Monthly Archives: September 2009

Saddle soreness

This may be too much information, but I don’t really suffer from saddle soreness due to long hours on the bike.  To me, the key is finding the correct seat and shorts that fit.   In our cycling circles, there is a somewhat odd allegience to Bag Balm, an old trusted standard in ointments to heal and prevent that sort of thing.

But this one has got to be worth some attention.

Review: Anti Monkey Butt Powder
by Richard Risemberg

This will be (if you will forgive me) a “brief” review, for what we have been road-testing for the last few weeks has been a medicated talc you put in your briefs to prevent chafing on long hot bike rides.

There. We said it right out front. Once you all finish giggling, read on. Because the stuff really works!

This despite the gross misrepresentation embodied in its name: it should be called, of course, “Anti Baboon Butt Powder”!

But I’ll forgive them. I was an English major after all, and the prosodic qualities of “Anti Monkey Butt Powder” are, to my mind, superior to the rather flatter poetry of the more-correct version.

It’s talc, a bit of fragrance, and calamine, the latter being the magic ingredient, a compound of zinc that has been used to treat skin conditions for decades, perhaps longer.

And it works: I’ve it now on several very hot-weather rides, with temperatures over 90°F–often well-over. Sometimes I wore padded tights under my knickers, more often just boxers. A number of forty-mile round trips to South Pasadena (a weekly run for me), a seventy-miler down to Long Beach and back with a group ride in the middle, and a crazy forty-five-miler that involved 3900 feet of climbing, 2200 of it on a dirt fire trail on a treeless ridge, which I rode fixed on street tires.
The stuff kept me cheeks quite comfy throughout the duration of every ride.
Not only that, but an incipient saddle sore that was not responding to my usual regimen of benzol peroxide and antibiotic ointment disappeared a week after I began testing the AMBP. Could have been a coincidence–but my tail is happy, and as I’m a daily cyclist, that makes me happy!
The downside is applying it. Talc is very white and flies all over the place at the least provocation, and the majority of cycling shorts, tights, and pants, including those we manufacture, are, if not black, generally quite dark. Till I got the hang of it, the applications were pretty messy. I now usually apply it to hands first, then transfer to the booty. Carefully.

It’s worth it.

I thought, because of the silly name, that the product might turn out to be frivolous and ineffective, but it seems to work as advertised, and I plan to keep using it.

See the company’s website at for more details and a list of retailers.

Weekend Bridge Ride

Early Sunday morning I found myself deep in NW  Portland, with my bike.  I had no set schedule, and no required route, which gave me the chance to just ride in any direction that seemed interesting.  Soon I found myself at the Union Station train-yards where I discovered the Union Station pedestrian bridge.  Nice looking bridge, going over the tracks.  But for what purpose I wondered.

Union Station Bridge

There is a nice elevator at each side, but I was a little surprised that for a newer Portland bridge, it really didn’t have any bicycle friendly access.  Other than the elevators. I took the elevator.

Union Station Bridge

A very similar design to the Springwater trail bridge over McLoughlin Blvd.

Union Station Bridge

Apparently, this bridge was built to get people from the train yard area, over the tracks, and into the courtyards of “The Yards” apartment complex.  Oh, and once you get down and around all the steps of the courtyard, it will put you out on to Naito Parkway. It doesn’t seem like a real heavy traffic flow need, but perhaps I am not aware of the needs of the residents of The Pearl district.

Union Station Bridge\

Once down to Naito I ran into The Race for the Cure in progress.  40,000 women walking the streets of Portland. Time to move on.

Race for the Cure

Then, on to Sellwood, to ride out onto the Sellwood bridge during another one of its regular closings.  Last Sunday they closed it to replace the asphalt that had broken away from all the joints.  This week they were sealing all the seams, and using their lift truck to inspect the underside.

Honey thinks that one day soon they may close it for the day and just decide not to re-open it. She may be right.

By the way, September 30, 2009 is the next open house for the Sellwood Bridge Project.

