Wednesday, August 25, 2010

PROcrastination, Poison Ivy, and the END.

Once again, I had a post that I've been working on about how mountain biking will take the worries of the day away, but for what ever reason, I couldn't finish it. I wasn't feeling it, so I shelved it. Maybe if I think about it for a while it will come to me and I'll finish it, but for now, there's a few other things to talk about.

First, I might have mentioned that I put the PRO into PROcrastination and my recent exploits are no different. This year's DAKOTA FIVE-O has a 500 rider limit. A couple weeks ago there were 200 entries left. Do you think I signed up? Hell no. Last week there were 80 entries left? Did I sign up? Really? Would that be a good procrastinator? Not just no, but HELL NO. But, I did print the entry form, which would prove fortuitous. Then on Monday, my wife mailed the entry form for me. Well that's that I thought.

I just happened to be talking to the Princess and mentioned that I just sent in my entry. She then says "The Five-O Facebook page said there are only 5 spots left!" HOLY FUCKIN' SHIT! Oh man am I screwed. Maybe it's God's way of telling me to NOT enter this race, but I want to for the training purposes for the 24 Hours of Moab. So, I get home, e-mail promoter/mountain biker extraordinaire Perry Jewitt about my snail-mail (do people still use the USPS?) entry. He said it was basically the last one in! How's that for PROcrastination?

Now, for some sad news. I've got a case of the ivy and it fucking sucks! I must have picked it up on last week's Rambler ride. It started out as a little blip here and a little blip there on my left leg and has blown up to an itchy, crusty mess. Not cool. I don't have big issues with poison ivy, meaning my blisters don't get all huge and super nasty looking like a cluster of grapes on my skin. Mine are small and not too oozy, but this is probably one of the worst cases I've had. I've heard/read that your body is like a bucket (mine might be a shit bucket, but in this case I'm talking about poison ivy) and you can only come in contact with ivy so many times before your bucket is full. Once it is full, watch the hell out, 'cause your blisters are gonna be full on clusters of grapes hanging from your body. Some people have a big bucket, some have a small bucket. I think my bucket is fairly big, but I still try to avoid it, as I don't want it to be filled up.
BTW, that picture is NOT my skin. I just put it here as a visual aid.

Finally, I took my last morning (before work) road ride of the season yesterday. A tear is coming to my eye as I type this. The sun isn't coming up quite as early (obviously) so I can't head out on a road ride until 5:45 or so and my wife starts back to school today with my son starting on Monday. My wife will need to leave for work at about 6:45 or so which puts the kibosh on my road rides. There will still be the occasional morning headlight off-road rides, but the road rides are done for the season. I hope we have a LONG fall this year. We haven't really had one the last 2 years, with winter coming early and with a vengeance. I love biking in the fall and I don't want this season to end.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Crow Peak

Thursday I had the bright idea to ride Crow Peak. "Crow" is a top 3 trail for me for sure and I hadn't been on it yet this summer and with the summer winding down, I knew it was time.

I sent a text to A2 to see if he wanted to go. He initially said no, but I played a sneaky card to get him to go. Actually, I wasn't trying to force him to go, but it just worked out that way.

Every Thursday night in the summer, Rapid City has an event called Summer Nights where they shut down a few blocks of a downtown street and have basically a big party with live music. We try to go every week, just to see the live music and expose our son to different people, music and art. Anyhow, A2's parents (my aunt and uncle) are usually there as well and this Thursday was no different. We ran into them and stood around and chatted for a while. I told my uncle about my broken Kona and discussed off-roading for a while, when I mentioned Crow Peak and A2 not wanting to go. After discussing it with my uncle and inviting him along he said he'd talk to his son about it. Later that night I got a text from A2 saying they'll go and what time would we meet up?

