Thursday, November 26, 2009

Harbins/Alcovy Park

Thanksgiving is a good day to spend with your family. Of course, my family is in Baton Rouge, but my folks are in town, so I'm spending it with them, starting with a ride at Harbins/Alcovy Park with my dad.

I'd never been to Harbins before. I'd heard of it, but never made it out that way. It's out sort of out by Tribble Mill and Yargo.

My dad met me at 10AM and we hit the road. I'd bought some new pedals a few days earlier but forgotten to switch my cleats. My dad worked on them in the car while we drove, but it was a hopeless cause. The bolts were all but welded into the shoes. Fortunately we brought my old pedals as well and I swapped them in the parking lot. I'll have to drill the cleats out or something.

At the trailhead, some guy was parked next to us, sitting in his car, talking to a lady using his hands-free. I couldn't hear what he was saying, but I could hear the other side of the conversation as clearly as if the lady were standing next to me. He did this for about 10 minutes before finally driving away, still talking. It was weird. His windows were up, but I guess in that car, you can just hear the door speakers from the outside really well. He either didn't realize, or didn't care, but it was funny imagining him driving down the street, broadcasting his calls to everybody.

But I digress...

We rode the west side first. Not too much climbing, just twisty singletrack through piney woods. The east side had a little bit of climbing, though not enough to mention really, and again was really just more of the same piney woods. Super fun, but not very scenic. There was one section where we popped out onto the power lines...

 Ridge Run

...but it pretty much looked like this everywhere else.


The map at the trailhead showed the trails we'd just ridden, but there were maps out on the trails that showed new construction to the southeast. We took the paved multi-use trail back around to check them out.

 The Padre on the Multi-Use Trail

At first we were a little confused. The signs pointed toward an old roadbed, which had a locked gate across it. It seemed like maybe we weren't supposed to go there, but there weren't any signs saying "trail closed" or anything. And, we had seen a sign earlier, in a different part of the park, indicating that a different set of trails were under construction, so they appear to make it clear if they don't want you somewhere. There was a trail paralleling the road, but there were large rocks blocking it and the sign didn't point that way. There were plenty of tire tracks though...

Eventually we decided to ride, and later, coming back out we realized you were just supposed to ride over the rocks that we thought were blocking the trail.

Immediately we ran into some cool stuff. Like this shoal on Cedar Creek...

 Cedar Creek Shoals

..and this small falls on a feeder.

 Tiny Falls on Cedar Creek Feeder Stream

The trails were more challenging. More climbing, more technical stuff, and there was a downhill run with jumps and berms.

There was also this cool rock face, which you can ride down part of if you're brave.

 Rock Face at Harbins

We rode a couple of laps back there, then bailed out back to the truck. A front was coming in and it was getting cold and windy, and besides, we had traditional Thanksgiving stuff to attend to.

Nice park though. I'll definitely come back for some hiking and riding with the kids.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Elachee Nature Center

Sunday it rained. I considered riding my road bike, but that thought lasted about 10 seconds.

I still hadn't seen everything at Elachee, and with my family in Baton Rouge, I didn't have to worry about whether dragging the kids around in 40 degree rain would get me a call from DFACS or not. Torturing myself, on the other hand, is fine, per Georgia law. Seemed like a good idea too.

The rain kind of let up a little on the way over. When I started walking it was barely sprinkling. But it was still wet, and the bridges were slick.

 Ed Dodd Bridge

Apparently I was in beaver territory.

 Beaver Damage

I started out just hiking the "short trails". They're close to the nature center, well marked, family friendly, and offer some nice views this time of year.

 Geiger Overlook View

 Ed Dodd Overlook View

Speaking of family friendly, I ran into a family and their dog, also braving the rain. The short trails took around an hour to explore, maybe less. I'd figured as much so I had a plan for how to spend the rest of the day too...

I've got a mock adventure race coming up in December and I need to practice navigating by map and compass. I do a good bit of that most weekends, but not with the same precision that I'll need for the race. Before I left the house, I put 6 checkpoints on my map and my goal was to navigate to each dot and mark a waypoint with my GPS. Then later, back at home, I'd see how close I came. There are also some old trails and roadbeds that I wanted to check out. 2 birds with one stone.

The first checkpoint was on a little spur off of the West Lake Trail. I had more trouble than I'd expected locating it. I realized I rely on already having knowledge of the terrain more than I thought I did. My waypoint was off by about 100 feet or so on that one.

