Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lake Hammond

It rained and rained today. We barely had time to get in some fishing, but the fishing we got in was good.

I saw Lake Louisa State Park on the ride this morning, and the info on the net looked pretty good. My father and law and I got over there at 7:30, just as the rain was dying down. We had about an hour to fish.

Gators are everywhere in Florida. Apparently, you shouldn't go swimming with them.

 No Swimmimg

Good to know. Especially for us out of towners.

The lake was pretty, pretty. We had it all to ourselves. Those clouds were raining on us 20 minutes earlier.

 Hammond Lake

I got one nibble. So did Don, but his turned out a lot better than mine!

 Don's Bass Up Close

He caught that one casting into some lillies and it was tough to bring in. Twice it wrapped him up around stalks. I was ready to go in and clear it. There were steps leading down to the water, but right at the bottom was another one of those "don't go swimming with gators" signs. Oh yeah. Forgot about those. It took extra patience to bring it in, but patience pays off.

We'll have to go try again later this week. Maybe I'll catch something too.


Woohoo! Vacation. We're in Florida for Isabel's gymnastics nationals. The drive in yesterday was long, but uneventful. This morning I jumped out on the road for a few hours to try to burn off a little of last night's stuffed-crust pizza.

I was just about the only idiot up at 7:30 on a Sunday.

 Hwy 27

I expected dead flat terrain, but it turned out to be pretty hilly. Long, shallow hills. No big efforts, but no awesome downhills either.

 Long Rollers

I headed north on Hwy 27 toward Clermont. It's orange groves forever out there. And where there aren't orange groves now, there were once orange groves.

In Clermont, I saw the Citrus Tower.

 Citrus Tower

I have no idea what it is, but it's famous. It has a bunch of microwave antennas on it now, and at the base there's a church.

There's also this weird museum next door.

 White House Museum

The pure water in my bottles wasn't cutting it, so I stopped at an AM/PM for some gatorade and headed north to Mineola and hung a left along the lake.

 Lake Mineola

Apparently there's a popular route up there because I passed like 20 other riders coming the other way.

There's also a paved trail through town. I'll have to take the kids up there later this week.

South of the lake I rode back through Clermont and took a quick spin through the historic downtown area.

 Historic Downtown Mineola

They had markets set up, selling produce and other odd stuff, like donuts, of all things.

 Mineola Market

No time for dounts though, it was pushing 9:20 and I wanted to get home by 10.

South of Clermont was Lake Minehaha.

 Lake Minehaha

With lavish homes and awesome Spanish Moss-covered Cypress trees along it's banks.

South of that was Lake Louisa.

 Lake Louisa

Everything was emerald green and deep, deep blue, but later I realized that my glasses were enhancing the colors a bit. Still, at the time, it was gorgeous.

I heard my phone making noise and my father-in-law had left me a voicemail. Church was at 10:45, not 11, and I was already behind schedule. I was already pushing hard, but I really killed it for the last 8 or 9 miles. My legs hurt until after lunch.

I was funny though, I got home, showered, changed and we all got in the car and went directly back the way I'd ridden, all the way up to Mineola. If they'd brought me clothes, it would have been faster to just meet them there.

Apparently Lake Louisa has several fishing piers and miles of trails, some open to bikes. I'll have to check that out later this week.

Friday, June 25, 2010


I rarely write about my commute because there's rarely much to say. "I rode to work. There was traffic. It was hot." But, today was unique.

First, I stopped by The Dutch Monkey donut shop and ate this, amazing thing:

 Dutch Monkey Treat

Then I got a voicemail that I needed to hurry up and get to the office to handle, but rather than take the standard route in, I tried to take a route that I sometimes go home on instead, missed a few turns and ended up wasting about 20 minutes trying to figure out where I was. And, if that wasn't bad enough, I actually managed to fall over because I couldn't get clipped out. How long have I been riding?

When I finally did get in to the office, I immediately read that Dave Blumenthal was killed yesterday while riding the Tour Divide. I didn't know him, except by name, but we have enough in common for it to hit me pretty hard.

