Thursday, April 29, 2010

Weekly Beatdown

I felt sick all day, but it must have been allergies because I had plenty of energy. The pace was fast, but I had an easy time of it. I'm going to have to stop calling it the beatdown or cat up.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Brawley Mountain

The rain was gone this morning and I got up late. I couldn't convince anyone to ride with me in the mountains. A buddy of mine wanted to ride Blankets, but I really wanted to get a long day in, and there's only so many laps I can do at Blankets.

The more I thought about it, the less I wanted to ride. I've been doing a lot of riding lately. Back to Brawley Mountain.

The drive up felt odd. It was late in the day. Usually when it's that late, I'm anxious to get there. But today I intended to get there late and stay out after dark and work on night-nav. I kept having to override the urge to hurry.

I parked at a camp site on Hwy 60 between FS45 and 35 and spent the whole day exploring old roads. I didn't find very much at first. Some trails didn't go where I thought they would, or they were really overgrown. But I enjoyed the weather was and I think I've killed my overstride. I ran everywhere I could, all day, with no pain. Yay.

There were a few highlights...

Yesterday's rain made every little feeder creek look cool.


I found this weird fruit just lying in the trail.

 Weird Fruit

And a big black racer hanging out in a little tree.

 Black Racer

And another cable, this one right below and old logging landing. Probably left behind by the loggers.


And lots of poison oak and ivy. Good thing I'm not allergic. But there were also these odd little things. Not exactly leaves-of-three. One leaf, split in three.

 Three Leaves

A deer skull. I think. I brought one home to my wife a few weeks ago. I left this one alone.


The falls on Buckeye Creek was looking good.

 Buckeye Creek Falls

And there was this nice little field of flowers on the trail.


I saw horse sign on the Buckeye Creek Trail. They'd apparently come down past me while I was off on a side trail. I ran hard, hoping to catch them, but no luck.

The trail up along the middle prong of Buckeye Creek was pretty nice. Light ATV use, it looked like.

 Buckeye Creek Middle Branch

And, of course, I found a mylar baloon.

 Mylar Balloon

I followed an ATV trail up to Daws Knob Ridge and had a little dinner. It was 8:30 and the sun was trying to set. I made a little stove from a couple of rocks, boiled a cup of water with an esbit tablet and ate a Noodle Cup with a pair of chopsticks I made from a little tree nearby.

It's one thing to get caught out in the dark. If you're not used to it, like me, it's quite another to just sit and wait for the sun to go down, in the middle of the woods, with no fire and no shelter. Owls were hooting and the moon was coming up. The urge to get up and start moving as quickly as possible toward the car was actually pretty hard to fight.

But, I fought it and when it was dark enough, I started moving. The last time I tried this, it was frustrating and a little unnerving. This time, I had a plan that should be pretty easy to follow. I followed the ridge, partly on a trail, until that ended, climbed up over one of the knobs of Tipton Mountain, descended to a little gap and then down into the drainage. The woods was clear on the ridge, but very dense in the drainage, especially near the creek. And, my theory that you can't go a quarter mile in Georgia without running into an old logging road was proven 3 separate times on the way down. Eventually, I made it to Old FS643 and took that out to Hwy 60. Everything went as planned. No frustration. No anxiety. It even didn't feel all that different from doing it in the day. I just moved a little slower and couldn't see as well. Just what I needed to build a little confidence. I'll have to try something more challenging next time though.

Back at the truck, of course, I found several wood ticks crawling on me. Just crawling, not biting. I'd almost forgotten about ticks. Yay, ticks.

Athens Twilight

The girls and I caught the pro women's and men's crit at the Athens Twilight yesterday. It rained and rained all day, but in the evening, it let up a bit. We got there around 7 something, watched the finish of whatever was going on and grabbed some dinner at Doc Chey's.

The girls both drew pictures of guys riding bikes.

 Iz Drawing at Doc Cheys

 Sophie Drawing at Doc Cheys

Bikes are actually hard to draw, especially with a rider on them.

After dinner we watched the women's crit. We walked around a bit, but spent the most time in turn 2.

 Pro Women

The rain picked up and let off over and over. At times is was pretty torrential. It's amazing how hard they push through the turns, across painted lines, in the rain.

When the women's crit was over, we grabbed some hot chocolate at Starbucks. As amazing as it may sound, Iz doesn't like hot chocolate, so she got orange juice.

 Sophie at Starbucks

The men had already started. We watched them from between turns 3 and 4. The rain was on and off. We were prepared.

 Girls Under Their Umbrellas

The race schedule showed the men finishing at 10:45, but apparently that was off by an hour or something and they kept riding. The leaders had nearly lapped the main group with one lone guy stranded in between. The teams were just starting to get organized. They caught the lone rider and had begun to reel in the breakaway.

