Saturday, June 16, 2018

Racing Across America

I was a last minute addition to the crew for Team Skipper, a 4x Race Across America team.  We begin the trek across America today just a few minutes after noon. (racers start at noon in one minute increments, and at the time I'm typing this I don't know our exact time yet)

You can track our progress at http://trackleaders.com/raam18.  Team Skipper is T422.
With any luck, we should be across the country in about 6 days.

Solo RAAM racers, and all RAW racers began on June 12 and are well on their way across the continent. With luck, we should catch many of them.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A beautiful day for a ride

Alas, I am knee deep in Race Across America preparations.  I got a last minute assignment to help out Team Skipper, a 4 person mixed RAAM team.  I had navigation files all finished for Race Across the West, but now found myself scrambling to add another 2100 miles of turns, time stations, warnings, and track information in less than a week.  I've still got a lot of work to do, but took a quick trip on the fixed gear bike to grab some lunch.

It was 82 degrees with 32% humidity as I pedaled out. The temperature was about what it was everyday in Panama, but the humidity was only about 1/3 of what it was down there.  It was a very comfortable ride that I wish I could have stretched out longer, but RAAM mapping calls.


........Road Bike........Rollers.......MTB..........Lifecycle......Total

Today ......2.................0..................7....................0............2

Jan.........26................ 0................0.....................0..............26

Feb.........7..................0................0.....................0...............7

March.......5.................0................0.....................0...............5

April.......0.................0...............66.....................0...............66

May.........0..................0..............79......................0...............79

June........2..................0...............0......................0...............2

YTD.........40...............0...............154.....................0.............192

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Bummed even more

It has been doing some major storming here every afternoon, and sometimes afternoon starts at 9AM!  I was planning, "hell or high water" to ride the loop up through Volcanito and El Salto, then take the rock road cutting over to Los Naranjos tomorrow.  I've seen both ends of that road, the lower end being a nice paved road with painted lines, and the upper end being a boulder strewn "road". (you can see both by looking at recent posts)  My maps.me app tells me that the center 1.5 miles is mostly trail.  It was just the adventure I was looking at for my last ride here.  Alas, I've had a transportation snafu, and now need to leave a day and a half earlier than planned.  I guess that means my last ride was on the 27th. (it is now the 29th as I type this, internet being not so ideal here) I will spend this afternoon packing, cleaning the abode, and swapping my pedals off and raising the seat back up on the bike that Jeff Bickford generously let me use while staying here.

On the morning of the 27th I rode into Boquete to use the library WiFi and update this blog, and scope out the location of dinner that night.


 Having found the restaurant, I set out to gain some graces and attended a Spanish language mass. 



When ever I go into a building the Garmin goes crazy looking for location, and the map image reflects that futile search!

I got 6.7 miles and 984 ft of climbing.


It has been (mostly) fun.
I got back on a bike a bit.
I saw some nice scenery.
I met some nice people.

But it is time.
Adios Panama!


........Road Bike........Rollers.......MTB..........Lifecycle......Total

Today ......0.................0..................7....................0............7

Jan.........26................ 0................0.....................0..............26

Feb.........7..................0................0.....................0...............7

March.......5.................0................0.....................0...............5

April.......0.................0...............66.....................0...............66

May.........0..................0..............79......................0...............79

YTD.........38...............0...............154.....................0.............190

Monday, May 21, 2018

Bummed

Typing this on May 26th, but will be back posting this so the ride info shows up on the correct day.

I have less than a week left in Panama.  The weather has been very challenging the last week, obvious to me by my sudden lack of riding. Violent thunderstorms have been an everyday occurrence. Anywhere from 3" to 6" of rain in the afternoons.  Lighting has knocked out the internet at the house I am staying at, and electricity was off for 15 1/2 hours one day.  It goes off for shorter periods every day.  Even the entire town lost internet for a full day, and even now is on very weakly.  It is impossible to use VOIP services or any sort of streaming.  Makes me feel like a bit of a hermit.

I now spend my mornings carrying the laptop down to the library to work on Race Across the West details, check email, and finally will update my blog for my most recent ride.

I rode down the the library carrying my cell phone and looking for a usable wifi signal.  I arrived just before they opened, and used some time to visit with a couple that was house hunting and waiting for an Uber ride.  We all noted some rapidly approaching clouds.

