Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Five Days of Bikes

I didn't have time to post these photos etc. each day as I took them so am running them all at once to cover the rest of the Bike Festival weekend.

My grade-school buddy, college roommate and best man Paul was up from Cedar Rapids to volunteer at the Great River Energy Bike Festival and also to mess around with bikes. Here's what we did:

Geneva and Henry about to ride to school

Thursday the kids got to ride to school. They were very excited to do this and grateful that the weather had turned out nice. It's 7.7 miles, and Paul and I rode them down. It must have seemed a touching tableau of some happy alternative family, me on my PeeWee Herman bike, Paul on Karla's Wicked Witch of the West bike, and the kids.

Once at school, we ran into Jim. He's an engineer with 3M and had designed and had built (by the 3M Woodworking Club) a trebuchet. It was designed to throw golfballs and eggs, not rocks or diseased ox carcasses, and looked great. Here's Jim with the trebuchet and 40% of his offspring, Lizzie and Mary Clare.

Jim and the girls and the trebouchet

Of course, Paul the engineer and I couldn't keep from hanging around and "helping" for a bit. Jim needed distance markings laid out to measure the throws. The fifth and sixth grades were doing a competition and had previously performed experiments with sling length, release points and projectile weights. Unbeknownst to these kids, Jim had also brought along a carton of eggs to toss at Mr. Foat, the history teacher, who would wear a bunny suit and protect himself with a Viking shield, possibly made of cardboard. Before we left we fired the trebuchet a couple of times. Here a golf ball is getting flung.

Jim fires the trebouchet

We rode home, stopping only at World Cycling Productions, who don't have a bike rack at their building! I guess I'm not entirely surprised; they're big on bike racing videos and clothing and gear, not Practical Cycling. More typical than our two nerdy bikes locked to a No Parking sign down the street was the customer looking at stuff who went out, got in the Mercedes station wagon, and drove off. Anyway, we went home and worked on the Atlantis for a bit. Here it is hanging in the garage:

Atlantis hanging during buildout

The buildout of this frame was pretty straightforward except for the brakes. I was putting Tektro Oryx cantilevers on it and the stupid mounting bolts were too long. I was fretting about this complication when Paul suggested we just cut the darn things off shorter (the bolts, not the brakes!) with a Dremel tool. Here he buzzes away at it in a shower of sparks. The cutoff wheels did cut right through the stainless steel bolts and then they went on properly.

Paul cutting off brake bolt

We rode back down to school to get the kids, leaving the house shortly before the school called to say Geneva had sprained her ankle running the hurdles for Field Day. Fortunately, they got ahold of Karla and church and she got to school about the same time we did. We put Geneva's bike in the trunk and Karla took her home while Paul, Henry and I rode back.

Friday we worked like dogs. There was some bike work in the morning including an obligatory visit to the bike shop, then we reported for duty in downtown Minneapolis for race course setup duty. The Great River Energy Bike Festival/Nature Valley Grand Prix Minneapolis Criterium was to be staged here.

We got issued shirts and vests and spent a sweaty couple of hours setting up tents, tables and fencing. We couldn't block off the roads yet, but instead set up fencing along the streets to be moved out at 6:00 for the 6:45 women's race start. Just as we got done setting up fences it began to rain, and we retreated to a tent to eat Subway sandwiches and then to Starbucks for a coffee for an hour. By 5:45 the rain cleared off and we re-emerged.

The Hennepin County Sheriff had a couple of squads there with bicycles though I never saw them come off the cars.

Hennepin County Sheriff bike squads

Nicollet Mall is not always open to bikes:

No Bikes Sign

We moved out the fencing. This is looking west along Marquette from 11th Street.

Setting up fencing

Some racers began warming up while we were doing this.

Riders warming up

Riders Warming Up

Here are some more. The store in the background is the now-closed downtown Schmitt Music store. The music mural is Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit, according to my pianist wife Karla.

Some cyclists stayed on their machines while we worked. This is the Velo Girls team under the skywalk to Orchestra Hall.

Velo Girls warm up

Once the race started, Paul and I were busy working as Course Marshals. My crowd was generally pretty good and only once did I have to guide people back with my flag stick. Paul had some male racer give him crap during the women's race when Paul wouldn't let him cross because there were racers coming. Paul argued with him and wished afterwards he'd taken the guy's number and reported him. Here is Paul watching up-course for racers to appear.

Paul as Course Marshalll

We marshalled both races and then helped tear down, working until nearly 10PM. Between these highly annoying whistles and the clanging metal fencing during teardown, we both suffered bad ringing in the ears and temporary (I hope!) mild hearing loss. Next year I'm bringing earplugs. We went to Whitey's for a pitcher of beer and dinner before going home.

Saturday the race moved to Red Wing and we stayed here. We finished off the Atlantis and it was time for rollout and a test ride. This is a 68cm frame. We went out on the quiet street behind the house and I rode it for the first time. At this point there's no handlebar wrap on it because I want to fiddle with brake lever position. There's also no toe straps on it here. I did briefly stand up to try pushing the 46/11 gear (112 inches!) which is just silly. I am going to have to build a custom cassette to get my gears the way I want them. Anyway, this is my first ride.

