22 December 2008
I am wondering if I made a mistake on buying a tandem. It should of been a triple instead. Both Bernice and Nashesha can ride with me on the tandem, but on individual bikes it doesn't work. I don't know if a triple would work on rough trails though.
In this case grandparents are visiting so Nashesha is lucky to accompany me. Erik Zweig shows up at 2:30 and finds I haven't done anything. I frantically flounder around getting stuff ready and giving instructions to Bernice, Nashesha and Erik on food. At 4 pm we set off, laden down with too much food and not enough insulation.
The first section is along the busy main highway and is not a perfect touring experience. We probably own the only tandem in a country of 40 million people and we have to endure too much attention. Urban Tanzania is trashy and off on the shoulder one gets to look at lots of trash.
Added to my mood is the fact we have left at 4pm, and as it will be dark at 7pm. We have 20 km and lots of climbing on rough dusty tracks to get to the Monduli forest and find someplace to stealth camp. As usually that occupies my thoughts.
I feel better when we leave the main highway and are riding side by side on the Musa /Likamba road. We have to stop and buy some bottled water as we ran out of filtered water at home and find a jar of peanut butter.
I have about 10 or 11 litres of water and Erik has 3, as well as a bottle of homemade banana wine. I relax gradually as we get closer to the Monduli Massif. It has dried considerable in the past 3 weeks, and we have sections of 2 inches of dust.
From home it is series of uphills with a few level sections. I am mostly in the 3 lowest gears. At 5:30 pm we are on the first of the 3 steep sections. The first I have Nashesha jump off and she walks easily at my pace as I struggle to keep gong. It is easier for me as on a steep hills she cant "carry her weight". The second steep hill I try the same but have to push the bike most of the hill. It is 5 minutes of hard work. The last steep hill I am able to ride the whole way and am proud of that.
Erik has gone ahead most of the time and we find him at the top of this hill. The sun starts to go down but we can see the forest edge now and know we will make it to the forest before dark.
Nashesha is in good spirits and enjoying the trip. She talks non stop about everything. We ride into the forest reserve and when we see a promising big tree off to the side of the track we strike camp in the early dusk.
Erik has brought a MSR whisper lite stove and he starts first course of noodles while Nashesha and I put up our tent. I light up my "little bug" wood stove for warmth and light. After noodles we have rice and lentils and a bottle of wine, drank from jam jars. Nashesha crashes in my light sleeping bag. As Erik and I keep gabbing, after a few minutes we are instructed to lower our voices.
At 9 pm I head for the tent and climb into a fleece sleeping bag. That was all my bike had room for. Erik climbs in his mummy bag as there are only brush and large trees widely spaced and he cant set up his hammock.
The wind howls all night, the tent flaps, and I become cold. Nashesha lets me under her sleep bag and I am warm, but the ground is hard and the wind noisy. I fret thinking about work while awake. At 1am Nashesha and I talk for awhile.
I try to stay in bed hoping I will sleep more but by 630 I get out wash up the pot for making milk tea on the little wood stove. Here is our camp in the early morning.
You can see why this used to be called a Mummy bag. In the lower right corner is my little bug wood stove.
We breakfast on milk tea and oatmeal and then it is Nashesha's turn on dishes. It is still blowing hard and cold., but it is nice to walk around bare foot on the short grass.
We know the sun will get hot so we pack up and ride further up the mountain and find a big tree with a small patch of grass. To get there we take small cow trails through the thickets. Nashesha is expert at avoiding the nettles now after touching one on the way in yesterday.
We are relax under one of the trees above Erik's head in the middle of thickets.
I climb up the tree for plants for our rock gardens and find a space up in the tree used by kids? monkeys? leopard?
Erik has stomach problems and is going into the bushes frequently. Nashesha plays building houses in the dirt with twigs, and I read some.
Nashesha and I eat some bread and cheese and we pack up, for the downhill ride to home.
I use the brakes enough that I worry of wearing them out. Nashesha requests to pedal some as we are coasting too much. So sometimes we are pedalling with the brakes on. Some sections we can let go of the brakes and fly down the hills. The intense sun baking us. Erik leaves us far behind. It is less than two hours to ride home. I am feeling tired, probably just from sun.
We make the 24 hour deadline, but no one was very concerned.
16 December 2008
Yesterday evening as I was walking out of my office complex I fell in step with a client, an successful insurance businessman of Asian origin. We exchanged pleasantries.
He asked if i was still riding my bike. I proudly confirmed and said even today.
I was dressed is office slacks and button down shirt, leather shoes and carrying a briefcase.
He said I was crazy so I asked why?
