Sunday, February 27, 2011


This past week was a marathon: late nights at work, gym meet in Sevierville, Father/Daughter dance at the girls' school, and today I rode at Bull/Jake again. Yeah, I rode there last week, but my brother and Hirsch wanted to ride there this weekend, I haven't ridden with either of them nearly enough, I had a great time there last weekend... I was all about it.

I got up early to fix my old-and-busted rear derailleur, which turned out not to be busted because of getting water in the housing, but rather because the cable had frayed up inside the shifter. There were only 2 strands still holding together. It's a wonder it hadn't snapped on me last weekend. I got that squared up though, met my bro at ATL Bread at 9 and got to the Jake Lot at 10. Shortly thereafter, a bunch of equestrians arrived, followed closely by Hirsch and some dudes he'd brought with him.

 Jake Lot

I recognized two of the guys' bikes from various races but I didn't know them; they were Philip and Jacob, from Birmingham, in town for the Southern-X yesterday. Ron from Faster Mustache was also there. I know I've seen him before, and pretty sure I've met him before, but neither of us could remember when or where.

I talked to one of the guys on horseback for a minute: "Where are the trails?" He knew about the Bull/Jake Connector, but I told him about Jake proper and he headed off that way.

We rolled out at about ten minutes to eleven. I was sure I was forgetting something. Marc and I joked about it but I couldn't figure it out.

Bull/Jake Connector -> 83 Bypass -> Bull Parking Lot Connector...

At the Bull lot we waited for Ron who, as it turned out, had ridden down the road. There were two ladies there with some apprehensive horses. She brought one of them over to introduce him to me and my bike. I talked to him, but he kept looking at me sideways. He wasn't really sure. "Yeah, you sound like a guy, but I don't recognize that creature you're riding."

We headed up Bull. There were some grade reversals on the new cut that I hadn't noticed last week. Not really deep ones, but they were there. I guess we'll see how it holds up. Climbing Bull was fast and fun. We passed the same lady out hiking with her dog that I saw last week at the dam. She said she lived nearby. Nice lady, cute dog.

The weather was in the low 70's and it felt warm. Marc was all "This feels hot, what are we going to do when it's 85 degrees?" Yeah, I remember 85 being cool last summer. It's funny how you acclimate, and funny how you forget.

The guys from Birmingham had never ridden there before, so we stopped at the truck for the obligatory photo op.

 Phillip on the Truck

Rex and a buddy of his were there when we rolled up. I guess he didn't get enough last week either.

I had realized a few minutes earlier that what I had forgotten when we rolled out was to apply some Chamois Butt'r. Fortunately either Jacob or Philip (I forget who now) had half of one of those single-packs left over from yesterday and I was more grateful than you might imagine.

Riding through the rhodo tunnels on Bare Hare, one of the Birmingham dudes commented on how cool they are and that they don't have them in Birmingham. Since we are apparently botany nerds, this led to a discussion about whether it was actually rhododendron or some kind of magnolia. I'm pretty sure it's magnolia, and since I am king nerd, I was going to look it up in this little book that I have when I got back to the car, but of course, I forgot, and now we may never know.

On the Bare Hare singletrack descent, Jacob popped his chain, I got a stick jammed through both jockey pulleys on my rear derailleur, John dropped one of his bottles (which he dropped again on the fire road) and also popped the zip tie holding his front brake line to his fork, which he fixed by tying part of a granola bar wrapper around it.

On the fire road descent, I got a wasp or a yellow jacket or something in my jersey, and it stung my back six times before it finally ran out of poison or something and gave up.

Next we climbed Lance Creek road. I hadn't been up there in a while. About 3/4ths of the way up, I started fading. I'd been on the front all day, but for a minute there, I dropped back and had to ride myself back on, which I was only partially successful at doing. The babyhead climb was rideable, though it wasn't immediately clear what had been done. At the very top, some work had been done to fill in some ruts and create turnouts, but in the rocks themselves, it didn't look like they'd been bulldozed out of the way. More like dirt had somehow filled in the space between them. It made me wonder if all that rain we got earlier this year had just washed the road down into the rocks and then they went up and fixed the road. Hard to say. It was still a tough climb.

We rolled back down Bull Proper. It's been a long time since I descended Bull and man, it was fun. I forget how fun it is. I used to ride Bull after work twice a week a few years ago. I wonder if I can get a few after-work rides in up there again this year. Not too far down, we passed the ladies we'd seen in the Bull parking lot earlier, with the apprehensive horses. They still seemed a little unsure of us. Nervous or not though, they must have been pretty fit. It's relatively rare to see horses on the Bull loop. It's a long way up and a long way between sources of water.

We passed the lady and her dog again about 2/3rds of the way down.

At the foot of Bull, Jacob and Philip had to bail. They'd ridden the Southern-X yesterday and weren't up for more than a few hours on the bike today. Still, given that they'd raced the day before, they'd put in some really stout miles. I got Jacob's number. Next time I'm in Alabama, I'll give him a ring.

Me, John and Hirsch rolled out on Jones Creek Ridge, where they'd done some controlled burning since last week.

