Thursday, September 18, 2014

JBLM...Legally!

Thanks to my friend, Brian, I now have my JBLM Access Permit! This morning, after making the required call to find out which areas were open, and then leaving my permit number, where I was going, and when, I headed out on Mama Cass.

To back up a bit, let me explain this whole Access Permit thing. To get the Permit, you must go to Range Control on the Main Post. You give them photo ID, and your phone number. They give you a pink card to carry, and one for your vehicle should you want to park on JBLM. When you get the permit, which is good for two years, they also give you a brochure which tells what you need to do prior to going on post. It has a map that shows all the areas. What you must do before going, is call the number listed in the brochure to first find out which areas are open, then leave the info I mentioned above. The areas closest to me are 19, 20, 21, 22, and 23. Area 23 is the closest of these. 

Today, only 20 and 21, of the areas within riding distance from home, were open. The map in the brochure is not very precise. As best I could tell, Area 20 could be accessed from the end of Johnson Rd. I've been that way a couple of times, so I knew where it was. Here's the tricky part. There are no signs out there telling you which area you are entering, or are in. Since the map has very few reference points, it's very easy to accidentally cross into a closed area--in today's case, Area 22. However, when I was looking on a website, it listed Area 22 being closed due to an endangered species of butterfly having been found there. So...I knew, if I accidentally crossed into 22, I was not likely going to run into any troops on maneuvers! But, also, how do the butterflies know not to cross into Area 20???

Anyway, I think I remained in Areas 20 and 21--at least until toward the end of the ride. I had done some looping around, and ended up back on a road I'd already been on. The second time, however, I turned, at an intersection, in the opposite direction as the first time. Since I knew where the other direction came out, I thought I knew where this way would go too. Turns out, not really. I thought I would come out on Rainier Rd near Spurgeon Creek Rd., which is Area 22...I think.

I started seeing signs for "tree falling", but I didn't hear any chainsaws or machinery, so I kept going. I came down a steep hill, and found myself in the middle of a logging area. I stopped to listen. Sure enough, I could hear a chainsaw, and the cracking sound of a tree falling. I turned around and went back up the hill. 

When I got back up the hill, I could see a house. There was an overgrown road that I attempted to ride that went behind that house and a couple of others. When it became too overgrown, I turned around and went back to the first house. There was a bit of a path that lead into the yard of the house. I knew there must be a road that led to the house. I walked MC along the edge of the yard (I don't think anyone was home) to the driveway. The road ended up being Tucker Ave., which becomes Meridian. Meridian is not far from Johnson Rd, where I went onto JBLM! That is, of course, nowhere near Rainier Rd!

Anyway, it was just over 37 miles by the time I got home. Did I see any military personnel that I could proudly show my pink card to? No, of course not. I did see a guy out on the prairie training his four lab pups--two black, two chocolate. They were 5 and 8 months old. One was not quite so obedient yet, as she followed me for awhile, even though her owner was madly blowing a whistle!

Sorry for there being no photos. Just not much to photograph. Maybe if I'd seen one of those endangered butterflies...

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Busted!

"No sir, I'm not military. No, I do not have an Access Permit." Alas, until I find a way to get said Access Permit, my JBLM dirt riding days are over.

I decided since it was Sunday of Labor Day Weekend, Mama Cass and I would do some exploring on the dirt and gravel roads of JBLM. Brian, Melody, and I had been out last Wednesday, and I wanted to go back and do some roads we hadn't done. 

I went back in off Rainier Rd. where we had come out on Wednesday. Going that way avoids one of the really steep hills along the pipeline that, even with MC, I have to walk. This way intersects with the pipeline road. Having done the pipeline a few times, this time I continued straight. I had an idea where it would come out (I was almost right). 

The road was a decent double-track that gradually climbed somewhat parallel to the pipeline road, but further west. Even though a couple of sections were fairly steep, the rocks weren't too loose, and MC just motored on up. It was much more wooded than the pipeline road, and quite peaceful. 

After coming down one hill, I encountered a big tree down across the road. Someone had unsuccessfully tried to chop it with an ax (this tree would require a chainsaw). I picked up MC and hefted her over the tree. Then I hauled myself over and continued riding. I climbed again and came out to a nice vista through the trees.
When I got home and looked at the Strava map, I could see I was looking down in the area of Offut Lake (couldn't see the lake from where I was).

From the nice vista, the road went down.
It was pretty steep and rocky, so I did brake quite abit, but still less than if I'd been on Stella.