Atlantis Rollout

It's funny for me to see this photo. I never see myself on bikes. Keep in mind this Atlantis is a 68cm (27") frame and those are 700C wheels. It seems enormous when I look at it, it looks pretty small when I'm on it. The other weird thing about Saturday is that Paul and I took Henry to a Minnesota Boychoir taping session at a church in downtown Saint Paul. We decided to pop into the Sibley Bike Depot. These guys can be pretty hardcore; a bunch of them helped on the Wednesday teardown and one of them refused even to ride in a car down to the far end of the course; "I don't do cars" he'd stated, matter-of-factly. The weird thing is, the Depot has lots of old bikes for sale and they had two 68cm Schwinn World Sports there! I have only rarely seen a stock 68cm frame for sale anywhere, and here they had two! The World Sport is a decent chro-moly lugged steel frame and Paul has one with an Xtracycle on it. Before converting into the Xtracycle, he'd ridden it on RAGBRAI after riding across the state (of Iowa) to the start point, a 900-mile journey overall. I put my name on the red one with thoughts of an Xtracycle dancing in my mind.

Sunday Saint Luke's sang at the Lake Harriet Bandshell in Minneapolis. Parking can be a problem here, I guess, plus I wasn't sure exactly where it was, so Henry and I tossed our bikes on the Subaru and drove to church, parked in the church lot, and then rode around the lake to the Bandshell. One of the problems with cycling is that people just don't dress properly. Here I am at the Bandshell with my Marin.

What the Well-Dressed Cyclist is Wearning this year

I used that basket on the rear rack throughout the Bike Festival events, it's pretty handy for carrying things around. I may actually add a front rack to the Marin and put the basket on there and leave it.

Anyway, once done with the service, which went great, Henry and I rode back to the church parking lot, put the bikes on the roof rack, and drove home. I changed, took down Henry's bike, and zoomed off to Stillwater. I went in on Highway 12 and traffic was backed up halfway up the hill. I pulled off on a sidestreet, the same street our old goofball Rector lives on, as it happens, and parked the Subaru. I took down the bike and rode down the hill to report for duty.

Bikes are great for what I think of as Terminal Mobility, and today I did it twice. In both cases, I used a car to travel the big distances and bikes to get around once there. Bicycles are terrific for ranging around for a few miles where cars are a pain to deal with and walking is too slow. In Stillwater, I was assigned to the top of the brutal hill climb the Criterium would climb (15 times, I think). It was also where the finish line was.

The women had raced earlier. Paul, already at the top of the hill, saw this race. He had taken his clipless pedals back off Karla's Wicked Witch of the West bike and put them on his Waterford to ride the 25 miles or so out. I got established as well, then a race person came along and asked me to move down the hill a bit to keep the crowds off the course. I didn't get a lot of opportunities to take photos but did get this one of the pack grinding their way up.

Racers Grind up the Stillwater Hill

The crowds get pretty close in these races. This hill is a 20% grade, it was a chore to walk up it. I might be able to ride up in my low low gear, but once would do me just fine, 15 times with a pack snapping at my heels would really hurt. As it happened, a lot of racers also had trouble and got lapped and pulled out of the race.

From the Well-Dressed Cyclist of this morning I looked like this for the afternoon:

Matt in Stillwater

I had volunteered for Course Marshal and Teardown. Once the race was over, I helped at the top of the hill with fencing, tents, banners and scaffolding, then moved down the hill for more fence work. Here is the crew working in downtown Stillwater picking up the white metal fencing.

Course Teardown in Stillwater

This wasn't nearly as noisy as it had been in Minneapolis, but I'm still bringing foam earplugs next year. Once done, Paul and rode down to the Freight House to sit on the deck, have a couple of Coronas each and some nachos. This cost $29! Damn! Next time, we're bringing a six-pack and a bag of Doritos.

We rode up the hill to the car, put the bikes on the roof and drove home.

Monday morning Paul left to head back to Cedar Rapids. We looked at routes south out of the Cities. I don't know that end of town very well from a bicycling perspective and Paul was hoping to ride to Winona, on the Mississippi in southeastern Minnesota, but that was going to be pretty painful with predicted headwinds, possible rain and clearing the Metro area. I offered to drive him to Prescott, Wisconsin, so he wouldn't have to deal with the traffic and we decided that was the way to go.

I got up at 5:30. Paul was already up and about. We put the bike in the truck and went to the Day by Day cafe on West 7th street for breakfast. If you get in before 7:00AM the Early Bird Specials are half-price. We then went down to Prescott, just over the border at the confluence of the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers.

Paul was travelling pretty light:

Paul in Prescott

This is all he had for luggage:

Paul's Luggage

I took the pictures above then Paul, without ceremony, got on and rode off to the south:

Paul Departs Prescott

Paul was heading down Wisconsin State Highway 35, which runs along the east bank of the Mississippi. Anyone in a hurry goes on U.S. Highway 61 on the west bank and there aren't many towns between Prescott and Winona. I haven't heard from him yet but trust that it worked out. Paul's wife Anne emailed Monday night and said he'd made Winona right before the storms. I think he got rained on; we ended up with tornado warnings and severe weather back here.

I drove from Prescott to work, a 50-minute proposition. Coming along Shepard Road in Saint Paul, the orange drum, sandbags and traffic cones from the turnaround for the Wednesday Time Trials were still off the side of the road.

This five-day interlude was a lot of fun. Between the bike races, finishing the Atlantis buildout, riding around town during normal weekdays and lots of drinking beer and talking bicycles, it was like a brief reliving of the carefree days of summers in college. Next year we're going to have to talk a couple of more Bike Buddies into coming up and spending five days on bikes.

Now back to normal life!

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