Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Socialist State of Illinois to Close 90 Mile Bike Trail

I hate it when politics and biking collide with each other.  It seems so hard to get anything accomplished in state and local government to promote biking.  Every time I see a new road being built I look for the bike lane that never appears and many times the trails are a jumble of short routes that never connect to each other.
Now in the state of Illinois it would seem that we are going backwards with the announcement that the state will be closing Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park.  This will result in the closure of a 90 mile bike trail, 30 miles of it paved.  The Hennepin Canal Trail passes through 6 counties and is a great recreational trail.  It is flat so it lends itself to all age groups and it is very scenic along the canal. blog entry "No trespassing" signs going up on 90-mile bike trail in Illinois outlines plans by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to close the park as of November 01, 2008.
Because of state government mismanagement, the State of Illinois is closing 11 state parks in order to save an estimated $14 million dollars a year.
As a citizen of the State of Illinois, I am offended that my government would choose to close a perfectly good state park with a great bike trail when we all know that $14 million dollars in waste could be found by anyone of us in about 5 minutes!
While I'm sure each interest group could argue that their share of the budget pie is important, I would just like to point out that the political party that is telling me to check how much air I have in my tires, and how to take faster showers, and not to flush every time, is closing 90 MILES of bike trail.  How is this helpful for the environment?
Next time the citizens of Illinois hear about another wasteful spending plan they should consider that many of the outdoor spaces they use to enjoy will soon be gone if they are not already. 
Please contact the governor and your state legislators and tell them to quit using our outside spaces to fund their wasteful spending.
Office of the Governor
207 State House
Springfield, Illinois 62706
Phone: 217-782-0244 or 312-814-2121
You can find Illinois State Senators or Representatives here.
It's hard enough to get new biking trails open.  Let's not close 90 miles of GREAT existing trail.
Big Mel

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Silent Sports Magazine Editor Out of Touch

Anyone who enjoys biking in the Midwest has done themselves a disservice if they haven't checked out Silent Sports magazine. Silent Sports covers biking, paddlesports, and cross country skiing, etc. throughout the Northern Midwest.

Besides listing the many events that occur each month by state and featuring tips and places to participate in the sports listed above, the magazine and website promote these silent sports. Many times this includes railing against ATVs, Snow Mobiles, and Motor Cross; and criticizing downhill skiing.

Recently, however, the editor of Silent Sports magazine, Joel Patenaude, took it upon himself to inject the presidential race into this topic on his Blog. In his post "VP Candidate's Family Profited By and Illegally Rode Off-Road Motor Vehicles,"   Mr. Patenaude tries to indicate that Republican Vice Presidential Nominee Sarah Palin might not be a friend to the environment; especially the silent sports environment.

Mr. Patenuade uses the idea that Sarah's husband Todd had a DWI in 1986 and operated a off-road vehicle illegally in a game refuge in 2002 to try and indicate that, in his words, "the Palin family harbored a love of motor sports for fun as well as profit – public land be damned, apparently – that would tell us more than enough about her values."

Mr. Petenuade, when you use stretch arguments and Liberal Democratic talking points veiled in the defense of silent sports, it comes across as idiotic. Not only is it obvious that you were simply trying to make a political point that you think we should all vote Democratic, it is hard to take you seriously when you sound like even participating in something 'with an engine' makes a person evil; at least not eligible to be vice president.

I believe all sports motorized and not motorized deserve their place and if people want to ride a motorcycle instead of a bike that is their choice. I believe there should be rules that control when and where you can ride an ATV, but I also believe people should be able to ride them and/or buy and sell them.

Your brand of extreme liberal nonsense does nothing to promote silent sports in a worthwhile way and actually gives those of us that support silent sports less credibility in the arena of public opinion. We cannot gain support for our 'agenda' by taking away the rights of others; that is just more liberal nonsense.

I am disappointed in you, but I am more disappointed that a great magazine has to be associated and edited with such an extreme viewpoint.

My rights are important, but not more so than the rights of others.

Big Mel

Monday, September 15, 2008

Greg Got a New Bike!

Congratulations to my daughters Godfather Greg on his new Trek 1500 Road Bike! I knew we made a good choice! The picture shows Greg's new bike with his kids, Kayla, and Garrett.

Greg recently completed his first mini-triathlon in under an hour and will be competing in the Fingerlakes Triathlon this weekend to raise money for the Mary M. Gooley Hemophilia Center.

To read more about this event and to contribute, please click on the following link:

Good luck Greg! We expect record times now that you actually have a decent bike to ride!!