As I came to an intersection, I could hear a vehicle coming. I pulled over to let it pass...except it didn't. Dang! It was the Military Police. Two boys got out and asked me if I was Military. When I said no, they asked if I had an Access Permit. Nope, didn't have one of those either. Then they asked for ID. I didn't have my Driver's License with me, but I had my USA Cycling license, and my AAA card. They asked where I had come in. I told them. They asked me again. I told them, again. They asked if I had seen the "No Tresspassing" sign. Well, of course I had seen the sign! I said I had, but I had ridden there before. They asked where I had parked. I said I didn't; I rode from home. Then, of course, they wanted to know where home was, so I told them. They asked me again which direction I had come from. Apparently, they were following bike tracks, but they weren't mine. They asked if I'd seen anyone else (I hadn't). They also asked me if the tree was still down (I said it was). They also admired Mama Cass. The one officer even asked me (if I didn't mind) how much she cost. 

I gave them all my info. They didn't seem to care about looking at my "ID". They said I could get an Access Permit that would be good for two years. I knew about the permit, but I thought it was only good for the day you were there, which wouldn't do me much good, because I'd have to go get the permit on Post, and then the day would be over. 

They only gave me a warning, but now I'm in the "System", so if I get caught again without an Access Permit, I will be arrested. So...I guess I'll see about getting me one of those Access Permits!

They did allow me to ride out to Rainier Rd. The road I was on brought me back to the pipeline (if I had been able to continue my exploration, I could have come out to another part that I have been on). I could have (was supposed to) continued straight out to Rainier Rd. However, I opted to ride the pipeline road back to where I had crossed it. I wanted to ride as much on the dirt and gravel as possible. I figured if the military boys found me again, I'd just tell them I knew the pipeline would get me back to where I had come in. 

I had hoped to do more exploring, but I don't think it's wise to mess with the Military Police! 

The total ride was only 18 miles. The JBLM part was probably only about 10 of those miles.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Putting Mama Cass to the Test...

...And finding her worthy.

Derik posted an impromptu gravel ride last night for today, Sunday. I thought, "Heck yeah! I wanna go!" The meeting time was 9:00 at McLane Elem. That's about 10 miles from my house. I got up at 6:30, and left the house at 7:45. Could have slept until 7:00, and left at 8:00. Mama Cass moves faster than you think (or, at least, I thought).

I had no idea, besides Derik, who was coming. Turned out it was just Derik, DJ, Trisha, and I. I was fine with that, as I really like riding with all three of them (and they never get impatient with my slowness). I hadn't seen Trisha since the Minot Peak ride (aka Minot Make It). It was great to ride with her again. Sergio caught up to us partway through, but turned around later on.

We did the route that a bunch of us had done in early Spring. The one where it rained, and we cut it short because we were all freezing. The one where I was scared to death coming down in the rain and mud. The one where I did a lot of walking because the ups were so steep.

Today was a different story--TOTALLY different story! First of all, the first climb that I walked up most of the way last time? Yeah, I rode that sucker all the way to the top! Still wheezing like a donkey, BUT NO WALKING! 

At the top of that first climb, Derik let a bunch of air out of MC's tires. That was better for the rest of the ride. We did a bit of downhill, then more climbing. This time, we went all the way to the top of Rock Candy Mountain.
Rock Candy Summit. Most excellent view!

Today's posse--Derik, DJ, and Trisha.

Coming down was a blast! I was still a little scared, but I was going about 5 times faster than on Stella. The others still are more fearless and faster than me. DJ has no fear whatsoever! There was a couple of times where I thought he was gonna die, and we would have to somehow transport his lifeless body the rest of the way down the mountain! Fortunately, that didn't happen. However, Derik did get a flat, which allowed me to catch up (even though they always wait for me).

We came down the long 7 mile descent, and came to a spot where the bridge was gone. We had to walk across a log that spanned a small stream. DJ was kind enough to take MC for me (it was enough of a challenge for me to just walk myself across the log). Then, we found some thimble berries and blackberries, and ate a handful or two.

This time, after a short bit on the road, we took the road we had wanted to take last time (I think B9000). It was more climbing. Trisha and I commented that we could tell we were getting tired. She loses her form, and me, having no form to start with, just go slower. DJ and Derik were watching for a trail we would take to come out at Alpine Dr. WAIT...trail? As in singletrack? For real mountain biking? YIKES!!! 

Yes, I even did a bit of singletrack! It had its fun moments, and its terrifying moments. I kept up a running commentary through the terrifying moments telling myself it was okay with an occasional (maybe more than "occasional"), "OH CRAP!" I managed to survive my first mountain biking experience. I might even do it again!