Fast forward to Saturday morning. I pick 'em up at 6:30 and we're off to Spearfish. We got to the point where we were gonna ride at around 7:30 or so and by the time we got geared up, we were riding before 8:00. It was a perfect morning despite a bit of rain during the early morning hours. We hit the trailhead where my uncle said he'd just go at his own pace and we should do our thing. We discussed a point on the trail where we could hook up on the way down and we were off.

The climb went well. A2 and I didn't really hammer the climb, but just rolled at a nice, steady pace. As we summited the mountain, we encountered some hikers. We got off the bikes, took a couple of pictures, took in the amazing views and chatted with one of the people on the top. At some point I told A2 to go ahead and take off and I'll follow up in a few minutes.

I ended up chatting with the hiker for a bit longer than I wanted, but he was a nice guy and we were both marveling at the beauty of the summit of Crow Peak (where I have scattered a few ashes of my father, but that is a story for another day). I take off and enjoy the ripping, technical descent of the top 1/3 of the mountain.

I meet up with A2 at the Beaver Ridge spur where we were to meet his dad. We find a stick on top of the signpost pointing down the trail. We assume it was from him telling us he headed down. We take off and I take point. This lower section is a kick in the pants. Flying, twisting, turning, mostly smooth but enough rocks in the trail to keep you honest. Bottom line; it's a blast!

I come around a tight left hand corner and barely get it shut down in time for a downed tree. I figure it was a good point to wait for A2, where I did for what felt WAY too long. Thinking he must have had a mechanical, I turn around head back up the hill. After a few minutes I find him pedaling a little too slowly toward me. As he gets closer, I can see he's crashed. No flowing blood, but his shoulder is dirty, his face on the left side is starting to swell up and there is a bit of blood around his nostril. He tells me briefly what happened and he says we need to go now. I get it. Stopping for too long after a crash will make you think about what happened and it will make you not want to ride anymore. So we're off, with me warning him about the upcoming downed tree.

We clear the tree and once again, I am flying. Keeping a 15 mph or so pace is fairly quick on tight singletrack. I'm cruising along confidently on a fairly straight stretch and all of the sudden I am lying on the ground. There was no warning. Just one moment up then the very next moment down. I'm getting too old to be slamming myself on the ground going 15 mph. My left side was a bit tender, with some flowing blood coming from the elbow and knee. As I am picking myself up, A2 shows up. I check myself and my bike out and we're off once again. We get to the bottom within a couple minutes where we find my uncle waiting. He crashed at some point too, though only his thumb seemed to be the only injury.

We roll back to the car and load up to head home. A2's face is not looking too hot, but isn't getting worse and he didn't seem to be in big pain. Once home, the shower to clean up my wounds hurt WAY worse than the crash itself. Why is that?

Anyhow, a lame little ride report. A few crashes and a lot of fun thrown in. And once again, I can't wait to do it again!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Is my world crumbling in around me?

There is that old saying "if it wasn't for bad luck he wouldn't have any luck at all" or something to that effect. It feels like I'm living that statement right now.

It all started with the spokes on the rear wheel of my Moots. Riding to M-Hill one morning when I heard the unmistakeable ping of a spoke breaking. Having trued those wheels just recently, I knew I had spokes that were super tight and others that were just barely tight. Knew that wheel was toast. So, as I have mentioned, the wheels were torn apart and hubs sent away for rebuild.

No biggie. I have a CX bike (the Major Jake) I can ride on the road and on dirt until the mountain wheels are done. And as you probably know, I did the karate chop of time on that frame, finding her cracked around the bottom bracket. Then I was down to one singlespeed that is in a bit of disrepair right now. Fucking sweet.

Then the wheels came back, but our UPS guy was a total jackass and delivered them to the wrong house. This house didn't even have the same house number as mine. WTF? How fucking dumb can this guy be? Let's see...this package has a 3 digit address, ah, fuck it, I'll deliver it to this house with a 4 digit address. Thankfully, the kid at the house realized the wheels weren't his after opening the box and looking inside at the round, spoked sex-in-a-box delivered to his house and he brought them to me.

