Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Taking a time out...

Well, stuff has mellowed out quite a bit.  We made it through the Turkey Bingo night, which made us miss a Boy Scout function, but until cloning becomes affordable for the masses, I cannot be in two places at once, so ce la vie.  Then, one of the other things I failed to mention in the last post, we had our open house on Saturday at work.  It is an annual event, with this being the 14th run at doing this.  Oh, yeah, in addition to having a big event going on, because of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, we had to get our orders in on Saturday as opposed to the normal Tuesday order day, so OK, we'll have one more day of crazy shit.

And, I went ahead and decided to add to the chaos of the day by making sure the second I got off work at 2:00 pm, I raced home, changed into my plum-smugglers and jumped on my bike and raced down the street to Mary Hall park (only about 7 blocks from my house) for a cyclocross race.  Did I mention that it snowed about a foot from Friday night through Saturday afternoon?  No?  Well, it did.  First snow of the year and it was a good one.  Oh yeah, did I mention that it was only about 15 degrees outside as well?  No?  Well, add that to the mix as well.  Seems like a perfect day for a cross race.

I really was looking forward to the cross races this year.  I did my first CX race a couple years ago and I got hooked.  But, I was painfully slow.  The last two seasons, I had a good race if I didn't get lapped twice by the fast guys (thankfully or maybe not, our races are so small that no one is getting pulled for getting lapped) and lapped by the whole field once.  Yep, pretty pathetic, but for whatever reason, I liked getting out there and doing it.

Fast forward to this year and I'm riding quite a bit better.  I went into the first race saying just don't get lapped, but things went way better.  Duking it out with other riders for position, not getting lapped (well, I did a couple times this year, but because of other circumstances) and chasing other guys down make for a cross race that is a LOT more fun!

Carpenter with just shorts on in 15 degrees.
So, I went and rode around a circle for about an hour, acting like a little kid with a dozen or so other nut jobs.  And, much like the Dakota Five-O, if your last name wasn't Eppen, you didn't win, but really it was OK as, except for a few guys, the rest of us know we're not gonna win and with the conditions, I don't think anyone really cared all that much.  The race was a GREAT time but by the time I got home, the chaos of the week coupled with flogging my ass for an hour caught up with me and I was whipped.  A night of couch surfing watching a movie with my lovely was all I could muster for the night.

Jim making the run up look easy.
As it goes with our little local FREE race series (put on by the great guys at ACME Bicycles), since the course is already marked on Saturday, we have a 3:00 pm race on Saturday and then a 10:00 am race on Sunday, then the racers help tear the course down afterwards, helping keep it free.  So, we had another race on Sunday morning.  I woke up at about 6:30 and I wasn't feeling it at all and I literally said to myself I wasn't going (talking to myself should have been the first sign things weren't right with me).

Me looking kinda racy.
A couple cups of coffee later (OK, about 4 cups, but whatevs) I had the courage to go and do yet another race.  Besides, it was a balmy 26 degrees outside and with the race being so close to home, it would have been far more painful to me to NOT go than it would be to go (did you follow that convoluted logic?).  Yet again, if your name wasn't Eppen you didn't win, but once again, it didn't really matter to anyone there.  It was all about having a good time, keeping some sort of semblance of fitness going for the holidays and duking it out with some other riders for a while.

There will be (possibly) one more CX race this season in a couple weeks then it will be probably time to put the bikes up for the winter.  Oh sure, there will be the occasional ride on a nice winter day, but for the most part, the bike season will be over and it will be time for snowboarding.  Oh yeah, and it will be time for morning roller sessions on the bike.  I don't feel like I've got enough to do and I've gotta start getting ready for next season.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Coming up for air...

So, I've been a very neglectful of this blog for the last couple months, but really, I've been so busy I haven't had a chance to come up for air, much less sit down and spew a bunch of bullshit out of my skull that no one cares about or wants to read.

All sorts of crap has gone on since my last post.  Road bike races, a LOT of fun riding in probably most beautiful fall we've seen in a decade, cyclocross racing (which is still going on and may be a soon upcoming post) have been a big part of the lack of posting, which is a good thing, but not the main reason.

No, the other stuff in life is what happening.  First, the Boy decided to join Boy Scouts this year.  Which, unbeknownst to me, meant I joined Boy Scouts.  Seems like there is a meeting at least once a week, but more often than that there is some sort of event each week in addition to a den/pack meeting in addition to him becoming a professional shill for Orville Redenbacher and the evil GMO-corn giants like Monsanto and selling popcorn.  I am super glad he's doing it and having a good time doing it, but at least I should get some sort of badge for time management or for supporting the economy by buying all that gas or wearing out my truck running him all around.

Second, PTA.  Which should be PiTA (pain in the ass).  You see, my Lovely was the PTA president last year and I was the secretary and all was good and just and right with the world.  Then, she went on and got a new teaching job and said she couldn't be the president again.  So, LOOONNNG story short, we pulled a Freaky Friday and now she's the secretary and I AM the president.  And, she is helping me WAY more than I helped her as the secretary, but none the less, it is taking far too much of my time.  BUT, this is going to come to a messy, glorious head this week.  Our big fall event, Turkey Bingo, is this Thursday night and then I won't have to think about PTA so much.

So, yeah, bitch, bitch, whine, whine.  I've got stuff to do.  Just like 350 million other Americans.  But, unlike the other 98 or so others that don't have a blog, I'm gonna tell you about it again.  Real soon.  I hope.  Before it starts snowing and snowboard season starts and the Boy joins ski team and I start my AM work outs and start a swimming program with Eric and...

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Recap: The Dakota Five-O

A week ago today, the 11th Annual Dakota Five-O took place.  Shit-tons of blogs have given their recaps of what happened, who won (coincidentally if your last name wasn't Eppen, you probably didn't win) with photos and the like.  Hell, I had a race summary going, but I wasn't feeling it AT ALL.  I mean really, who in their right mind wants to read the whining ramblings of a mid-pack 40 year old? "First I rode over a rock, then my t'aint hurt, then I had to eat something, whaa-fuckin'-whaa."  No one, that's who.  So, I changed it up and here is my report for the rapid-fire, short attention span world we live in.

