Monday, April 11, 2016

Laurel Lake overnight

Some a few of us regulars go together for a two-day extravaganza of mixed-terrain foolishness on the opening of week of my spring break. The plan, and one must always consider the plan- not the reality that we always cut shit short- was to do a very mixed kinda road/singletrack/hikeabike/gravel kinda day on Saturday, a full day but one that kept the mileage reasonable, and then add on Sunday inspecting the well-reviewed Laurel Lake singletrack system.

Saturday's route began at Bee Rock Campground, where Patrick and I had visited before, and included a chill 4-mile warmup before we dove into singletrack. Unfortunately, the group had problems staying together pretty early on. We were introduced to our "theme" of the day.

Patrick and Timothy on the one-mile-ish climb out of Bee Rock.

Patrick and David further on up the road.

The off-roading commenced as we dove down a portion of the Sheltowee into Cane Creek WMA, again an area PJ and I explored back in the summer. With a little more confidence and fresher legs, I through myself with abandon and really enjoyed the sketchy descent, even clearing the man-made wood bridge that the others (pussies) chose to walk. I was early.

Smartly choosing dry in the chilly conditions.

Standard sketchy rock garden. None of us cleared. Pussies.

The area is rife with waterfalls, of which we stopped and snapped a couple.

Towards the base of the descent we were passed (while waiting for someone, cough cough) by two very capable ladies from the Rogue Racing outfit of Cincy. They were very capable on a descent that the rest of us sort of chunked. Humbling.

At this point they turned back uphill to go find the groomed action along Laurel Lake while we went west on #trail401 (don't quote me), we were found a mix of hike-a-bike and rideable trail. One of the Rogue girls had complained of too much "hiking in Sidis", which I scoffed at as being soft. She was right.

Yahoo Falls. A nice hike. A less-than-nice bike push.

As stated, the trail opened up into more rideable conditions.

Dammit where are the pretty little purple flowers I took a picture of behind the Jones?!?

Someone walked a lot.

After an interesting blend of riding and hike-a-bike, we found a nutty descent which eventually led us to our turn north for more of the same. I was having a pretty good time, while others in our party either a) fell in creeks or b) walked>biked. To say it lacked rhythm is to say that Stalin lacked empathy. 

While not extolling the virtues of modern flow trail, it didn't hurt that this portion of #401, aka the trail with the white diamond aka the trail along the river, provided very nice views.

Plenty of Rockcastle River attractiveness.

Seek-and-Find. How many bikes do you see?

We found things rough going, but along this section a pair of motos were working their way south along the same trail. Honestly I don't know if they're actually allowed, but they were there. Their part in the story surfaces just down the road.

This innocuous pic is here for a reason. Embiggen (I/Grant talk) and take a closer look.

OK. We were already a bit tired and taking much longer than we should have been, but that's the story of our rides. All that being said, April '16 DBNF got much more fucking crazy here. I've used my mad skills to screen shot a map of Cane Creek WMA and the nice trail we were on. The yellow star indicates where we got lost as fuck. It does not good to rehash the fact other than that we spent an hour plus clambering and debating how we were going to scale cliffs with our bikes, trudging up dangerous slopes, Dave avoided being impaled by wooden spikes, and generally fucking ourselves. It was just dumb. Oh, we followed some moto tracks too. They had to have been more fucked than we, as the notion of hauling their bikes up or down some of those slopes was just unacceptable. Eventually we saw a nice, fit couple we had seen earlier and conferred on the general direction of things. Patrick had been on the trail an hour earlier buuuuuut....

Nice view amid fuckery.

The trail is listed as the "narrows", and so the trail ended up being the steepest shit imaginable with bikes. At some point Timothy and Patrick up ahead were looking for white diamonds to no avail. In the end, though, the trail was found and multiple hours later we were back on track.

At the top, we conferred and hatched a plan. A couple of us went forward to camp to secure transportation. The other two did their forward progress towards camp. And we met together eventually. It was a memory. Jesus.

A totally screwed ride being the given, camp ended up really nice. Yes, it was chilly, but the wind died down and we dined on both our own fare and some jambalaya that Timothy had concocted. Along with the refreshing beverages, camp was solidly chill at some point. Later in the evening three of us visited the bridge and took in a very nice starry sky until the clouds rolled in. My camp sleep was typically brutal; at 1am for some reason (later found out to be an un-closed tab) my sleeping pad was flat as a board. I finished the night in the passenger seat of Dave's vehicle. -8 camper points there.