He replied " Well that is why they made cars."
I couldn't believe my ears.
I retorted that the side effects of cars is global warming, pollution, congestion, ill health, etc.
He agreed but I don't think I converted him.
14 December 2008
For statistical purposes it took 46 minutes to the Main forest road, 56 to the start of the forest reserve next to Sambasha and 61 minutes to the single track turn off. The whole ride took 1 hr 45 minutes.
The ride did the trick. I still see too much to do but it is not depressing me.
10 December 2008
A few months ago I started picking up sticks lying around in my work's parking lot and carrying them home in my frame bag and for cooking morning tea.
One day I noticed the parking lot sweepers were sweeping leaves and sticks and I asked what they did with them. I figured they took them home like me. Not so, they are burned with the trash. So I begged them to put some sticks in my bag. The next day I found the bag stuffed over flowing with nice round sticks. I would sometimes find it full. Today I found a big paper box next to my bike full of pieces of lumber. I was going to put the box on the rack but that would block my rear light, so I stuffed the briefcase, frame bag all full and left a few more pieces. Made me laugh at myself, kind of like a bag lady.
So I rode home with my firewood. On the main highway something seemed different.
Half way home it seemed that navigating in the dark was easier. Ahh I noted the recently erected street lights were actually on and it made seeing holes and pedestrians much easier. Maybe development is not so bad. The lighted roads lasted through the Technical College intersection. Then it was back to the dark. I was spoiled and missed the light.
About 1/2 the cars in my town Arusha are SUVs and when they come behind you it sounds like they are all screaming directly towards me. It is unnerving. When they pass I am surprised how far away they are from me. Today it seemed people were in a hurry and taking more chances. Even with all the lighted streetlights I felt vulnerable.
It then struck me that 2/3 of my commute is on the main north-south highway of Africa! No wonder it is busy.
09 December 2008
Not only is it a long weekend but an extra long weekend. Monday was Eid-ul-Fitr and Tuesday Independence day.
To stay a protestant anglo saxton on Saturday I worked 1/2 day.
Sunday I met up with 3 other guys and did a 120km road ride west almost to Makyuni and back. The scenery was fantastic and the companionship was as good. Henry would even let out whoops as we were feeling so good. Well, we felt good until the last 30 km as we slogged into the wind. Luckily one of us was under 35 and pulled us in, thanks Thomas. For me it was a total of 135km. Haven't ridden that long on road bike for awhile.
So back to the subject. What I really wanted this weekend was a long bush slog on the mountain bike (LBSMB). I rarely make a decision on where until a few minutes before leaving, hoping I can figure out something new and exciting. I am looking for a ride with wild bush or interesting cultural experience. Even riding along the polluted lower Themi river is an experience.
I decided to ride up and over the Olkakola Plateau and then to Losinoni Juu above Oldonyo Sambu if I had the energy. The ride up to the plateau is not new but adding on the last section is new.
It only took me 45 minutes to get going, better than usual. Paulo was standing around waiting but I have to make milk chai, pb sandwiches , banana-pineapple smoothy, and mix some dried fruit and nuts. I guess i should do some the night before. Somehow the last hour before bed I am usually so exhausted I can hardly get off the couch and climb into bed.
We left 530 am and rode with lights on familiar tracks. By 6am we could turn off lights.
Crossing the Ngaremtoni river canyon is as always a struggle, as it is a steep trail with boulders. Today was even more of a struggle. If my bike wasn't so heavy I would just carry it.
Even without adding my food, spares, clothes, and water my bike is heavy. I carry too much spares. I guess i want to be ready to fix anything. Permanently attached to the bike are a large rear rack and a triangle frame pack made of heavy material. My tires are the heaviest around with tyre liners, and slime.
Then I put a tool kit on the rear rack, consisting of multi tool, spokes, patches, cables, extra tube with slime, spare folding tyre, spare chain links, and some other stuff. In the frame pack I put thermos of tea, 1 litre banana-pineapple smoothy and a water bottle on top of a pump. In a handle bar bag I permanently keep some toiletries ( a toothbrush for overnights, ibuprofen, Vaseline, salt,sunscreen, cash). In another side pocket extra chain oil, in the main compartment a rain coat, cotton shirt with collar, hat, and some trail mix. There is room for more but it is enough.
The cotton shirt is for when it is really hot. When the sun is relentless I take off the synthetic bike jersey and helmet. The collar protects my neck, the cotton stays wet longer and cools me, the white color feels cooler. Today it would be too cold to wear as it would be soaked with sweat and freezing me on downhills.
