Monday, July 30, 2018


The bicycle race went off well. Surly had two goals before starting his first bike race - don't fall off and come in ahead of me. Mission accomplished for him. My saddle pal/running buddy got an age group win. I had the distinction of not being scored. There was some mix-up with the timing. The final print-out had me one second behind Surly but the reality of it was that I was about two minutes behind him. He was scored as the 12th place finisher and I think I was 17th. It's a small event but there's a few fast guys who show up. My friend Don who went with me on the Cowboy Trail won the 60 and up age group. Not really much of a surprise there. The boy's a stud. I'm pretty happy with my performance. In spite of the sore back restricting my training, I was able to keep up a decent pace - for me at least.

After the race and breakfast came back to the house and Surly made a few pieces on my mill for a bicycle project he's working on. I tinkered with the Rickati a bit. I took all the case screws out and measured them up so I can get all of them replaced with stainless. Also put a new cover on the VW since it's outside while I'm working on the two bikes currently.

Getting the wisdom tooth pulled today, so won't be much else happening. I'm going to make myself a smoothie, eat pudding and catch up on the magazines.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Rickati Progress

I finished up the work stand for the Rickati project. I could have made it a bit taller but both tires clear the ground, so that works. I wish my little camera took better close-ups. I would have taken a picture of a couple of the welds on the stretchers. Beautiful looking TIG welds, even if I do say so myself. I'm fortunate that my eyesight and my hands are steady enough that I can still do this kind of work. I painted the stand with left over paint from the motorbike project. I really like that red. I'll probably paint the frame of the bike that color when I get it finished. It looks good on the motorbike. 

I shined up the tank, muffler and gear gazer while I was out there yesterday. I had the filler on the tank taped off and I wanted to make sure the new gas cap was going to fit, so I had to clean off the sticky residue from the tape. While I was doing that, figured I might as well clean up the rest of the aluminum stuff while I was at it. I had polished up the sidecovers on the engine while the bike was at the school but they got a little corroded while sitting around these many years. I might clean those up later today after I get home from the bicycle race.

I'm not planning on it being much of a race today. My sore back has really cut into my training. I got a massage on Friday to loosen it up but it tightened back up after working out in the morning and working in the shop yesterday afternoon. Today will be the cycling equivalent of jogging, whatever that is.

The tubing and the fenders will be in this week so I can work on getting the back end of the bike squared away. I'm still not sure what I'm going to do about the rear wheel but it's not holding things up yet, so I've got time to think about it. I should probably decide before I send the motor out to get rebuilt, however. Pretty happy with the progress up to this point. Don't know how much I'll get done this week - lots of stuff on the schedule, including getting the wisdom tooth pulled. I'll just keep pecking away it. 

Friday, July 27, 2018

Gettin' After It

I dug out the manual for the 900 and made a copy of the wiring diagram. Rather a crappy copy as you can see, but I copied it into Microsoft Word and cropped off the outer edges and then enlarged and sharpened it. Looks pretty good on a piece of 8-1/2 x 11 paper. Next time I head north I'll take it to Staples and see if they can enlarge it onto an 11 x 14. In the meantime, I'll fasten the printout to a clipboard and start chasing wires down on the bike. Then I can start the numerous trips to the auto parts store for supplies. Actually, I've got a pretty good assortment of connectors and wire on hand but you never have everything you need unless you do this type of work on a daily basis, and there's no way I'd want to do this sort of thing on a daily basis.

I ordered a piece of tubing for the fender loop on the Rickati project along with a couple of short pieces of cold finished round stock to have in inventory. The local steel supplier where I used to buy my material for the high school has a good selection of hot rolled rounds but not so much on the cold rolled. 

I got the quote on the fenders from Speed and Sport. Shipping costs are reasonable so I'll get those ordered in. I'm going to do a bit more searching for a comparison price first but either way, I'm going to get a pair.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Sprint Cars With A Side Of Root Canal

Cuzzin Ricky and I went to the sprint car races in Kokomo Tuesday night. This was a make-up night for the race that got rained out over the weekend. They held an autograph session with all the drivers prior to the race and even had the preprinted sheets with all their photographs on it. Very nice. The drivers were all very pleasant and courteous - that's the way to build your fan base. Meet your favorite driver and get his autograph, and if you didn't already have a favorite, they were all there for you pick from. The racing was good. They had micro sprints or something as a support race - no modifieds, all open wheel. A few heat races, "B" main and a 30 lap feature.