I had high (or higher) expectations for this year's edition.  I had kinda trained and after last year's debacle, I knew it wouldn't be worse.  And, it was my best year ever.  Took almost an hour off of my time from two years ago (the last good race I had) but still left plenty of room for improvement.  I raced my Stumpy 29'er hardtail, which I don't really know if it was a benefit.  I mean, I had a GREAT first half of the race, which is mostly up and had a shittier second half of the race, which was more down.  I could attribute it to needing more longer rides on that bike, or it could be that I am flippin' old and a hardtail beats the shit out of me.

Some details of the day. 

My tenderized drumstick
  • It was down right COLD to start the day, with frost on the ground in areas of the race course, which was fine with me.  Being a bit, ahem, hirsute, I welcome the cooler weather.  
  • The course was in primo shape, although by the time I came through areas like Dakota Ridge, it was getting a bit chewed up from a couple hundred people rolling through before me.  
  • I did have a bit of an accident in Krangle Connection which was just a lapse of concentration on my part, especially considering all the work the Ridge Riders did on the trail.  Zigged when I should have zagged and I fell and went boom.  A bit disconcerting when you fall down, the rider behind you is shouting "man down, man down" and when you get up and pull your bike off the trail, like 10 guys go zooming past.  A bit disconcerting because at with over 600 entrants out there you'd think that'd be the norm and yet, there were times when I couldn't see anyone ahead of me or behind me.  
  • Have I ever mentioned that I love the new location of the Bacon Station?  For those that don't know, the BS is an "aid" station where you can get bacon and some PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon).  It used to be in a location where you had to climb immediately afterwards, so drinking some PBR made for a tough climb.  Now it is at the beginning of Dakota Ridge and you go down (at least for a bit) so slamming some PBR and eating a slice of salty pork goodness is, well, a beautiful thing...which I did.  Did it cost me some time?  Sure.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely.
  •  Did I talk about nipples?  No?  Well, I have an issue with my nipples and chaffing on my jersey, so I covered them with New Skin.  Did it help?  Nope.  I'm sitting here with chaffed nipples right now.  Why the fuck do men have them?  Don't need 'em at all.
  • My wife and son are incredible support people.  Meeting me exactly where I wanted, when I wanted.  The best.
  • As I mentioned, I had my best year ever.  5:37, which is almost an hour faster than I've ever done it before.  But hell, almost all the Ramblers had a personal best day.  The cool weather, the trail conditions and a summer of kickin' the shit out of each other equalled a great ride for almost everyone!
  • Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Perry Jewett and the Ridge Riders (the group that put on the race).  This race is always really well run, with Perry learning from each year and making changes for the better for the following season.  I kinda expected a bit of chaos at the end with having well over 600 riders, but there wasn't any.  It was GREAT!  Super awesome food, great beer, music, and times getting put up quickly.  Kudos the the Ridge Riders for such a great event!           
Well, there you go.  I was fairly beat after the ride and was glad it was over.  And now I am planning for next year.  I've still got a little time to play with, although taking yet another hour off might be a bit much.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Dakota Five-O and Stubbornness

Here we are at the end of the summer (school started Monday around here) with the Dakota Five-O looming just a few days away, a capper on a summer of riding your ass off.
There might just be some climbing in this race...

I pre-rode the course on Sunday, which is the first time in 4 years I've ever pre-anything the Five-O.  Having grown up in Spearfish, I have ridden all those trails and didn't think I needed to or more importantly, wanted to.  All that changed this year and I not only felt like I should pre-ride, I wanted to flog my sorry ass on this course.  Not only would pre-riding it give me an idea of how next Sunday will go, but I also wanted to see how I would fare riding a hardtail on the course.  The climbs would be good, but would I be able to keep the pace up on the descents?  Would the pros outweigh the cons?

Well, I decidedly cannot descend the same on my Stumpy 29'er HT as I can on my full-squish 5" travel Moots Cinco.  But, I think that the effort I expend on the climbs is no where near lost on my descents, so I am coming out ahead.  I am planning for my best Five-O yet, which isn't saying a lot as my 3 other efforts have been, well, let's just say I finished.  And NO mechanical issues this year.

Which leads me into stubbornness.  All cyclists, well all cyclists that tinker with their bikes, have this phenomenal trait.  If we want something to work, we are going to go to great lengths to make it work.  Wanna use Shimano shifters with Sram derailleurs?  There are adapters to make this work.  A 5" travel fork on a bike designed for 3"?  You can do it, you bike will steer like a wheelbarrow, but you can and you will.   Case in point, tires for my 29'er.  When Knobby Nick told me he had some Schwalbe Racing Ralphs for sale, I jumped on it.  A fast rolling 2.4" tire is just what I needed to take the edge off for the race.  I slapped 'em on the Stumpy and immediately noticed there was about a pubic hair's clearance between the rear tire and the front derailleur.  And it all should have ended right there.  But NO, I had to get a different front derailleur, return it and get yet another different front derailleur which has about a 7 pube clearance, futz with it adjusting it and readjusting and readjusting it to get the right clearance between the granny gear and the shift mechanism. Yep that should do it I thought and I was victorious.  Don't take no for an answer.

And it did until about 4 miles into our 43 mile ride Sunday I broke a spoke and every time I shifted into the granny ring the tire would drag on the inner plates of the front derailleur.  When it first happened I thought about the ways I could fix the problem so I could run the tires.  Really?  What a stupid ass I am.  Finally my logical part of my brain whipped the emotional part of my brain's ass on the Ballpark climb, which is about 30 miles into the ride and the longest portion of granny gear riding, at least for my sorry ass.  Having that drag on each pedal stroke gave me seizure inducing flashbacks to last year's Five-O debacle with the dragging lock ring.  There was NO CHANCE IN HELL that I was going to endure that shit again.  So the RR is coming off the back of the bike and the old tire is going on.  Even if I break another spoke, it won't be rubbing on the derailleur.

Of course, maybe I should leave it on there.  If it is on there I have an excuse...reason...ahem, um, well you know, in case I have a bad race.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Leadville Trail 100 Support Crew Survivor's Guide

Leadville 100.  The name of this race simultaneously strikes fear and excitement in the hearts of mountain bikers everywhere.  This race has turned into a media circus and a behemoth beyond compare thanks to disgraced roadie Floyd Landis, some guy named Lance and Levi Leipheimer all coming in and tearing the field up and creating way too much interest in a 100 mile mountain bike race.