The goal for this meeting is to share information revisions made to the preferred alternative that have been made since the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIS) was published. These revisions were made to comply with various agency policies and regulations. They include:

  • Refining access to properties with driveways on SW Macadam Avenue
  • Mitigating historic and natural resource impacts
  • Improving bicycle and pedestrian facilities on the west side
  • Narrowing the bridge cross section near the west side interchange
  • Planning more detailed connections to transit and trails

Charlie the chimp at Oregon Zoo suddenly dies

Charlie the beloved patriarch of the Oregon Zoo chimpanzee family passed away suddenly Thursday afternoon.

Senior primate keeper Dave Thomas said the 39-year-old, 160 pound chimp was expected to live another 20 years. Charlie survived the African bushmeat trade to become a pet donated to the zoo in May of 1972.

Slideshow: Charlie the chimp

“It’s the end of an era, and the zoo will never be the same,” Thomas said. “We have to go on though, to provide care and support for our remaining females: Delilah, Leah, Coco and Chloe.”

The four female chimps were surrounding Charlie as a volunteer saw him down. Thomas was the first staff person to respond and initiated an emeregency response system. Vets and other staff rushed to the chimp exhibit.

Several minutes passed before the female chimps could be moved safely away and by that time, Charlie was dead, Thomas said.

The females have since been placed together. Leah and Delilah went straight to where Charlied died, Thomas said. He thinks they will continue to look for him for several weeks, believing he might be alive.

Thomas said the primate staff will try and keep as regular a schedule as possible to help comfort them.

“The girls need to know that we are still here for them,” Thomas said.

Tour of the tour boat. “The Zeeland”

Our week long bike tour was made possible by “The Zeeland” and its fine husband and wife crew of Audry and Linda, and a ships mate. Actually two different mates. Otto worked the ship for a few days, then left and was replaced by another much more quite  guy, whose name was never offered.

This weeks tour included the following passengers.   George and Lena, from Germany.  The family of Paul, Angela, and children Huwe and Rhian from Worster England, Nadia came by herself from her home in Italy,  and then “The Americans”, of Monkey and Honey.  Hannamieke was our fun, energetic, and incredibly patient cycling guide who spent the week teaching us about Holland, showing us all the sights, and becoming a great friend.  A great bike rider that we followed all week long, she set up all the stops and sights, kept us all together, and made sure no one was lost for too long.

Zeeland is located in the southwest of the Netherlands. It is criss-crossed by the Ooster- en Westerschelde estuaries. To the west is the North Sea; to the north, the province of Zuid Holland; Noord-Brabant is to its east and Belgium is to the south.

The boat was actually a working class, ocean capable ship, that has since been slightly retrofitted into a tour boat.  These tours are billed as bike and barge trips, and our expectation of a barge was a slightly lower, darker, slower, lesser furnished version of a boat than this.  Perhaps the word barge doesn’t mean the same thing in all countries.

The Zeeland has three levels.  The sun-deck and captains bridge on top.  The dining area, bar, kitchen, a toilet, the shipmates cabin and the captains quarters were on the main deck.  With the passenger cabins, laundry, storage and engine area down below.  The ship was well maintained, and painted.

Blueprint of The Zeeland

The main deck is is the gathering area.  You enter the boat on the main deck level through large sliding glass doors. To the right is the captains quarters and the stairways to both other levels.  To the left, is the front of the ship where the dining area, bar and kitchen is.  The dining area is full of teak and mahogany and furnished with clear pine tables and cabinetry.  There are a half dozen tables, with one reserved for the captain and, for our trip, two larger tables where we all ate together.  Eating breakfast and dinner together at the same table made for a very comfortable setting as we all got along quite well together.  At one end of the dining area was a buffet area that, each morning promptly when the bell rang at 8:00 am, we found full of breads, cheeses, cereals, fruits, meats, juices, and sweet snacks that we had for breakfast, then bagged up the rest of it as we pleased to serve as our lunches while out on the road.   Beyond that was the bar where we could go to get water and drinks for the meals. Behind that was the kitchen, in which we were not allowed.

Dining Hall of The Zeeland

This stairway leads to the cabins below. We were used to the No Smoking sign.  The “no drugs” sign seemed  to us to go without saying, but hey, this is Amsterdam…….

