Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Curt Gowdy State Park

Well, we (the Queen City Ramblers) just got back from our quasi-semi-annual Fall bike trip. We normally have a Spring bike trip to the desert of Utah and Western Colorado, but the Fall trip is not necessarily a guarantee. So, let me give you a bit of back story.

One of the founding members of the Ramblers, Bobki, moved again and left for the madness of the Front Range of Colorado. When I looked for a location of a fall trip, I wanted to find someplace that Bobki could hook up with us. When I was a Front Ranger, I had heard about Curt Gowdy, but had never been there. Located half-way between Cheyenne, WY and Laramie, WY, it was a no-brainer to go there. After a couple of weeks of negotiating and planning, we (9 of us from the Northern climes) set out for Southern WY last Friday.

We got to CG after dark, so no idea where camp spots are or what the park looks like, but we set up camp and proceed to get a bit inebriated, which is customary for a Rambler trip. So, sitting around the campfire until midnight, telling bullshit stories and razzing the hell out of each other, we had a good first night.

The next morning,we wake up with a the sun and what appears to be a beautiful day. We can see the entrance of the park and notice cars rolling in with bikes in tow. Sweet. We came to the right place. A little bit later, after we see a LOT more cars coming into the park, we wonder what the heck is going on. A bit of recon later, we find out there is an 8 hour race in the park. Shit. Hopefully this doesn't put a damper on our ability to ride. We proceed to cook breakfast and prep for the day. While doing this, the wind comes up. This is significant as it will be a bigger part of the story later.

We search around and find out that the race is confined to the Northwest side of the park, so we can ride all the stuff down around the reservoirs, which is what we did. As we ride the back from the out-and-back nature of the ride, we are riding into a fairly severe head wind. As we get back to camp, we find our tents folding in on themselves with the wind. Crap. Could be a rough night ahead. JT asks if we should move camp, to which I reply, "Nah, the wind should die down after dark." No more prophetic and less WRONG words could have ever been spoken.

Lunch and another ride later, we're back at camp getting ready to head to Laramie for drinks and dinner. We get to Laramie and head to Mulligan's bar, which is owned by an aunt and uncle of mine. After getting fairly tuned up (again) we go to dinner, where everyone is feeling fine and a few of the more "free-spirits" of our group are getting a bit wild, with some indecent proposals to my aunt, the waitress and each other, but it was all in good fun and no one was offended.

Back to camp at about 10:30 or so, we find our stuff strewn about like a hurricane came through. Holy SHIT, the wind is blowing. Gusts up to 60+ m.p.h. fling things like campstoves and full totes off of picnic tables. We tighten down guylines on the tent and head to bed. As the night progresses, we continually have to straighten the tent out as the wind blows it in on us. Sleep isn't going so well. Finally around 2 am, the tent craps out on us and the poles, which had been flexed in a fashion they weren't intended for about 2000 times, break. FUCK. An almost brand new tent, fairly demolished. So, down comes the tent and we "sleep" in the truck. Around 3 or so, the wind dies and it is dead calm. Finally! But, maybe I spoke too soon, as around 4:30, the wind starts back up like nothing changed. WHAT THE HELL? Was it the eye of the hurricane? Sure as hell feels like it.

As the sun comes up, we all get out of the tents and/or cars and assess the day. We pack up camp and decide to give riding another whirl which was a great decision. We had a great time and the riding in CG is phenomenal. This could well be our permanent Fall trip, but I don't know if I could bring enough guylines for my tent.

Monday, September 21, 2009


I had half a post written about how I went on a ride on Sunday just ahead of an impending storm (which amounted to not much) and had my local trail system all to myself. And, how I still don't get how people that "ride" don't take advantage of those kind of days, which was a bit redundant from my last post. Then something wonderful happened and I scrapped the entire thing. INTERBIKE!

Yes, it is like Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus and, well, just about every other "gift giving" holiday all wrapped up into one. I have had the sensory overloaded joy of attending one Interbike. Ahhh, Interbike, that magical time of year when all the bicycle industry gather into the hotbed of sin (Vegas) and try to outdo each other to gain the dealer's sales and to have the one must have item for the upcoming year. Over the top booths, interactive displays and scantily clad women are the norm at Interbike (though, with the number of women representing companies, I don't really understand the scantily clad thing, but I guess if it works).

For those that haven't been there or don't know what I am talking about, here is Interbike in a nutshell. Most of the bike companies in the WORLD get together at the Sands in Vegas, set up a booth showing the latest and greatest stuff they have to offer and try to lure bike shop owners/managers/buyers into pre-buying their products. And when I say world, I mean it. One that rides a lot may not consider this, but even companies like Toys-R-Us have reps there buying bikes from the periphery Chinese vendors, which I NEVER thought of until I saw it first hand.

Someday I'll go back to Interbike, but with all the bicycling news outlets, you can see just about any and everything worth seeing online without having to endure the madness of Vegas and being on your feet for about 11 or 12 hours at the Sands.

