Monthly Archives: June 2014

Two Rivers Century

Today’s ride: Two Rivers is a relatively new ride, starting and finishing in Centreville on the Eastern Shore. The two rivers are the Chester River and the Corsica River. The ride crosses them, and gives beautiful views of the water and farmland surrounding Centreville and the Tuckahoe State Park. This is a fairly flat ride but there is a lot of variation, shaded areas, and quite a bit to see. The roads are good and in places the roadsides are taken over by colorful patches of wild day lilies. The ride support is good, and the rest stops are placed closer near the end of the ride.  The road is well marked, and every turn has a sign! This is the kind of century that is pleasant to spin through, and since Centreville isn’t very far from the Bay Bridge, the Metric Century Option would be attractive for people who are training for a full century in the fall. 

The Experience: Today my usual riding companions split into two groups, with Bill Harback, Denise Teeling and Tom Roman in the “fast” group, and Ron Tripp, Eric Sanne and I riding a little slower. We rolled out about 7AM and while the morning was still cool we crossed over the Chester River and headed out toward Betterton Beach. Our pace was very consistent, and we found ourselves heading through the Eastern Shore countryside, talking and enjoying the morning. By the time we had gone 60 miles, the morning was heating up, and hydration was important. We had been good about drinking though and we found ourselves working together well. At the 75 mile rest stop we filled our bottles with ice and added water. When the temperature tops 90 degrees, ICE IS NICE! The cold water kept me from overheating.  The rest stop in Tuckahoe State Park was beautiful, and though this was the first time I’ve ridden this century, I was very impressed by the ride. It was one of the best Eastern Shore Centuries that I’ve ridden. After the ride – lemon ice at the finish, and M&Ms out of the ice chest!  The experience was topped off by a great post-ride meal at the Fisherman’s Crab Deck on Kent Island, where we had a toast to those who couldn’t join us!

Selections from my mental iPod during the ride: This ride was dominated by “Rain in the Summertime” by The Alarm, but also: “Caribbean Blue” by Enya, and “The Ghost in You” by The Psychedelic Furs. 

Stats: 101.79 Miles ridden.  A lively ride with good friends and some great views. 



Sunrise – on the way to the ride start with Ron.



At Betterton Beach with Bill Harback, Denise Teeling, and Tom Roman.  I need a bike…



The scenery was great, and some of the roadsides had run riot with orange day lilies.


At the Fisherman’s Crab Deck on Kent Island. Eric Sanne, me, Tom Roman and Ron Tripp. Note the empty pitchers…

Bay to Bay 2014

Today’s ride: Bay to Bay runs from Betterton on the Chesapeake, to the Delaware Bay. The ride runs west to east and back, and the prevailing wind can work with you and against you on the same ride. This is a flat ride, but what hills there are are near the start and finish, and some long grades and climbs that fall between miles 60 and 80.  Two miles from the Delaware Bay the route enters a salt marsh, and there are biting flies to deal with. They’re an annoyance more than a hindrance, but it isn’t unusual to be bitten. The ride organizers picked up on this and use a fly in the ride logo!

The Experience: I haven’t ridden a century solo in a long time. Since I knew that I’d be riding alone I arrived early and rolled out just before 7am. With very little wind and patchy cloud cover the morning was cool and I began to roll well. By the first stop I was in a good rhythm and since the morning was still cool I made it a short stop and pushed on into Delaware and toward the Delaware Bay.  Since I’d started early there weren’t too many riders ahead, and while I would normally see groups of riders heading back from the Delaware Bay during the 8 mile run to the rest stop,  This time there were very few. Coming back out I began to see riders coming in the opposite direction, but I was riding well by the time I left the marshes and I moved inland at a good clip. I got to the 60 mile rest stop and took my time, knowing that the flat sections were done. The next two stops were close together, one at mile 73 and another at mile 84. The short distance between them helped me adjust to the rolling terrain that greeted me after the 60 mile stop. While I was able to maintain my pace, by the time I reached the last rest stop I was feeling the difference between riding solo and riding in a group. In a group you can draft and save energy.  Riding in a line can make a big difference in your pacing as well. A group of riders will even out the pace somewhat. The distance from the last stop to the finish was just about 20 miles, and they were hard miles. While I tried to maintain my fast pace, I didn’t have the energy and I had to sit up and spin more. Even so, I didn’t lose too much pace, and I finished well. I was very pleased with the way I rode Bay to Bay, because I’m not used to riding alone and I held my pace well. 