 Controlled Burn on Jones Creek

It smelled kind of weird; not just like burnt wood, but sweet and flowery. Marc thought it smelled like burned plastic. Maybe.

The food plot had not escaped the burn...

 Controlled Burn at Food Plot

...but it was hemmed in by the roads and ended at FS77A.

We headed up 77 for a minute, and stopped to eat and take a break at top of the first rise.


My brother had been having a semi-rough day. For the first time in recorded history, I was in better shape than he was, and he was feeling it. From what I've seen in the past though, he'll drop 12 pounds in two weeks and be all that much stronger for having ridden around with the extra weight. I don't expect I'll be on the front for long.

But, today he was feeling it and he was all: "This is Winding Stair, right?" "Yes." "Ok, I just want you to know I'm not climbing that." Ha ha. I had actually thought about climbing it, but I didn't tell him that.

Instead, we took Turner Creek around to 28-1, which was really fun, and John bailed back to the car there. Hirsch and I rode Black Branch, which was fun, but kind of tough, and neither of us had much left in the tank at the end.

Turning back onto 28-1, we saw a green blur roll by. It looked like Eddie, but I couldn't be sure. Whoever it was, they were over the next hill and out of sight immediately and we were way too toasted to even think of chasing him down. It turned out that it was Eddie. He was out clearing Southern-X markings. We rode by him at the 28-77 intersection but he saw us, shouted and we talked to him for a while. It was cool to run into our friend, but we were pretty motivated to get done and he had work to do, so we didn't hang out for too long.

The climb over the Bull/Jake Connector was taxing. When we were done, it was good to be done. We'd only ridden 4 hours, but it was a full 4 hours.

Right as we got back, some teenagers drove up, and as they were getting ready to ride, one of them commented on how the other had no helmet. I had just bought a new one. The rear strap of my old one was giving out. It still worked, but it wasn't as tight as it should be. Still, it was better than nothing, so I gave the kid my old helmet. "Oh man, my mom's going to be so happy..." I'll bet. Enjoy.

I rolled through the horse camp on the way out. I'd seen Debbie's trailer there earlier, but she was gone by then. I've only seen her up there working, it's nice to see she's able to get out and ride sometimes.

We at at El Jinete in Dawsonville, which I've seen 100,000,000 times, but never managed to try before. Their Chile Colorado was very spicy. I'll eat there again.

But the marathon wasn't quite over. The roof rack on the Outback has been incredibly noisy: "Wooooooooo" and Clark had 2 Yakima fairings from old racks of his that he wasn't using, so as soon as I got home and unloaded, I grabbed my family and headed up to Sautee to see if either of them would fit. Clark had to dremel off about an 8th of an inch on either side of the 33 incher, but it fit, and it worked like a charm.

Sophie made a new friend too. Chloe the dog.

 Sophie and Chloe

Apparently when Sophie sat down next to her, she put her head in her lap and kept it there most of the night. Their fur didn't bother Kathryn's allergies either.

We all win!

Next weekend is the Huracan 300. I've got most of my gear together. My bike seems to be working pretty well. I've been riding as much as I've had time for. All that's left is to go for it. I can't even conceive of how Rob set his 41 hour record time, so I'm not likely to threaten that. I might even finish dead last. My goal this year is simply to finish. Wish me luck. Here I go.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Today (the 20th) is my birthday. Travis and Norma texted me something about a ride this past Wednesday, but it kind-of looked like the texts that I used to get from my old job, so I half-ignored them, figuring somebody was screwing around with nagios, only to finally read them the next day and realize that my birthday was coming up. I, of course, forgot again until my brother reminded me Friday night, and forgot again until somebody mentioned it Saturday afternoon. You'd think I'd keep track of these things, but some part of my brain must be in denial about it.

After Iz's gym meet yesterday, I spent the entire afternoon/evening researching and rigging up a means of hauling around my bike on the new Outback. I ended up cobbling together a roof rack from old parts. It leaves much to be desired, but it'll get the job done until I can do better. I spent the rest of the evening cleaning the Heritage off of my bike and got fewer than 5 hours of sleep.

Sunday morning, Norma had a ride going at 8:30 from the Jake lot. From the terseness of the email I figured it'd be Travis, her, me and maybe Johnny, but she'd brought half of North Georgia with her. I'd ridden with most of them before - Rob, Brad, Rex, Matt and Becky, and of course Norma and Johnny. There was a guy with them that I didn't know - Scott, and he turned out to be pretty cool.

 Jake Lot

Travis, however, didn't make it. Apparently his Stan's had failed, leaving both tires flat and despite his best efforts, they were flat again this morning. What a drag. Fix your bike Travis! I want to ride with you some more.

Prior to the roll out, I made a pit stop at the port-a-potty in the horse camp. Every single spot was taken. It was a beautiful day and every horseman in the tri-state area was riding at Jake. I talked to some of them for a few minutes, making sure we were parked out of the way enough for the horse trailers. We also joked about how far we were riding (which seemed inconceivable to them) and whether they'd need to bring ropes with them in case they found us dead along the trail and needed to drag us back to the lot.

