read of a family adventure of this scale. If I didn’t know they were still together (because of their more recent cycling adventures) I would have thought they might end up living in four different houses after the first few weeks of their trip. Seemed they were getting on each other’s nerves at times. That is typical of a bike trip of this scale; however, when it is a group of guys riding together one can leave the group without it being devastating. Without a family court getting involved, this expedition had to stay together.

Bright Spots

The book chronicled some of their amazing days on the road. I know there had to be many more than what she included in book. What was fun for me was when she talked about places that I have been in my own travels (in a car, not on a bike). I can just imagine how spectacular some of those routes must have been.

At times I felt like the family was too trusting when I saw how quickly they accepted offers from kind strangers. But I also know that being there in the moment gives you an insight into people and their characters that you can’t always convey in written form. As someone who has been hesitant to offer help to hikers and bikers because I didn’t know if they would want it, I am encouraged to be more willing to take the lead in extending a hand because of what I have read.

Dark Days

As I mentioned, there are times when they were at each other’s throats. This involved Mom and Dad mostly. The kids were written about as if they were mostly angels on the trip. I may be revealing a little too much, but I often don’t like reading adventure books written by women. There is usually too much touchy-feely talk. This book had its share, but I don’t think it was too excessive.

When? Where?

The one thing I would have liked to see in the book were some occasional dates. I don’t expect a daily journal format, but knowing about when certain things took place would have been nice. Based on the time of year and the location I could have gotten a better sense of what type of weather they were experiencing. With the exception of Halloween and Christmas there are few clues as to when they traversed different parts of the country other than the talk about it being cold and hot.

Waiting for the Sequel

I thought Nancy Sathre-Vogal did a great job in telling their story. While I may not like some of the way it was presented, I have to say that it was well written. I look forward to the announcement of a book talking about their Alaska to Argentina trip.

Twenty Miles per Cookie, Nancy Sathre-Vogel, Old Stone Publishing, 198 pages, 2011.

BikeLit Revisited

BikeLit after dog encounterA few weeks ago I wrote about the great little lights I have for my bikes called the Nite Ize BikeLit. I have been using these for about a year. However, one of them met its demise last week.

I was visiting a friend when a strange storm blew up. We experienced winds in excess of 50 MPH. The rain was torrential. I went to my friend’s place on my bike because I thought I could get home before any bad weather rolled in. I didn’t leave before the storm came.

My bike was blown over in the storm. Their 6 month old dog had a good time chewing the life out of the BikeLit. When he was done with that he took to chewing the cover off my seat. Needless to say, I now only have one Nite Ize BikeLit.

Stage 19 Tour de France 2011

I have casually watched the Tour de France the last 3 years. I can’t claim to be a great fan of the sport, but I highly respect the endurance aspect of it all.

The 2011 Tour has been enjoyable (on the days I have been able to see it), but it hasn’t been overly exciting. At least, not until the last 2 days. I did not see stage 18, but looking at all the final statistics of the race, it had to have been amazing. There was quite a shake up at the top of the leaderboard.

Stage 19 (Friday, July 22), was incredible. It certainly was the best stage I have seen this year and maybe the best ever. Towards the end Contador (of whom I am not a big fan) showed some amazing ability on the mountains and pulled away from his main rivals—brothers Schleck and Cadel Evans. I was disappointed that he could not hold the lead to the end. He was not far enough ahead of the Schlecks to take much time away from them. But I really wanted to see him finish the stage in front because of the courageous effort he gave when pulling away from everyone else.

The guy who did win, Pierre Roland, took advantage of the friendship of Contador and Sammy Sanchez. When Sanchez pulled up to Contador to let him know (I think) that Sanchez was there to help pull Contador along, Roland burst ahead on the other side and got far enough in the lead to keep Contador from catching him. Well played! Gripping stuff considering they were at the end of a couple of really tough climbs.

I loved seeing Contador punch the runner. I have been wanting to do that to spectators every time I see the race. I don’t know what was going on, but the guy in green was putting something up to Contador’s face that he didn’t like.  I have rummaged around on news sites and still have not found out what happened with that.

I don’t know that I had a favorite rider in the race this year, but I like the Schleck brothers. Partly because I can pronounce their names. While I admittedly don’t follow professional cycling much, I have grown to respect the Schlecks over the last couple of years. They look strong as riders and seem to keep their nose clean. I have not heard any controversy surrounding the two.

Frank was valiant today. He stayed with Andy and Cadel Evans. Andy seemed to be in control. Evans never took the lead to pull the group along. He let the Schlecks do the work. Frank could not stay in the point position, but he kept jumping up there when he could. Andy did the work to pull the three up the mountains and didn’t even look like he was dying in the process. Though at the end he was spent.