For more information on the Trek 1500 road bike go to and check it out!

Big Mel

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Check Out the New Look!

After weeks of preparation, the new look is here!!

I hope you enjoy the brighter layout. Look for additional content to be added in the upcoming weeks! We are thrilled at to have many wonderful sponsors, so please check them out when you are not out riding!

Go out and ride today!

Big Mel

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Shout Out to My Sister and Family!

Today I was lucky enough to have breakfast with my sister, her family, and my parents to celebrate my sisters birthday!! Happy Birthday Holly.

Whenever I start to feel old, I remember that my sister will always be older than me!!

A big shout out to my wonderful godchildren Blake and Emma. Emma is awesome! Brains and beauty, what more could you want. Blake is a sports stud and is smart enough to know that Albert Pujols is the greatest baseball player to play the game!! Send me the picture of you holding Pujols' ESPY and I'll put it on the website.

What does this have to do with biking?? NOTHING, GET OVER IT!! Big Mel just wants to brag on his godchildren and wish his sister a happy birthday.

Blake and Emma, it's time to start biking!! You can join me for the 2009 Big Ride, where ever that will be (grandma suggested Maryland)!!

Uncle Big Mel

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Crossing The Chain of Rocks Bridge

The Route 66: 2008 Race to the Prison Gate kicked off on Saturday, August 9th 2008. Our plan was to start on the Missouri side of the Chain of Rocks Bridge and ride up to Carlinville, Illinois to stay the first night. The Godfather and I mounted our Oregan Scientific ATC2K helmet cams on our handle bars to document the start.

Although he has maintained that we were crazy to attempt this ride and claimed that his body didn't work two days in a row, Dr. T (there is already a Mr. T) decided to ride with us the first day. After hugging our wives good-by and saying good-by to the kids, we headed off accross the bridge. My two year old daughter chased after us.

After about 100 yards, I realized that I forgot my digital camera and turned around to get it. Only after arriving back at the family, did I realize I had left without my gloves and helmet on! I had left it in the van in all of the kick-off hoopla.

I quickly came back to my senses (although not enough to call off the ride) and left accross the bridge. Sunny and cool, it was a beautiful way to start The Big Ride 2008.

"Biking The Chain of Rocks Bridge" is a short video I put together to show how nice it was. Enjoy the video.

Big Mel

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

We Did It!

We did it! The Route 66: 2008 Race to the Prison Gate has been completed! The Godfather and I finished 284 miles in 6 days as we rode from the Chain of Rocks Bridge in Missouri to the Joliet Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois.

This might not seem like a big accomplishment to many experienced bikers that tour often, but for two aging men that barely trained this was quite an accomplishment!

Over the next few weeks, I will be adding posts about each day. We took over 300 pictures along old Route 66 and about four hours of video, all which will be available for your viewing pleasure soon!!

A special thanks to all of those who made this happen:

My wife and kids, who helped sag and used a week of their summer touring Illinois while we rode! I love you and couldn't have done it without you!!

To my mother-in-law, who couldn't bring herself to believe this was ever going to really happen, thanks for hanging in there while we were gone and never telling The Godfather he couldn't go. You can join us next year!! Also, thanks for the trophies!!

And finally to The Godfather, who everytime I thought about not going, provided some reason for me not to back out. From buying books on touring, to talking about new tires, and many other little things along the way. You were the originator of the idea, you were the motivation for me to keep thinking we should do it, and you are the reason we did it! Thanks for not quitting and thanks for being a great friend!


Big Mel

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

An Open Letter to the Godfather.

Dear Godfather,

So here we are only 24 days until the start of the Route 66: 2008 Race to the Prison Gate.

Over the past few weeks, I have had to consider whether this ride was such a good idea. I have questioned my own thought process in thinking of doing such a ride and have even considered calling the whole thing off.

However, each time I have been close to questioning my own sanity in thinking we could do this, there you were planning a little more about the trip. Maybe it was thinking of purchasing new tires, or questioning what bike would be best to ride, or just sending me links to the 'exciting' features of Old Route 66. Maybe it was the Route 66 jersey you painstakingly got me for Christmas, or maybe it was the way you missed my blog postings when they all but disappeared. Whatever it was, when I was about to get out, you kept pulling me back in.

Now I know you 'shy away' from taking credit for things and you probably are embarrassed with the thought that you could actually be responsible for this ride happening, but I like to give credit where credit is due.