They had a couple of guys promoting the Brickyard 400 there. If you signed up for a chance to win a couple of free tickets, they gave you some swag. They were also promoting the midget race that will be a few days before the Brickyard. Rick and I already have our tickets for that one. Should be quite the race - $70,000.00 prize money at stake with $15K to the winner. That should bring them all out for that one.

I got a little bit of work done in the shop yesterday. Put the headlight bracket back on the 900 and polished up the headlight and turn signals with a bit of chrome polish. I think I need to start sorting out the wiring. I've got no idea where all the various wires go. I've got a shop manual with a wiring diagram. When I did the Sportster, I enlarged the diagram and then glued it to a piece of cardboard and set it up right where I was working. I should do the same on this job. 

I tacked the work stand for the Rickati together. I need some more flat stock for stretchers on the legs. I made a slight change in the plan so I need to see what I've got piled up in the corner of the shop. I checked into some tubing for the back frame loop. Online Metals has 4130 and some fancy DOM tubing but it's very much cost prohibitive. Wag-Aero has some mild steel stuff that's reasonable but they only carry it in .049" wall. I'd prefer something a bit thicker, not that it needs the strength but to be able to bend it without flattening it out. I've bought tube from an outfit in Indy before but I can't remember the name of the place. I need to jog my memory a bit or look on one of the cardboard mailing tubes I've got tubing stored in. Might get lucky there. It'll come to me eventually. I looked into buying fenders for the project. I'm waiting to get the quote on the shipping costs.

The visit to the dentist didn't work out like I planned. The tooth that caused me to seek professional assistance is a wisdom tooth. I figured it might be time for an extraction. I was right about that but also when he was poking around in there he found some bad stuff with another tooth in the same neighborhood. So I got the crown pulled off, a root canal, a temporary crown, and another visit next week to get the wisdom tooth yanked and the permanent crown installed. Really looking forward to that. Also the anti-biotics he gave me can give you diarrhea. That's just what I need. No way I can make the dash from the shop to the house if that sets in. Maybe put the manual for the 900 in the bathroom so  I can study the wiring diagram if I'm hit with a case of the grips. Always something. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Gettin' It Done

Takin' 'em from the top:

Headlight mount for the 900. I had it tacked together and on the bike to make sure it would fit already. Welded it finish, sandblasted, primed and painted. 

New parts for the Rickati came yesterday. Throttle and cable, gas cap and grips. Surly came down on Sunday and we critiqued the bike build so far. The rear fender needs to go and the frame loop supporting it needs to be changed. I found a place that sells aluminum fenders. They aren't cheap but up until I bought the new parts and a new front tire, I basically had nothing in this thing beyond my labor. No reason I can't spring for some decent parts and have this thing lookin' nice when it's all done.

Pieces for the work stand for the Rickati. I'm going to the dentist today and maybe the races tonight, so I won't get them welded up today, but soon.

Next order of business on the Rickati is the work stand and then the back loop. I need to order in a piece of tubing for that. I'll get that on the way along with a pair of fenders. While I'm waiting for parts I'll do something on the 900. Not sure what yet but something. On a little bit of a roll - don't want to lose my momentum.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Home Owner Job

The weather has been beautiful the last few days around here. No need for the AC running - sleeping with the windows open, and as a bonus, no one in the neighborhood was burning garbage so the windows could stay open, except for last night. Thanks a lot. However, because the weather was so nice I figured it was time to make some progress on the yard and sidewalk that got torn up with the installation of the new well. I started with the retaining wall where I normally park. The top photo shows what the yard looked like while under construction. If you look where the coil of plastic pipe is, that's where the blocks for the retaining wall go.

I got that finished up without too much difficulty - meaning without throwing my back out again. The green stripe in the gravel is where the new water line runs. I sprayed some weed killer on the area. I'll give it a chance to work and then get a little more gravel and top dress the area.

