Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sans Socks!

In my last post I mentioned that I had I thrown out a pair of socks due to the amount of cockle burs caught in them.  Coming home from a ride sans socks has become a problem for me.  So far during the month of September I have ruined two pair of socks on rides.  The second pair was due to poorly maintained trails and a whole lot of cockle burs.  The first was due to poor planning that was overcome by good old fashioned "field expediency."

The ODR (Olive Drab Roller)
Labor Day weekend is a serious event for the Irish Tsunami.  As stated in previous posts, anytime we have a long weekend it is essential that we have a plan.  We started with an airshow in the rain and culminated with our second year at the Kewanee Hog Days.  I know what you are thinking, this sounds like an Forced Family Outing and you are correct.  It is an annual Labor Day event which boasts the World's Largest Outdoor Pork Barbecue, serving over 30 thousand!   Nothing says a great time like 30,000 pork sandwiches and carnival rides in 90 degree heat!  As for the entertainment.......I was entertained!  If you look at the link you will notice that the site does not show a picture or list any entrainment for Monday.  It just so happens that it was "Hoggyoke" and I have that photo.  
We watched this guy for a while much to my children's chagrin.  I guess they don't appreciate the finer things in life.

Just before we left the house for this event, I decided that I wanted to take my bike so I could ride the Hennepin Canal Trail from Awana to Colona on the way back.  Of course I decided that I wanted to do this ten minutes before we were going to leave.  Having never ridden this before and finding very little written about this trail other than the fact that it is there I made sure I had the basics.  After all, it would only be 25 miles so little planning would be necessary.

Following the festivities, the consumption of a couple of pork sandwiches, and a chocolate milkshake at the Dairy Queen, I was dropped off at the the canal near Awana. 

Overall the trail is very user friendly.  While they advertise that is is road bike compatible, I would venture to say that I would want a cyclocross bike or a touring bike with larger tires (700x28c or 32c).  I was riding my Surly Ogre (which has become my go to ride) and cruising in style.

Then it hit, "it" being two pork chop sandwiches and a large chocolate milkshake!  I had passed an outhouse a couple of miles back but didn't want to back track.  I figured that there would be another one eventually.  I figured wrong.  There was nowhere to go; a canal to the left of me and overgrown shrubs and trees to the right of me.  I pedaled as far as I could go and found no services.

The Hennepin Canal is pretty amazing and during it's construction aqueducts were built to allow barges to pass over intersecting rivers and streams.  Many of these still exist and I figured that going under one would provide the easiest access and the maximum privacy.  I carfully climbed down the bank and support structure, scratching my legs on every thorn on the way.  I safely reached the creek bed, the only problem was that I was missing one essential item.  TP!!!

This is where poor planing and haste intersect to cause a serious problem.  Fortunately for me, I have had a lot of great experiences in life, to include serving as an Infantryman in the Army.  This has provided me with the ability to overcome nearly any challenge that presents.  In the field or in combat you don't always have the luxury or conveniences of modern life.  In situations like that you have a couple of options that are "field expedient."

The options are

1.  Use a sock.  The problem is that you are wearing boots with no sock which leads to blisters and pain.  Last resort, only to be used if you don't have a knife to cut up your t-shirt or you are out of t-shirt (see #2).
2.  Use the bottom of your t-shirt.  Cut a portion of the bottom of your t-shirt off.  If you have a knife (who doesn't carry one with these at all times) you can cut sections off the bottom of your t-shirt.  In the Army this is covered by the outer camouflage garment and you cannot see that it is missing sections.  The downfall is that if you take the outer garment you look like a fool with half a t-shirt.  This is also a problem if you are wearing a nice shirt, (see #1)

Because I was wearing a nice biking shirt I chose option #1.  The problem with that was a 20 mile ride and looking like a fool with only one sock.

I am grateful that the Army provided me with some practical life skills.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


I am in pain.  My feet hurt.  My back hurts.  My knees hurt.  My legs hurt.  My SKIN hurts.  Pain.