Man, do I LOVE looking at the new, shiny new components that I know I don't want to, but will have to, live without. It pisses me off when some new standard is introduced and tons of new bikes have it, signaling the death of the old standard, which means I'll have to upgrade, but yet I still love it. I dig the march of progress. I think it is hilarious how some people, retro-grouches if you will, say how things were so much better when we were all riding 5 speed, friction-shifting, bull-moose handlebar using, rigid mountain bikes. And in a way I suppose some things were better, like the simplicity of the whole experience, but bikes perform SO much better than even 5 years ago. Heck, a $700 mountain bike of today shifts better, has better components and is lighter than a $2000 mountain bike of 8 years ago.

And, the fact that I am infatuated with all things Moots makes this teaser of a new road frame all the more delectable to me. GOOD GOD it is beautiful! I just hope there is some sort of mountain bike to go with it...(I "borrowed" the picture from Cyclingnews. The picture was taken by James Huang)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

You're not supposed to Fall...

I've had a few things banging around in my head for the last 7 or 8 days that I haven't had the chance to spew out onto this virtual paper. Exercise induced "sexiness", fun rides with friends, recent rides, why bike parts have doubled in price in the last few years, and the like, which at some point I'll bore you with. Really, I haven't had the chance because I am still trying to strike a balance between getting my son to school in the morning, work, working out, getting rides in, and well, life in general. Not complaining, just trying to figure it out.

Anyhow, we're here to discuss the Fall. Autumn. That wonderful, beautiful season that fits like a sweet little puzzle piece between the heat and vibrant life of the Summer and the cold and death of Winter. The squirrels scrambling to get their stashes filled, the deciduous trees starting to shut their business down for the year, the confusion of the temperature in the air, with an 80 degree day in the Fall feeling a lot "cooler" than an 80 degree day during the Summer. You know, the Fall, the absolute greatest time to ride!

I am simply amazed at the dwindling numbers of riders in the 3rd season of the year. It was just a few short weeks ago that when I'd hit my local, after work ride (M-Hill) there would be 8-10 cars in the parking lot and I'd see 10-15 riders on the trails. Now, it is 3-4 cars in the lot and I might see 4 or 5 riders on the trail. Another great example is our weekly group ride. Just a month ago we had over 20 riders on our Tuesday (now Thursday) ride. 20 guys on mountain bikes together! This Thursday was, get ready for it, 3. FRICKIN' THREE!?! I wasn't as upset by this as I was just blown away.

I get it. People are much like their little furry friends the squirrels. Scrambling to get stuff done before the Winter comes. Stuff they might have put off during those Summer weekends to go ride. Raking the yard, cleaning up the garage, cleaning up their gardens are all great things to get accomplished in the Fall, but Autumn is the greatest time to ride!

You're the most fit you'll be all year. All those "base" miles from the Spring. All those hard rides from the Summer (and some of them might just be *gasp* training rides). Your legs, lungs and heart are much like the fruits or vegetables in the garden. Planted in the Spring, tended and nurtured in the Summer months and available for harvest in the Fall. Now is the time to harvest! The weather is absolutely perfect, not too cold, not too hot. The trails are not as busy (I guess until everyone reads this). The colors are starting to change. Wildlife is more visible. The only drawback to the Fall is the days are getting shorter and shorter, so riding before or after work is getting harder to do. But, man, the weekends (or your days off) are primo for riding.

If you've hung that bike up for the Fall, or are making all those "excuses" to not ride, make some time and get out and ride. You'll fall for the Fall.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My one hidden love...

I don't know what it is, but there is this vibe in the cycling community (as well as other sports that have a strong European following) that if you truly love cycling then you cannot even pretend to like American sports, least of which American Football. Well, I do dammit, and I LOVE the Pittsburgh Steelers. There, I said it. I am not afraid of it. I proclaim my love from the mountain tops! From early September through late January (and hopefully early February) I love the NFL and the Steelers.

Now, I am NOT one of those guys that gets sooooo into it that he says "we won" or "we lost" when the Steelers win or lose, don't get so worked up when they draft a college bust that I can't eat (Judas Priest, look at me, I don't think I've ever missed a meal) or anything like that. But if they are on TV, I can't not watch them (yeah, I know, double shoot me). I love the smash mouth football they play and I just dig the whole vibe of the NFL.

So, I am sure this is getting some serious cyclist's Assos chamois in some sort of bunch. By God, if you can't drink some sort of expensive red wine and eat some Camembert cheese that smells close to the collective feet of all the participants of the Dakota Five-O post race, then it isn't a sport! I can hear it now, the Cro-Magnon jokes about the players, the "high" humor of the offended, shit I can see 'em in their tweed blazers with the suede elbow patches.

Well, screw 'em. I can love to ride a bike AND love to watch guys crush each other on the football field. No one is going to make me feel bad about loving the NFL. I will never apologize for watching it...sorry I was yelling at the TV tonight, honey.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A recap of the havoc that was the Five-O.

Well, I did it. I finished the Dakota Five-O having mostly fun and I am not nearly as beat up as last year. As a matter of fact, I am going for a ride this afternoon, so that should say something. Perry Jewett and crew put on quite the event in Spearfish every year. Very impressive and it shows in the numbers, as there were over 400 entrants this year, up over 100 from last year!