I was going to form up the area that I had to cut out of the sidewalk next to the house but I think I'll try and get the triangular piece of concrete I drug out of the way with the tractor worked back in and then use it as the form. I've got a couple pieces of expansion joint material left over from pouring the floor in my shop a couple of years ago to put along the edge where the sidewalk buts up against the house. It's supposed to rain today and over the weekend as well, so maybe take a look at that part of it next week.

In the meantime, I'll work on a couple of motorcycle projects. I found most of the parts for the Rickati project that were last seen when I moved everything home from the high school. The only thing I didn't find was the work stand. I think I left that at the school when I retired. Actually, I'm lucky to have gotten as much stuff moved out of there as I did, seeing as how I was on light duty due to the heart attack. As soon as I got the release from the doctor, I gave my two weeks notice and started dragging things home. There's still a few things over there I should get home, like the pony cart frame. Not that I need a pony cart, mind you, but it'd be good to get it out of his way and sell it or give to someone who could use it.

All that aside, the first order of business for the Rickati is to make another work stand. I made a list of things that need to be done on the bike and most of the items are easy enough to do. I'd would like to have a better rear wheel. The one I've got is from the Rickman frame that I started this project with. It's got a steel rim and I'd like to have an aluminum one. Also the hub has a rather odd arrangement with the brake actuator and sprocket both being on the same side. The little Ducatis use a 428 chain as I recall and the proper rear sprocket might be a bit small in diameter to clear the brake drum. I should shop around and see if I can find something off an old Japanese motocross bike before I finish up making the spacers and getting the brake shoes relined. While I'm mulling over my options on that one, I'm going to try and move forward on the 900 a bit.

Feels good to get something done.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Wrong Way Corrigan

Went to the county fair yesterday - not much to see if you go early in the day but that's why I usually go early in the day. The chickens and the rabbits and all the rest of the animals are all there but the commercial buildings and the rest of it is pretty much buttoned down until the evening. I checked out the 4H building, the photography displays, all the animal barns and the Retired Iron Club display of old tractors and farm equipment. The blacksmith shop where I used to work was closed up, however. The club this year had some old farm trucks on display along with the tractors. 

The old Ford in the top photo is exactly the type of rig I'd like to have. The Dodge in the middle photo looks like it would be more at home in a lumber camp than on a farm out here on the prairie, but it's pretty cool, though. The bottom photo is a Minneapolis Moline that runs on LPG. Minneapolis Molines are something of a rarity around this neck of the woods but especially one that's powered by propane rather than gasoline. This one is owned by a former student of mine. He also has a Farmall M that was on display. I saw his son driving the M in the tractor parade a couple of years ago but didn't realize he had the Moline. 

While listening to the local radio station on the ride home I heard that it was Wrong Way Corrigan Day. Interesting story about how he got his name as well as what his life was all about at the link. I like his quote saying he never had any aims, that's why he never got anywhere. I would think flying solo across the Atlantic Ocean to Ireland in 1938 was going somewhere.

I ordered a couple of parts for the Rickati project - gas cap, throttle, cable and grips. I'm going to need a battery and a kill switch for sure. I'm not sure what those little Ducatis used for a voltage regulator. I do have a tail light on the old Preston Petty rear fender but I don't think it would be worth it to hook it up. The bike's supposed to be built as a vintage trials bike, so no lights required. I've got an ignition coil mounted up under the gas tank and I think I've got a new plug wire I can use. The front brake is hooked up and operational and I've got a new clutch cable already. Looks like I need to line up the rear wheel and make some spacers for the axle and weld up the foot peg mounts but that's basically it. I'm going to work on it while I'm fiddling with the 900. I can leapfrog from one job to another so if I need to wait on parts or something, I can keep going on at least one of them. Maybe sneak in a little work on the Sprint or the VW as well.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


I really don't need most of the fancy electronics that come with new cars and trucks, which is a good thing since my new truck is a bare bones model. No back up camera or lane departure warning, no GPS to tell me where I'm going, just the basic radio with a CD player, which is step up from the old Dodge with the tape player, however. I do like my Sirius radio, though. I've got a wide ranging taste in music and the new radio accommodates that nicely. It took me a bit to get the installation completed but I've got the presets all programmed and I'm back in business. Where else are you going to be able to hear all three Hanks, jazz, blues, bluegrass, and classic rock without commercials? It's a luxury I'm willing to pay for - especially since I'm going back to work and will be spending more time in the saddle again.