Stairway of The Zeeland

Below deck there are 10 cabins, with 27 beds.  Each cabin with its own bath/shower. Our cabin had 3 single beds.  A bunk bed set, and an open space bed.  There was a sink,  closet, and electrical plug-ins.  This came in handy in making coffee with our personal size  water cup heater.  Of course this also required the power converter to go from the 110 volts used in the states, to the 220 volts used in Europe.  That heater made the water boil very much faster with the 220!  The sleeping area of the cabin also had two small portholes, that we were not allowed to open during the day while the ship was out in the water since the portholes are only slightly higher than the water level.  There was also a porthole in the shower area.  We opened all these each day as we returned from riding and did not close them again til we left for the next days ride, as it does get stuffy down there, and the breeze aided in drying the clothes that we had washed and hung out each night.  As would be expected, the toilet/shower area was quite small. It is actually all one molded fiberglass unit. One step into the room, and you are actually in the shower, with a curtained area just big enough to turn around.  Using the toilet means standing in the shower, made slightly inconvenient in that the slope of the floor meant that the basin never fully drained on its own.  But we were provided a squeegee that we could use to squeegee all the water into the drain so that Honey didn’t get wet feet in the middle of the night.  But the water was hot, the toilet works,  and the rooms were clean and bright.
Down the hall was the laundry room, and Linda provided us with clean towels every third day.

Hallway of The Zeeland

The bikes were stored on the top deck, but there was plenty of room for them, and all of us, and chairs and all the other boat type supplies that would be needed.  Part of it was covered, which came in very handy during the rainy times of our trip.  And of course the captains bridge, which was polished and neat and contained a computerized navigation system that apparently made it easy to stay on course in the river channels without a lot of human steering.

Captains bridge on The Zeeland

A very nice boat, and a wonderful week.  We will remember the trip and the people for a very long time.

Captain and Captains Wife

Netherlands Bike Tour – A to Z (Arnhem to Zutphen)

 Today’s ride is expected to be a relatively short 55 kilometers, along the Ijssel river from Arnhem, through Doesburg, then turning slightly north, in to Zutphen.  Everyone on board follows the schedule. The Zeeland leaves the dock promptly at 7:00, as this is the time our captain told us he would leave.  The breakfast bell rings promptly at 8:00, as this is the time the captains wife told us that the door to the dining room would be open, and that breakfast would be ready.  The Zeeland drops us off at the river wall just prior to the lock that enters the lake like area of the Ijssel, at Doesburg a few minutes before 9:00.  The lake area doesn’t really have a different name, just a really wide spot of the river. We hurry to get every thing off the boat, as the next opening of the locks will be at 9:00.  And we are then off.  We must ride from the north side of the lake area, around the west side, then south side, then east side, in order to continue on to Zutphen.   The weather on this day, as with most days of our tour in The Netherlands were cloudy,  with continual mixtures of wind, then rain, then sun. By the time this day was through,  Honey and I were beginning to adjust to the slow pace of riding in a group of family/recreational riders.   Many stops for food, restrooms, pictures, horses, coffee, waiting for everyone to gather, etc.  On this day, we completed the ride of 55 kilometers in 9 1/2 hours.  Say it again, this……..a……vacation……..

We are here, and want to go there.

Much of the ride did follow the river, and we were able to see The Zeeland pass us by on their way up to Zutphen.  It happened on many occasions that our boat would pass by, and wave. Though I don’t think they ever thought about stopping to ask if we wanted a ride.

The Zeeland on the Ijssel

People in The Netherlands expend a great deal of energy in maintaining their homes.  The homes here are very neatly trimmed, clean and painted, with flowers everywhere.  They also pay attention to their traditional appearance without necessarily adhering to traditional methods.  Here a home was being re-roofed in thatch, with the help of a crane.

New thatch roof

We spent a while touring the town of Doesburg. The area is famous for its mustard production, and this sidewalk cafe proved to be a great spot for a bowl of Salmon/Mustard soup, and coffee, while we watched the bikes go by.


Unlike the U.S. much of the riding through the country side can be done on paths completely separate from the roadways.  In this area we rode for mile on a pathway that was on top of the dike system, elevated from the roads, and separate from another bike path that ran near, but not connected to the road. Kind of like the business route, and rural route, for bikes.  Paths mostly go through sheep pastures, cow pastures and cornfields, as the Dutch don’t think that a bike path really has to follow along any road.  Perhaps 60% of our riding for the entire week were on paths completely separated from any roadway.

