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Poor planning (on my part) does make for emergencies (also on my part)

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Poor planning (on my part) does make for emergencies (also on my part)

Old 05-29-06, 12:44 PM
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galen_52657
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Poor planning (on my part) does make for emergencies (also on my part)

Or..... weekend half tour from hell...

The learning curve can be as steep as the climbs in York County PA, or so I have found out! So, I had a little tour in mind for this weekend - ride the tandem from home to Columbia, PA, stay overnight and ride back the next day. But, several miscalculations on my part made for a half-tour and sag ride home from a friend.

I had ridden to Columbia before on my single bike with a BBC tour. But, it had been a while and my memory was a little foggy on the details. For route planning I did a MapQuest route - shortest and avoiding highways. Then, I modified the route somewhat with a paper map. The MapQuest route was 52 miles, which I thought would take at most 4 hours of actual riding. Boy, was I wrong!

I had purchased a rear rack and panniers as well as a wide-range cassette with a 32 tooth low gear. I installed the wide-range cassette as well as a new chain and new rear tire. Nancy and I each packed one set of street clothing and a change of cycling clothing plus toiletries. at 9:15 AM Sunday we set off for parts unknown.....

Things were going smoothly out towards the PA line. I know the roads well and the route was as flat as possible. But not long after crossing the PA line and getting off the beaten path we began to have some problems. We were climbing up a steep little grind on Rt 851 when the rear tire blew off the rim! This was the same new tire I had installed the night before - a Kevlar beaded Conti 700 x 28. I inspected the tire and could not find anything wrong with it, so it must have been an overheating/to much pressure situation due to the extra weight of the panniers. I installed a new tube but only inflated the tire to about 90 psi instead of my usual 120. Again underway, we were being baked in the noonday sun. Nothing but semi-barren corn fields an both sides of the road. By this time it was almost lunchtime and we were more than halfway. But my map did not agree with a road name sign. We stopped at a little antique store on 851 just east of Stewartstown where we were supposed to turn off and asked directions. Thankfully, the store also had a cooler with bottled water and Gatorade and some candy bars. We refilled our bottles, had a snack and got back on the road planning to stop for lunch at Crossroads, the next town shown on the map. We make our way to Crossroads...but... there is not a store anywhere! Nothing! As I study the map a local driving by asked if we were lost (which we were not...this time). He said the closest place to get something to eat was Stewartstown (south and west of us) or Red Lion (not on our route). We pressed on and the roads got smaller and rougher - nothing but tar and chip. We descended a long winding grade into the Muddy Creek valley and crossed the north branch. We took a break by the stream side. The climb out of the valley was steep and switch-backed. At the top again the road names did not match my map. I got directions from a guy cutting his grass. Seems I had taken a wrong turn in the valley and was on a road so small it was not on my map! Luckily, I was only slightly east of where I thought I was. He was kind enough to direct me out to PA route 74. By this time, Nancy was wearing down. It was hot and we had been riding about 4 hours and were still a long way off. And, worst of all we could not find a store. The roads were still rollers. Just about every climb was in the granny now. We got out to Rt. 74. What a Godawful cycling road! 55 MPH 2 lane highway with an intermittent 3 foot shoulder. Thankfully we were only on it for about a mile before turning north towards New Bridgeville. Now we were close to the Susquehanna but still, the hills were with us. Being leery of overheating the tires I was concerned with the long downhills. Finally, in Craley, PA we found an open store (a liquor store of all things) and replenished our fluids and got some more snacks. The friendly cashier said it was only 5 minutes by car into Columbia on PA route 624 (River Road). Looking at my map I knew it was longer, but I did not want to say anything for fear of upsetting Nancy. Craley is up on the ridge overlooking the river so after a short climb it was a long, long descent to the water. Along the water's edge people were camping, boating, fishing and enjoying the holiday. But....River road takes a cruel turn! A few miles before town the road diverts from the river's edge and goes inland... and up...and down...and up again...and down again. The road was horrendous for cycling...worse than Rt. 74. No shoulder with pickup truck after pickup truck towing boats on trailers... groups of Harley's with strait pipes roaring by... drunks... the only thing missing was a tractor trailer towing an over-sized load...