Sunday's plan was to ride the "flowy" singletrack of Laurel Lake. One in our party had had enough and decided to sit things out. The remaining three found a rather easy, yes, flowy portion of singletrack along the lack punctuated by short, quick power climbs after crossing dry creek beds. The path was well-maintained and even along the more populated portions there was a very light layer of pea gravel of some sort to minimize erosion. Someone yet again crashed into a streambed, truncating his trip by some miles as he returned via the road. Our morning ride ended up being about 10 miles total, as we missed the most southern leg at a road crossing we didn't cross. I consider Laurel Lake to be a very good "girlfriend/boyfriend" trail for those getting into riding trails. It was mellow and probably appropriate after our Saturday fiasco.

You know, a week and change later,  I would enthusiastically say it was better than sitting on the couch.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Big (Bend) Thoughts

I feel to be in a period of transition. Perhaps more to come at some point. I saw this image and it immediately nudged me an inch closer to a position- mental, spiritual, physical-, some kind of position where I need to be, to strive towards.  Just a thought.

Thanks, Justin, for the inspiration. Blog about Big Bend, TX area found here.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Mas snowfatcold

I met Timothy at Please&ThankYou for a cup, and for me one of their excellent egg bagels, before we headed out on the early edge of our next snow-ing, billed this time as a potential storm between 1" and 12". Yes, you read that right. Anyway, it was snowing.

Timothy brought his Orbea 27.5+ bike to try in the snow for the first time, while I was again on the Mukluk, whose tires were I'm guestimating at 8psi or so. We plowed the bumpy trail our the Riverwalk towards Shawnee. In this section, Timothy was stronger than I and I think having more fun than I. Pushing the knobby Nates over long flat sections (long is relatively here) is not particularly enjoyable. As we began to explore the Shawnee/Portland river bottoms area the Nates sprang to life, so to speak. Noodling and Toodling around at 3mph with an extra grippy footprint seems to be what the Mukluk is made for, while Timothy was consistently losing grip with his mild knobbed 3" tires (sorry, don't remember make). We explored a bit until Timothy's cleats were entirely frozen up. After fortunately retrieving a missing coffee thermos, we wended through the woods a bit more and began to head back. At the flood wall under I-64 I borrowed Timothy's pump to boost my pressure a bit and basically tore the valve stem inner stem off (whatever it's called), but low and behold the tire held air. I assume there was some frozen stuff in there aiding my cause. We trudge back in increasing snows and wind, eventually popping over to River Rd. to avoid the snow drifting o the Riverwalk. A beverage and hot food melted our frozen edges and topped off a fun day. This made for the 3rd snow ride in a row, all with different shoe combinations. The zipper on the Wed boots (my favorite broke, begetting the Oboz boots, begetting the new Shimano bikepack boots, all with weaknesses.  Maybe I'm the weak link. I hate cold toes.

Snow Ohio River scene.

Frozen face selfie. Googles this time, but same hat.

Portland/Shawnee river bottoms. This area had scene much ATV/truck/4x4 activity, making for ruts that Timothy found difficult with his level of tire grip.

Drive home not so rosy for the Mukluk wheels. Even worse (not shown) was the frozen front mechanism on the rack. I engineered a questionable solution with a small bungee. I got home in tact, so I guess it was good enough.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

First Snow Fattie '16

Is started snowing around 3am, so by the time I awoke at 4.45am to check on school status they had already cancelled. I tried to go back to sleep, but to no avail. Eventually still under the cover of darkness I hit the ol' fatbike, for the first time in while. I managed to stay out for 3hrs. Although I didn't do much mileage, it felt good to manage temps at 21F and to pedal for a long time. Below is my account.

 Seneca golf course is always fun

 Along Beargrass Creek as the light begins to increase bit by bit.

Seneca Golf Course singletrack. I only did a portion. 

Further into Cherokee trails. I dabbled and explored but don't consider it much of a trail session. 

Bad pic, but a cold, wet Blue Heron along Beargrass Trail. He set to flight shortly after this. For as large as they are, they tend to be nervous, although a bit less so than Kingfishers.


New bridge behind old bridge

Mukluk along the riverfront. It was sorta snowy at this point. I was comfortable until my hands got a bit cold about here.

Love this pic, the snow, the river, the RR bridge. Oh, and the green grocery cart.