Ridging on the dikes

Today’s ride did take us to several windmills, which will covered in another post.  And in addition to the stop for coffee and soup in Doesburg, another stop for coffee and desert in Bronckhorst, a small town that has about three streets, all cobble-stoned, whose appearance likely hasn’t changed in the last 200 years, with the possible exception that its main industry now is tourists.  The town seems to be full of bicycles.  I think that even the Dutch people take their vacations on bikes.    We finished our day with dinner, served promptly at 6:00, followed by a walking tour of Zutphen led by our guide Hannameke.

Netherlands Bike Tour – Roll on to Arnhem

The barge casts off at 7:00 sharp, and we head up the river. This gives us time to settle in for breakfast, pack our lunches and gather our gear.  The Zeeland drops us off near the town of Heavendorp about 11:30 to start our ride for the day.   Early on in the day we have a very short ferry ride over a river, and then perhaps one of the biggest rainstorms of the trip as we stop to visit the castle near Woofheeze.

Ferry ride

The heavy rainstorms turned this 5 minute break, into a 30 minute coffee stop at the cafe, much to the chagrin of our cycle guide Hannamike. Most of the riders were enjoying the shelter of the converted horse stables, and the warm drinks, but she knew how much more riding we had for the day.

Castle Near Woffheeze
The ride then heads north through the De hoge Veluwe national park, with our lunch to be at the Kroller Muller museum. The vegetation of area of the park was sort of a high desert meets the heather of Scotland.   The museum is a large indoor/outdoor art facility, with its main attraction being the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings in the world.  Parking is limited and expensive in the park and for that reason, they maintain a very large collection of white bikes for people to ride in and around the park.  A separate post will cover the white bikes.  We were only given about 1 1/2 hours to have lunch and see the exhibits before we had to start riding again. So we skipped lunch and headed directly to the Van Goghs. That took most all the time we were allowed so we had to skip much of the rest and eat our lunch as we hurried back to the bikes. Returning through the narrow paths through the fields of the park, Honey had her one fall of the trip.  While we were passing some riders, Nadias inexperience caused her to spook and veer, forcing Honey off the path, dropping her a into some rutted muddy area which caused her to loose balance and fall back onto the pathway.  Nothing broken but pavement hitting bare knees is never a good thing.  A little bloodied, but spirits intact, she  rode on.

From there it was back south the Arnhem, on the banks of the Ijssel.

Arnhem city Streets

We arrived at the boat about 6:30.   After dinner, there was time for a quick shower and change, before we took a stroll through the town of Arnhem.

Many of the hansaetic towns in the area were fortified with walls, and had a main gate to the city.
This was the main gate to Arnhem.

Arnhem city gate
The Zeeland was docked just down river from The John Frost bridge, site of the Battle of Arnhem, during world war II, and memorialized in the movie “A bridge too far”.
Zeeland and Arnhem bridge

Netherlands Bike Tour – Board the Barge

The combination of time zone adjustments and excitement for the pending trip has us up early again this morning.  Another breakfast in the hotel dining room, and then I take our four cases down to be stored in the hotel luggage storage room.  The cases are now empty save for a few items we don’t want to haul around on the bikes for two weeks.  The staff cautiously warns that they cannot assure the security of the luggage, even though you must be electronically let into the room, so I use two small locks and cables to secure the cases to the rack.  We both will carry four panniers on front and back racks, and a handlebar bag carrying all the more personal and valuable items.  The bikes are loaded and we are ready to head out.  The elevators most everywhere we went were not big enough for both bikes and both of us, it is one at a time. Once checked out, we ride off. Without our helmets.  After much debate we had decided that for this trip, in an attempt to save space, have two less bulky items to have to keep track of, and to fit into the Dutch cycling experience, we would do this trip without them.  We knew we would feel much safer there in respect to traffic. We also knew that wearing helmets is like wearing a big sign that says “I am a tourist”.  Honey isn’t entirely convinced.

Riding to the barge

We left plenty early as we did not want to be late.  The Zeeland was docked just where we left it the day before, and people were scurrying around cleaning and stocking.  Turns out that The Zeeland isn’t what either the Americans or the Dutch picture as a barge.  It is more like an ocean capable, working class vessel.