After the small trail through the canyon we are on a large maintained forest road. It is relentless uphill for almost 2 hours to a gate on the edge of the plateau. We stop once to admire the view even better. At the gate I note we have been averaging less than 10kph for 3 hours, and the last section I was going 4-6kph.
After the gate it is alternating flat then steep uphill sections. It is breakfast time and we find a place to dangle our legs over a grassy bank and look down over Olkakola area. We must be around 8,000 feet now. It is cool and we watch the clouds blow in while sipping tea and eating pb sandwiches. We pass in and out of in indigenous forest , planted forest, and potato fields.
the track keeps going up and getting smaller. The plantations stop and then the trees thin and we are in heather. we are in clouds now and must be 9,000 feet. It is almost cold especially as the grass is wet and and our shoes are soaked. That helps relieve the sting from the stinging nettles that sometimes are unavoidable.
Oh yeah elephants. 30 minutes past the gate we start seeing old elephant droppings on the trail. they get fresher and fresher. They passed on the road in past few days.
It is pretty cool experience riding through the heather, really cool. I keep looking for trails to take off so I can camp up here sometimes. It is flatter , more rolling now. Eventually we feel we are on the other side and there is more down than up. The track becomes more of an overgrown foot path. Elephant sign become less and now we are into more potato fields.
The key is to take the higher roads. Stay high. A few years ago I went lower and the roads die out and you ride through potato fields for awhile.
We start running into people walking up to work their fields. We talk a bit and ask for the road to Oldonyo Was. The road becomes a road again but it is steep and rough and grass and brush hanging into the road. Instead of flying down we seriously wear out our brakes. We drop out of the clouds. We decided to take the foot trail straight down and leave the switchback road. It is smooth and fast and like a shalom ski run, much nicer than the road. The forest keeps the undergrowth down unlike the edges of the road . Unfortunately it means we miss the track heading above Oldonyo Was hill.
Above Oldonyo Sambu police station we leave the trail and go back on the road and contour through the forest. Eventually the road goes uphill into the pass between Meru and Oldonyo Was. Can you call that a pass? Mnt Meru is 15,000ft and oldonyo wasi maybe 7,500ft. The road is moderately steep but rough and strewn with cut brush. It is hard to stay on the bike. We make the pass and I know it is going to be a long downhill of rough track. We make it to the old colonial farm. There is a huge canyon I have written about before. Someone has bought the farm from Marios Ghikas and is erecting greenhouses. They have graded the road and put gravel in sections. We can now let go of the brakes more of the time than not. No dust to speak of. Then we meet a car and it is Mitcho! He has some heavy earth moving equipment leveling ground for the greenhouses.
We fly down. Next we bump into Lengishon. He used to be the farm hand at the school I worked at. We caught up on each others lives.
Next we stopped at the school and took a quick tour. The house is as i remember it, more simple than what i live in now. It has allot of character.
I note that we have averaged 9.3kph only!!!! What happened to the downhill increasing our speed?
we coast down to the highway and are faced with a few km of uphill and then mostly downhill home 30km away. Paulo was knackered so we finished the dates and trail mix and smoothy.
Total was 85 km and eventually the average speed went up to 13kph. More than 6 hours riding. I was not too tired but as I sat around at home I had hard time sitting and kept wanting to get horizontal. Took the kids to neighbors pool and then home to read while being horizontal.
12 August 2008
Here she is standing next to our tandem. I could not find a tree to lean the tandem against. At this point the wind was gusting to 50kph and it was cold, click on the piture and note what she is wearing and she still is cold.
Jim Bingham, a college roommate, spent July with us. I needed to see what kind of a bike trip would work for him so we decided a short mtn bike bush trip. My lovely wife Bernice was on a work trip so it was either leave Nashesha home or go with her. So we packed up the tandem with stuff for 3 days and took off for Oldebesi Forest.
About 15km up the road Nashesha asked for her first break, it had been mostly uphill to here.
While stopped we saw two push carts laden with logs for making lumber. It was pretty impressive as it must be 3 tons each cart.
We turn off the highway 10 km uphill and ride through a short grass plains.
Jim getting a taste of the erosion, in a small pass before the valley the erosion is 20 feet deep
From the pass it is a nice downhill for a hour or more. Too enjoyable to stop and take pictures. Nashesha was a good sport but after an hour jiggling around on down hill she started asking where we were going to camp.
Arriving at the bottom of the valley we found the inevitable sand and tussocs. By the end Jim resorted to walking for awhile. I had Nashesha keep him company walking.
Where I am standing we made camp. Top Ramen mixed with soup with pieces of cheeze on top. Two of us had a warm canned beer and called it a night.
