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, December 25, 2011

Getting It...

My first thought when I got up this morning was that it doesn't seem a lot like Christmas here on the island of Kauai. But, reflecting a bit, I realized what I was reacting to wasn't really Christmas, was it? So, Mele Kalikima, Froehliche Weihnachten, Joyeux Noel, Feliz Navidad, Kuwa na Krismasi njema - wherever you are, have a very Merry and Blessed Christmas!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Producing Results

"Productivity" gets a lot of attention these days. Simply stated, productivity is how much we make with what we have. A business might look at total sales per employee, for example. The higher the result, the more productive the business.

As with most things deemed important to business, there has been a lot of research into this in recent years. However, the seminal work on this subject was carried out some time ago by two young graduate students, Phineas Taylor Barnum and James Anthony Bailey, at the Ralph Flugelschnauzer Institue of Industrial Engineering and Entomology. While Barnum and Bailey went on to éclat in a related field, they are certainly best known for their insights into maximizing worker productivity.

Working in the Institute's Department of Flea Physiology and Psychology, they hit upon the idea of measuring how much each of a flea's legs contributes to the altitude achieved when it jumps. Previous work with a group of ten fleas showed that 2 inches was the normal jump height; additionally, it was observed that each of the ten fleas would, when they decided to jump, reach almost exactly this same level. So, Barnum and Bailey selected one of the fleas at random for their experiment, noting that the standard productivity of the fleas' legs, or their "leaping assets" as they called them, was 0.33 inches per leg, this being simply the result of dividing the assets' output - a 2 inch leap - by 6, the number of legs on the standard issue flea.

The experiment started with training the flea to jump on command. This took several days, as they took their candidate aside and repeatedly said, "JUMP!" while giving it a gentle nudge. When the flea was able to respond to the command every time, they began their work. They had the flea jump and measured the result. Not surprisingly, the flea jumped 2 inches, verifying the previously observed productivity rate of 0.33.

Since productivity is a ratio, it can be improved if the numerator is increased or the denominator is decreased. The researchers felt that it would be too much trouble to improve on the fleas's basic leaping abilities, so they decided to work on the latter by removing one of the flea's legs. They then issued the command, "JUMP!" Not surprisingly, with 5 legs the jump was a bit less, 1.9 inches to be exact. But this works out to a productivity ratio of 0.38, a significant improvement!

Their excitement could hardly be contained as they went on to the next step in the experiment: removing another of the flea's legs. "JUMP!" they commanded and the flea responded by achieving an altitude of 1.7 inches. Hardly paying attention to this decline in output, they hurriedly ran the numbers through their spreadsheet and found that the flea, now 4 legged, had become even more productive with the ratio soaring to a level of 0.43!

So it went. With 3 legs, the flea's output dropped to 1.4 inches with productivity rising to 0.47; at two legs, the jump was 1 inch, leading to a productivity ratio of 0.50.

This was just about too much for the excited researchers to bear. They were on the verge of discovering a plan that would revolutionize business in the years to come. With baited breath they commanded the now 1 legged flea to "JUMP!" The resulting leap of 0.55 inches brought the productivity to the unprecedented level of 0.55 inches per leg. So surprised were they at this result that they commanded the flea to jump again, this time measuring a leap of 0.54 inches. Once more and the flea leapt 0.53 inches and again for 0.51 inches. Clearly they had some noise in their measurements, but they were so close to achieving the ultimate in productivity that they decided they needed to press on and so removed the last of the flea's legs.

"JUMP!" they commanded. But the flea just lay there. "JUMP!" Nothing. They tried again, "JUMP!!!!" But there was no movement at all. Still, they entered their measurements, such as they were: 0 inches with 0 legs. The answer that came back was #DIV/0!

Not being able to process data from the last phase of their experimental program, they eliminated the results from the study and went on to write their final treatise on productivity, How Cutting the Legs out from Under Your Organization Can Improve Tomorrow's Numbers.

It should be noted that, in accordance with the interdisciplinary nature of the Flugelschnauzer Institute, the researchers also included a contribution to the field of flea physiology. Their conclusion? "When a flea loses all of it's legs, it becomes deaf."