At the end of 2010 a group of friends decided to get into the lottery for Leadville.  Yes, for those of you that don't know there is a lottery with a fee of $30 just to get a chance to get into Leadville, which will cost you an additional $275 if your name is drawn.  What kind of lottery is that?  Usually when I think of a lottery, I think of actually winning something, not losing $275 just to win 10+ hours of pain and suffering.  When I was asked to sign up with them, I said "no way, I might just get in."  Which is exactly what happened to two of them.  And it was a perfect pick as the two that got in, Cleaver and Al, have been best of friends since they were kids so it was appropriate that they went to suffer together.

Fast forward to August 2011.  Time for the actual race and we (my lovely, the Boy and I) decide to take a little family vacation, go to Leadville and support the guys, so without further ado, here is my survivor's guide to crewing at Leadville.  Bookmark this sombitch and refer to it when someone in your riding group gets all wonky and decides that it would be a good idea to sign up for Leadville and you're going to crew for that knothead.

1. Lodging: It's really going to depend on what you're wanting for accommodations.  If you want a hotel room, the SECOND you find out if you're in, book a room.  Hell, book a room as soon as you put in for the lottery and cancel it when you find out if you're in or not.  If you wanna camp, then by probably May you need to make a reservation.  We had neither and it worked out, but it was sheer dumb luck. The guys saw a small apartment for rent that they called and were able to get it for $100 per night.  We went to a campground and were able to get some overflow camping, which worked out pretty well, but, as I said, was complete luck.

2.  The start of the race: The race starts at 6:30 am.  You need to see this start as there is NOTHING like it in cycling, much less mountain biking.  It took 10-15 minutes after they said "GO" for all the riders to come across the area we were watching from.  You need to have all your shit ready to roll, in your car and as soon as you see your guys/gals roll across the line, you need to high-tail it to your car and bust ass to the first aid station.  Where that first aid station is depends on your previous night's planning.

3. Aid stations:  There are multiple aid stations on the course, all of which are used twice (once on the way out and once on the way back).  Depending on your riders, you might need to go to the Pipeline aid station, but probably just to the Twin Lakes aid station, which is at the 40 and 60 mile mark.  Either way, preparation the night before is a must.  You need to have an EZ-Up style tent and go to Twin Lakes the night before to stake your claim, which is appropriate in this former mining community.  So, Twin Lakes on Friday night, preferably with your racers so they have an idea of where you're at, set up your tent, have it lowered down to lay claim to space at this crucial aid station.  Obviously, we did NOT do this and we had to beg/borrow/steal a 2' wide piece of land between two tents.  We were there with no shade at 10,000', which is why my nose is still peeling right now.

A nice view from Twin Lakes
With land claimed at Twin Lakes, you're free to go to Pipeline first.  Just know if you do, immediately after your riders come through Pipeline you need to boogie to Twin Lakes as it isn't that far (13 miles) for the racers and they turn those miles fairly quickly.  So, back at Twin Lakes, having a wagon or a bike with a B.O.B. trailer would make a LOT of sense as you can't drive to the area where your EZ-Up is located and lugging coolers, chairs, food, gear to this point is a pain in the ass and if you have to make more than one trip, you might miss your racers if you went to Pipeline.

Once your riders have gone through TL, you can relax for a couple hours at least before they come through TL the second time.  If your riders want you to go back to Pipeline have your stuff ready to go and as soon as you fuel up your rider at TL, FLY your gear to the car and haul ass yet once more to Pipeline.  We did this and got to Pipeline literally 30 seconds ahead of Cleaver.

After Pipeline, you can get back to the start at a little more "leisurely" pace as you'll have 2-3 hours to get to town and line up at the finish line to watch your riders come in.

3. Finish line: Did I mention parking in Leadville is a royal pain in the ass?  Odds are you'll need to park a number of blocks away from the 6th & Harrison finish line.  Have whatever your rider wants when they come across the line and any food or drink you'll want.  Now the wait begins.  "Oh, I remember that rider, they came through Pipeline 20 minutes ahead of my rider."  You'll be saying this for about an hour, 'cause it's bullshit as you don't remember anything.  There are 1900 riders for godsakes and there are about 10 of every bike and every clothing combo.  Finally your rider(s) will cross and you can go have a beer (or 10) with them and fall asleep.  If you think crewing for the riders is an easy day, think again.

4. The "awards" ceremony:  On Sunday AM, if your rider finished in under 12 hours, you'll need to hang around the gym on 6th Street to pick up your belt buckle.  This is a complete cluster fuck.  The gym holds about 400 people and there are about 3000 people trying to get in.  It is about 100 degrees inside and smells like sweaty butt-crack.  Have a coffee and hang around outside, poking your head in occasionally to see where they are in the awards.  Since the read off EVERY SINGLE NAME that got a buckle, it takes a few hours and know the slower your rider was, the longer you'll have to wait.

So, there you have it.  The survivor's guide to running a successful pit crew at Leadville.  We weren't able to do all these things and we were still successful, but I'll tell you I'll probably never do it again.  Probably never do it 'cause I'm gonna put my name in the hat for next year's lottery.  But, knowing my luck with lotteries, I'll just probably get in.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Short Way Down III, Part 2

Sunday morning came without much fanfare, although the lightning storm in the middle of the night could count as fanfare.  We arose a bit later than we did the previous day as the campground where we stay has a "mess hall" that they serve breakfast in and that doesn't start until 7:00.  We figured if we're up and ready to go by 7:00, then eat, we can be on the trail by 8:00.