So this letter is to let you know that, thanks to you, the Route 66: 2008 Race to the Prison Gate IS ON for August 9th.

Sure there are many reasons not to do it (age, weight, saddle sores), but there are also many reasons (too numerous to mention here) TO do it. It will only be four(4) hours in the saddle each day and we will have ALL day to do that.

I know you might wonder if you can actually do it. Me too. But I think we should try. My SAG partner will be there to take us on various site seeing adventures and if we need a ride to the next point on the journey, we can get that too.

When I started this thing, I was doing it because I wanted to accomplish something in a life that I don't always feel like I am accomplishing anything. Then it became, I don't care if I finish as long as I start because I rarely do things that I want to do. But now it is simply about riding with you and seeing how we do. If we don't make it, that's okay, but what if we do make it?? It seems impossible, but it would give you something to talk about at work and it would give me something to think about on those days that I just need something else to think about!!

A year ago, we weren't sure if you would ride again by yourself for a long time. Now you are riding and doing much better; let's ride in celebration of your 'recovery'.

All I ask is this:

When you don't think you can ride another day, TRY and ride another day.
When you don't think you can make it to the next town, TRY and make it to the next town.
When you don't think you can ride another mile, TRY and ride another mile.

Let's just TRY this thing.

You daughter has been very supportive and is willing to SAG. She is willing to do what it takes to help us out, so I think it will be okay. I know that you aren't sure if you can do it ... I'm not sure I can do it either, but I am going to try and I hope you will come with me. Lets do this and then I can think of the next thing to bug you about!

Big Mel

Friday, January 18, 2008

Roller Derby

So I rode the rollers again last night; third time this week (third time in last 12 months).

Now you have to understand ... before this layoff from riding the rollers, I pretty much only rode them until I was able to actually ride on the rollers without holding on to anything but the handle bars. Then the rollers became eye-candy in my garage so all my neighbors would think I was a serious cyclist.

If you have never ridden on rollers, you are really missing out. It is one of the most out of control feelings you can have on a bike the first couple of times. Imagine riding across a frozen lake going at least 15 mph; that is what riding on rollers feels like.

It is, however, very cool the first time you actually get going, not holding on the anything, and don't fall off. When I was considering buying the rollers, it was described to me as a good biking party trick that none of your friends will be able to do. As a guy, that pretty much sold me. Riding the rollers makes you concentrate as if you are riding along a busy street during rush hour, but they do make me feel as if I am getting a better workout while indoors and that I am becoming a better rider.

Just to ride on the rollers, you really have to work on your balance and cadence. You have to be very even while you ride. If you have ever tried to stay on the white line while riding the street, rollers will help you learn to do that; you have to be in complete control the entire time.

This brings me to last nights ride. Big Mel is still learning the rollers. I do not have a fancy $500 set of rollers; I have a $100 set of rollers and a $30 ladder to help stabilize myself while I get going. My front roller is slightly tapered on each side to help keep me from riding off the side, but there are no wheels or bumpers to actually keep me from riding off. I also don't have anything behind the back rollers to keep my bike from hopping off the back. What you might not realize is if you accelerate too fast, or try and stand up, you can hop your back wheel right off the back of the rollers!! Fun Times!

Now my FIRST crash last night was nothing, just rode off the rollers to the right, landed on my feet and dropped my bike to save my balance (no way am I clipping in yet).

However, my SECOND crash involved falling to the left, INTO my cheap ladder, which wasn't anchored to anything, so the ladder fell over, my bike fell over, and I fell into a couple of saw horses that just happened to be stacked about 5 feet away!

Fortunately, I walked away from the accident with all of my members intact. Just a scratch on my arm and a small hole in my ankle (I have been looking around for my pride though and haven't come up with it yet). The most dramatic part of the whole episode was waking my 17 month old daughter up and my wife rushing to see if I was okay (or at least to see if the basement was okay).

In the end I am happy to report that I got back up on the rollers and finished my ride without incident.

Really looking forward to my ride tonight!

Big Mel

Monday, January 14, 2008

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'

Finally: the rollers, my road bike, and my bike pump are all in the basement at the same time!!

To celebrate this unusual accomplishment, I pumped up the tires and jumped on for a roll. It has been about ... forever ... since I last was on the rollers, so I wasn't sure how it would go.

The roller instructions say to learn how to use rollers in a hallway, so that when you fall (and you will fall) you can just fall against the wall. I got tired, however, of being crumpled up against the wall pinned by my bike, so I just use a 8' step ladder in case I need to reach out and rescue myself.