But there is more to the story, although it has not heretofore been revealed. As Barnum and Bailey were running their experiments, the janitor building maintenance engineer would come through the lab and observe the goings on. He noticed that every time the scientists said "JUMP!" the nine other fleas not part of the experiment would also leap into the air. As the experiment wore on, they got plenty of excercise and began to jump higher and higher. When the final report was written and released, things got quiet in the lab and the maintenance engineer decided to try his own experiment. He got out the standard scale that was used to measure the flea's jumps in the primary experiment and shouted out, "JUMP!" Nine fleas accommodated him, each leaping into the air a distance of 3.4 inches. Not only was the output more than had ever before been observed, the average productivity of the fleas with their full compliment of legs was a staggering 0.57 inches per leg. Go figure.

Productivity is also important where I work and, of course, I am eager to contribute. Recently I've been busy upgrading one of my computer programs for use in new projects. This requires adding different features at the same time as the program is being used for the work at hand. Several times in the last few weeks, I've started the day dealing with programming conundrums, struggling through arcane code and various other obstacles. But, as it happens, I've had breakthroughs of sorts in the afternoons and have been able to leave work feeling pretty good about the progress.

As I look at the data associated with these events, I notice that the problems all seem to crop up in the morning and persist through to the early afternoon. Then, in fairly short order, things turn around and the issues get resolved.

How does this play into my own personal productivity? Well, as I've noted, the hours from 7:00 a.m. to about 3:00 p.m. are generally problem-laden. On the other hand, things go swimmingly from 3:00 to 5:00. My conclusion? Stay away from the office until 3:00, then put in two good hours and go home. The way I see it, my productivity would increase by at least a factor of 4. The logic MAY be flawed, but I am willing to run the experiment. Just in case.

Any similarity between the reports in this post and actual institutions, current or defunct, is not exactly unintended. But it is all in good fun.

And, I can personally verify that no actual fleas were harmed in the creation of this post.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Numbering My Days

An engineer thinks that his equations are an approximation of reality.
A physicist thinks reality is an approximation of his equations.
A mathematician doesn't care.

Meaning, of course, that physicists are arrogant while we engineers are a humble, hard working lot. And the mathematicians? They just like playing with numbers.

I can identify with that, as I use a lot of math in my day-to-day work. And while I find it a challenge to represent the mysteries of the little bit of our world that I work on in the language of math, I'm not into mystical side of numbers - numerology. I have no lucky numbers and don’t attribute goings on around me to alignment of digits in a particular sequence.

Of course, as with any good rule, there is an exception. So I guess it is time to lay it all out and explain some things I know you are all waiting to have explained. You may have noticed that my online identity (in some instances) contains the digits "63." That, I must admit, was not a random assignment by AOL, but rather, a conscious decision on my part. You see, 63 does, if nothing else, bring back a cartload of memories for me.

It started in high school. While a sophomore, I went out for the football team and was given jersey number 63, one I wore for three years. Here is proof that this was actually the case:

OK. Any more snickering and you'll have to leave. Anyway, you might imagine that a guy in high school would get attached to his football number. And you'd be right, up to a point. But it was more than that. During my years as a Ramblin' Wreck at Georgia Tech, the military draft was cranked up and everyone was assigned a draft lottery number based on their birthday. And mine, September 20, was selected 63rd.

Sure, that was interesting. But it did not stop there. I graduated in 1970 and the Blueprint, Tech's yearbook, came out as Volume 63. See…

So this was enough to firmly plant the number 63 into my identity. And while I used it mostly in numbers I wanted to be easy to remember (no, it is not in my passwords, so you can stop trying), others saw maybe a bit more significance. Here is a gift I got one year from my mother…

In spite of my nonchalance over the coincidences, she was able to find "63" somewhere whenever we were together.

There you have it, I've come clean on numbers. And as you might imagine I see this year as nothing special. I don’t even know which was the 63rd day of the year. I did turn 63 in September, though and I still remember that!

But I'm thinking, if the Powerball jackpot hits $63 million before the end of the year, I might just have to go out and buy myself some tickets.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


No, it isn't a spelling error, as I am sure the epicureans amongst you already know. And, while I have a story or two about the better margaritas I've enjoyed over the years, this is all about the pizza. Oddly enough, my first margherita pizza experience was in London. Especially odd in that food in the UK is generally considered to be somewhat below the high standards of continental cuisine. It is a bit unfair, in my opinion, as it is hard to beat a good fish and chips with mushy peas, accompanied by a cold Magners cider.

But I digress, which I know you find unusual. So, getting back to pizzas...