When I got back, everybody was gone. They'd apparently rolled out and only noticed I was missing a few minutes later. Norma had come back to find me. We caught up and the ride was underway...

..for maybe 10 minutes until the only stick in the entire trail caught Rob's rear derailleur and sheared it right off.

 Rob's Derailleur

Rob's no rookie though, and he'd brought a spare hanger. Five minutes later we were rolling again.

We passed a suspicious looking guy at the end of the 83-bypass, took the parking lot connector down to the lot and headed over to the foot of Bull Mountain, where we noticed some trail work has been done recently.

Back in '08 or '09, I forget now, the Forest Service hired Woody Keen to teach some trail design and maintenance classes and then do an assessment of the Bull/Jake trails. I went to the classes and meetings and made some recommendations about what I thought should be done out there. Since then, Woody did the assessment and came up with a prescription and the USFS hired a professional trail builder to implement some parts of it. It looked like they'd finished some of it up recently.

The old trail:

 Old Bull

The new trail:

 New Bull

I tagged along with Walt Bready back in '09 I think to flag the corridor for that section of trail. The new trail followed that corridor at first, but instead of climbing up around the first draw, it switched back, crossed the main trail, wound around, crossed back and then eventually joined back up with the corridor we'd come up with. It looked like a better solution. I have to say though, I didn't notice any grade reversals, or at least no really obvious ones like at Jackrabbit or FATS. I'll have to ride it again though, I was pushing pretty hard at the time and it would have been easy to miss them.

Near the top of the new stuff, we ran into Debbie and Jess from the CTHA. I'd seen her truck parked at the bottom and thought it was her. They were up there to retrieve some bikes that somebody had abandoned on the trail. Presumably they had ridden up, decided it was too hard and just abandoned their bikes (and perhaps cycling itself) forever. Who knows though. If you somehow end up reading this, thanks for taking care of that Debbie. I meant to say so at the time, but my brain was running on one and a half cylinders.

The rest of the ascent up Bull involved riding...


...standing around...

 Standin Around

...and fixing more busted stuff.

 Norma's Front Tire Hell

Norma's front tire was giving her fits. She's put a tiny hole in the sidewall and the Stan's wasn't fixing it. She juiced it once, put a patch on the outside the second time, and then finally had to just put a tube in it.

We passed the bikes Debbie was up there to retrieve.

 Abandoned Bikes

They were just lying on the side of the trail. They were Wal-Mart bikes, but they didn't look too busted up. I really want to know the story behind them.

There was more trail work up on Bare Hare. I was disappointed to see that all of the loose rock that had been removed from one of the short, fun descents. I imagine it had to be to get the dingo through though. I might have put it back, myself. The entrance to the Bare Hare downhill had been improved, but I'm not exactly sure what was done. I can only vaguely remember what it looked like before. It seemed like it was about the same except for some additional rolling dips, but somehow it was a lot easier to climb.

The descent was as fast and fun. Some work had been done, though at the speed I was going, it was tough to tell exactly what. It seemed to mostly follow the old trail, but it was less chunky and much faster.

We cruised down the fireroad, crossed Lance Creek, rolled through Booger Holler and back around to the foot of Bull. Nobody had any new mechanicals. Everybody seemed to be able to keep a similar pace. There were definitely some stronger folks in the group, but they seemed content to ride easy or do intervals. Somewhere in there, we ran into Mike Horwitz and his buddy Franklin. We talked to them for a while, and they headed up Bull.

We took Jones Creek out to FS77. A lady was out hiking with her dog on the dam. The lake was super low. I've never seen it high, but never that low either. I wanted to see how the work we'd done out there last year was holding up, but we went through it so quickly, it was almost impossible to see. Up 77, right on 28A, right on Turner Creek. It looked like some work had been done on Turner Creek too. Maybe by hand? I didn't see any machine marks until we got down around 28B. It wasn't clear if the work was complete either. Again, we were flying through, and I only noticed the big, obvious changes.

Somewhere in there, my rear derailleur cable started getting bound up. I knew I shouldn't have washed my bike last night. It was ghost shifting, double-shifting, not shifting... Weee. On the approach to Black Branch it was really bad, even up front I couldn't get it to drop. Looks like I've got some work to do there. Black Branch was as fun as it usually is. While waiting for some folks to catch up, we noticed this neat little sculpture thing.


Near the end of Black Branch, I caught my left foot on a rock at the bottom of a hill and it kicked me forward really hard. Rex was confident I was going down, and he locked it up. I managed to hold it together, but it took a lot out of me.

At No-Tell, we stopped for a minute and I realized that both of my brakes were dragging really bad. I love Magura Marta's except for when I hate them. When the pads wear a bit, the caliper grab unevenly and you have to reshim them. Then, you have to do it again later. They're light though, and they were expensive, so I put up with it. The front brake was suffering from some of that. In the rear, it looked like the whole wheel was way off to the left. At first I thought my hub had come loose, but it wasn't that. The nut on my rear skewer is supposed to be used without a spring, but whenever I take the bike to the shop, they invariably put a spring in there, and half the time when I put the wheel in, it gets clamped funny. When I fixed it, I felt like I was on my road bike. Had it been like that all day?