Today is one of those days that I ask myself why I ride bikes.  I am in great shape, I should not feel like this.  Yesterday when coworkers asked the typical Friday question "what are you doing this weekend?" I responded with "lay on the couch, I have nothing planned nor do I feel like doing anything."  That included riding bikes.

Yet I found myself scheming ways to fit in a ride.  Maybe it is because I know that summer is over and I need to get in the last minute miles.  Maybe I knew that I would not be permitted to simply lay on the couch all day.  Mow the lawn or ride a bike I asked?  I don't know, but there were a ton of messages both obvious and subtle that suggested I needed to just lay on the couch, or as close to it as possible.

Instead I found myself heading to a new trail even though something told me deep down inside that I should not go.  The really crazy thing is that I even said told Household 6 my plan and that "I don't know how long it will take since I have never been there, you never know what kind of mess I can get into."  Well I did.

Here is the story.  Some friends from work participate in an annual Washers Tournament at a local camp ground, which happens to also advertise mountain bike trails.  I have hyperlinked for those who are not familiar with the Sport (?) of Washer Tossing and while this link shows bikini clad women and shirtless men, I assure you that none of the people in this particular event were wearing that attire (we will count that as a small blessing).  I didn't want to get caught up in some huge bracket and be gone all day, but I was told they had great Jumblaya.  Since I am a fan of Jumblaya, I thought it would be a good idea to go early, mountain bike at the camp ground (which advertised roughly 7 miles of trail), finish in time to eat some jumblaya, watch some rednecks throw washers at boards with holes in them, and head home for the better part of the day.  I would be out of Household 6's hair for a while but I would not leave her hanging for the whole day.  Win Win.....or not!

While I was successful at eating Jumblaya and watching fully clothed (thank you) people toss washers, I failed misserabley when it came to riding my bike 5 miles.  I guess you could say that I succedded at riding my bike about 1 mile and pushing it for four miles.  I threw my shirt away, as well as, a pair of socks (coming home sockless is becoming a trend but more on that later).

It turns out that the trail (did I say it was advertised as a mountian bike trail) is not maintained by mountain bikers (or anybody for that matter).  I should have picked up on this within the first half mile turned around and called it a day.  After all there were numerous signs!  The trail was so overgrown that I could not see obstacles until I was on top of them causing me do dismount or destroy chainrings.  There were countless trees across the trails which caused me to dismount, I should have brought my cyclocross bike.  Many of those were on steep inclines which required me to walk the rest of the way up the hill to a more level surface to pedel.  Signs that said "no horses on the bridge" led me to question where the bridges were as I crossed steep banked creek beds, again carrying my beastly Giant Anthem X 29er. 

At one point the trail was rerouted with orange paint on trees and no trail whatsoever.  I later learned that the concept here was that if enough horses traveled this route they would have a new section of trail.  Not exactly trail building for the long term.  This turned into a 1 mile hike-a-bike.  When I caught back up with the trail it was so overgrown with cockleburs it was impossible to get them out of my socks.  My shirt became hopelessly entangled, bunching up as I moved and burs tearing up my arms.  The end result was scratched up arms and legs and a shirt so clumped up and full that I simply threw it away.  I was able to get them off my shorts after an hour of picking while watching rednecks toss washers.  I still have not tried to tackle my gloves.  If they weren't a month old and $40 I would have thrown them away.

Running up hills with biking shoes and a mountain bike leads to leg and foot pain.  Cockleburs EVERYWHERE lead to skin pain.  All of this could have been prevented if I had paid attention to the following signs (not necessarily in order):

1.  The big sign at the entrance of the park that said "Mountain Bike Trails CLOSED."   Seriously!!  Who am I to question this.  Since it was due to rain a couple of days ago, I pursued the park ranger to get a second opinion.  He changed the sign to "Open."  Why didn't I just let it go, maybe it was the fact that I paid $4.99 a gallon to get there and didn't want to leave empty handed.  There is another lesson, get gas in Iowa before crossing into Illinois.