A group of us attending the Compressors Conference at City University several years ago found ourselves looking for a place to eat after the evening social event arranged by conference organizers and sponsors. We settled on a cafe with tables on the quay along the south bank of the Thames where I decided to take a chance on the margherita pizza as it was something I had not heard of before. It was, I must say, a most pleasant surprise. The pizza is made on a very thin crust with only tomato sauce, olive oil and mozzerella cheese, garnished generously with fresh basil. It is a light, fresh taste, the antithesis of the deep dish Chicago style pizza; I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Snce that chance encounter in London, I have made it a point to sample the margherita pizza when I find one on the menu, and I have rarely been disappointed. The exception was a visit to Germany where I sampled them at two different restaurants and found them to be nothing whatsoever like the pizza with which I had become aquatinted.

Once again I know you think I've wandered away from the cycling stories that are, supposedly, the reason for this blog. But, as has been noted, "Not all who wander are lost" (J.R.R. Tolkien).

My wanderings have brought me to a cycling opportunity that promises to bring me to the heart of margherita pizza country. I have foregone bicycle tours in the last two years in favor of other endeavors. This year included mission trips to the Dominican Republic, Uganda and Kenya in addition to three visits with family in California and a business trip to London. While a return to Africa in 2012 is a possibility, my plans for travels in the "not a bike tour" category are considerably less ambitious. That leaves me with, you guessed it, a chance for a tour.

As luck would have it, Laurenz Gsell, the organizer and host of the marvellous 2008 Swiss tour, has offered a ride through southern Italy. In March. Remember, I live in Wisconsin, sometimes refered to as The Frozen Tundra. Whatever you might think of when you consider March, here it is still winter.The tour is around the Puglia region, the heel of the boot that is southeastern Italy. Here's the route map:

Naples is the official tour terminus. We take a bus to Matera to start the ride which includes two nights there and in the towns of Otranto, Gravina and Peschici, the last stop on the tour. There are also overnights in seven other towns, making for ten days of riding during which we'll cover about 550 miles and climb around 20,000 feet, much of this in the last few days from Gravina to Peschici. After a final day in Peschici, it is a bus to Naples and a flight home.

An article in USA Today paints Puglia as a wonderful destination, in spite of a name that sounds as if you might want to prepare yourself for something less. And it is this article that brings us back around to pizza:

...my last dinner in Puglia...a humble pizza margherita. This must be the only region in Italy where the tomato-and-mozzarella staple of generations of students and workers still only costs about $2.50.

Of course, I will have to do my own research into the quality of the margherita pizzas. There will be a report.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Old Books

There's this remark variously attributed to Harry Truman, David Henderhan and Anonymous. The quote appears in several forms as befitting, I suppose, the number of speakers it is attributed to, but it is more less like this: "If you want a new idea, read an old book." It's a great idea. Except, of course, when it gets in the way of progress. That would be MY progress, of course.

"How might this be?" you ask. Well, it started with the paper I wrote for the engineering conference I attended in London in September. I've done quite a few such papers in my career and, after some struggles early on, have figured out how to write the report and prepare the presentation for the allotted number of pages and time, respectively, in pretty short order. Having conquered this small challenge, I have decided to move on to something a bit more ambitious. My latest attempt was this last paper. You can see the title (this is where the challenge is, but we'll get to that later) on the first slide of my presentation:

So, what's my current mission regarding these reports? Just this: I am trying to see if I can put enough content into the title that I don’t actually have to write a paper to go with it. And you might think I've come pretty close to achieving this with my latest attempt. I'll have to say, I was feeling pretty good about it myself and thought one or two more stabs and I'll set some sort of new standard.

This is where the old book comes in. Wanting to be sure I was really setting the pace in this endeavor, I searched the internet for long titles, although I was pretty confident that my recent efforts would have me well up on my competition (it is fierce, let me tell you). So you can imagine my disappointment when I came across this contribution from Édouard Lagout, written in 1877:

Takimetry: concrete geometry in three lessons, accessible, inaccessible, incalculable. Fundamental takimetry: a resumé of conferences held in the primary schools in connection with the Ministries of Agriculture, Commerce, Public Instruction, Interior, Finance, War, Marine, taught in the industrial schools of Alais, Creusot, Lille and in the celebrated Ecole Trugot, Paris

I might as well hang it up as this one will be hard to top. Oh well, it will give me more time to concentrate on reading old books.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Just a Little Water, Please

It is a distinct privilege to be able to ride along the banks of the Father of Waters on my cycling outings. I see tows that move with the current, carrying coal or grain; but mostly what gets carried from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico is water. A lot of water. Exhaustive research (I Googled "Mississippi River flow rate") reveals that well over 1 million gallons per second flow along this stretch of the Mississippi. Let me repeat. One MILLION. GALLONS. Per SECOND.