We were grinding up the last two climbs riding on the white line at about 3 MPH. Nancy was at the breaking point. I was just trying to convince her that we had to press on. Finally, the road emptied out into Wrightsville, which is across the river from Columbia. We wind through town, turn onto PA Route 462 and cross the river. We arrive at The Columbian, the B & B where we are staying after seven hours on the road including stops. I quickly get us checked in while Nancy just about passes out on a rocker on the porch... We get cleaned up and want to eat! But no! Nothing is open! Every restaurant in town is closed! What kind of town is this???? (must be a PA thing...)...if worse came to worse our place was right next to a convenience store....But, we wonder around and finally find a biker bar called Smitty's about a mile away on Lancaster Street. Three draft beers and a cheese-steak sub never tasted so good....

So we bribed a friend of Nancy's to come fetch us the next day....

What I learned:

50 miles with a load = 100 miles without a load if there is any climbing
Better check the route with topo software (any suggestions??)
Deflate the tires or better yet, install larger tires
There is not such thing as to low of a low gear on a loaded tandem
Stay away from bodies of water on holidays
Little towns in PA are not 'towns' at all..just crossroads.
Medium sized towns in PA roll up the sidewalks on Sunday
There have got to be more Harley motorcycles in southeastern PA than any other place on earth. Mufflers are optional.

PS...the few fixed up old homes in Columbia PA are quaint, but the town is basically a dump.

Last edited by galen_52657; 05-29-06 at 09:03 PM.
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Old 05-29-06, 01:55 PM
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An A+ for perseverance, and for your stoker!
Holiday weekends can be problematic: dodging motorhomes, boats/trailers, and motoryclists that come roaring by! And yes, store owners like to close up and enjoy their holiday also.
Look at the bright side: you did not get rained on and you were able to solve your problem.
Living way out west, we have towns that are on the map; does not mean there's store/facilities or any inhabitants. We always pack food bars/extra water . . . better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
On occasion we've been a couple hundred miles from a bike shop, so yes, it pays to pack some spares for unforeseen issues. Had a chain jam/bend at the north rim of the Grand Canyon once; fidgeted for half an hour to fix things along the roadside, but got on our way. Survived a big hailstorm in the middle of the day in the middle of the desert (Kay ended up with black and blue marks on exposed skin from the
hailstones). Survived numbing rain/hail storm in the summer at 9,200 ft elevation in northern AZ . . . temps dropped 30 degrees in minutes. Had to look at my very cold fingers to see if I was braking.
Not everything goes as planned, as a matter of fact, it seldom does! Adhere to the old boy scout motto: Be Prepared.
Sorry your weekend was less than optimal, but you both survived it, are stronger/better for it and have a good story to tell!

