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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Climbing in Italy

I have the new trainer; there's still some time. Now, if I can just use them both. It certainly is not like getting the bike out on the open road, but the Tour de France trainer does provide a challenging workout with some interesting features to keep my mind occupied. Speaking of the bike, such as we were, it is all dressed up and ready for the party in southern Italy. Here it is, fresh from the shop at River Trail Cycles where Dan worked his magic, getting it tuned, cleaned and dressed up in new tires and handlebar tape:

Being personally neither tuned nor dressed up, I'm not showing a picture of myself. Just in case you were wondering.

As for the training, I took on Stelvio Pass, a seven mile climb through 48 switchbacks as my first ride of the evening. The connection to Google maps is up and running, so I can share some of the ride with you. Here's one of the switchbacks on the early part of the climb, this view taken looking back down the road from where I had come.

A little later, I encounter this, not something you really want to see when you are riding up the side of a mountain.

Amazingly enough, I rode on without incident. A bit further on and I've gained some significant altitude, although the ride has not yet gotten me above the tree line.

Later, now well above the tree line, I approach another cyclist.

As is so often the case when I am climbing, I quickly overtake him and leave him behind.

With less than a mile to go, you can look up at this inviting scene:

I don't know about you, but that looks like a seriously bad stretch of climbing. But, I push on and am finally rewarded with this welcome at the top:

And there you have it, an early evening ride in the Italian Alps. No problems with traffic, weather or hoses across the road. It was, all-in-all, a fun ride.

Now, in case you have forgotten, this is a ride taken on the trainer in my basement. The pictures are screen shots from my iPad, showing parts of the Google Maps Street View images displayed as I rode. Not real. And there just MAY be one or two other elements in the post that you might want to take with a grain of salt. You know, because I might have exaggerated my riding prowess. A little. OK, a lot. But it was an imaginary ride so to speak, so I suppose I can bestow upon myself some imaginary climbing skills.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Faux Miles a Day

That's my training program. Faux miles. Just like last winter and the winter before that, riding a trainer in the basement. But ride I must, if I hope to be able to make it through the Southern Italy tour (a REAL ride) that is now just a bit more than a month away.

As revealed in my last post, the faux miles I am riding now are more of a challenge and I get to see so much more than the selection of NCAA basketball games and Law and Order reruns that I have used as distractions to the dullness of stationary riding, oxymoron that it is.

The trainer is in touch with the the iFit Live web site and that, my friends, has opened up a new world of basement-bound bicycling. Today I was able to start of with one of my old standby rides, a trip up Bliss Road followed by a drop down County FO so that I could climb County OA and return home. I plotted the route using Google Maps and saved it as a training ride in my account. When I started pedaling, my iPad, which is sitting on the trainer, lit up, showing me the Google Street View as I rode through the neighborhoods between here and the start of the Bliss climb. Just up the climb, I found that there was no street view option, so I watched myself from the bird's eye view provided. When I reached Highway 33, the street view tok over again. Here is what the setup looked like at that point:

"Riding" along highway 33 east of La Crosse.

As I follow the route, the trainer increases and decreases the resistance automatically to simulate the climbs and descents and further adjusts when I change gears. It's about as much of a real ride simulation as I might expect for a bike that goes nowhere.

There is the added benefit of being totally unrealistic in allowing ride routes. After I finished the Bliss, OA ride, I popped over to Switzerland and climbed Grimsel Pass from Gletsch to the top. Alas, there was no street view, but it was a good climb. Here is the view from the saddle:

Going up Grimsel Pass.

Here's what the pass really looks like:

I have done this ride in real life. I think it was harder and the view was a lot better when I was really there on my Trek. Still, it was a good top-off to the day's workout. Tomorrow I plan to ride a couple of segments (not full stages) from the Tour de France, these being provided in a workout planned by Jillian Michaels, so I am informed by the iFit website. I am not aware of her having any any Tour de France experience, but the segments do follow routes where Street View is available and that's good enough for me. Then, to finish off the ride, I plan to swing over to Italy to climb Stelvio pass; I've already checked the route I mapped and I should be able to see the road and surroundings on my iPad as I climb.

Riding that provides a workout is what I am after, of course. But, with all of this continent hopping, I can also feel the faux flyer miles building up. Win, win, so it seems.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Bedbugs???? But sure enough, one of you figured it out. So, I might as well finish the reveal.

As noted in this picture, new acquisition was just a bit bigger than a breadbox:
Opening the box, I found the contents to be VERY well packed. The instructions actually showed said contents rising out of the top of the container. The reality is that this thing weighs in at over 100 pounds and it did not take me long to see that there was going to have to be a plan B. Such as, rip open the side of the box to gain access to the contents.Assembly was really pretty easy and even though I am an engineer, it all came together without a hitch. Here is the final product:

Of course, I have been pedaling indoors on a trainer set up to support my own bicycle. But now, I've graduated to this Pro-Form Tour de France simulator. It uses variable magnetic resistance controlled by a computer system that is connected to the world (well, a piece of it, in an e-sense anyway) via my in-home wireless network. And, it is "iPod Compatible." What else could you ask for?

There are Tour de France segments loaded that you can ride while the "bike" tilts up on climbs and down on descents with pedaling resistance changing as appropriate. I can follow progress on a map or a route profile on the small screen. With the promise of, for the price of an additional attachment, even being able to view the route in real time via Google Earth 3D. And, once I get everything set up on the internet, I'll be able to chart my own rides using Google maps.

Snow? Cold? Dark? Not a problem. I just hope I remember I'm in the basement when it comes time for a "rest" stop.