Category Archives: Cycling

The journeys of a boy and his bike

DST + Warming = Katy!

I get the lion’s share of my riding on the Katy Trail done after work. I work about five miles from the trailhead, so it’s a no-brainer to drop down there after work and get some miles behind me. However, until the time changes, it’s tough to do — the sun just sets too early. With the Dubya-enacted changes to DST, that means I have the opportunity to get on the trail three weeks earlier, weather permitting, and today, for the first day of the season, weather is permitting.

It’s been interesting watching the hitch-mounted bike racks start to re-appear on vehicles at the office over the last week. You can tell that folks have been gearing up for the beginning of the cycling season. When I pulled in this morning, I noticed another bike on a hitch-mount, ready for some after-work action on the trail.

Man, I love this time of year!

June Coolness


The weather dudes (and dudettes) prognosticated cool temps for this morning, so today was a day planned for riding. I knew it couldn’t be quite as long a ride as I wanted — two birthday parties to attend today — but I also knew I could get some quality saddle time in.

So the weather cooperated with the weather folks, and it was in the mid-50s this morning — right in my wheelhouse for good rides. I filled my CamelBak, loaded up and hit the road. I wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to start from or head toward, but the drop-in at Weldon Spring is the absolute closest point to the Katy Trail for me… but is still almost 20 miles from the house. As it ends up, that’s where I headed as a starting point.

Even getting there just after sunrise, I was already late — there were tons of folks out on the trail already. I guess mid-50s in June grabs folks’ attention! From Weldon, there are two nice medium-length rides: I can head to Pitman Hill for a 16mi ride, or I can head to the boat ramp at Klondike for a 15mi ride. I elected to hit Klondike. I hadn’t been there yet this year, and a decent bit of that ride is out from under cover, so the combination of cool air and low-angle sunlight would feel good.

I stopped about every five miles, and took a long drink, and ate a fruit cup. Between that regimen, and the cool weather, the ride was fabulous! Easy too — I didn’t bump into that crazy wall before three miles like I typically do. In fact, I felt pretty invinceable on the trail today, and really felt like there were more miles in the legs. However, that bit about planning for the return ride was front-of-mind, so I elected to go with what I knew, and plan for only fifteen miles.

I actually ended up shooting a little bit. The boat ramp at Klondike had obviously been flooded during the high waters recently. This high water decimated the grass on the sides of the ramp, and now that the waters had been gone for a week or two, the sun has parched the soil. This left some really cool dry soil, reminiscent of a parched river bed in the desert. Really cool, and fun to shoot, too. I tried some overheads and some ant’s-eye views as well. It was nice to hear my photography muse whispering in my ear on this one!

Snakes on the Trail


Tonight’s ride was really a big ol’ reminder of last year’s rides. The first few miles were horrid, full of self-doubt and a huge desire to turn tail and head for home. But, just like last year, I broke through the 3-4mi wall, and found the rest of the ride to be pleasant.

Along with a good ride though, I also got to see a bunch of snakes on the trail. I’ve seen more snakes this month on the trail than I did all of last year. I dunno if that’s because the water’s so high, or from some other kind of natural influence.

So, I haven’t entirely identified what I’ve seen. The state has a site showing the snakes of Missouri, and I’ve been trying to do some comparisons.

I know I saw a rough green snake tonight, along with an osage copperhead (poisonous). The big black one might’ve been a western cottonmouth (water moccasin), but I haven’t been able to tell from the single photo on the site. Another site makes my coiled up mystery snake appear to be a cottonmouth, but it’s still hard to tell. And I think the big black wavy snake is yet another species, but I can’t tell for sure.

Any ideas?

Big Ride


Beck and I took a little ride from Weldon to Defiance today. This was the first time she’d been on the trail, and I picked an easy route that included a stop at the Katy Trail Bike Shop for a slurpie. Now that’s riding!