As I mentioned, I had "mostly fun". In a 50 mile race, it is inevitable that a person will question why the hell they got themselves into this mess. And for sure, there were some moments when I was questioning my sanity. I mean, really, who in their right mind gets on a bike with 400 of their closest friends and try to beat each other to the finish line on some seriously rocky, gnarly terrain, with almost 7000' of climbing thrown in? Well, I guess 400 of us crazy bastards do it.

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I did crash twice on the Citadel Slide, which had NOTHING to do with the PBR I chugged about 1/2 mile prior. A few scrapes on my leg were all the damage to report. In addition, good friends the Princess and her husband, B, (the Prince?) did the race too, and finished strong. As an added bonus, B sent me a beautiful picture of his scraped up ass from his crash, making him look like some sort of a baboon in heat. Nice.

Last thing on the race was probably my most proud moment of the whole day. As is tradition, sometime after the race is mostly over (except for the people out touring and not participating in the whole race thing) there is a kids race. My son waffled about whether he was going to race or not, finally deciding just before it started that he was going to. As an addendum to the plot of this, he just learned to ride his bike about a month ago. He entered into the 7-12 year old group. He was probably the only one in the pack on a 16" wheeled bike. Most of the rest of the field were riding 20" and 24" wheels. Two laps around the park and they were off! After the dust settled, the kids all did 3 laps and my son ripped around each lap in 4th place (of about 20 or so kids)! He did great, especially considering the disadvantage he had with the smaller wheels. There were no "awards" for the kids, but I was (as was every other parent) keeping track of where he was in the pack and how he finished.

So, while that took you about 4 minutes to read, it took all of 10 hours or so to do. You're welcome...

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Most Important Race EVER.

How am I sitting here wailing away on this keyboard like Ted Kazcynski on his typewriter (any coincidence that Ted rode bikes too?) when I am barely 48 hours away from the most important race of my life? Or anyone else's life? Or quite possibly the universe? More important than any Tour de France or World Championships? I should be doing some last minute training of some sort. One last 60 mile mountain bike ride on a 6 mile circuit with 1000 feet of climbing per lap. Yeah...that should do it, 10 laps. I could start out slow, then hammer laps 3-7, take a "recovery" lap on the 8th one then let it all hang out for 9-10. That should put me where I want to be.

Holy crap. I almost forgot. I need to weigh a whole bunch of my stuff and get rid of anything extraneous and heck even anything nefarious for that matter (the thought of a nefarious bike part is great, isn't it? The part lying in wait, ready to strike out at your nuts at just the least opportune moment.) If I could ride without sitting down, I'd lose my seat and post. I probably could take off my rear brake, since most of the braking comes from the front, and shoot, I'll be focused on going fast, not slowing down. Trim my grips, file down the ends of my cables, and...OOOHHH I KNOW! I'll put some helium in my tubes. That should lighten up everything!

Then, what to eat for the race? Something with good carbs, but not too much, good protein, but not too much, some good fats, but not too much. I am thinking a sandpiper egg omelet with yak's milk cheese, some Gobi desert onions, Himalayan peppers, a touch of salt from the Dead Sea for electrolytes and an Egyptian wheat tortilla. That should be a good start for the day. Now to figure out what I'm gonna eat on the ride. Well, whatever Lance eats should be good for me on race day.

Why do we get so damn worked up over a local race like the Dakota Five-O? Seriously, even if you win it, will you be a different person on Monday or Tuesday when you go back to work? No. Maybe some bragging rights for a few weeks, but that's it. The rest of us will languish in the mediocrity of the middle of the pack (some of us closer to the back). And, guess what? Some people will show up, not having trained, some without making their bikes lighter, and some will have GASP donuts for breakfast that morning. I am betting that most of them will have a good time too. I am all for training for an event, but c'mon folks, don't get so serious about it...I gotta go. I need to weigh my bike.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Feelin' like a slacker...

I am up early this morning. I've been getting up early all summer long for either a ride or a workout with weights. Not this morning. I am up early because school starts for us today. My son starts 2nd grade and my wife starts her second year of teaching. So, I am up early to make sure everything goes smoothly and I am not doing anything that I normally do and I am feeling like a bit of a slacker.

Does this sound like a "serious" cyclist? Well, I suppose, but I got into the routine earlier this summer and made it a habit and I feel a hell of a lot better about the day if I can do something physical before I head off to work. I'll ride tonight for one last time before the soul-crushing, leg-burning Dakota Five-O this weekend then take the rest of the week off from any hard riding. Maybe some light spinning, but nothing hard.

Actually, the start of school and the Five-O culminate at the perfect apex of summer, as I doubt I'd be able to ride for much longer before work. Daylight isn't cooperating with my schedule anymore. I called Mother Nature up to complain, but all I got was her machine, and we all know what happens when we leave a complaint on someone's machine.

I suppose I'd better get my son up and quit typing. See the previous post titled PROcrastination...