Archive for June, 2008

We’re Baaaack!

Monday, June 30th, 2008

548.66 miles later, we made it back to the car yesterday afternoon about 5:30, after fighting a 15-20 mph headwind the entire way from Manitowoc to Green Bay.  Cabell has started uploading pics, and we’ll be setting up a pool on Flickr with both of our pics in it.

I’ve lacked web access most of the trip, so I’ll be doing a day-by-day recap with photos after I get home.  Right now I’m at Cabell’s apartment in Madison, trying to blog while Izzy jumps on me, and waiting for it to be late enough to reasonably wake Cabell so we can go to breakfast.

Just a quick plug here — we’d never have made it without Patrick’s early morning rescue mission to swap my wheels and get me some new tires at the last possible minute.  Once again, Cape Bicycle comes through in a pinch.

Now officially over the top

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

So we got up Monday morning and went to a bike shop — Cycle Path in Menominee, where I had one burning desire: to get a new magnet for my bike computer.  When I switched the wheels, I forgot to move the magnet from the spokes of the front wheel, and without it the bike computer doesn’t know how fast or far you’re going.  So we got there right at opening time* and I walked in and asked if they had a replacement magnet for a Cateye computer.  The shop owner went back to look, saying “I’ve never thought about that, but it makes sense to stock them.”  He didn’t find one, so he took one out of a new computer box and charged me $3.  A deal, considering my computer is worthless without it.  Cabell also got some gloves — she forgot her new pink ones at home, sadly. 

We had an uneventful day riding from Menominee to Gladstone, except that there was a constant 10-15 mph headwind.  We were beat when we got to Gladstone.  And we weren’t sure where the hotel was.  I called them and asked, and they said we were on the right road, but when we got to 1226, there was no hotel.  I realized finally that we were on SOUTH Lakeside Drive, and the hotel was on NORTH… so we’re riding along, more or less sure we’re going the right way, and this red pickup truck pulls up next to us, the guy rolls down his window, and yells “It’s just about 3/4 of a mile up the road! We’re on the left!”

I did a double or triple take, and finally said “Thanks!” as he sped off.  We got to our hotel, and sure enough, there was the guy behind the desk.  He said “Well, after I got off the phone, I said ‘Crap! Those are the people coming in on bikes!’ And my wife said ‘Yeah, I just passed them down by the gas station.’ So I went out to check on you.”  Full service at the Shorewood Motel in Gladstone.  And btw, only a half-mile walk to a bar with burgers. 

The next day, Tuesday, was much easier riding, and we had lunch at Rosie’s Family Restaurant**, which has great food.  Homemade whole wheat toast, hashbrowns, and a huge omelet.  Yum.

Today we thought we’d get rained on, but the weather was actually very good.  We were well ahead of schedule as we passed the very top of Lake Michigan, and then Cabell had a flat.  I put a new tube in — she’d run over a big piece of wood, at least 1/8 inch thick, that went right through the tire.  I lined the tire with a piece of PowerBar wrapper.  But when she got back on, the brakes rubbed, as the wheel was now out of true.  Fortunately, it was only 6 miles to St. Ignace, our stop for the day, so I adjusted her brakes really loose so they wouldn’t rub, and away we went. ***

In St. Ignace we went to Marlee’s Cruisers, the only bike shop in town — with some trepidation, as the name doesn’t suggest our bikes — but the guys were very helpful, and stocked tires and tubes the right size, trued the wheel, and adjusted the brakes perfectly. 

Now we need to eat and do laundry.  And drink. Tomorrow we head across the Mackinac Bridge onto the Lower Peninsula. 

* I made and printed out a list of all bike shops on the route in advance — you know you’ll need them.

** I’ve forgotten where it is. Somewhere between Gladstone and Manistique.

*** BTW, Cabell has the dirtiest bike in the universe.  Yuck.

Made it to Michigan

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

As planned, we got on the road at 8 AM and drove to Green Bay, where we parked the car in long term parking at the airport.  We then proceeded to ride the wrong way down the wrong road for about a mile, before I discovered the problem, and wound up climbing a totally unnecessary hill in the process.  After a lot of asking directions and puzzling over maps, we finally got out of the Green Bay metro area, and away from all the traffic, and suddenly, as we pedaled down a quiet road, I looked over to the right, and there was Lake Michigan!