The Zeeland docked in Amsterdam

We got to the boat before they were ready to admit new passengers, so it was off again in search of coffee.   Soon we all boarded, stowed the bikes on the top deck, our gear in our cabin, had a brief introduction meeting to meet the other passengers, and the hear the rules from the captain, the order of behavior from the captains wife and the cycling plans from our cycling leader.

In another post I will cover the passengers, the crew, and the boat itself.

Bikes on The Zeeland

Casting off the lines, we now sail southeast out of Amsterdam through  ocean inlets and down the Rhine river.  This is not an Amsterdam canals boat.   The trip takes a few hours. Long enough to unpack a bit,  relax, photograph the numerous bridge structures, and get acquainted with the other passengers.  The Zeeland approaches our port for the night, at Wijk bij Duurstede, just as we gather for dinner.  So we can dine and watch the town appear and the crew secure the ship.

Approaching Wijk bij Duurstede

After dinner, everyone lends a hand to get the bikes down, and adjusted to each riders stature.  Then its out for a ride through the town, and the countryside, and around the castle at Wijk bij Duurstede.

Wijk bij Duurstede Castle

We returned shortly before dark.  All the bikes get hauled to the deck, and there a little time for relaxing prior to doing all the other little things needed to get settled into our little cabin.  To bed after 11:00, but we are still unable to get more than a few hours of sleep.  Good news. Our cabin not only has its own shower (think they all did) but it has 3 beds. (they all did not) Not as good news. They are all bunk beds,  and monkey gets  the second choice. Cramped bottom, or top without ladder. No matter. Its nice, clean and comfortable. We won’t be spending much time in the cabin.

Netherlands Bike Tour – Acclimation Day

The jet lag feels like a warm wet blanket.  We did not sleep at all well on this first night and we were done with it some time before 6:00 am.  Hungry, and without the energy to get prepared and out the door in search of food, we took the easy way out and went downstairs to the hotel restaurant.  Here in the Netherlands the breakfasts are typically European.   Breads, cheeses, thin meats, yogurts, fruits.   All stuff I like so that worked well.  Little heavy on the cheeses for Honeys liking, and a little light on the pastries for mine.  Good, just a little overpriced. The restaurant is on the ground floor, at the end of the train yard.  The longer trains that make brief stops at the station, will leave passengers looking out their window, and directly into the windows of the restaurant less than five feet away.  A bit odd to look up and see somebody gazing in at you from outside.  After breakfast, took another look through the masses of bikes in the parking structure.

Biek parking outside Centaal station

Then decided that maybe we could sleep more and napped until 1:00.  Then, time for some exercise and exploration.  We took the bikes out for a shakedown cruise to verify that they were set up and working correctly, and to find the best route to get to the boat for tomorrows departure.  Google and a little looking around earlier, got us a possible route and with a little wandering around we were confident we could find the paths that we liked.  The bike traffice in Amsterdam is like nothing else we have seen.  Bikes are everywhere, riders are coming and going in all directions, and there are dedicated paths, lanes,  and markings capable of leading a rider anywhere they wanted to go.  This is not a city where you look out for cars.  You must be aware of bike traffic coming from any direction. All the cross walks have pedestrian traffic signals, bike traffic signals and car traffic signals.  With just a couple of map consultations, found the dock where our boat would be.  It was in fact already there, having gotten in the night before, with the previous weeks riders.  Had a brief chat with one of the riders capable of speaking English, met the captains wife, and then rode on, happy that we had that part of our travel connection verified.  Rode back the 6 kilometers to our hotel,  along the canal and over a bridge, using a much more direct and simple route.

Ride back from Boat Dock

Hotel and bike parking

We returned to our room to find the cleaning crew hard at work.  The manager was in the hallway as well, and I alerted him to the leaking toilet line in our room, and he quickly got his maintenance guy to fix it.  It was good to meet this guy, since he would come in very handy later on in our trip.  Picked up tram tickets that would take us through the city and out to the museum district in search of the Van Gogh museum. We used the tram ride as a mini tour of the city, and another way to find a place to eat.   One stop was on a block with a large terrace full of outdoor dining tables, all covered with umbrellas, partially encircled with a ring of restaurants and bars.  Each cafe or bar had tables assigned to them, with their menus.  In Amsterdam it seems that there are an equal number of outdoor settings for bars as for cafes. We hopped off, and found a table dedicated to a cafe that we liked, had lunch, then hopped back on the next tram heading our way.