After getting on for the first time this afternoon, I realized I was in a higher gear than I had hoped for. Many experienced roller riders can easily shift up and down while on the rollers, but for me, trying to get the feeling of the rollers again, this was not a good idea. I tried to down shift and slipped towards the ladder which started to knock the ladder over to the left while my bike was falling to the right.

I caught the ladder with my left hand and the bike with my right hand, closed my eyes landed on my feet and didn't hurt anything!! ANOTHER BIKING MIRACLE!!

You know what they say: Once you fall off the rollers while shifting, shift the bike before getting right back on the rollers!

I proceeded to then ride for 10 minutes straight at a roaring pace of 12 mph, so I already have 2 miles in this year!! That is 2 more miles than I had until May of last year, so I'm on a roll (ha, roll, get it!). I had to stop then though. I was in jeans and a sweatshirt and I didn't have Mucho Grande on (see story above about biking miracle), besides I had to pick up my son from school.

I came up stairs to cool off and clean up. When I took my sweatshirt off there was a smiley face on my t-shirt (okay, it was just sweat on my breasts and my stomach, but it looked like a smiley face). This was an obvious sign that I had done good!!

This is the year. Big Mel is off to a rollin' start.

Big Mel

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

This is the Year.

This is the Year.

This is the Year that I finally get my melon in gear and do something on a bike besides ride down some middle class neighborhood street hoping someones Yorkie doesn't run out in front of me (I think you could run over a Yorkie and not even realize it ... on a road bike ... that's sad to think about).

This is the Year that I start a web sight, get a helmet cam, and create other such things that keep me from riding.

This is the Year that I take my bike down off of the garage wall (and into the basement where it can be warmer until spring).

This is the year I start riding on my rollers instead of using them as a stop for the van in my garage (Everyone should have rollers by the way! They take awhile to get the hang of, but then they are awesome!).

This is the year I re-subscribe to Mens Health Magazine and read it twice each month while eating my Chipotle Burritos. (Hey, if Chipotle sponsors a cycling team, how bad can it really be for you??).

This is the Year that I take my first Epic Ride (to rip off a Fatty phrase).

This is the Year that I ride the Route 66, 2008 Race to the Prison Gate! (I came up with the title again with inspiration from The Godfather).

In August of 2008 The Godfather and I will leave from the Chain of Rocks Bridge and Ride to the Joliet Prison. We will be riding The Beast (we have to ride the tandem because The Godfather keeps threatening to bail, so I am going to drag his ass up to Joliet. PLUS, somebody has to take the pictures!) and retracing the old Route 66 through the historic towns of Illinois. The pictures alone make it seem worth the trip. I hope the prison band will still be at the front gate just as they were so many years ago!!

Although he denies it, this was originally The Godfathers idea. He found the Route 66 bike routes online and printed them out and showed them to me. Now he claims that he was just showing them to me and that maybe we could ride to Staunton sometime or something (if the weather was just right and someone would come pick us up when we got there). BUT obviously, at least in his subconscious, he had to know that I would jump at the idea of riding from his house to my house along Route 66, so in his passive aggressive way he was really asking me ... almost begging me ... to run with this idea. I cannot fail him! I will not fail him! DON'T MESS WITH THE GODFATHER!

Anyway, the original idea was to ride from The Godfather's house to Chicago, but it's a hassle to ride from The Godfather's house into Illinois and you would pass my house if you rode all the way to Chicago, so then you would have to ride back to my house and that would just add to the ride, but not to the excitement, so to make a long story short ... we're riding from the Historic Chain of Rocks Bridge to the Historic Joliet Prison.

It makes sense if you think about it. The Chain of Rocks, The Godfather, The Godfather and I 'chained together' on a tandem (almost like a chain gang), and finishing at a prison. It is like it was meant to be. Now all we need are prison stripe jerseys and Blues Brothers jerseys.

This may not be an Epic ride for many cyclists, but anyone who knows me, or especially knows The Godfather, this could even be called a miracle ride!

Dr. T you better get on board!

This is happening!

This is the Year.

Big Mel

Monday, January 7, 2008


I just finished reading Bicycle Magazines article "Broken" (Jan/Feb 2008, by David Darlington).,6610,s1-3-12-16637-1,00.html

This article freaked me out a bit. It is the detailed story of a handful of crashes between cars and bikes in Northern California; most resulting in death, or severe disability. 7,000 riders die each year in car/bike crashes. Damn.