Selections from my mental iPod during the ride: “Hatful of Rain” by Del Amitri, “Obscurity Knocks” by the Trashcan Sinatras, and “High” by The Cure. 

Stats: 103.50 Miles ridden.  A strong solo effort.  With other riders helping, this ride might have been even better. 


Ride Swag. Sadly, coffee was not included with the cup.


Prior to the ride, nearly ready to set off!


Long shot of the Delaware Bay from the second rest stop.

SMECO (Southern Maryland Electric Co-Op) 75

Today’s ride: The SMECO 75 is a unique ride. The distance is unusual, since it falls between a Metric Century and and English Century. This is a very well supported ride. The countryside in St. Mary’s and Charles Counties is very scenic, and the ride is in Amish Country, so riders will occasionally share their route with horse-drawn carriages. The rest stops are frequent and relatively close together. 

The Experience: Today we started early again, and while getting up in the dark of early morning can be tough, the early start has advantages. June can get very hot and humid, and starting early meant we got moving and rode a few hours before the heat of the day set in.  We set out with our minds on our good friend and riding companion Russ Altemose, who has been unable to share our rides while he battles cancer.  John Koehnlein, Carol Linden, Ron Tripp, Eric Sanne and I set out in the early morning chill, but the cool temperature didn’t last long as the sun angle changed. The roads were often shaded, and we held together at a comfortable pace. With the rest stops close together and good conversation, the ride seemed to speed by. This ride is in rolling terrain, and as usual, John was strong in the climbs. I felt good as well, and before the day got hot, our group found ourselves past the midway point of the ride. Ron spent a lot of time setting the pace on this ride. We held together for most of the ride, with the exception of the hilly sections that stretched us out, but we collected ourselves and rode together for most of the ride. We were all feeling good at the last rest stop, and with ten miles to go, we decided to finish strong.  John jumped out of the pack first, and while I went with him, I found his climbing style hard to follow. Caught between john’s power and the rest of the group, I set a strong pace of my own and concentrated on overtaking other riders. I finished just after John, followed a little later by Eric, who started in pursuit of John and I, but gave us too much of a lead to make the catch. Ron and Carol both rode home strong in due course, and another successful ride entered the books. This year’s ride wasn’t as hot as the year before, and we were all glad of it.  Tom Roman, who had come to ride with another friend, was waiting for us with a smile, a little good natured teasing and a beer. A toast to Russ called the ride to a successful close. 

Selections from my mental iPod during the ride: “Soothe Me” by Sam & Dave, “Manhattan” by Eric Johnson and “Please Don’t Tell Her” by Big Head Todd and the Monsters.

Statistics: 75.05 Miles ridden at a steady pace, on a nearly perfect day in June. This year’s string of weekend events with good weather continues!


Carol at the first rest stop.


Not John, Paul, George and Ringo, but John, Ron, Tom and Eric.


Ron and I at the rest stop at Colton Point.


The Flight of the Fighter Kite

Many years ago, on a cool morning in late March, I was flying a Firefly fighter that I’d built the night before on kite hill in Magnuson Park in Seattle. A man approached me to ask if he could film me flying my kite.  While he said there was no wind, there was actually a very light breeze, but fighter kites fly well in light winds that other kites may not be able to launch in. I thought I’d share that video with you.