We end up being changed and packed by about 7:10 and we pushed Barney over to the mess hall so we can roll right from there.  The Boy gets an all you can eat pancake breakfast, which I guess for him meant getting two huge pancakes and eating half of them, and I got the "big breakfast" and gave my sausage to the Boy.  Sufficiently fueled up, we stroll out around 8:00, fill our Camelbaks up and hit the trail.
The first stop of the day.
The morning was overcast, which meant cooler temperatures than we had anticipated.  This was a bonus as leaving Hill City means you get a grinder of a climb for about 7 or so miles to the summit at the Crazy Horse Monument and the last thing you want to do is start uphill in the baking sun.  One thing I failed to mention in Part I post was at dinner the previous night, Mom got on the Boy for not helping out with pedaling like he should.  Understand how a tandem works; both cranks have to turn in unison as they are connected by a timing chain, BUT if one person isn't putting their share into it, the effort is all on the other person.  Well, it must have hit home for him as he was a pedaling maniac on the climb!  We were at Crazy Horse before we knew it.
Crazy Horse
After a short break at the monument, we have a nice descent into Custer.  That stretch between Crazy Horse and Custer has some little ranches and houses nestled into the granite outcroppings and I have to say it would be one of the most beautiful places in the Black Hills to live.
Living outside of Custer...
We get to Custer with minimal effort and stop by the grocery store for a quick snack, a bathroom break and a chance to shake the legs out before the last grinder climb of the day.  As we're standing in front of the store, enjoying our snacks by Barney, I hear a mother say to her daughter as they walk by " don't get legs like that from going for walks."  I turn to see they're looking at me, or more importantly, my legs.  Stop it some more...

As we ride out of Custer, the clouds are starting to break up.  It is still cool, but I can feel that it is going to warm up in a hurry.  We bust up the last real climb of the day, which is about 3-4 miles worth of climbing.  At the top, we enjoy one last break before the rolling trails to Pringle and beyond. 

About 100 yards before the Pringle TH, we encounter a Mickelson Trail Patrol, as we did the previous day (and I failed to mention).  I realize these people have a job to do, but MAN, do I have to stop 100 yards before the trailhead to get my pass out?  Can't we roll over to the little hut to get out of the sun so I can get my boy something to eat whilst we play ass-grab with each other?  Surely, this cat can see we're loaded for bear and getting the bike rolling is not easy.  Oh well, pass checked we zip to the TH where we take a quick fiver before rolling on.
The Mickelson is a beautiful trail, but after Pringle it gets hot and desolate pretty darn quickly.  Sure, there are some beautiful spots, but it isn't the prettiest part of the trail.  When people from other places ask about it, I usually recommend that, unless they're hell bent on finishing the whole thing, to stop in Pringle and get a ride from there.  That being said, we were hell bent on finishing.  Mentally, I knew we were NOT going to go a third day.  The Boy said he was getting sore in his neck and shoulders, which was partially from not riding enough before the trip and partially from his new position on the bike, as we've removed the child stoker kit and handlebar extensions, so I knew a third day could wreck him mentally so we were not going to continue back to Hill City.

A quick water fill up at the Lien Quarry hut and we we're rolling to the last trailhead called Minnekahta, where Mom was going to meet us.  We met up just as planned and she had some cool drinks for us as now the sun was beating down on us and it kinda felt like we were in the Serengeti.  At this point we decided to ditch our gear in the truck and ride unencumbered for the last 15 miles into Edgemont. 
Look at that smile!  Still happy after all those miles!
We took off down the trail and about two mile in, guess what?  Another DAMN FLAT!  Seriously, who the hell did I piss off?  OK, we can handle this I think.  I pull the rear wheel off and the cassette cogs fall off with the wheel.  HOLY SHIT.  This is NOT GOOD.  Not good indeed.  But, being fairly handy, I was able to reattach the cog's lockring with the plier end of a multi-tool.  After fixing the flat and reinstalling the rear wheel, I discover that the axle is quite loose.  At this point we decide to pull the plug on this section of trail.  There is no access between where we were and Edgemont, so if something drastic happened, we'd end up walking the last 10 miles or so.  Not gonna happen.  So, a quick call to my lovely which netted me no response and a voice mail, and we turned around and rode back to the Minnekahta TH.  We ended up calling and texting her about 10 times before she responded.  She was in the museum in Edgemont...thankfully it is Edgemont and there is more stuff in my house than in that museum, so it didn't take her too long.

After a picnic at the Minnekahta TH, we got the bike loaded up in the truck and we headed for home.  Another Mickelson trip under our belts, this time with a lot more adversity than we've had in the other years combined.   Which made for an interesting trip and will make us all the more prepared for the next time we do it.  And we are already thinking about the next time...and I'll have a gross of tubes waiting.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Short Way Down III, Part I

For this year's trip on the Mickelson, lovingly referred to as the Short Way Down III which is obviously a play on the Charlie Boorman/Ewan McGregor documentary titles, we had big aspirations.  The last two years we had done the "Mick" by starting in Deadwood, rolling the first 50 miles to Hill City for the night, then finishing out the remaining 60 the next day riding to Edgemont.  This year we wanted to do more.  We were going to go for 5 days, riding the initial two like we always had, but staying in Edgemont and riding back to Custer to camp, then to Rochford/Deerfield and ending back in Deadwood.

Big aspirations turned into panic as I looked at the calendar for possible weekends to pull this off.  It was mid-July already and I didn't want to go the next weekend.  Not enough time to prepare.  The following weekend was out as it was my turn to work a Saturday and the Boy had theater camp.  The next TWO weekends were out as they bookended the Sturgis Rally so finding a campsite would be as rare as stepping in a unicorn turd.  I suppose we could have done it the weekend after that, but it is our anniversary, so I'm doubting that saying to my lovely that the Boy and I are going camping/riding would go over too well.  So, we decided to get all crazy and cram a whole bunch of shit into one week to get ready to go.  All that coupled with the fact that the Boy's theater camp was starting on Tuesday meant that we were NOT going to be able to go down and back.  After some deliberation, we decided to go down and half way back to Hill City.

Getting ready to take flight.
So, we went to Deadwood on Friday evening for a night of camping before hitting the trail, just like last year.  The BIGGEST reason the Boy loves the trip is for the camping.  Heck, he'd probably go bikepacking for weeks just to go camping if he could.  We set up camp and hit the sack as the sun went down, just as good campers should.

About 1:30 in the morning I got up to take a whizz (why is it when I'm at home I can sleep through the night and NEVER get up piss but when I'm camping I almost ALWAYS have to get up to go during the night?) I notice that about 4 sites over they've got a bonfire reminiscent of the Springfield tire fire and I notice some lightning in the sky.  About 2 hours later, I'm feeling raindrops through the screen of the tent.  I get up to close the rainfly and hope our stuff doesn't get too wet.