It’s pretty up this way — little houses out in the country right on the lakefront, no doubt obscenely overpriced.  A lot of them are for sale, too.  I think I’ll have to pass.  Still, we were enjoying the quiet and the view.  About 2 in the afternoon we found ourselves heading into a very ominous black storm front, and by 3 it was thundering and pouring rain.  We turned off into a driveway, and took refuge in an open garage.  I knocked on the door of the house, but no one was home.  So we just huddled in the garage about half an hour until the rain slacked off a bit. 

Eventually we put on our rain pants and jackets and braved the road again.  All in all, we rode in the rain for about an hour and a half.  I was regretting having left my waterproof shoe covers.  Eventually the sun came out, and we crossed a little bridge into Menominee, Michigan. 

 Our hotel is located right on a bay of the lake, but all we did was walk in, take showers, order pizza, and collapse.  That was a 70 mile day, starting after 11 AM; today is only about 60 miles, and I’m hoping we can get on the road a bit earlier. 

Checking into the hotel, there’s this moment filling out the little card:

“Just put your license number or at least the make an color of your car there.”

“Ummm… We didn’t actually bring one…”

Over the top — ready to go

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

After yesterday morning’s panic fest, I managed to get to Madison a bit before 6 PM, and Cabell and I went out for tacos.  Now I’ve been up since 5, and Cabell is almost ready to go.  We compromised on the start time.

Me: “6:00.”

Cabell:  “No.  How about 8:30?”

Me: “How about 7?”

Cabell: “8:00 and I get to sleep in the car on the way to Green Bay.”

I think I need to work on my negotiation skills.

An inauspicious start

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

So Thursday I decided to get a new front tire, just to be sure, since the old one had about 2000 miles on it.  Took the wheel in to Cape Bicycle, and Patrick put the new front tire on.  Now the wheels are fairly new — I broke two spokes on the rear wheel over the past couple of months, so I decided to get some beefier wheels.  Andy mentioned when I picked them up that it’s a bit hard to get the tires on them.  They’re Rhyno Lites, and the flange on the rim is unusually deep, making it tough to pry the tire on and off.  Anyway, I watched Patrick put the new tire on the front, and saw that even he had to use levers to do it.

Last night I loaded all the gear on the bike for a test ride, started to push it down the hallway, and found the front tire flat.  Okay, I have spare tubes.  So I got the old one out — looked like a pinch or fold on the inner surface — and put a new one in.  Not real easy.

This morning the first thing I did when I got up was feel the front tire.  Yeah, it was going flat.  So I pulled out the tube — I don’t know what was wrong with it, because I pinched it with a pry bar while removing the tire, and made a couple of big holes.

Started to put the new tube in, and I put a little air in it so I could get wrinkles out.  While using a pry bar to tuck the tire in to the rim — pssssssssttt.

So, here I am.  I imagine I could get a tube in there and get it inflated, but if I get a flat on the road, I’m not at all confident that I can fix it.  The odds aren’t looking very good.  I have my old wheels, with the broken spoke already repaired, so I’m thinking now that I’ll just take the bike in to the shop this morning and see if we can’t put the old wheels back on — not having a freewheel tool I can’t change out the rear one, and besides I don’t have the rim liners for them.

Take home message — I’m not leaving at 7 this morning for Madison; more like 10 at the earliest.  Aaarrghh.

Over the Top

Friday, June 20th, 2008

I interrupt my recap of the Peru trip to announce… another trip!  I’m leaving tomorrow for Madison to meet up with Cabell.  Sunday we drive to Green Bay, where we’ll park the car, get on the bicycles, and ride north into the Upper Peninsula.  8 days, across the top of Lake Michigan, on the ferry from St. Ignace to Mackinaw City, down the other side to Ludington, and then another ferry across the lake to Manitowoc, Wi, then back to Green Bay to pick up the car.   I’ll look for libraries, etc. and try to post as we go.