Cuzzin Ricky and I went out for breakfast the other morning and we got the sidecar off the horses afterwards. I got the shop cleaned up a bit and rolled the Rickati into the shop. My back's about healed up, so I'll take a good hard look at the bike and try to remember where I left off six years ago and finish whatever  needs to be done while I've got the motor in it and then send it out to my buddy. Hard to believe it's been that long since I brought it home from the high school but other than my wife's health issues, it's been a great six years. Even going back to work at the college has been great, in spite of working more hours than I had planned on for a few of the semesters.

The weather's been unusually hot lately. The weatherman says Chicago averages 17 days per year of 90 degree or warmer days and we've already had 15. Typically the hottest time of summer is the end of July and the first of August, so we're going to be looking at some more heat yet this season. That really slows down my productivity on the outside projects but I am going to try and get my three projects with wheels underneath them finished this year. I got the motorbike done, so only two more to go, but the year's already about half over. It'd be nice to have some decent progress to report here on the blog and be nicer still to actually have a couple of the bike projects to ride and enjoy. By now the road to Hell should be paved like an Interstate highway with all my good intentions.

Stay cool and save your money. Hard times are coming.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Mo' Bikes

Saw this one on Facebook - kind of timely for me. I finally made it out to the shop to get a line-up on what I'm planning on next and I was standing next to my Francis-Barnett while looking over the Sprint project. I've been working on the Sprint a little here and a little there to the point that it's pretty close to being done. I need to figure out what I'm going to do for a back wheel and get a set of piston rings for it, but not much else to do other than some piddly things. I get that one done and I think I'll start doing the same thing with the Francis-Barnett. It's going to take some serious parts chasing to locate a few missing things. 

In the meantime, I'm going to jerk the Rickati out as soon as I can get a little help moving the sidecar off the saw horses. I need to finish up a few things on that so I can farm the engine out to my buddy the Ducati specialist. He called the other day and he's planning on heading back to Italy next year for the Moto Giro. He's taking the same bike he took a couple of years ago but he wants to improve the front brake. I had an arbor for those little Ducati front hubs so I could turn the brake drum at one time. I don't know if I've got it laying around still, if I gave it to my buddy or if it got tossed out. Regardless, I should be able to fix him up with what ever he needs and can't do himself, which isn't much.

I took the Missus in for another procedure on her back yesterday. It doesn't take long to do it but by the time it's done and I get her taken care of at the house, the day's shot. My back is still a little tender but not bad. I sent my entry in for the bike race but it doesn't look like I'll be able to train much. My handlebar tape came in and I've got that installed, so the old Raleigh touring bike is all set to go again. While Cuzzin Ricky and I were out the other day, we stopped at a rest area and I picked up a flyer about things to do in Southern Illinois. Seems they have the Tunnel Hill State Trail that is an old rail bed. Looks like it could be a fun one in the fall. I haven't had my little camper out for a long time now. I can hook that up to the new truck and head south. The trail is about 45 miles in length, so ride one way, camp, then return the next day, camp and then mosey on home. 

I got a call from my boss the other day. He's desperate for someone who can teach morning classes at the college. I told him I've already booked a trip to Alaska about the time the semester starts. If I would be willing to show up after I get back from my trip, he thinks he can get someone to sub for the time I'm gone. Looks like I'm going back to work, at least for the first eight week session. Probably the second eight weeks as well. I'll be teaching the beginning stick welding class the first eight and advanced stick if I do the second eight. I don't mind the job. In fact, I rather enjoy it. I just don't want it to interfere with my travel plans. I got the Sirius radio hooked up in my truck and they paved a section of the back road I take going to work. Looks like my commute will be pretty smooth at least.