After we got back to Weldon, I decided to ride one-way up to St. Charles, and have Beck pick me up. As it ends up, I only went to the 364 bridge — there was a big festival up there, and I figured we wouldn’t be able to find each other, much less get her parked close to the trail! So, to the bridge complex I went, and got myself picked up by Beck.

I hadn’t realized how liberating it would be to ride without having to keep the return ride in mind. It was wonderful not to worry about the distance I had left in the tank! Really cool ride.

And I ran across one of my little friends on the trail — apparently a timber rattlesnake. Man, there’s some serious snakage going on this year!

Snakes on a Trail!


I visited my friend, the Katy Trail, tonight. After a couple of rides on the Al Wilson trail this week, I decided it was time for me and friend Katy to see each other. That trail’s a jealous mistress! 🙂

I decided to head toward the bridge from Weldon, and started pedalling. As I observed last year, the first 3-5 miles were horrible. But once I got to the bridge, I decided to head on up to Pitman Hill Road. I hadn’t been there this year, and my legs felt like they still had some “go” in them.

That’s when I ran over the first snake — a tiny little green snake. I doubt I hurt him, but I still didn’t like the fact I put a couple of tires across him. A mile or so later, I encountered the other snake.

This guy was about two feet long, as thick as my thumb, and coiled in the middle of the trail. I later discovered he was a Red Milk Snake. His colorings are similar to those of the Coral Snake, but this little dude is non-poisonous, and is really pretty. I stopped and took some photos of him… he didn’t seem to mind.

I looped back at Pitman Hill, and neither of the two snakes were around. I guess they got tired of us cyclists, and went home. For me, I went home after a very satisfying ride!



The MS150 folks sponsored the first warm-up ride today before the MS150 in September. This was my first organized ride since last September’s MS150, and I was both excited and dreading it. I had a pretty good idea that I’d be able to make the 22mi loop, but I didn’t know what the route was, aside from the starting and ending point, so I had no sense of what to expect from the terrain. I met a couple of other team members from our corporate MS150 team, and we started off around noon.

The weather was pretty nice, with loads of low clouds and temps in the high 60s — a glorious day for cycling! The course was kind for the first four or five miles, flat and very little car-traffic. That wouldn’t last though. We turned onto a heavily travelled, two-lane back road — Eatherton Road — and things got miserable pretty quick. The cars and bikes had woven together, with cars waiting for oncoming traffic to pass before passing the cyclists running along with them. This had cars off the rear wheels of the bikes, and bikes off the rear bumpers of the cars….. Ugh. This particular road is notorious for conflicts between cyclists and drivers — the drivers don’t respect the cyclists right to be riding on the road, and frankly, some of the cyclists on that road simply won’t move to the edge of the road to allow cars to pass easier. It’s not wonder we had cars honking at us as we rode. Since this was an organized ride, we had police support, and that kept an incidents to dull roar — that’s the ONLY way I’d ride this particular road.

Once we got off that back road, we continued on to the rest stop at the turnaround point. There were several small hills and grades on the way, and some of them really kicked me hard. Once again, I was reminded that riding the Katy is just not the same as riding on the hills found on the road. I pulled into the rest area, and found it was not quite what I was expecting. It just wasn’t very well stocked as compared to the stops for the MS150 — some Gatorade, water, bananas, orange slices and Rice Krispie treats. I caught back up with my teammates, and rested for a little bit.

The return ride seemed long. The sun had come out, the temperature had come up, and I fought a brutal headwind through much of the flat. The good news was that the first part of the return journey was generally graded downhill, so the pedalling wasn’t too tough for the first five miles or so. However, Eatherton Road was a mess again, only this time the cyclists were much more spread out, so it seemed like every few minutes I was passed by some motorist. I finally got back to Ghisallo, and after stowing my bike on the truck, I found my teammates, and I ravenously ate. This spread was good — hummus wraps, meatballs, fruit, cookies, beer, water, and a variety of sandwiches. I definitely got my $5 worth!