Peru trip recap, Day 3

Monday, June 16th, 2008

We got up at an ungodly hour to take the bus to the airport for our flight to Cusco.  I think we left the hotel around 4 AM, but I’m trying to suppress the memory.  Still, this means that we wound up with a full day in Cusco.

Cusco was the Inca capital, in a river valley at around 11,000 feet elevation.  They warned us about altitude sickness, and repeatedly advised us to take it easy and drink lots of fluids.  So for our first day, the tour avoided too much strenuous activity.  Still, you have to do some walking if you’re going to look at Inca archaeological sites, and we started out by visiting Saqsaywaman.

No doubt I would have had a more enriching experience if I had done even a tiny amount of preparation for the trip — you know, like reading a book or looking up some stuff in Wikipedia, or looking at the itinerary to see where we were going.  However, I was too busy obsessing over the GCBB meeting.   So I was blissfully ignorant, and I suppose there’s something to be said for that.  Kind of like the conquistadores walking into the place cold.  So, for instance, the walls at Saqsaywaman blew me away.

Stonework, Saqsaywaman

That’s our Cusco guide, Arturo, in front of a small part of the stonework.  Saqsaywaman is a huge ceremonial complex with three tiers of stone walls like this — each stone weighs tons, and they’ve been cut to fit together without mortar.  You always hear about stonework where you can’t fit a knife blade between the blocks; you can’t fit a piece of paper between these blocks at any point.

We later went back into Cusco itself to Coricancha, now a Dominican church and monastery, but originally the Temple of the Sun for the Inca capital.  You’ve heard about how the Inca Atahualpa filled a room (25 x 15 x 8 ft high) with gold as his ransom, before Pizarro killed him anyway?   Most of the gold came from Coricancha.  In any case, the Spaniards tore down most of the temple, and then built their church on top of its foundations.

Qoricancha, Cusco

You can see here the Inca stonework, with much cruder mortared Spanish stonework on top.  By the way, when they had a big earthquake in Cusco in 1950, the church collapsed and had to be rebuilt, but the Inca walls were undamaged.

This turns out to be kind of a theme.  Pretty much every Inca ruin that we saw was “ruined” only because the Spanish either a) tore it down and built a church on top of it or b) took stones from it to use to built a church.   After about half a dozen such statements from Arturo, you start to mentally replace “the Spanish” in his spiel with “the *&@^#ing Spanish”.

At one point someone complimented Robin by saying that she spoke Spanish like Pizarro.   She was trying to decide whether that actually added up to a compliment or not.  Pizarro is not Mr. Popularity in the Peruvian highlands.

At the end of the Saqsaywaman tour there were locals in colorful native garb waiting to pose for pictures for a Sol or two.  Robin was especially interested in the lady spinning yarn with a drop spindle.

Peru Day 3

Now I initially figured these people go home and change into jeans and “I’m with stupid” t-shirts, but in the ensuing days on buses and trains it became clear to me that this is really what they wear out in the boonies.  I saw any number of families walking down dirt roads leading a llama or two loaded with thatch, with the women wearing just this sort of brightly colored dresses.

That night we had dinner at the Andean Grill, a restaurant on the Plaza de Armas.  More on the excellent food later; here’s the plaza.

Plaza de Armas

Peru trip recap, days 1 and 2

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

We drove up to St. Louis on Tuesday afternoon, had dinner at Applebee’s, and spent the night in the airport Drury hotel.  Got up bright and way too early and went to the airport, where we caught a plane to Miami and a 6-hour layover.

The endless layover

Then we flew to Lima, where we arrived quite late at night, met Ralph, our guide, and found that most of our luggage hadn’t made it. After an extra couple of hours waiting and filling out forms, we finally got to our hotel around 1 AM.

Day 2 pics.

The next morning we got on the tour bus and went, in rapid succession, to the National Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology of Peru, the church and cloister of San Francisco, the cloister of Santo Domingo, the Plaza Mayor, and the Cathedral.  I have to say that I’m having trouble even identifying these in the pictures — it was a bit too much too fast.  You couldn’t take photos in many parts of the cathedral, so if you see a picture that isn’t there, that’s probably where it was.  We did finish up our visit by touring the catacombs.  There are something like 30,000 burials under the cathedral, and the bones have been excavated, sorted by type, and piled in various bins and niches.  A circular well filled with an artful arrangement of skulls and radiating femurs.