2.  Mold in my hydration pack.  I put paper towel in the bag to help keep it open so it would dry.  When the bag was "put away" it folded over and the paper towel began to grow mold!  I love this thing and I refuse to put anything in it but water.  It stays clean and taste free, best bag I have ever had (Deuter rocks).  I actually think Emily did it but since I cannot confirm if she did or not without having a discussion about taking care of my own crap.   I will accept the blame to avoid the pain.

3.  Horses:  These, as with most trails, are multi-use.  These people were ready before I was and they were ahead of me, should have left right there.  I personnally have no problem with horses.  However, horses have a problem with me and my shiney bikes.  Sometimes the riders have a problem, but they are too busy settling down their giant animal that is afraid of anything and everything.  I always stop, move to the uphill side of the trail and talk so they recognize that I am human.  I think this is the acceptable practice.  Today however I managed to catch them from behind.  The point is that they were slower than I was even with my bushwhaking.  If they can't get through it, what makes me think I would enjoy it.  I have never enjoyed riding horses, but I found myself enving the fact that the guy didn't have cockleburs all up in his pearl snapped shirt.    

In the future I should be able to recognize the signs of an impending disaster and I hope that I will listen to my body. 

By the way, after reading this Emily confessed to placing the paper towel in the hydration bag.  Ha, I knew it.  Small victories.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Forced Family Outings: Labor Day Edition (part 1)

Long weekends, such as Labor Day weekend, require additional planning when you have a lot of busy kids and additional together time.  It is essential that activities are planned even though great planning doesn't always equal great execution.   

I am a fan of the Forced Family Outing.  If you were a kid and your parents said "get in the station wagon" which likely didn't have air conditioning (or in my case the back of an old Chevy truck) and you said "can't I just stay home?" you probably went on one.  If you are a parent and you say "hey kids, get in the van, we are going to the airshow!!!" and you hear the response "I don't want to go stand in the rain and watch airplanes" you have initiated the Forced Family Outing (we call them a FFO).

We started our enhanced weekend with an airshow.  A co-worker scored some tickets for me which is always good for the Irish Tsunami because you never know when you need to get out of Dodge.  It is no good when you spend a bunch of money and things go sour, like the weather or somebodies attitude.  In this case it was a touch of both.

I think it is important that kids get out and see the world, even if the world is a CH-47 Chinook helicopter which they have seen pretty constantly since birth.  They have even seen me parachute out of them.  They seem to enjoy them just the same.  The great thing is that most of the airframes have been around since the 1960s.  What that means is that if 40+ years of abuse from Infantryman hasn't broken them it is a safe bet my kids won't (notice I didn't say can't). 

As for the rest of the airshow, it was pretty miserable.  It started to rain.  Then the wind began to blow.  I put on my rain jacket and sat on the ground and covered up kids the best I could. 

Of course the weather needed to lighten some before the show started.  The kids began to whine and complain about being in the rain for two hours.  This is not effective, in fact, we tend to do the opposite.  The more they whine, the more I want to sit outside in the rain, even at the expense of my comfort.  As the rain let up and the airshow started, the kids appeared to enjoy the day.   

Action Stance:  ready to spring into action at any point!!!

It is amazing how fast things can be reduced to chaos.  Check out the last post.   

Overall, I think that the FFO was a success, if by success I mean that we were not sitting in a house telling the kids to stop jumping on the furniture!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Irish Tsunami


You may ask yourself "what is so amazing about two kids fighting?"  You may also be asking "why is this woman is standing in the rain smiling as her children fight inches in front of her?"

This picture epitomizes the Irish Tsunami and why we have attached that moniker.  What makes this picture amazing is the time that it took to go from nice calm seas to a massive wave of destruction, just as a tsunami can unexpectedly destroy a coastline.  

When I pushed the shutter release (do digital cameras have a shutter release?) all three of them were standing and posing with smiles.  In the nanosecond that it took for the camera to actually take the picture the kids had gone from smiling pleasant children to............this.  As for the smiling mother standing there, looking oblivious to the reality in front of her, she didn't even have time to react before this image was captured in time!