The next day a couple of guys came to visit our camp. Eventually we had a group of ten keeping us company.
To get more shade and escape the wind we moved down into the canyon behind the two masai. At 6am our new friends brought a jug of milk which we made several pots of chai and shared around.
One of the masai herdsman and his prize bull
We struck a bargain (for them) and bought a young goat and asked them to roast it on the spot. From here on they WANTED their pictures taken. Here is our got being butchered.
Jim got into the tender goat meat and ate his share. It was more than the three of us could eat in a week but this crew finished it in 30 minutes. Everything. After this we were cemented as friends. To this day Lesikar calls me on his cell phone asking when I am coming.
The next morning we pack up and are riding before 8am. It is cool but sunny. Typical July weather.
Two old roomates take a breather on the main road to Oldepesi.
Sigh. A lot of vastness to ride through. That is the back side of Monduli mountain.
The last hill is steep, made even worse by the wind gusting to 50 kph. Jim is leaning for both reasons. Luckily the dust and sand was not blinding us too much as it can here.
15 minutes later we were at the highway for a downhill all the way home. I kept looking back and got off the road quite a few times becuase of the precious cargo in the stoker seat.
09 June 2008
Frida we went west to Nanja, turned around and back to the Monduli road and up to Monduli town and then back to the fair grounds. 110km. 3 hours and 29 minutes averaging 31.6 kph.
As expected the climb out of the first valley the peleton split all up and I got dropped. At the top I was alone and caught a guy on a mtn bike and then a one legged guy. We rode together for awhile. That was a bit humbling. After turnnig around and seeing Mike and thad were not that far back I had them wait. We were then a bigger group but immediately most of them left us on the climb out of the Nanja valley. At the top we caught most people but fell back again when we climbed to Monduli Town. We came in with a pack of about 5.
Of course Saidi won the day. Most of the top ten were from our team.
Second day was a 39km time trial. I did it in 1:17:35 I didnt push it much and thad was a minute ahead of me. There was strong wind to fight with coming back.
At the reading of the times there was some queries and then alot of arguments. Those arguments continued heatedly after the final day. Mwanza team stomped out before the prize giving.
Last day was 180km but the first 12 is controlled through town. It is fun to ride briskly through town but controlled with an escort. I hoped to stay with the lead pack at least to the turn around point. Unfortunately at 40 km some guys went down and i did an endo over them hurting my hand and knee. Miraculously the bike was okay and I got on and thought about quiting becuase my hand was hurting. Thad said keep going and awhile later the pain subsided. I was now with Andrew who was strong and we tried to make the gape to others who had fallen. for the next 15 km we tried and then gave up and waited for all the other white old men. At Moshi we found the lead pack of about 20. they must of been going fairly easy as they were not that far ahead of us.
I managed to force myself to eat and eat. I woud feel bad off and on but mostly it was just tiredness. after the climbs to Arusha i recovered and felt stron the last 10km of flat. It took us 5hours 34 minutes averaging over 30kmph.
As I said there were lots of arguments. Not fun and it delayed the prize giving. there were mistakes on the time trial times. or irregularities.
I have some stiffness from the fall. My hand is slightly swollen and my right knee stiff but not too bad.
05 June 2008
I don't see the sweat thing as a problem anymore. My laptop is now disk less in case i carry it. Traffic is not an issue.
It works better if I play the role of the persecuted humble commuter rather than react to people doing actions that affect my riding.
30 May 2008
I got to the gate and someone was yelling " Erik, Erik". I was feeling persecuted but looked anyway. One of the security guards says. "Erik come and park your bike inside the inner car park." It made me reverse my view of humanity.
28 May 2008
Today is our weekly Wednesday road ride to Monduli town. Before the turn around at Monduli town hospital is a 3 km hill with two corners and a short flat space in the middle of the hill. I had picked up speed coming to the second corner and was not thinking that it had just started drizzling.
For Americans my age, remember what they told us in drivers ed about the first drizzle? Well I forgot that it is supposed to be the time when the road is the slickest. I took the corner at about 25kph and I was shocked as the bike just went out from under me and I sprawled on my right and slid some meters. I have two raspberry's on the knee, one big one raspberry on my right hip, and one on shoulder, and a small puncture in the hand. I also probably sprained my hand. I got up and carried on up the hill, within 5 minutes there was little pain.
The bike clothing saved me from more abrasions. The scrape on my hip is through the shorts but at least it was clean. Another rider , one of the younger kids also fell sometime after me and he hit his head on the helmet and has some abrasions on his face. I guess those ahead of me slowed down on the corner. I hope I remember my Driver's Ed lessons next time.