Due to road construction on one of my usual routes, I have spent more time going south along the river. And on most rides, I am taken by the beauty of this part of the country. On many days there are blue skies over dark green trees, both then reflected in the blue-green-gray waters of the river. The other day I spied my first flock of dazzlingly white Tundra Swans. "Spectacular," I think as I travel on.

But I haven’t thought much about the sheer magnitude of what the river is actually DOING, carrying all of that water from Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico. Until the other day.

We have had glorious weather these last ten days or so and I have been able to get out on most of them. On Sunday afternoon, I was on my way out of town when my rear tire went flat. As I was in the process of replacing the tube, a lady rode up on one of those sturdy bikes with panniers over the rear wheels and a route sheet in a holder on the handlebars. She asked if she could help, but I was well into the fix and had what I needed to finish up and get back to the ride. I asked about her ride. Turns out it wasn't any big deal. She was only going as far as THE GULF OF MEXICO!

In early September, she and her husband had started out on the long ride from one end of the Mississippi to the other. They stopped in La Crosse, as they were originally from here. The stop ended up being about a week as her husband had had some health issues. Not terribly serious, but enough to knock him out of the ride and into the position of full time support.

As I finished up fixing my flat, she told me that she was carrying a small bottle with her on the trip. She had filled it with water from Lake Itasca, the source of the Mississippi, and planned to pour it out in the Gulf of Mexico. And that is what impressed me. Not the ginormous amount of water that the river pushed south every day, but the little bottle that she would personally deliver to the Gulf.

Time and world events and life in general move along on a grand scale, sort of like draining the watershed west of the Rocky Mountains into the Gulf of Mexico. We can't match that. We can't compete with it. But as Edmund Burke said, "Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do little." I'm thinking, my bottle may be small and my pace may be slow. But I guess I should fill the thing up and get going.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Want to Go for a Ride?

There has been more riding than writing in the last month or so. But maybe only a little. However, today turned into one of those absolutely perfect days for riding. So why don’t you join me for a ride that will take us up Mohawk Valley Road and home along the Mississippi River.

You can see as we clip in at home that the day is cool (leg warmers and a single water bottle). What you can't see is that this is one of those truly rare days in the upper Midwest. There is little or no wind. Did you catch that? No. Wind. If for no other reason than this, it is a day to ride.

About four miles from home we are on Highway 35, out of town and heading south.

Just a couple of miles down the highway and we are at the turn off to begin the climb up Mohawk Valley Road.

There are three small hills to negotiate first; here we are, looking back down the first.

Continuing on, we are treated to views like this:

And soon, we are starting up the steeper part of the climb where sections reach grades of 14%.

At one point, we are left to ponder this situation:

Apples are not unusual in the area, but here on Mohawk Valley Road, there is not one apple tree. I'm thinking there is a story here. One of loss and regret that more care was not invested in securing the load in the rear of the pickup. Or something of a similar ilk.

Finally, the end of the climb – the intersection with Chipmunk Ridge Road – appears ahead. The grade eases up just a bit at first, a point were it is relatively easier to pause and look back down the hill.

But as a sort of farewell, the road rises steeply one more time before we gain the summit, such as it is.

Just past the high point, we come to the intersection with Proksch Coulee Road. Here, we will drop down a twisting descent.

Before we take on this challenge, however, let's ride on a ways and take in the view on the ridge. First, we can look down on the beginning of the descent. Riding a short distance farther provides a view back to the intersection. Next up, a stop to greet the crowd that has come out to check us out.

Then there is this. Worth the climb, to be sure.

Turning back we start down Proksch Coulee, pausing to greet one of the many cows in the area, this, apparently a fall blogging theme. Check out another encounter in this Redwoods and Running post.

It is an effort, but we are able to pull up on a slightly flatter section of the descent to capture this view of the road falling away. At a greater rate than it looks like here, I might add.

Coming out of the woods, we approach a farm where there are cattle of a slightly more exotic pedigree.