Within a few minutes thunder was crashing and rain was just pouring. Luckily I was inside the library by then, but unluckily, I'd have to ride back up to the house with just a pair of gym shorts and a cotton t-shirt.  I did have a plastic sandwich bag to keep the phone dry, and a lightweight backpack to carry it in.  It still wasn't too much fun.  Before the afternoon was over, nearly 6" of rain had fallen.  When I was complaining a bit on Facebook about my situation, a friend reminded me that skin is waterproof.  It might be, but it still isn't fun to cycle in rain that hard without proper attire.  The only saving grace is that it was warm rain.  In Oregon I would have had hypothermia.
When I got back up the hill and could safely take my phone out of the bag, this is what it looked like:




3.8 miles
378 ft
and thoroughly soaked!

If this weather continues, (likely) I'll probably not get many more rides this week, if any. It is easier to walk to the library with my computer and an umbrella, than to try to keep it dry while riding a bike. 

........Road Bike........Rollers.......MTB..........Lifecycle......Total

Today ......0.................0..................4....................0............4

Jan.........26................ 0................0.....................0..............26

Feb.........7..................0................0.....................0...............7

March.......5.................0................0.....................0...............5

April.......0.................0...............66.....................0...............66

May.........0..................0..............72......................0...............72

YTD.........38...............0...............145.....................0.............183

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Not quite so easy as I thought

I had plans to ride a loop on this side of the Rio Caldera today.  I got up early, and promptly got sidetracked by a details of a bike race coming up in a month. (does anyone want to join our crew for Race Across the West?)  I finally told my compadres that I was going to have to take leave and go ride a bike before it started raining. It looked like I had waited too long.

There is another row of hills behind that this one, hiding in the bajareque.
I tossed in a windbreaker, the closest thing to a raincoat that I have along and took off.   I stopped for the first photo of the day less than a quarter mile after I started.


The town of Boquete was in sunshine, but Volcan Baru was shrouded in bajareque.  I was going the opposite direction, but up to the same altitude. I figured if it was raining too hard I'd just turn around and skiddadle back down the hill.


I took the first left, on a rock road that cut across the hillside.  I knew that it connected to a paved road that would bring me back to this point after bit of climbing up the hill.

I came across a tree that I could not identify.  Any silvaculturists among my readers?



I continued up.


One thing about a slow uphill slog, one sees things that might otherwise be missed.


I had passed a sign in Spanish that said they used (brand name) fertilizer to increase production. I presume it increased production, it certainly made for healthy looking plants.


By the time I figured that I should have taken a photo of the sign, I was already beyond the point of being willing to turn around and go back down, only to have to pedal back up again.  I continued upward.


It was steeper than I had remembered from the one time I rode down this.  In this section I climbed 1200 ft in 1.5 miles.  Not a typo.  The bajareque was coming down.


 I was starting to get a few drops of rain.  I continue riding up.
I got to Alto Jamarillo.


The hills are steep enough that even the roads have problems hanging on.  Here they are repairing a road that has slid into the canyon. 


In these hills they grow some of the most expensive coffee on earth.  The Geisha variety, grown on this farm sold for $300/lb at a wholesale auction.


By this time it was raining hard enough that I stopped and put on my windbreaker.


 Even out this distance from town, it is not uncommon to see people on foot.  Here a dad and his son move a hog along the road.  I'm not sure where they were taking him, and the pig might not have known either.


I had crossed the high point of today's ride (5137ft) and would now be going downward.
I got to Alto Jamarillo Primary School and turned right.


Before too long I had a view of Boquete again. About at this point I had dropped below the rain, or moved around it.

I rolled by El Parador, but did not stop for a photo this time.

I ended up with 8.8 miles and 1739 ft of elevation gain.  Not bad for the total, but like I said, 2/3 of that elevation gain came in 1.5 miles!



If you want to see the route on Google Earth, click HERE.
If you like the Google Earth option let me know.  It only takes a few minutes to add, but if nobody uses it, I won't waste my time.


........Road Bike........Rollers.......MTB..........Lifecycle......Total

Today ......0.................0..................9....................0............9

Jan.........26................ 0................0.....................0..............26

Feb.........7..................0................0.....................0...............7

March.......5.................0................0.....................0...............5

April.......0.................0...............66.....................0...............66

May.........0..................0..............69......................0...............69

YTD.........38...............0...............141.....................0.............179

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Another low miles high climbing day

I took off early this morning with the goal of riding up to the Three Waterfalls, Quetzal, and Pipeline trailheads.

It was a tough ride.   I thought it would be easier than the ride to Volcan Baru trailhead, but alas, it felt at least as hard.

I rode down the little, but steep, hill to Boquete. From there I turned and followed the Rio Caldera up hill. Up was a success, here is Los Naranjos below.