26 May 2008
This is a ride in the making, I need to ride it again to find a better loop. Saturday it was a 105 km loop mostly on good dirt roads like this one. Actually really good dirt roads. Only a few times did I need the fat mtn bike tyres in sand and rough roads.
I tend to prefer footpaths in the bush but I wanted to see what has happened to this area in the past fifteen years.
I started riding about 7:15 am. I rode around Arusha Town and through Kijenge heading east on the old highway. It was hard packed dirt, must of been maintained recently, as it was smooth, no potholes. After the flower farm of the member of Parliament Mrema, it was not as good but still good. From Kijenge it is mostly downhill and that is what the next few hours were.
Turn right at the Tanganyika Packers, military sign. The road was maintained since I came back up this way from the Themi river ride a month ago. The picture above shows a straight road going down hill forever. I still had on my rain coat because of the morning chill. Although I was riding through farmland and not bush it was thoroughly enjoyable. It is wonderful to be out of Arusha and the effects of mass tourism and in rural Tanzania. People wave and greet and no one wants anything. one particular guy on his bike gives a hearty greeting.
it was 8:27 probably 1,15 riding time.
Before you know it you are at the crossing of the Themi River. Now it is swim-able. I was amazed how much water was flowing . This river is beautiful despite the trash that is carried down the river from Arusha. Note the trash caught in the roots of the tree.
I remember this crossing used to be a rocky crawl through the river. Now there is this huge bridge.
The new bridge is pretty much done. During the big rains the water was still going over the top. I chatted with some young boys about the bridge. On the other side of the bridge you see the last bridge that got destroyed when there was a big rain and trees probably plugged the culverts.
The boys showed me a crack. The idea of arches is good but seems they need more space above the arch to spread the load over a bigger area.
I had not seen any cars since turning off onto this road. After the bridge the road veers west to go to Losinyai (Customs) instead of south.
I passed the cattle market that now has some permanent structures like these. Note how dry it is here compared to the next picture. Or is it overgrazing becuase of the large cattle market here? I thought this market looked kind of cool.
On this section the road is still being worked on and sometimes rough. Soon I was looking for trails on the side.
Now that I am a road builder (another story to tell) I take more interest in how the road is being built. In this wash I think i would not put a culvert. Sometime in the next years there will be a big enough rain to carry a tree down and it will plug up the culvert and was around it and then carry the whole structure down streeam. Notice how dry it is here.
Then within fifteen minutes I was in a section of waist high green grass. I wonder why? Maybe this is a flood plain.
At Losinyai village I stopped to do something and a crowd of kids hung around politely. Then I met a young man named Njau (typical chagga name) but a masai. He had a shop and we exchanged phone numbers. He gave me the lay of the land and estimated times back to Arusha and on towards Komolo. Here is where will take the road going north back to Arusha on my return. I decide to ride towards Komolo and see what i see. It is 40km from arusha it was 9:40 now.
I checked out the impressive bridge here. 30 years ago I used to pass this way alot and it was driving steeply down into the sand river and up the other side. Trucks could get stuck in the sand. Where the young woman is standing they had made a drift but decided for this huge structure. The girl tried to get money off me but I biked south now. I guess this is progress.
I climb out of the river and cruise south hoping i can make it to komolo before running out of time. Way off I see the escarpment of the South Masai Steppe. Below it i notice a body of water I have never seen before. Komolo is at the bottom of this escarpment.
The road was defintiely maintained these days. Finally I have traffic, a couple cars and motorcycles passed in the next two hours. I made it close to Komolo and stopped for breakfast off the road.
One of my sandwhiches was mush so I ate it like Njera or ugali. It was a wonderful meal at 10:30am. I spent about 15 minutes on breakfast.
The triangle bag in the middle of the bike also serves as a seat when it stop. I have a thermos of milk tea and my mush.
I passed two small humble churches but only managed a picture of this one, as there was a lorry off loading building materials at the other one. Someone from outside this village must be investing in the church. This used to be low bush country but now it is hardly any bush.
For awhile I followed a path along the road and it was fun. I could ride fast enough that the curves were like downhill skiing. I almost spilled a few times.
Back at Losinyai I turned after the river and rode north towards Mnt Meru on the road to connect to the road used by the sand trucks. The first section to where the trucks go was about 10km and rough and not very fun. I also had to pump the rear tyre here.
As soon as I joined the "Oljoro" road it was mostly smooth but now there were trucks every few minutes spewing dust. It is slightly uphill but I was mostly keeping speed at 20+kmph. This is not the most enjoyable road but interesting for me to see what has become of this area. The road used to be abismal and now it is wide and maintained. There was a crew working on more drainage even today.