Things were looking up a bit when Bobki texts me and says he's gonna be in the area and wants to ride. SWEET. Sunday morning, Storm Mountain, 3+ hours are planned. BUT, and this is a big one, Sunday morning breaks to the world with pouring rain. Every single time I've gone to ride Storm Mtn. this year we've had some sort of weird weather. Great. Bobki is driving up from Nebraska that morning to ride and it is pouring out. Long story short, the weather breaks and we have a window of about 2 hours to ride now before he has to get back. Off to Storm Mtn. we go and somewhere along the line we must have pissed the mountain bike gods off. I flat. After fixing that, we cruise along when Bobki gets a flat, but now his sidewall is cut and we're screwed. So a 3+hour planned ride turns into a 30 minute ride, 30 minutes of tire repair, and that's it.

And, the final nail in the coffin has to do with Bobki as well. We have cracked the 2 months to go mark until the 24 Hours of Moab and it is starting to feel like things need to start ramping up for the race. Yesterday, I get an e-mail from Bobki saying that a new work opportunity has presented itself to him and it conflicts with the 24 HoM for him, so we might need to find an alternate. WHAT? Holy SHIT! NO WAY. We'll find a way to make it work with Bobki. We can't have Teamfubar without one of the original members.

But things are starting to look up. I came across some money yesterday that will cover my new CX frame and maybe some parts. I hope things are looking up, I gotta get on a winning streak.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

When do I trade my bike in for a comfort bike?

Let me preface this whole post by saying I love it when people are on two human-powered wheels, no matter when/how/where/why it is taking place.

As I mentioned before, I was down to one singlespeed mountain bike and a classic bike from Schwinn that I can't really ride more than around the block. I was slightly depressed by this fact, but on Wednesday my wheels came in, my Moots was back up and running, so I obviously had to go out riding on it. Since the Kona is down for the count, I have now switched my morning rides to the mountain bike, at least until the Kona is back up and running.

Anyhow, I did my ride and was on my way home, riding on a little stretch of the bike path that leads to my street. This path goes through a little greenway/park area. As I am pedaling, I see someone pedaling toward me. As the person gets closer, I realize it is a man. As he gets closer, I see it is a man that is around my age, maybe a few years older. And as I get closer I realize he is riding a fucking COMFORT BIKE. What? Seriously?

When does this happen in a cyclist's life? When do I say, "OK, I can't take riding off-road or all hunched over on the road anymore, so I think I'll get a comfort bike"? As of right now at 39 years old, I don't see myself getting on one anytime soon. But who knows, maybe there is a day it becomes painfully obvious that you need to get one. It is kinda like a minivan. Is it the coolest way to move yourself around? No, but you realize it makes the most sense at that stage of your life.

So, I've relegated myself to the fact at some point in my life I'll have to trade my bikes in for a comfort bike. Maybe a whole fleet of comfort bikes. One for the concrete bike path, one for a dirt bike path, a singlespeed and a vintage one. Yep. Perfect. I just don't know what age that will take place. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next year, maybe never.

Joking around the other day, I asked my "boss" at work (that is a hyper-active, skiing obsessed 60'ish year old) when a person trades their road and/or mountain bikes in for a comfort bike. He said, "When they grow-up". Perfect! I'll never have to worry about trading in for a comfort bike then.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Short Way Down 2, Part 2

The second day of our trip wasn't too eventful, not that day one was, but I'd say the second day was a little more boring (if you call riding 60 miles with an 8 year old boring).

We got up early on Sunday morning, getting our camp packed up fairly quickly. The Boy was a big help that morning, knowing that he needed to assist in the effort a lot more this year than he did last year. We put everything on the bike and in the panniers except the tent and the bags as once again they were wet from a dew filled evening.

The campground we stay at is literally right on the Mickelson trail (as I mentioned) and one of the benefits is they offer a pancake breakfast in the morning. The Boy and I rolled into the breakfast building a few minutes after breakfast was being served. As we were sitting there, another camper came up and sat down next to us. After a little discussion, we found that he was riding the same trail as us, but he was going to continue on, riding back north on the Centennial trail. HARD CORE. The Centennial is decidedly NOT a rail-trail and is much more difficult.