So, some notes for next time… I have to remember to pack my Camelbak, regardless of the ride length. I find that I stay more hydrated with that thing on my back — it’s just a lot easier to reach over for the tube than to try to handle a bottle while pedalling. I also need to replace my GPS. I had no idea how far I was from the easier parts of the course, despite knowing how far I was from the finish. I also need to find a pouch for my handlebars to hold the camera. I would’ve taken photos of the ride itself if I could get to the camera a little easier.

So, it was a good start to the official season I suppose. I’d have been happier had the ride been easier on me, but that just tells me I need to do more rides into Creve Coeur this season. It’s paved, connects to the Katy, and has some good hills, along with a 75′ vertical climb to the bridge complex — all things that will help get me ready for this year’s MS150!

Katy’s Back!


We have had the weirdest winter, with temps way above normal. In honor of this weirdness, I took Bandit up to Weldon Spring today, and put in at the Katy Trail for the first time this year.

It was cool, just under 50 degrees. Before I left, I told Beck that I needed to get some sweat pants for some of the cooler temp rides. For my birthday, she’d already gotten me some, and presented those to me as an early prezzie. There were indeed warm!

As usual, the first 3-4 miles were just brutal — they always are for some reason. After that though, it was a great afternoon ride. The trail is so different this time of the year, with all the leaves down, and the low angle of the late afternoon sun enhancing the browns and the land… well, it was beautiful.

I hope this is the beginning of new adventures on the trail — I’m ready to get back to regular rides out there! Sunset is still too early to try riding after work. However, by the time the first part of March rolls around, sunset will be around 6pm, and that’s late enough to get in afternoon rides on the trail. And with the early start to daylight savings coming on March 10th or so, that’ll give me two extra months on the trail this year. That’s a great thing.

Dark Side of Standard Time

With the time change this weekend, my cycling after work is done for a while. The sun sets too early now for me to get to the trail, change clothes, and get in a decent ride before darkness envelopes the trees on the trail. In fact, this will probably be the case until the time changes again in March, although I haven’t looked at the sunset times out that far to see if I might be able to get some evening rides in ahead of that.

Bummer that. I guess that means big rides on the weekends, and the odd few miles around the neighborhood after work, until it gets dark too early for even that. (By the Winter Solstice, the sun will set around here before 4.30pm.)

Unfortunately, I think that puts my goal cycling 1000 miles before the end of the year in jeopardy….

Back on the Trail


Tonight marked a triumphant return to the trail after nearly three weeks away. Since the MS150 earlier this month, there’s been all kinds of things inserting themselves in between me and my bike, and that’s been a crying shame.

It was wonderful to get back out there, especially with the weather we’re having. On the way back to the trailhead, it was misting rain, and the temperature couldn’t have been more that 65 — perfect weather for me! It’s supposed to be cool for the next several days, so I expect I’ll get back out there to burn up more miles on the trail.

My recently-injured ankle didn’t bother me too bad, although I can definitely tell that I’ve ridden on it. I’ve just gotta keep strengthening it, and keep it flexible by working with it. There’s no better medicine for it than being on my bike!



This weekend, I participated in the MS150 in Columbia MO — here’s my take on the whole weekend.

Friday — Travel to Columbia

My drive from Weldon to Columbia didn’t start out very promising. I got stuck in a traffic jam on I-70, and spent about 75 minutes going about 12 miles on the road. Not an auspicious start! Add to that the realization that I took the busier (and therefore slower) route from Weldon to I-70, and I started questioning my decision making entirely! 🙂

There were loads of bike-laden vehicles headed toward Columbia, presumably for the ‘150. There were also loads of vehicles sporting tags from Mississippi. Why? Well, also in Columbia this weekend was the Ole Miss-Mizzou football game on Saturday. The roads were busy with weekend travellers, that much was certain!