No luck.  I awoke to an overcast sky and our stuff was wet.  Great.  Without going into minutia, we packed up our stuff, took the picture you saw above and hit the trail by 7:00 am.  I got the Boy on the trail at 7:00.  Impressive.

At least he had a long sleeve shirt on...
On the Mickelson there are nice concrete mileposts telling you what mile you're on, with 109 starting in Deadwood and finishing with 0 at the end in Edgemont.  Last year we started ringing our bells at each milepost to note the passing of another mile.  We continued that tradition this year while watching the temperature on my Garmin hover in the 55-59 degree range for the morning.  The Boy kept saying he was chilly and I put off getting his jacket out as we climbed from Deadwood to Dumont, which is all up hill for 15 or so miles.  As we hit the Englewood trailhead, the last one before Dumont, we had ascended into the clouds and it was drizzling to the point of our legs being covered with a fine mist/dirt mud as was the front of Barney (our tandem).  Not wanting to be a bad parent, the jackets came out at this point.

As we finished the climb to Dumont, the drizzle got heavier, to the point of being almost rain.  Again, I looked at the temperature to see 57 degrees.  I thought to myself if this keeps up all the way to Hill City, I am going to pull the plug on this adventure.  The last thing I want to do is ride in the rain, set up wet stuff and try to stay dry/warm all night long with home being no more than 50 miles away.

We begin the descent to Rochford for our first real break of the day.  As we start picking up steam, something doesn't feel right.  Son-of-a-bitch...we've got a flat.  I must have pissed off the flat-tire-gods as I have had a rash of them this year.  And  to make matters worse, this flat is the rear tire which is obviously under all the gear/panniers/weight of the bike.  Super.  We pull over, I unhook the brakes, undo the quick release for the wheel and hoist the rear end up so the Boy can yank the wheel out.  As I start repairing the tire, three horses in the adjacent field come to the fence to see what the commotion was all about.  The larger of the three horses, a black one, puts his head over the fence and seems to be enamored with the Boy.  It stared at him for quite a while before I tell him to go over and pet them while I finish.  He goes over, gingerly puts his hand up and gently touches its nose.  The horse leans in for a nuzzle and they become fast friends.  The Boy did pet the other horses and while they got tired of it and left, the black one stayed.  He ended up feeding it the tall grasses and petting it for quite a while. He thought that was about the coolest thing he'd ever encountered and I have to agree that it was pretty special.  I guess the flat happened for a reason.

Back on the bike, we continued on to Rochford, the Moonshine Gulch Saloon and the gastronomical treats therein.  We rolled up to the saloon, took off some gear and headed in for some lunch, which consisted of a burger and fries for me and a corn dog and fries for the Boy.  If you've never encountered the Moonshine Gulch, I HIGHLY recommend it, but make sure your stomach is strong.  Not that the food is gross, far from it, but the place is really indescribable.  There was a live deer in the kitchen at one time for god-sakes.  That should say it all.

Bellies full, we struck out from Rochford onward to Mystic, the last "real" trailhead before Hill City, which means our last chance for water before a lengthy climb and a nice descent into our first day's destination.  The weather was breaking, with the sun coming out and the temperature on the rise.  As we reach Mystic, I'm about out of water, so now it is all I can think about.  Why the hell does that happen? 

Still happy after all those miles.
We reach Mystic, fill up and answer some bikepacking/tandem/riding with a kid questions for the Mickelson "daytrippers" that one encounters near major trailheads, especially Mystic.  The Mystic TH is highly popular as people will ride the 7 miles up to Rochford, stop at the Moonshine or the Rochford "Mall" for a snack/lunch and coast back to Mystic.  It really is a beautiful part of the Black Hills that not many roads lead to, so it is easy to see why people ride it.  We saddle up and hit the trail for the last leg of the day.  I look down to see the temperature now is a balmy 94 degrees!  What the hell?  You might just recount that it was 57 degrees out just a couple hours and about 15 miles ago.  Nice.  Now it is muggy, sweaty and somewhat miserable.  Obviously, the jackets that came out a little while ago, went back in to their storage space.
We roll into Hill City  in decent time, stopping at the health food store for a snack and the bike shop for a tube before heading the 3 miles uphill to the campground.  While in town, the Boy decides that he'd like to have dinner with Mom, so we call her and arrange it and head off to camp. 

The yellow and grey barrier between us and West Nile Virus.
At the campground we find a nice spot next to the mosquito breeding grounds...I mean the creek and set up camp.  After showering and changing clothes, we're ready to have dinner.  All that riding made us a bit ravenous.  Mom shows up and whisks us off to the Bumpin' Buffalo for dinner.  It was good as usual, but I could have eaten just about anything and been happy.  After dinner, we walk down Main Street, get the Boy some ice cream and head back to camp after procuring some Super-Ultra-Deep Woods OFF to combat the mosquitos. 

Once at camp, we visit for a little more and decide as the sun was setting we were ready for bed.  My lovely drove off and the Boy and I slipped quietly into our sleeping bags.  About 3.7 seconds later we were asleep and dreaming about the next day.  Dreaming until I had to get up to take a damn piss in the middle of the night. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Loaded up and ready to roll!

The third annual "Short Way Down" or SWD III or the Mick Trip with the Boy or whatever you wanna call it is going off this weekend and we're loaded up (mostly) and ready to roll.
Barney ready to roll.

I hate the 11th hour stuff trying to figure out if I've loaded everything we need or want to take and I am also responsible for the comfort of the Boy, so I'm doing double duty here.

Look for a complete ride report next week...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Road Warrior

I've been kicking around some thoughts for my new post for a few days.  Cool, fun stuff like how I got a Garmin 500 and now I track how many feet it is from the couch to the bathroom.  Or, like how I raced in the BAM Knifeblade last weekend and had my best race in, oh, 12-15 years.  Then, a "little" incident in the Tour de France created a whole shit storm in my life and the life of the cyclists everywhere.

Here is the "little" incident.
First off, that car driver should be taken behind the woodshed by Johnny Hoogerland and beaten within an inch of his life.  I mean, really, look at what happened to Hoogerland when he went upside-down and backwards through that barbed wire fence (thankfully it was a French barbed wire fence, so it looked good but didn't stand up to much pressure).