 Pro Men

The girls were getting tired though, so we took off. Sophie was asleep before we got out of Athens. Iz held on about half way back. They both slept in today.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Weekly Beatdown

This weeks beatdown sucked. Now that I'm getting acclimated to the warm weather, 51 degrees feels too cool to ride to work in, so I didn't do any of that. No warm up. I didn't flat on the way over though, so I guess that was good. I dropped my chain on the roll out, got stuck at the back, and yo-yo'ed for ten miles. There was just nothing I could do to move up. The group was moving faster than most of them could handle. Everybody was panicky. I rode through a hole that yanked the bars out of my hands. On Sawnee Mountain I got boxed in and blew up trying to catch the break heading back into town. I tried dropping back, but there was gravel on the road and the group was so far back I couldn't even see them. I had to climb the big rollers by myself and when they caught me I was really blown. I moved to the left, kicked it up to ease back into the group, but they were riding all the way across the road and gave me all kinds of grief for riding on the left.

Somebody's got to clue me in. If you're in a group ride in the US and you need to fall back into the group, do you pull to the right or left? I've always pulled over on the left, let the group, which generally keeps to the right, roll by and eased on in. That's what I've seen others do. It doesn't seem right to pull to the right and make everybody go around. But, maybe I'm missing something.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Rose Pedal

The Rose Pedal is a benefit ride for Cystic Fibrosis. Me, Travis and Russell rode one of the routes a while back and it was great. Russell suggested we do the ride this weekend and I was all over it. There were all kinds of options from 7 miles to 100 miles. We went for 62.

Registration was at 7AM. I got there bright and early.

 Rose Pedal

Russell showed up a few minutes later.


The last time we rode on the road, Russell had a bike from '96, but today it was a brand new ride.

Aaaaa! (angelic choir)

 Russell's New Bike

There were riders of all kinds in the lot, but nobody I recognized. I didn't even recognize any kits. It reminded me of a photo a buddy of mine showed me once of a candy aisle in a gas station in South Africa. I recognized everything as candy, but all the brands were foreign. So familiar, but at the same time, so foreign.

 The Field

The 100 milers went first, we rolled out five minutes later. The weather was cool and delicious. Sunshine was pouring in from the right side like liquid. The roll out was lazy and I really got a chance to enjoy the scenery.

 The Start

It seemed like there were 50 or so riders trailing out behind us. It was Russell's first group ride. I gave him some pointers, I'd let him know if we needed to bridge, if we could sit up, and so forth but he figured out the group dynamics really quick and didn't appear to be having any trouble with the pace.

We blew through SAG 1 but stopped at SAG 2.

 SAG 2

I wondered if it maybe it would just end up being a casual ride, but no, we're in Georgia, and in Georgia, all road rides become races.

After some initial confusion, some guys from Clinica Union moved up, set the pace and controlled the group for most of the time. They were all speaking spanish and I'm pretty sure I heard "puta loco" a lot. It was funny, I even fell into shouting "Perro!" instead of "Dog!" when we'd see a dog.

Later on, me and Russell put in real work for about 10 miles. A triathelete from Florida broke near the end, but we reeled him in. At the very end, me, one of the Clinica guys and the tri-guy duked it out. The Clinica guy and I worked together, but he gapped me on a little hill. The tri guy would have caught me too but he got stuck at a light.

Turns out the guy from Clinica's name was George. Really cool guy.


Next year I'll have to do the 100. I'll probably hit a few more of these kinds of rides this year too. The Weekly Beatdown is fun, but it's nice to ride a different course with different people.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Weekly Beatdown

No beatdown this week. I flatted my front tire on the way back into my neighborhood after last weeks ride and then flatted the rear on the way out today, shredding the tire in the process. Woohoo! I didn't have enough time to get to the shop, buy a new tire and change it before the ride so I just rode home and watched The Princess and the Frog with my kids. Also nice but not quite the same experience.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Raven Cliffs Falls

Me and the girls have done all kinds of cool stuff lately, but it's had been a little while since we just went for a walk in the woods. I've been meaning to get up to Raven Cliffs ever since my buddy Andrew came back from there last year with awesome photos and indications that they didn't even do it justice. Today was the day.

The trail head was nicely furnished and almost every parking spot was taken.

 Raven Cliffs Falls Trailhead

The trail itself was pretty nice too.