I had to pump the tyre 5 times, I even took the tube out. There were alot of thorns through the tyre and slime all over. I noticed the tyre was pretty wore out. Suprised as the tyre didn't seem to last long.
I resorted to pumping every twenty minutes.
I passed the ngaremtoni river and climbed up the longest hill staying ahead of a sand truck and into Mbauda area and soon a tarred road and civilization. Dirty congested civilization.
It was a little after 2pm and I was home.
It was 105 km, 3 hours to Komolo and 3 1/2 home but 7 hours gone.
By 4pm i was building with the kids the brick bench on the front porch.
By 630 i had the space between the arches filled and my back aching
28 April 2008
The Tanzanian Bicycling Association has chosen to join UCI so we have some standing so they need a bunch of timed races so they can decided whether Tanzania deserves something or not.
26 April is a Holiday and the first race was Arusha on that day. I almost opted out of the race but signed up and was glad I did. It was 150km , to Moshi town and back. I haven't ridden that far on road bike for awhile but knew the peleton affect would make it much easier.
The first 1/4 race was fun. A few times I had to press hard on the pedals to hold on when someone decided to take off or we came to a longer hill. In the middle or back of the pack it was bliss being sucked along. the 2nd quarter I started to feel the pace but managed to just hang on on the hills. One time they took off again after cresting a hill and luckily the peleton was big enough that we pulled them in. Bad for the best riders in our club as they were trying to shake people off.
We turned around and my average speed was 38kmph. We had probably lost 1000feet elevation but it was into a slight wind. The pace was crazy after making the U turn but I held on. I was pretty proud of myself. Mike and Andrew had been dropped way before. There were over 20 people now in the front pack.
As we roller coasted out of Moshi I started to wear down and as the wind was pushing us it seemed they kept the pace up higher. I think our team was working harder now. The first half all our good riders just kept in the pack.
I got dropped on a slight uphill with another half dozen. there was now the front pack of a dozen or so and then the rest of us spread out. I was not looking forward to 65km riding without a break but kept pushing the pedals.
Luckily Mike turned around and helped me half way back. We got caught by one guy who helped some but then left us on a long uphill. Then Mike pooped out and I rode in alone. Hill after hill. I managed to average 31kph. the last 30 km were a struggle and the hills in the last 15 km were slow. I got cramps twice and had to get off the bike. That never happens. wonder what was going on in my body.
At the finish i felt okay but within 5 minutes I threw up , then felt okay. Once home I had diarrhoea the rest of the afternoon. I must of really wore down my body.
Saidi from our club got first followed closely by a guy from Mwanza on a single speed Phoenix bike! three of the guys from mwanza finished in the top 10. Amazing. I need to find what the average speed was.
13 April 2008
Five days ago I received the email below from my friend Erik Zweig. It says many thoughts, but what immediately struck me is that by me riding long bike rides maybe Erik considered riding a bit further and maybe the bike becomes for Erik transportation and not only exercise.
The other thought was when he says maybe I shouldn't ride with him as he is not as fit as me. I used to see how far I could go on my bicycle, not at least sometimes I ride to see how much fun I can have and how many interesting things can I see and experience.
8 April 2008
email from Erik Zweig:
This morning I woke up just as the sky was beginning to glow. I decided to get out of bed and go for a ride. My intention was to try to get to a place not far beyond Carmatec, but a little further than where I had gone last week. When I got there, I came upon many students of the secondary type. I did not feel like turning around in the middle of the road as teenagers yelled such things as “mzungu.” So, I continued on. I then decided that I would try to get to Usa. Once I got to Usa, I thought, “Hey, our other farm is all down hill from here and it is still quite early.” So, I continued on. It was indeed all down hill and I found myself singing in the cool morning air. I got to the farm and people were shocked, couldn’t believe that I had come to work on a bike. I walked the farm, spoke with a few people, you know, managerial stuff, checked my e-mails, had a cup of coffee, drank a bit of water and then headed back.
I made it to the other farm in about an hour, popped into the office to show my face and act like a manager. Then I headed down to my place to take a bucket shower in my front yard in the beautiful sunshine. On the way to my place, I had an epiphany. I decided that the answer to all of the world’s problems is ice-cream. I thought to myself that no matter what it costs, I should invest in enough solar panels to power a big freezer so that I can make ice-cream at my place and open a little stand in the village and sell ice-cream cones. I thought, “Yes, when the mangoes come into season, I will make mango ice-cream. When the strawberries ripen, I will make strawberry ice-cream, and raspberries, and lychees, and peaches, and so on.” I also thought that I would buy two cows and plant sugar cane and vanilla and wheat so that I could actually make all of the ice-cream, including the cone, from my little plot. I was so euphoric and thought that life was beautiful and that it was the most beautiful day and that I should ride to Usa every day.