I got to my hotel about 90 minutes later than what I was thinking I would. I got checked in, and headed toward the fairgrounds to see if I could find any of my team. What I discovered was that there was almost nobody around at the fairgrounds. Our team captain showed up, and told me that Friday night is usually lightly attended, as folks coming in from St. Louis and other parts of the state would travel after work (like I did), and usually not get in until later in the night. Oh well! I said my goodbyes, and headed to the hotel room for some rest before Saturday’s fun began.

Saturday — Hills, Hills, Hills

I woke just before my alarm, and started getting ready, donning my less-than-flattering jersey, and loading up the gear I would need for the day. Once again, I headed off to the fairgrounds, this time to begin my MS150 journey. I elected not to carry my camera on the ride, as I figured I wouldn’t have much opportunity to take it out and shoot — we were travelling on roads, and competing with cars for space on the road. I’ve not ridden like that since I was a kid, and I knew I didn’t need any distractions while I was trying to get through the distance ahead of me. This was probably a smart, smart move.

Click on the image to enlarge
Photo courtesy of Jacqueline Bulaga

I met up with the team at the team tent, got my breakfast — tiny breakfast burrito, cheesy hash browns, fruit and Rice Krispies — and headed up the hill for the team photo. As it ends up, this is probably the only photo of me in my jersey and ready to ride (more on that later).

The good news was that the weather was holding cool, with plenty of clouds to block the sun. I doubt the temperature rose above 75 the whole day, and we never did see the sun. Perfect weather for me.

I walked my bike back down the tall hill to the start/finish line, waited my turn, and then headed out on the course. There were gaggles of folks together at that time, clusters of 10-20 cyclists, most of whom were in passing mode around me. Me and my little hybrid simply couldn’t keep the pace that the “big kid” cycles could hold to. No matter, I pedaled hard and even passed a few folks on that first leg.

This first leg had hills, but nothing too steep, and I got past those pretty easily. I arrived at the first rest stop, and was thrilled with how I felt. My legs were still strong, my arms and neck felt good, and I felt confident that I would make this ride easily.

I had filled my water bottles and CamelBak with water at the hotel, only to find out during the first segment that they had the skunkiest water I’d ever drunk — it tasted very chemical, and I didn’t like it. At this stop, I poured out all my water, and re-filled my reservoir, along with my water bottles. That was a nice improvement in conditions for me! I hit the road, heading toward the next rest stop.

When I got to the second rest stop, I was tired, having climbed some more hills, but was pretty well convinced that I’d be able to make the ride, but it was definitely getting tougher. At the second stop, there was little food left, although plenty of water. This was the only stop where there was a challenge with food, and that was good, as I would find the food to be key to finishing the course. Fortunately, I’d packed a bunch of fruit cups, so after scarfing one down, I plowed on.

Between the second and third stops was the toughest part of the course for me. The hills were absolutely brutal… but fun, too. On the backsides of the hills, I’d get The Bandit up to 38mph — blazingly fast, exhiliarating and scary in retrospect — only to face the frontside of the next hill. Those climbs were at 5mph and hard. It was in this segment that I first had to push my bike up a hill.

All along the way to the third rest stop, I was convincing myself that I was gonna SAG back to camp from the rest stop, and that I didn’t have the legs to get through this. I cursed the man that created bikes. I swore at anything that had wheels. I even swore at Hot Wheels. This was hard, and I was definitely unprepared for this kind of riding. It didn’t help that I was being passed by cyclists that were climbing these hills at more than three times my best cycling speed. And, it was mentally unnerving to me that I hadn’t even bested my longest ride to date, and was already feeling spent.

I did finally get to the third stop, under my own power, and rested for what seemed like forever — it was probably 30-45 minutes. This stop saved the run for me. It was a party-like atmosphere, with abundant food and drink. I ate bananas, PB&J sandwiches, and drank a ton of Gatorade. After sitting for a while, I pulled myself together, and started feeling better, and better about the ride. At this point, I was not quite halfway through the course, and began to feel again like I could make it.