The rest of the ride was on the pavement. I left the Posse at 62nd to ride home. Oh, and Trisha was giving me some pointers on how to ride the descents fast, yet safely. I tried it, and it was better (still not so fast in the corners). I will soak up any wisdom they want to share with me!

Total miles for me from home to home: 54

Mama Cass is definately a worthy steed for the gravel rides. It was really fun!



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

There's a New Horse in Town!

Yep, pulled the trigger on this bad girl today!

In keeping with tradition that all my bikes are female, I'd like to introduce Mama Cass! She is a Surly ECR. This is Surly's Off-Road Touring machine. I've had my eye on this baby for awhile now. It's been my plan to get the ECR to do Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route, and more importantly, the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.

Besides all her cage bosses, and awesome gearing, here's a couple of photos of her cool Jones H-bar and 3" fat tires.
Check out the huge amount of real estate on this bar!

Ready for anything the Divide can dish out!

So, the Divide ride is not until Sept. 2016, and Idaho won't be until next summer, but MC will be pretty great on some gravel rides here. Will I be able to keep up with the others now? Not likely, but I'll sure have more fun trying!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Going Home

Christian and I were up at 5:30 this morning. I put the last pannier into the Chinese Shopping Bag, and we were out the door before 6:30. At the airport, I was sad to say goodbye to Christian, as I don't know when I'll see him next. Of course, we'll keep in touch, but it's not quite the same.

I had no problems checking my bag and Betsy. I was perilously close to the weight limit with the combined weight being 45kg (limit being 46). It's a good thing I sent the first bunch of souvenirs home! This time I didn't have to weigh my carry-on. 

Passport control was not open yet. I had to wait about 30 minutes. After going through it, and going to Gate C4, Security was not open. It's interesting at Frankfurt Airport. There is individual Security for each Gate. My flight was at 10:15. At Baggage Drop, I was told the plane would begin boarding at 9:00. Well, Security didn't even open until almost 9:00! I was not the only American curious about this. A long line began to form before Security opened. I just sat until they opened, then stepped into the line from where I was. 

After Security, I handed my Boarding Pass to an airline employee (who tore off the half). Then went to the waiting area. So, when it came time to finally board the plane, I just showed my stub and walked on the plane. We took off about 20 minutes late.

It was strange to look at the map on the screen in front of my seat and see my route! I think it's going to take some time to process the idea that I rode 3786 miles through 10 countries (counting Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and England as separate countries) in 79 days!

I noticed yesterday, as I was packing Betsy, I can see the blue of the Kevlar on the rear tire. Still, I did not get a single flat! Schwalbe Tires are awesome!

It's difficult to sit for such a long time on a plane after spending day after day riding and being outside all day and night. At least I have an aisle seat and can get up now and then.

Later...I'm home! Dillon and Connor came to the airport to pick up Betsy and I. Souvenirs have been distributed, a shower taken, first batch of laundry done, and now...bed.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Day 76--Barfing on My Last Day

At least I didn't have to ride my bike!

This morning I packed Betsy into her suitcase. For the first time, I was able to close the lid on the first try! Afterward, Christian and I walked to the Supermarkt to get some things for the party tonight. On the way back, we stopped at Pizza Boy and got some lunch to bring back to Christian's apartment. I got cheese and spinach "panini". It was 6 little 2-bite size rolls (think pizza rolls). They were tasty (on the way down, anyway).

Awhile after lunch, we went for a walk to the Old Brick Works. It's where they used to make bricks (duh...).
On the way.
Inside the brick works.
Now a bike repair place where people can come and learn to repair their bikes.

About the time we got to the brick place, my stomach started to feel funny. It quickly progressed to a feeling I am familiar with. I told Christian we needed to go back, I did not feel well. We had about the same distance back as we had come, but it sure seemed longer. As soon as we got back to Christian's apartment (I made it to the toilet), I was sick. The lunch, clearly, didn't agree with me! 

Once I had gotten rid of the contents of my stomach, I took Benedryl and Zantac. I laid down for awhile. After about an hour, I felt better. I'm just glad I was never sick like that while I was still touring! It's another good reason to eat food I buy in the Supermarkt. 

Four of Christian's friends came over in the evening. Karin, Hinnerk, Andrea, and Maria. It was a nice evening. We watched a slide show of Christian's photos of our part together. It brought back great memories.
Maria, Christian, Hinnerk, Karin, and Andrea

I'm waiting now to be able to check-in for my flight tomorrow and choose my seat. I can only do it within 12 hours of my flight if I don't want to pay to choose my seat.