Then I realized that this was just some endorphins making me feel good, and then I started to feel really tired and decided that I am probably the last person you should go biking around Tanzania with ‘cause I’m totally wasted after a mere two and a half hours of biking. My goodness, it made me hungry.
thanks Erik Zweig for the email. It made my day.
I have too many interests for my mind and body. Is that a reflection of age, planning of ones life, or is it a good thing?
(I wrote this whole post and lost it on a mozzilla crash while posting, and if I am not careful I will get called away before finishing this post to fix the vacuum cleaner, and after fixing the vacuum cleaner I will start to fix a bicycle.)
Back to my limitations. For example I get interested in waste water purification. So I research it, forget what I learned, learn it again, build one, it has flaws. research, forget, research, .....
How does this apply to bicycling? I am wondering if I should simplify. My biking activities include: commuting, bike racing with club, riding with novices, casual club mountain bike rides, riding with family, long mountain bike rides, short and fast mountain bike rides, fixing my bikes. They are all fairly different activities, related but different. So I am wondering if i should give up on the racing and casual rides.
Another posts waiting to be written on how I am seeing my role as encouraging others to ride bikes.
07 April 2008
It is raining everyday.
I went to bed early for a planned 330 rising and leaving at 4am. I woke up about 11pm and felt aching all over and a bad sore throat. I lay in bed being miserable for about an hour and then gargled and took aspirin and then slept.
I didnt feel too bad at 330 so I started to get ready. I move slow and then i had to get Ezra's bike ready. I can't believe it took until 445 before we started off in a heavy drizzle. it was pretty slick to get the the highway.
Our destination was vague but figured with mud that riding towards Mfereji was a good bet.
My 02 Rainshield jacket worked well and I was dry.
Only one vehicle passed us on the hours ride on the highway. that was pretty nice. We could ride side by side and talk.
We reached the Lengijave plains and stopped for a drink and I took this picture. I guess it was still raining at that time. the slog, the boring highway part was over and now we had the short grass plains before us. We swooped down to the edge and then bounced on rough grass down a steep ridge.
It was mostly downhill for the next hour or so. Everything was green but notmuddy. we got on a small foot trail and that led along hte edge of Oldebesi valley. We say some thomson gazelles and zebra and a hawk here and there. mellow ride.
the trail led us into the sand river so we crossed it and came to a boma half way up the other side. Paulo discussed our optins and then recomended riding straight for the old track on the far side of the valley. Ezra surrendered his bike to a masai who wanted to try.
We rode across clumps of grass for awhile and got ot the hard smooth road and went on down the valley.
Paulo suggested we crest a hill and stop at a boma for chai. while swatting flies in the boma Paulo asked for some chai. the man of the boma was castrating sheep that day. They sent a young girl to borrow some sugar from the boma 400 meters away. Paulo talked and eEzrra and i got to know each other better. Turns out one woman in this boma had been to our compound in Arusha, and stayed two weeks waiting treatment.
chai was good and we sat inside a hut.
They showed us a good trail back and we were oon tracks the whole way back.
Turning around it was now slightly uphilll all the way and into the wind and we were more tired. We moved at about 10-15kmph until it became steep and stopped for another breakfast. We lay on the grass drinking chai and sandwiches from home.
Now there was 30 minutes of a steep track up to the lengijave plains.
people changed from masai to waarusha. we met some people who knew Ezra.
up on the plains the speed picked up and by 1230 we were at the highway. Now it was a coast home. I was tired .
78km total time was 8 hours, riding time was 5 1/2 approzximately
09 March 2008
I had several options but a ViaVia Cafe after work Erik mdogo suggested riding south from his place to Kiteto. I didnt commit until 2 minutes from leaving the house. 4am was hard to get motivated, but 5am i could get out of bed and get ready. I left at 6am in the dark.
at around 7 i was passing Erik's place and called in and got him out of bed to share my breakfast. He showed me how to get back to the road without backtracking and soon i was out of the trees and into the plains, an old Sisal Estate stretched every way i could see.
I started to runn into big camps from the estate , some derelict, most deserted as all the adults were in the fields. I crossed a river and found out it was the Themi river. It was chocolate colorted and full of plastic bags.
I was warned to ask directions abecuase there was mud over the road. I didnt see anyone to ask and before i knew it i had done an arc and was back along the Themi river fallowing two bike tracks between =plowed fields and the river.