The second was on a little knob off of Old Johnson Road. Or at least, what I call Old Johnson Road. I don't know what it's real name is, but according to USGS maps, it once connected to what is now Johnson Road, but a high school and neighborhood have long since obliterated that connection.

Before hitting that checkpoint, I followed Old Johnson until it ran into a fence at the back of somebody's yard, then followed a trail from there that led all the way to the corner of two fence lines, one from a house and one from the high school. It was odd. I'd expected the trail to at least follow the fence or something, but it just dead ended right there at the corner.

I did find some interesting artifacts along Old Johnson...


 New Yorker 1

 New Yorker 2

 New Yorker 3

What's a Lew Nonken Deluxe? More on that later...

At this point it was really starting to rain. My rain gear kept my body warm and dry, but my socks were starting to get damp and wet feet are miserable.

The second checkpoint was easier to find and I nailed it dead on, but it was still a little more difficult than I expected. I appear to have an easier time going somewhere random and then figuring out where that is on the map than knowing where I want to go on the map and then getting there in real life. Seems like those should be equally easy, but for some reason, to me, they're not.

The third checkpoint was down along a creek and I ended up overshooting it. I figured out where I was, but it was starting to get dark and I needed to get out before that. I figured I wouldn't get all 6 but I didn't expect to only get 3, and not really even get those. Looks like I've got some work to do.

I met my folks for dinner and went back to their place to help move some furniture. We also looked at the photos of the car. Who the heck is Lew Nonken, why is the N backwards in his last name and why was this car his "Deluxe"? Google knows nothing about any Lew Nonken, and if Google doesn't now about it, it must not exist. My mom had a hunch that it was a Chrysler, Dodge or Plymouth, so she started looking. I don't know how, but she figured it out. It was either a 1953 Chrysler Windsor or New Yorker and part of the trim was missing... Oh, wait, New Yorker not Lew Nonken. Part of the first N was broken off, the backwards N is a Y and the little N's are little R's. Duh. How is it that I didn't see that before?

We'll here's the complete car:

Lew Nonken, hah!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Raccoon Mountain

I trashed my rear derailleur at Yargo last week and it's still not fixed. I was going to pick up a new one, and some pedals on Saturday, then go ride, but my brother and my dad had other plans. I would borrow my brother's bike and ride at Raccoon Mountain with them and some other guys. It felt weird leaving for a ride without my bike.

The last time I was at Raccoon it was foggy and I could barely see a hundred yards. This time it was a beautiful day.

 East Overlook Chattanooga

Hirsch. Chastain in the background. I'd never met him before. Cool guy.

 Hirsch and Chastain

We all stuck together until we got to the Small Intestine. The fast guys took off there and I hung back with my dad.

 The Padre Climbing

We stopped at a north-facing overlook for a while.

 Tennessee River

 Me on the Overlook

 Rock Face

Chattanooga has some unique geography.

My brother's bike felt awkward. Lots of little differences. The bars are a little further forward, the bottom bracket is a little closer to the ground, the tires are looser, but the most painful difference was the seat. He rides an SLR. Apparently it fits him, but it does not fit me. I spent most of the day standing.

The trails at Raccoon are great. Poster-boys.

And they never get boring.

 Megawatt Trail at Dam 2

My dad's been riding in Dallas for a while now, and he's apparently forgotten how to ride on rocks :) He sketched a few times, and finally went down on the Laurel Branch trail.


Mark broke one of his eggbeaters. Since my pedals were on John's bike, his SPD's were available. My dad had recently bought new shoes and cleats and his old ones were in his toolbox. Mark's cleat bolts were stripped though, so they did some crazy thing like take an eggbeater off Chastain's bike, put it on Mark's, put the SPD on Chastain's bike and put the SPD cleat on his shoe. Or something like that. Complicated. But it saved their ride. What are the odds of something like that working out?

We all arrived back at the trailhead at almost the same time. My brother was wearing a blue jersey that I didn't recognize, even though I'd seen him in it earlier. It was odd.

Post-ride we ate at Sugar's Ribs. They have goats. They also have really good sausage and cornbread. I played Free Bird on the jukebox. I will eat there again.

Then I came home and watched LSU lose to Old Miss. An unbelievable loss. One for the record books.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Elachee Nature Center

Saturday I rode. Sunday Kathryn wanted to do some stuff, so I hung out with the kids all day; early church, lunch at Fosters again, and more exploring at Elachee.