My derailleur cable was still acting up though, and my legs were winding down. The Kicklighters were crushing me up No-Tell.

We spun up No-Tell, down and around Turner and back through the connector to Jones Creek. The breeze blowing through the weeds as I rode across the dam felt really good and I had one of those "yeah, this is why I ride" moments. This photo doesn't capture it, but looking at it reminds me.

 Jones Creek Dam

I nearly cratered climbing up off the dam. We ran into Horwitz and Franklin again at the foot of Bull, almost in the same spot we'd seen them before. Franklin had tweaked his thumb up on Bull somewhere. We took the 83 bypass and the Bull/Jake Connector back to the car and it felt like the Wednesday road ride - barely hanging on at the top of every hill.

At the corner of FS83 and FS28-1, we held up for the group and there were a pair of riders watering their horses just up the road. I recognized them from having seen them ride by during one of the work parties last year. The horses were beautiful. I need to learn breeds. They were brown with big patches of super-bright white on both sides and on their necks, and white manes. One of the horses looked small, but being down in the creek, I thought it was an optical illusion. It turned out, no, it was just a very young horse. We chatted with them while we waited.

"I think I wore my little horse out today."

Franklin was all "Yeah, I wore my little horse out too."

Norma, Johnny and Brad took off for another hour of riding. I half wanted to join them, but I'd already started to get undressed, thinking we were all done, and there was just no motivating me to put those sweaty clothes back on.

On the drive out, I passed the folks I'd seen earlier watering their horses. The lady was walking, giving her little horse a rest. I talked to them for a few minutes and got on the road. It was a tough ride home. I got a lot sleepier than I wanted to be, but not quite pull-over-you're-too-tired-to-drive sleepy.

Also, I'd been eating Margarita Clif Blocks all day (with extra salt!) and was starting to feel all blowed up like I do when I visit my in-laws in Baton Rouge and eat at Sammy's for three days straight.

On the upside, when I walked into the house I was greeted with all kinds of homemade festivities...

 Birthday Greetings

...and we went and ate dinner at Ippolito's with my brother, his family and my mom. The garlic rolls alone nearly put me in a coma. Except for the getting older part, it was a really good birthday. It was great seeing everybody, and it was a pretty fulfilling ride too. I hope that trend continues.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Goodbye Durango

It's the end of an era. I've had inordinately many eras end lately. I hung up my last thread-bare BOR jersey last summer, as of this past fall, I can finally call myself an expert mountain bike racer, the company I've been working for for the past 8 years closed it's doors a few weeks ago and today I traded in my Durango for an Outback.

I drove the Durango for 11 years and over 310,000 miles. I drove it everywhere. I loved it, and it was faithful to the end.


There are those who scorn SUV owners. Some have even shouted their scorn all up in my face, but in my defense, I have always argued that in 2000, when I bought the Durango, gas was cheap, middle-east tensions were comparatively low, Al Gore hadn't gone all Inconvenient Truth on us, SUV's hadn't yet become Minivan-2.0, Outbacks had comparatively low ground clearance, I wanted to drag 4 bikes, 4 riders and their gear around the mountains, hadn't discovered ultralight backpacking yet, and on top of all of that, I always treated it like a truck and made it my mission in life to extract a punishing level of sport-utility out of my Sport Utility Vechicle so all you haters can shut up!

And yet...

As much as I love it, and as much as all you haters can shut up, the Durango is, in fact, heavy, polluting and expensive to drive, and given how low-footprint I generally try to be, driving it around sends a pretty mixed message, even to myself.

For a while now, I'd like to have traded it for something that gets the job done more efficiently, but I could never make it work out financially. This year though, between a longer commute and the cost of some much-needed maintenance (even the amortized cost), it would be less expensive to buy a new truck than keep the Durango.

And so it was. I signed some papers and the Outback was mostly mine. I'd pick it up the next day. Today, actually.

Driving away, it struck me how much I'd miss my truck, but I just kept coming up with good memories. Isabel, on the other hand, was overcome with grief and almost inconsolable. None of us, including her, expected that. Thinking about it though, it made sense. My truck has been the one constant in her life. We've replaced literally every other thing, but she's been riding around in it since before she was born. It's more of a home to her than any house we've lived in, but a home that randomly carries her off to the explore the four corners of her world. She said it felt like a brother to her. Nothing hurts quite like the stream of unedited sorrow that can flow from the mind of a ten year old girl.

Fortunately, Sophie was pretty ambivalent. She's two years younger, and besides, she just doesn't get that attached to things.

What bothered Iz the most was that she was afraid that she didn't appreciate my truck enough the last time we drove, and that it would be gone before she'd have another chance. There was a solution for that, and I'd been thinking about it anyway. Sophie and Kathryn went home. Me and Iz took the Durango on one last adventure. There was only one place to go.

North on 400, west on 136, north to Nimblewill. We hit the Winding Stair loop: up 77, across 42... We did a little 4WD on Hawk Mountain...