Having someone in a day-glo lime green vest stop and take their picture was not something this group appreciated apparently. I no sooner captured the image than the long-horned bull turned and trotted out of the barnyard, followed without hesitation by the remainder of the herd. They did not stop until reaching the safety of a a field a bit farther away and higher up.

There is another mile of gentle descending until we turn on Cedar Valley road for the short run to Stoddard. It is a nice, gently rolling road

with little more to offer than views like these:

Finally, we are back on the highway, now heading north along the river

and, at about 3 1/2 miles out, coming back into town.

So, there you have it. A wonderful 25 mile trip through the rural landscape south of La Crosse, just east of the Mississippi River. Not a bad place for a bike ride, eh?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Roadkill Connections

You are no doubt wondering how various rogue posts on issues not related to bicycling make it into The Long White Line blog. If so, have you considered that these posts may, in fact, be related, albeit in ways that are, perhaps, just a bit obscure? It's like that television show Connections that aired on one of those channels for smart people; I watch anyway, but don't tell! Every episode was a study in how some event in the distant past was directly related to something familiar to us today. One fairly obvious example was how Genghis Khan's invasion of eastern Europe is directly related to today's practice of airlines charging for checking a bag which subsequently they will most likely damage and/or lose. Others were considerably more obscure; if you'd like to see what sort of things were addressed in the show, check out the episode summaries here.

My last post was an introduction to my visit to Kenya in late July. I saw a bike or two there, and was even asked if I'd like to buy one that I was looking at while waiting outside the hardware store in Isiolo. And that might connect Africa and bicycling. But there is another, more interesting connection that I'll walk you through here.

It starts with my Bucket List, one I started several years ago. There were a few of what I am sure are standards for such lists. You know, like "Visit Hawaii" (on tap for later this year) and "Cross the Equator" (did that during the 2008 trip to Uganda). And some that are a bit less likely to happen such as "Fly in a Lockheed Constellation." After I started riding, I did update the list to include "Ride a century (100 miles)" (September, 2005) and a couple of other riding-related goals.

But as I thought about the whole idea of a bucket list, it occurred to me that if I was actually able to cross off each one of my 50 things, I might be the next to go, so to speak. Thus, I decided to add one thing to the list that I was sure would never happen, just for a little insurance. After giving this a lot of thought (at least three minutes), I decided to add "See a dead hyena on the side of the road." That would keep me around for years to come, I reasoned.

This brings us back to the trip to Kenya. During which, on the drive from Nairobi to Isiolo, I saw – you guessed it – a dead hyena on the side of the road. I just hate it when that happens. Sure, the hyena couldn't have been all that thrilled either, but in all honesty, I didn’t care a whole lot about that.

So what to do? I figured I should put renewed effort into my riding, this having been an off year so far. If I can get in better shape I might just stave off the threat of checking out due to having no more items on my bucket list. So I have been able to get in a few more challenging rides in the last week or so. This weekend, I managed to work in climbs up County MM, Hunder Coulee Road and Chipmunk Ridge Road (nee School Section Road). These are three of the more challenging climbs in the area and it felt good to have navigated them. Those rides brought my totals to 1,220 miles on the road with 52,640 feet of climbing. Well below where I was last year at this time and below my goals for the year. But, the pace has picked up and there are still a few months of riding left. It may turn out to be an OK year on the bike after all.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to add another item to my bucket list: "See a live opossum on the road." THAT should do it for sure!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Life's not all Daisies and Hot Dogs

This may not come as any great surprise, but I've seen that if you live in central Kenya, you lead a hard life. Papers and cable news networks have shown us the hardest of the hard in the drought-ravaged Horn of Africa. Isiolo, Kenya is not in the Horn of Africa, but it is in the same ZIP code. And life there and in the surrounding villages of Ola Nagele, Gambella, Shambani and Bulesa Dima is, by any standard, difficult.

As a sponsor of Ola Nagele, I had the chance to see some of these places firsthand during Global Hope Network International's 2011 summer visit to Kenya. It is a hard place. Below-average rainfall in an area that is already classified as semi-arid has rendered the ground a hard baked shell.

Save for the scattered acacia trees, plants are low and mean, bristling with spines meant to discourage anyone or anything looking for moisture. Everything, it seems, is toughened by the harshness of central Kenya.

That goes for the people, too. Bodies and spirits toughened in the dry heat. Battered, perhaps, but not beaten. And in these hard times, in need of a helping hand. These are the people who GHNI seeks out, offering to work with them on projects that will provide long term benefits to their villages; projects that mostly address the need for water, food, wellness, education and income.