The Simple Joy of the Fighter Kite

For many years now, I’ve been building and flying fighter kites. To me, they are beautiful in their simplicity and their motion. They can be a thrill when flown on a short line or in competition. They can be a kind of mobile mandala or meditation target when I fly alone. They connect me to the sky.

As kites go, fighter kites don’t get a lot of notice. They don’t make a big display and they aren’t easy to capture in photos or film because of their quick, darting flight. They do not pull hard like many multi-line stunt kites. They maneuver on a single line through line tension, and a flyer needs to know when to pull the line and when to give the kite slack line. It’s much like flying a leaf on a thread. They’re not complicated. A simple diamond shape with a spine and a bowed spar from wingtip to wingtip is the most common form, though there are other variations. They usually aren’t much more than two feet across, and they don’t have much surface area for decoration.  They can be temperamental, and getting one to be consistent takes some patience and care.

Once you get a fighter kite in the air, you are rewarded with a lively little dragster that responds quickly to your inputs, moves with unmatched speed, and changes direction in an instant. It is designed to be unstable on a slack line, and stable on a taught line – the secret to the kite is it’s flexibility. A fighter kite is the high performance race car of tethered flight.  When you fly one on a short line, it is quick and reacts in an instant, when you fly on a longer line a fighter takes longer to react and becomes more tame – you can fly one in any way that fits your mood. A fighter’s motion can be hypnotic.  The speed and adaptability of a fighter kite is part of it’s charm. While a stunt kite is always the same distance from the flyer due to fixed line lengths, a fighter’s single line gives the flyer options. You can fly on any line length you choose. Once you master the skill of flying one, that simple kite can be a source of great joy.

I found fighter kites through a combination of curiosity and luck. It started with a kite catalog that interested me in flying kites. A fighter kite peaked my interest, but fighter kites aren’t commonly mass produced for sale in the west. In India and southeast asia, where they originated, the kites are made of bamboo and tissue paper, and flown on cutting line. The line is coated with rice paste and powdered glass, and when two lines come in contact, one is cut. Therefore, the traditional fighter kite is commonly a disposable object. There aren’t many that are mass produced from fabrics or more durable materials. I found books about building them, and that had appeal to me, but I really  began to understand them when I met a group that had just formed to build and fly them. Since that time, I’ve been a fighter kite specialist, and they’ve been a source of entertainment and joy for many years.

I have flown fighter kites in competitions, I have flown fighters on cutting line and felt the joy of cutting and being cut, I have designed and built kites to fly indoors (you have to back up to keep the kite flying) and I have won prizes at kite festivals for my kites. That simple kite form has been very kind to me over the years. I enjoy designing and building fighters. I’ve always been proud to fly my own creations.  I build my kites out of Mylar or Clearphane (a plastic film that is semi-opaque, a colored cellophane.) and I also use a material called Orcon, which is a lightweight, flexible ripstop plastic material that was once used as a vapor barrier in aircraft.  I use graphite rods for my bows (the flexible spar from wingtip to wingtip) and bamboo for my kite spines. I build them with three point adjustable bridles so I can adjust the balance of the kite and adapt to wind conditions. I’ve been pleased with the results over the years.  I don’t rush my kite building, but I can build one quickly in a few hours. I have experimented with sail shapes and materials, and I have my favorites, but in the end, they all produce the same result, a kite of speed, simplicity and pure joy to fly.

The photos below are of a swallow-tailed fighter I call a Firefly. This example is made of mylar, using a bamboo spine, graphite rods for the bow and the tail battens, contact cement, packing tape to reinforce the places where the sail is under strain, and loose-leaf page reinforcements at the place where the bridle lines go through the sail to attach to the bow near the front of the kite. This example isn’t bridled yet, but in the sky it will be kinetic art.

Firefly_Front      Firefly_back

The front of the kite.  Red mylar is very visible.       The back side. Fighters are designed to flex.