 FS42A Sign

...before descending Cooper Gap Road. The air was cool but not too cold to roll the windows down. The road was just rough enough to appreciate having some clearance and suspension. We listened to some Green Day. The girls always wanted to listen to Green Day when we'd go driving around. It was perfect. One last little adventure. It made a world of difference to Iz.

Today we cleaned it out, took off the roof rack and swapped the Durango for an Outback.

I'm sure that the next 10 years will bear out some wrath-incurring flaw in that decision. We'll have to see about that. I've only put about 10 miles on it so far, but so far, so good. Wrath aside, here's hoping for another 10 years of adventures. Here's hoping that the next 300,000 miles will be as good as the last.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Red Top Mountain

I woke up late today, still pretty worn out from yesterday. I needed a little recovery and the kids and I had some plans that might fit the bill.

On the way out of the house, we saw the first flower of the year:

 First Flower of 2011

The weather was great; 65 degrees, sunny and a nice, light breeze. Maybe spring isn't so far off.

We rolled through the Dutch Monkey for some "breakfast" and from there, to Red Top Mountain.

 Red Top Visitors Center

The Trillium Trek is coming up and the girls could use some nav practice.

We ran through the visitors center to check out the snakes and then got caught up in a long, drawn out debacle at the bathroom. The locks on the bathroom doors are the worst design of all time. It's trivial to close the door behind you, leaving it locked. We didn't do that, but the folks ahead of us did. The ladies room was locked and the only reason the men's room wasn't was because the last guy failed to close the door behind him. To make matters worse, they have no key at the visitors center and had to call maintenance.

Twenty minutes later, we finally hit the woods. A dad and his son were out doing the same thing as us. The kid couldn't have been more than five, and it brought back memories of taking my kids out when they were little like that. Good memories.

Iz got us to the Start.


Sophie got us to CP1.


Iz got us to CP2.


But we'd done those the last time. Today we were going after some alternate checkpoints that we'd skipped before. They're spread out a bit more, and supposedly a little more challenging to find. We planned on upping the challenge even more too, by following terrain and landmarks more and relying on the compass less. I wasn't sure how well that would work out, but it was worth a try.

Sophie led us along the trail, to the road, where we stopped for a while to consult the map and decipher an impressively confusing intersection. A gentleman camping nearby came over to offer us some help, figuring we were lost and trying to find our way back to the visitor's center. We explained what we were up to, but I couldn't tell if he really understood or not. It is a bit of a fringe sport, I guess.

We figured out which way to go, but we had to make a quick detour to check out some tire spikes.

 Tire Spikes

The kids were pretty fascinated by them. They'd only seen them before in a parking lot in New Orleans, but not close-up. They pushed them down with their feet over and over and never seemed to get tired of it. If I hadn't suggested that we get moving, they might still be there.

Checkpoint A wasn't too hard to find.


We had to push through some brush and find the "real" top of the hill. It was sort of a double-knob. While approaching the second knob, a white-tailed deer sprang out from behind the rocks and took off across the little valley. Eventually, it decided we weren't a threat, circled around and walked back by, within about 30 feet of us.

We were also greeted by a little black dog belonging to some hikers on a nearby trail. Sophie thought it was a rabbit at first.

There were a bunch of exposed boulders up on top of the hill, and the kids climbed up on one of them.

 Rock Climbers

CPB was a good bit harder to find than A. A new trail had been built since the publication of the map and a trail shown on the map had been all but reclaimed by nature, so the landmarks were tough to follow. It was also supposed to be down along a creek, right around here...

 CPB Should be Here

...but after a pretty rigorous search, we eventually found it 2/3rds of the way up a neighboring hill to the east.


We'd spread out and canvassed the draw almost out to the lake, then turned around and combed the eastern hillside before Iz finally spotted it. It was just kind of balanced up behind a stump. I bet the creek floods a bit when it rains. Maybe it had worked its way out of the ground and somebody relocated it.

CPC was directly over the hill from B, but we opted to sidehill around instead of walking straight up over it.

This took us all the way down the draw, out to the shores of Allatoona.


Somewhere around there we saw a little herd of deer. There were families and kids and dogs all playing down by the lake. The lake itself was down and there were two, currently suicidal, rope-swings hanging nearby, waiting for the water to come back up.

Sophie got us to CPC.


The plan to get to CPD involved several turns. Iz took us uphill to a road which ran through a nearly empty campground. With a picnic table right there, we all agreed that it was snack time.

 Snack Break

I'd brought a Whatchamacalit bar, and Sophie unintentionally recited that commercial from the 80's almost verbatim... "What do you call it?" "Whatchamacalit." "What do you call it?" And so on. It was great.

CPD was right where it should be...


...but the "cleared area" shown on the map was overgrown with young pine and there was a new trail in the area too. It's neat to see how things change, and it was enlightening to the kids; you can't trust every detail on a map.

From there, Sophie led us down the draw to CP3.


And Iz took us up to CP4.