And yet, my disgust with this whole thing doesn't lie with the driver of that French TV car.  Oh no.  It lies with the stupid jackass Michael Smith that appeared on the TV program Around The Horn that is on ESPN.  He made light of the crash saying it was funny and the whole panel made comments disparaging cycling and the drug scandals that have rocked it in the last decade (although, where the FUCK the connection with what happened and doping is I'll never know).

Good lord, I don't even know where to start with this.  First, let me get this out in the open.  I am a sports fan.  I like to follow MLB and I love the NFL (and more importantly the Pittsburgh Steelers) although I don't find my personal self worth in how the NFL does like a lot of people do.  That being said, if something like this happened to their darlings like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady ALL of those stupid asses on that show would have been extolling their valor, shouting from the mountain tops.  But, because it happened in a sport that happens in Europe and doesn't involve a ball, they don't get it, so they, like stupid fucking jocks in a high school locker room, make fun of it.

Second, the doping jokes (at least by those that are American sports fans) are done.  Cycling is working HARD to get the sport clean.  Is it perfect?  Not by a long shot.  But can you imagine if an NFL star or a MLB star got caught for doping and got a 2 YEAR BAN like cyclists get?  Give me a break.  When star linebacker Shawn Merriman got popped for steroids a year or two ago all anyone could ask was when was he coming back? Did anyone make him a pariah like they did with Tyler or Floyd?  Hell no.  When he came back, Charger fans welcomed him with open arms, saying thank GOD he's back, now we can get back to winning. hypocritical can you get?  On one hand, you've got guys that are WAY bigger than a human can get naturally and you're singing his praises and on the other hand you're saying cycling is stupid because guys that are riding farther in 3 weeks than these analyst fucks get driven around by their "driver".

Third, the real problem with this whole thing is what it does to the average cyclist on the street.  Really, does it effect Johnny Hoogerland?  Not in the least.  He doesn't even know who Michael Smith of ESPN is, or more importantly, give a shit.  Nope.  But, let me share an interaction I had on the commute home from work on Wednesday evening.  Rolling towards a red light, there was a string of cars stopped.  As I rolled between the cars and the curb I hear a fucking in-bred troll of a woman, from behind the wheel of her clapped out '82 Chevy pickup, yell at me, "There is a bike path right over there!"  I locked up the brakes and backed up a bit and asked her if she had a problem.  She repeats the comment.  I tell her I have a legal right to be on the road.  She once again, like a stupid parrot that learned a new phrase to get a saltine, repeated the bike path comment.  I told her that I am a vehicle and I can legally be on the road.  Thankfully the light turned green and I rode away.

This is where the problem lies.  We get a bunch of low IQ fucks watching that video of a car smoking cyclists and then listening to assholes like Michael Smith say its funny, throw in a bit of Jackass, some alcohol and a iPhone and you've got people in 2 ton cars trying to reenact that crash for their glorious YouTube moment (fuck Andy Warhol and his 15 minutes of fame).  It creates more hatred for cyclists from car commuters.  It adds fuel to the fire in the war that is brewing between these different modes of transportation.

And I know those inbred asses will spout the First Amendment bullshit.  Yes, the First Amendment protects our speech, but I still can't go into a movie theater and yell "FIRE".  That shit isn't protected.  And what happened on ESPN is akin to yelling fire in a theater.  So, pop over to and send a comment to them that we, as cyclists, are NOT going to take this shit.  I've already written 3 different letters.  I hope you do too.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Four T's

To follow up the four H's post, now we have the four T's, or the TTTT, or the Tinton Trail Time Trial, put on by the same guy, Perry Jewett, that puts on the Dakota Five-O, which I planned on racing this past Sunday.  And I did, but with one exception, for which I have a new "hero" in cycling to look up to (or down to as it were).

Sunday morning came and I got up at my normal ass-crack-of-dawn time and started getting the Moots and my stuff ready for the TTTT.  As I was getting closer to time to leave, I went into the Boy's room to get him up so we could drive the hour to the race venue, just outside of Spearfish.

I whispered to him that it was time to get up so we could go to the race.  Earlier in the week I had mentioned the race and said if he felt like it, we could race it on Barney, our big, purple Cannondale off-road tandem, so I asked him if he wanted to race, expecting him to say no based on our previous conversations.  I got the typical kid response which was something along the lines of "well, duh Dad, of course I am going to race it with you!"  Wow.  Knock me over with a feather.  I really wasn't expecting that answer.

So, we got everything ready to roll, packed up and headed out to Spearfish.  It was a perfect morning here at NSSC headquarters, with the temps in the low 70's and barely partly cloudy.  As we traveled northwest getting closer to Spearfish, my wife says, "those clouds don't look so good."  No, no they didn't.  As we get into Spearfish, it is completely overcast, temps in the low 60's but no rain at least.  As we head out of town to the venue, we climb into the clouds which is now fog, getting more and more thick as we end up at the Big Hill trailhead parking lot.

We sign up for the race, saddle up and ride the 1/2 mile or whatever it was to the starting area to do a practice run.  We struggled up the climbs and it felt like I was doing the majority of the work.  Damn, I thought to myself, if the Boy rides like this, it's gonna be a long, LONG day.

We get to the starting area, wait for a couple of other guys to take off and then we follow.  We're rolling pretty well and it feels like the Boy is loosening up a bit and feeling the flow.  The course is divided into two sections, the upper section, which is rocky and not so tight and twisty, then after you cross Tinton road, the lower section which isn't as rocky, but much tighter and more twisty than the upper and making threading a 7' long tandem through it a bit sketchy.  About 1/2 way down the upper section, I hear the sshhhHHWWWeeew ...sshhhHHWWWeeeww ..sshhhHHWWWeeeww sound that only a flat can make.  Sonofabitch.  We're under a time constraint to get to the bottom and catch a shuttle back to the start of the race.  Flat fixed and we're back off down the trail.

We catch a ride back to the top by riding in the back of a pickup, holding Barney.  It was the first time the Boy got to ride in the back of a pickup and he thought that was the shit.  At the top, I find my fixed rear tire losing air.  DAMMIT!  I pull the tire off and find a small pinhole.  No more tubes.  My patch kit is an "emergency" one only, with those foamy, stick on patches that work good enough to get you home, but no better.  Thankfully, Chadwick bails me out with the primo Park Tools stick on patches that I am now thoroughly impressed with.