 Raven Cliffs Falls Trail 1

Sophie's been asking me a lot about navigation lately. Odd questions from a 7 year old, I know, but she has been. So we've been looking at maps and I've been teaching her this and that. The Raven Cliffs Falls trail is an out and back along a creek, but the very beginning is tricky. The map shows it coming in from the highway, but we were actually parked off of FS244 and there's a little connector trail leading to the one shown on the map on the opposite side of the creek. We sat down at the trailhead and discussed all of this. Both of the girls appeared to understand and when we got going, Sophie kept looking for the creek crossing and when we got to it she was all "Ok daddy, we're on the dotted line now." Unfortunately that was about all the navigating we could do today. The surrounding mountains were obscured by themselves and relatively featureless. There was no good way to tell exactly where we were except by keeping track of how far we'd gone, which I'm not very good at :)

No matter though.

We passed a group of campers on their way out and one of the ladies told us there was a heart formation in a tree up ahead. Indeed there was.


An old roadbed which wound back and forth across the creek. For the most part, the trail followed it, but here and there the road had been converted into campsites, had become overgrown, or had become obliterated by the meandering creek, and in those locations the trail diverged and eventually rejoined, sometimes up over crazy roots or rocks.

 Raven Cliffs Falls Trail 2

In some places the trail had eaten down into the road and the the original grade was visible several feet above, to the side. But, judging by the number of people we saw out there, it was incredibly popular, super hard packed and even in those locations, appeared to have become pretty durable.

And there were waterfalls everywhere.

 Dodd Creek Falls First Cascade


 Dodd Creek Falls Second Cascade From Below

We walked down to that one, met some ladies who were down from North Carolina, had a snack and talked with them for a while. While me and Iz were talking, Sophie went off and found this little perch to hang out on.

 Sophie Perched and Snacking

There were gazillions of these little flowers with odd leaves along the trail. I wondered of they were some kind of trillium. I still haven't looked them up, they may be.


Another waterfall...

 Dodd Creek Falls Third Cascade

As we approached that one, a girl told us "there's a little trail leading down to it where you can go down and walk on the rocks", but upon reaching said trail, I'm not sure if she and I have the same definition of "little". The trail was nearly vertical and had one spot where you'd have to down climb down further than I felt confident even I could do, let alone the girls. We left that one alone.

Though, getting in position to take that photo, I noticed this awesome rock wall.

 Rock Wall Near Third Cascade

It appeared that rock had been quarried out of the cliff to the right and filled in below to create a stable base for the road.

We pressed on.

 Girls Walking

At one point, we passed a wide, flat, levelled out piece of land. Clearly something had been there but no evidence of it remained.

At length, we reached our destination.

 Lower Raven Cliffs Falls

 Raven Cliffs 1

 Raven Cliffs 2

 Raven Cliffs 3

Or so I thought. I mean, those look like cliffs and that looks like a falls. We started exploring the area, climbing all over the rocks and we were soon rejoined by the ladies we met earlier. They knew exactly where to go. Up this.

 Raven Cliffs Falls Trail 4

And then we saw the real deal.

 Raven Cliffs Falls 1

 Raven Cliffs Falls 2

Unfortunately, as Andrew had indicated, photos don't do it justice. Nor will these words, but here goes... Basically there's this giant cliff face and huge chunks of rock have calved off and fallen to the side. The cliff itself has split in two as well and a stream has worked its way down into the split. Water enters the crack from the top, ping-pongs all the way down, turns and runs off between the calves. It's impressive.

Family portrait.

 Me and the Girls at Raven Cliffs Falls

A crazy trail continued uphill past the falls to a set of roots which allegedly led all the way up to the top of the cliff.

 Raven Cliffs Roots

We climbed the crazy trail and got within 10 feet of the roots, but Sophie couldn't get up the last little bit. Both of the girls are good at climbing on rocks, but it was steep and there weren't any good holds. I could see what she needed to do, but she wasn't confident that she could do it. Sophie does have a problem sometimes where if she isn't comfortable, she just gives up, complains and expects somebody to come and fix it, even though she's totally capable, but this wasn't one of those cases. She was really trying, she just didn't have the confidence and there was real danger if she fell. I probably could have just drug her up the hill, but that's not what we were up there for. Instead, we turned around. The roots will have to wait.

On the way back, we went a different route. I'd seen the old roadbed across the creek and what looked like another rock wall. We crossed the falls on some rocks and made our way around some deadfall to the trail. Yeah, it was the old roadbed, but I'm not so sure it was a rock wall.

 Fake Rock Wall

Up close, it just looked more like one of those lego cliffs. The illusion is impressive though.

We crossed the creek again, Sophie got her feet wet, pitched an "I can't" fit, and me and Iz just had to wait on the other side for her to decide that it wasn't worth crying about, at which point she just walked right on across the creek. She's doing less and less of those these days, but she's got a little more work to do. She says "I can't" but she means "I want you do do it for me so I don't have to be uncomfortable". We had another snack and talked about it for a while. Five minutes later she was cool and we cruised back to the trailhead in record time.