And speaking of travel plans, I got an e-mail from the outfit that I used last time I went to Europe and they got a special deal on a trip to Ireland - $999.00 and that includes airfare. I haven't checked into the details but it's an offseason thing that I might be able to work in right after the first of the year. Have to see about that. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Chiropractor Again


The Missus and I were supposed to go to our 50th high school class reunion Saturday evening. I've been ambivalent about going right from the start but I figured if she wanted to go, I'd be happy to escort her. She's been having trouble with her back and I managed to throw mine out on Friday - not too terribly bad this time but enough to make it a bit uncomfortable. I moved a bunch of bags of concrete mix Thursday to repair the sidewalk and I'm pretty sure that was the set up. Anyway, I was all dressed to go Saturday but the Missus decided to abort the mission. In addition to our health issues, she had also learned of the passing of a young relative and just didn't feel like going out. I'll be making a trip to the chiropractor today which should fix me up. At least until I have to deal with all the bags of concrete mix and repair the sidewalk..

I did get a bit of yard work done and I welded up the floor on my bicycle trailer where some of the welds holding the expanded metal floor on had broken. The trailer tubing is Inconel and the floor is plain carbon steel. I welded them together with 309 stainless filler which should have done it but the trailer's seen a lot of rough service. Only thing left on the touring rig is the new handlebar tape and I'll be ready to go again. I'm hoping the tape comes in the mail today. I'd like to have that finished.

The missing link to hook up my Sirius radio in the new truck came in Saturday. I should have that done in the next couple of days. As soon as I can bend over without fearing a lock-up on the back, I'll be hitting the bike projects once more.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Bike Training

The old Raleigh came equipped with Suntour Power Shifters. They worked really well until the spring broke inside the one for the rear derailleur while on tour. They've got a ratchet mechanism inside that makes them work better than pure friction shifters. I've got Campy friction shifters on my other Raleigh and they work well enough but I like the feel of these. I ordered a used set off of eBay that came in yesterday I replaced the broken one after dinner and took it for a short test ride to run it through the gears. Seems to be good as new. Waiting on the handlebar tape now and I should be back up to snuff.

I took the other Raleigh out for a spin yesterday morning to do some "speed" work. I was planning on going back out after going to the gym in the evening but the gym was cancelled and we had storms rolling through. I was lucky just to get the test ride in on the other bike. I doubt seriously that I'll be able to go very fast in the upcoming race but that's just fine by me. If nothing else it'll help get me in shape for the stress test I've got coming up this fall.

The weather is supposed to be decent the next few days and then back in the 90's. I need to start getting out earlier in the morning. After doing my bike ride yesterday morning I picked a big bowlful of red raspberries. The sweat was pouring off me by the time I was done. I need to pick some gooseberries today or tomorrow. Time for a pie. You can tell I take my training seriously.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Bicycling Bennies

The local library does health screenings once a month. You can get your blood pressure and glucose tested for free and your total cholesterol number for $5.00. I was curious as to what my numbers were going to be after the bike trip, what with the four days of heavy exertion and the change in diet. Blood pressure was the winner for the morning at 112/68 and the total cholesterol was an excellent 122. The nurse was very surprised by both numbers. I was a little surprised by the cholesterol number myself after some of what I'd eaten both before and during the trip. I weighed yesterday morning and I'm only a pound away from my weight goal that I wanted to hit by Saturday. I should revise it downwards another five pounds judging by my waistline, but I'm now only ten pounds over what I was when I graduated high school and when I got married. Lot to be said for proper diet and exercise. It takes some work but you don't have to go to extremes like riding the Cowboy Trail. Just keep an eye on your waistline, blood pressure and resting pulse rate and then adjust your caloric intake and exercise routine accordingly. Yeah right - easier said than done, I know.

There's a bicycle race locally at the end of the month. Now that the legs are in pretty good shape, I'm considering entering it. My cardio could be a bit better but I've got a good three weeks to train. I've done the race a couple of times in the past and it's a fun event. I think my saddle pal is good for it. I should see her at the gym this week and see what she wants to do. She's getting married soon and wants to lose a couple of pounds yet so she'll probably go for a bit of biking.

A couple of unrelated things:

They're working on the highway by me, so the road that goes by my house has had a lot of traffic of late. I was down by the mailbox and saw a Tesla go by. Might be the first for the old county road. Those are nice looking cars.