Van Gogh Museum

The half hour wait to get in to the museum was worth the opportunity to see so many his works, where you could walk right up and touch them.  You could, but I didn’t as I think they are pretty sensitive about stuff like that.  Later we walked around the city and stopped at an Indian restaurant that Honey had previously found.

Amsterdam canals

We sat right by the open front door where we could look out at the traffic going by.  Predominately bikes.  At a rate of perhaps a bike every minute.  An informal survey revealed that, in the 40 bikes that went by during this survey, 20 were men, 20 were women.  Then, back to the room to pack everything up in preparation for the barge tour.  Watched TV as late as we could, and hoped that on this night, we could sleep.

Netherlands Bike Tour – Flight to Amsterdam

The day is here. Months of planning, weeks of  preparation, and an entire day of packing and we are ready to head out with our bikes for a 2 1/2 week trip in The Netherlands and France.  This first day went according to schedule. Left our car at Portland Airpark, and those guys are great.  They stop at the trunk of our car, loaded the 2 bike cases and 2 suit cases for us, and took us right to the terminal door. The baggage handler/scanner guy seemed unfazed when I told him the two cases full of steel tubing and cables were actually bikes. Says he sees them all the time.   The flight was a non-stop to Amsterdam, that left right on time. We were on the plane for nearly 11 hours.  And while NW airlines is nice, I think we still prefer to fly SAS.  Two movies, two meals, two tv shows, and two books each. Sunny and warm when we touched down early in the morning.  We easily wheeled our four large suitcases through customs quite quickly as they didn’t feel the need to search or question us much at all. Purchased train tickets in the airport, and took the elevator downstairs which put us directly at the train stop. Trains  go between Schipol airport and Centraal station every 15 minutes and its about a 20 minute ride.

Centraal Trainyard

The tracks in this part of the city follows a major highway, whose traffic  seemed a bit slow, perhaps owing to the early morning commute.   I was particularly surprised by the abundance of graffiti on the cement walls along the roadway and through the industrial areas.  Really no different than home, I think I just expected better over here.

Centraal Train Station

Our hotel, the Ibus, is just a couple hundred feet away from the front doors of the Centraal train station, which made it a simple trek to get from the train, out the station down the sidewalk and into our hotel, where our 7th floor room was awaiting.  We checked in at 7:30 am and our room was ready which was a nice surprise, as we expected we would have to wander the streets like the homeless tourists we were for several hours until they let us in.

Hotel Ibus

Like most European hotels, the room was small, but it overlooked the city, the canals and Centraal stations bike parking garage, capable of holding 7,000 bikes.

Room view

After regrouping a little, we were off to scope out our future  train connections, find Internet access for later, and get some breakfast.  Honey has done considerable research on amenities throughout our trip, and she knew of a great cafe inside the station.  So, we stopped at the Grand Cafe for breakfast.  The decor seemed right out of Casablanca. Dark carved woods, potted palms, murals, tall ceilings, large bar.  After convincing the waiter it would be easier for all of us if we could see an English menu, I discovered Dutch apple pannekoeken, and their penchant for very good, strong coffee.   Perhaps due to its strength, its always served in a smaller cup than you see in the states, and they don’t do refills.  We thought with a little coffee and a walk we could keep going throughout this next day, even though we had been up for something like 18 hours already.  That didn’t work so well, and we decided maybe a 3 hour nap would be nice. After that, a walk-around in the city, and found a sidewalk cafe to eat again, back to the room til sunset then out again for some wine on a terrace overlooking a canal where we could watch the boats and the bike riders.

Hotel room

Back at the room I began the process of re-assembling the bikes.  It seems to go a little faster each time yet reattaching the front wheel, the pedals, racks, handlebars, bottle racks, fine tuning brakes, wheels, chains, cyclometers, and accessories, in a cramped hotel room,  takes about an hour for each bike.  We stayed up as late as we could thinking this might help us sleep.