Every now and then I hear about a rider getting injured or killed, but it's so rare, it's just not the kind of thing I even associate with mountain biking, even long distance, self-supported mountain biking. I mean, I'm very careful when I ride, and I've had friends that have gotten hurt, some pretty badly even, but when I hear somebody's going out for a ride, it simply doesn't occur to me that they might not come back.

When I read that he had a wife and young daughter, my heart dropped through the floor. It physically hurt to think about. When I'm in the woods by myself, I think about my girls all the time, sitting at home, watching TV, and I imagine that first instant when it strikes them to wonder why I'm not home yet, and the cascade of fear that would follow if I wasn't actually coming home. It makes me shudder, it keeps me focused. It reminds me to swing wide on Winding Stair.

And the driver of the truck that hit him... If I were that driver, even if it wasn't my fault, eventually, the guilt would be strangling. That guy's got a long road ahead too. This thing is tragic on every side.

With so much sadness, there are two things that might lift it, just a bit. Dying while doing something you love is very, very high on the list of good ways to go. May I be privileged to end my life that well. And, the details are sketchy, I don't know whether he was making a left or right turn. If it was a left, then there's a lesson here too, one I've seen so many riders ignore, but this death may drive it home... Swing wide on those blind, left hand, FS road sweepers. Yes, it is slower, but it can also save your life.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Weekly Beatdown

Todays beatdown was especially beatdown-ey. The ride to work and back was nice and relaxing, but the group ride was frantic. I felt anaerobic every time I'd pedal at all. I had plenty of energy, especially coming back over Sawnee, but I felt terrible. I could be getting a little rhabdolicious. I had a bout with it a few years back; CK of 3600. I'm not that bad now, but I've got the same symptoms again: run-down yet somehow still strong, dark pee (not golden, just dark) and I feel like I'm sleeping on rocks every night. On the upside, I've lost 18 pounds since December.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Horsetrough and High Shoals Falls

Today was Father's Day. I wanted to spend it with my family, but I also wanted to explore the world a bit. Nothing too strenuous, I was still tired from yesterday's hundie.

Waffle House... Church... Helen.

This time, I remembered to call Clark. He and Suzy were free, so the girls and I met them at The Nacoochee Village Tavern. Unfortunately, the Tavern didn't open for lunch until 1PM, so we had about half an hour to kill. Just down the road, there was cool stuff to see at the Nora Granary.

A dam across the Chattahoochee.

 Nora Granary Dam

And a gazillion gigantic trout.

 Gigantic Trout

No fishing, but for a quarter you can throw food down and they go crazy. The girls had fun doing that.

Before long The Tavern was open and we ate some good pizza. I found a tick crawling on me. I'm a tick magnet. I must have brushed against a single blade of grass at some point.

The traffic in Helen was moderate, for Helen, which is usually pretty slammed.

 Helen Traffic

My original plan was to check out Horsetrough Falls, then go drive up Mount Yonah and hike around a bit up there. Apparently though, the road up Mount Yonah goes through a gated community. You can't just drive up. And the hike is three miles each way, very strenuous and usually overgrown in the summer. Clark and Suzy had tried to get up there three different times and each time some odd thing made them turn around. Probably not a good idea today.

We drove up to Horsetrough though. The road has been regraded and it was super dusty. The trailhead was at the back of the Upper Chattahoochee Campground. Not 50 feet onto the trail, Suzy spotted a little ringneck snake. It was exactly the same size and kind of snake that Iz saw at Dukes Creek last weekend. Very cute.

Iz found a wasp nest.

 Wasp Nest

Not quite as cute.

It took us longer to get our stuff out of the cars than to get from the cars to the falls. Seriously, I think Horsetrough is the most accessible falls in the entire national forest. The trail to it can't be even 300 yards long, and involves zero feet of climbing.

The falls itself is awesomely tall, but you can't get too close to it.

 Horsetrough Falls

The observation platform gives you a good look, but there are "don't go past me" signs and I can kind of see why. The creek flows over the falls and spreads out on a long, wavy slab of rock. To get a better look, you'd need to walk out on the slab and it could be pretty dangerous.

It was anticlimactic at best. We'd hoped to play in the water a bit, but there was no chance of that here.