A high percentage of the non native homes here are for sale. (se vende).  I'm not sure if conditions here are becoming not as friendly to non-Panamanians, the market is making it favorable to sell, or if the folks are just getting tired of being here. Whatever the cause, I'll bet that 1/4 of the non-native homes are for sale in the area.  In some places I ride through 2/3 of the homes are for sale.  Maybe it is a buyer's market!

I continued to climb. Here I look down into the valley that I would be riding on when I return .

If you look carefully in the center left of the photo you can see the road I will be travelling on.


I found the other end of the road that is supposed to connect with the road up Volcan Baru.  It looks far better on this end.  On the upper end it is large rocks, and mapping programs tell me that it alternates between road and trail between here and there.  I may explore that sometime while I am here......... maybe.

The road continued to climb, and I continued to pedal up it.

I topped out near 5800 ft, but did not have a good view from that point. I started today off the right side of the photo, and DOWN.
.
I dropped down a series of steep switchbacks off of a ridge, and arrived at the trailheads.




I then rode up to Bajo Mono, just because.


The sky was darkening a bit, so I decided it was time to start back.
I'm not sure if this tree is a single tree, or a tree with another tree clinging to it, but I thought it was worth a picture.

The river was hurrying down the hill, just a bit faster than I was.


They have columnar basalt here too, but here it is more rare and a tourist attraction.


I stopped at Ramona Falls, for the photo op, ........

....and for the indigenous people's arts stand located near the base of the falls.


Colorful dresses, bead work, purses, earrings and necklaces were offered today. The road on the return trip was more inhabited than the way up. Houses and flowering plants were more common.


The river was still moving down hill relentlessly.


The basalt was doing its best to put on a static display frozen in time.


I was nearing the end of my loop.  The road looked remarkably rural from time to time.


I was successful in making the entire loop, and staying dry. When I got back to Boquete I made a slight detour to see if Maria Bonita was open, but I arrived a few minutes before noon local time. It was not open yet, but appeared that preparations were being made to open a bit later.  I was soaked with sweat and not really presentable for lunch out anyway.  I pedaled back up the little hill, just in time.  I was raining hard with a bit of thunder within a half hour of my arrival.




16.44 miles, hardly noteworthy.

2638 ft of climbing a little bit more noteworthy.


........Road Bike........Rollers.......MTB..........Lifecycle......Total

Today ......0.................0..................16....................0............16

Jan.........26................ 0................0.....................0..............26

Feb.........7..................0................0.....................0...............7

March.......5.................0................0.....................0...............5

April.......0.................0...............66.....................0...............66

May.........0..................0..............60......................0...............60

YTD.........38...............0...............132.....................0.............170

Saturday, May 12, 2018

rained out

I thought that a 15 mile loop  with 2500 ft of climbing to the Quetzal Trailhead would be perfect today. There was some morning cloud cover that I expected would clear off. I took off on the route looking forward to being able to stop at a small indigenous peoples craft stand that I knew was along the road.  I didn't map the route to my Garmin, I presumed I could figure out the way as I rode.

I did make one wrong turn, but figured out the mistake soon and "recalculated" the route. My Panama standards, this was not a steep route.  I rarely got in low gear, and then only as I was leaving Boquete, where the road and been torn up by construction and not repaved yet.

I was pedaling along, looking for likely photo ops when I felt a drop of rain.  Before long there were more drops of rain, and then more.  I stopped and put on my windbreaker hoping it would shed some water.  As I stepped under a tree to do that, I was suddenly "attacked" by insects. They were shiny black, about the size of a common house fly, but they looked like some kind of beetle.  I don't know if I stepped on a nest, or if they were lying in wait in the grass, but they were covering my shoes, legs, and were working there way up, biting me along the way!

I brushed off as many bugs as I could and started back up the road.  By now it was raining hard.  Not looking forward to spending the next few hours riding while being soaked, I turned the bike around.

I got back to Boquete and left the rain behind. I picked up a few more groceries then rode back up the little hill.

I looked across the valley to the hill I had been riding in.  It looked to be still raining there.


Here was the planned ride

And here's my rain abbreviated version.


Even though I thought this would be an easier day after yesterday's climbing festival, I was surprised to see 820 feet of climbing in the 6 mile short route.


I guess this route will have to go on my bucket list.  Maybe tomorrow?


........Road Bike........Rollers.......MTB..........Lifecycle......Total

Today ......0.................0..................6....................0............6

Jan.........26................ 0................0.....................0..............26

Feb.........7..................0................0.....................0...............7

March.......5.................0................0.....................0...............5

April.......0.................0...............66.....................0...............66

May.........0..................0..............44......................0...............44

YTD.........38...............0...............116.....................0.............154

Friday, May 11, 2018

Success!

