African Connection links are now in the sidebar to the right, just below the My Travel section.

Click here to see a La Crosse Tribune article about the mission in Uganda.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Out and About

Sled dogs love to run. It's in their blood, I suppose. As taxing as it must be to pull a large sled miles and miles across frozen tundra in sub-zero temperatures, just letting them see preparations for another ride underway sends them into a noisy frenzy of anticipation. I got to see this first hand during a cruise-tour of Alaska when we rode on the riverboat Discovery outside of Fairbanks. We stopped at Trail Breaker Kennels where Susan Butcher, the late four-time Iditarod champion, lived and trained her dogsled teams. They rolled out a stripped-down four-wheeled ATV used as a training sled when there was no snow and the dogs in the yard went absolutely ballistic. As wild as the Canadian ice hockey team was when they won the Olympic gold just a few minutes ago, they could clearly use lessons in showing excitement from these dogs. It's great to see someone, even dogs, who get such pure pleasure out of doing what they love.

It's not quite like that with me and my biking, but I have to say it was with no little anticipation that I took the Bianchi down from its place on the wall in the garage and got it ready for the first ride of the season. The sun was out and, depending on which bank display you believed, the temperature was either 38 or 42 degrees. It didn't much matter, though, as either of these are easily above the do-not-ride minimum.

I did have to re-learn the process of getting dressed for cold-weather riding. This and a frustrating session with my floor pump delayed my departure for bit. And, truth be told, if there was a video of the experience, I wouldn't let you see it. There isn't. So don't ask. Anyway, I finally got myself and the bike ready and after negotiating the lake at the end of the driveway, I was on my way.

It wasn't one of those big rides, the kind you get after you are in shape and have all of a warm summer day in which to ride. But it was outdoors. And the weather was OK. And the roads were decent. Up to the Ebner Coulee dead end as a warm up then a climb up Bliss Road. The Bianchi was overhauled while I was in Africa and had been waiting for this for more than a month. It was in good form, better than me, but together we made it a good climb. On to the end of County FA then back around to County F to the intersection with Highway 33. On the way back, a brief detour down FA again, this time just to the weather station and back, preceded the descent, one taken carefully in consideration of the sand and wet spots. A 21.5 mile afternoon ride with a bit over 1,500 feet of climbing. It felt good. Really good.

I'll probably not ever put on a display such as the sled dogs in Alaska, but it is exciting to think about getting out and about on a more regular basis.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

This Year's Tour...

It's time to announce my plans for the 2010 bike tour. Cycle America is running the Coast-to-Coast tour again after a few years off. Having done the first leg, the Northwest Sampler ride from Seattle, Washington to Missoula, Missouri, the logical next step is to pick up in Missoula and ride the Mission: Montana leg, ending up in Jackson, Wyoming. And, being logical as I am, that's the plan.

That WAS the plan. In the last week, I've been working on my journal from the mission trip to Uganda. Something I'll be sharing eventually on the UjumbeUganda blog, along with contributions from others on the trip. The last chapter of the journal is actually a collection of thoughts on the issue of what I can do. In this, I concluded that I'm often not so much limited by ability as by will. It's not "What can I do?" but, "What WILL I do?"

The few tours I've taken have shown me that this is often the choice in cycling. Taking that first tour in the Pacific Northwest, going over Trail Ridge Road in Colorado and riding up to Bergun, Switzerland taught me that I can do these things. But, and you'll have to trust me on this, I first had to decide that I WOULD do them. And that, dear reader, was the hard part.

It was challenging to think about this in relation to the experiences in Uganda. Challenging to write about. And, as I noted in the meditation that closes my journal, I do love a challenge. So, I have decided to not ride Mission: Montana. Instead, it is off to Africa. My plan ~ take the money that I would have spent on the tour fees, airfare, shipping my bike and other expenses and put it towards the work in Uganda instead. I can do this. Easily, if truth be known. But I had to decide that I WOULD do it. So I'm telling you. I will do it. And you'll hold me to it, right? Thanks.

I'm thinking that I'll take a couple of days around the 4th of July, when the Cycle America tour ends in Jackson, and do some long rides around here. Maybe even spend a night or two on the road; I'll choose the motel option for sure. I'm looking forward to it already. It will be a different type of challenge, but there has been this idea of a Trapist Brewery Tour of Belgium. This summer looks to be a good time for a dry run in the beautiful hills and valleys of western Wisconsin.

Of course, I'll continue training. And writing about the training. And, when the time comes, about the tour, too.