Anyhow, fully fueled up, we packed up the remnants of our camping, lashing our stuff down as best as we could, and off we went, right on the 8 am start time I wanted to stick with.

The one drawback to camping where we do (or anywhere around Hill City) is we start the day with a fairly significant climb up to Crazy Horse. Now, I realize that it is a rail-trail, so none of the grades are that big, but after 7 or so miles of continually going uphill, it is a climb regardless of the grade. I will tell you though that this year the Boy ROCKED the climb this year. I remember last year having to stop on the climb. Not this year. We kept the tandem rocking at a nice, steady pace and before we knew it, we were at the top, looking at the massive monument to the late Native leader.

The upside of this climb (or any climb) is that there usually a descent on the other side, which in this case there is. We BLASTED into Custer, making our traditional stop at the little grocery store for a bit of fuel, water and a light break.

After getting the things we needed, we were on our way with 40 miles to go. The last significant climb of the day takes us out of Custer and we rode it with vigor, knowing that once we were at the top, we'd have it comparatively easy for the remainder of the ride. Sure, there are a few more uphill sections on the trail, but nothing of any significance.

As we rolled out of Custer, I also told the Boy we'd take a break at every mile marker post that ended in zero, or every 10 miles. It gave him the big goal broken up into smaller goals. As we finished up the climb, the Boy decided that he needed to go to the bathroom and needed a snack. We stopped, he dinked around for a few minutes, climbing the rocks and eating some jerky. I told him since we stopped here, we wouldn't stop at the next "zero" but at the next trail head, which was a bit farther down the trail. A bit farther for me is NOT a bit farther for a 8 year old I found out. He was not too happy with me for the distance we traveled before the Lien trail head.

As we rolled into the last trail head (the Minnehatka trail head) we had been bucking a head wind for quite a while and the sun had cooked the earth into a 95 degree day, which I suppose isn't a surprise for the southern end of the Black Hills. We stopped at this last trail head, knowing we only had about 15 miles to go. We chatted with the day-trippers gathered at the shelter, having the longest conversation with the 75+ year old gentleman that has ridden rail-trails in 48 of the 49 states on the North American continent and he would get his 49th (in Arkansas) in the next few weeks. He said he and his wife rode 1000-1500 per summer on the rail-trails. That is the guy I want to be when I am 75+ years old. How cool is that?

Despite the head wind, we pushed into Edgemont with relative ease. As we hit the last milemarker, the Boy started yelling with joy "WE DID IT, WE DID IT!" It made me swell with pride that this tough little kid sat for 2 days, 5+ hours each day, pedaling his ass off and he enjoyed it. He rode much harder this year than last and while we didn't necessarily have a better time than last year, we had as good of a time. I knew it was fun because when we hit Edgemont he asked when we were going to do it again. Soon, I promise soon.

Monday, August 2, 2010

They're dropping like flies...

Unreal. I am going to take an intermission from the Short Way Down reporting to bring you this news break. Shit is dropping like flies in my house.

I have 4 single bikes (Moots Cinco, Kona Major Jake, C'dale SS, Schwinn Collegiate) as well as our tandem. Currently the Cinco is down for the count as I get her wheels rebuilt. Since the Cinco is out of commission, I went for a ride with the Prince on the Mickelson on Saturday, using my Major Jake.

The Major is a CX bike that is my own personal whip. I've used it for just about everything you can imagine. Commuting, singletrack, road, CX, rollers, pulling my son in his Burley trailer (when he was younger). I've used and abused this bike for sure. When I was changing the tires from my road tires to some 'cross tires for the gravel bed of the Mickelson and was doing some maintenance on it (HA!) when I discovered something. Something HORRIBLE. Something scary. Something that caused a bit of pain in my heart. A crack around the bottom bracket/seat tube junction. I've fucking killed her!