CP4 was tricky because it was a little bit below a gap on the opposite side of the hill. Iz's plan was to head uphill to the top of one of the knobs, head down into the gap and then down from there into the draw. I urged her to use the compass, but she declined and we ended up at a gap, not knowing which of the three knobs on that ridge we were between. Oh no! We'd triangulated earlier at CPB to figure out exactly where we were though, and this time, Iz did it mostly by herself. It turned out we were in the gap we wanted to be in. I actually knew that, but it was cool to see Iz go from feeling totally lost to feeling like it was nearly impossible to get lost.

Sophie got us back to CP1 and the Start. I failed to take photos of those.

Sophie kind of had a hard time today. She's usually really good at brain-teasers and combining problem solving strategies and all that, but she struggled to even tell whether we needed to turn left or right at an intersection, even after reorienting the map. She kept getting distracted all day too, and she couldn't remember the names of things. It was like she wore out her brain yesterday or something. Poor little girl.

Traffic was horrendous on the way home, but we made up for that by killing down some Rick Tanner's chicken.

So that was two fulfilling days in a row. It doesn't make up for a disappointing winter, but it's a good start. Let's keep it going.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Heritage 6 Hour

I'm going to start referring to Heritage as Hurtitage. Every time I race there it hurts. Maybe it's because they always have the first race of the season there. I don't know. It hurts.

It started with the sun.


That sun burned out my retinas for about an hour of the hour-and-a-half drive over. I also got semi-lost in Watkinsville, again. Not as lost as previous excursions to Heritage, but lost nonetheless.

When I arrived, I was immediately greeted by Tim Winters, and then like 3 seconds later realized I'd forgotten to get cash out of the ATM. Weee. He tried to spot me, but didn't have enough on him. I knew there was a gas station back North in whatever town I'd come through, but I was pretty sure there was another one just to the South, so I went that way. Yep. Rainbow Mart. Unfortunately their ATM was out of commission, so I ended up buying 3 candy bars with my debit card so I could get $25 cash with each purchase. Creative solution? Yes it was. Now I even have 3 candy bars. Win-win.

When I got back to Heritage, there were like 3 times as many cars and I couldn't get the spot I had before. As luck would have it, I ended up parking next to Gerry McClung. Or is it Jerry? I never learned how to spell it and I'm way too lazy to look it up. I'll have to ask him.


It might not seem blogworthy that I parked next to him, we've ended up next to each other without trying almost every time we've been at the same race. Fun fact about Gerry/Jerry... At the Fool's Gold mudfest last year where everybody had to buy new rotors, brake pads and in some cases, new forks, he was like "yeah, it was pretty muddy" and he's still riding those same parts today. Mud parts before him like the Red Sea before Moses. He's mud-Moses. I hope that's not offensive.

The race itself was rough. Hard on the kid. I won't pull out the scroll of excuses for having a hard time, but rest assured, it's long. The next race should be a lot better, but I digress.

At the line, it was in the low 30's. It was supposed to warm up, so I was dressed a little cold. At Heritage, you do a parade lap, so we did that, and it felt fast. My chest hurt like heartburn. It would be a long day.

Lap 1 alternated between short sprints and trackstands in long, backed up lines. Everybody I was racing against was out in front of me because I was slow on the parade lap. No big deal though. This race was all about jumping in, and also about having fun, not about performing well. At least that was how I rationalized it in my mind. The whole lap was one long conga line. There's one super steep hill at Heritage, but they left it out. It was just as well though, as it would have been horribly slippery.

Lap two was weird. I realized I'd forgotten to stretch, so right at the exit of the start-finish area, I stopped and stretched for like 30 seconds. Tim came riding up... "Dave, you OK" I bet I looked weird. Apparently he had been behind me. But, he was in the singlespeed class, so fat lot of good that did. They built an awesome new section of trail out there, but it had about a quarter inch of the most slippery mud in the universe on it for about a mile. It's fortunate I did those snow and ice rides, because those skills were operative. I stayed with Tim for most of lap 2 and got past him near the end. That's not because I'm strong now though, but rather because, as unprepared as I was, he was even more unprepared. Actually, a lot of us North Georgians were like that. It's been a rough winter for cycling. Lap 2 was fun, I suddenly felt strong, and for some reason there was very little traffic. But it was beating me up as Heritage is prone to do. I started to get the one-with-the-woods hippy groove going though and I wasn't fighting the trail any more. It was good. I lost Tim in the transition area at the end of the lap.

Lap three was where it all started to fall apart. My legs wanted to cramp. I had to manage that; lots of spin-to-win. Spin, spin, spin. I had plenty of energy, but my legs wouldn't take it. My drivetrain started going all HAL 9000 on me too: "What are you doing, Dave?" and it declined my orders. I had to stop to pee too.

Lap four was pure screaming hell; nothing but cramp management, the whole lap. Again, I had to stop and pee and Bill Riddle rolled up, stopped and was all "Dave, you OK" (like Tim). My legs were, at that point, bogarting all my blood for some reason, and left me with some epically emasculating shrinkage. Good thing there were no ladies around. Just before that, some guy had gotten behind me for a while with an iPod and either some speakers or cranked up earbuds. He was rocking an Ultimate 80's mix including "Jack 'n' Diane" and "Crumbling Down" I was digging it, but unfortunately I could not hang. I followed Bill around for a while and lost him again in the pits at the end.