Race time comes with the Dash for Cash class (expert) taking off first then the Steer for Beer (sport), of which we're part of.  Jasper gives us the line up order and we're in line awaiting our turn.  The Boy is a bit nervous before we roll out, but once we hear the 3...2...1...GO he settles in and is pedaling REALLY well and hanging with me like a champ, leaning into turns, standing up and basically following my body english really well.

The top 1/2 went by like a blur.  We didn't get passed by anyone on the top part, which I fully expected.  We cross the road and drop into the second section and are rolling well.  We get passed about 1/2 way through the second section, which I expected as we can't turn through the corners as easily as a single bike.  Shortly after we get passed again to which I respond to the Boy "we will NOT get passed again!"  The Boy asks "how do you know?"  and just then another rider comes by.  SHIT.  We keep the on the gas and fly through the last couple stretches, into Cleaver's Corner which is a double switchback that was more than tricky on a tandem, but we make it.  A few more pedal strokes and we cross the line in 28:11.  Not shabby for a 7'ish mile Super D.  We later find out we have beaten a good number of singles and are not far behind people that think they are good downhillers.  We're STOKED.

Which brings me to my new cycling hero...The Boy.  That kid kicks some major ass on the back of a tandem.  He is mostly fearless, and whenever there is a hesitation, if I say we'll be OK, he goes with it.  He pedaled his little ass off and rode really, REALLY well.  I am super-stoked to be part of a tandem team with him and I can't wait to do it again!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Four H's

As I might have mentioned a few times, Mother Nature has been a bitch as of late, deciding that summer (which in my book is June 1 through September 1, not that whole June 20th or whatever) weather here in the Black Hills should be more April like than June like, meaning cool and WAY TOO MUCH fucking rain.  I have permanent prune hands I think.

We scheduled our normal Tuesday night Rambler ride at Bulldog which was postponed because of...wait for it...RAIN (imagine that).  So, we rescheduled for Wednesday evening after seeing the forecast for that day with no rain predicted.

We met at Bulldog at 6 pm after a day when the highs were in the low 80's.  Perfect you'd think, huh?  Hold on there Tonto...under normal circumstances, 80 would be an ideal riding temperature, but here in the Black Hills, the average afternoon relative humidity for June floats around in the mid 40% range.  Wednesday's afternoon relative humidity?  Almost 70%, and I would argue that on the trail with all the vegetation and the supremely damp trail, it was much higher than that.

I can already hear the grumblings of those that live east of the Missouri River, where humidity is usually the same as the temperature outside in the summer but understand, we live in a semi-arid area and we are not used to humidity which is where the four H's come in.

Heat, humidity, hairiness and heaviness.  Hot, H2O, hirsuteness and huge.  Whatever your words, pick 3 and leave the humidity out.  They do NOT mix, trust me.  I was sweating like a fat hooker in church.  My clothes felt like I went swimming in them.  Not cool.

In addition, thanks to all the rain, the area around the trail looked like it was some sort of poison ivy farm.  Nice.  Hairy, huge, sweaty and itching oozing blisters.  What isn't to love about that?  Thankfully, I've managed to steer clear of the ivy so far this year, knock on wood, but I know my luck is running out.

I suppose I could do something about the hairiness...I guess I need a good clipping over the whole body.  Now that we are dog free in the house I guess the clippers are free for human use.  I just hope I can balance on the grooming table while my wife trims me up.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Man, I don't know how to take a compliment I received the other night.

I was on our usual Tuesday night Rambler ride, when Jim (from Quarq) says to me "Hey, did you know you're an inspiration?"  What the hell are you talking about, I think.  So, he proceeds to tell me "I didn't know if I should tell you or not but you inspired A.S..  Remember the other night when we rode Lookout Mtn and he was sucking wind?  He talked about you kicking his ass up the hill and now he's getting after it, riding Lookout almost every day."

God, I LOVE bib shorts...
Cool.  I'm inspiring someone to ride...hey, wait a minute.  I don't know if I like the way this is going.  Why am I the one inspiring him?  How was it phrased when he told Jim I was an inspiration?  Did he say "Damn, that big guy stomped my ass!" or did he say "I need to get after it, that fat fuck just kicked my ass!"?  Although I can't really tell the difference between the two, I suppose there is a positive to the whole thing, but I haven't quite figured out what that is yet.

I'm gonna put on my Lampre gear and go for a training ride.  I'm going out to be a fucking inspiration!

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Recently, I made disparaging remarks about Mother Nature.  I did apologize, but I think I need to yet again.  She obviously knows better than I do and has tried to save me from myself.

My 30 days of riding was shattered a week ago.  The weather was rainy and cold and I could have ridden but at almost 40, I'm not that into it where I will ride in shit weather.  No rain capes, no fenders, no gaiters.  In addition to the weather, I have some SERIOUS ass problems which is how Mother Nature has saved me from myself.

Now, for those that know me personally, you might say, "Well you have always had a problem with your stinks!"  But, that is not the problem.  Well, it is a problem, but not the problem we're discussing here.  No, the problem I've got with my ass isn't really my ass but more my grundle, t'ain't or for the female readers, Brunswicks.  (What are Brunswicks you ask?  Imagine a bowling says "Brunswick" between the holes.)

So two days off the bike, I thought, would be OK.  I could still easily maintain pace to get 300+ miles this month.  On Sunday, I went for a road ride with some friends.  A good climb (4000+ feet of climbing) and a SCREAMING descent (50+ miles per hour) were highlights of the ride, but my ass wasn't happy with me at all.  I had a hard time finding a comfortable spot on the seat for the whole ride.

I rode to work on Monday and I'll tell you, on my ride home, I don't know if I sat down once.  Super pain. I got home and sat on an ice pack for the evening.  I needed to get it all healed up so I could ride on Tuesday night with the Ramblers.

Tuesday night came and we rode Bulldog in Sturgis.  Just like my ride to work and my ride on Sunday, I had a hard time finding a spot on the seat that didn't cause a flaming pain in my ass.  Once at the top, we stood around for a few minutes (which was a relief for me) and headed down.  Once again, no sitting down for me on the descent.
I can't say for sure if this is me or a baboon.