Tomorrow I leave Germany at 10:15, and arrive home at noon. Somehow I think it will seem like much more than 2 hours and 45 minutes (the flight is actually 10 hours and 45 minutes)!

Betsy all packed up!




Monday, August 4, 2014

Day 75--Full Circle, or...

...I Don't Believe It!

Last night we spent the evening watching the ships going up and down the river. At Loreley Rock, the river makes a sharp bend. It was interesting to watch the ships negotiate the turn. There were these signals. We tried to guess what they meant. The slash marks would change. I was thinking, maybe it was a signal to the ship about when to start the turn depending on the length. Or, maybe it told if there was another ship coming. Anyway, it was interesting to watch.
I took this this morning as we rode by.

One of the really big ones getting ready to make the turn. Another ship was right behind this one, and a smaller one was coming around the bend at the same time. I did a little video. It was pretty crazy watching them!

So, this morning...I used up the last of the fuel. Actually, timed that perfectly! The fuel ran out just after the water started to boil. 

We left Loreleyblick Campingplatz just before 8:00. It's Monday morning, so not so many cyclists. For most of the morning the only cyclists were other touring cyclists. 

It was a day of more castles. This time there were some on this side of the river.

This one is now a Youth Hostel.

We went by this church-looking place that was not a church, but was a place for collecting the tolls from the ships.
You can go there by ferry from the other side of the river. Speaking of ferries, there are no bridges between Koblenz and Mainz (there used to be one in Bingen, but it was destroyed in the war), but there are several ferries. Some people want a bridge to be built, but then this area of the Rhein would lose it's UNESCO World Heritage Site status. I think those in the tourism industry would be against a bridge.

We stopped in Bacharach for an early snack time at a B├Ąckerei. It was a nice village.
Pretty quiet...

Next we came to the Maustaum (Mouse Tower). There is a legend that the Bishop from Mainz had so much money, but the people had nothing--no food, no way to be warm. He put the people in a barn and set it on fire (said they would be warm now). Then, he escaped by ship to the tower. But, mice managed to get to the tower, get in, killed him and then ate him. Really, the tower was built, again, to get the tolls from the ships.
Under renovation.

After the Mouse Tower, we rode through a garden park that had a sign that said "No Bicycles". I told Christian, but he said we go anyway. About halfway through, we got caught. A man said no cycling. As Christian stopped, he didn't get unclipped from his pedal fast enough and tipped over. He said if the man had not been there, it wouldn't have happened. I said, if we had not been there, it wouldn't have happened! Karma comes round to bite you sometimes!

After our "walk" through the rest of the park, we came back to the route. It went separately from the street, but did a roller coaster ride up and down, whereas the street stayed flat. At the advice of some other people riding, we stayed on the street.

We passed this place with a strange collection of balloon type balls stuck to the side.

We came to a place where a gravel road went to the left, and the paved route went right. Christian wanted to go left. The man who had told us to stay on the street, said we should go right. Him and Christian had a conversation in German. We went left. It was shorter, and stayed near the river, but it was also muddy, and at times, a narrow trail. Not my favorite...

We came back to the route. Christian wanted to stop at his favorite lunch place. I still had some peanut butter, honey, and a bagel to eat, but I had a lemonade made in Hamburg. I was going to have some ice cream, but they didn't have it ready...their loss.

As we were leaving the Biergarten, a lady came over to me and asked me something in German. I said I didn't understand, and she switched to English. She asked about my trip. I told her I started in Mainz 2 1/2 months ago. Then I told her where I went. She asked if I was alone. I told her from Oslo, until I returned to Germany. She said, "I don't believe it!" She thought it was wonderful. I asked her name. It was Margot. She was at the restaurant with her 93 year old father. She was so nice! I waved as we passed her and her dad. When Christian asked me what she had said, I told him she didn't believe I had gone all that way alone. I also told him there are moments I don't believe it! 

Just 19km to go!

We rode into Mainz, and rode along the river to a point where we could see where we had crossed the Rhein to go along the River Main and the Main Radweg. 
On May 22nd, I crossed that bridge.

We arrived at Christian's at 1:15. His neighbor took a photo for us.
I have come full circle! 

Tomorrow I will pack everything up...Betsy goes back into the suitcase. Then we will see what we will do with the rest of the day. In the evening some of Christian's friends will come for a "Welcome back/Goodbye" party. Then, I'm off to the airport Wednesday morning.

Here's a parting shot for today. This ship is the Starlight. We saw it this morning, and we saw it here in Mainz!