It was here that I first crossed paths with some of my team. They were encouraging, and stayed with me from stop to stop throughout the rest of the course. Without their encouragement, I’m not convinced I could’ve made it through the rest of the ride.

I headed out once again, and fortunately for me, this segment was mostly flat. That was more like it — this was just like riding on the Katy, and was refreshing for me. A flat segment, with just miles to grind out was just what I needed…. mindless pedaling, not too challenging, and an opportunity for my poor body and mind to recouperate.

The ride through this section was pretty unremarkable, and I continued on toward lunch at rest stop five. This was being catered by Lion’s Choice, and was terrific. Again, good food, and a party-like atmosphere. By now, I had over 50mi under my belt, and was feeling pretty confident. I knew I was getting awfully tired, but I figured I could make it from here — after all, the distance left was a pretty normal distance for me to ride.

I started out toward rest areas six and seven. Somewhere in there was another brutal hill that had me pushing my bike along the course, and added to my list of curses was the caveman that invented the wheel. I was determined to make it to rest area seven though — this one was manned by my co-workers, and was another really well-needed rest. I had myself a blueberry snowcone, and rested on a blanket beneath an awning. I laid there for what felt like half an hour before finally dragging myself up to make it to the final rest stop.

The eighth and final stop was great. The folks there were serving Culver’s ice cream! One of my teammates said she couldn’t stomach that with all this cycling. I had been training for this rest stop all summer — most Wednesdays, my little cycling group rides up to St. Charles for ice cream before making the seven mile trek back to the trailhead. Finally, my haphazard training was paying off! 🙂 I finished my ice cream, and headed down the final stretch to the start/finish line.

For this segment, we were covering ground we’d cycled on earlier in the day. For some reason though, the hills were tougher going in this direction. Maybe that was because I had 60-odd miles on my legs this time through?

I got onto the main drag headed toward the line, and when I saw the structure that marked the end, I got a little gasp in my throat, realizing that I’d finished this challenge. My teammates were waiting for me, and cheered as I came across the line. I couldn’t have had a better reception!

Remember the long hill leading to the start/finish line from the beginning of the morning? Well, the reward at the end was to get to push my bike one last time up a big hill. Ugh. However, there was dinner waiting — lasagna, salad, bread, and free beer. That seemed like the best meal in the world!

I went back to the hotel, and followed my teammates advice, ordering a big pizza, scarfing it, and getting some sleep before Sunday’s escapades.

Sunday — What’s with all this pain?

I finally woke up quite late on Sunday — really too late to get started on even the short ride. Bummer, but probably for the best: I could hardly move. Yes, the 75mi course sapped everything I had to give for this weekend. I ate breakfast at the hotel, and headed back to Ellisville — thrilled about what I’d accomplshed, but wishing I’d had something left for today.

Once home, I relaxed, and slept, and relaxed some more. I definitely needed it!

There was a photographer on the course, shooting shots of everyone as they went by. Unfortunately, the photo of me is waaaay underexposed, and is blurred significantly. You can see it here. That’s unfortunate, as I really was wanting a photo to immortalize my journey on the ‘150. Oh well.

Lessons Learned

CamelBak — The CamelBak was great, but there were enough liquid supplies along the route that I could’ve easily just made it on two water bottles between each stop. And, I think having the air moving over my back, and having less weight on the bike would’ve been a good move.

Bike Trunk — Again, more weight on the bike. However, this is where I keep my spare tube and where my fruit cups were being stored. Surprisingly, the trunk kept the fruit cold through the whole trip.

Fruit — Man, the fruit cups are a lifesaver! I’ve been doing those on the Katy, and as I found out this weekend, they were absolutely the right answer.

Tires — Next time, I’ll put on another set of rims with slick road tires. Everyone I talked with said I would be having an easier time if I had road slicks on the bike instead of hybrid tires. I’m gonna take that to heart, and see about getting some on the bike for the next road event I ride…. whenever that is!

Hills, hills, hills