I'd heard of another falls up there though, High Shoals. While riding up Trey Mountain last year, a buddy of mine just happened to drive by on his way up to the falls and told me about it. Maybe it would be better. We headed that way, but I don't have the best mind-map of that area. I know all the roads, but I don't have a good feel for how long some of them are or exactly where stuff is on each road. The route I took was analogous to driving from Atlanta to New York through Denver. "A very scenic route" :)

We got there eventually and it looked a lot more promising. The trail was super nice. Well, maybe a little cling on the steps and some impressive creep... minor details. It looked like maybe there had been two old roadbeds on either side of the creek at one time. The current trail followed one down, then switched back and picked up the other. Side trails lead down from the main trail to two different cascades.

Clark had been to the upper cascade once before. Group photo:

 Clark, Suzy, Kids at High Shoals

Much cooler than Horsetrough. There was a deep pool at the bottom too. The kids wanted to go play in the water. They'd even brought crocs and swim suits just in case. But we decided to see what was further down the trail first.


 High Shoals Falls Main Cascade

The water was cold, but it was also shallow, and with 90 degree heat it was easy to get comfortable.

In this photo, Clark claims this conquered land for Spain while a native subject cowers in awe of his mighty presence.

 Clark Conquers High Shoals

The rocks were easy to climb and we climbed all over them.

 People at High Shoals Falls

Clark found this long section that you could slide down, but it slammed right into a slab of rock at the bottom just below the water. It looked awesome, mainly because I have no idea how he kept from breaking something.

Iz was a little bummed that had to keep the wraps on her left hand dry, but she still had fun. We must have played around for an hour and a half.

 The Girls in Swim Suits at High Shoals Falls

Me and the girls had brought dry clothes but we didn't need them. In the heat of the day, we were dry in minutes.

The trail continued past the main cascade and we went looking around down there. It led to private property. End of the line. We turned around.

All done. The girls and I bailed out back home and grabbed dinner at Pappadeaux with Kathryn.

What a day. Exactly what I'd hoped for. Those don't usually come around that often, but somehow I've managed to accumulate a few this year. Lucky, lucky, lucky.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Jackson County Brevet

Today I rode the Jackson County Brevet (pronounced Bruh-vay) 100, a benefit ride for Aplastic Anemia. I had the option of doing this ride or riding Oak Mountain with my bro. I'm not sure I made the right choice.

 The Sun

That bright, glowing thing up there. Remember that. It will be important later.

I got to Zion Baptist at 7 and went looking for check-in, which was inside the church. The registration process involved filling out a waiver, then taking it to a volunteer who would then create an account on for you (unless you already have one) and click a bunch of check-boxes on a bunch of pages. In theory, not a big deal, but nobody actually creates accounts on, or if they do, they never remember their logins. The account-creation process takes 5 minutes or more, assuming the site is working, which it wasn't. Apparently 10 simultaneous connections is too much for I felt sorry for the volunteers. Eventually they just let us turn in our waivers and go.

No time to stretch. No time to hit the facilities. Just time to line up.

 The Field

Facebook said that Addictive riders Hodge, Matt, Cody and Michelle were all "attending" the event. So I was thinking "Yay, I never get to ride with those guys. It'll be awesome." But, no, they were not riding, they were volunteering. Dangit. Matt and Becky Kicklighter were there, but somehow I never ran into them until way later. I did run into Bobby Thrash.

The roll-out involved following a truck at 10mph for a couple of miles while they took photos of the ride organizer and his wife.

 Roll Out

Eventually they let us go, and go we went. These things always start out disorganized, but today was a new level. Ten thousand attacks, in mile 2, mostly from guys on tri-bikes. People absolutely refused to work together in any way at all. 100 riders, no peloton, just one long line. No rotation, if you put in a pull, you'd get attacked when you pulled off and nobody would let you back in. I did run into Stephen Carhart though. We tried hard to organize something, but it was hopeless.

Eventually we got a group together with good dynamics, for about 10 miles. There were always riders going off the front, but we'd pull them down, we dropped some riders. It was actually fun. At the 50 mile SAG, some riders kept going and we never saw them again. About 20 of us stopped. I felt great. I tanked up and ate a couple of really good tasting oranges.