Our hotel was in Miraflores, a newer, upscale section of Lima near the ocean. On the way back, we stopped at the Love Park

Parque del Amor

and then went to an upscale open-air mall built on three levels against the cliff face overlooking the Pacific. We had a lovely dinner there, and a couple of beers, and then walked to the hotel.

My impression of Lima itself is that it’s large (variously described to us as 8, 9, or 10 million people), dirty (windows everywhere are coated with a film of pollution), and cloudy all the time. The museum was interesting, but I was quickly ready to go to the highlands.

A free day

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

Today we were in Cusco without any scheduled events.  Robin went horseback riding with some others from our group, around the ruins of Saqsaywaman, which is the huge temple complex outside of Cusco.  Hamner and Peggy and I took a cab to Saqsaywaman to look at the place on foot.  The cab ride was even more white-knuckle than usual.   The cabs in Cusco are all ancient Daewoos about the size of a shoebox.  This one looked like it had been rolled a few times.  The driver didn’t appear to speak much Spanish beyond locations in town, as he didn’t even respond to questions.   In any case, he was too busy trying to squeeze between buses and run down pedestrians.  The really scary part was when we got to the Plaza de Armas and he turned right between two pillars onto what appeared to be a sidewalk, but turned out to be a street about 10 feet wide.

We did get to Saqsaywaman alive, though, and we had a really nice time wandering the grounds.  Without a guide, we were doing a lot of speculating, although we did ask a guy who was picking up trash a few questions.  After a couple of hours, we headed back to town, on foot this time.  The Inca Trail runs from there back to the Plaza de Armas, and from there to Machu Picchu.  We just went to the square and met Robin, as arranged, at the cathedral.  We had lunch –mine was really great: ¨Causa a la Limeña¨ — a round mold with layers of golden mashed potato, avocado, and chicken, with a garnish of sliced egg and olives on top.

Then we hit some musems.  Robin and Cheryl disappeared at the Inca Museum, I assume to go to the silver factory, as they had discussed earlier. The Inca Museum was well worth the 10 soles ($2.80)  we paid to get in.   A huge collection of pottery, jewelry, weapons, etc. — even mummies, and a lot of information about the Inca Empire and the Spanish Conquest.

Now I’m exhausted as usual, and it’s still an hour till dinner.  I may go get a beer.  Later…

Back in Cusco

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

Last night we returned from Aguas Calientes in time for dinner, and I turned in early.  We left Cusco Sunday morning at 3:30 AM (!) and took a ride in a freezing cold bus to Ollantaytambo, where we got on a freezing cold train and rode down the Sacred Valley of the Incas to Aguas Calientes, at the foot of Machu Picchu.  After a very brief stop to drop stuff off, we took a warmer bus up the mountain, and spent the morning touring the city of Machu Picchu. 

It´s one of those iconic places that, when you see it in person, doesn´t quite seem real, because you´ve seen so many pictures of it.  It looks like the pictures, and it´s pretty astonishing. 

After the tour we went back down and checked into the hotel, and then the Hills and I took the bus back up and spent some time exploring on our own.  We hiked to the Inca Bridge, which is about a mile away on an easy trail lined with orchids, wild begonias, and even some Cuphea plants.  You come to a barrier at the end of the trail, where clearly an avalanche has knocked out the next bit.  Then if you look ahead a hundred yards or so you can see where the trail crosses a vertical rock face.  The Incas built up a stone wall to walk on, but there´s a gap spanned by a couple of planks.  That´s not all that impressive until you ask yourself where that path was headed.

A little further on is a much larger vertical rock face — at least 500 feet tall — and across the middle of it is a little green line.   The path went right across that face, hundreds of feet up and about 2 feet wide.  I imagine leading a llama loaded with potatoes along that path and it makes my palms sweat just thinking about it.  Those people had no fear of heights at all.

We had another full day at Machu Picchu, and I´ll write more when I get back.  This keyboard is driving me nuts.