While stopping in one of the small towns in Nebraska recently, we went to a gas station/mini-mart and there was a sign on the door that credit cards weren't accepted. I always carry a few bucks in my shoe wallet along with my ID and a couple in my first aid kit just to be on the safe side. Lots of folks no longer carry cash at all. Might want to rethink that and keep a few dollars in the car or on your bike.

Hope you all had a good Independence Day. I didn't do much due to the heat and the threat of rain but I did pick off a few of the household chores on the list and made a serious dent in the pile of mail and magazines. It's supposed to be hot again today but cool down a bit after that. Need to get the sidewalk repaired and the yard reseeded from the well job as well as getting something done out in the shop. I've got a bit of fire in the belly after looking at all the cool stuff out in Nebraska.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

End of The Trail

We finished up on the trail about noon on Friday and then headed for Lincoln. After checking into the hotel we went out for a burger. The hotel clerk recommended Honest Abe's so off we went. They had a veggie burger but I broke training and went for the Classic. Might be the first time I've had bacon since I had the heart attack six years ago. It's tough to be a vegan when traveling. More so if you don't want to be a pain in the ass with the group you're traveling with. Since my concern is mainly my heart health rather than a philosophical issue, a little meat now and again shouldn't kill me. It was a good burger.

Saturday morning we headed to Speedway Motors and the American Museum of Speed. We checked out the retail store first. Much to our surprise, if you buy anything at all in the store you can use your receipt to get two free entries to the museum. Hard to beat that. The counter-men were both cool with us gawking while we waited for the museum to open. I was going to buy a couple sets of stickers and the guy grabbed a pair of them from under the counter and just tossed them my way. Service. Not at all like the Geek Squad.

The museum is out of this world. If you're any type of gearhead at all, this place is a definite must see. We hustled through it at a pretty good clip so we could get home at a decent hour, but if you go, I'd plan on about four hours if you really want to soak it all in. There's cars of all types, engines, pedal cars, guitars, lunch boxes, model/miniature cars, record albums, and who knows what all. Everything on display is in good shape and if you have questions, there are knowledgeable people around to answer your questions.

Photos from the top:

1. Really cool trailer to haul a midget racer around in. If I ever build a utility trailer, I think it'll be    something like this one.

2. A Super Modified. I've never seen these things run except on television. Cuzzin Ricky and I should pursue a race in the future. These things boogie.

3. A Frank Kurtis sports car. I've never seen one of these in the flesh before even though I've seen quite a few Kurtis midgets and champ cars. I've got a book on Kurtis and the sports and custom cars he did were mentioned but it's nice to have actually seen one.

4. Hedy Lamarr's '58 Cadillac. Hedy was something. In addition to being beautiful and a talented actress, she was pretty damn smart coming up with a electronic method used to prevent the bad guys from jamming the radio signals guiding the torpedoes during WWII. One of the best looking years for Cadillac in my book. This one is a primo example.

5. E.J. Potter's Chevy powered drag bike. They didn't call him the Michigan Madman for nothing. Rev it up, kick it off the stand and away he'd go. No transmission or clutch. Just wheelspin.

6. Aluminum body in the white. That's how they all used to be before they started making things out of fiberglass. Beautiful craftsmanship. The museum is chock full of beautiful craftsmanship. Lots of engines on display with a huge variety of things people came up with to make more horsepower or reliability.

By all accounts the Nebraska trip was a definite success. I left the trail wondering where we can go next. The one guy had to buy quite a bit of equipment to make the trek, so he'll want to do another trip or two. Might be another trip in my future. I got the seat adjuster on my saddle figured out - the threads on the adjuster bolt were boogered up where they go through the seat bracket which is why I couldn't get the adjuster nut to tighten things up on the trail. Probably best that I quit trying rather than doing something I would have regretted, like twisting the bolt in half. After filing the threads and putting some anti-seize on the bolt, I took up some of the slack and the seat is much better now. I'll ride it around a bit and then give it a couple of more turns if need be. As soon as the new shifter comes in I'll swap that out and rewrap the handle bars and I should be ready for the next trip.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Cowboy Trail Part II

Top photo was taken in Johnstown as we stopped for a late lunch. According to the proprietor of the L Bow Room, the town was named for John Berry who passed through the area while participating in the Chadron to Chicago horse race, liked the area and came back and settled in.