It got better after 5km and then i noticed a big track accross the river so i waded the river .
People were filtering water by diggin in the sand along the river. Most of the river is in a steep cut out and lined by huge fig treees. Never seen such big fig treees.
I was advised to leave the track along the riverr and follow a track away from the river.
It was always uphill and sometimes steeper. I hit a big road and a washed out bridge being rebuilt.
Met some hice people and kept cranking. was gone 6 1/2 hours, rode 5 hours and went 90 km. the last 2.5 hours i rode straight and didnt eat, just drank. I was a bit knackered and took a 10 minute nap before taking kids swiming.
07 March 2008
Being who I am I agreed, said i survive by being defensive rider and using the tactic of not trusting drivers. I basically supported their idea that bike riding is too dangerous.
As I rode to work I wondered if that is true. Is bike commuting dangerous? I have been commuting for like ten years in Arusha. Sometimes every day in a week, a few weeks never. Lets take the low figure and say i have commuted 50% of the time in the past ten years. So like more that 1500 trips through Arusha Town. Sometimes like two days ago I cruised through town at lunch time and back to the office.
Anyway I had one accident. I was about 6 years ago and a pedestrian crossed the road far ahead of me and I braked on wet oily pavement and the bike slipped from under me. I had a sprain to my wrist and a bruised pride.
Make a note here that most of my mileage is on a racing bike and riding rough roads on the weekend. I fall almost weekly on the mtn bike rides, not serious. I once fell on the road bike ride on a wet greasy cornor.
So is it dangerous or am I lucky or skilled. I thought about that on the way to work. I often ride just to the side of the vehicle lane, so i figure people in their cars see some bikes there and it looks dangerous. But if i want i can move off the road, take different routes, with little traffic. I prefer the shortest smoothest road. That happens to have alot of traffic.
Non commuters should also realize that on alot of road traffic is going so slow that vehicle traffic is not a problem.
To those who dont commute i would say it is not nearly as dangerous as you think. But be smart, start with low traffic roads, trails. Dont trust drivers to do what they should. Wear a helmet and clothing and reflective gear so you are visible.
I have to refrain for tendencies to race with other commuters (both bike and car) and trying to ride like a NYCity bike messenger.
20 January 2008
So why did I buy ANOTHER bike? I preach simplicity! I am against buying new stuff.
One of Nashesha's bike is really a half bike, called Alley Cat, that attaches to a bike and then we can ride around together. We did a number of rides but it seemed a bit of work and is wobbly and only kids can use it. Going through ditches is difficult.
A guy in my club, Dave Armon, has a tour company specializing in biking
Last year Dave opened a “real bike shop” in Arusha selling Trek bicycles and a few spares. I don't need a new bike but it was good to tell others about and I would check out the bikes sometimes, or just stop to say hello.
The shop had a tandem bike that just didnt seem to sell. He had hoped some tourist safari lodge wouuld buy it for $1300. I kept looking at it, even rode it around on a couple of times, and tried it with innocent bystanders.
I probably would of bought it eventually , but there were some other factors that led me to giving Dave $1000 in cash while standing in the bank one day. A bit of a whim, but I had been debating about it.
My first thought was to replace the alley cat on rides with Nashesha, and hopefully it would get Bernice riding more.
So for the past 3 weekends since getting the tandem Nashesha and I have gone out for 3 to 5 hour rides with groups. And this weekend I went another time with Dina the 12 year old neighbor.
I seldom am so happy parting with that much money.
It is kind of a mtn bike setup, leaning toward a comfort bike. I will change the front seat and pedals soon, and maybe the handle bars. The first ride we were able to do all the hills that took the group 3 hours to negotiate. Some places I could not ride, as I couldn't turn or go through ditches sharp ditches. My first thoughts was it is more stable than the alley cat, and I could use a little lower gearing .
When we turned around and started screaming down smooth sections, managing sand, deep dust, and rough sections I couldnt believe how comfortable the ride was. Is it the tyres, which seem to be wider? or the long frame absorbing the bumps, or the curved fork? Seems more comfortable than my shocked mountain bike.
Next I noticed either the componets work better or my mtn bike is worn out, like smoothness of the brakes. If i work on the shifting on my mtn bike it comes pretty good, but the brakes never.
Other items I need to work on are putting 2 sets of frame bags, a rack on the rear, and maybe a bottle cage or two, a odometer, handle bar bag, holders for lights. I am thinking i could put another long slim bag on the down tube for the stokker position.
Oh yeah it has a really good bell that came with it.
Nsahesha was screaming on half of the fast descents. I dont have to convince her of bike rides, she is suggesting and asking if we are going on sunday.