Now I am in a bit of a dilemma. I am out of a mountain bike. What to do about the Major? Do I strip her down and take the frame in right now? Do I keep riding her until the bottom bracket shears all the way off, causing a catastrophic accident? I'm stuck. I don't really want to send the Major in until after the season, but I also don't wanna get bitch-slapped by her either. I suppose once my wheels show up I'll strip her down and send her in. And Major, here is my promise to you...if/once you're fixed I'll take better care of you. At least 'til the end of the year...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Short Way Down 2, Part 1

Well, our second annual "Short Way Down" trip went off without much of a hitch at all and my son and I had a grand time. For your information, the Short Way Down title is a play on the title of Long Way Down, an excellent documentary/series with Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor riding their motorcycles from the northern tip of Scotland to the southern tip of Africa. Since we're riding in the same general direction as they did, we decided to call it the Short Way Down.

Basically, since we finished last year's trip my son, heretofore I will refer to as "The Boy", has been hounding me about when we were gonna do it again, which was exciting, telling me I did a good job making the trip a fun one for a 7 year old. This year the Boy wanted to camp more nights but not having the time off of work to ride more and/or farther than we did last year, we went to the northern terminus of the trail in Deadwood the night before the ride and camped at the Whistler Gulch campground.

We woke up on Saturday morning to a soaking wet tent and gear from the dew and 6 or 7 big buck deer across the road from us. A nice way to start the adventure. I had it in my head that we would roll out before 8 am and after a tiny bit of prodding, we actually did roll out at about 10 minutes to 8. The journey had begun!

The first day had given us great weather, not too hot, a very slight tailwind and no severe weather. As we pedaled on we needed to hit the first big trailhead at the Kirk powerplant for a break. The only reason we took a break at this trailhead is we didn't have a place for breakfast before we took off, so we stopped for a granola/jerky/granola bar breakfast. After fueling up, we were off.

Understand that the Mickelson trail is a rail-trail, so none of the grades are very steep, but some a very long, so even though you're not in the granny gear grinding it out, you can be spinning a easier gear for a long time. We got to the top of the first climb and we knew we were moving along at a good clip, at least for a tandem loaded down with gear. A couple more stops at trailheads and we made it to the Dumont trailhead for the long downhill to Rochford.

Ahh, Rochford. The tiny little town in the middle of the Black Hills. It is a fun little place to stop and grab a little grub at the Moonshine Gulch Saloon. The Moonshine is a place you'd see in old time pictures or paintings. There is a bunch of weird stuff outside and inside it has hundereds of ball caps tacked to the ceiling, hundreds of pictures and curios on the walls and shelves. It has old wood floors that aren't flat and it is kinda dirty inside, but it is a great place that we make a point to stop at. It is definitely a time warp.

After fueling up, we hit the trail again continuing onto the Mystic trailhead where the last climb of the day was going to begin. The last climb went really, really well. I enjoy this climb as the trail takes you through a few tunnels on the trail. This is where I discovered that the Boy was not fond of the Lord of the Rings movies. Going through the tunnels, I said "I need my precious" in a bad, but my best Gollum voice. The Boy got mad, telling me to quit as it made him think of the big spider that captured Frodo and wrapped him up in a spider web. Understood and I was done with the Gollum jokes.

We hit our first day's destination of Hill City in good time, picking up a couple of needs in town before pedaling to our campground. We stayed at the same place as last year since it is literally right on the trail. We set up camp, got cleaned up and headed out on the bike to an adjacent campground to meet up with my boss and his family who happened to be camping there for the weekend. My boss' grandson, that is close in age to the Boy, was there so we went so they could play together and have some dinner. The Boy got to swim, play in the woods and have a good dinner that had no jerky.

We pedaled back to camp just before 8 pm. I grabbed a beer at the campground store and we sat around and relaxed a bit before hitting the sack. A big day was over, but the next day we needed to get up and do it all over again.