Voeckler (the Yellow Jersey) had a great few minutes in the middle of today’s stage. He was in pain, but launched an attack that made him look deserving of the jersey. Unfortunately that did not last long and he lost quite a bit of time.

I am pleased to see Andy Schleck in the yellow jersey for the final two stages (assuming he keeps his lead tomorrow). I won’t be able to watch Sunday’s final stage, but if he is wearing it after tomorrow’s time trial, then he will cross the line as the winner on Sunday.

Slow Bikes Are Not Good For Cold Weather

The last couple of months I have been enjoying the use of a friend’s bike. It is what we call an English bike in Argentina. In Europe it is what I think they refer to as a Dutch bike. Either way, I call it a Granny bike. It is slow, but very comfortable to ride. I think of it as a luxury bike.

While all my friends are enjoying the warm weather in the northern hemisphere, we are getting really cold down here in the south. This last week we have had several nights that plunged beneath freezing.

Riding a bike fast in cold weather can freeze a person. The wind chill while riding at 16 MPH can cut to the bones. However, I am not typically riding that fast when I casually ride my bike to the train station or to the grocery store. In those cases the slow granny bike keeps me outside in the cold weather longer. I think it is time to give my friend her granny bike back and I will ride my commuter for all my needs for the rest of the winter.

At what speed does the wind chill become a big issue? If it is 35 degrees and you are dressed warm enough, is it better to ride fast and deal with the wind chill, but get to your destination twice as quickly? Or, is it better to ride slow, not have a wind chill issue but stay out in the cold longer?

Feel a little frustrated in your ability to ride a bike? This little fellow has the motivation you need to get off the couch and get on your bike.

Professor on a Grandma Bike

Yesterday my family and I went to the park on our bikes. The main reason was to have an excuse to sit around lazily and read a book. Our little girl always wants to play around at the playground and our son likes to take my mountain-bike-turned-commuter for a few fast laps on the 1.4 mile track around the park.

Professor on a Grandma BikeA friend of ours lent us her bike a few weeks ago so that a visiting friend would have something to ride while she was with us. This bike is what we (in Argentina) call an English bike. Someone else told me they call them Dutch bikes. Whatever it is called, there is one thing certain about it—it is very heavy. Once it gets rolling it is hard to stop. Consequently, it is also very comfortable. With its wide tires, upright riding position and solid feel, riding this bike is like driving a luxury car. You may not get there too quickly, but the ride is comfortable.

The weather was beautiful, though a little chilly. I think it got up to 63 degrees (we are on the front edge of winter here). I decided to ditch  the heavy coat and wear a sports coat over my sweater. I felt like a college professor.

Since I rode the grandma bike, our son got a chance to ride my newer, faster bike around the park while my wife and I read our books. Our daughter played away happily. On our way home we all did a lap around the track. Riding the old tank, I wasn’t the fastest one around the track, but I was probably the most comfortable.

Do I Look Whiter Than Normal?

While commuting to a class this morning on my bike I was following a bus through a left-hand turn. The road we were on was a major road that had the right of way to go straight or turn left. Though it is a 90 degree turn, it is set up in such a way that you can buzz through the turn pretty quickly. I moved into the middle lane behind the bus and we went through the turn together with a few other cars.

Sitting on the other side of the turn, hidden from my view as we were going into the turn, was a bag of lime (used for cement) that fell off a delivery truck. This is a fine white powder that is dusty and dry. The bus hit the pile of lime in the road and shot up a huge cloud of white dust. Without considering the outcome, I continued through the cloud on my bike getting the dust all over me. It got into my eyes and all over my clothes.

My eyes started watering and I was afraid I would arrive at class with cement stuck to my face. I wiped everything off as best I could and continued on to class.

Why is it that these types of things happen when you are running late? I began to think that arriving late to class would be a good thing since I could slip in to the bathroom and clean up before anyone saw me.

Because it was cool this morning I had on a jacket. Besides my clothes turning white, only my hands and face were exposed to the dust. As soon as I saw the cloud start to billow up I took a deep breath and went through the cloud without breathing any of it in.

When I got to class everyone was still standing outside—no chance of slipping in and cleaning up before anyone saw me. I rode up and asked a couple of my friends if I looked whiter than normal. They didn’t seem to notice at first. But when I took my glasses off and they saw my normal skin color they burst out laughing. I am glad I could provide entertainment for them.

Fortunately I was able to brush most of it off my clothes. My face and hands rinsed off fine too. I don’t even feel too stiff.

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