It is important to note that what GHNI offers is "a helping hand up, not a hand out." The goal is for a village to achieve sustainability - continuing benefit without outside support - in each of these areas.

It is a great concept. It is not easy to pull off. It IS working.

Active support from the villages is a critical factor for success. It would be easy, I think, for the people there to be beaten down by the difficulties of life and just muddle along. But there is strength there. And joy and kindnesses shown to guests. Dancing and singing welcome us into each village. Meals are shared. Then we discuss the work, what has happened, what comes next. And when we leave, the villages set to work to make things just a little better.

As Priscila so poetically observed about central Kenya, "Life's not all daisies and hot dogs." It certainly isn't. But there are daisies coming up. And, if not ball park hot dogs, you will find a meal of goat or chicken, warmly offered in a village home.

It was a privilege to meet the people in "my" village of Ola Nagele (it's just me; and 99 other sponsors) as well as those in the other villages around Isiolo. The GHNI plan is a good one. And, even though there is the occasional bump in the road, it is working to provide meaningful, sustainable improvements in places where they are much needed.

Perhaps you'd like to help plant some daisies. If so, GHNI has plenty of seeds. Check out their Adopt a Village page for information on how you too can become a sponsor of a village in East Africa or elsewhere in the world and give your own personal hand up to someone.

In the coming days - or weeks, we'll have to see about the pace - I'll put up some more posts about the visit to Isiolo and the villages that are part of GHNI's Isiolo cluster.

Special thanks to Priscila who introduced me to the daisies and hot dogs description of life. Here she is with one of her many Kenyan friends.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Recovery Ride

Wow, it is now more than two weeks since my last ride. This has been a slow summer on the bike with totals in early August only 1,021 miles on the road and a meager 42,504 feet of climbing. But don't start feeling too bad for me - this pitiful showing is mostly a result of having committed time to several trips, the latest being my visit to Kenya with Global Hope Network International.

If I compare my riding to where I was last year at this time, I'm down about 1,000 miles. But it has been worth it. Kenya was eye-opening and the trip gave me yet another chance to consider what might be done to help others who, I am sure, would be glad to be able to have recreational riding time to give up.

Still, I am home, the weather is good and my bike clearly needs to get back on the road. What could I do, but take it out? So, I set out on a ride where I'll try to recover from the time off and the long trip. And I thought maybe you'd like to come along; you know, so you could work out some of the kinks yourself. So, let's get going:

After getting the tire pressures to the 100 psi mark, mounting the computers and loading the water bottles we are ready for an afternoon trip down the Mississippi River road to Stoddard.

It is an easy three miles through town to the highway and we are soon heading due south along the river. The road is fairly busy but the shoulder is wide and the wind, for the moment, is at our backs.

The road swings over to parallel the river about six miles out. Dark green foliage and blue sky frame the view of the Father of Waters. There is less traffic and it seems as if the two weeks off have not taken too much of a toll. Or maybe it's the 15 mph tail wind. In any event, we roll along, enjoying the view.

After passing through the small town of Stoddard, we approach the climb up County O. Here is where we find part of the crowd that has come out to watch us. They do not seem too impressed, though, and it seems best if we just keep going.

Now comes the climb, not one of the hardest in the area. The road goes up through the trees, providing a chance now and then to look down on the farm below or, over our shoulders, back to the river. The road goes up, sweeps to the right then back to the left.

Eventually lifts us to the high point from which we can see Stoddard and the river to the west and a sweep of Amish farms on the other side; it is a good place to get off the bike and loosen up for the descent.

Turning around, I see my favorite sign. This is a good descent, although about half-way down the pair of bends in the road need to be negotiate carefully. There is usually gravel on the road at the first and the second is steeper with a tighter turn. A Tour de France rider would have no trouble here, of course. But not because they are better riders than I am. No, they get to ride on closed roads that have been swept of debris. For us who REALLY ride, there are no such perks.

Things are different on the ride back. The wind is still blowing, but not in a helpful way. And while the road is the same, the views are different when heading north.

We ALMOST retrace our route, but the end of the ride does mean we'll have to eat, so there is one stop to make before going home.

And there you have it, a short 27 mile ride with only one climb. Not epic in any sense of the word, but a nice re-introduction to riding after a couple of weeks and a short jaunt to Kenya.