Lap five Bill caught me again. Apparently he'd fallen back in the pits. The whole trail had dried out and packed in except for two spots, which are wet on a good day. I don't remember what happened to Bill. I think he rode away from me. Norma passed me, right on cue. She almost always passes me in lap 5. My legs were less crampy, but my energy level was way down. I half-wanted to quit, but I forgot about for a minute while rolling through the transition area and only remembered again when I was sufficiently committed to the lap not to bail on it.

Actually lap 6 wasn't so bad. I was slow, but my legs felt ok. I felt a long way from last year's zero-cramp, all energy, 6-hour pedal crush rides. Maybe later this year. One of the ladies lapped me. Shey Linder lapped me. All done.

At some point, I'd scraped a tree, and then several laps later, scraped the same tree, with the same spot on my arm. That was the only issue though. No mechanicals even, except for my Hal 9000 drivetrain. It worked me over though. Heritage is bumpy, it's uphill both ways, and there are a bunch of steep descents with technical stuff at the bottom and steep climbs up the other side. It's fun to race there though, and though I was tired and sore, I was also satisfied, which hasn't happened in a while.

I ended up with a fairly undignified 7th place out of 9 in my class. You gotta start somewhere though. I was first listed as 5th, but it was just preliminary, and there were some timing errors. So, 7th.

Norma got 1st. Emily got 2nd, I think. Tim got 1st. Shey and his son did a 2 man team and got 1st too. All my friends are fast.

The night before I'd heard that old-school BOR rider Ed Baltes was going, and it actually made me excited because I haven't seen him in a long time and he's a really cool guy.

 Eddie B's Truck

I saw him when I was coming around on lap 2, I think, and I went over and talked to him for a while after the race. He's working at the bike shop at Kennesaw State and working with their cycling team. They were all out there doing a team 9-hour. Apparently if they do trail work, they get points, which eventually equate to money somehow. Maybe I can get them up to Bull/Jake next month. I was really cool to see Eddie. It's been too long.

I visited with everybody in the world, watched the awards, bailed and then realized I'd never turned in my timing chip.

 Timing Chip

"Treat your timing chip like gold..." It's not good to lose one, or not turn it in. Fortunately, I was only about a mile away when I realized. It was awkward though, driving back and walking around after having told everybody bye 20 minutes earlier.

The sun was no kinder to me on the return trip.


Darn sun.

I grabbed some dinner at Fox's Pizza and ended the evening, sitting on the couch watching Phineas and Ferb on TV with the kids. Ahhhh.

I guess technically it didn't end there because I'm typing this up now, but you get the idea.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Milton Group Ride

Last night I left Travis a voicemail, asking him to come adventuring with me today. I had this idea about a Lumpkin Ridge - Long Mountain hiking loop and thought maybe he might be interested. This morning he texted me back. He'd already made plans with his girl, but he suggested I get in on a group ride that Michele Z was planning. As it turned out, my brother had texted me too about the Airport Ride. Too many options! Hike or ride, hike or ride? Well, it has been raining like crazy. It might still be muddy up in the woods. Ride. I'd already missed the Airport ride too, so the which-ride choice one was an easy one.

While packing up my truck, I discovered yet another flat tire. Come on! I'd written off the last two as being the result of dubiously healthy tubes, but this one was brand new. I'd also checked the tire and rim strip. I only found the culprit by pulling out the tube, airing it up a little, finding the hole, then tracing around on the tire to that spot. There was a little shred of metal that had worked it's way into the surface of the tire. You couldn't see or feel the metal itself from the inside or out, but there was a little hole where it had gone in and apparently when riding, it does get pushed through the inside. Problem solved, I was on my way.

We met up at Element Coffee in Milton. I only knew Michael Bowen from Reality and Michele, but there were 6 or 8 other folks there. I recognized some of them. Actually, there was one other guy I knew: Rex "Most-Masculine-Name-Of-All-Time" Mayne was there, but he'd apparently left his helmet at home and couldn't ride with us. I had the girls helmets in my car, one covered with strawberries and the other with flowers, but they didn't fit. It was unfortunate that they didn't fit, but if they had, he'd have had to decide whether it was better to miss the ride or ride with strawberries or flowers on his head.

We were rolling by noon.

 Off The Back

The pace was a little odd. It seemed that everyone was in a different place in their routine. I've got a 6 hour race this upcoming weekend, some folks were just getting over the cyclocross season, the road season doesn't start for a while, and so on. Usually a pace settles in and whoever wants to work harder just takes longer turns up front and occasionally there'll be some sparring on a long hill or something, but today everybody just kind of went how they felt like going and we'd regroup every so often.

After about 20 miles some folks were starting to fade and I took some long turns.