This time we parked at the West Lake Trail trailhead and took that trail toward the lake.

It was actually a lot warmer than we expected. We'd been getting high 50's for a while, but today it was 74 when we left the truck. Not hot per se, but it didn't feel all that cool either.

We stopped for a while at the little dam to skip rocks.

 Skipping Rocks

Neither of the girls quite got the hang of it, but now and then they'd make one skip.

Further down the trail, we found a hollow log.

 Hollow Log

The descent off of the ridge toward the lake was gnarly and braided.

 West Lake Trail 2

We passed a bunch of folks coming the other way. There was one family where the mom and dad were older, but clearly very active and had dragged their not-so-active teenage son along. He had that 5-hours-into-a-6-hour-race grimace going. They'd been hiking for a couple of hours, but hadn't brought any water along. I offered them some of mine, but they declined. During this exchange, the son's face went from grimace, to elation, to absolute devastation. Poor guy.

At the north end of the lake, we stopped at some benches for a break and some Clif Blocks.

 The Gerch

 The Iz

The section of trail from there down to the parking lot is the Rod Smith Bird Trail. There was a kiosk there with a dedication:

 Rod Smith

Man, check out that pose. Rod Smith yo!

Along the trail were several plaques showing different birds you might see. Iz, re. a photo of a wood duck: "His beady eye is creeping me out."

The lake was quiet.

 Walnut Creek Lake

We did see some wood ducks, though they were too far away for their beady eyes to creep Isabel out.

 The Girls Near The Lake

Iz had been navigating so far. At the lake, she turned it over to Sophie. They're both pretty good at following maps now. They might be ready for topo. We'll see next time.

Calvary Church Creek:

 Calvary Church Creek

The Gerch, gerching.

 Sophie Playing

We took a break at boulder creek and talked about pebbles vs. boulders vs. babyheads. Iz thought calling rocks babyheads was hilarious.

 Sophie Navigating

Having already seen the rest of the East Lake Trail last week, we took the Walnut Creek trail back this time.

 Walnut Creek

On the last little climb out I noticed this water bar suffering from cling. Unmaintained water bars get back-filled, water runs over, clings and erodes underneath. Eventually a hole forms and water runs right under the bar, taking soil with it until the bar is left suspended across the trail.

 Water Bar Fail

Not ideal, but not the end of the world.

It was the end of our hike though.

Since we were in the neighborhood, we went back to the same parking lot as last week so the girls could ride their bikes. Iz learned how to drop off a curb. Sophie figured out steering and how to get started. They followed each other around for an hour or so. Five or six police cars showed up while we were out there and parked in a little side lot. At first I thought maybe they were going to tell us to leave, but no, they were there for something else. We never figured out what though.

To finish the evening off, my folks came over and watched the kids while me and Kathryn went to see Paranormal Activity. It was scary. Bravo.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fort Yargo

On the bike, I alternate between embarrassment and glory. Today was the former.

Last night AMC was showing Mad Max, The Road Warrior AND Beyond Thunderdome. I stayed up watching that. I mean, come on. This morning I was supposed to meet Baldwin at the Highland Bakery at 9, which I did, but ACTUALLY I was supposed to meet him at 9 to leave for Fort Yargo. If I wanted to eat, I needed to have met him at 8. As such, all I had time for was a big cinnamon roll to go.

We were joined by some roadies from Aaron's.


Who were strong but had a bit of trouble with the horseshoe drops.



I can't talk though, after stopping to take photos, I didn't carry any speed into the second one and got stuck inches from the top. Hirsch had to pull me out. Instant karma.

I burned up about 10 miles in. My stomach felt full and sickly sweet and I was having to force down gatorade. Giant cinnamon rolls with butter cream icing fail as pre-ride food. Not sleeping enough also fails. And by the transitive property I fail. FAIL! Fail is my favorite word these days for reasons you may come to understand at the end of this post.

Eventually I was on my own.

 Yargo Main Trail

After a little rest, we started out for another lap and like 2 miles in I rode over a little branch, which destroyed my rear derailleur. Whee.

Being Saturday, I was able to get Hodge at Addictive Cycles to straighten my dropout and order me a new derailleur on the way home. This time I'm getting a Shimano Shadow which, in theory, should be more difficult to break. We'll see. I break more derailleurs than any 3 people I know combined. In fact, Baldwin and I were even joking about that in the parking lot before we started riding.