The middle photo is of the pool hall in another of the little towns we passed through. There was supposed to be a restaurant there but it had closed down, along with most everything else in town. The pool hall is just big enough to have a table and a bit of room to walk around it. The door is open and there are snacks available. It's strictly on the honor system. Pay for what you use and keep the place clean. Amazing, actually, but good to see.

The bottom photo is in O'Neill, the Irish Capitol of Nebraska. Those are my two saddle pals sitting next to the Blarney Stone. If you were to contemplate riding the Cowboy Trail, a bike like the one pictured would be a decent choice. The fat tire bike seemed to float over all the loose gravel without much difficulty. If I had known the condition of the trail prior to starting, I'd have considered riding my mountain bike, or maybe even buying a new one. The two of us who have toured together quite a bit both were running the same tires on our bikes - Schwalbe Marathons in 700 x 32. We did ride quite a bit of the distance on the road due to the conditions and the time constraints and on the road we had an advantage over the fat bike, but the other guy is a stud and he handled it like a boss.

The idea was to average 50 miles a day. Even with the late start on our first day we got in 46 miles, but we did have to put in some road miles. We hit right around 50 the second day and we knocked out a metric century plus on the third day. A metric century being 62 miles/100 kilometers. The last day was about 35 +/-. The wind was an issue on a couple of the days and the heat was also a concern, getting up into the nineties. The prevailing winds are west to east but we never had a tail wind. We did get lucky and dodged some serious rain clouds. The sky was thundering and there was lighting off in the distance on the third day but we stayed ahead of it and the clouds kept the temperature down for us.

I had some trouble with my bike. The old Raleigh has Suntour Power Shifters on the downtube. The one for the back derailleur broke the spring inside it for the ratchet mechanism but we got it rigged as a friction shifter and it worked just fine. A little nerve wracking initially, however. But that's how bicycle touring goes. I did learn that my cycling specific multi-tool doesn't have a Phillips head screwdriver on it. The straight blade isn't much to brag about either. Menard's sells a screwdriver with both straight and Phillips that is pretty compact. I think I might have a small one that takes 1/4" hex bits out in the shop that would work well also. I'll have to see about that. I also need to adjust the tension on the saddle. The top has sagged down and created a pressure point that is most uncomfortable. I'll oil up the leather and tighten up the adjustment screw a little at a time and see what I end up with. I already bought a replacement shifter off eBay that should be here by the end of the week. I need to pick up a roll of handle bar tape as well. I put a leather wrap on the bars a couple of years ago but the leather has shrunken badly and the stitching came apart while on the trail. The leather looked really good when it was new but I'll go back to regular cork tape.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Cowboy Trail

I got in late Saturday from the Nebraska trip. We started in Norfolk at the trailhead in TaHaZouka Park where we met Tony from North Fork Outfitting. He got us all loaded up at 8:00 and we headed for Valentine. We got there and got headed out a little before noon. The trail is rough and it's an uphill climb out of Valentine for a good ways. In order to make our first stop we jumped on to the highway after about 17-18 miles. The second day, one of the other guys took a tumble and banged up both knees. One bruised up immediately and the other one was bleeding and he was picking gravel out of it after his front wheel got sucked in by the loose gravel. There were several times I had to fight it pretty hard to keep from going down myself.

I expected the trail to be in better shape than what it was. There were lots of spots that were really soft, lots of holes 6 - 10 inches in diameter, and some of the trail had quite a few weeds growing up in the trail. Because of that, you really couldn't look around at the scenery while you were pedaling. You just had to stay focused on the trail immediately ahead of you. We passed three badgers that were together on one section of the trail. They made it quite clear that they owned that section and we should keep moving on. The badgers might have been what was digging all the holes in the trail. 

On the way out to Valentine I read in the paper about the mountain lions that have been spotted in Western Nebraska. When we crossed under an overpass, I spotted what looked like a big paw print. When we had breakfast a couple of days later the waitress told us a story about a big cat treeing her house cat, so I'm pretty sure it was a mountain lion print I saw.

More to come after I get unpacked and get the dirty laundry taken care of.