Friday, September 25, 2015

Frisco Highline and South Wind Rail Trail

I am behind in my posting  so this is about a little roadtrip we took on September 11, 12 and 13.  We were invited to our neighbor’s induction into the Allen County Junior College Athletic Hall of Fame.  He played baseball there before moving on to Division 1 schools.

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Since we were traveling south, we ventured over into Missouri to check the Frisco Highline Rail Trail.  This is the second longest trail in Missouri at 36 miles, with the Kathy being the longest.  The former Frisco Highline Railroad carried Harry Truman from Springfield to Bolivar Missouri to warm up for his Whistle Stop campaign. 

The part of the trail near Springfield is urban.  So, we started north of there in Walnut Grove.  The small town did not post “no overnight parking” at the trailhead, so when we arrived at nearly dark, we just spent the night.  The next morning, we  jumped on the trail where there were already riders at day break. 

Our plan was to ride north to the Little Sac River Bridge and back, about 15 miles.  We totally enjoyed the route through farm land, then along the Coates Branch creek.  The information about the trail had said it was rough and washed out in places.  It must have been an old review, because we found it mostly well maintained.  It had periodic benches and the stream was flowing nicely—even a little waterfall.  It was a fun, relaxing ride.

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We might have spent more time on the trail, but we decided we better not cut it too short.  As it turned out, we made it just in time for the banquet at Iola, Kansas.  After the banquet, we decided to head south to Humboldt Kansas, once again parking for the night at the South Wind Rail trail head.

South Wind Rail Trail 

We had about an hour of time the next morning before we needed to head home.  Dan decided he would just pick me up at Iola, so off I went.  This is a beautiful, well maintained trail that connects the two small towns.  In a first for Kansas, this trail was built mostly through the efforts of Thrive Allen County, an active local non profit.  It is also maintained by the local county commission.  The trail was busy despite the early hour I was riding.  Here is an example of small rural Kansas towns working together to make something that can be enjoyed by all.  This Trail also hooks up with the 51 miles Prairie Spirit Trail that runs north to Ottawa. 

Congratulations Iola and Humboldt for working together for the good of all!

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Electric Bikes

In case any of you are impressed with our recent athletic prowess on bicycle trails, prepare to be less that way when I tell you that Dan and I are riding electric bikes. (If you look closely at previous pictures of our bikes, you will notice the batteries, the only noticeable difference).   We’ve had them about eight months.  I decided it was time I fess up and fill in details.   Who knows, maybe some of you are not thinking we are just old farts and want to join in the fun….they are becoming more popular on the west coast—as if that means anything.  Anyway, here is the skinny:

First, I will say there are probably already  refinements on the new models of electric bikes.  They seem to be improving all the time and the biggest change is battery advancement.     This is not an endorsement for any particular brand name but only what I feel is the best fit for Dan and I. 

Dan’s bike is a Prodeco—one of the more popular brands.  It is certainly not the top of the line, but has a 500 watt motor.  I spent a lot of time researching electric bikes and decided for his weight, he would need this more powerful motor.  He has had excellent results.  The 36V Lithium Ion battery has given him good distance.  Depending on how much he assists, he should have a range of 30 miles—we’ve never ridden that far on one charge to check that though.  Prodeco is an American made bike with an 8 speed SRAM derailleur.  Our biking kids are appalled at the weight—55 pounds including the battery.  But, it is a nice looking, solid bike.

My bike is an X-Treme.  It is made in China and not the quality of Dan’s.  However, it is also less expensive.  It is similar to Dan’s in many respects except for the less powerful  300 watt motor which should be an incentive to peddle more because that would only be about 20 miles with heavy battery use.  It has a Shimano 7 speed derailleur shifter.  It is also weighs in at a heavy at 52 pounds, including the 24 V Lithium Ion battery.

Now, how to carry the bikes on the back of the PW.   The 1upUSA Aluminum Quik-Rack Bicycle Hitch Carrier is an USA made all aluminum secure carrier.  We can’t say enough about how easy it is to load and unload the bikes.  The fact that it is aluminum reduces the weigh but still it is a beefy carrier.

Finally, I thought I would feel better about carrying the bikes behind the PW in all weather if they are covered.   I ended up with the brand name yardstash.  It seems for a while, every time we traveled, it rained.  The covers did their job of keeping the bikes fairly dry and clean.

A quick review of our electric bicycle setup. 

Obviously this is an investment.  However, I feel both bikes will certainly be sufficient for our needs.  The Prodeco has less rattles and squeaks.  Also the motor is a bit quieter.  Still, I am sure most people we meet on the paths would not know we have electric bikes.  There is a slight “whine” upon acceleration.  It is high pitched and animals seem to notice it most often. 

In case there is confusion, we do peddle like a regular bike and, only if desired, we activate the motor to get an assist.  This is when the more powerful motor is most noticeable.  On very steep hills, my less powerful motor has stalled out but Dan has yet to have that issue.

To address the question of why don’t we just get in better shape and ride a regular bicycle—especially since we enjoy the relatively flat rails to trails bike paths.  Well, we aren’t getting any younger.  Dan will be looking at double knee surgery sooner rather than later.  We really like riding together as we travel.  We are now getting a lot more exercise than we did before the bikes.  As we travel, we usually find at least one trail a day to ride.  As we get in better shape, we will peddle more and use the motor less.

In the next few days, I will be writing about three of our latest trails.  But, now you might not be as impressed as previously with our fitness level.  Just know we are having fun.