Legit ice beard at my coffee stop at McQuixote down in Portland

My original plan was to travel down to the Shawnee river trails area for some exploration. At this point after coffee I had been out for two hours and had around an hour to get home at the substantial mph I was managing, so I turned for the barn. I stopped at OYLC on the way home for some bike BS and even briefly test-rode a 27.5+ Scott, which I had to say tracked better in the snow than the Muk. Less rubber though. It was a great day on the bike, and apparently I might have another opportunity on Friday as we get another system.

Additionally, viewing passively:
Great Blue Heron
Northern Cardinal
American Tree Sparrow
White-Throated Sparrow
some other LBJs
Dark-eyed Junco
Downy Woodpecker
other ducks along river
Ring-billed Gull
Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Mourning Dove
Eastern Towhee
Carolina Wren
Carolina Chickadee

Friday, January 01, 2016

2015 Highlights

In no particular order:

  • 4510 miles- my highest mileage year ever. I had a slow-ish start to the year but finished quite strongly, totaling 3400 miles since the beginning in June.
  • The "Most Trips" award goes to the JonesATB with 52 trips, and that is from early August. I had a really nicely balanced year of bike usage with 6 different bikes with 30 or more trips. Share the wealth. The "Most Mileage" award rightfully goes to the IF with 908 miles. 
  • In February I picked up an amazing new ride, My Jones Diamond+Truss. My previous mtbike rig was a 10yrold Cannondale that had seen its better days. I wanted something fun, interesting, and capable on the trails and I found it in spades with the Jones. I love the Jones. It makes me want to ride the bike, which I think is the point. My trails rides increased significantly with this new rig, and my long-term ambitions are that much greater with its capabilities. AZT? CT? Maah Daah Hey? Big Bend?

  • In August, heavily influenced with my love of the truss Jones, I got another Jones, this time a steel unicrown Jones ATB. I love the Jones' position, security, footprint, comfort, comfort, comfort. I loved it so that I wanted to translate that feeling onto all aspects of my riding, not just on the trails. I didn't want to have to constantly bounce between set-ups. I wanted to jump on and use it, so Jones for trail, Jones for everything else. I was also influenced by an article I saw in Bicycle Times, a review of a "Jones ATB" as a city/tour/trail, as the article states, "anything short of road racing". Jeff Jones himself is also marketing his machines in this way, obviously trying to expand into new markets.

  • The most memorable cycling experience of the year was our DBNF modified bikepack all-terrain tour in June. Again Patrick and I visited that area as we had done in previous years. We spent 4 days on a mixture of pavement, forest, gravel, trail, 4x4, and bushwack. Write-ups can be found for Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4. If I could capture the essence of cycling in a bottle of magical elixir, it would be the 15 or so miles of ridge-running on day two, paved mind you. Empty roads, great flow, good company, good temps. What it's all about.

Found this spot nestled deep in Rockcastle Co., KY. This is my off-the-grid dream.
  • While not "epic", our S24O to Lake Shelby on my birthday weekend was deeply satisfying. I felt great on the bike both days, slept great, and generally had a wonderful time exploring this new doable campsite.

  • In keeping with the theme of bike camping and such, the Ferdinand SF camp-and-bike in February was another highlight. We car camped on a very cold night and the rode FSF's old-school trails. Other than belching a rear tubeless tire that I'm still confused about, it was a fun first test for the Jones.

  • Yet another off-road ride of note was my and Dave's another round of DBNF exploration in January. I had forgotten this trip a bit until looking back, but the memories and textures remain strongly embedded, aka I liked that ride a lot, a whole lot. And the Mukluk was entirely in its element.

  • My mileage was predicated mostly on small and medium trips, but I did pull off a nice Spring Break 70 from the in-laws down to Lexington. I felt so beat up the last 15 miles of that ride, but it was a fun experience and the longest ride of the year.
  • Another memorable road day was my "Sunday Service" ride with a mix of local strong riders I sort of know. It was a fast 50-miler on which I sucked every wheel I could find. For them it was just a random semi-easy training day. For me it was proof that I could attain another level of fitness if I really applied myself. 
  • Louisville hosted the NAHBS show in March in the middle of an enormous last season storm. Incredibly, I never did a post of pics from the show. Weird. I volunteered to work the door and later even wrote some copy on adventure bikes. I don't remember where that article ended up. Suffice to say that was an excellent bike weekend, albeit in 10" of snow which basically shut the city down.
  • And finally, I can't say much more than that we all lost a great person in Drew in June. He inspired me to ride 3 BiketoBeatCancer rides, including the one this year with a sizable group of his former classmates. He was a good man, a good friend, and an inspiration regardless of activity. I am better for having know him and spent time riding bikes with him on his quest. Peace, my friend.

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