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Final prep before leaving Chicago

Pack. Unpack. Check over pack list. Arrange pack on floor into a knolling. Take picture. Check list again. Repack. Add what you forgot.

Down to the last couple days before leaving Chicago. Scrambling, checking lists, route doubts…

Stay tuned. We hit the road next week.

2014 Soma Saga, unloaded.

About the bike

Carrying me about 4,000 miles is the 2014 Soma Saga. It’s a 54 cm, 700C rig. Most touring bike manufacturers, such as Surly and Salsa, offer a 700C wheelset in a 56 cm frame and above. Below that, the wheel size drops to a 26″ rim, found mostly on mountain bikes and some cruisers, because toe overlap becomes an issue with larger wheels on smaller frames. Toe overlap occurs when your foot bumps the front tire or fender when turning the handlebars and pedals. Not a huge deal, but annoying when handling the heavier load of a touring bike.

Soma Fabrications is one of the few manufacturers that makes a 54 cm frame with a 700C wheel set. That made the buying decision easy.

Soma Saga, unloaded

Full specifications (with help from Soma Fab):

Frame: Tange Prestige heat-treated CrMo
Fork: Lugged crown Infinity CrMo
Front wheel:  Shutter Precision PV8 dynohub hubs w/alloy rims 36h
Rear wheel: Suzue hub w/alloy rims 36h
Lights: Busch and Muller Lumotec IQ Cyo (front), BM Toplight Line Plus (rear)
Tires: Schwalbe Marathon Plus 700x35C
Drivetrain: Shimano Deore rear derailleur & Rivendell bar end shifters, Sugino XD 48-36-24t crankset, 11-34t 9-spd cassette
Brake Set:  Tektro CR-720 canti brakes, Soma Aero brake levers
Cockpit: Soma Roundwise bar, Soma Shotwell Stem, layback alloy post
Saddle: Brooks B17 Narrow
Pedals: Shimano M324
Tape: Brooks Cambium
Racks: Tubus Cargo Evo (rear), Arkel Low Rider (front)
Panniers: Two Ortlieb Classic Roll Down (front), two Arkel T-28 (rear), Ortlieb Ultimate 6 handlebar bag
Charger: Sinewave Cycles Reactor USB headset cap.
Bell: Crane copper Suzu Mini Lever Strike Bell w/headset spacer
Paint: British Racing Green

 

Costa Concordia

In the July/August 2013 issue of FFJournal, my first cover story was published.

Costa Concordia.

 

It’s about the metalwork involved with the Costa Concordia shipwreck salvage.

Click the photo or link here: Salvaging a Shipwreck.

 

 

S24O Report: Illinois Beach State Park

Arriving in style.

People always ask me how many bikes I have. Right now, it’s the bare minimum I’m supposed to, if I’m keeping score by the Velominati’s “Rules” (see #12). So, three. When I follow that answer with something like, “Well, one of them is my touring bike,” I get all nostalgic and guilty because I haven’t put in the miles on that sucker that I should. I’ve logged a few thousand miles on my Long Haul Trucker, on everything from rando-style road rides to a month-long hump down the Pacific Coast.

But here in Chicago, it’s tough. I’ve taken her down the lakefront to work, hauled an astonishing amount of groceries, and of course, plenty of beer. Sad to say I’ve not had the time to get out of dodge and pitch a tent. In between job, traveling, road races and jam-packed weekends, it hasn’t happened. Being an adult is overrated sometimes.

Yet, there is hope. It’s called the bike overnight. Or out-and-back. Or bike camping. Or my favorite, the Sub 24-hour Tour (S24O). Been telling myself I’d do it all summer, yet somehow I got hung up on my own planning. Before I knew it, August rolled around and I hadn’t put much thought into it. So I just started telling people, “Yeah, I’m doing it this weekend. Overnighter.” Telling people your plans sometimes forces you to realize them.

So, this past weekend, I did it. I rolled out Friday around 3PM with George, setting our sights for Illinois Beach State Park. It’s about 50 miles north of Chicago, as far north as you can get in Illinois before you’re in Wisconsin. It occupies a couple miles of waterfront on Lake Michigan, including beaches, camping and stunning view of a power plant. But it’s doable, and I wanted to be on the lake.

The route

 

Pathness.

We followed our usual way out of town through Evanston, Skokie, Wilmette and Highland Park. The Skokie Valley Path shot us into Lake Forest, and from there we reeled in the road through Chicago’s far north ‘burbs. Had to bushwhack around some construction in Waukegan, smooth riding besides that. We arrived at camp, but not before a last-mile beer run.

Map below.

View S24O to Illinois Beach State Park in a larger map. (Tried to get this to embed, but I’m learning the ropes here. Bear with me.)

The gear

 

Loaded Trucker at McD’s.

Packing for an overnight shan’t be complicated. George told me it only took him five minutes to pack. My crap, on the other hand, had to be dug up from a toolbox, bike clothing drawers, basement storage, and a big Tupperware I put random bike stuff in. Gear tends to diffuse when you haven’t used it in years, and moved it around three times.