As if there wasn't enough fail today, on the way home from the shop I spotted this epic fail:

 Justin Payne DDS

I'm sending it to Perhaps it will grace their pages. FAIL!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dawsonville and Elachee

I expected this weekend to suck. Obligations at work required me to be within 2 hours of internet access at all time. Yesterday I tried to do a bunch of stuff with my family, but it just turned out to be hectic. I did take the kids to ride their bikes, but I scraped and bruised up my back up doing something so stupid with Sophie's bike that it could have won $10K on America's Funniest Videos, if we'd had a camera. I figured today would suck too. But...

Kathryn had a photography club meeting at 2, but I managed to get up early and get in a morning ride. Basically I rode from Cumming to Dawsonville and back.

There's some cool stuff on Hwy 9:

Grogans Grocery:

 Old Grogan's Grocery

And more of those weird fruits, this time just along the side of the road. Oddly, along the side with no trees on it.

 Weird Fruit

Monster truck for sale...

 Monster Truck

... and a perfect opportunity to study the duality of man, or at least the duality of Dave. While one half of my mind weeps at the environment-crushing potential of this abomination, the other half appreciates the engineering; the time, effort and skill... man that thing looks freakin' awesome.

The courthouse.

 Dawsonville Courthouse

The old jail.

 Old Jail In Dawsonville

City Hall AND Motorsports Hall of Fame. Same building.

 City Hall and Motorsports Hall of Fame

Lumpkin Campground, est. 1830.

 Lumpkin Campground

They had a different idea of campgrounds back then I guess.

The ride was cool, I saw some cool stuff, but I'd stolen the seat off my road bike to race at Tumbling Creek a few weeks back and it was poorly adjusted today. I stopped to mess with it 4 or 5 times, but it's still not right. Also, I never felt warmed up or loose. I guess that's what I get for taking almost 2 weeks off. Good enough though. I got home in time for Kathryn to go to her meeting, jumped in the shower and let the ammonia fumes burn my eyes out.

Kathryn took off, and me and the girlies got down to business.

First we tried to find a place to eat in Buford. I'd seen a bunch of restaurants in the historic Main Street area, but apparently nothing is open on Sunday in the city of Buford. We ended up at Fosters Grille by the mall, ate, and shared a large chocolate shake.

 Fosters Grille

Post milkshake, we eased on over to Gainesville, and the Elachee Nature Center. I've ridden bikes at Chicopee since 2000, but it was only last year that I learned there were hiking trails there too. As some unnatural force compels me to set foot or tire on every square inch of dirt in Georgia, it was criminal that I hadn't yet set foot on those.

We checked the map at the nature center. Wow, I thought there were just a few miles of trails, but it looked like there might be about ten. This might take a couple of trips.

We chose the Dunlap trail, grabbed a map and got moving. The trails reminded me of the old Chicopee trails. Some were well placed and purpose-built. Others followed old roadbeds. Some were clean and flowing, others were chunky and eroded, screaming for some pro trailbuilder to come work his magic. Lots of variety. Just the way I like it.

There were a few cool points of interest along the way.

An old dam.

 Vulture Rock Creek Dam 1

I guess an old, mangled bridge?

 Bridge Ruins on Vulture Rock Creek

An awesome bridge.

 Girls on Walnut Creek Suspension Bridge

Some old homestead ruins.

 Homestead Ruins

Stone steps.

 Dunlap Trail 2

Walnut creek.

 Walnut Creek

The girls had a great time. We met a bunch of friendly people and their dogs. Both of them are getting good at navigating with a map.

Around 4:45, we were out of the woods. We'd planned on going somewhere so they could ride their bikes, but it was getting kind of late and the usual places were pretty far away. As I realized the problem, the solution presented itself. On Sunday, Gainesville College has a billion huge, empty parking lots. The career center looked good. Problem solved.

The Iz, blazing.

 Iz Riding in Gainesville

She might even be ready for the Mosquito Flatts.

Sophie almost figured out how to ride without her training wheels yesterday. Today she got it.

 Sophie Riding in Gainesville

She has work to do on turning and on getting started, but she made a lot of progress today.

For a day that I expected to suck, it was turning out pretty good. But there would be more. My dad got into town early that morning. We met them for pizza in Vinings and watched the Saints beat Carolina. AND, on top of all that, he brought my truck back! He'd taken it to his shop in Dallas a few months back and they did a bunch of difficult work done on it, like changing the evaporator and heater cores, replacing the timing chain, and diagnosing some other problems. I've got AC again! Just in time for winter :)