We'd parked off of FS244, which I'd never driven on, so we took a spin out to the end and back. It looks like it'd be fun to ride my bike on.


And there are some beautiful views.

 View From FS244

And yet another waterfall.

 FS244 Falls

After that quick spin we rolled back through Helen, grabbed some food at the Troll Tavern.

 Sophie at the Troll Tavern

...and headed home.

I've got a buddy I know from racing who lives in Sautee and every time I'm headed up there, I think about giving him a call, then I realize I don't actually have his phone number or email. I just see him at races and talk to him on facebook or the SORBA forum. Ugh. Modern technology. Hey Clark, if you read this, send me your digits bro.

So yesterday was one of the best days I've ever had on a bike and today was one of the best days I've had hiking with the girls. The universe is now out of balance. I can't wait to see what Monday has waiting for me :)

Sunday, April 11, 2010


FATS - Forks Area Trail System. I've been putting it off and putting it off. It's like 3 hours away, and I kept coming up with reasons not to go. The main one being that it's like 3 hours away. But a few days ago I read about Emily's ride out there and it was just the little push I needed.

In short. It was one of the best days I've ever had on a bike. THE best day was Fool's Gold '09 but this one easily ties for second. Any excuse you might have for not riding FATS probably isn't good enough.

In long...

I got up late. Almost too late to go. Emily says there's 40 miles out there, but she also says it's pretty flat. I guesstimated that I'd get there around 3. I'd have about 5 hours of daylight. Yeah, I should be able to do that. No time to screw around though.

The trailhead was unmarked. There are big signs saying "Fork's Trail This Way" at the main road, but the trailhead itself is just sitting there anonymously. I drove past it at first :)

 FATS South Trailhead Lot

When I did get there, I loaned a patch kit to the guys parked next to me and my phone to a guy who'd lost his. There was also a stray dog running around. He was obviously a stray. The guy who needed my phone was willing to take him in, but there was nothing we could do to catch him. I even tried flanking him to drive him toward the other guy, but he was too smart for that. He kept his distance and we eventually had to give up.

I got on the trail at 3 and right away I could tell it was going to be a good day. And it just didn't stop. Ever. I think the best way to describe it is: downhill, both ways. I mean, there are climbs, there have to be, it isn't physically possible not to have them, but on the first 3 trails, I only remember sitting back and climbing once or twice and not for any appreciable amount of time. The descents are long and you carry so much speed into the climbs and there are so many little grade reversals... you can look up the trail and see it ascends, but you just keep on rolling fast, all the way up. The trails aren't technical in the rocky, rooty, chunky sense, nor are there switchbacks, but it's incredibly twisty and there are an infinite number of jumps and drops. I can't describe it. It's unbelievable.

The weather was perfect. Sixty-something degrees and sunny.

It's starting to get green too.

 Skinny 3

And it's definitely spring.

 Flowers on Skinny

 Purple Flowers on Skinny

At the start/finish of the Brown Wave there's this monument.

 Rockys Last Run

Who's Rocky?

Brown Wave. Heh. Is that anything like the Golden Gallon. Seriously, who comes up with these names.

There is also this shrine near the beginning of the Great Wall Loop.

 Skulls and Stuff


After riding the southern trails, I looped back to the lot and took the Deep Step over to the north side.

Bam! Dogwood.

 Deep Step

Eventually the Deep Step trail popped out on Deep Step Road and signs led me up FS661...

 FS661 the North Trailhead, which wasn't hopping like the South Trailhead.

 FATS North Trailhead Lot

A truck had passed me on 661. By the time I got to the trailhead, they'd parked and were getting ready to ride. I talked to them a bit and took off on the big rock trail.

Big rocks all right.

 Big Rock

Later, there were more, that you ride over.

Finally, on the Big Rock and Tower trails, there was some actual climbing. Or maybe I was just starting to get tired. Since there were big rocks on the Big Rock loop, I kept expecting to find a tower on the Tower Loop. Nope. Or at least, I didn't see one.

The sun was getting low and I raced it back to my truck. When I got there, the little dog was still hanging out, but also still apprehensive. I offered him a clif block and after 10 minutes or so, he was warming up to me a little. I figured if I waited long enough, I'd be able to take him home, but my wife is so allergic to dogs, she had to get an emergency inhaler the last time we had one over. I didn't want to leave him, but I wasn't sure what to do. I called around but nobody I knew could take him and animal control was closed. Eventually I had to just leave him. If anyone wants a cute dog, I'm pretty sure he's still there.

I grabbed some pizza at Vinny's on the way back toward Augusta. Pretty good, but it took a while.

I took a different route home, but it still took 3 hours. As such, it'll probably be a while before I ride FATS again. Until then, ahhh, memories.