Pedal on TWOgehter!
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Old 05-29-06, 06:52 PM
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Galen: Sorry to hear your trip didn't turn out as planned. You might remember me. I purchased a KHS tandem a few months ago and paid a little too much but needed it for a tandem outing. This weekend the girlfriend and I took the tandem to North Florida for a few day rides with a friend's house as a base. We only had a rack trunk as we were only day tripping. When I tell you that the days were beautiful and the rides were incredible - well, I hope you don't get too jealous. The drive was several hours and on the way home we decided to stop at Ron Jons in Cocoa Beach, Florida for some gifts for kids at home. There is actually a free parking garage next door to where we were going - do you see where this is going? We got our free ticket from the high school cashier and off we went into the garage until we heard a loud noise like an accident. My girlfriend and I both freaked at exactly the same moment as the damn tandem was on the roof. Why didn't the casheir say something? Why didn't we remember? The tandem actually hit a sign hanging from the roof. When I stopped the car and jumped out I noticed that about 6 more inches and the tandem would have been a goner. The bottom line is that the tandem seems ok - I'll have the LBS check out the headset because it seems a little loose. It's been several hours since the mishap and I'm still freaking out!! In any event, I'd like to know what kind of rack and panniers you ended up getting as I think our tandems are good tourers. I took my daughter on an overnight camping trip to the Everglades and had a blast. That's enough ranting but I hope you and Nancy haven't been turned off to touring. You're always invited to Florida where you can just about use whatever tires and gearing you want within limits. Take care
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Old 05-29-06, 08:07 PM
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Show Nancy the heading for this thread. She will enjoy agreeing with you that it is all your fault. If she is still talking to you. I have a tandem that fits on a rack on the back of my spouses' car and oly sticks out a few inches on each side. It also fits in my 3/4 ton truck and is lower that the pipe rack. No problems. As far as bags go a set can go from a few score dollars to several hundred. Or get a trailer.
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Old 05-29-06, 10:11 PM
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Google Earth is how I check the hills out on a route. If you hold down the mousewheel, you can change the camera's pitch and see the hills. I whipped up a quick spreadsheet to compute % grade from bottom/top elevations and path distance (using the path measure tool). I can get all the info I need that way, and it's free.
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Old 05-30-06, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by galen_52657
Better check the route with topo software (any suggestions??)
not 100% precise, but better than nothing:

www.gmap-pedometer.com
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Old 05-30-06, 10:25 AM
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I have used Google Earth and GMap. Maybe they have updated the source, but last time I used it, Google Earth had poor data in rural PA (and other areas) rendering it useless. I did do a Gmap after I got home just to check the mileage and it cam out to 58 miles, not 52 like mapquest, but, the elevation profile did not give % of grade, though I guess one could calculate it.

Better than nothing especially to confirm mileage.
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Old 05-30-06, 11:24 AM
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Although we're hardly intrepid travellers, my basic rule of thumb on the tandem -- solidified when we failed to stick to my rules and followed someone else into a little epic adventure that sounds somewhat familiar to yours -- is to ONLY take routes that:

1. I have previously ridden, or
2. I have recently pre-run on the motocycle / car, or
3. I have discussed with someone whom I trust that has done 1 or 2, above, or
4. I have a map from Adventure Cycling or a similarly reputable source, or
5. I have received feedback from local bike/tandem clubs that my proposed route choices are OK (the Internet is so useful in this regard).

I have TopoUSA with 3D and that's a pretty good tool for modelling routes, particularly when you sneak a peak at the satellite images of the same area. However, the gradiants don't always tell the real story and I'm just more comfortable when I've "been there" at least once before. My dead reconning is usually pretty good, but it's hard to use it when you're in completely unfamiliar territory.
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Old 05-30-06, 12:09 PM
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Keep in mind when someone gives you 'road advice' they are usually talking from the perspective of a motorist, not cyclist.
Did a first-time event years ago in AZ (Heart of Arizona Century) whereby the ride planners had checked the 100 mile rural route (by car!) and assured riders it was not at all hilly. Yeah, sure!
By lunchtime it became apparent that many folks were struggling, but were assured "it's almost all flat and downhill from here". To their credit, it did include a miles-long hellatious curving downhiller where we hit 50mph into the wind (Yarnell to Congress, AZ) on the tandem. But many folks were coming in after dark (we don't do daylight savings time in AZ).
Agree with Mark, it's good if you know the roads, or trust the cycling folks that give you advice, and take motorists' advice with several grains of salt.
We've ridden in 30+ states, dayrides/touring/rallies. Yes, there will always be surprises: lousy roads and detours/construction/traffic/stretch of gravel, unexpected terrain and of course, unpredictable weather and maybe even a mechanical breakdown in the middle of nowhere. But that's what can make things memorable!
Now, lets go out and ride and make some more 'TandeMemories!'

Pedal on TWOgether!
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