Then everything fell apart again. Just like the first couple of miles again. There was one super strong guy who spent a lot of time up front, but he was terrified of dogs. When he'd see a dog, he'd shriek, swerve and slam on his brakes. He did this three times and I was on his wheel for the first two. I have no idea how I managed to dodge him. The third dog was this super fat, squatty lab, trotting down the other side of the road, not even thinking about going out into the street and he still freaked out.

After swerving around for 10 miles, everybody stopped pedaling and spread out. Nobody wanted to pull. When me and Bobby would try, nobody would follow us. Then suddenly, everybody got together and blew past us. Was it a strategy to drop us specifically? Freakin weird.

I was in the abyss.

The abyss:

 The Abyss

Road bikes aren't meant to be ridden slowly. It's uncomfortable, lots of things hurt. Plus, I was just tired.

The abyss was hot too. It had been hot all day, but when you're rolling slow, by yourself, you notice it. I had plenty of water, but it was still hot. HOT.

When I got to the next SAG, all those guys were still there. I guess they didn't get that far ahead. We rolled out together and before long I was feeling good again. And, of all things, we were actually taking turns. I was happy. We'd roll out the remaining 20 miles together.

Pcheeewwwwww. Bobby flatted. "You got everything?" "Yeah" I kept going, then felt bad about it and turned back.


He'd gotten his tire off, but he's got deep dish aero rims and his spare tube had a short little stem. Mine was longer, but not super, super long. He could cut the tube, tie off both ends and inflate it to 60 psi or so, but the hole was less than an inch from the stem. He could cut his spare and tie pieces of it on either side of the hole, but he didn't like that idea. Maybe just as well, I've seen both done, but only the first one work, on a mountain bike tube with way less pressure in it.

Eventually he sent me on. I rode in solo for the remaining 15 miles or whatever it was. And again, the heat.

I didn't enjoy much of the ride. Only that 10 miles or so before the 50 mile SAG. The rest was hell. Pure, screaming hell. I didn't actually scream though. The only screaming was done by that dude who was scared of dogs. On the upside, it was good training. I'll be stronger tomorrow.

The post ride meal was excellent though. I stunk up Parma again, but metaphorically and today, literally. They were very friendly today though. Maybe I am cool enough to eat there. Observe this magnificence.


See, it was hot.


I might just need to get stronger before I do another century. If I were stronger, I probably wouldn't have cared about all the chaos. Matt and Becky did the 65 and had a great time. Maybe next time.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

East Bank Park

Me and the girls caught several small fish today.

 Iz Caught a Fish

Iz's pinkie on her left hand is broken, but she can cast with her right hand, flip the rod over and reel with the other fingers on her left.

Bluegill in Lanier love worms, more than anything else. A close second seems to be hotdogs, but they're really good at picking them off the hook. I saw quite a few large fish hitting the surface, but they weren't interested in anything I threw out there. Maybe next time.

Nice view across the lake.

 Lake Lanier

Weekly Beatdown

And what a beatdown it was. It'll be a few weeks before the next race and I wanted to put in some real work. I tried to stay on the front as much as possible. I didn't push the pace too hard, but I sat in the wind, and about 2/3rds of the way in I was really feeling it. I even tried to catch the leader on Sawnee Mountain, which is like a 5-way step-up, but I misjudged which step we were on. I make that particular mistake a lot actually, you'd think I'd learn. I briged up, but with the additional, unexpected step, I couldn't hang. No matter though, my objective was to break myself off, and that I did, in spades.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dukes Creek Falls

All that Conyers yesterday put me right to sleep last night. I slept well though, and 8AM didn't seem too early today. The girls and I hit the 9:30 church service and ran through Five Guys for some lunch. I was reticent about Five Guys, but having tried it, I'll put it on my "places that are OK to eat at" list. Real meat, good fries, but very greasy.

Isabel fractured her left pinkie in a back handspring accident last Friday, so she'll be off the bike for a while. No Greenway today. Instead, we did a little exploring. There are a couple of FS roads up in the Chestatee that I've got GIS data for, but haven't driven on yet.