  • Bike: 2 Ortlieb rolldown waterproof panniers. 2 tubes, 2 co2’s+inflator, patch kit, multitool, tire levers, Topeak Road Morph G pump, U-lock, a couple of zip ties.
  • Food: 2 Clif bars, 2 Honey Stingers, 1 cup of chicken flavored Ramen, 1 can of tuna, small bag of trail mix, banana, Nescafe instant coffee, 1 24 oz. water bottle, 1 1.5L Nalgene, and some marshmallows+Hersheys bar (forgot to get graham crackers).
  • KitchenSnowpeak titanium hybrid trailpot+pan, MSR 4 oz. iso-butane stove fuel, stove, lighter.
  • Other: Pen, small travel log journal, Leatherman tool, WX radio, nPower Peg to charge phone, LED headlamp, 2 bungee cords, spare MSR sand stake, bug spray.
  • Clothing: Socks, underwear, tee, light zip hoody, swimsuit, flipflops, microfiber towel, camp rag.
  • Sleep: Six Moon Designs tent+ground cloth, *Western Mountaineering Summerlite sleeping bag (see next section for asterisk).

 

The Trip

Carving out miles on the North Shore Bike Path.

On both days of riding, we couldn’t have asked for better weather. A couple days before, I called IBSP to reserve a campsite because I figured it’s one of the only places to camp between Chicago and Milwaukee, and it’d be sure to fill up. I was right.

When we arrived, the ladies at the kiosk told us the place was booked. No problem, we whipped out our reservation receipt. But to no avail, they said whoever made the reservation did it wrong and that it was actually booked before we called. I looked at George. The ladies watched the color drain from my face, paused, then burst out laughing—giving us a hard time. Not bad, ladies, not bad. They said we were an easy kill because we rode in on bikes.

310, where the party’s at.

The site was close to the water, although it was heard and not seen. There was a good mix of tents, RVs, and those big-ass transformer bus camper things; luckily we didn’t hear any generators kick on. We got some looks as we rolled into camp around 6PM, as if to say—”Look, der, honey. They gots their camping gear on the bike!”—but the couple we met in the site next to us had done the ride up before, too, as well as some other tours. There was a guy in a pickup truck towing a trailer full of firewood, making the rounds for the campground, sort of like the ice cream truck.
I got my tent set up, bereft of one stake.

Six Moon Designs tent.

On whim, I brought along this red MSR sand stake for beach camping. My uncle gave this to me, like, ten years ago for Christmas. Maybe longer. And I’ve never used it, but always liked the idea of having it around for, I don’t know, using it to pierce the heart of a dragon should I ever be attacked in the wilderness. It finally validated its existence among my camping gear. (Thanks, Uncle Bob!):

MSR Sand Stake.

While setting up my tent, I unfurled what I thought was my sleeping bag. Turns out, it was my Mont Bell down jacket from the winter. I grabbed the wrong stuff sack. My *sleeping bag was hanging in its storage bag at home. I had stuffed the jacket into my Western Mountaineering sack because I lost the Mont Bell one. Whoops. I ended up sleeping with it wrapped around my legs. It was warm enough that I didn’t need much up top. The hoody sufficed:

Sleeping bag fail.

With camp set up, we took a dip in the lake. There were a handful of others in the water, mostly people shrieking at the temperature. And cold it was. George and I made it a contest of manhood to see how far we could walk in before having to give up and dunk in. Water was probably in the mid 60s, brisk yet refreshing (what do you expect? It’s a melted glacier), not nearly as dirty as the water around Chicago’s beaches. The blinking power plant in the distance wasn’t reassuring, but hey, I felt clean. We took a dip the following morning after coffee:

Empty lot: riding to the beach in the AM.

Drying racks.

Beach rad, breaux.

You know how it is when you camp with a buddy. You work through a 12-pack together, canvass every topic that a campfire conversation is possible of accommodating, blow off steam, laugh about the stressful crap that you just rode away from, stir the flames, and pass out.

The next day, after our swim we broke down camp and rolled out, generally following the same way back except for a detour around Waukegan’s construction, via McAree Road: http://runkeeper.com/user/nwrighteous/route/2472409

We had a light tailwind, and it turns out the route was gradually downhill. So we burned off miles at a steady clip, holding 19-21 mph on the Skokie Valley Path southbound, no problem, thinking we might catch up with our team’s Saturday morning training ride (we didn’t). But not before getting caught by the longest freight train ever:

Chugga chugga.

More reports to follow. Shooting for Starved Rock State Park next.

I’ll leave you with this.

Sun sets on Surly. Go ride your bike.

Barry-Roubaix on Drunkcyclist.com

Since I worked at two bike shops, I’ve always been a devoted reader of Drunkcyclist.com.

Don’t worry, it doesn’t advocate (completely) what it sounds like. Rather it captures the tone of sarcasm, irreverence, and skewering of, well, the things that are easy to skewer about cycling culture in a blog. Think Vice, but for cycling. They also talk about beer.

I had to the chance to do some words for them about Barry-Roubaix, a gravel road race in Michigan.

Link: First rodeo with Barry-Roubaix at Drunkcyclist.com.