Two things are amazing to me when considering this.

With all the talk and politics of Global Warming, Conservation, Dependence on Oil, there is still very little political importance given to bicycling. I am very sceptical when it comes to global warming and man's affect on the global temperature, but good grief, just about everyone has a bike in their garage. Most people hardly ride and it's not because they wouldn't like to or don't have time to it's because they are not foolish enough, like the rest of us regular riders, to ride in traffic!

I have just about every store, restaurant, or activity within 3 miles of my house. I could easily bike to most of my errands and even have bike transportation for my whole family if we all needed to go, but I rarely go anywhere with my kids around our house. There are few bike lanes on the roads, the sidewalks are hit and miss, and I do not live in a high biking area so drivers are not use to seeing bikes on the road.

Where there are bike lanes on a road they don't start or lead anywhere. The closest road to my house with a bike lane recently removed a portion of the bike lane when a new Walgreens was built. This section of the bike lane was removed because they couldn't have people turning into a Walgreens across a bike lane. Think about this ... you're riding up this road in a bike lane and the lane just stops: what then?? Do you just stop riding and turn around?? It's almost like they are saying, "Well at least if you get hit by someone turning into Walgreens, you weren't in a bike lane!" If anyone asks why I believe in small government, all I have to do is use this story as an example of why 'government think' doesn't work.

My community, like many others, is spending money on more and more bike paths that also lead to nowhere. Personally, I love riding on bike paths. I usually don't even mind the joggers, or walkers, that also use many of these community paths. But these paths have the same problem. You either have to ride through traffic to get to one, or you have to load your bike, drive to the trail head, and unload your bike just to ride. They also usually don't connect the housing community to the business community.

The only option for many bikers is to ride on high traffic roads. This is perfectly legal in almost every community in the country and the bike has as much right as the car to be there. However, many drivers don't want to share the road. Even on my local rides when riding on the right side of 2 lanes running in the same direction, cars will not move to the other lane. In busy traffic times this is somewhat understandable (although still doable), but even on a Sunday morning with no other cars in sight, cars have buzzed right past me.

THIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE! When new roads are going in, put a bike lane in. When new business developments are going in, require the developer to connect to local paths, or at least create a path to the closest neighborhood. Encourage people to use their bikes in the community and provide bike racks everywhere. There is so much money being spent and made on all of these highway and roadwork spending bills, you can't tell me there is not enough to make the roads safer for bikes.

Get a freakin' helmet on yourself and your kids! A helmet is the number one way to save your life in a bike accident.

I don't know how many people I talk to say, "Oh, I just ride around in my neighborhood. I never go on the busy streets. I don't need a helmet." That's bull. A few months ago the house of a friend of mine got run into by a car. They live in a subdivision with 25 mph speed limits and a car smashed right into their family room. Guess how fast it was going?? 90 MPH! I know many of you would say, "If a car hit me going 90 mph, I'd be dead anyway," but with a helmet on your chances of survival are still many times greater.

Just this past fall a saw two examples of reckless biking involving kids. The first example was three kids riding against traffic on a 45 mph, 4 lane road; soft shoulder NO HELMETS. The second example was three kids probably about 12-13 again riding against traffic on a 50 mph road, NO shoulder and NO HELMETS.

-- riding with traffic or riding against traffic is a debate I get into allot with people. When I was younger I always thought it made sense to ride against traffic so I could see what was coming. After taking various engineering classes dealing with Force and Potential Energy, etc., I realized that if I hit that car head on, my head was probably going right through the windshield. If the car hits me from behind, it still would be bad, but there is also a chance I could get thrown off to the side, a much better option. ALWAYS ride with the traffic. --

How does a group of kids end up riding straight at me on a 50 mph road with no shoulder without helmets. I wish I could say they get yelled at all the time to wear their helmets, but in that situation it's probably the parents. It's time to teach or kids how to ride safely. It's time to set a good example when we ride as parents by wearing a helmet, following the rules, and not taking extreme chances when riding our bikes.

7000 dead each year. That's nuts. The Ride of Silence is a worldwide event each year organized to honor those cyclists killed or injured while riding. You can check it out at

With a melon the size of mine, I cannot afford to ride without a helmet. Mucho Grande (my helmet) has been with me since I started riding (or at least some version of him). I will pray for your riding safety this year and always. Please wear your helmet!

Big Mel

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy Riding in 2008!

Happy New Year from Big Mel!! May God bless all of your rides this year!

Big Mel