One of them had this cool thing out at the end:

 Rock Wall and Fireplace

I'm not sure what to make of it. It's a rock wall with dirt piled up all the way around and a fireplace on one end. Was there a house here once? Was this just built up to put a shelter over? I'd think that if it was built recently, the USFS would have demolished it. Perhaps it predates USFS ownership of the land. Whatever the deal, it was cool.

The other roads were closed. Next...

Dukes Creek Falls. My buddy Andrew told me about it a long time ago. I'd intended to check it out after hitting Raven's Cliffs a while back, but that turned out to be enough of a day on it's own. Today was a good day for it.

The view of Yonah from the parking lot is pretty nice.

 View of Yonah from Dukes Creek Falls Lot

There were a dozen dead scorpions on the pavement near the bathroom, and a giant wolf spider lurking up in the corner. There's nothing for scale in the picture, but it was about 4 inches across.

 Wolf Spider

The trail started out paved, then there were several boardwalks, and finally became a very well groomed gravel road. If it had been open to vehicles, I could have driven on it.

 Girls on the Trail

About halfway out, we passed a nice cascade down to the right and there was a "trail" leading down to it. If Isabel's finger hadn't been broken, we might have gone down to check it out. Maybe next time. Actually, the creek itself had a wide bed. It might not be that hard to hike down along it. Maybe some other time.

Another set of boardwalks led out to the main falls, which is actually composed of several cascades at the confluence of two creeks. Dukes Creek comes in from the north and creates several small but cool-looking cascades. Davis Creek joins from northwest and creates the main cascade.


 Dukes Creek Falls 1


 Dukes Creek Falls 2

Dukes... Here you can see a gigantic rock on the left, balanced on a much smaller rock which is being steadily eroded by the stream. One day...

 Dukes Creek Falls 3


 Dukes Creek Falls Main Cascade

The main cascade is actually hard to see with all the foliage. I'd bet though, that in the winter, you could see it pretty well, even before you get to it. It's also kind of funny that the main cascade of Dukes Creek Falls isn't actually produced by Dukes Creek.

The girls took a break and had a snack.

 Girls Taking a Break

I'd seen two side trails on the way in, so we checked those out on the way back out. The first was relatively well travelled and led out to a split, both ends of which led into the Dukes Creek Conservation Area. There were no fewer than 7 signs saying that you had to have a permit to enter. I guess they're pretty serious.

 Dukes Creek Conservation Area Border

The girls had been wearing baseball caps all day. Iz took hers off, expecting terrible hat hair. Actually, it wasn't too bad. She had me take a picture to show her.

 Iz With Good Hat Hair

The other side trail just led down to Dukes Creek. The girls were wearing Croc's so they just walked around in it. I took my shoes off. At first they didn't want to go in. They figured it would be freezing. It was cold, but with the heat of the day, it was also delicious. They didn't want to leave.

 Girls Playing in the Creek

So close to Helen, we'd ordinarily run into town for some Troll Tavern, but it was early enough to get back home, pick up Kathryn and eat at Ippolito's.

Justin Bieber here was sitting at a table across from us (white guy, next to blonde girl). He was loud, talked non-stop about all kinds of off-color topics, waved his arms all around and was obnoxious to the wait staff. All eyes on me, yo!


The staff eventually began ignoring him outright. They took forever to bring their food. No refills. No eye contact. He'd call them by name and they'd walk right past him. He never caught on. At great length, he became frustrated. I imagined his inner monologue: "Look at how much time I spent on my hair! I don't understand! I'm so popular at school! Even 1992 G-Money sitting behind me is getting good service, and nobody's worn a White Sox hat high on their fade like that since before I was born!" Then he became super fidgety, knocked the entire pizza off of the stand and barely caught it before it hit the floor. As entertaining as it was, I felt sorry for the poor guy and terrible at myself for being judgemental. What a mess.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Conyers 6 Hour

Yesterday I rode the Chainbuster's 6 hour at Conyers. Conyers is hard. People dread riding there. I dread riding there. There are steep climbs and long stretches of exposed granite. In the summer it's an oven. In '96 they had the first Olympic mountain bike race there, but the trail has changed a lot since then; chunky descents have been cleaned up, fall line climbs have become meandering sidehills. It's not as hard as it has been, but it's still hard.