Long story short, I got home from my ride, went for the grundle-ice for a bit and went to bed.  When I got up Wednesday morning, I felt like some sort of baboon in heat.  My t'ain't was all swollen, which in turn caused my nuts to swell up too.  And let me tell you, for all you short horns out there, if your sack has gone from the size of a coin purse to the size of a grocery tote, it doesn't do anything thing for the visual size of your member.  Imagine Danny DeVito standing next to Mickey Rooney.  Now imagine him standing next to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  He's not any shorter, but he looks a lot shorter next to a 7' man.  Same thing for me.

So, now I've been off the bike all week.  It really hasn't mattered as it's been raining like mad here, so my 30 days would have been shot anyhow.  And, the swelling has gone down and stuff is healing up down there.  So, thanks Mother Nature.  I won't disparage you again.  Unless I try this again in June.

Monday, May 9, 2011

30 Days...

30 days.  Is that too much to ask?  I suppose living in South Dakota, 30 days might be too much to ask, but I went ahead and asked anyhow.

What did I ask for?  Well, I was shooting for riding my bike 30 days in a row.  Setting of this "goal" happened organically and purely by accident.  I got rides in for 3 or 4 days in a row and I thought "hey, I could go for 30, culminating with my final ride on my 40th birthday".  It would be sweet to end my 30's with 30 days of riding. You see, to the non-cyclist, riding your bike 30 days in a row might not seem like such a big deal.  "Hell, I (insert your non-cycling activity TV, drink beer, masturbate, drive your monster truck) for 30 days in a row all the time."  But, in reality, riding a bike 30 days in a row is tougher than you'd think.  Shit gets in the way, like life, work, family, and more importantly, the weather, trying to drag you down and keep you off your two-wheeled love.

And sure, I could just go for a spin around the block, but I set goals dammit.  I set goals of a minimum of 10 miles per day for 30 days.  300 miles minimum for May (actually shooting for 4-500, but anything less than 300 will be unacceptable).  I have a GREAT start too, 8 days in and well over 100.  But, this all might come crashing down tomorrow.

I don't care if yesterday was Mother's Day or not  (is it Mother's Day, Mothers' Day or Mothers Day?), if I run into Mother Nature, I'm gonna kick that bitch right in the slats.  No, seriously I am, as the weather this Spring is getting ridiculous.  I mean really, we've had like 3 truly nice days since the first of the year and now we've got some bullshit rain in the forcast for tomorrow.  After I'd gone and planned a ride with the Ramblers.  And if I hear just one old geezer quack that "we need the moisture" I'm gonna trip the light fantastic.

So, now I'm stuck.  I'm 8 days into my 30, with a good start going.  I've got a ride planned for tomorrow, with eating and drinking planned for post ride.  What to do?  Well, I'm sure as hell NOT going to put fenders on my bike, get a poncho and ride in the rain, I can tell you that.  Oh well, I can just start another goal, maybe ride 40 days in a row to kick off my 40's...

UPDATE: The weather made an about-face, so we got our ride in, and it was REALLY GOOD! So, my apologies to Mother Nature, you know, about the whole "kicking you in the slats" comment.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mountain bikes, injured livers and Pandora

Without getting into crazy details, the annual Rambler trip didn't happen for me.  Logistically and financially I couldn't swing it.  But damn, I needed to get away for a desert trip, so I planned out a trip with Al (previous owner of Backcountry Bikes in Sheridan, WY and long time friend), Cletus, Bobki and my cousin Aaron.  Even though this is my "core" group of friends and we've all been friends for a long time (16+ years) we all had not ridden together in, shit, something like 7 years.  

So, last month, we saddled up Al's ride (the only one big enough and/or reliable enough to take us all) and headed to points south.  We ended up riding in Colorado Springs (my old stomping grounds), Fruita and Moab.  

I could blather on about the minutia of the trip, but I won't. I will tell you that we all tried to get all Chuck Norris and karate chop our livers (and I think we were successful in this endeavor), I discovered the joys of Pandora and a smart phone, which was detailed in a previous post regarding that and the temporary death of my Mac.  (I'm actually listening to Pandora right now, though it is on my computer as opposed to my phone, since my phone is decidedly not smart.)  Overall the trip was super rad, we had fun together, met cool people and rode some sweet trails. I'll let the pictures do the talking. And maybe add some captions that enhance your viewing pleasure.
Aaron looking into the trailer and wondering if it is too late to back out of this trip.
Al, looking refreshingly dapper in his Dog the Bounty Hunter attire.
Bobki, getting ready to set sail in Palmer Park.
Aaron reflecting on where his life went so wrong he ended up with us, in front of Pikes Peak.
Bobki, making the turn on the Cheyenne Trail, Palmer Park.
Aaron letting us know he's not a stupid as we are.
Me, giving my suspension a workout at Palmer Park.
Cletus, making the turn at Palmer Park
Seriously, this was a long time coming...Cletus FINALLY swapping out those things he called grips with actual, new grips.  We all were scared of those old ones.
"Hey Al, isn't that the spot where we consummated our love?"
"Where the fuck did I put my riding skills?"

Bobki takin' a leak...honestly, who DOESN'T have a picture of this?
"If I have to look up ONE MORE thing for these old fucks, I'm gonna download an App to kill them in their sleep..."
Cletus makin' it look easy...that bastard.
Cletus doing what he does best...freakin' Bobki out and hanging his feet off a cliff.  About 300' above the ground at Gemini Bridges.
I think I found Jim Morrison...
A ruggedly handsome crew.
We had a long way to go to the Portal...
The LaSals from the rim.
Once again, Cletus hanging his legs over the edge (note how small the highway below looks).
The holiest of mountain bikes at the Holy Cross (this picture was taken expressly for the Princess).
Cletus droppin' a chute at the end of the Holy Cross and makin' it look easy.
Cletus lookin' super sexy...too bad the inside of this tent smelled like the inside of Al's ass.
So there you have it.  A photographic journey with us.  I might add a few more pics when I get them, but I'll let you know when I do.  Just looking at these shots makes me want to do it all again.