 On The Front

One thing that got to me a little was there were a couple of younger guys who were really strong riders, but they just refused to pull over for traffic. Almost like they just didn't know that it was a thing that people do. "Car back!" Over and over. No response:

 Two Abreast

The law says bike riders must ride as far to the right as it's safe to do and may ride no more than two abreast. Unfortunately, this is a little open to interpretation. I've seen it interpreted as "all bike riders must always ride single file no matter what" and also as "bike riders can always ride two-abreast even if there's a line of cars waiting to get by." I imagine most people have never actually read the law though, and just do whatever seems right to them. It's hard for me to judge someone for doing that, and really, it didn't actually cause that much of a problem.

At any rate...

We saw a couple of interesting things. There was a dude in a 4 wheeler, pulling his buddy around on a skateboard. We also passed a lady in a horse-drawn-chariot. Not a wagon, but a chariot. Two wheels. There were a million joggers out, and lots of cyclists too. The weather was gorgeous. It temps were in the 50's. It was a little windy.

I think we did around 50 miles. I had a great time, and the company was great, but it wasn't super fulfilling. Actually, I haven't had a really fulfilling outdoor experience in a while. Maybe it's the season or the weather, or something, but it's been a while since I got back to my truck feeling like "Yeah, I'm really glad I did that, I'm going to remember that for a while." I've had plenty of I'm-glad-I-did-that's. Today was one of those, for example, and I've had a few I'm-going-to-remember-that's, like getting held at gunpoint a few weeks back. But not enough of the two of those together, at least not lately. C'est la vie I guess. That's just how it is sometimes. Maybe next time.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Alpharetta Greenway

What's up with all this rain? It wasn't supposed to rain much, but I guess nobody told that to the sky. Today the weather was fine, but all dirt was mud. The kids and I were going to do some trail work at Bull/Jake, but it was cancelled. Some adventuring was in order, but like I said... mud. The paved Greenway seemed like the best option.

 Kids on the Greenway

Unfortunately it wasn't entirely immune to the weather. Big Creek was high, the wetlands were wet and there were a few flooded patches of the Greenway itself.

 The Great Flood

That one was so deep that you couldn't pedal through it without dunking your feet. I had a great plan though. I'd follow Iz into it, then when the water got too deep to pedal, she could lift her feet and I'd push her until it got shallow enough. I'd ratchet if I could, but it didn't really matter to me if I got my feet wet. Then I'd circle back and repeat with the Gerch. Great idea, right? I thought so. It didn't go so smoothly with Iz. She had this instinct to grab her brakes when it got deep. She let them go, but it slowed her down so much, she got all wobbly and I couldn't push her. She had to pedal and got her feet wet. I did too. It went way better with Sophie. Her feet stayed dry.

At the time, it was maybe 50 degrees, and after a few miles, those wet feet were cold feet.

We stopped at Rock Mill Park for a bathroom break.

 Rock Mill Park

The bathrooms were heated and we lingered for a few minutes to let our feet warm up.

On the way to Big Creek Park, we passed a guy riding a bike with a windshield and sort of a capsule around it. It looked heavy, but I'm guessing it kept him warm and out of the wind. The temp was dropping. It might have been nice dragging that capsule around.

We rode through 3 more big puddles, but they were shallow. The kids had fun doing that.

I was wearing fleece tights downstairs, but only a T-shirt and my REI jacket up top, and no shoe covers either. I was just a little colder than I was comfortable being. Ordinarily, I'd just work harder and warm up, but that wasn't an option today. The kids seemed comfortable though, other than Iz's wet feet starting to get cold. They were layered up better than I was.

At Big Creek Park, we had a little donut break.

 Donut Break

Little Chocolate Donuts. Snack of champions. I'd been carrying them around for weeks, maybe months. I just happened to have them in my heavy-ass camelback, which I also just happened to be carrying, today out of habit rather than necessity. While digging them out of my heavy-ass camelback, it occurred to me that it was so heavy because it was filled full of gear, including a fleece jacket-jersey thing, a windbreaker and a fleece cap. Jackpot. Why hadn't I realized it earlier? Maybe because I didn't even realize I was carrying the camelback until the kids asked about snacks. I never wear it on the road.

On the way back we saw a medium sized buck, right at the edge of the road. It gave us a good long look and wandered off to join 3 others - a doe and two teenagers.


(very center of the photo)

We watched them for like 5 minutes. They waded into the water, drank, and ate leaves and bark off of the trees. One of the young ones, standing knee deep in the water peed and drank at the same time. "He's drinking his own pee!"

We also passed a guy riding a unicycle, with what looked like about a 32 inch wheel. It's ironic because we'd been talking about unicycles earlier that day.

The temp was still dropping, and we were getting pretty miserable. At Rock Mill, we warmed up in the bathrooms again, just enough to get back.

On the upside, the Great Flood had become the Great Puddle, and the kids were able to ride through it without getting wet.

 The Great Puddle

Great Puddles aside, it was a pretty good day. The kids really have their bikes figured out. I advised Sophie on how to pedal over the top of hills to carry speed, but that's it. The weather was lame, but the kids seem to be pretty hard these days. We suffered a little, but we suffered together. Still... Six more weeks of winter. I'm looking forward to the warmth.