The trail is tough, but I had bigger problems. My back wheel is still in the shop. The rim came in Friday, but they didn't have time to build it. I went by and grabbed the cassette, rotor and tire, and called everybody I knew, looking for a loaner wheel. Johnny was the first person to actually answer his phone. He didn't have a wheel, but he knew a guy who did...

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Brad Birney:

 Brad Birney


I know Brad from various events and races. He's one of the Gainesville SORBA guys, and he wrenches for Addictive. He was pitting for some friends of his, wasn't racing, and had a wheel I could borrow. He's also a good mechanic and got the parts swapped over quickly and meticulously.

 Working on the Wheel

Yes. I was in business.

The pits were starting to fill out. I took a quick spin around to make sure everything felt right.


I discovered that the route we were riding wasn't the typical route. We weren't even going across the road, no granite, only a few tough climbs. I was prepared for the suffering, but there might not actually be any. Short lap too, 7.6 miles. Hmmm...

I lined up early enough to get a good position; a lesson from Yargo. But, as it turned out, it didn't matter. Somehow, I was a top points contender and got a call-up. It was a little funny though, the experts and team riders were all up there with me. I didn't expect to be on the front for long.

We took off and whoosh, the team riders all mobbed out ahead of us. I grabbed a wheel and got into the woods in good position.

I have a rule for Conyers: you can't fight Conyers. You have to roll, you have to keep speed, you have to take hits and bumps and drops and hold rough lines, and it will wear you out, but if you try to manhandle it, it will wear you out even more. It usually takes a few laps to get my groove, but not this time. I was feeling good and already passing riders who seemed to be unfamiliar with the rule.

In this particular race, Conyers demanded more than just respect. I flatted while descending a section of new trail. Adversity, we meet again. I kept my head. A minute later I was back on the trail and still in good position.

There was some brand new trail out there, with that just-build feel to it, and I think they ran us on some of the horse trail. Whatever we rode, it was fun and flowing. I knew it would be hot later, and energy sapping, so I poured on the power early. Passing, passing, passing. Near the end of the lap, I was catching riders that I'd passed early on. I was back in the race. Rolling through the pits, Russell said it was a fast lap, even with the flat.

Brad topped off both tires in record time. I downed 4 enduralytes and grabbed some blocks, and he was done. It was that fast, or at least it seemed that fast. I still had plenty of gatorade, and I got out right behind the guy that I had chased into the pits. Woohoo! Lap two.

I spent most of lap two channelling my inner tree hugger. Admiring the terrain, becoming one, all that. It sounds silly, but it put me in the right frame of mind. Lap two was pure fun. I had the groove.

The rest of the race was a blur. One long blur. There were 4 climbs per lap. The last climb was out in the open, and very hot, but I've definitely gotten acclimated to the heat. My core muscles took a beating. Conyers is like that. At some point, it rained for 20 minutes, but then it got hot again. Even pitting was a blur. Quickest pits ever. I downed 24oz of gatorade per lap, 3 clif blocks and 4 enduralytes. No cramps, only one twinge. Around lap 6, Brad told me "Let the race come to you." Yes.

I got in 7 laps and felt strong and solid all day. I guess the TNGA is good training for a 6 hour race :) Still, it felt good to stop.


 Dirty Legs

I rode over to hose off, and right as I finished, a bolt of lightning flashed overhead. And me, standing in the middle of a field, drenched, holding a hose attached to a pipe hammered into the ground. Not the best place to be.

I was almost back at the tent when the storm hit.


The 12 hour guys I was hanging out with had a guy out there in it. Matt loaned them his singlespeed so they wouldn't wreck their drivetrains. 20 minutes later it was blue sky again.

I packed up my gear and started heading over to get my truck, when I heard Kenny calling my name from over to the right. "David Muse!" "Yes?" "Come over here, you got third!" I'd checked the standings earlier and was in 4th after 6 laps. I guess the 3rd place guy dropped out or something. Totally unexpected.


I can't take full credit though. Brad's help was invaluable. The wheel, the wrenching, the quick turns, just knowing there's help there if I need it. Invaluable.

It was 98 degrees at 6PM.


I don't even want to know what it was while we were out riding.

The next one is at Tribble Mill. I'm looking forward to it.