I had been eyeing the climb up to the trailhead at Volcan Baru since I arrived here. The combination of not being in shape, and afternoon rainstorms kept me from attaining that goal.  Today I made it! The thunder and rain has been coming a bit earlier each day, so today I got on the bike shortly after sunrise with a goal of making it up that hill.

[post publish edit] I had taken a bus a week or so ago on a scouting mission to David.  I was amazed that there is no real schedule.  They leave when they get enough people in the bus, and when asked arrival time, they respond "Oh senor, we will get there when we get there".  I was even more amazed that once on its way, the bus still didn't move along.  It never got out of first gear for the first hour. Several groups of bicycles passed us!  Today I did the passing.  As I made my way through Boquete I caught up to a bus slow poking its way along the road.  I rode my brakes for a bit on the gently downward slope, but finally tired of it, gave a couple of good pedal strokes, and passed that bus!

Once that job was done I continued on my quest.
I learned my lesson the last time I rode the lower portion of the route and took it clockwise today.  Slower uphill on the rougher road, faster downhill on the smoother road.  ;-)

On the way up I noted that the expat neighborhoods here are upscale.


I continued onward in the bike's low gear most of the time. (24x34) What can I say, the bike is heavy and my legs are out of shape! The grade is fairly consistent but I did make use of higher gears when I could.

About half way up I had a interesting meeting with a motorist.  A couple was coming down the hill, and stopped in the road as I approached.  The only spoke Spanish, but I got enough of what they were saying to know that they were wondering if the road continued down to Volcancito.  I responded "si" and they were grateful.  Then they let me know that they were impressed that I had biked up here.  If they only knew what my planned destination was today!

I passed Pedro's farm, but did not see him today.

I was warm from the pedaling uphill, but could feel that the air was getting cooler because of the elevation. Today's ride would exceed 6000 ft.

I was obviously going uphill and it was getting more mountainous.  There were some side canyons with coffee bushes clinging to the steep canyon walls.




I arrived at the intersection where I could put this crazy climbing to an end and roll all the way back to Boquete, but I looked up toward Volcan Baru.


The weather looked promising, and I knew that if that changed, the 538 ft of climbing in the next 0.7 mile would make a fast retreat very likely if needed.

I pointed the bike up the hill.  It started out reasonably enough.


I knew from mapping the route that the center portion of the .7 mile section was the steepest.
 Truth be known, I stopped from time to time to rest my legs and catch my breath.

I successfully reached the end of pavement at the Volcan Baru National Park boundary.



I was so close to the park's official entrance, that I continued up the rock road.  It was steeper than it looks in the photo.  I stood on the pedals and powered onward. I wasn't sure I'd be able to come back down on the bike, as the surface was loose, with large rocks.

Not too far beyond the range of the photo above I arrived at the "ranger station"/official entrance.

Fee for entry
Residents, $3
Foreigners, $5
Retired, $1.50
Students, $1


Solo entry is not allowed, not that I planned to continue today anyway.


 I rolled carefully down the rock road, and finally got off and walked it when it started getting dicey.  Even with the rear tire sliding, I'd have to apply the front brake to keep it from going too fast. From time to time the front wheel would roll a rock.  A better mtn biker would likely be able to cope, I however decided that discretion was the better part of valor.  I walked the bike down the last 50 yards.  Once I got to the pavement I put on the windbreaker I had carried up in my backpack.  Being warm and wet after the climb I didn't want to get cold on the descent. I rolled down the hill, reaching 38 mph, even though I was sitting tall and feathering brakes from time to time.  I was back to Boquete in less than 20 minutes.

Like most places, it got noticeably warmer as I descended.  When I got back into town I took off my windbreaker and pedaled around just a bit to see some roads I had not been on.

I pedaled back up the hill to where I am staying.  I had pedaled 16 miles, but like most rides here, it is not the miles that are noteworthy, but the elevation gain. I had climbed 3043 ft, most of that in a 7 mile segment. It would have been the same elevation gain in 5 miles if I had gone counter clockwise! My momma didn't raise a complete idiot!



........Road Bike........Rollers.......MTB..........Lifecycle......Total

Today ......0.................0..................16....................0............16

Jan.........26................ 0................0.....................0..............26

Feb.........7..................0................0.....................0...............7

March.......5.................0................0.....................0...............5

April.......0.................0...............66.....................0...............66

May.........0..................0..............38......................0...............38

YTD.........38...............0...............110.....................0.............148